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SENT TO SIBERIA.
executions were fixed for the following | General Gubernet, as we stepped into the day. The condemned thought so them. van. selves. Although we did our utmost to “ To eastern Siberia," said the general, keep outwardly calm, the farewells that who stood near the door. evening were unspeakably sad. Most Then I knew my fate — fourteen years touching and agonizing of all was the hard labor — possibly in a region of alpartiog of those who were to die on the most endless night, and as cold as the morrow with those who expected to fol. Polar regions. low them a little later on to the scaffold The station of Koursk, the cities of and the grave. Two months afterwards Mzensk, Moscow, and Nijni Novgorod Beltchomsky and Anisim Fedorow were are passed in quick succession. At Nijoi hanged on the same gallows.
Novgorod we leave the railway and conFive thousand soldiers and gendarmes tinue our journey, as far as Perm, by escorted our doomed friends to the place water. It is only here that we begin to of execution. On previous occasions the realize that we are really on the road to authorities had thought it well to do their Siberia. We are transferred to little hanging early in the morning, while peo- three-horse carriages, with a soldier in ple slept. This time they did it with front and a gendarme by the side of each pomp, circumstance, and parade. The prisoner. By leaning a little forward it is cavalcade of death did not leave the possible to see the vast horizon before us, prison gates until nearly noon; traffic was and the forests and mountains that stretch suspended, but the streets were crowded for unknown distances on either side of with spectators, and when the bodies of the road. It is difficult to describe the our comrades swung in the air, the mili- feelings of a captive who for months, or it tary bands struck up a lively tune, as if may be for years, has been under bolt and they were rejoicing over some great vic- bar, and whose views have been limited to tory.
the blank walls of a prison, when he once more breathes the free air of heaven, and
beholds nature in all her grandeur and her FROM the time of the execution to the beauty. It is as if the liberty for which date of our departure for Siberia nothing his soul has never ceased to yearn were poteworthy came to pass. All sorts of opening to him her arms and bidding him rumors were current touching our desti. be free. nation and our fate. Every day brought The country through which we were a new conjecture or a fresh story. It was passing was thinly peopled, the buildings said that we were to be confined in one of and houses were few and far between. the dreaded central prisons — that we The broad highway was bordered in some were to be immured in the casemates of places by brushwood, in others by imSt. Peter and St. Paul — that we were to mense forests. All sorts of fancies fitted be sent to eastern Siberia, to western through my brain. I thought of home Siberia — to the island of Sakhalin - that of father, mother, and friends - of the we were not to be sent anywhere, but to cause, of the incidents of my trial, and the stay where we were.
dreary future that lay before me: fourteen At length, on May 30, the question was years' hard labor in eastern Siberia settled. Ten prisoners, of whom I made hell hopeless as any conceived in the brain one, were summoned to the office, and of Dante. And then plans of escape told that we were forthwith to take our surged through my mind, each wilder and departure — whither, our custodians re. more fantastic than its fellow. fused to say. The next proceeding was We travel night and day, always with to put two of our friends, who did not be the same soldier and gendarme, though long to the privileged order, in irons and not always with the same driver. On to shave their heads. We others, being one occasion we change horses at midnobles, were to be spared this indignity night, and shortly afterwards I see that until we reached our destination. For my guards are overcome by sleep. They the present we were required only to don nod and rouse themselves in turn; their the ordinary convict costume, consisting efforts to keep awake are laughable. As of a long grey capote, marked on the back for me, my thoughts hinder sleep, but an with a yellow ace for those sentenced to idea occurs to me, and I nod too, and, simple transportation, and with two aces drawing myself into my corner, I snore. for those condemned to penal servitude. The stratagem succeeds. A few minutes
“Will you not tell us whither we are later my gendarme is snoring loud enough going?” 'asked one of our number of to waken the dead. The soldier, who sits
