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arrived, or that some other has weighed anchor, and departed.
Among the various arrivals in May, was the vessel of a merchant of Tobolsk, Brahin, which, in the previous year, had brought us to Berezov. We had a visit from her steward, who called on us as his old acquaintances, and requested us to honour him with a visit on board. We assented, and immediately after dinner, our landlord placed his boat at our disposal, and accompanied by him, we went to the vessel, which, on account of her greater size, lay anchored in the middle of the river. We met with a most polite reception, and were treated with tea and sweetmeats.
I felt delighted to find myself once more in the vessel which had, for two weeks, afforded me a .shelter, and in which every rope was perfectly known to me. I beheld the identical berth in which I had slept, the same table, the same shelves, and the inscriptions of my hand, which were still preserved undefaced on the sides of the ship. How is it that our retrospect of the past, however painful and distressing, affords us so much pleasure? This
question awakens such trains of thought, that, far from answering it, I dare not even breathe one word on so pregnant a theme.
On returning home I had a visit, certainly as strange as it was unexpected. It was from a Frenchman-a Frenchman at Berezov! was not that a strange phenomenon ? And such he. really was ; for the number of the curious, who assembled to see him, not only filled my reception-room to suffocation, but even my bed-room, though it were only to catch a glimpse, through the chink of the door, of this extraordinary visitor.
A rumour of the French campaign of 1812, had found its way indistinctly even to this remote region, and the particulars were overlaid with fables, poetry, and all sorts of exaggerations. It may, therefore, be imagined what a sensation the appearance of a real Frenchman must have created among the residents.
The Frenchman was as polite and as full of vivacity as persons of his nation usually are, yet being clad in a coarse and unshapely sailor's jacket, with large boots made of thick leather, and reaching up to the girdle—such
as are worn by all who take part in Arctic fisheries—he did, I must confess, cut a most comical figure. With all this was mingled the mercurial humour of his nation, and a sense of personal dignity, which rendered the impression more striking, and his appearance more burlesque.
To account for the visit of this individual, it will be necessary to relate the whole of his history, which, indeed, is somewhat extraordinary:
I must premise, that biographies of persons in Siberia are by no means so monotonous, trivial, and prosaic as those of European life. In this country every exile—and nearly all are exiles—be he from the category of great or of petty criminals, is, with scarcely any exception, either a hero, or, at all events, a character; and consequently, his life is interwoven with incidents as diversified by their variety as their interest, and revealing the inmost secrets of the human heart; forming, in this respect, a striking contrast to the usual common-place occurrences of conventional life.
Only a Walter Scott is wanted in Siberia,
or some one with a magic pen like his, and literature would be enriched with works superior in colour and character, to those now in general circulation, and which, from the peculiar composition of the society which they pourtray, cannot be otherwise than inane and trivial.
The Frenchman's name was Le Brun, and his age
about thirty-two. He spoke the language of the higher French society; his features were expressive, his figure slim and elegant, but his garments, as I have before remarked, were worse than neglected—even worse than coarse; for, they were covered with mud, and soaked through with tar.
Le Brun's father had been an officer in Napoleon's grand army, in 1812. Taken prisoner during the campaign, he contrived to save his son, then a little boy, from injury; and he shared his captivity. They were both sent prisoners to Siberia, where the father, to gain his subsistence, learnt boot-making ; but, unfortunately for the son, soon died.
Young Le Brun having spent his early life in Siberia, was more reconciled than his father
to the mode of existence in that country; and, seeing no possibility of being ever liberated, married a Siberian girl on attaining the age of manhood, and gave up all thoughts of returning to France.
But after he had been married many years, one of the Russian nobles-Count Tolstoy, I believe—arrived in that part of Siberia on a government mission. Le Brun profiting by this opportunity, recounted his whole history to the Count, and solicited his interest to free him, if possible, from his singular position.
The Count naturally felt a strong interest in a foreigner thus situated, suffering for guilt not his own, and took a memorandum of his request. On his return to St. Petersburg he made known the case to the French ambassador, who, in the name of his court, demanded Le Brun's liberation. The Government complied with the request. Le Brun received a passport with permission to return to his country, and the Russian Count sent him some money to defray the expenses of his journey.
Up to this point everything had happened as Le Brun desired; but as he had a wife and