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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsHortus Inclusus - Chapter 19
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Hortus Inclusus - Chapter 19 Post by :indianahoosiers Category :Nonfictions Author :John Ruskin Date :May 2012 Read :3303

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Hortus Inclusus - Chapter 19

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Letter from Fred Markham to his Mother--Entrance of the Czar into Moscow--Saveleff presents his Petition--Grand Review of Troops-- Coronation of the Emperor--Fete at the Opera--State Balls--The Illumination--The People's Feast--The People's Ball--Fireworks-- Character of Russians--Thieving Propensities--Russian's Aptitude for Commerce--Cucumber-water--Aqueduct of Moscow--Cursing Heretics-- Blessing the Waters--Blessing Fruits--Christening Ceremony--Story of a Post-office for the Saints--High Mass in a Greek Church--Preparations for Leaving Moscow--Last News of Saveleff.


"Moscow, _30th September_, 1856.

"Dearest Mother,--We are delighted that we came back to Moscow, for we have seen some magnificent sights, such as we are not likely to see again; and, thanks to the Count's kindness, we saw everything to the best advantage, which I will now try and describe to you as briefly as I can. The very day we came here the Emperor arrived at his boiled-crab-like palace of Petrofsky, in front of which his camp of sixty thousand men is pitched. The 29th of August was fixed for his entrance into the city. A long, somewhat winding street, with houses of all heights and sizes, leads from the city gate to the Kremlin. Rows above rows of benches were placed at every interval between the houses, as also on their roofs, and in front of them, every bench being covered with people in their best attire, while the sides of the street were densely crowded with mujicks, both men and women, in their holiday suits, the centre part being kept clear by lines of cavalry; gay carpets, cloths, flags, and banners of every description hung out of all the windows, adding to the brilliancy of the scene. We got first-rate seats near the entrance to the Kremlin. The morning was rainy, but in the forenoon the weather cleared, and ringing of bells and firing of big guns, and talking and laughing, and hurrying of people to and fro to their posts, and marching of infantry and cavalry, occupied the time till four o'clock, when the Emperor entered the city gate; troops of many Asiatic tribes, in various gorgeous costumes, and imperial guards, and nobles of the realm, in magnificent uniforms, preceding him, while he was followed by the members of his family and their wives in five carriages--fine enough to make the Lord Mayor of London and all the Sheriffs jealous.

"All the great people were accompanied by running footmen, lacqueys, and others, and the whole procession was wound up with some fine squadrons of cuirassiers. Priests in their robes, with their crosses and pictures of saints, stood at all the churches, and at the doors of some the Emperor dismounted and kissed them--not the priests, but the crosses and pictures--as he and his Empress did also the relics and pictures of saints of peculiar sanctity in the various cathedrals. And lastly, in the cathedral of Saint Michael, they prostrated themselves before the tombs of those of their ancestors who are there buried. Cousin Giles said it struck him as setting somewhat of an example of idolatry to his subjects; but I do not suppose that he troubled himself about any such consideration. The universal custom of presenting bread and salt was performed by the Archbishop of Moscow to the Emperor as he entered the palace of the Kremlin, and here the ceremony of the day concluded. We eagerly watched to see if our friend Saveleff could find an opportunity of presenting his petition to the Emperor. Whenever the Czar stopped, the crowd pressed forward, and, amid shouts and cries, took his hand, and pressed it to their lips.

"'I see him! I see him!' cried Harry, as nodding plumes, and glittering helmets, and rich turbans, and tall spears, and shining swords, and gay banners were defiling through the gate of the Kremlin.

"We looked eagerly among the crowd, and then we saw a mujick working his way to the front rank, with a paper held out in one hand above his head. We could not hear, of course, what he said, but whatever was his appeal, his brethren made way for him. We were certain he could be no other than Saveleff. He had just reached the position he sought, when the Emperor himself approached. The Emperor bowed and smiled, and held out his hand to a number of mujicks, who were pressing forward to kiss it. At that moment, Saveleff, with a few hurried words, thrust his paper between the Emperor's fingers. We understand that he exclaimed, 'Oh, your Majesty, look at my document--life and death depends on it. Grant my petition!' The Czar cast a look of surprise at the audacious mujick, and, without saying a word, handed the paper to an officer near him. But the result of all his toils, his sufferings, his anxieties-- ah, you will ask, what is that?--we cannot tell. The Count has done his utmost to forward his object. His parents are still on their way to Siberia, if they have survived the hardships they have endured. His betrothed is still among the gipsies, and may any day be dragged back to slavery. The poor fellow remains with us, and is unmolested, but he is in low spirits, and hopeless of success. Still, he says that he would gladly go through far greater hardships and troubles than he has endured for the sake of the faith to which he holds. Cousin Giles would have taken him with us to England, but he will not quit the country which holds his betrothed, nor give up all prospects of rescuing his parents.