— а can
before me, embraces his rifle with both i ing his head, by way, probably, of keephands and feet, and sways to and fro with ing it warm. the motion of the tarantass, now and then “ You see what it is to sleep on the incoherently muttering in a guttural voice. road, my friend! Suppose, pow, I had He is deep in dreamland. I rise softly slipped out of the carriage! Nothing and look out into the night. A million would have been easier." stars are shining in the clear sky, and I “Oh, but you never thought of such a
see that we are passing through a thing, and I am sure you would not do it, thick forest. A spring, a bound, and I sir." could be among those trees. Once there, “But why?" I ask. my guards cap no more find me than the “ Because I have done you no harm, wolf that steals through the covert, for I and you do not want to get a poor fellow am fleet of foot and eager for freedom. into trouble! You know yourself how But dressed in this convict costume, how severely gendarmes are dealt with who let long should I be able to keep my free. their prisoners escape.” dom? To regain Russia I must follow Very well, brother, bere is your hat, the highroad, and the first soldier or which I found and bid - just to frigbten gendarme I met would arrest me. True, you a bit.” I might throw away my capote, with its Just then we reached another station, double ace, but I have no hat, and a bare- and the poor fellow, as he put on his headheaded man would invite attention even gear, thanked me quite pathetically, as more than one clad in the costume of a much for not running away as for restorfelon. Worse still, I have no arms. I ing bis property. could neither defend myself against wild animals nor kill game; and if I am compelled to take to the woods, game may
At Krasnovarski we were put in prison be the only food I shall be able to pro- again, and there remained several weeks,
awaiting further orders as to our disposal, No; I must abandon the idea now, and for, notwithstanding what we had been watch for a more favorable opportunity told at Kieff, there appeared to be still hereafter. As I come reluctantly to this some doubt touching the fate in store for conclusion I remember – it seemed like us. At length came the final instructions. an inspiration – that the gendarme has a We were to march with the chain gang of hat on his head and a revolver by his side. common prisoners to Irkoutsk. It was Why not take them? He is still fast then that, as an expedient for avoiding asleep, snoring, if possible, harder than penal servitude and eventually regaining
I shall never have such another my liberty, the idea of affecting an exchance. I will do it: two minutes more change first occurred to me. The device and then - freedom.
is one frequently practised among the I almost shout.
outlaws of Siberia. This is the method Holding my breath, and trying to still of it: Two prisoners make a bargain, the beatings of my heart, I creep close to whereby one of the contracting parties the sleeping man, and lay my hand gently takes the name and certificate and ason the hat. He makes no sign, and the sumes the crime of the other, and vice next moment the hat is under my capote. verså. There is, in fact, a complete ex. Now the revolver! I lay hold of the butt, change of identities, and the one who and try to draw it from the gendarme's gains by the exchange settles the differbelt. It does not come out easily -- I pull ence by a money payment. The result is again — pull a second time, and am pre. that the man condemned to hard labor beparing to pull a third time, when the snor. comes a Siberian settler, and the other ing suddenly ceases.
takes his place at the mines or in gaol. Quick as thought I shrink into my cor. The bargain may appear an unequal one, ner, breathe deeply and pretend to sleep. but a moneyless man will sometimes do a The gendarme rouses himself, mutters, great deal for a small sum of ready cash and passes his hand over bis head. Then especially if he has a passion for gamhe searches all about him, and, evidently bling or drink — and there is always the alarmed by the loss of his hat, he sleeps possibility that, when the deceit is discov
ered, the more extreme penalty may not " Hallo, brother!" I say, “ you seem to be enforced. In the mean time, morehave lost your hat.”
over, the supposed political prisoner, who “I am afraid I have, sir,” he answers in is generally of noble birth, enjoys a cona puzzled voice, at the same time scratch. | sideration and some material advantages
which are denied to the common malesac- when they were footsore, rode the politi. tor.
