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a floor; what with the reek of animal warmth from the cows, dogs, pigs, and fowls, crammed into the adjoining shed, and the concert of lowing, barking, grunting, and screaming, which serves the human inmates both for matins and even-song, the whole building might pass for Noah's first attempt at an Ark, over-crowded by a false alarm of the Deluge.

But here, at length, come our guests, all five of them; Ivan Miassoff, the butcher, and Alexey Sapogin, the shoemaker, and Vasili Petroff, my host's brother-in-law, with his wife, Pelageya Grigorievna (Pelagia, the daughter of Gregory), a bright, cheery little body, but, like all Russian peasant women, prematurely aged by hard work and exposure; and, last but not least, Sergei Bikoff, the watchman, a huge, red-haired fellow, who has lost, by a frostbite, what little nose he ever had. Each in turn doffs his cap, and crosses himself before the little gilt-edged picture of Saint Nicholas (my host's patron), which, with a small lamp burning before it, is seen in a corner of the hut through the open door. This done, they seat themselves (I being literally voted into the chair) anywhere and anyhow, one on a low bench, another on a stool, a third on a tub, and my host and hostess upon their "soondook," a huge chest clamped with iron, and painted bright red, which is the pride and glory of every Russian peasant who can afford it, and is bought with sore pinching by many who

cannot.

sack blood; but the one thing about them which strikes one at the first glance is their defective physique, the utter want of that solid strength which untravelled writers ignorantly ascribe to them. Broad and bulky, indeed, they are; but the strong outline is poorly and shakily filled in. Whatever might be the natural strength of the Muscovite, it is sapped from the very first by bad diet, by drink, by overwork, and by the constant alternation of fasting and gluttony produced by the ordinances of the Greek Church. His average length of life is barely half that of Western Europe. The total number of able-bodied men, drawn from a population of sixty millions, is not a whit greater than that furnished by the thirty-eight millions of France. The weakness in productive age is such that, whereas in Great Britain the proportion of persons alive between fifteen and sixty is five hundred and forty-eight per thousand (and in Belgium five hundred and eighteen), in Russia it falls as low as two hundred and sixty-five. In a word, I have seen the physical power of the Russian tested in every possible way, and his hardihood tried by every variety of climate, from the Niemen to the Ural Mountains, from the Gulf of Bothnia to Kamiesch Bay. I have taken part in his favourite sports, and measured my strength with his again and again; but all my experience only confirms the original conclusion, that the average Russian, though capable of a passive endurance bordering upon the incredible, possesses little more than half the muscular power of the average Englishman.'

*

But all this while the feasting has been going vigorously on; the various good things are now disposed of, and the exercise of tongues succeeds to that of teeth. For a time the talk runs chiefly on local matters; how troublesome the wolves were last winter, and what a famous crop of rye there is likely to be this year; how old Oicipoff, the corn-dealer, is going to marry his third wife, and Feodor Nikeetin's eldest boy has been drawn for the conscription; how soon the weather is likely to change, and whether Father Alexander Nikolaievitch (the Emperor) will give us the railway that folks have been talking of making

For a time the meal proceeds with silent industry, and one can survey the picturesque group at leisure. These are the famous "Mujiks" of Russia, men superstitious as the ancient Athenians, ignorant as Australian savages, inured to hardships from which a medieval anchorite would have shrunk; at once gluttons and ascetics; peaceful even to sluggishness, yet capable of the most frightful revenge; able to sustain life on a pittance of food that would starve a British seaman, and to pass whole nights in the depth of winter, wrapped in a sheepskin, outside their master's door; intensely susceptible of kindness, yet ungovernable save by extreme severity; the strangest and most incomprehensible of all the waifs and strays left by the ebb of Asiatic barbarism upon the shore of Europe. Each and all of our guests displayed the broad, flat, sallow, low-browed type of the genuine Russian, except my host, whose tall gaunt frame and prominent features argue an admixture of Cos-clusive of short stature.