"I must, however, try to give you an idea of what took place during the coronation festival. The next thing which took place was a grand parade of all the troops in the camp, now increased to one hundred and twenty thousand men. Some of the cavalry had a fine appearance, dressed in Oriental costume. There were Circassians, or rather Lesghians, and other tribes bordering on the Caucasus--some in chain armour, others in white robes. There were Greeks and Albanians in their national costume, ferocious Koords, and terrier-looking Cossacks, with long lances, on shaggy little ponies, looking as if they would bite any one who came in their way. All the great people were there. The finest thing was a charge of twelve thousand dragoons, who literally made the ground tremble under them. They afterwards galloped up to the Emperor, and, drawing their swords simultaneously, with loud shouts, exclaimed--'We wish your health, Czar!' and then, wheeling round, dashed off at full speed.

"I must next tell you about the coronation itself. It took place in the Church of the Assumption, before which a large court had been formed by railing in several other churches, and covering them with galleries. These were filled with all the great people of the nation and their visitors. The arched roof of the church is supported by four massive pillars, covered with gold; under them sat the Emperor and Empress, surrounded by their Court. The Emperor took the crown, an immense one, blazing with jewels, from the Metropolitan who held it, and with his own hands placed it on his head. This he did to intimate that from no earthly power, clerical or lay, did he receive his sovereignty. The Empress then advanced, and kneeling before him, he touched her forehead with the crown, and then replaced it on his own head. The Empress-mother, who was the first to advance to congratulate her son, burst into tears, it is said, while her children, forgetful of all rules of etiquette, clung affectionately round him. The whole congregation wept, overcome at the sight.

"That same night all Moscow was illuminated, and a truly fairy-like spectacle it was. Every tower, minaret, cupola, dome, the front of its vast palace, and all the walls of the Kremlin were a blaze of light; so was the vast square with the arches which temporarily surround it, and the superb opera-house at one end, all the palaces of the great people, and the public buildings. You remember our description of the Cathedral of Saint Basil, with its wondrous towers and domes, and its various ins-and-outs? Every part of that bizarre building was clearly traced with bright lamps, and the effect was curiously beautiful. We walked about, and gazed and gazed with wonder and delight, till our eyes were so dazzled that we could scarcely see our way home.

"After this there were grand galas at the opera, and balls at the palace, and one at the English Ambassador's, where McAllister, Lord Stafford's piper, figured as a very important personage. The people also had their feast, the preparations for which we had seen; but they rushed up to the tables, and made away with the food, either down their throats or into their pockets, before the arrival of the Emperor and the greater part of the intended spectators. They, however, behaved much better at a ball which the Emperor gave them at the palace in the Kremlin. Dance they could not, but the mujicks and their wives and daughters walked about the vast halls, admiring the wonders they beheld, and eating and drinking as much of the delicate viands prepared for them as they could procure.

"Last night there was a grand display of fireworks, but somehow or other they did not go off at the right time and place; however, I daresay that the crowd were equally astonished and delighted as if each squib and cracker had played its part properly. One thing I must say for the Russians, that they are a very orderly, well-behaved people; and in all the vast crowds we saw, the people appeared kind and good-natured to each other in the extreme. There was no unnecessary pushing and shoving, and none of that abusive language which is so disgusting in an English crowd; on the contrary, every one appeared good-tempered and happy.

"I really like the Russians in many respects. Their faults are rather the consequence of bad government and a faulty religion, than such as are inherent in their race. If a pure religion were introduced among them generally, and their government were to become more and more liberal, till they are capable of governing themselves, another century would see a very great change in them for the better. At present a large number of them are semi-barbarians, with the ignorance and vices of barbarism; and although they may be easily governed under the present despotic system, they are equally liable to be led into revolt by any designing man who is bold enough to risk his life on the chance of success. I give you Cousin Giles' opinion on the subject, which is of more value than mine.

"I am sorry to say that in the capitals a number of people are found not a little addicted to picking and stealing. Not that housebreakers or footpads are to be found, but it is not safe to leave things about in one's room. One day, while we were at dinner, I found that I had left my pocket-handkerchief up-stairs, so I ran to get it. What was my surprise to find the door open, which I felt certain I had locked, and on looking in to observe a gentleman very composedly stowing away in a towel some shirts and other clothes which had just come home from the laundress.

