the Prince's health was drunk in champagne at table, in mead and cherry wine in the galleries; then the orchestra began playing, and the choir sang. Cannon wore fired, the mountebanks amused His Highness with their postures, the dwarfs grinned, the guests in delight threw their glasses against the wall, while the bear stood on his hind-legs and growled. After this the guests proceeded to the drawingroom, where splendid tokay was drunk, and then had a nap. The flag was hoisted, and through Zaboria no other sound was audible save the snoring of Alexis Yurivitch and his guests.

When the sleepers awoke again they proceeded to their apartments and dressed for the ball, which commenced at seven o'clock. Thousand of wax-candles were lighted in the ball-room, tar-barrels blazed in front of the palace, while across the Volga the country was illumined with enormous bonfires. So soon as the Prince and Princess made their appearance, the drummers and buglers struck up a Polonaise. Then the Governor, dressed in a green kaftan, red waisteoast, and yellow breeches, with a mighty powdered peruke on his head, and his cavalry scarf across his breast, walked up to the Princess, made as graceful a bow as he could, took her hand and led the dance, the other couples following in accordance with their rank. After the Polonaise, the company entered the dining-hall, where Italian musicians played till all had taken their seats. A curtain was drawn and displayed a stage, npon which Dunyashka, a peasant's daughter, and the prettiest girl in the town, presently appeared. She was dressed a hi Pompadour, with tall ixnvdercd hair and beauty patches on her face; in a word, it was the exact costume of the shepherdesses at the court of Louis Quinze. Dunyashka began by reciting a congratulatory ode, written by Simeon Titisch, the palace poet. Then Parashka, another shepherdess, came in and said many pretty things about love and lambs, which also were the productions of Titisch. We may remark, in parenthesis, that this son of the Muses had very marked Bohemian tendencies, and when an ode was required of him he was locked up for several days for fear lest he should confound the Castalian spring with the vodki-bottle.

After the performance of the shepherdesses, fireworks were let off, and a small scullion-lad descended from the top of the

theater. He was meant to represent Phoebus, and consequently wore a yellow kaftan and light-blue breeches, with gold spangles. In his hand he held a piece of wood with a hole in the center, over which twine was tied, and this represented his lyre. He had also yellow twine in his hair, which was indulgently supposed to indicate sunbeams. Finally, nine peasant girls appeared in hooped petticoats—the Muses—who crowned the Prince with a garland of flowers obtained from the palace hot-house. Alexis Yuriviteh would sometimes call for Simeon Titisch, in order that he might congratulate him, but the poet was never in a presentable condition: he was generally tied down in a chair in a cellar, because, when, intoxicated, he was extremely noisy. The supper was a repetition of the dinner, with fewer dishes and more bottles. When it was ended, the minor guests retired, and Prince Alexis proceeded with fifteen or twenty of the highest persons to a summer-house. As a sign that they should make themselves comfortable, he took off his coat, and a booze began, which lasted till the next morning. Prince Alexis did not live on satisfactory terms at all with his wife; in fact, he only saw her on grand occasions, like the one we have just described. One day, on returning from the chase, he found a letter awaiting him from his son, Prince Boris Alexievitch, who was residing at the capital. He took a glance at the contents, roared like a bull, and again could be heard the smashing of glass and tables The servants fell on their knees and prayed that the storm might pass over their heads, while others ran out of the house in terror. The Prince then inquired after his consort, and one of his valets was so incautious as to inform his master that Her Highness was confined to her room; whereupon the unhappy wretch was hurled to the ground, (" like corn before the sickle," says the deponent,) and when he rose again, made the painful discovery that five of his teeth were absent without leave. The Prince, in the mean while, dashed up to his wife's apartments, and found her lying very ill on a sofa. At a table near her was seated one Koudratie Sergeyevitch, a pious, learned dweller in the Prince's house, who had sought shelter with him after being expelled from his estate by a powerful neighbor. He was at the moment reading to the Princess the "Life of Saint Barbara."

"Ha!" Alexis Yurivitch shrieked, "there you are! You who have so spoiled your boy, that he wants to marry a woman of light character, while you spend your time here with your lover." And the Prince gave full vent to his fury.

The next morning not a trace of Sergeyevitch could be found in Zaboria, and the kind-hearted Princess Martha Petrovna was a corpse. The funeral was superb; it was performed by three archimandrites and one hundred priests, and although hardly one of them had known the Princess, all wept, with the exception of her husband, who followed the coffin dry-eyed. Still, it was noticed that he had grown much thinner; his lips quivered, and every now and then he shuddered all over. For six weeks after the funeral all the beggars who came to Zaboria were regaled at the Prince's charges, and money was distributed to them on Saturday. The funeral cost altogether three thousand roubles. At the funeral banquet Prince Alexis spoke in the most edifying manner with the archimandrite about the Holy Gospels, the way of saving the soul, and the duties of a Christian. "There was my poor Princess," he said; "she lived a life of humility and holiness, and prepared herself a place in the kingdom of the blessed." Then he added, that existence no longer had charms for him, that he could not endure the thought of living without his wife, and begged the archimandrite to take him into his monastery, and he would bring forty thousand roubles with him.