cal prisoners. During the long tramp of the chain About six o'clock in the evening the gang these substitutions are effected with. convoy generally reached the “ half-stage," out much difficulty. The escort being a building in which we pass the night. changed every two days, it is impossible After a march of two days, or of a full day, for the members of it, in so short a time, we had a day's rest at one of the build. to familiarize themselves with the names ings known as étapes, or stages. On these and condition of the ten or twelve score occasions the prisoners are ranged in prisoners who compose the convoy; They front of the building and counted. If the can do no more than count heads, and count be right the gates are opened, and when the officer in command of the party with cries of joy the weary wayfarers has delivered to his successor the saine throw themselves into the court. Then, number of convicts, in each category, pushing and bustling, clanking their which he received from his predecessor, chains and cursing like demons, they his task is fully acquitted. Whether they fight their way into the house, struggling are the same persoos be cannot undertake desperately for the best places. The first to say, and is never asked.
comers take possession of the benches; On August 20, or thereabouts – I am the others lie where they can. When all not sure to a day — we were once more are inside the gates are closed, but the en route, this time on foot. From Kras: doors are not barred until nightfall. novarski the distance is seven hundred The "stage " is a small wooden barrack English miles, and the journey, it was - with a large court, formed of palisades, reckoned, would occupy about two months. in the rear - divided into several comI had thus ample time to make the ac. partments, one of which is assigned to the quaintance of my convict comrades and nobles of the convoy; but like all the carry out the substitution.
others it is far too little for its destined We were now put under an altogether purpose. The prisoners are as closely different régime. Hitherto we had oot packed as herrings in a barrel. A few been able to exchange a word with any only can find places on the benches. The body. I saw about me only my fellow others have to sleep on the damp and political convicts, and might speak, when dirty floor. Next to the benches the occasion required, to pone but my guards. most desirable spot is under them, for Now we were allowed to communicate there it is a little cleaner and the sleepers freely with each other, and with the rather are less likely to be disturbed than on the mixed society of which we formed a part. open floor. The gang consisted of one hundred and The struggle for places over, the barseventy persons of both sexes and of every rack yard becomes very lively. The prisclass and age; from the babe in its moth- oners are preparing the evening meal; er's arms to the old man with snow-white some laying fires, others putting a few bair. Most of them were peasants; yet scanty morsels of food into a pot – for several among us could claim the privi- our fare is terribly meagre; others bring. leges of nobility: But the strength of the ing water and making tea. After supper convoy diminished as we went on, for we are again counted, driven inside, and Krasnovarski is within the limits of east- left there for the night. No one is allowed ern Siberia, and several prisoners were to go out for any purpose whatever; but left as colonists at the villages through as a substitute for latrines large wooden which we passed.
pails are placed in the corridor. The The escort consisted of an officer and presence of these abominations among so thirty soldiers, armed with old-fashioned many people in ill-ventilated rooms renmuskets. A detachment of three or four ders the air unutterably foul; its odor is marched at the head of the column. The something quite peculiar, as all who have others marched at the side and were sup had occasion to enter the prisoners' quarposed to form a military chain. But it ters at night, or, still worse, early in the was so weak, relatively to its duties, as to morning, well know. be almost worthless, the convoy being in. In the same corridor, but at the other creased to a portentous length by the end, is the maidan, a sort of itinerant baggage-wagons and the families of the shop, which serves at the same time as a prisoners who were following them into club and gambling saloon ; for the prison. exile. After the baggage-wagons came ers are much given to play. This maidan two carriages occupied by gentlemen mal- is an institution common to every Sibe. efactors of the nobility, and three in which, Irian convoy and gaol. The markitant, or
keeper of it, is always a prisoner. The the least attention to them, so common post, which is much coveted and very are fugitive convicts on Siberian roads. profitable, is sold to the highest bidder, When they met us they would draw on and the proceeds of the sale, often con one side, sometimes saluting the officer. siderable, are added to the common I have known old friends meet in this hoard. For one of the first proceedings way. of the prisoners is to form themselves into “ Hallo, Ivan Ivanovitch, how goes a society, which is a faithful reproduction it? ” would call out one of the tramps to of the rural mir. They elect a starosta, a man whom he recognized in the chain who also acts as general cashier, and apgang: point hiin an assistant. The authorities, “Ah, is that you, Iliouschka?” would on their part, always recognize this system answer the other pleasantly. " What! of self-government, and acknowledge the have you become a vagabood already ?" authority of the starosta. All orders are 6. Yes, I am on the look out for cheap communicated through him, and he makes lodgings; I dare say I shall soon get acall payments on behalf of the community. commodated." He acts, in short, as general intermediary This in allusion to the certainty, sooner between the prisoners and their custo- or later, of his recapture. dians — bribes, when it is necessary, the Political prisoners on the march enjoy agents of justice, and pays regular trib. privileges which are denied to or pary ute to the executioner, in consideration convicts. They are not fettered; they whereof that official is good enough, often can, when so disposed, ride in the car. at the risk of his own back, to wield his riages which accompany the convoy, and whip with all possible consideration for they are allowed fifteen kopecs (threethe feelings of his victim.
