Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“
[graphic][merged small]

never been a case of small-pox in the station, severely all day from cold. About half-past we brought in our baggage, drank tea, and, six o'clock in the evening we stopped for an without removing our clothing, lay down as hour to drink tea in a village whose name, usual on our sheepskin overcoats upon the Kavwikuchigazamurskaya (Kah-vwee'koofloor of the travelers' room. Monday morning, chee-gaz-ah-moor'skah-yah), seemed to me to refreshed by a good night's sleep and a break- contain more letters than the place itself had fast of tea, fresh bread, and fat soup, we re- inhabitants. We met there a young technolosumed our journey and rode all day through gist from St. Petersburg, who had been sent shallow valleys, between low, treeless, and to the mines to teach the convicts the use of dreary-looking mountains, towards the Alex- dynamite, and who was on his way home. androfski Zavod. The sky was clear and the He gave us a most gloomy account of life in sunshine inspiriting; but the mercury had fallen the silver-mining district. The convict prisons, to fifteen degrees below zero, our horses were he said, were “the very worst in the Empire”; white and shaggy with frost, the jolting of the officials were "cruel and incompetent "; our vehicle made it difficult to keep our furs the convicts were “ill-treated, beaten by everywrapped closely about us, and we suffered body, with or without reason, forced to work

[ocr errors][merged small]

a

when sick, and killed outright with explosives crowed lustily in my very ear. This performwhich the overseers were too ignorant or too ance he repeated, at short intervals, throughcareless to handle with proper precautions." out the remainder of the night, so that, although He referred to the mining authorities with I finally took a position as far away from him bitterness, as if his personal relations with them as possible on the floor, I could get little rest. had been unpleasant; and, in view of that fact, I have slept in Siberian cabins with colts, dogs, it seemed to me prudent to take his statements cattle, and sheep, but one wakeful Shanghai with some allowance. I give them for what rooster will make more disturbance in a small they may be worth in connection with my own room at night than a whole ark-load of quadlater investigations.

rupeds. Just before midnight on Tuesday we reached We reached the Alexandrofski Zavod at the village of Makarovo (Mah-kah'ro-vo), ten o'clock Tuesday morning and found it to 112 miles from Stretinsk, and stopped for the be a dreary, dead-and-alive Siberian village night in what was known as the “zemski of two or three hundred inhabitants, situated kvartir” (zem'skee kvar-teer'), a log-house in the middle of a flat, uncultivated steppe, occupied by a peasant family whose duty it with a rickety, tumble-down bridge in the forewas to give food and shelter to traveling ground, and low, bare, snow-covered mountains officials. As soon as possible after drinking in the distance. The convict prison, to which tea we went to bed, Mr. Frost lying on the we were conducted by the warden, Mr. Fomin, floor, while I stretched myself out on a bench proved to be nothing more than a “bogadielnia" near one of the windows. The room was in- (bo-gah-dyel'nya), or infirmary, to which were tolerably hot, the pine logs of the walls in the sent hopelessly disabled and broken-down convicinity of the oven emitted a strong resinous victs from other parts of the Nerchinsk mining odor, the air was close and heavy, and for a district. The main building, which is shown long time I could not get to sleep. I had just on the right of the bridge in the illustration lost consciousness, as it seemed to me, when I on this page, is a one-story log structure of was aroused by a loud and prolonged “Cock- the usual Kara type, and contained, at the a-doo-00-dle-doo-00 !” which

which proceeded, time of our visit, 137 prisoners. It had been apparently, from a point distant only a few standing, the warden said, about half a century, inches from my head. Upon investigating this and its sanitary condition, as might have been singular phenomenon I discovered that the expected, was bad. The floors were dirty, the space under the bench upon which I lay had air in the cells was heavy and vitiated, and been inclosed with slats and turned into a the corridors were filled with the stench of chicken-coop. A large cock, thinking, doubt- privies and neglected parashas. In two of the less, that it must be near morning, had put kameras (kah'mer-ahs) we found lunatics livhis head out and up through the slats, and ing with their sane comrades. The hospital attached to the prison is small, but it was not existing state of affairs he referred to two gold overcrowded, and it seemed to me to be clean placers in his district, which had been careand in fairly good condition. The coarse linen fully examined by engineers of the Tsar's cabon the cot beds was dirty, but the feldsher, inet land had been pronounced worthless. They or hospital-steward, said that this was not his had subsequently been sold or granted by the fault. The supply of bed-linen was scanty, and Tsar to private individuals, and had then prohe did the best he could with what was fur- duced 600 puds (poods), or more than 27,000 nished him. He seemed to be very much grati- pounds of pure gold. The ispravnik intimated, fied when I told him that his hospital, although although he did not explicitly say, that the small, impressed me as being the cleanest and Government engineers who examined the best-managed institution of the kind that I had placers and declared them worthless were in seen in the Trans-Baikal.