"'Hollo, old fellow, what are you about?'

"'_Si chasse_--_si chasse_,' (presently--presently), he answered, with the greatest coolness, as if he was employed in something he had been ordered to do. They were some of the very few words of Russian I knew.

"'I'll not trouble you, my man. Just put those things down, and get out of this as fast as you can,' I exclaimed, walking up to him. He tried to grasp the things, and to make a bolt with them, but I was too quick for him; and while I sung out at the top of my voice, he let the things fall, and made a dart out of the room. I followed him as fast as I could run, and had I not unfortunately slipped, I should have caught him, and held him fast till my shouts brought the people from the dining-room to my assistance. As it was, the fellow escaped, to my great disappointment, though he took nothing with him. The Russian thieves are also very expert at picking pockets, and at the time of the coronation they had plenty of opportunities in exercising their vocation. Harry and I lost our pocket-handkerchiefs one day, but after that we followed Cousin Giles' advice, and fastened them into our pockets. The Russians are great traders; they begin their mercantile pursuits at a very early age. Little fellows, who would be playing at marbles or hoop in England, if they were not at school, here manage shops or stalls in the streets. They are as sharp, too, as any grown-up men, and if they do not cheat others, they take very good care that they are not cheated themselves. We have seen small urchins not more than seven or eight years old with a store of wax-tapers or picture-books, or quass, of which they pressed all passers-by with the greatest pertinacity to become purchasers. We stopped several times with Mr Allwick to talk to them, and we found that they knew not only all about their own trade, but had already a good knowledge about trade in general. Many of the richest shopkeepers in Moscow and Saint Petersburg have sprung from this humble class of dealers.

"Many of the shopkeepers have a very Jewish look, and employ the very mode which the Jews in London, in some of the back streets, do to induce passers-by to purchase their wares. They stand in front of their shops, and as soon as they see any one approaching, they step forward, uttering praises of their goods, and, with hands stretched out, look as if they would forcibly detain the stranger, and as if they would consider themselves very ill-used should he not become a purchaser.

"The Russians are great eaters of raw vegetables, especially of onions and cucumbers. They eat them pickled in salt, and most thoroughly unwholesome they appeared. They drink also the juice of the cucumber, mixed with water, which is called cucumber-water. It is said to form a very cooling beverage in summer! But I suspect the water forms the best part of the potation. They are very fond of all sorts of sour vegetables. They have a species of apple, which they allow to freeze in winter, in which state it is preserved, and though it has a very withered appearance, it is really full of juice.

"Moscow is supplied with water by an aqueduct which reaches to about three versts from the city. It is there forced by a steam-engine into a basin at the top of a lofty tower in Garden Street, where pipes carry it to the various reservoirs in different directions for the supply of the houses. Over every spring in Russia, preserved for the use of man, is placed the picture of a saint, who is supposed to have the special charge of the water. Over this reservoir there is one of particular sanctity, but I am not acquainted with his name. This tower, which is called the Sukhareva Bashnia, is the most lofty in the city, and a view is to be obtained from it still more interesting than that from Ivan Veleki, because one sees, not only the surrounding city, but the wonderful Kremlin itself. At the top of the tower the Russian eagle, made of silver, expands its wings over a silver basin, and from this silver basin radiate fifty pipes, each an inch in diameter, which carry fifty streams for the supply of the inhabitants.