pence) a day for food. On the other The scene in the markitant's den on a hand, the orders in our regard given to rest day was very queer, and, well painted, the officers of the escort were exceedingly would make a striking picture : the players stringent; orders, however, which for the round the capote-covered table, as excited and as intent over their game as if they
• As vagabonds are frequently mentioned in this were playing for thousands of roubles in narrative, and Mokrievitch himself became one of them, stead of fractions of kopecs — the shout. it may be well to explain that the wanderers so desiging and gesticulating onlookers, following A double stream of these waifs is always on the move
nated are simply tramps unfurnished with passports with keenest interest the varying fortunes through Siberia - one towards the east, the other - a ruined gambler bargain- towards the west — the latter free, the former generally
in bonds. Many of the involuntary settlers either do ing with the markitant for an advance on not take kindly to work, or find their lot intolerable, a coat, a pair of shoes, or an old watch and so make off on the first opportunity, begging their a convict asleep on the floor – another way, and living on the charity of the peasants, who
never refuse a destitute traveller a crust of bread and a mending a rent in his clothes - a third night's lodging: Not a few of these wanderers sink hammering at his irons. He is widening under the hardships to which they are exposed, or
freeze to death in the forests, and the survivors are the rings that shackle his legs, in order nearly always arrested before they reach the frontier of that he may slip them off when he is on European Russia ; but they cause the police a world the road walking in irons not being false names, and deny being fugitive transports - which
of trouble. Having no papers, they are able to give precisely an amusement. The sentries they almost invariably do. There is then nothing for it and the officers cannot fail to hear the but to write to whatever address a man may give gen
erally some remote village - and inquire if he is known clang of the hammer, but the custom of there. Should the answer be in the negative, the fact removing irons while on the march is so is taken as proof of the paperless one's guilt, and he is
sent back in chains to the interior of Siberia. As likely common as to have the force of a rec
as not, however, it will be in the affirmative, for there ognized regulation, and is seldom, if ever, prevails among these outcasts a strange yet regular objected to by the commander of an escort.
trade in what the vagabonds call “nests." For instance,
Ivan Ivanovitch, being in want of money, sells to Peter Day followed day with unvarying mo- Iliouschka, who has a few kopecs to spare, the name notony, but every one brought us nearer and address of some mujik of his acquaintance, who to our destination, and though I had not perhaps, his own name and address. This is Peter's
long ago left his native village for parts unknown - or, yet ventured to effect an exchange, I never nest, and when he falls into the hands of the police he wavered in my resolution to escape on the tells them he is Paul Lubovitch, from, let us say,
Teteriwino, in the government of Koursk. On this, a first favorable opportunity. Almost every missive is sent to the starosta of Teteriwino, who re day we met vagabonds, as runaway con- plies, in due course, to the effect that the village did victs are called, making for Russia. Their in question be the same man he is unable to say. The
once possess a Paul Lubovitch, but whether the person dress, their closely cropped hair, and their next proceeding is to send the soi-disant Paul to Teterigeneral appearance leit no doubt as to wino for identification. This proceeding naturally re
sults in the detection of the imposture, whereupon our their quality. Yet neither the officer of friend Peter is condemned to a new term of exile, and the escort nor the local authorities paid sent back whence he came.
