Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

after him came many of the crusaders, driven penetrated into many of its valleys; and now, from Palestine. Indeed, the Caucasus seems having converted every hill into a keep, every to have anciently been a refuge for the desti- valley into a grave, the whole country into a tute, for, according to Strabo, no less than camp, by a sanguinary system of: warfare, seventy different languages were spoken in its Russia defends her encroachments upon the valleys. In our days they are reduced to plea of humanity-announces that she has seven, though the dialects are innumerable. acted as the chosen instrument of Providence! And as if to show that there is really "nothing “ The Caucasus,” writes M. Fonton, the adva new under the sun,” we find that in Djorsan, cate of Russia, “ has ever been, as far as we now Georgia, the people, more than a thou- are acquainted with its history, the scene of sand years ago, lived under a constitution, the sanguinary contests between Europe and Asia. fundamental principle of which was, “the king In the progress of destruction the actors have reigns but does not govern.”.

only changed from time to time, but the course The word “ Caucasus,” Pliny states, signifies of events and the parts have always remained " white with snow" in the Scythian language. the same. For centuries Russia has been preThe inhabitants of the Caucasus now call the paring for the part assigned to her by destiny; highest peaks the " white mountains,” and the and when she was driven by the force of lower ones, those below the snow line, the events to penetrate into the Caucasus, she “ black mountains.” The chain of the Cauca- only fulfilled the course of immutable dessus is one hundred and fifty miles long, ex- tiny." tending from Baku on the Caspian Sea, to The Circassians, as already intimated, are Anapa on the Black Sea—which, by the way, not believers in this destiny. They reject the gets its name, not from the color of its waters, protection of the knout; and though the Caubut the fierceness of the storms which sweep casus has been surrounded by a cordon of over it. The valleys and slopes of the moun- 150,000 men-though the mouths of the valtains are peopled by the semi-pagan Abasians, leys are stopped by a network of-forts--notthe oldest inhabitants of the Caucasus, sup- withstanding the strongholds of the Circasposed to be the descendants of the Abys- sians are carried by storm, their wives and sinians; the Lesghians, the most warlike of children torn away into captivity, and the tribes, and the terror of their neighbors ; the whole country rendered desolate by the razOssetes, who are good Mussulmans, though zias of the Russians—they are still unconthey pretend to become converts to Chris- quered—rendered still more determined than tianity over and over again to obtain a silver ever to resist, by an increasing sense of injury. cross, a silver rouble, and a few clothes; the As if to embitter the struggle, too, the troops Suavians, who profess Christianity, and prac. launched against the Circassians are the tise no religion at all, and many other tribes. irreclaimable ruffians of the Russian army. But the most renowned amongst the inhabit- Wretches whom iron discipline cannot restrain ants of the Caucasus, are the Circassians, - thieves and desperadoes in spite of the dwelling in the valleys on the northern side knout; these are considered the best warriors of the mountains. The Russians have con- in this pretended crusade of humanity, in quered all the other tribes, but the Circassians working out the destiny of Russia. The Cauthey cannot subdue.

casus is, in truth, the Norfolk Island of Rus'i'he reasons upon

which Russia founds her sian soldiers, and the operations of the Rusclaim to supremacy over the Caucasus, afford asian army are one long punishment surely rich example of burglar logic. The Czar, Ivan ending in death. Disease, the result of fatigue the Terrible, married the daughter of Temruck, and privation, alone carries off twenty thoua prince of Kabarda ; * therefore the Kabar- sand victims every year, and the battle almost dans must have been friends of the Russians. as many more. The troops enter the mounA Kabardian prince fought under the Russian tains, often obliged to advance in Indian file, flag in the expedition against Khiva, in the so narrow are the passes, climbing upwards by year 1717, therefore Russia has a right to rule paths so steep that they can convey cannon over the Kabardians, and the Kabardians, be-only on their shoulders-constantly traversing ing Caucasians, over the Caucasus. Again, the edge of ravines in which death is certain Peter the Great established settlements in should the foot slip. At night they bivouac Daghestan,t therefore he is the lawful lord of on the shelves of rocks, often so narrow that Daghestan, and, as its lord, sovereign of the they cannot sleep or approach their fires exwhole country. Upon such pretences as cept by turns. In the morning they are half these Russia has possessed herself of the coun- killed by heat; in the evening they sink to tries lying at the feet of the Caucasus, and has their knees in snow; and often, when least

prepared, they are assailed by a storm of bul

Thus * Kabarda is one of the districts of the Cau- lets launched by an unseen enemy. casus in the plain.