"One of the most curious ceremonies of which we heard in the Greek Church is that of cursing the heretics. First, there is a grand mass, and much singing and lighting of tapers, and then the chief priest, who has always a powerful, deep voice, pronounces an awful curse on the false Demetrius, Mazeppa, and several other noted worthies, long departed from all terrestrial influence. Many people, and heretics of all descriptions, are also cursed, and then the choir chants forth in melodious tones the words _anafema, anafema_, repeated sometimes by all the congregation with most startling effect. The Russians are, however, more given to blessing than to cursing. The priests, at the same time, consider themselves entitled to payment for their blessings. No true believer is content unless all his possessions are especially blessed: his house, his cattle, his horses, flocks; the fruits growing in his garden; his corn-fields, his children; the well which supplies him with water; indeed, all he possesses. He believes that nothing he undertakes will prosper unless the priest has first blessed the implements he uses, and his religious instructor takes no pains to undeceive him. One of the most curious ceremonies is that of blessing the waters. It is performed three times in the year; once in spring, once in midsummer, and once on the ice in winter. The latter is the most curious. The nearest large piece of water is selected--either a river, a lake, or a pond. On the ice a large arbour, composed of birch trees, is formed to represent a church, with a gallery in the form of an amphitheatre. In the centre a square hole is broken, so that the water can be reached. From the neighbouring church a procession of priests approaches with pictures, and crosses, and flags, and tapers, and with loud chanting enters the arbour. Here a service is performed, and as soon as it is over they march forth again with very picturesque effect, and the cross is dipped several times in the water. By this ceremony it is believed the water is especially blessed, and made wholesome for man, beast, bird, and fish. No sooner has it been performed than the multitude who have been surrounding the spot rush eagerly forward with bottles, jugs, pots, and pans, and fill their vessels, and also drink as much as they can. Not only is the water itself blessed, but all the streams, and wells, and fountains in the neighbourhood are equally benefited. It is curious to see the way in which the people dabble in the water, throw it over their persons, though it freezes as it falls, and drink of it till they can drink no more; all this being done in the belief that the water is holy, and that they will be especially benefited thereby. The ceremony in summer is very similar, only the arbours are formed on the banks of the river or lake, and people manage to drink still more abundantly, with fewer ill effects. A still more interesting festival is that of blessing the fruit, which takes place on the 6th of August. It is held in the country, in front of one of the principal churches or convents. People of all classes, rich and poor, high and low, assemble from all quarters, far and near, in vehicles of every description. In front of the church are long rows of fruit-sellers' booths to supply those who have brought no fruit with them. High Mass is then performed in the church, and as soon as it is concluded the priests come forth with bowls of holy water, with which they march up and down among the lines of people, drawn up in all directions, with fruits in their hands, sprinkling the consecrated liquid on either side as they go. As soon as this has been done, the people set to work and eat greedily of the various fruits which have been sprinkled, which they have not before ventured to touch, under the belief that till then they are unwholesome. In the more northern districts the fruit is very often far from ripe, but yet they eat away, under the belief that it can do them no harm. They will even give small infants in arms large green apples to suck, fancying that they cannot hurt them, poor little things. As, however, I have seen nursemaids in England equally foolish, I will not blame the ignorant Russian peasant. Cousin Giles says that the same sort of ceremonies are performed in Roman Catholic countries, where horses and cattle are blessed in due form by a plentiful sprinkling of holy water. It would all appear very ridiculous to us, were it not sadly blasphemous. To a stranger, one of the most curious ceremonies in the Greek Church is that of baptism. The infant, soon after it is born, is brought by its godfathers and godmothers to the church--neither of its parents being present. The priest first asks if it will renounce the devil and all his works; the sponsors answer for it, that it will. The priest thereon commands the devil, who is supposed to have hitherto had possession of it, to take his departure. The order is believed to be instantly obeyed, and the priest consequently spits over his shoulder at the devil, who is beating a hasty retreat. His example is followed by all present, who spit with unfeigned satisfaction at the discomfited Evil One. The whole party then walk in procession three times round the font. At its conclusion the priest consecrates the water by putting it into a metal cross, and then immerses in it the infant three times, pronouncing at the end its baptismal name. As a visible sign that the child is now a Christian, the priest suspends round its neck, by a black string, a small metal cross, which it ever afterwards wears as an amulet. I remember well hearing of such crosses being found on the slain at the Alma and other battle-fields in the Crimea, but did not at the time know their signification. Next the child is dressed, and carried once more round the font with a procession of burning tapers, which, symbolising the Holy Spirit, signify that the child has now received that Spirit within it, of which it was before destitute. Lastly, the infant's eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet are anointed with holy oil, and pieces of hair are cut from its head, and rolled up with wax into a ball, and thrown into the font. No Russian has more than one Christian name. This custom arises from the belief that every name has its representative among the angels in heaven, who have the especial charge of all persons bearing that name; in return, it is expected that the prayers of mortals should especially be addressed to their guardian angels. Only one name is given, because it is said that a person can have only one guardian angel; if he had two, it might be doubtful which was to watch over him, and to which he should address his prayers. Cousin Giles observes that, when once people depart from the simple truths of Christianity, it is impossible to say what absurdities they may believe, or of what follies they may be guilty. As the people become enlightened, the priests of a false faith are compelled to refine their system; at present, in Russia, nothing is too gross for the credulity of the people to swallow.