of the game
most part it was impossible to execute. medt we arrived at the étape in question, For instaoce, they were enjoined to keep he should follow me to an obscure corner us always apart and not let us on any ac. of the barrack yard - to speak plainly, to count mix with the other prisoners. But the latrine. The plan succeeded to admi. the weakness of the escort, and above all, ration. In a few minutes we had exthe arrangement of the buildings at the changed dresses. Pavlov, my burglar étapes, or halting-places, rendered observ- friend, was transformed into a political ance of this injunction so extremely diffi- prisoner of the nobility, and I became a cult that it was seldom enforced.
common malefactor in irons. Though in
face as unlike as possible, we were about THE SUBSTITUTION.
the same height and build, and, at a disWE were within fourteen days of Ir- tance, might easily be mistaken one for koutsk before I succeeded in effecting an another. exchange of identities with a convict con. The delivery of the gang to the new demned to simple exile. Many others escort went off without difficulty. Pavlov followed my example. Of the one hun. lay on a bench with his face bound up. dred and seventy men who composed the Nobody took any notice either of him or convoy not more than fifty were under of me, and when the old escort marched sentence of penal servitude, and at least away, we knew we were safe. The mo twenty of th
btained substitutes. So ment they were gone I went into the comfar as the prisoners were concerned, this mon room and got myself shaved and my was done quite openly; concealment, in hair cut close to my head, so that my fact, would have been impossible, even if coiffure might resemble that of my new it had been necessary - and it was not comrades. necessary; for so long as the convoy held I wondered then, and I have often wontogether, and the communistic organiza. dered since, at the ease with which my tion endured, betrayal was not to be feared.custodians were deceived in the matter The traitor would have died within a few of this substitution. On the register I hours of his treason by the hand of one was set down as a former medical student. of his comrades and this all knew. I had, therefore, been a member of a uni.
My substitute, a peasant by origin and versity; Pavlov, on the other hand, was a burglar by profession, agreed to the ex. almost wholly illiterate. He could hardly change of identities in consideration of a open his mouth without betraying his ori. sum of sixteen shillings in coin, a pair of gin and showing his ignorance. His apboots and a flannel blouse. Two days pearance, moreover, was little in liarmony before our arrival at the étape, where it with his new character. I, as a noble, was arranged to carry the agreement into had worn my hair and beard long, while effect, I pretended to have a bad tooth. his head was closely cropped, and he wore ache, bound up my face with a pocket. no beard at all. How could all this fail handkerchief, and at the half-way halting to excite suspicion ? For three weeks he place remained all the time on the bench acted as my substitute, and it never seems that served for a bed, as if I were dis to have occurred either to the officers of tracted with pain. This I did to hide my the escort or the authorities of Irkoutsk features from the soldiers of the escort, that the soi-disant Debagorio Mokrievitch one of whom, sharper than his fellows, was not the real Simon pure. But for the might otherwise possibly discover the denunciation - of which I shall speak stratagem. The risk was too great, my presently - I do not believe the secret lodging for liberty too intense, io permit ever would have been discovered, always me to neglect a single precaution. supposing that Pavlov kept the compact,
Exchanges were most easily effected at and he really behaved very well. One the principal halting places because the day an officer of the escort, seeing by the escort was changed there. Among the register that I was a medical student, common prisoners the transaction was consulted my substitute touching some conducted in the simplest way imaginable. ailment he had, and Pavlov, with an imAt the foll-call the contracting parties pudence that bordered on the sublime, answered respectively to each other's gave him the benefit of his advice. He pame, took each other's places, and the was fortunately not called upon to put his thing was done. In the case of a political prescription in writing. prisoner under special surveillance, just It may be asked why I did not profit by ihen very stringent, the operation entailed the laxity of the escort during the first part greater risk and demanded more care. 1 of the journey to escape before we reached arranged with my substitute that the mo-l our destination. Because I should have