they proceed, day after day, burning crops, † Another district of the Caucasus.

driving away herds, destroying hamlets, re

ducing prosperous families to indigence, con-| him up. This was Schamyl, now Sultan and verting happy homes into houses of mourning, Prophet of the Circassians. until the whole country is blasted by their Schamyl was born in the year 1797, at footsteps; and then turning back, their un- Himri. As a child he was reserved in mandying foes assail them in the defiles and for- ners, unbending in temper, and ambitious. If ests, frequently recover the booty, and inflict he were vanquished in the boyish sports, his the Circassian penalty of blood for blood. face would contract, and he would shun his Such are the incidents of the barbarous war companions for weeks together, through shame which has raged in the Caucasus with little in- and fury. To one person only was he obeditermission for a hundred years. The Russians ent, a wise Mullah, named Jilal Eddin. This are all the more ruthless because the belief man instructed Schamyl in Arabic literature, has grown up amongst them that there never trained him in the love of the Koran, and fired will be peace in the Caucasus until every one his imagination with stories of the old heroes of its inhabitants is destroyed !

of Islamism. In manhood Schamyl became a General Yermoloff, whó, in 1812, assumed Murid, and shared in many an encounter with the coinmand of the Russian army of the the Russians. Two years after his disappearCaucasus, was, perhaps, the most fatal foe that ance at Himri, he roused his countrymen the Circassians ever encountered. He com- again, and a series of remarkable escapes from batted them not only with arms, but even the enemy invested him with an extraordinary more successfully by intrigue. The tribes, dis- fame amongst the mountaineers. In the year united by internal feuds, he set upon each 1834, for instance, the Russians suddenly fell other; he helped the weaker against the upon the fortress of Achulko, in which stronger, and in the end overpowered both. Schamyl lived, and reduced it to ashes. The But his success taught the leaders of the Cir-tribes had just received the news of this tercassians how to avenge themselves. The foot- rible blow; their leader, it was believed, had steps of Yermoloff became a furrow, in which been buried beneath the ruins; when sudthe seeds of a new faith have been sown, a denly he stood amongst them like one raised modification of Sufism, which has united the from the dead. Such incidents as these confollowers of Omar and Ali, healed local di- stantly occurring, have made even defeat visions, and bound up the denizens of the strengthen Schamyl's power. Like the wrestmountains in a common cause. In the year ler of old, he has continually risen stronger 1830, Kasi Mullah declared war against the from every fall

. And now his countrymen beRussians. He marched at the head of his lieve implicitly that he was really killed at forces with the flag of independence in one Himri with Kasi Mullah, but that Allah has hand and the Koran in the other. The strug-recalled him to life to give a visible sign that gle raged, with varying success, until Septem- their cause is just, and that Schamyl should ber, 1832, when he was forced to shut himself be their chosen leader. up in his native place, Himri. The Russians Schamyl favors the delusion. He imbibed not only attacked him with far superior num- from his teacher in youth a faith in Sufism, bers, but they had a powerful ally in their ar- which assumes that Divine truth is immediatetillery. A cannon is the terror of the Circas- ly revealed to the man striving after it, if he sians—they call it a thousand men. Yet the retires from the world, purges himself of all brave mountaineers, chanting verses of the terrestrial passions, and devotes his life excluKoran, blinded the foe with showers of bul- sively to contemplation. In this way, it is lets. Their numbers were terribly thinned, held, he may attain a perfect idea of the Dethe walls of their fortress were beaten down ; ity. Schamyl pretends that he has accomplishbut still they refused to surrender. The Rus-ed this, and that he is in actual communication sians prepared to carry the fortress by storm; with God. His followers fanatically receive Kasi Mullah placed himself in the breach,“ his words as God's words, and his commands supported by the Murids, a sacred corps, con- as the commands of the Lord.” secrated to death for their faith. Covered with His pretended communications with Allah wounds and bathed in blood, he sank on his occur very rarely, never more than twice a knees, still cheering on his followers in the year. When, for instance, he is about to exname of Allah; and as he held his beard with ecute some great design, he generally shuts his left hand, and raised his right towards himself up in his private apartments, or hides heaven, he was transfixed by the Russian bay- himself in some secret cave, and spends three onets. Only one of his sacred band remained weeks in fasting, praying, and reading the alive, and he had been shot by a bullet, and Koran. On his reappearance he announces wounded by the thrust of a bayonet. Cutting to the assembled clergy and his comrades, that his way through the foes that surrounded him, Mohammed has appeared to him in the form he disappeared almost as suddenly and marvel- of a dove, revealed great mysteries, and taught lously as if the earth bad opened and swallowed him how he shall carry on the holy war. He then shows himself to the crowd, which as- of liberty ; my Murids are the trunk, and you sembles round his house on these occasions, are the branches. But do you believe that the and, after singing some verses of the Koran, rottenness of one branch must entail the de. announces the commands of the prophet, and struction of the entire tree? God will lop off declaims with “ lightning in his eye, and flow- the rotten branches, and cast them into the ers on his lip," until his hearers become fu- eternal fire. Return, therefore, penitently, rious with religious zeal and hatred against the and enrol yourselves among the number of Russians. Then the soldiers draw their dag- those who fight for our faith, and you will gain gers, and renew their oath of fidelity, a solemn my favor, and I will be your protector. But hymn is sung, the assemblage disperses, utter- if you persist in giving more belief to the seing the Circassian battle-cry,“ God is great, ductive speeches of the Christian dogs than to Mohammod is his first prophet, and Schamyl my exhortations, then I will carry out what his second ;” and throughout the country a Kasi Mullah formerly threatened you