"We attended mass the other day at the Uspensky Sabor (the Cathedral of the Resurrection). It was a very gorgeous ceremony, although, as it lasted three hours, it was very fatiguing; but we determined to stand it out, and afterwards never to go to another. I can only attempt to give an outline of the ceremonies. The church being crowded with people, a priest came through one of the side doors of the screen, and in a stentorian voice, with hand uplifted, announced that service was beginning. Some ceremony then took place behind the screen. Soon afterwards another priest entered, with two attendants, bearing over his head a huge Bible with a richly ornamented cover. It was allowed just to touch his forehead. Being placed on a desk in front of the chief door in the screen, another priest in a very irreverential and hurried manner read some chapters from it, the choir constantly repeating the words, '_Gospodi poluomini_,' (the Lord have mercy on us). The effect of these words, in a rich chant, soft, full, and swelling, is very beautiful. They continually occur throughout the service. We could see the high priest all the time through the open work of the chief door moving about before the altar. At length a fine psalm was sung, the chief door was thrown open, the high altar and its splendid decorations were displayed, and from the side doors issued forth the whole troop of officiating priests bearing the bread and wine for the sacrament, preceded by one man with a lighted taper, and the high priest coming in the rear with a silver chalice; the procession is closed by a priest with a salver on his head. Again they all entered the sanctuary, the bread and wine were placed on the altar, and the priest kneeling, what is called transubstantiation is supposed to take place. While this act is performing, all Turks, heretics, and infidels are commanded to leave the church. Numerous prayers are then offered up for the Emperor, the Imperial family, and for a variety of objects. The most impressive part is when the high priest prays for a blessing on the bread and wine, and shakes the bread into the chalice. Afterwards those who intend to partake of the sacrament are invited to come forward, and the bread and wine together are administered in a small silver spoon, the communicants holding their hands on their breasts, and kneeling three times. We were very much struck with the little the congregation had to do with the service. They had no book, they did not join in the singing, and they could scarcely have understood what the priest said who read from the Bible. Their only business seemed to be to cross themselves and to bow, touching the ground with their foreheads, during the whole three hours the affair lasted. Still the churches fill, and the people fancy, I suppose, that they derive some benefit from what takes place. The music is certainly very fine; it is all vocal; there are no instruments, and no organ; and as women are not allowed to sing in churches, boys are trained to perform their parts.

"'Altogether,' Cousin Giles says, 'there is very little difference in the main features between the ceremonies of the Greek and Romish Churches. Both are intended to attract the senses, to please the vulgar, and to deceive the credulous, and neither can have any effect in changing the heart.'

"But it is time that I should bring my long letter to a conclusion. Much of the above information was given me by a German gentleman speaking English whom we met at Chollet's table-d'hote. I have before said that we like the Russians; I mean the peasantry. When I spoke of the existence of thieves in Saint Petersburg or Moscow, I do not suppose that there are more thieves in Saint Petersburg or Moscow than in any other of the capitals of Europe. Many of the peasants are fine-looking men, though generally, from bad feeding, they have not the stamina of Englishmen. Of one thing I am certain, that if one Spaniard can lick two Portuguese, and one Englishman can lick all three, one Englishman can lick three Russians with a big boy to help them. Still I hope that we shall not have to go to war with them again. Poor fellows! The Russian soldiers had not a grain of spite or ill-feeling against us. They were driven on to the attack, and worked up by all sorts of falsehoods, and a plentiful administration of vodka, to commit the atrocities of which some of them were guilty.

"We are preparing to leave Moscow. Cousin Giles and Harry have gone to get the tiresome passport business arranged with Mr Allwick, and as I have sprained my ankle, I remained to write to you. We shall be very sorry to part with our interpreter; he has contributed very much to the pleasure of our visit to this city. Through his means we have seen and understood much more than we could otherwise possibly have done about the place and the people. We have no satisfactory news about poor Saveleffs affairs. The Count has promised to allow him to remain among his people as long as he wishes, and to protect him to the utmost of his power; but he owns that that power is likely to extend a very little way. He says that he will spare no expense, if bribery is likely to effect the object. He thinks, however, that if the true state of the case could be laid before the Emperor, the poor fellow's cause might be gained, but the difficulty is to let the Emperor know the truth. We cannot help fancying that we saw poor Saveleffs old father and mother among the exiles starting for Siberia. Poor fellow! It is very sad. He does not despair, and yet he has very little hope of happiness in this world. Even now, if the police find him out, he will not be allowed to remain very long in quiet.

"To-morrow we are off by the railway for Saint Petersburg.

"Your affectionate son--

"Fred Markham."

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