league with the private individuals who desired After having inspected the prison, Mr. Frost to obtain title to them; and that the proceeds and I returned to Mr. Fomin's comfortable of this robbery of the Crown were shared by

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

house, where we met the ispravnik of Nerchinski the parties to the corrupt agreement. I have Zavod, a tall, well-built

, good-looking man no doubt that such was the case. The Tsar about forty years of age, who was making a himself is constantly robbed and defrauded by tour of his district. He was very pleasant and the officials to whom he intrusts the managecommunicative, talked with us frankly about ment of his Siberian property. the Nerchinsk mines, and said, without hesita- After a good dinner of soup, fish, roasted tion, that the Government's management of grouse, vegetables, and compote of fruits, with them was “clumsy, incompetent, and wasteful.” vodka and two or three kinds of wine, which He thought that it would be much better for Mr. Fomin set out in honor of his guests, the the country if the whole Nerchinsk silver-min- ispravnik, the warden, Mr. Frost, and I started ing district were thrown open to private enter- with two troikas of horses for the mine of prise. Many of the engineers in the employ of Akatui, which was distant about twelve miles. the Government were either corrupt or incapa- This mine had long before been abandoned by ble, and the mines did not produce half as much the Government and had filled with water; silver as they ought. As an illustration of the but I was particularly anxious to see how it

1 Nearly all the mines in this part of the Trans- of my acquaintance began the compilation of a work Baikal belong to the Tsar in person and are known as that he intended to publish abroad under the title, “The the “cabinet mines.” How the Tsar acquired title to Origin of the Wealth of the Romanofs,” but he was sent them I do not know. An educated Russian gentleman to Siberia before he could complete his investigation.

was situated, partly because it had once been of a peculiar, half-ruined log building, which the most dreaded place of punishment in all had once apparently been covered with stucco Siberia, and partly because the Government or plaster, and through the middle of which was then making preparations to transport to ran a high-arched gateway. On the flanks it all of the political convicts at the mines of this structure, and forty or fifty yards from of Kara. The road ran across the desolate it, stood two weather-beaten prisons of stucsteppe to the foot of a low mountain range six coed brick, one of them roofless, and both or eight miles north-west of the Zavod, and gradually falling into ruins. It was evident then entered a shallow valley between rounded that these prisons had once been surrounded and perfectly barren hills, about a thousand by a stockade, and that the log building with feet in height, whose snowy slopes limited the the arched gateway was the corps-de-garde vision in every direction. As we ascended this through which admission was had to the invalley the hills shut it in more and more closely, closure. The stockade, however, had long

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

until, a mile and a half or two miles beyond before disappeared, the iron gratings had been the small village of Akatui, it became a se- removed from the windows, and little remained cluded and inexpressibly dreary glen, where to indicate to a careless observer the real nathere were no signs of life except the stunted ture of the ruins or the purposes that they and leafless bushes which here and there broke had served. I alighted from my telega and the uniform whiteness of the snow-covered entered the prison on the right of the

corpshills. It seemed to me that I had never seen de-garde, thinking that I might discover a a place so lonely, so cheerless, so isolated from mural inscription left by some lonely and unall the living world. It might have been a happy prisoner, or perhaps find one of the valley among the arctic hills of Greenland near iron rings or staples in the wall to which rethe Pole.

