« PoprzedniaDalej »
friends ; besides, I expected to go to Friedenthal, where, should I want any, I had money at command. My wife, on the contrary, had no resource where she was obliged to remain, and I therefore wished to leave the whole with her. The secretary, however, still urged me in so extraordinary a manner to follow his advice, that I at last yielded in part. He had even the goodness to take upon himself the trouble of transacting this business, and he changed my gold at a very fair price, considering the urgency of my situation.
Not being able to take any of our trunks with us, I made use of an old portmanteau belonging to one of my servants, in which my wife's chamber-maid packed a change of linen sufficient for several weeks. With the same earnestness which the secretary had used to engage me to change my money, the courier now recommended the maid to add considerably to the stock. She thought this quite superfluous, and paid no attention to his advice. Unable to succeed in this point, he urged me to take a bed with me; I was equally deaf to his intreaties; he then desisted, and shrugged up his shoulders to express his pity.
When I now coolly reflect on these various circumstances, I am unable to conceive how it happened that not the slightest suspicion arose in my mind that I was doomed to take a longer journey. I was in fact so bewildered with my situation, that I had no longer any clear conception of things. As for the money, I imagined it might so happen that I should not see my friends at Petersburgh; but with regard to the advice about the linen, I could not comprehend what it could mean, my distracted thoughts being wholly engrossed by my wife and my dear children. I was incessantly running from one to the other; I took them all successively in my arms; 1 consoled, I caressed them ; I mingled my tears with theirs.
The courier's eyes were wet; the scene before him had touched his heart. I cast a friendly look at him, which he returned in like manner. “ Are you married ?” said I.-He made a sign in the affirmative“and I have three children-- then you understand me." He sighed and shook his head. As this man has had 60 much influence on my fate,* I beg leave to draw his portrait.
Alexander Schulkins was about thirty years of age; a man without the least ray of cultivation, a sort of brute, but of a good kind. He had a calmuck countenance, a round face, a turned-up nose, high cheek-bones, black hair, large chest and shoulders. On his left side he wore the escutcheon of a senate, courier, and round his waist was strapped a packet to hold dispatches. His great delight was eating and drinking; he was not very choice in his food; he ate and drank everything that came in his way ;
and from the manner in which he acquitted himself, it was evident that this was his principal business. When he took his soup, he threw his head back, introduced the spoon' up to the handle into his mouth, and in this manner poured the contents down his throat, without allowing his palate to taste of it. During this, time he looked towards the ceiling, and compressed his short forehead into a thousand little hori. zontal wrinkles, which set every hair in his head in motion. In like manner he devoured his meat ; not chewing, but merely swallowing it down. Whenever I left a bone on my plate, he would instantly lay hold of it, and graw it like a dog. A glass of brandy must have been uncommonly large, if he did not dispatch it at one single draught, and always in the manner his food went down, which, as I have already observed, was directly into his throat. He could drink a great quantity of spirits without being at all intoxicated, and all mixtures were alike to him—tea, coffee, brandy, and punch ; upon all of which, taken in the space of a quarter of an hour, I have seen him
* I have been mistaken in that point.
throw down two chopins of quass.*. In short, he could eat and drink and sleep at will, and at all hours of the day and night. I may add, that the aulic counsellor was his equal in the exercise of these fine talents, and was but little inferior to him in his taste for strong liquors.
But rude as he was, Alexander Schulkins had the advantage of the other in a moral point of view. He often betrayed a sensibility of disposition which excited the most violent emotions; not durable, indeed, but very sudden. He had some little knowledge, but the counsellor had none at all. I recollect one day that, seeing a cuckoo, he observed that that bird always laid its eggs in the nest of another, and left the owner the care of hatching them. The counsellor began to laugh; when Alexander asked me if the circumstance were not true? I replied it was ; when the counsellor called forth his nasal wrinkles, and cast a look of pity on us both. What I have to say farther relative to Alexander will be seen in the sequel. I shall only add, in order to make his office better known to the reader, that the senate of Petersburgh has eighty such men at command, ready to carry orders to the most distant parts of the world. They are, I believe, subaltern officers; their dress resembles that of a postman, except the badge, which, though somewhat like that of the latter, bears a different inscription.
