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large, comfortable house full of blossoming ole- and in some cases bloody, sheets, were lying anders, geraniums, and abutilon, then declared eight or ten sick or wounded convicts, whose that we must drink another bottle of wine and faces were whiter, more emaciated, and more eat a third breakfast with him, and it was after ghastly than any I had yet seen. Two or three one o'clock when we finally set out for the of them, the warden said, had just been tom prison and the mine.
and shattered by a premature explosion of Lieutenant-Colonel Saltstein was a Finn by dynamite in the mine. The atmosphere of the birth and spoke Russian badly and with a strong lazaret, polluted by over-respiration, heavy with German accent, but he seemed to be honest the fevered breath of the sick, and pervaded and trustworthy, and talked to me with great by a faint odor of liniment and drugs, was frankness and good-humor.
so insufferable that I was glad, after a quick “I am afraid,” he said, as we drove through glance about the room, to escape into the corthe village street, “that you will find our prison ridor. The first regular kamera that we exthe worst you have ever seen. It is very old amined was about twenty-two feet square and and in bad condition, but I can't do much to seven or eight feet high, with two windows, a improve it. We are too far away from Peter” large brickoven, and a plank sleeping-platform (St. Petersburg).
extending around three of its sides. There was I replied reassuringly that I did not think no provision for ventilation, and the air was it could be worse than the common-criminal almost, if not quite, as bad as in the worst prison at Ust Kara (Oost Kah-rah'), and said cells of the prisons at Ust Kara. I could that I had had experience enough to under- breathe enough of it to sustain life, and that stand some of the difficulties in the way of was all. The first thing that particularly atprison reform. He said nothing, but shook his tracted my attention, after I entered the kamera, head doubtfully, as if he thought that my ex- was a broad band of dull red which extended perience would not be complete until I had around the dingy, whitewashed walls, just examined the prison at Algachi. We presently above the sleeping-platform, like a spotty dado stopped in front of a high log stockade, and, of iron rust. Noticing that I was looking at it alighting from our vehicle, were received by a with curiosity, Lieutenant-Colonel Saltstein sentry with presented arms, and then admitted remarked, with a half-humorous, half-cynical by the officer of the day to a spacious court- smile, that the prisoners had been “trying to yard, in the middle of which stood the prison. paint their walls red.” It was a long, low, quadrangular building of “What is it, any way?” I inquired, and squared logs, with a plain board roof, a small stepping to one end of the sleeping-platform I porch and a door at one end, and a long row made a closer examination. The dull red band of heavily grated windows. It seemed to me at once resolved itself into a multitude of conat first sight to be falling down. The wall on tiguous or overlapping blood-stains, with here the side next to us had sunk into the ground and there the dried and flattened body of a until it was apparently two feet or more out bed-bug sticking to the whitewash. I had no of plumb, and, so far as I could see, nothing further difficulty in guessing the nature and prevented it from giving way altogether ex- significance of the discoloration. The tortured cept a row of logs braced against it at nearly a and sleepless prisoners had been “trying to right angle on the side towards which it leaned. paint their walls red” by crushing bed-bugs All of the walls, at some remote time in the with their hands, as high up as they could past, had been covered with plaster or stucco reach while lying on the nares, and in this and then whitewashed; but this superficial way had so stained the dingy whitewash with coating had fallen off here and there in their own blood that at a little distance there patches, giving to the building a most dilapi- seemed to be a dado of iron rust around the dated appearance. It was, manifestly, a very three sides of the kamera where they slept. old prison; but exactly how old, Lieutenant- How many years this had been going on, Colonel Saltstein could not tell me. For aught how many thousand convicts had helped to that he knew to the contrary it might have “paint" those "walls red," I do not know; but been standing since the opening of the mine I had suffered enough in Siberia myself from in 1817. We entered the door at one end of vermin fully to understand and appreciate the the building and found ourselves in a long, significance of that dull red band. dark, foul-smelling corridor, which was lighted It is unnecessary to describe in detail the only at the ends, and which divided the prison other kameras of this wretched prison. They longitudinally into halves. Immediately to the were all precisely like the first one except that left of the door as we entered was the phar- they differed slightly in dimensions. All were macy, and next to it a large square kamera overcrowded, all were swarming with vermin, used as a hospital or lazaret. In the latter were and the air in them was polluted almost beyond eis' - Low beds, upon which, under dirty, endurance. At the time of our visit the prison
as a whole contained 169 convicts — about our superiors and send them to St. Petersburg twice the number for which there was adequate again. In the mean time the personnel of the air space.