"Do not make any premature resolution," said the archimandrite; "have you not a son to live for?"

"What, Boris?" the penitent Prince and future monk yelled; "if he cares for life, he had better not show his face here. The iniquitous villain! he has ruined me, and is the cause of his mother's death. He has brought eternal disgrace upon our name; without our permission, or asking for his father's blessing, he has married some wench without a penny-piece to her fortune—a person for whom it would have been an honor to tend my swine. It was that scoundrel who brought the Princess to the grave; when she heard of it she had a fainting-fit, and passed away during the same hour—the dear dove!"

"You must bow your head before affliction, Prince," the archimandrite remonstrated.

"What, bow myself before Boris?"

Alexis Yurivitch said, with a laugh. "Nothing of the sort. I will marry again, and have other children. Boris and his beauty may go a begging, for they shall not have a kopeck from me. There are plenty of girls who would be glad to have me, and were there no other I would marry Malashka, the goose-girl."

At this moment the priest began drinking the "trisna,"* the deacons read prayers, and the choristers sang the " V etchnoiu Pamiat." All rose and prayed excepting Prince Alexis, who fell down before the sacred images, and sobbed so bitterly that no one could gaze at him without bursting into tears. He was at length raised from the ground with great difficulty, and the next day his sorrow was so intense that he had a heap of peasants flogged, and thrashed half a dozen with his own hands. Every body he came across had done something wrong. The small gentry, who lived with him as sycophants and led captains, lost patience so entirely, that in spite of their good entertainment they resolved to leave Zaboria. Fortunately, the Prince only remained for a week in this terrible humor; he again went out hunting, and no sooner had he killed a bear than his sorrow and grief disappeared as if by enchantment. Still, he could be seen to be ageing, and at times he fell into a state of despondency. Sometimes, when the hunt was at an end, he would still seat himself astride on a cask of vodki, fill a beaker, and drink to the health of all present. But then it often happened that he suddenly became gloomy, let the glass fall, and a deadly silence would take the place of the noisy bursts of laughter a moment previously. After a few moments of brooding the Prince's face would brighten again, and he would say, "I have startled you, my friends. Ah! yes, brothers, I shall soon die." After this he began singing, hundreds of voices chimed hi, and then dancing, shouting, and drinking went on till nightfall.

In spite of the paternal wrath, Prince Boris was not disposed to keep away from Zaboria for ever, and just a year after his mother's death he wrote his father that he would shortly pay him a visit. Prince Alexis read the letter, and summoned his steward, who received the following instructions :—

* A potion of mead, rum, wine, and beer, which is drunk by all present, upstanding, after the pope has read the final prayer at a funeral festival.

"Boris will arrive here to-morrow with the creature he has made his wife. Let no one dare to raise a hat to him, but all who meet him must bark like dogs. They can come as far as the palace, but the horses will not be taken out, so that when I have given them a lecture they can be off again."

These orders were literally earned out, and Prince Boris and his young wife had every sort of humiliation to endure. Their kindly language and pleasant behavior did not produce the slightest effect on the brutalized serfs of Zaboria. Before they drove into the village they were assailed by a mob of one hundred and fifty peasants, purposely sent to meet them, and who thrust out their tongues and yelled at them. Prince Alexis was standing in the palace-gate, whip in hand. His eyes burned like those of a wolf, and his whole face quivered with fury. The servants crept out of the way, anticipating a tempest such as they had never yet seen with their master. As a precautionary measure they had let in a priest by the back-door, for who knew what might happen, or who might require supreme unction?

The young couple got out of the carriage; Prince Alexis rushed toward them with upraised lash, but suddenly stopped as if chained to the ground at the sight of the extraordinarily lovely lady. The whip slipped from his hand, and his face glistened with delight. Prince Boris fell at his father's feet, and the Princess was about to do the same, but her father-inlaw prevented it. He kissed and hugged her, paid her the most flattering compliments, forgave Boris on the spot, and at once commanded a grand banquet in honor of the children.

