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Matrimonial alliance-Twelfth Night, or the Maslanca féte-Regulations restricting the sale of spirits-Visit from an exiled Tartar Khan-His dress and ordersCeremony in Lent, and its effects—Remarks on duelling—Lenten diet-Its effects on health-Assimilation of Russian settlers to the Ostiaks.
DR. WAKULINSKI, whose arrival I have already noticed, had not been long at Berezov, when an attachment sprang up between him and my friend Josephine. She received his declaration, and the feeling being reciprocal, their marriage only waited the consent of the Emperor. *
* Persons banished to Siberia, whatever their previous rank, become serfs of the crown, the property of the Czar, and cannot even marry, as in the instance here mentioned, without his consent.
Nothing could be more gratifying to me than this event. Berezov would no longer be lonely and solitary to Josephine. Love, when mutual, can render any place pleasant and agreeable. If the impediments arising out of Josephine's peculiar position could be only removed, and the alliance consummated, I felt confident that they would make a happy couple, Dr. Wakulinski being a man of excellent disposition, with youthful and unsullied feelings, and Josephine's character mild and affectionate.
On the day which brought about this happy event, sitting at nightfall by my frame-work at the window, I heard a tinkling of bells in the streets, and a tumultuous noise from a crowd of people. Amidst the complete silence which prevails at Berezov, and an existence so uniform, the most trifling incident is apt to attract attention. I tried to look through the window to see what had happened, but the thick incrustation of ice on the panes debarred all sight. Meanwhile the noise approached nearer, and grew more audible. At last I found one spot in the window more transparent, and looking through, I saw a multitude of people assembled round a cart of extraordinary construction, drawn by a number of
horses, adorned with bells of various sizes, which tinkled at every movement.
The long, huge sledge bore on the top a large wheel, in a horizontal position, from the centre of which, placed in the axle-hole, rose a high mast, surmounted by another wheel of smaller dimensions. A number of ropes were secured to the upper wheel, whence they descended outside the lower one to the base of the sledge, forming a sort of cone, which was covered with coarse canvas, so as to present the appearance of an Ostiak tchoum. This movable tent was occupied by about fifteen persons in masks, while one man, also masked, stood on the upper wheel, at the very summit of the mast, a spectacle altogether amusing, though one could not but feel alarmed for his safety. The car was surrounded by vast crowd of people, everyone here being eager for novelty and frolic, and it came to a stand just in front of our house.
Some of the masked persons now descended from the platform, and entered my apartment, asking me whether I would receive their wayfaring crew. I could not do otherwise than comply with their request, and thereupon the whole company of masks entered, followed by
as many of the spectators as our rooms would hold.
The costumes of the maskers were a most extraordinary burlesque, comprising coats of matting, edged with galons and rich embroidery, dresses made of shavings of wood, and the like oddities. As soon as they entered, they began to dance, and the performance was most grotesque. Their music was the balabačka, a sort of guitar, which excited the greatest merriment and delight among the spectators. After they had thus amused themselves for some time, the itinerant actors again mounted their Thespian car, and followed by a crowd of spectators, which increased at every step, proceeded to visit other houses, where they went through the same performance.
I was afterwards informed this mummery is called maslanca (butter-milk), being commenced
on Thursday after the so-called Cheese-Sunday, amidst general rejoicings and shouts, and continued without interruption till Saturday On that day, the car is drawn with great pomp and solemnity, and amidst a vast concourse of people, to the outskirts
of the town, and there broken in pieces; and this operation is called the burial of buttermilk.*
" the per
* This Maslanca fete—or Maslinica, as it is otherwise called, is celebrated in many parts of European Russia, though everywhere varying in its features, and often modified by European manners.
A curious account of its celebration at St. Petersburg, which terminated in a dreadful catastrophe, is given by M. Jermann, a modern German writer : “Some years ago,” he says, formances of the pantomime company of the German Lehman were the chief attraction of the Maslinica, the greatest and most thoroughly national festival of the Russians, which occurs in the last week of the carnival. There was a perfect rage for these pantomimes; all Petersburg flocked to see them; and although they were repeated every two hours, the temporary theatre in which they were played, upon the Admiralty Square, was continually filled to suffocation. During one of the performances, whilst the pit was in full glee and uproar of delight, the harlequin suddenly rushed upon the stage, and exclaimed: 'Fire! sauve qui peut !' The announcement was received with a general burst of laughter, at what was taken for a stupid joke. The misapprehension was fatal, for it shortened the brief space during which escape was possible, and in a few moments the flames burst out from behind the scenes, and the wooden building was in a blaze. The audience,