I could easily accumulate proofs ad nauseam, but one will suffice. In 1868 out of the total number of

conscripts sent up to the various recruiting centres, to supply the annual contingent of eighty-four thousand jected for disease and other physical defects, not inmen, no fewer than forty-four thousand were re

in these parts. But after a time my host lets drop a remark which tells his guests that I have made the two journeys which are the ne plus ultra of the Mujik-to Kiev and Jerusalem; and forthwith they begin to overwhelm me with questions about the far-away places which they never saw, nor shall see. I describe to them the splendid barbarism of many-towered Constantinople; the broken necklace of the Archipelago, with all its scattered jewels; the lifeless grandeur of the Pyramids; the blank dreariness of the Suez Canal, and the vast rampart of rock that bucklers the naked shore of Arabia; pyramidal Jaffa, bending moodily over the chafing sea; the funereal beauty of the Dead Sea, and the grim loneliness of the Desert of Moab; the fragrant shadow of the countless orange-groves which curtain imperial Damascus; and, lastly, the Holy City itself, clustering within its huge grey rampart, environed by the life-guard of mountains which "stand round about Jerusalem." As the story proceeds, it is a treat to watch how the hard faces brighten with childlike pleasure, and the rough figures bend forward in eager expectation. This is perhaps the first real and tangible conception of the world around them which has ever reached these brave, simple, untaught souls, to whom their newly-acquired freedom has as yet brought nothing, save the consciousness of their own helplessness. To the poor Mujik everything beyond the narrow circle of his daily wants and occupations is a hopeless blank. His own country is as strange to him as the deserts of Central Africa. Moscow and St. Petersburg are mere names, vaguely suggesting a dim idea of vast and shadowy grandeur, countless leagues away. Upon everything without the frontier of Holy Russia he looks with the same mysterious awe with which the Greek and the Roman regarded that unknown waste of waters which rolled beyond the Pillars of Hercules. In a word, the influence of Western civilisation (despite the fanfaronnades of Russian optimists) has hitherto merely trickled over the surface of the great empire; the mass is still to be penetrated. When I stood, five months ago, upon the verge of the plain of Jericho, and watched the black swirl of the Jordan rushing headlong into the pulseless crystal of the Dead Sea, I looked upon a perfect symbol of the two great divisions of the European family. The energy of the Teutonic races flows like a strong current, turbid, perhaps vio

lent, overbearing, dark with war and revolution, but still fertilising, full of life, for ever moving onward. The Slavonian world lies like a tideless lake, fenced in on every side-vast, deep, beautiful to look upon, but inert and useless as a buried treasure. That their common work may be done, the two must thoroughly amalgamate; but the time for such fusions is not yet.

"And is Arabia, too, a country of unbelievers ?" asks Petroff, as I pause in my recital.

"Yes, they're all Mahometans down there," answer I," and a queer-looking set they are, too-long, lean, brown fellows, with nothing on but cotton drawers and white skull-caps, and every other man an eye out with the sand and the flies. But they've got a splendid climate, for all that: fine weather all day long, and-no winter."

At this terrible announcement, thrown in by me out of malice prepense, the whole circle exchange glances of horror.

"No winter!" exclaims old Bikoff, the watchman, to whose deep tones the loss of his nose adds a double solemnity; "how the devil do they manage to live, then? Well, it's God's judgment upon them, the accursed heathens-they don't deserve to have a winter."

"Ah, Sergei Mikhailovitch!" whispers Miassoff, "don't you see that the barin's making fun of us? No winter! why the thing's impossible."

A kind of silence now falls upon the party, in the midst of which I notice Sapogin sidling up to my host, and whispering something in his ear.

"Ay, you are right, Alexey Feodorovitch-I had almost forgotten it. Barin," he added, turning to me, "you can read, can't you?"

"Yes, brother, I can read. What then ?" "Why, you see, Dmitrie Ivanoff, the postman, has left us a newspaper, with a capital story in it (so he says) of something that's been done up in 'Mother Moscow;' but, you know, we poor fellows are all "negrâmotni" (unlettered), and Father Arkadi, the priest, can't come to us tonight: so perhaps you will graciously condescend to read it to us yourself."