Matters went on henceforth merrily at Zaboria, but it was a different merriment from any hitherto known. There were banquets, but no bears and mountebanks, no row, and no intoxication. When one of the neighboring gentry let a word fall about the nocturnal revelries in the pavilion, the old Prince at once gave him a look which rendered him dumb. This taming of the wolf of Zaboria took place in a few weeks, and was the work of the young Princess Varvara Michailovna. Her sole charm lay in her sweet eye and soft voice; her sole spell to prevent follies was "Come, father, that is not right." Not an instance was known that Prince Alexis VOL. LVIL—NO. 1

did not listen at once to such a remark. Not alone did the flogging cease, but the knout and rods were burnt. Those persons in the palace w! o could not wean themselves from vodki were sent to a distant village, and regularity and order began to prevail at Zaboria. Even at the chase matters did not go on so wildly as they did formerly; at least Alexis Yurivitch gave up his old odious habit of riding on a spirit-barrel, and contented himself with a glass like other Christians. Nor did he allow any one to drink immoderately, "for," he said, "my daughter might hear of it, and feel grieved."

Be gradually became quite reconciled with his son, allowed him to manage the property, and repeatedly declared that next year, when he expected to see a little grandson, he should retire to a monastery, pray for his children there, and prepare himself for life eternal. The Princess really had a little son at the expiration of a year, and the old gentleman's delight was unbounded. For niue days he kept guard at her door, that no one might disturb her, and then carried his grandson all about the palace, singing cradle-songs the while. At the christening he gave each servant a shining silver rouble, and emancipated two hundred of his serfs. The young heir, unfortunately, only lived for six weeks. When he died, Alexis Yurivitch took to his bed, ate nothing for two days, and scarce spoke a word. The mother, in the midst of her grief for her infant, had to console the grandfather, who for a long time refused to be comforted.

A little time after, the news arrived that the King of Prussia was stirring, and that there would probably be a war. As Prince Boris was an officer in the imperial army, he prepared for his departure: his wife wished to accompany him, but Prince Alexis, with tears in his eyes, begged her to stay with him. Boris also joined his entreaties to his father's, by showing Varvara that she could not possibly follow the army, and she at length consented to remain at Zaboria. The leave-taking was very solemn: after the service had been performed at church for persons about to proceed on a journey, Prince Alexis gave his son, in the presence of the congregation, his blessing, and a picture of the Virgin, as an amulet, embraced him, and made him a speech, in which he was warned to fight bravely and not spare himself, but lay down his life unscrupulously, should it prove necessary, for bis mother the Empress. As regarded his wife, he need be under no anxiety about her, for, whatever might happen to himself, she would be taken care of. The Princess was so unhappy at the separation, that after her husband's departure no company was seen at Zaboria until letters arrived from Prince Boris, in which he narrated the actions he had been engaged in, and added that he should not go any farther into Prussia, as he was appointed town - commandant of Memel, which place was now in the hands of the Russians. On receiving this intelligence, matters began to grow a little more lively at Zaboria, and Prince Alexis again received company, though it was all very quiet.

"At last, however," the old peasant of the MS. says, " Satan must have grown wearied of Alexis Yurivitch's good behavior." One day there was a frightful scene between him and his lovely daughter-in-law, which ended with the latter trying to leave the room, and falling in a swoon on the threshold. Directly after the monster broke out again in all his savageness; again the knout and lash whizzed through the streets, again were the wildest orgies held, and again did His Highuess bestride the vodki barrel. The Palace of Zatyoria became one huge pothouse.

Among the Prince's followers was a bandit, who, when his men were destroyed, left the forests and came to Zaboria. Alexis Yurivitch was kind to this man, and placed him about his person; he was a capital spy, and kept his master well informed of all that occurred in palace and town. One day this robber brought the Prince a letter, which he had intercepted, and which was written by Princess Varvara to her husband. His Highness at once broke it open, scowled, grew more and more furious as he read, and at last walked up and down the room with his hands on his back, and whistling softly. The next day a letter arrived from the Virvodo and Governor of Semigorsk, which announced a visit from that official, the motive for it being certain communications he had received from the Princess Varvara. The Prince and the bandit, whose name was Chatun, consulted the whole night through in a retired apartment, and the next morning the servants received orders to pack up the Princess's clothes, as she was going to Memel, to

pay her husband a visit. The carriage was ready that evening; the Princess took leave of all and got in. When she kissed her father-in-law's hand she trembled violently, and almost fainted. "The Lord be with you, be with you," said Alexis Yurivitch. "Help her into the carriage."