fractory convicts were chained. Every scrap “Here is the old political prison,” said the of iron, however, that could be used elsewhere ispravnik; and as he spoke we stopped in front had been stripped from the building; the floors had rotted away; the plaster had fallen; fore reaching Algachi, the country, which we and nothing whatever remained to suggest to could see for thirty miles, looked like a boundone's imagination the unwritten history of the less ocean suddenly frozen solid in the midst gloomy prison, or bear witness to the cruelties of a tremendous Cape Horn gale when the seas and tragedies that had given to Akatui its evil were running high. Far down in a snowy trough fame. The prison on the left of the corps-de-between two of these mighty surges we could garde was in a much better state of repair than just make out a little cluster of unpainted logthe other, and would doubtless have repaid a houses, which our driver said was the mining careful examination ; but its windows were village of Algachi. I wondered, as we stopped fastened, its heavy plank doors were secured for a moment on the summit to look at it, with padlocks, and the warden said he did whether in all the world one could find a setnot know where the keys were or how we tlement situated in a more dreary and desolate could gain admission. The entrance to the spot. As far as the eye could see there was not mine of Akatui was on the hillside, five or six a tree, nor a dark object of any kind, to break hundred feet above the bottom of the valley, the ghastly whiteness of the rolling ocean of and we could just see, in the deepening twi- snowy mountains; and it was not hard to imlight, the outlines of a small tool-house that agine that the village itself was nothing more stood near the mouth of the shaft. At an than a little collection of floating driftwood, earlier hour of the day I should have proposed caught in the trough of the sea at the moment to visit it; but the darkness of night was al- when the tremendous billows were suddenly ready gathering in the valley, the air was bit- turned to snow and ice. We descended the terly cold, and as the ispravnik and the warden steep slope of the mountain to the village by a seemed anxious to return to the Zavod I was stony, zigzag road, entered a long, dirty, strawobliged to content myself with such an ex- littered street between two rows of unpainted amination of Akatui as could be made in wooden houses, passed through several herds the vicinity of the prisons. Lunin (Loon'in), of cattle that sheepskin-coated boys were drivone of the Decembrist conspirators of 1825, ing in from pasture, and finally stopped, amid lived and died in penal servitude at this mine, a crowd of curious idlers, in front of the and somewhere in the neighborhood lie buried“ zemski kvartir," or official lodging-house, many of the Polish patriots sent to Akatui after where we intended to spend the night. It was the insurrection of 1863. I was unable, how- already five o'clock,—too late for a visit to the ever, to find their graves. The Russian Gov- prison or an inspection of the mine,—and as ernment does not take pains to perpetuate the soon as we had brought in our baggage and exmemory of the political offenders whom it tor- plained to the people of the house who we were, tures to death in its Siberian prisons, and over we set about the preparation of supper. Our the moldering bodies of most of them there resources were rather limited, but our peasant is not so much as a mound. Since my return hostess furnished a steaming samovar with a from Siberia a new prison has been erected in little milk and butter, Mr. Frost produced, the dreary valley of Akatui, and to it are to be with triumph, a can of Californian preserved transported all of the political convicts from peaches, which he said he had bought in Kara. The intention of the Government is to Stretinsk "for a holiday," and we thawed out pump the water out of the abandoned mine and toasted on a stick, before a cheersul open and set the politicals at work in its damp and fire, some of our frozen, sand-powdered bread. gloomy galleries. The change, of course, will Altogether we made out so good a supper that be for the worse. If there is in Siberia a more Mr. Frost's imagination never once suggested lonely, a more cheerless, a more God-forsaken to him the desirability of milk-toast, and we place than Kara, it is the snowy, secluded went to bed on the floor about nine o'clock valley of Akatui.

warm, comfortable, and happy. At a late hour Tuesday night we returned Wednesday morning, after breakfast, we to the Alexandrofski Zavod, and about noon called upon Mr. Nesterof (Nes'ter-off), the on Wednesday, after a refreshing night's sleep resident mining engineer, and Lieutenant-Coloand a good breakfast, we set out for the mine of nel Saltstein, the warden of the prison, for the Algachi, distant about twenty-two miles. There purpose of getting permission to examine and was little, if any, change in the appearance of investigate. Mr. Nesterof received us with the country as we made our way slowly into generous Russian hospitality, insisted upon the silver-mining district. One range of low, our taking a supplementary breakfast with him, barren, round-topped mountains succeeded and filled and refilled our glasses with vodka, another, like great ocean swells, with hardly cordial, Crimean wine, and Boston canned a sign of life or vegetation, except in the lemonade, until we feared that we should have shallow haystack-dotted valleys. From the to postpone our investigations indefinitely. summit of the last divide that we crossed be- Lieutenant-Colonel Saltstein, who lived in a

VOL. XXXVIII.-106.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »