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THE STEPPES, ODESSA, AND THE CRIMEA.
WE passed a week very pleasantly at Bucharest, watching the many-colored tide of life which flows through its broad streets. At first we could hardly persuade ourselves that we were not in Paris or Vienna. The French, if the worst colonists, are the best pioneers of civilization in the world. Farewell to the still life of the Orient when its territories are invaded by Parisian cooks and modistes. French modes, French manners, and above all, the French language, saluted us every where. But the old customs and forms have not surrendered without a struggle; they still manifest themselves in picturesque contrast with their successors. In one corner of a splendid saloon fitted up like a Parisian drawing-room grave bearded old Boyards, in long fur pelisses, recline, calmly smoking the pipe of tranquillity; while the centre is occupied with gay groups attired in Parisian modes hardly three months old, whirling in the waltz, the polka, or the schottischc, or chatting of those infinite nothings of society, for which the French language is the only vehicle. Servants in the rich half-oriental Albanian costume bear about perfumed waters to bathe the hands of the visitors; or with native grace replenish the bubbling narguilles of the sedate smokers. But every where it is evident that the new modes are gaining ground on the old. With the present generation the race of the old Wallach Boyards will become extinct. This transition is undoubtedly for the best, although Vol. IX —No. 49 —A
attended with manifold evils. Weeds are of more rapid growth than corn, and the vices of a new form of life make themselves apparent earlier than its virtues. Bucharest has justly acquired the reputation of being the most licentious city in Europe. Gambling, in particular, is carried to an enormous extent.
Few things strike one at first more than the profusion of equipages. No person of any pretensions ever walks. One must have a carriage to cross the street. The fashion has partly arisen from the cheapness with which an equipage can be maintained, and partly from the condition of the streets, which arc always knee deep in mud, or choked with dust. The few where any attempt at paving has been made, arc merely floored over with logs and planks; they go by the name of ponti, or "bridges," and are in reality uneven bridges floating on rivers of filth. The public promenade, where the world of Bucharest shows itself most religiously every evening, is a drive through a street, alternately choked with dust and buried in mud. "hi," said a Frenchman to me, "let jambet sont du luxe; let roiluret, au conlraire, sont le neeestaire." It is quite true; nobody can afford to walk. One may lodge where he will, but he must ride.
The census shows a Jewish population of hut about five thousand. We should have supposed' there were five times as many. They arc omnipresent. Go where you will, you are met by the broad-brimmed hat, rusty gabardine, and flowing beard of the Israclite, which announce to you. the presence of one who is ready to be your servant. He is your slave waiting for orders; or rather he is the slave of your purse. The piasters in your pocket are a magnet, a charm, which hinds him to you. You can scarcely touch one, even unconsciously, without bringing before you some of these haunting spirits, as the rubbing of Aladdin's lamp summoned its subject genii. A most serviceable spirit is the Israclite at Bucharest. He can speak to you in half a dozen languages, so that you must be as ignorant of all tongues, other than your own vernacular, as arc the ministers whom we send to represent us at foreign courts, if he can not find some medium of communication with you. Of English he is very likely ignorant; but he speaks German and French as a matter of course, and very likely Spanish and Italian, besides the dialects spoken in the city. He knows every body, every place, and every thing—and all that he has and is stands at your disposal, for a very moderate sum—and he will receive any amount of anger and contempt that you feel disposed to inflict, into the bargain. If you feel disposed to add blows, he will avoid them indeed if he can; but he does not dream of resenting them, or of ceasing to proffer his services.
If he is yours you are none the less his, and sooner or later he is sure to come into possession of his own. The sooner you surrender the better for you. He haunts you like a shadow—not ob
trusively or importunately, but insinuatingly, persistently. You descend to your carriage, and he is at the door; you turn the comer of a street, and before you have gone twenty paces you see his tall figure on your track, or starting up from some nook in your front. You form a wish, and he stands before you ready to execute it. If by any chance you have employed him for the slightest service, you have bound yourself to him during your stay.
Wc luckily fell into the hands of old Mordecai. who had pointed out to us the entrance to the baths on our arrival. When we emerged from the cavernous entrance, we saw him standing within a few paces, his tall figure bent forward in an attitude of humility, which yet somehow seemed free from servility. Heaven knows whether he had loitered there all the while we were passing through the Inferno, the Furgatorio, and the Paradiso of a Turkish bath. He had wisely waited for his fee till after we had bathed, and had become comfortable and benevolent. In the beatitude of the moment we of course could not avoid crossing his withered palm with a few paras. He followed us all that day and the next, as noiselessly and unobtrusively as our shadows,never addressing us, but still contriving to let us know that he was at our service. He seemed to have an instinctive premonition whither we were going. We found him awaiting us at the Cathedral gate, at the entrance of the Hall of Assembly, by the foot of the ruined tower of Coltza, which commemorates the occupation of the spot by the mad Swede, Charles XII. For two whole days we resisted the mute offers of his services; but he waited his time, and on the third morning it came.
"Major." said I to my companion, " I must get two or three dollars' worth of piasters and paras." We had both assumed the military rank which we had attained in the militia at home; and perhaps we had brevetted ourselves to two or three grades above those that strictly belonged to us— a wise precaution in Russia, where all rank is military.
"Ya, wokl, Oberst," replied Brown, who was fond of airing his German vocabulary, which was no very protracted operation.
Scarcely had the words passed his lips when I heard a guttural voice at my elbow, in broken yet quite intelligible Teutonic:
"Erlauben mir, Thio Ex'ln'sch, gefall'gscht, Ihro an ein'n Wcchschl'r weisch'n 7"—which in corresponding English might run something thus: "Vill his Exshelensh pleash let me show him to an Exshanger?"
"Ya, wohl—Very well," replied Brown, proud of having made himself understood by a foreigner, as I nodded assent; and our bearded friend took possession of us. He led us to a brother
Israclite, who sat chinking his coin in a dingy little shop. For a certain per centage he speedily transmuted our good honest silver into tho brassy-looking small change of the place. A couple of piasters placed in his palm speedily set honest Mordecai's eyes rolling with an expression of benediction, as though he were imploring upon us the good offices of all his forefathers, down to the time of the princely Abraham.
For the remaining four days of our stay at Bucharest we yielded ourselves wholly to his direction; and to do him justice, he proved himself a most unexceptionable cicerone. Under his guidance we ventured to discard our carriage, and to penetrate the muddy suburbs where the poor Wallachs who go on foot, and do not wear Parisian coats, eat their Indian porridge and drink their fiery plum brandy, as their forefathers had done before them. We peered into the squalid huts where generations of keen-eyed gipsies herd together, in rags and filth, under which not unfrequently were disguised forms and features of wonderful beauty, with those delicate hands which speak of their Hindoo origin.
Among the most characteristic sights presented in the suburbs was the manner in which the destruction of the superabundance of the lean and wolfish dogs common to all the East is effected. A stout gipsy drags along behind him the carcass of a dog just killed; not far behind follows another, armed with a huge club, with his eyes bent upon the ground, puffing away at a long pipe, as though quite unconscious of the proceedings of his confederate. From every lane and alley, out of every hole and corner, from behind every hillock and heap of rubbish, rush out the acquaintances and friends of the dead hero. Old veterans scarred with a hundred wounds abandon the halfgnawed bone or mutilated cat which their prowess has secured, and rush barking and yelling around their enemy; young aspirants join in the cry and pursuit, and a wailing arises like that which went up from the Dardan gates when, as Homer sings, the "divine Achilles" dragged his slain foe around the walls of Troy. The dragger of the slain pursues his steady way, followed by his imperturbable compeer. The canine throng, gathering courage from numbers and their own cries, press nearer and nearer. The leader at length comes within reach of the bludgeon of the hindmost gipsy. Swift as lightning, and inevitable as fate, it descends upon his skull; a smothered howl, and another canine shade is sent to bear company with the slain Hector. The throng scatter affrighted, only to be gathered again at the next turning. At evening the pair of gipsies proceed to the magistrate to render an account of the day's slaughter, and receive the stipulated price per head.
At length the day for our departure arrived. In the gray morning our old caroussi lumbered up to the door, with its long file of shaggy ponies. Early as it was, old Mordecai was therewith his head bowed in his usual humble attitude. A few coins pressed rather than flung into his lean hand, brought up a look of gratitude that would have been cheap at tenfold the sum. His face wore a look of proud humility as he pressed his hand to his breast with that Oriental grace and dignity which befitted his lofty lineage rather than his humble fortunes. Poor old Mordecai, I fear it was but seldom that the few piasters he so patiently earned were not embittered with curses and blows.
Day was still struggling with night as we dashed through the muddy ponti into the broad marshy steppe, whose unbroken green surface stretched all around. That greensward must bo now sadly tracked by the wheels of the Russian artillery, and reddened with the gore of the poor peasantry, slaughtered in a quarrel not their own. Muscovite or Moslem—fire or frying-pan: between two such alternatives the poor Wallachs have but a sorry choice. As the sun arose we turned to take a last look at Bucharest, whose hundred spires, rising above the low banks of vapor, gleamed red in its level beams.
Noon found us fording a river, with an unpronounceable name, whoso turbid and swollen current gave evidence that a storm had been raging to the north and cast. Not long after we came within view of a range of hills, their summits wreathed with sullen black clouds. At length we came within range of the storm. The rain came down in one long, heavy, continuous shower.
The level green plains were speedily transformed into a marsh, where our wheels sank up to the axles.
Of the three days' journey through the rain, all my recollections are mingled into a confused mass. I must have dozed nearly all the while. I remember that we passed two or three gangs of wandering gipsies encamped under their ragged black tents. Through the thick smoke we could catch glimpses of half-clad figures of both sexes and all ages, crouched around smouldering fires made of half sodden weeds and brambles, glaring at us from under their matted locks. I remember also passing two or three caravans of the great wagons of the steppes, with their long trains of oxen laboriously making their way through the mire. One, I think, had given up in despair; the cattle had been turned loose to graze, and the drivers were smoking around a fire under a sort of awning stretched between two wagons.
Now and then I was aroused from my doze by an extra jolt as we plunged into a ditch, or by the redoubled cries of our postillions as they frantically urged their tired horses up some steep bank, and found myself and my companion sitting in the damp straw, our shoulders braced together, clutching mechanically the rough sides of the vehicle.
The post-stations where we exchanged horses were solitary huts of clay and reeds, standing in green oceans of herbage. Close by was an open inclosure, in which a troop of horses stood closely huddled together, with the rain streaming down their shining sides. Half mechanically we showed our tickets to the captain of the post, without alighting, while the exchange of horses was made; then dropped the expected bacchis into the hand of the expectant official as he returned our ticket. I suppose the amount was satisfactory, for I have a dim recollection of always hearing a "mestge currint," as the postillions, vaulting into their wet saddles, sent forth their long piercing cry, flourishing their whips with superhuman vigor.
Now and then we were aware that we were passing a village, and in a more genial mood we might have paused to admire the rustic churches, whose slender steeples rose in the leaden air above tho quaint peaked roofs. One night we slept upon a heap of steaming hay in the corner of a leaky post-hut. The next night, darkness had long set in as w ith infinite difficulty we forded a muddy stream and toiled up a steep bank into a village, where we found a hotel, with a watertight roof. This village was called Rimnik. Hard by was an old Turkish castle built of brick. Here, we w ere told, Suwarrow gained one of his great victories, from which he received his title of Count, or Baron, or Prince, or something else, of Rimnik. It must have been just before tho "crowning mercy" of Ismail. Next day wo came to a river running through the centre of a little village. This was Fokshani, the frontier town of Wallachia and Moldavia, one half belonging to each Principality.