I graciously condescend to do so, and, picking out the marked passage, read the following story-a perfectly true one, be it remarked:

"SCRUPULOUS ACCURACY.-One of the

celebrities of the Moscow ballet lately

called upon a local official with a request that he would give her the usual formal permission to take a month's tour in the provinces for the benefit of her health, retaining her salary during the time of furlough. The man in office received her very politely, and asked for her 'written petition.'

"I have no written petition,' answered the artiste; 'I had no idea that such a thing was necessary!'

Fair and false are women all,
Gold will buy thee spouses twain;
He who trusts in them shall fall,
But a steed is priceless gain!
Wed not, &c.

He betrays not-thy good steed!
Flood nor fire with him we fear;
Like the desert blast, his speed
Makes the farthest distance near.
Wed not, &c.

It would startle a stranger to observe

"Not necessary, madam? Why, nothing with what skill these rough fellows, not can be done without it!'

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"To whom?' repeated the official, with a slight smile at her simplicity. To me, of course!' And taking the petition which he had himself dictated, he produced his spectacles, wiped them carefully, adjusted them upon his nose, read over the whole document as though it were perfectly new to him, docketed and filed it in due form, and then, turning to the impatient danseuse, said, with the utmost gravity, 'Madam, I have read your petition, and regret extremely that I cannot grant it!'

When the general laughter has subsided (for the Mujik is fond of a quiet joke, sub rosâ, at the expense of native officialism), I assert my prerogative as chairman by calling upon our entertainer for a song.

"I'm no singer," answers the founder of the feast; "but here's my brother-inlaw will do it for you. Vasker, my lad, give us that song you learned up at Peter (St. Petersburg) in the carnival time."

And Petroff, nothing loth, clears his throat, and trolls out in a deep, and not unmusical voice, the bold, dashing, ungallant song which Lermontoff has made familiar to every reading man in Russia:

THE CIRCASSIAN'S COUNSEL.

Maidens throng our hills, I wot,
Starry night is in their eyes;

Life with them-an envied lot!
But our freedom more we prize.
(CHORUS) Wed not, wed thee not, good youth,
Well my counsel heed!

Here is gold for thee, good youth,
Buy thyself a steed!

He who takes himself a wife

Ill hath chosen, wretch forlorn!
Never rides he to the strife.

Why? because his spouse would mourn!
Wed not, &c.

one of whom can write his own name, or read it when written, take up their several parts in the chorus, and what a mellow volume of sound they pour forth; but through all the grand swell of the refrain runs that weird undercurrent of melancholy which is characteristic of all Russian music-the wail of an oppressed people, sending up its unspoken prayers, age after age, to the God and Father of all.

"Well done!" say I, as the chant ends; "that's something like a song. But you know the saying, 'After a feast, a song; after a song, a story.' Which of you knows a good one ?"

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"If you want stories, here's your man,' answered old Bikoff, pointing to my host, "he's got a famous stock of 'em. Pavel Ivanovitch (Paul, the son of John,) be good now, and give us the story of Ilia Murometz, Vladimir's champion."

I start involuntarily at the mention of this old acquaintance, the simplest and noblest of the old Slavonic traditions, which every man of our party probably knows from beginning to end. But a Russian will gladly hear the same story ten times over, provided it be a good one; and all dispose themselves to listen attentively, while our chronicler begins as follows:

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'Long ago, in the days when Prince Vladimir reigned over Holy Russia, there lived near the town of Murom, in the village of Karatcharovo, a certain peasant, by name Ivan; and he had a son called Ilia, upon whom God had sent a sore sickness, so that he could move neither hand nor foot, but lay like a felled tree. All the village called him 'Ilia the Cripple;' and when any one fell sick, or was struck down by wounds, they used to say, "He is no more good now than Ivânovitch.' And when men spoke of the great deeds they had done in battle, Ilia hung his head; and when they told of hunting, or wrestling, or running swiftly through the forests, he turned his face to the wall and wept. And so the time went by, and great wars were

waged, and great battles fought, and the warriors of Holy Russia went forth and smote the hosts of the pagan; but Ilia lay helpless in a corner of his hut all the weary, weary, weary year.

