Part 2 out of 6
Walidah, and her confidant the Kislar-Aga; but their inexperience was
little qualified to encounter the task which had wellnigh baffled the
energies of Kiosem; and the expedient of frequently changing the
grand-vizir, in obedience to the requisition of which ever party was for
the time in the ascendant, prevented the measures of government from
acquiring even a shadow of consistence or stability. Twelve vizirs,
within eight years from the deposition of Ibrahim, had successively held
the reins of power for short periods; and not less than six had been
raised to, and deposed from, that precarious dignity, within the last
ten months, while the audacity of the troops, and the helplessness of
the executive, had reached an unparalleled climax. In a memorable
insurrection, arising from the depreciation of the coinage, which marked
the spring of 1656, the revolters, not contented with their usual
license of plunder and bloodshed, forced their way into the palace, and
exacted from the young sultan the surrender of two of his favourite
domestics, who were instantly slaughtered before his eyes; while various
obnoxious public functionaries were dragged to the At-meidan, and
summarily hanged on the branches of a large plane-tree; and for
several weeks this proscription was continued, till the cry of "Take him
to the plane-tree!" became a watchword of as well-known and fearful
import, as that of "A la lanterne!" in later times. In this emergency,
when the fabric of government seemed on the verge of dissolution, an
ancient Anatolian pasha, Mohammed-Kiuprili, who had lately repaired to
the capital, was named by her confidential advisers to the
Sultana-Walidah as a man whose eminent discernment and sagacity, not
less than his fearless intrepidity, rendered him especially fitted for
the task of stilling the troubled waters. In opposition to these views
it was contended, that the poverty of the proposed premier would prevent
his securing the adherence of the troops by the largesses which they had
been accustomed to receive, and the project was apparently abandoned;
but the incapacity and unpopularity of the grand-vizir, Mohammed-Pasha,
(surnamed _Egri_, or the Crooked,) soon made it obvious that a fresh
change alone could prevent another convulsion. On the 15th September
1656, therefore, in a fortunate hour for the distracted empire,
Kiuprili was summoned to the presence of the sultan, who had now,
nominally at least, assumed the direction of affairs, and received from
his hands the seals of office.
 The Turkish historian, Naima, fancifully compares this plane
to the fabulous tree in the islands of Wak-Wak, the fruit of
which consisted of human heads, as is fully detailed in the
romance of Hatem Tai, besides various passages of the Thousand
and One Nights. Under this same plane, by a singular instance of
retribution, the heads of the janissaries massacred in the
At-meidan in 1826, were piled by order of Sultan Mahmood.
 The Turkish annalists do not fail to remark, that Kiuprili
crossed the imperial threshold at the moment when the call to
noon prayers was resounding from the minarets--an evident token
of the Divine protection extended to him!
Such were the circumstances of the elevation of this most celebrated of
Ottoman ministers, whose name stands pre-eminent, not only from his own
abilities and good fortune, but as the founder of the only family which
ever continued to enjoy, during several generations, the highest honours
of the empire. He was the son of an Arnaut soldier, who had settled
in Anatolia, on receiving a _timar_ or fief in the district of Amasia,
near the town of Kiupri, ('the bridge:') from which (since distinguished
from other places of the same name as _Vizir_-Kiupri) his descendants
derived the surname under which they are generally mentioned in history.
He commenced his career as a page in the imperial seraglio; which he
left for a post in the household of Khosroo, afterwards grand-vizir, who
was then aga of janissaries. Passing through various gradations of rank,
he held several governments in Syria, and was raised to the grade of
pasha of three tails: till, at an advanced age, he obtained permission
to exchange these honours for the post of _sandjak_ of his native
district, to which he accordingly withdrew. But his retirement was
disturbed, in 1648, by the insurrection of Varvar-Ali, pasha of Siwas,
who, rather than surrender a beautiful daughter, the affianced bride of
his neighbour Ipshir, pasha of Tokat, to the panders of the imperial
harem, had raised the standard of revolt, and had been joined by the
pasha of Erzroom, Gourdji-Mohammed, (to whose suite the annalist Evliya
was then attached,) and by many of the Turkman clans of Anatolia. The
Sultana-Walidah herself, who was then at variance with her degenerate
son, secretly encouraged the insurgents, who endeavoured to gain over
Kiuprili to their party; but as they failed in all their efforts to
shake his loyalty, Varvar suddenly marched against him, routed the
troops which he had collected, and made him prisoner, with two
beglerbegs whom he had summoned to his aid. "I saw these three pashas"
(says Evliya, who had come to the rebel camp on a mission from
Gourdji-Mohammed) "stripped of their robes and turbans, and fastened by
chains round their necks to stakes in front of the tent of Varvar-Ali,
while the seghbans, and even the surridjis" (irregular horse)
"brandished their sabres before their faces, threatening them with
instant death. Thus we see the changes of fortune, that those who were
the drivers become in their turn the driven," (like cattle.)
 In a narrative by a writer named Chassipol, (Paris, 1676,)
professing to be the biography of the two first Kiuprili vizirs,
Mohammed is said to have been the son of a French emigrant, and
this romance has been copied by most European authors. But the
testimony of Evliya, Kara-Tchelibi, and all contemporary Turkish
writers, is decisive on the point of his Albanian origin.
Evliya, who seems to feel a malicious pleasure in relating this mishap
of the future grand-vizir, confesses to having himself received a horse
and a slave out of his spoils; but even before his departure from the
camp, the rebellion was crushed, and Kiuprili released, by the base
treachery of Ipshir-Pasha, for whose sake alone Varvar-Ali had taken
up arms. Won by the emissaries of the Porte, by the promise of the rich
pashalic of Aleppo, he suddenly assailed the troops of his
father-in-law, and seizing his person, cut off his head, and sent it
with those of his principal followers to Constantinople--an act of
perfidious ingratitude, which, even among the frequent breaches of faith
staining the Ottoman annals, has earned for its perpetrator the
sobriquet of _Khain_, or the traitor, _par excellence_. After this
unlucky adventure, we hear no more of Kiuprili in his Anatolian sandjak,
till, in the spring of 1656, we find him accompanying Egri-Mohammed on
his way to the Porte to assume the vizirat: from which, in less than
four months, he was removed to make way for his quondam _protege_, in
whose elevation he had thus been an involuntary instrument.
 Ipshir Mustapha Pasha was originally a Circassian slave, and
said to have been a tribesman and near relation of the famous
Abaza. During the revolutions which distracted the minority of
Mohammed, he became grand-vizir for a few months, (Oct. 1654-May
1655,) but was cut off by an unanimous insurrection of the
spahis and janissaries, who forgot their feuds for the sake of
vengeance on the common enemy.
Mohamned Kiuprili was at this period nearly eighty years of age, and so
wholly illiterate that he could neither read nor write; yet such was the
general estimation of his wisdom and abilities, that the young sultan,
on entrusting to him the ensigns of office, voluntarily pledged himself
to leave entirely at his discretion the regulation of the foreign and
domestic relations of the empire, as well as the disposal of all offices
of state--thus virtually delegating to him the functions of sovereignty.
The measures of Kiuprili soon showed that these extraordinary powers
would not be suffered to remain dormant. The impatience of the troops at
the strict discipline which he enforced, erelong announced the approach
of a fresh tumult; and the ringleaders, in the confidence of
long-continued impunity, openly boasted that "the plane-tree would soon
bear another crop"--when on the night of Jan. 5, 1657, the grand-vizir,
accompanied by the aga of the janissaries, and fortified by a fetwa from
the mufti, legalizing whatever he might do, made the round of the
barracks with his guards, and seized several hundreds of all ranks in
the various corps, whose bodies, found floating the next day in the
Bosphorus, revealed their fate to their dismayed accomplices. The Greek
patriarch, on suspicion of having endeavoured to engage the Vaivode of
Wallachia in a plot for a general rising of the Christians, was summoned
to the Porte, and forthwith bowstrung in the presence of Kiuprili; and
in the course of a few weeks, not fewer than 4000 of those who had been
implicated in the previous disorders perished under the hands of the
executioner: "for as in medicine," remarks a Turkish historian, "it is
necessary to employ remedies which are analogous to the disease, so by
bloodshed alone could the state be purified from these lawless shedders
These terrible severities broke the spirit of insubordination in the
capital; and the irregularity of their pay, which had been one of the
chief grievances of the janissaries, was remedied by the good order
which Kiuprili had from the first introduced in the finances. "He
proportioned the expenditure of the empire," says Evliya, "to its
revenues, which he also greatly enlarged, so that he gained the name of
_Sahib-Kharj_," (master of finance.) The Venetians, who had availed
themselves of the anarchy reigning at Constantinople to occupy Tenedos
and Lemnos, so as to blockade the Dardanelles, were dislodged by the
activity of the vizir, who directed the sieges in person, bestowing
honours and rewards on the soldiers most distinguished for their
bravery; and though the Turkish fleet was defeated (July 17, 1657) at
the entrance of the straits, the Venetians sustained an irreparable loss
in their valiant admiral Mocenigo, who was blown up with his ship by a
well-aimed shot from one of the batteries on shore. But though the
janissaries were thus reduced to order and obedience, the flame of
disaffection was still smouldering among the spahis of Asia Minor, and
broke out, in the course of the ensuing year, into a formidable and
widely-organized rebellion. Not fewer than forty pashas and sandjaks
followed the banner of the insurgent leader Abaza-Hassan, pasha of
Aleppo, who advanced towards the Bosphorus at the head of 70,000 men,
assuming the state of a monarch, and demanding the heads of Kiuprili and
his principal adherents as the price of his submission. Morteza-Pasha,
governor of Diarbekr, who attempted to oppose him in the field, was
routed with the loss of nearly his whole army; and though the emissaries
who attempted to seduce the troops in Constantinople from their
allegiance were detected and put to death by the vigilance of Kiuprili,
the revolt spread throughout Anatolia and Syria, and the sultan was
preparing to take the field in person, when treachery succeeded in
accomplishing what force had failed to effect. It has been an uniform
maxim of the Ottoman domestic policy, which singularly contrasts with
their scrupulous observance of the treaties entered into with foreign
powers, that no faith is to be kept with _fermanlis_, or traitors to the
Padishah; and in the assured belief, confirmed by hostages and solemn
oaths, that the sultan was willing to accede to his demands,
Abaza-Hassan suffered himself to be drawn from his headquarters at
Aintab, with thirty of his officers, to a conference with Morteza at
Aleppo: but, in the midst of the banquet which followed this interview,
Abaza and his comrades found themselves in the grasp of the
executioners--while their followers, dispersed through the town, were
slaughtered without mercy on the signal of a gun fired from the castle;
and the army, panic-stricken at the fate of its leaders, quickly melted
away. But no sooner was the semblance of tranquillity restored, than the
Kaimakam Ismail Pasha, an unscrupulous agent of the merciless decrees of
the vizir, was sent into Asia under the new title of Moufetish, or
inquisitor; and an unsparing proscription almost utterly exterminated
all the remaining partizans of Abaza-Hassan, without distinction of
rank; while the suppression of numerous _timars_ or fiefs, and the
removal of the occupants of others from their ancient abodes to remote
districts, so effectually loosened the bands which had hitherto united
the spahis, like the janissaries, into a compact fraternity, that this
once powerful body was divided and broken; and they no longer occupy, as
a separate faction, their former conspicuous place in the troubled scene
of Ottoman history.
The termination of this great revolt freed Kiuprili from the
apprehension of military sedition, and left him in the enjoyment of more
absolute and undivided authority than had ever been possessed by any of
his predecessors in office. The sultan, from whose mind the impression
of the bloody scenes witnessed in his youth had never been effaced,
rarely visited Constantinople; devoting himself to the pleasures of the
chase in the forests and hills of Roumelia, and repairing only at
intervals to the ancient palace of his ancestors at Adrianople, whither
his harem and household had been transferred from the capital. The
uncontrolled administration of the state was left in the hands of the
vizir, but his implacable severity towards all who failed in implicit
devotion to his will, continued unabated. "He was unacquainted" (says
his contemporary, Rycaut) "with mercy, and never pardoned any who were
either guilty of a fault, or suspected for it;" and neither rank nor
services afforded protection to those who had incurred his jealousy or
resentment. Among the numerous victims of his suspicious cruelty, the
fate of Delhi-Hussein-Pasha was long remembered in Constantinople.