Prison Department has perhaps changed. New At the first favorable opportunity I said to officials have taken the places of the old; new Lieutenant-Colonel Saltstein: “I cannot under- ideas with regard to prisons and prison reform stand why you allow such a prison as this to have become prevalent; and our modified exist. You have here 169 convicts. Only forty plans and estimates, which would have satisor fifty of them work in the mine; the rest lie fied the prison authorities of 1880, are found all day in these foul cells in idleness. Why defective by the prison authorities of 1882. don't you take them out to the nearest forest, After the lapse of another period of sixteen or set them at work cutting timber, make them eighteen months the papers again come back drag the logs to the village, and have them to us for revision and alteration. And so it build a better and larger prison for themselves? goes year after year. Plans and estimates for They would be glad to do it, the expense a new prison at the mine of Algachi have been would be trifling, and in a few months you in existence ever since 1880. Meanwhile they would have here a prison fit for a human have twice been to St. Petersburg and back, being to live in."
and are now there for the third time. What “My dear sir,” he replied,1 “ I cannot send are you going to do about it? Even when the convicts into the woods without orders to do erection of a new prison has been authorized, so. Suppose some of them should escape,– the work proceeds very slowly. It is now as they probably would, — I should be held almost ten years since the Government actresponsible and should lose my place. I don't ually began to build a new brick prison at the dare do anything that I have not been or- mine of Gorni Zerentui (Gor'nee Zer-en-too'dered to do by the Prison Department. The ee), and the carpenters have n't even got the authorities in St. Petersburg are aware of the roof on, to say nothing about floors.” condition of this prison. I have reported on “But," I said, “such a system is all wrong; it after year. As much as five years ago, there 's no sense in such management. What after calling attention as urgently as I dared is the use of corresponding for years with into the state of affairs, I received orders to con- different officials in St. Petersburg about a sult with the district architect and draw up a matter that might be settled in twenty-four plan and estimates for a new prison. I did so; hours by the governor of the province, or even but you know how such things go. Letters by a petty ispravnik ? All over Eastern Siberia are two or three months in reaching St. Peters- I have found miserable, decaying, tumbleburg from here. When our plans and estimates down log prisons, and everywhere in such finally get there they go to the Prison Depart- prisons I have seen able-bodied convicts livment, where they have to take their turn with ing month after month in absolute idleness, hundreds of other documents from hundreds The country is full of trees suitable for timber, of other prisons in all parts of the Empire. Per- you have plenty of labor that costs you nothing, haps for months they are not even looked at. every Russian peasant knows how to put up Finally they are examined, and some decision a log building — why don't you let your idle is reached with regard to them. If they require convicts build prisons for themselves?” an extraordinary expenditure of money they “We have n't a strong enough convoy here may have to go to the Minister of the Interior to guard convicts in the woods,” said the warand the Minister of Finance, or await the mak- den; “ they would escape.” ing up of the budget for the next fiscal year. “That is no reason," I replied. “ It is easy In any event twelve months or more elapse enough for a government like yours to before their fate is finally determined. Some- strengthen the convoy during the time that where and by somebody objection is almost the timber is being cut; and suppose that a few sure to be made, either to the plans themselves, of the prisoners do escape. From my point of or to the amount of money that they require, view it would be better to let half of them esand the documents are returned to us for mod- cape than to keep them shut up in idleness in ification or amendment in accordance with the such a prison as this. Nobody yet has given suggestions of some official who knows little me a satisfactory explanation of the fact that, or nothing about our needs and circumstances. although hundreds, if not thousands, of conThus, a year or more after the departure for victs lie idle for months or years in overSt. Petersburg of our plans and estimates crowded and decaying log prisons, no attempt they come back to us for alteration. We alter is made to utilize their labor in the erection of them in such a way as to meet the views of larger and better buildings. 1 I do not pretend to quote Lieutenant-Colonel Salt.