Now, when thirty years were past and gone, Ilia lay outstretched in the sunshine at the door of his hovel one summer evening, and wondered why God had made him so miserable, when everything around him was bright and happy. And as he lay there came towards him three men, dusty and foot-sore, dressed like the beggars who roam from village to village; and the foremost said to him, 'Ilia Ivânovitch, rise up and give us to drink, for we are thirsty!'

And Ilia answered wondering, 'Brothers, how am I to rise up? neither hand nor foot can I stir!' But the stranger said, again, 'Rise up, I say, and stand upon you feet; for this day God gives you back your strength, and henceforward you shall be no longer Ilia Ivanovitch the Cripple, but Ilia Murometz, the Champion of Holy Russia.'

"His voice was very low and sweet, but it filled the air like the blast of a hurricane through the forest in autumn; and at the sound of it Ilia started up like one aroused from sleep, and brought up from the cellar a cask such as five oxen could not draw, and gave them to drink. 666 Do you feel your strength, Ilia ?' asked they. And Ilia answered, 'I feel my strength, and it is as though I could lay one hand upon Kiev, and the other upon Great Novgorod, and turn the whole land of Russia upside down.' But the strangers said, one to another; 'This strength is too great for a mortal man; we must lessen it;' and they gave him to drink also. Then they asked again, 'Feel you your strength, Ilia ?' And Ilia answered, I feel my strength, and it is but half what it was before.' 'Enough!' said the strangers, and turned to go away.

"And then the third laid his hand softly upon Ilia's head, and said to him, 'The next time you go into the church to pray, look at the great picture above the altar, and you will know what My name is.

"And suddenly, as He spoke, on His forehead shone a fiery cross, which dazzled Ilia so that he shut his eyes; and when he opened them again the three strangers were gone."

And so the story proceeds through all the great deeds and wild adventures of the Slavonian Hercules, while at every word the hard features of the listeners soften more and more into a glow of genuine enjoyment. To these poor labourers, whose whole life has been one long struggle with hardship and want, it is no light comfort to be told of a Power which, in the form of one poor and unknown as themselves, once walked the earth to help the helpers and give strength to the weak. Rough and uncultured as he is there are noble qualities in the Russian peasant. His native sluggishness and coarse vices are the fruit of the benumbing system under which he has been reared; his frank hospitality and simple childlike piety are all his own. For him and for his there remains yet another emancipation from the tyranny, not of principalities and powers, but of grovelling ignorance, and brutal excess, and debasing superstition; an emancipation as far above the mere material enfranchisement of 1861 as the soul is above the body.

WILD FLOWERS.

PALE apple blossoms and red flowers,
Anemones and tulips tall,

Which light with flaming torch the showers
Of slim green leaves which round them fall,
Are smiling here, and through the rift

Of vanished years what thoughts arise,
As on each glowing bud, I lift

Dazzled and dim my wearied eyes.
The sweet-brier fragrance of your youth,
A wild, free blossom, tender, pure,
Yet rich with promise (such in truth,
Ever, to raciest fruit, mature).
The glory of our Tuscan spring,

Transparent, warm, with bloom divine,
From leaf and flower and vines which cling
From tree to tree with tendrils fine.
The teeming splendour of our plain,
A sea of verdure lost in blue;
Our curving hills, the ripening grain,

"But Ilia begged them to tell him at least who they were, that he might give thanks for them to God. And lo! the face of him who stood on the right became as that of an old white-haired man, on whose head was a crown of glory; and he said, I am he who died for the true faith, and my name is Peter.' And he on the left looked up, and showed a firm, dark face, above which hung a crown of glory like the other; and he said, 'I am he who preached to the heathen, and my name is Montanto, Bellosguardo, and there began TransformaPaul.'

With fireflies glittering through and through, Our old tower* whence the owls would call Oft and again their one sweet note;

The wealth of roses on our wall,

By summer, spring, and autumn brought,

*Hawthorne lived for three months at the Tower of

tion.

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All in this pictured panel lives,
And like a charm unseals my eyes;
A spell divine a fairy weaves,

To clothe the earth with rainbow dyes.
The moonlight and the sunlight clear,
The hope, the joy which nature wore,
Life, youth, and passion, all are here,
And Italy is mine once more.