Originally a _battadji_ or lictor in the seraglio, he had attracted the
notice of Sultan Mourad-Ghazi by his strength and address in bending a
bow sent as a challenge by the Shah of Persia, and which had baffled the
efforts of all the _pelhwans_ or champions of the Ottoman court. His
first advancement to the post of equerry was only a prelude to the
attainment of higher honours, and he became successively governor of
Buda and of Egypt, capitan-pasha and serasker in Candia. His exploits in
the latter capacity had endeared him to the troops, while his noble
figure and frank bearing made him equally the idol of the citizens, but
his unbounded popularity led Kiuprili to foresee a future rival in this
favourite hero, and the fate of Delhi-Hussein was sealed. In an
interview with the vizir, he was graciously received, and invested with
a robe of honour; but as he quitted the Porte he was arrested and
carried to the Seven Towers, where, two days after, (in spite of the
intercession of the Sultana-Walidah, and the refusal of the mufti to
ratify the unjust doom,) he was bowstrung in his cell, as the murmurs of
the troops prevented the vizir from risking a public execution.
But though thus inexorable to all whose popularity or pretensions might
interfere with his own supremacy, and haughty even beyond all former
precedent in his intercourse with the representatives of the Christian
powers, Kiuprili deserved, by the merits of his domestic
administration, the high place which has been assigned to him by the
unanimous voice of the Ottoman historians. The exact regularity which he
enforced both in the payment and disbursement of the revenue, relieved
the people from the irregular imposts to which they had been subject, in
order to make up the deficiencies arising from the interception, by the
pashas, of the tributes of distant provinces, and the peculation which
had long reigned unchecked at the seat of government--while the sums
thus rendered disposable were laid out chiefly in improving the internal
communications, and strengthening the defences, of the empire. The
Dardanelles, hitherto guarded only by Mohammed II.'s two castles of
Europe and Asia, was made almost impregnable by the construction of the
formidable line of sea defences still existing; the necessity for which
had been demonstrated by the recent attack of the Venetians; and
fortified posts were established along the line of the Dnieper and
Dniester, to keep in cheek the predatory Cossacks between these rivers,
who were at this time engaged in a furious civil contest with the king
of Poland, the ally of the Porte. The Hungarian fortresses were also
repaired, and vast warlike preparations made along the Danube, as the
peace which for fifty years had subsisted with the empire appeared on
the verge of inevitable rupture. The succession to the principality of
Transylvania, the suzerainte of which had long been a point of dispute
between the Porte and Austria, was now contested between Kemeny and
Michael Abaffi--the latter being the nominee of the sultan, while Kemeny
was supported by the emperor, to whom the late Prince Racoczy had
transferred his allegiance a short time before his death in battle
against the Turks, in 1660. The Imperialists and Turks had more than
once encountered each other as auxiliaries of the rival candidates, and
Kiuprili was on the point of repairing in person to the scene of action,
when he died at Adrianople of dropsy, (Oct. 31, 1661,) in the
eighty-sixth year of his age, and was buried in a splendid mausoleum,
which he had erected for himself, near the Tauk-bazar (poultry market)
at Constantinople--the vault of which, during his life, he had daily
filled with corn, which was then distributed to the poor to purchase
their prayers! "Thus," says a Turkish annalist, "died Kiuprili-Mohammed,
who was most zealous and active in the cause of the faith! Enjoying
absolute power, and being anxious to purify the Ottoman empire, he slew
in Anatolia 400,000 rebels, including seventeen vizirs or pashas of
three tails, forty-one of two tails, seventy sandjak-beys, three
mallahs, and a Moghrabiu sheikh. May God be merciful to him!"
 De la Haye, the French ambassador, was imprisoned in 1658,
and his son bastinadoed in the presence of Kiuprili, for being
unable or unwilling to give a key to some letters in cipher from
the Venetians; and some years later, the envoy of the Czar,
Alexis Mikhailowitz, was driven, with blows and violence, from
the presence of the sultan, who was irritated by the
incompetency of the interpreter to translate the Czar's letter!
This latter outrage, however, was not till after the death of
the elder Kiuprili.
 This monstrous exaggeration is reduced by Rycaut to the more
credible, but still enormous number of 36,000 victims during the
five years of his ministry.
