« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
As merry-making is the beginning, so it is the end of this droll festival; and the funeral is accompanied with copious libations, which do not cease till the last moiety furnished by the liberality of the spectators has been expended.
with wild terror, rushed to the doors ; unfortunately these opened inward, and the pressure of the frantic crowd closed them as effectually as iron bars and bolts. Exit was impossible. A workman outside of the theatre, who had assisted in its construction, stepped forth, and declared that he knew every joint of the boards and beams, and could quickly open a passage, and wished to make an aperture with an axe. But the budnik, or policeman on duty, would not permit this to be done till his superiors came to decide upon the matter. At last urgent necessity overcame every other consideration ; the punctilious police agent was pushed aside, several men seized axes, and soon a large opening was made in the side of the building. A dense cloud of smoke made the crowd recoil, and when it had cleared away a horrible spectacle presented itself. In closely packed masses sat men, women, and children, apparently still gazing at the stage, which was a sheet of flame. Rescue had come too late; the sudden smoke, filling the crowded building, had stifled the entire audience : not one was saved.”- Bilder aus St. Petersburg, von E. Jermann. Berlin, 1851.
Drunkenness may be said to be the vice of this northern region, and temperance is the rarest of virtues.
From the humblest Ostiak to the highest imperial functionary, with very few exceptions, all evince a strong propensity to the immoderate use of ardent spirits ; even among women intoxication is not uncommon. An Ostiak, who once gives way to this pernicious habit, will sacrifice his last fox-skin for a few glasses of brandy. This propensity in the natives is not unknown, and is but too often taken advantage of by designing Russian traders, who, being actuated by nothing but their love of gain, secretly procure these poor ignorant people abundant supplies of spirits, and deprive them of all the earnings of their labour.
To obviate these vile practices, the government has framed regulations restricting the exportation of ardent spirits into the interior of the country, and regulating the consumption by law. Not only at Berezov, but throughout the Siberian provinces, wherever stores of brandy are to be found, the inhabitants are unable to obtain at
one time more than a certain quantity of spirits. This restriction extends even to the Government officials, who, when sent on a journey, are not permitted to take more spirits than is absolutely required for their personal use.
Still means are found by all parties to evade the execution of the law.
One day I received a visit from a Tartar Khan, who was brought here a few weeks previously, having incurred a sentence of banishment in consequence of the revolt of the Tartar horde of which he was the chief. Not knowing a word of Russian, he came accompanied by a Tartar interpreter, as well as by some Kirghies who formed his suite. He was a man of about sixty years of age, hale, vigorous, and very corpulent, and rather given to garrulity. He expatiated on the splendour of his house, his riches, his children, and the number of his wives, mentioning one wife in particular with great emphasis. As this was all said in the Tartar language, it had to be repeated to me by the interpreter, but either distrusting the integrity of his spokesman, or fearing that he did not rightly understand him, he accompanied the
narrative with explanatory gesticulations, which made it rather impressive. With tears in his eyes he compared his present miserable condition with his former prosperity, complaining that from the moment of his banishment he had not even once tasted foal's meat, which he considered a great grievance. He was now obliged to subsist on the allowance of fifty assignat kopeks (about ten pence) per day. He expressed a great veneration for the Emperor Alexander, who had presented him with a golden medal emblazoned with his effigy, encircled by a double row of brilliants, and on the obverse bearing an inscription in Arabic. This he wore suspended from his neck by a blue ribbon. He also said that the same Emperor presented him with a splendid sword, the handle of which was studded with precious stones; but he regretted that he had it not with him.
He wore a long and capacious silk dress, in the fashion of a dressing gown, and a pointed velvet cap with ear flaps, and lined with sable. This he took off on entering the room, keeping on the head only a small round scull cap of black velvet, embroidered with gold, and re
sembling the krumka, worn by the Polish Jews.
The Khan complained bitterly of the state of emaciation and leanness, into which he had fallen, though it did not at all strike me, seeing his broad treble chin hang down on his chest, and the folds of his thick neck reposing on his shoulders. But in proof of his assertion he called my attention to his capacious garment, which, he said, was formerly but just wide enough to envelop his body. I found indeed that the Tartar estimate of beauty was regulated by the amount of fat, for even when dilating on the beauties of his favourite wife, he laid the greatest stress on her embonpoint, and did all he could, by means of gestures, to impress me with a clear idea of her extraordinary rotundity.
I observed that the medal which dangled from his neck was so covered with dirt, that, instead of being an ornament, it was an object of disgust, and I proposed that he should leave it with me, and I would have it cleaned for him. He was much pleased with this proposal, though it caused him some surprise, and he was, I could