with. week of rejoicing follows the long fast of the My bands will burst upon your dwellings like Sultan-Prophet.

a thunder-cloud, and obtain by force what you Schamyl is treated with almost Divine hon- refuse to friendly persuasion. I will wade in ors by the Circassians. He withdraws him- blood; desolation and terror shall follow me; self from the people, and any one who is suf- for what the power of eloquence cannot obtain fered to approach him must, whatever may be must be acquired by the sword.” Language his rank or mission, stoop down and kiss the so masculine, figures so simple and striking, a hem of the chieftain's garment. His house is tone so high, and the reputation of power resurrounded night and day by numerous guards, sistless, it need scarcely be added, stir the and when he goes abroad his retinue consists hearts of the mountaineers like a trumpet. of from 500 to 1,000 horsemen, sworn to pro- Schamyl also excels even the Russians in the tect him with their lives. He is very eloquent, power of exaggeration. A Russian general and this is one source of his

power. “Do not on one occasion, to strike terror, proclaimed believe that God favors the greatest number!” that “ his soldiers were as numerous as the he said addressing one of the Circassian tribes. sands of the sea.” “ The Circassians,” replied “ God is on the side of good men, and these Schamyl

, “ are as numerous as the waves are always less numerous than the godless. which wash the sands away.”. Nor is he withLook around you, and you will everywhere out a sufficiení reason why the enemy of the find a confirmation of what I say: Are there chosen servant of God has not been overcome, not fewer roses than weeds? Is there not it is because “Allah is patient and long-suffermore dirt than pearls, more vermin than use- ing!” ful animals? Is not gold rarer than the igno- Another quality which gives Schamyl great bler metals? And are we not much nobler influence over the mountaineers, is an inflexithan gold and roses, than pearls and horses, ble spirit of justice. He has proved this even and every useful animal put together? For more terribly than Brutus did; for not one, all the treasures of the world are transitory, but many of his relations, have fallen victims while eternal life is promised to us. But if to his sense of right, and amongst them some there are more weeds than roses, shall we then, of the dearest. The Russians tell fearful stoinstead of rooting out the former, wait till they ries in illustration of his iron will-stories, have quite overgrown and choked the noble some of which may perhaps have their foundflowers? And if our enemies are more nu-ation in fact, though facts of a very different merous than we, is it wise for us to suffer our-kind to those reported by his enemies. selves to be caught in their nets? Do not say Schamyl does not, however, rely wholly on our enemies have taken Teherkey, Achulko, his spiritual and upright character. He reand conquered all Avaria! If the lightning sembles the Orangemen, who, while they put strike a tree, do all the other trees bow their an unbounded trust in God, yet take care to heads before it ? do they bow down through keep their powder dry. He has, therefore, fear of being also struck? () ye of little faith! cleverly organized an army. Every ten houses follow the example given you by the trees of of a village must furnish one soldier ; the famthe forest, which would put you to shame if ily which furnishes the man is free from taxathey had tongues and could speak. And if a tion as long as he lives; while the other nine fruit is devoured by worms, do the other fruits families provide him with equipments. The also rot through fear of being attacked in the naib, or governor of each of the twenty prosame way? Do not alarm yourselves because vinces of which Schamyl is master, must mainthe infidels increase so; quickly and continu- tain 300 mounted warriors, so that Schamyl's ally send fresh warriors to the battle-field, in regular army numbers 6,000 men.