The genius of the Ottoman institutions is so directly opposed to any
thing like the perpetuation of offices in a family, which might tend to
endanger the despotism of the throne by the creation of an hereditary
aristocracy, that even in the inferior ranks, an instance had hitherto
scarcely been known of a son succeeding his father. The immediate
appointment, therefore, of Fazil-Ahmed, the eldest son of the deceased
minister, to the vizirat, was so complete a departure from all
established usages, as at once demonstrated to the expectant courtiers
that the influence of the crafty old vizir had survived him, and that
"the star of the house of Kiuprili" (in the words of a Turkish writer)
"had only set in the west to rise again with fresh splendour in the
east." Ahmed-Kiuprili was now thirty-two years of age, and joined to an
intellect not less naturally vigorous than that of his father, those
advantages of education in which the latter had been deficient. At an
early age he had been placed under the historian, Abdul-Aziz Effendi, as
a student of divinity and law, in the _medressah_ or college attached to
the mosque of Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror, and had attained, in due
course, the rank of _muderris_ or fellow therein; but the elevation of
his father to the vizirat transferred him from the cloister to the camp,
and he held the governments successively of Erzroom and Damascus--in the
latter of which he distinguished himself by his moderation and firmness
in reducing to order the refractory chiefs of the Druses, of the two
great rival houses of Shahab and Maan-Oghlu. Recalled, at length, to
Constantinople to assume the office of kaimakam, he had scarcely entered
on his new duties when he was summoned to Adrianople, to attend the
deathbed of his father, and to succeed him in the uncontrolled
administration of the empire.
The numerous executions which marked the accession of the new vizir, (in
accordance, as was believed, with the dying injunctions of his father,)
struck with terror the functionaries of government, who anticipated a
continuance of the iron rule under which they had so long trembled; but
the disposition of Ahmed-Kiuprili was not naturally sanguinary, and few
measures of unnecessary severity characterized his subsequent sway. The
war in Hungary, meanwhile, had assumed a serious aspect; for though
Kemeny had perished in battle, the Imperialists still continued to
oppose the claims of Abaffi to the crown of Transylvania; and their
armies, guided by the valour and experience of Montecuculi, a general
formed in the Thirty Years' War, were making rapid progress in the
reduction of the principality. War was now openly declared between the
two empires; and Kiuprili, assuming the command in person, opened the
campaign of 1663, in Hungary, with 100,000 men--a force before which
Montecuculi had no alternative but to retreat, as the rapidity with
which the Turks had taken the field, had completely outstripped the
dilatory preparations of the Aulic Council. The exploits of the
Ottomans, however, were confined to the capture of Ujvar, or Neuhausel,
after a siege maintained on both sides with such extraordinary vigour,
as to have given rise to a Hungarian proverb--"As fixed as a Turk before
Neuhausel,"--after which both armies withdrew into winter-quarters. The
campaign of 1664 opened also to the advantage of the Ottomans; but in
attempting the passage of the Raab, (Aug. 1,) at the fords near St
Gothard, the sudden swelling of the stream cut off the communication
between one division of their army and the other; and being attacked at
this juncture by Montecuculi, they sustained the most signal overthrow
which the Osmanlis had ever yet received from a Christian power--17,000
of their best troops were slain or drowned, and the vizir, hastily
drawing on the remains of his forces, sent proposals of peace to the
Austrian headquarters. Yet such was the indefinite awe with which the
prowess and resources of the Ottomans were at that time regarded, that
the Imperialists made no further use of their victory than to conclude a
truce for twenty years, the conditions of which, in effect, ceded all
the points for which the war had been undertaken. Abaffi was recognised
as Prince of Transylvania, and as a tributary of the Porte--the two
important fortresses of Great-Waradin and Neuhausel, which the Turks had
taken during the war, were left in their hands, and a breathing-time was
thus afforded to the two empires for the mortal struggle which was to be
decided, nineteen years later, under the walls of Vienna.
 "The Turk," says Montecuculi, "who is always armed, never
finds time bald, but can always seize him by the forelock: the
number of his victories, and the extent of territory which he
has taken from the Christians, and which they have never been
able to recover, sufficiently proves this, and shows the
rashness and folly of those who pretend to make light of his
Notwithstanding the ill success of his arms, the vizir was received by
the sultan, on his return with the army in the ensuing spring to
Adrianople, with such extraordinary distinction, that those who had
hoped to profit by his expected fall, could explain such continued
favour only by the supposition that sorcery had been practised on the
mind of the monarch by the mother of the all-powerful minister.