Let us now return to my sufferings. A carriage was to be bought ; several were exposed in the yard. This purchase was a great favour, though my own money was to pay for it. Commonly when people are arrested, they are thrown, without any regard to age or rank, into a kibick, or some other vehicle still more inconvenient, and hurried on through all kinds of weather. I cannot deny but that in general : * An acid drink, not unlike small beer, but of a more nourishing quality. It is made by pouring hot water upon a quantity of barley, and left to ferment in the heat of a I was treated with some kind of indulgence; but for this, no thanks are due to my counsellor; I owe it to superior orders, for my hard-hearted keeper was incapable of deviating a single step from the line of conduct that had been marked out for him.
Persuaded that I was going no farther than Petersburgh, I purchased a half-covered carriage, in other respects very convenient; not heavy, and hung upon springs, but fit only for a short journey; for this I paid five hundred roubles.
My wife, who observed that I was treated with some indulgence, became more composed. She asked the councellor if I might be allowed to write to her on my route, and was answered, both by him and the secretary, in the affirmative.
At length, towards the hour of seven, everything being ready, I bade adieu to my afflicted family. How did my heart beat at this cruel moment! My hands trembled, my knees tottered, my eyesight failed me; even at the present day I cannot recollect this separation without painful emotions. The reader will allow me to pause in this melancholy narrative. Neither my wife nor myself could weep; the source of our tears was dried up, and our hearts were wrung with inexpressible anguish. I kissed my children, I blessed them; their mother threw her arms about my neck, and fainted as she received my embrace.
The secretary, who hitherto appeared unconcerned, and had had recourse to common-place motives of consolation, could no longer refrain from shedding tears. Ah! if the kind-hearted emperor (for such I know him to be) had been present, with what promptitude would he have put an end to this scene of affliction.
My wife, who could no longer return my caresses, continued to moan in a low and inarticulate voice; her eyes were closed : I imprinted a kiss on her lips, as if it were the last, and immediately tore myself away. My servants led me to the carriage and took
leave of me deeply afflicted. A crowd of spectators, assembled under the gateway, had been dispersed, and the carriage was drawn up there to avoid notice. I mounted with trembling steps, and was instantly
Thus was an unoffending man torn from his family; a peaceful citizen arrested, furnished as he was with an imperial passport, and without knowing why. Nomit is impossible that the emperor, the humane emperor (for such in truth he is) could be at all privy to this transaction. It was not his order. Some perfidious wretch, unknown to him, has certainly abused his name. It is now the ninth week since I have been able to learn whether my wife and children are alive or dead; my destiny perhaps is fixed, and I shall hear of them no more !-My wife, from whom, during so many years, I have never been separated but twice, and that but for a week or two; my dear wife and I are now torn asunder, perhaps for ever! We are passing these tedious and mournful days almost without hope. O God! will she survive this? Has she surv ved it?
It is but a year ago, and I still recollect it with sorrow, that I went to drink the waters of Pyrmont. My wife had just borne me a hoy; and she was not sufficiently recovered to accompany me. intention to stay there three weeks, the shortest time specified for taking the waters with effect. Ten days however had scarcely elapsed, ere her absence became insupportable, and 'I immediately hastened back to her. Yet now nine weeks are elapsed since I saw her: who knows, if in nine years, nay, if ever, I shall see her again! One ray of hope still gleams before me. I some feeble consolation; if I am deluded, my despair will be equal to my misery. I can however meet death.
Vixi, et quem dederat cursum fortuna, peregi. The man who has studied himself, who is at all acquainted with the human heart, will believe me
It was my