On the same night the Prince proceeded to the pavilion, where he remained a considerable time. When he came out again he was seen to lock the door and throw the key into the Volga. The next morning all the doors leading to the garden were nailed up, and orders were issued that no one should enter it again. At the same time disappeared Arina, an old woman, who had been suffering for weeks of a fever. No one supposed that she could possibly recover, but one day she suddenly left her cabin. In what manner no one knew; enough that she was never seen again. A fortnight later Chatun and the two maids who accompanied the Princess Varvara returned with the news that their mistress had died from the fatigues of the journey. Chatun brought a letter from the doctor who attended her, as well as from the priest who paid her the last offices. The Prince took charge of the two documents, and locked them up in his secretaire. The fact was that the Prince had carried off" that Arina, who had died on the journey, in the place of his daughter-in-law. Chatun dragged the unhappy Varvara out of the carriage, and immured her in the pavilion, with the help of the Prince. Such, at any rate, was the whisper, and the discovery which Daniel Boi-isovitch, grandson of the Prince, made in the garden-house, and which induced him to pull it down, appears to confirm it.

At the outset nothing came to light; on the day after their return Chatun and the two maids were sent across the Volga, on some excuse, in a leaky boat. The river was full of ice, and a strong breeze was blowing. Prince Alexis was standing on one of the hills over the river, and looking on. When the boat sank, he crossed himself, and went into the monastery, to order prayers for the soul of the deceased Princess. When Alexis returned home, he had a large cask of vodki brought up into the drawing-room, and boozed with his peasants for several days in succession. He gave one a piece of costly velvet, another a diamond, and, in short, behaved quite like a lunatic. At length an officer appeared in the town with troops, and requested speech of the Prince. The latter donned his general's uniform, bade his servants bring the heaviest whip, and then prepared himself for a due reception of the new arrivals. When they entered, he scarce deigned to rise from his chair.

"We have come, Prince Alexis Yurivitch, to make an investigation into your treatment of the Princess Varvara, and your conduct generally," said the Major.

"And how do you dare show your ugly face here?" the Prince raved. "You shall all taste the knout, and the Voivode in the bargain, if he ventures to come.

"Be easy, Highness," the officer answered. "I have an escort of dragoons, and have not come from the Voivode, but by direct order of her majesty the Empress."

When the Prince heard these words, he trembled, and yelled, "I am lost ! I am lost!" knelt down to the Major, offered him twenty thousand roubles to spare him, and humiliated himself in the most pitiful manner. The Major asked him several questions, but the Prince rolled his eyes like an idiot, and answered in unconnected sentences, so that the officer saw he was not in possession of his senses, and deferred the examination till the next day. The Prince went to his bed-room, and in doing so was compelled to pass through the picture-gallery. Suddenly he stopped before the portrait of the Princess Varvara, and gave a start; he fancied the head of the picture was nodding to him; he took one more glance, and then fell unconscious on the ground. When he came to himself again, he ordered the servants to paint the face black. He was put to bed, and a barber opened a vein. He asked were the face hidden over, and on hearing it was so, he gave up the ghost.

The family of the princes of Zaboria is extinct. Prince Alexis, when he came into possession of the family estate, was so wealthy, that he was wont to reckon his gold and silver plate by hundredweights, and his ready money by barrels. His reckless extravagance naturally injured his property, and his son Boris, when he came to it, did not find what he had anticipated. Still, his fortune was so

enormous, that it did not appear possible to dissipate it in two generations. Boris certainly did all in his power to effect impossibilities, and lived "as if he had been engaged to ruin the family property"— still, the task was too great for him. He lived as an honest and thorough old Russian lord, not so rough as his father, but quite as extravagant; and at last died of an indigestion, produced by overfeeding at his club.

His successor, Borisovitch, inherited three thousand souls. He at first made an attempt to raise the fortunes of his family again, but found it impossible, especially as he had expensive notions. He lived for a long time with WoronzofFs embassy in France, fell into the same mystical pietistic state into which the Emperor Alexander was brought by Madame de Kriidener, subscribed large sums for the establishment of freemasonic lodges and the Russian Bible Society, and got rid of about eight hundred souls in this way.

The daughter of this interesting Daniel, the Princess Natalia Danielovna, immediately after her parent's decease, started for Italy, where she resided five-and-twenty years. When a box arrived one day at Zaboria, from Rome, with the mortal remains of the Princess, the family exchequer contained the exact sum of twelve roubles fifty copecks, while the mortgages on the estate was estimated at one million roubles. The deceased Princes had no near relatives, and among the distant ones not one of them loved her sufficiently to accept Zaboria and her Italian debts. The end of the story was this: the estate was brought to the hammer, the son of an ex-waiter at the town hotel bought palace and estate, and the late Princess's creditors received sixty-five copecks in the rouble.

On reading the strange story which a Russian author has raked up for the edification of his countrymen, we can hardly believe that the events he records took place so short a time back as the vaunted eighteenth century. At a period when Russian empresses affected wit, and were in correspondence with one half the- Encyclopedia, savages like this boyard could coolly commit the most atrocious crimes, and display the most cynical contempt of laws that are recognized even among savage nations. In his way, this Prince Alexis, who commits murder for a cross

« ElőzőTovább »