Solicitous to retrieve his military reputation in the eyes of the
soldiery, Kiuprili now determined to assume in person the conduct of the
long-continued war in Crete, and to bring the struggle to a close by the
capture of Candia, the siege of which had already reached near twice the
duration of that of Troy. To supply the deficiencies of the Turkish
marine, which had been almost ruined by the repeated naval victories of
the Venetians, an overture was made to the English ambassador, Lord
Winchilsea, for permission to hire the services of a number of British
vessels; but this strange request being evaded, the expedition was
postponed for a year, while every nerve was strained in the building and
equipment of galleys; and at length, in the autumn of 1666, the fleet
set sail from Monembasia in the Morea, under the command of the
Capitan-pasha Mustafa, surnamed _Kaplan_, or the Tiger, the
brother-in-law of Kiuprili, and anchored off Canea in the beginning of
November. But before we proceed to narrate the closing scenes of the
Cretan war, we must retrace our steps, to give some account of its
origin and progress.
The dominions of the Venetian Signory in the Levant, which had at one
time comprehended, besides the scattered isles of the Cyclades, the
three subject _kingdoms_ (as they were proudly called) of Candia,
Cyprus, and the Morea, were confined, in the middle of the seventeenth
century, to the first-named island--the last relics of the Morea having
been wrested from the republic by the arms of Soliman the Magnificent in
1540, and Cyprus having been subdued by the lieutenants of his son
Selim, a few months before the destruction of the Turkish fleet at the
battle of Lepanto in 1571. The sovereignty of Candia had been
acquired by purchase from the Marquis of Montferrat, to whom it was
assigned on the partition of the Greek empire, after the conquest of
Constantinople, in 1204, by the Latins of the fourth crusade: but the
four centuries and a half of Venetian rule present little more than an
unvarying succession of revolts, oppression, and bloodshed. In pursuance
of their usual system of colonial administration, which strangely
contrasted with their domestic policy, they had introduced into the
island a sort of modified feudal system, in order to rivet their
ascendancy over this remote possession, by the interposition of a class
of resident proprietors, whose interest it would be to maintain the
dominion of the parent state: but the _cavaliers_, as the Venetian
tenants of Cretan fiefs were termed, proved at times even more
refractory than the candidates themselves, and made the island for many
years a source of endless difficulties to the Signory. In 1363,
complaining of their exclusion from the high dignities of the republic,
the _cavaliers_ openly threw off their allegiance, elected a doge from
among themselves, and raised the banner of St Titus of Retimo in
opposition to the standard of St Mark. As they were supported both by
the native Candiotes and the Greeks of Constantinople, it was not till
after a harassing warfare of two years that they were reduced, and their
fortresses razed, by the Provveditori sent from Venice; a second effort
at independence, a few years later, was not more successful. The Greek
inhabitants were throughout subjected to a degree of merciless tyranny,
in comparison of which the worst severities of Turkish rule must have
appeared lenient. The Sphakiote tribes in particular, who were strong
both from their arms and martial temperament, and from their habitations
among the lofty ridges of the _Aspro-Bouna_, or White Mountains, in the
south of the island, acknowledged at all times but an imperfect
allegiance to their Venetian lords: and the acts of fiendish barbarity
by which their frequent revolts were chastised, can scarcely find a
parallel even in the worst horrors of the French Revolution. Unborn
infants torn from the womb in pursuance of a judicial sentence solemnly
pronounced--the head of the father exacted as the ransom for the life of
the son--such were the methods by which the Provveditori of the Most
Serene and Christian Republic enforced its authority, and which are
related, not only without reprehension, but with manifest complacency
and approval, by the chroniclers of the state.
 The name of Candia, which is the Italianized form of
Kandax, (now Megalo-Kastro,) is unknown at the present day to
the Greek inhabitants of the island, which they call by its
classic name of [Greek: Kraetae].--See PASHLEY'S _Travels in
Crete_, i. chap. 11.
 A notable retort is on record from the vizir to the
Venetian envoy, who, on repairing to Constantinople after the
battle, expressed his astonishment at the progress already made
in the equipment of a new fleet. "Know," (said the haughty
Osmanli,) "that the loss of a fleet to the Padishah is as the
shaving of his beard, which will grow again all the thicker;
whereas the loss of Cyprus is to Venice as the amputation of an
arm from the body, which will never be reproduced."