The rethe place of those we have destroyed. For I maining male inhabitants of the villages betell you that a thousand poisonous fungi spring tween the ages of fifteen and fifty, are also reup out of the earth before a single good tree quired to make themselves skilful in the manreaches maturity. I am the root of the tree agement of horses and arms, and to take the

66

field on an emergency. In such a case, the round, cut his way to his friends, thrust his regular soldier commands the contingent, fur- poignard into the chest of his horse, and fought nished by the ten families from which he has with them. They all perished. Such are been drawn. In addition to these, Schamyl the men who form the living rampart of the has a sacred guard of 1,000 men, called Mur- Caucasus.” tosigators.

Schamyl, at the commencement of his greatThis body is selected from the most worthy ness, used to reward distinguished services by of his followers, and admission to its ranks is presents of horses, arms, sheep, clothing, and esteemed promotion to a position of great honor. money. In 1840 he established several orders The Murtosigators, as long as they are in the ser- of distinction. The first decoration consists vice, must resign all that binds them to life ; of a round silver medal, inscribed, “ For braveif they are married they must not hold the ry;" the second, of a triangular medal, inslightest communicasion with their families ; if scribed, For distinguished bravery ;” and they are single so they must remain. They the third and highest, of solid silver epaulettes must be rigidly abstinent, and recklessly brave. and sword tassels, which invest the wearer In return they possess great privileges. They with princely dignity. One of his followers, wear badges of distinction; they enjoy the po- and one only, wears a large silver medal, inpular respect; they are welcomed in every scribed, “ There is no second hero like Aschhome as honored guests; they are entertained verdu Mahoma ; and no second shashka like wherever they go at the public cost; they are his shashka.” The shashka is a sabre, and the highly paid ; and they share the booty of war. Circassian blades are so excellent that the barThese men are, really, Schamyl's secret police, rels of the Russian muskets have frequently having their eyes everywhere, and the pillars been cut through in battle by one stroke. The of his authority. In peace they are the en- Circassians, it may be added, highly value thusiastic apostles of their leader's faith. In their arms. They are handed down from fawar they are the bravest of the brave, standing ther to son as the most holy relics; and among together till the last man: and never has one them are found the rarest sabres, the most vaproved a traitor-never has one of them fallen luable poignards, lances which were used in into the hands of the Russians.

We are told, the crusades, and Italian pistols bearing Latin for instance, by a Russian officer engaged in inscriptions, preserving the name of the maker the campaign of 1841, “ Six mounted Circas- and their first owners. The Circassians are sians had been surrounded by our men in a still unsubdued in spirit, though decimated in wood. They had retired fighting, and had at number, continually despoiled of their herds length reached a solitary majestic tree, which and crops, and though enclosed, until lately, served to protect their rear. In the mean- within a belt of iron, which year by year was while the Russians poured in from every side; drawn tighter. But succor has come at last and they perceived that victory was impossi- when least expected. England and France ble; still they would not accept the pardon cannot honorably make peace with Russia offered them. They suddenly drew closer to- without securing the independence of Circasgether, and tried to cut a path through the sia. But if those powers neglect the opportusurrounding enemy. Only one broke through nity of extorting justice for a gallant people, the circle and prepared for flight. The other the Circassians will still fight on, “ determined, five had thrown theraselves from their horses, if abandoned,” to use their own words, “ tó and stabbed them in their usual fashion ; for burn our houses and property, cut off the they intended to destroy as many of their ene- heads of our wives and children, retire to the mies as they could. At this moment, they higher rocks, and there defend ourselves to perceived the flight of their friend and recall the last man!” ed him. He immediately wheeled his horse

From Tait's Magazine. as he was like a wild beast, he contrived, in THE COUNT.

the fourth year of his imprisonment, to make

his escape. His success, however, was attendPIERRE COIGNARD was the son of a vine-ed by a circumstance which he had afterwards dresser of Langeais, in the department of the occasion to refer to as one of the great landIndre-et-Loire, and served as a grenadier marks of his history. His comrade in the adunder the Convention. Though a brave sol- venture had been likewise condemned, on the dier, he was an audacious thief, and was at same day with himself, to fourteen years