Wait long enough and the end will come. The close of our storm came at last. A bright sky
TILLAGE CHURCH, WALLACHU.
greeted us upon our first morning in Moldavia, and a warm sun dried the wet hay in which we were seated, and sent comfort through our henumbed limbs. The country also began to assume a more interesting aspect. The line of the horizon was broken by a range of rounded hills, and a tree here and there relieved the monotony of the landscape. Still our progress was but slow, for the whole country had been flooded, and the plains were one morass, through which our spirited little animals, who seemed aware that we had bestowed a liberal hacchis upon their riders, could hardly drag our carriage.
Our course lay in a northeastern direction, through a broad valley watered by the river Birlat. There seemed to be no very definite road; the plain was tracked in every direction by wheclruts plowed deeply in the soft soil. They were filled with water, and looked like miniature canals. It was with a sensation of positive pleasure that, on the second day after our entrance into Moldavia, we found ourselves ascending a long sandy hill, with clumps of fine trees at intervals studding its slope. Arrived at its summit, we beheld at its opposite foot the spires and bright green roofs of Jassy, the capital of the Principality. To the east arose a fine range of hills, affording a pleasant contrast with the wide steppe which environs Bucharest.
Of Jassy we saw but little. The water still stood knee-deep in the streets through which we drove. Jewish tradesmen flocked to the doors
and windows of their shops, saluting our mud-stained vehicle with low bows as we passed. If they anticipated finding us customers, their courtesy was all thrown away. We rattled at a dashing pace up to a pretentious hotel, bearing the ominous title of " Hotel de St. Petcrsbourg." Jassy, as if aware of its impending absorption into the Russian Empire, has already assumed something of the appearance of a Muscovite town. A great part of the city was destroyed by fire some thirty years ago. The new town has been laid out in broad streets with immense squares, which in the winter are a marsh, and in summer a Sahara. The houses have showy fronts, and roofs painted, in Russian taste, of a vivid green.
Notwithstanding its sounding name and showy appearance, our hotel was deficient in sundry appliances of comfort, for which we would willingly have bartered any amount of display. For beds we had our choice between a billiard-table and a naked couch stuffed with straw. For sundry reasons connected with certain entomological researches which we instituted, I chose the former, while Brown determined to make trial of the latter. On comparing notes in the morning, it was agreed that I had made the wiser choice; the bites were worse than the bruises. I doubt whether the whole establishment could boast of the luxury of a pair of sheets; and the ordinary appurtenances of ablution were no more to be had than the philosopher's stone.
The Moldavian capital lies but two short stages from the river Pruth, which for the last two-score years has formed the nominal boundary between the dominions of the Czar and the Sultan. For so long a time the wave of Muscovite advance has been checked. With the wealth of the Golden Horn and the sunny seas of the .Egean in full view; with Constantinople, the most brilliant prize ever offered to ambition, almost under the guns of his navy at Sevastopol; all waiting apparently for him but to stretch out his hand and grasp them, Nicholas has suffered the eight-and-twenty years of his reign to glide away without clutching the tempting booty. No wonder that it should gall him to think that he should be the first of his line who has failed to do something toward the traditional policy of the empire. In the ordinary course of nature his reign must soon come to a close. It has been long and prosperous, yet he has not advanced for an inch this frontier of his dominions. No wonder that he should wish to signalize the close of his reign by the conquest of the city of Constantine, and should glare defiance to the attempt of combined Europe to wrest his prey from him. As far as he is concerned, it is now or never. If he succeeds, his fame will eclipse even that of Peter the Great. It is not a little singular that he relinquished his hold upon European Turkey fiveand-twenty years ago, when his forces had crossed the Balkans, held Adrianople, and no ob