AMONG THE TIPSTERS.

ever known for the Derby," combined, tempted an outlay of half a crown for a reply to the following advertisement:

F. MAXWELL has one of the best things ever known for the Derby, and at long odds. The favourites will all be beaten by his selection.-Send thirty stamps and directed envelope to F. Maxwell, Carshalton, Surrey. N.B.-This being strictly genuine requires no puff.

The reply was at once emphatic and affectionate. "My dear sir," it ran, “you cannot do better than back the Sunbeam Colt and Queen's Messenger, and lay against Prince Charlie and Cremorne, as I am perfectly satisfied they have no chance." veriest griff in turf matters; and there was, besides, something so seductive about the "rank outsider" for a place that I had no hesitation in answering the following

The name of Fordham is familiar to the

advertisement:

CHARLES FORDHAM wishes his subscribers to go

I NEVER saw a race run in my life, and pretend to not even a rudimentary knowledge of horse-racing, but I confess to a great partiality for easily-earned money. A short time ago a copy of one of the sporting newspapers chancing to fall in my hands, I read in it a series of advertisements (inserted by persons who, for the most part, claimed infallibility in the selection of the winner of the Derby) of so glowing a sort, that I determined to write for their tips," as the utterances of these prophets are styled in sporting parlance. It is not necessary that I should confess whether or no I acted on the information communicated through these channels. My experience, at all events, cost me the postage stamps which the tipsters asked as the The valuable selection I received for my price of their information. I leave it to the thirteen stamps was as follows: "Back reader to judge for himself whether it was Prince Charlie to win, and Drummond a worth the money; and I leave him also the place for the Derby, to win a good stake, alternative of laughing at my simplicity if and please put me on a present." This I went further, or of congratulating me on must have proved awkward advice to my caution if I let the postage stamps any confiding sportsman who complied stand as the sum-total of my unremunera- with Mr. Fordham's wishes, and went a tive outlay. "raker."

The following advertisement was the first that caught my eye. There was a mysterious El Dorado seeming about the figures with which it commences which was very alluring.

50591-GRATIS! GRATIS!! GRATIS !!! JAMES CARTWRIGHT sent 184 winners last season to his subscribers, winning for them 50591. Circular now ready (two stamped envelopes) containing my great double event over the Derby and Oaks at 400l. to 17-Address, James Cartwright, 19, Gloucester-road, Peckham, London, S.E.

I received the following reply to my application for information respecting the great double event:"

66

"If you look at my advertisement again you will see my terms are eighteen stamps, for which I send six winners per week for the whole season."

The reader can "look at my advertisement again," and see for himself if there is any mention in it of eighteen stamps.

The promise of long odds, the assertion of genuineness, and "one of the best things

for a raker on his selected one for the Derby. Those who are not on should send at once (inclosing thirteen stamps and directed envelope), and get on at once. C. F. will also send a rank outsider for a place, whose will be found unequal to the task of beating C. F.'s owner and trainer are sanguine of winning; but he selected one, but will certainly be in the first three.Address, C. Fordham, Newmarket, Cambs.

INVERESK ! INVERESK!! SOUCAR!!!. ARTHUR WEBB'S success.-On Saturday picked Inveresk at 33 to 1 and Soucar to win the Chester

Cup; Prince Charlie for Two Thousand ever since November last. Subscribers, we are as certain to win both Derby and Oaks. A horse at 10 to 1 for a place in the Derby; York winners included; six stamps.Address, Mr. A. Webb, 292, Waterloo-road, Lambeth, London.

For such a certainty as this six stamps were a bagatelle, and I sent them, receiving, by return, a printed circular entitled The Racing Guide, in which Mr. Webb states that his information " comes from a private and confidential source, and can always be relied on." Whether, in point of fact, Mr. Webb's information is invariably to be relied on, the reader may judge from the fact that the Derby selections sent by this gentleman were "Queen's Messenger to win. Bertram, one, two, three."

He must be a poor clinker-whatever a "clinker" may be that is dear at a penny, and I lost no time in responding to the following advertisement:

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