' fetlength apprehended, tried, and condemned to ters; and the two desperadoes were drawn fourteen years of the galleys. But he did not together, not only by this coincidence in their like the seclusion of the bagne; and, chained fortunes, but by a dissimilarity in character and acquirements which seemed to point them gentle self-possession, before which all weaker out as fit associates in crime. What the one spirits quail like lunatics beneath the voiceless wanted, the other possessed. Coignard was eye of their keeper. tolerably well educated; the other had known But “ Pontis ” that was the name of a no other school than that of the world. Coig-titled family. Was this young grenadier a nard was an easy, pliant man of society; the cadet of the noble house whose representaother a character of iron, molten by nature tives had fled before the horrors of the Revoin a mould which might be broken, but never lution ? He might be so by his person and bent. Coignard, in fine, obtained his ends by bearing; and the idea retained hold of the address, fortified by resolution; and the other imagination of Rosa, even after she learned by an implacable stubbornness of purpose, that he had as little to do with the nobility which was dead to ail considerations but the either of mind or birth as herself. An epoch one idea before it, which it grappled and clung by-and-by came when such an idea was likely to for life or death. The union of two such to present itself in a more enticing form than men would have enriched the annals of guilt; now, when counts were at a discount. The but it was not to take place. They were de- French were compelled evacuate the Pentected in the act of attempting to escape, and insula. Louis le Desiré returned to the throne only one could fly. Had that one been the of his ancestors; and our Pontis and his wife comrade, he would at once have rejected the found themselves once more in a country temptation. And why? Because the object where the husband had worked in chains as a of their plan had failed, which was the flight forgat. of both. “But Coignard, who never grew sulky They proceeded to Soissons, to look after with fate, so far from abandoning his enter the wrecks which the Revolution might have prise, made use of his unlucky friend as a spared of their ancestral fortune. They found stepping-stone in his escape; and, putting his themselves alone in the field. No other Ponfoot upon his shoulder, spurned him away as tis appeared upon the scene: all had perished he caught at the wall above, behind which he in exile; and owing to the registers of the speedily disappeared, with the vengeful yell town having been burned in the confusion of of his associate ringing in his ears. He chan- the Revolution, the heir of the illustrious ged his name from Coignard to Pontis, fled into house was unable even to prove his birth! Spain, joined anew the French army, became Thus unluckily situated, Pontis called upon a sergeant under the regime of Marshal an old lady of his own name, who was waiting Soult, and distinguished himself by his brave- in an agony of impatience to see her family ry and good conduct.

re-established in their ancient honors by the At Saragossa, in the year 1813, Pontis made blessed Restoration. She recognized the the acquaintance of a Spanish girl called handsome young soldier as a Pontis at the Rosa Marcen, whom he afterwards married ; first glance; she knew him by the hereditary and the two congenial spirits set themselves to nose; she could not be mistaken in the calm, work. to discover a way to fortune less tedious firm, half-smiling lip, which gave the world and doubtful than the ranks. An extraordi- assurance of a Pontis. But who was this nary coincidence in names gave them the first young wife whom he presented to her? Had hint; and indeed so strange an influence do the unhappy man tarnished his blood with a seeming trifles exercise over the destinies of mésalliancé? Had he brought some obscure men, that it was perhaps to this coincidence foreigner to mock the state of the Countess was owing the intimacy of two beings so well de Sainte-Hélène ? No. The noble heir of calculated to play into each other's hands in the Pontis assured his aged relation, that even the game of life. Why Pierre Coignard, in exile he had been too proud of their comamong all the names in the world, should have mon name to share it with one meaner than chosen the name of Pontis, is not known; himself

. This lady, though their marriage but it so happened that it was even as a house was unsanctioned by her family till his claims hold word in the ears of Rosa Marsen, she should be established, was of the highest blood having served in some capacity or other in an of Spain—she was a daughter of the viceroy emigrant family bearing that patronymic. of Malaga! This was enough, almost too Whether her service was that of a governess much. The old lady wept with pride and deor a waiting-woman, and whether she retired light, and she ended by making the whole or was driven from it, are matters beyond the town weep with her. An act of notoriety, as ken of biography ; but it is certain that she it is called in French law, was readily obtainbeheld with great interest an individual bear-ed, recognizing the birth of the returned emiing a name so intimately associated with the grant; and this being transferred to the exevents of her own history. And this interest isting registers of Soissons, Pierre Coignard, was not lessened by the fact that Pontis was a the escaped felon, found himself transformed, young and handsome soldier, at once polite as if by magic, into Pontis, Count de Sainteand daring, and endowed with that cool and Helène.

« ElőzőTovább »