The warden shrugged his shoulders in the stein's exact words, but I give accurately, I think, the significant Russian way, but did not pursue substance of his statements.
the subject. I have never seen any reason to
change the opinion that I formed at Algachi to one of the convicts, who, he said, would with regard to this prison. As a place of con- show us all that there was to be seen. Mean. finement, even for the worst class of offenders, while he himself would attend to some matters it was a disgrace to a civilized state, and the of business and await our reappearance. Our negligence, indifference, and incompetence guide gave to each of us an unsheltered tallow shown by the Government in dealing with its candle, with a piece of paper wrapped around admitted evils were absolutely inexcusable. it, provided himself with a similar light, thrust After having thanked Lieutenant-Colonel half a dozen dynamite cartridges about as big
a Saltstein for his hospitality and for his courtesy as cannon firecrackers into the breast of his in showing us the prison, Mr. Frost and I set sheepskin coat in such a manner as to leave out, with Mr. Nesterof, for the Algachi mine, the long white fuses hanging out, and said that which is situated about a mile from the village, he was ready. We followed him out of the on the northern slope of one of the great moun- tool-house, ascended the mountain-side about tain waves that form the valley. The day was a hundred yards, and entered through a narclear and pleasant, but very cold; the ground row wooden door a low horizontal gallery the was everywhere covered with snow, and a most sides of which were timbered and upon whose dreary arctic landscape was presented to us as inclined floor had been laid a rude wooden we rode from the prison down into the valley. tramway. Stopping for a moment just inside A few hundred yards from the village our the door to light our candles, we groped our attention was attracted to half a dozen dark way in a half-crouching attitude along the low objects - apparently animals of some kind — gallery, our convict guide stumbling now and on the white slope of the adjacent hill. then over the loose planks in such a way as to
“I verily believe," said Mr. Frost, after a pro- suggest to my mind the idea that he would longed stare at them, " that they 're camels!” eventually fall down, bring the flame of his
“Camels!" I exclaimed incredulously.“Who light into contact with the dangling fuses of ever heard of camels at the mines of Nerchinsk? his dynamite cartridges, and blow us all out and how could they live in such a climate as of the tunnel like wads from a Fourth-of-July this ?”
cannon. About 150 feet from the entrance As we drew nearer to them, however, it we came to the black, unguarded mouth of became evident that camels they were. To the main shaft, out of which projected the whom they belonged, whence they had come, end of a worn, icy ladder. Down this our and whither they were going I do not know; guide climbed with practiced ease, shouting but it seemed strange enough to see a herd of back at us a warning to be careful where we great double-humped Bactrian camels nibbling stepped, since some of the rungs were missing the tufts of frost-bitten grass that appeared and the ladders were set diagonally parallel here and there above the snow in the fore- with one another at such an angle as to neground of that bleak, desolate, arctic land- cessitate a long stride across the shaft from scape.
the bottom of one to the top of the next. We If we had expected to find at the mine of were not half as much afraid, however, of Algachi the buildings, the steam-engines, the losing our foothold as we were of being blown hoisting machinery, and the stamp-mills that into fragments by an accidental explosion of would have marked the location of an Ameri- his dynamite cartridges. I still had a vivid recan mine, we should have been greatly dis- membrance of the ghastly forms lying under appointed. The mining-plant consisted of a the bloody sheets in the prison hospital, and powder-magazine, a roofed-over cellar used every time I looked down and saw the guide's for the storage of dynamite, a shanty or two, candle swaying back and forth in close proxand a small log tool-house which served also imity to the white fuses that hung out of the as a smithy, a repair shop, a crushing and sort- breast of his sheepskin coat I could not help ing room, and a guard-house. In the building imagining the appearance that I should prelast mentioned half a dozen convicts, including sent when laid out for surgical treatment, or two or three women, were breaking up ore with perhaps for burial, on one of those dirty prison short hammers and sorting it into piles, an cots. overseer was sharpening a drill on an old worn As we slowly descended into the depths of grindstone, and three or four soldiers were the mine, sometimes on ladders and sometimes lounging on a low bench, over which, in a rack on slippery notched logs, I became conscious of against the wall, hung their Berdan rifles, a peculiar, unpleasant odor, which I presumed It was, without exception, the most feeble to be due to a recent explosion of dynamite in exhibition of mining activity that I had ever one of the adjacent galleries. Our candles bewitnessed.
gan to burn blue and finally went out altoMr. Nesterof did not seem inclined to go gether, matches could hardly be made to down into the mine with us, but turned us over light, and we found ourselves clinging to a
worn ladder, in total darkness, over a bottomless abyss, wondering how long air that would not support combustion would support life. We did not feel any sensation of oppression, nor did we seem to be in any immediate danger of asphyxiation; but there was evidently very little of oxygen in the air, and we were not a little relieved when, by dint of striking innumerable matches, we succeeded in groping our way down two or three more ladders to the mouth of a gallery where our candles would again burn. Along this gallery we proceeded for a hundred yards or more, clambering here and there over piles of glittering ore which convicts a contemptuous smile to the face of a Nevada were carrying on small hand-barrows to one miner. The air almost everywhere on the of the hoisting shafts. The temperature of the lower level had been exhausted of its oxygen mine seemed to be everywhere below the and vitiated by explosives to such an extent freezing point, and in many places the walls that our candles went out almost as fast as we and roof were thickly incrusted with frost-crys- could relight them; but no adequate provision tals, which sparkled in the candlelight as if had been made for renewing the air supply. the gallery were lined with gems. After wan- The only ventilating apparatus in use was a dering about hither and thither in a maze of circular iron fan, or blower, which a single low, narrow passages, we came to another convict turned by means of a clumsy wooden shaft, and descended another series of worn, crank. It made a loud rumbling noise that icy ladders to the deepest part of the mine. could be heard all over the lower part of Here six or eight men were at work getting the mine, but, as there were no pipes to it or out ore and drilling holes in the rock for the from it, it was absolutely useless. It merely insertion of blasting cartridges. Their tools agitated the impure air a little in the immediand appliances were of the rudest
, most primi- ate vicinity, and so far as desirable results were tive description, and the way in which the concerned the convict who operated it might work was being carried on would have brought as well have turned a grindstone.
Vol. XXXVIII. -107.
After wandering about the mine for half an hour, examining at various points the silver-bearing veins, collecting specimens of the ore, and watching the work of the sheepskin-coated convicts, we retraced our steps to the bottom of the main shaft, laboriously climbed up thirty or forty ladders and notched logs to the upper level, and returned to the tool-house.
A cold, piercing wind was blowing across the desolate mountain-side, and ten or fifteen shivering convicts who had finished their day's task and
were standing in a group near the tool-house asked per-
hardness and indifference to suffering on the part of the
moments the breaking up and sorting of the ore in the tool-house we drove to the Pokrofski (Po-kroff'skee) mine, which was situated on the side of another bare mountain ridge about four miles farther to the north-westward. The country between the two mines was as dreary and desolate as any we had yet traversed. Not a tree nor a bush