 "Thus were they annihilated, and all men who were faithful
and devoted to God and their prince, were solaced and
consoled."--_MS. Chronicle by the notary Trivan, quoted by_
PASHLEY, chap. 33. These atrocities were perpetrated in the
early part of the 16th century.
Though the coasts had often been ravaged in former wars by the Turkish
fleet, particularly under Barbarossa in 1538, no attempt appears ever to
have been made to effect the conquest of the island by the reduction of
the fortified cities of the coast, in which the main strength of the
Venetians lay: and since the treaty of 1573, Venice had remained more
than seventy years at peace with the Porte. In 1645, however, a fresh
rupture arose from the capture of a richly-laden Turkish vessel by the
Maltese cruisers, who were allowed, contrary to the existing
conventions between the Porte and the Republic, to sell the horses which
were on board their prize in one of the remote havens of Crete, beyond
the surveillance of the Venetian authorities. Slight as was the ground
of offence, it produced an instantaneous ferment at Constantinople: the
janissaries, calling to mind similar omens said to have preceded the
conquest of Rhodes and of Cyprus, exclaimed that the land whose soil had
once been trodden by Moslem horse hoofs, was the predestined inheritance
of the Faithful: and the flame was fanned by the capitan-pasha Yusuf, a
Dalmatian renegade, who, independent of the hatred which from early
associations he bore Venice, dreaded being sent on a bootless expedition
against the impregnable defences of Malta--an enterprise which, since
the memorable failure in the last years of Soliman, had never been
attempted by the Osmanlis. Preparations for war, meanwhile, were carried
on with unexampled activity, though the destination of the armament was
kept profoundly secret; till, on April 30, 1545, the most formidable
expedition which had ever been equipped in the Turkish ports, set sail
from the Bosphorus. Eight thousand janissaries, 14,000 spahis, and
upwards of 50,000 _timariots_ or feudal militia, were embarked on board
the fleet, which consisted of eighty galleys, and more than 300
transports, besides the auxiliary squadrons of the Barbary regencies,
which joined the armada, May 7, at the general rendezvous at Scio.
 Among the captives was the ex-nurse of the heir-apparent,
afterwards Mohammed IV., with her son, who was mistaken for a
prince of the Imperial family; and being carried to Malta, was
brought up there as a monk under the name of Padre Ottomanno!
During the siege of Candia he was brought to the beleaguered
fortress, in the hope that the presence of this supposed Turkish
prince of the blood would shake the allegiance of the
janissaries--but this notable scheme, as might have been
foreseen, was wholly without success.
From Scio the united fleet sailed to Navarino--a course purposely
adopted to spread the belief that Malta was the point of attack; but no
sooner were they again at sea, than the capitan-pasha, summoning the
principal officers on board his galley, read the _khatt sheeref_ of the
sultan, announcing that he had taken up arms for the conquest of Candia.
War had, in the mean time, been formally declared against the Republic
at Constantinople, and the Venetian envoy, Soranzo, imprisoned in the
Seven Towers: but he had previously contrived to communicate to the
Signory his suspicions of the impending storm; and supplies and
reinforcements had been hastily dispatched from Venice to Andrea
Cornaro, the _inquisitore_, or governor of Crete, in the event of its
bursting in that quarter. Little serious apprehension seems, however, to
have been entertained; and great was the consternation of the Candiote
population, when, on the morning of June 24, the vast armament of the
Ottomans was seen rounding Cape Spada, and disembarking the troops near
Canea, on the same spot where, according to tradition, the standards of
Islam had first been displayed, 820 years before, by the Saracens of
The strong ramparts of Canea opposed but an ineffectual resistance to
the numbers and resolution of the Ottomans, who pressed the siege with
all the ardour arising from the confidence of success; and after fifty
days of open trenches, and the failure of two assaults, the second
fortress of the island capitulated, August 17. The churches and the
cathedral of St Nicholas were converted into mosques: and Delhi-Hussein
(whose subsequent tragical fate has been already commemorated) was sent
out to take the government of this new conquest. The brave Yusuf,
returning to Constantinople at the end of the year, was at first
received with the highest honours by Ibrahim, but soon after put to
death in one of his fits of senseless cruelty; but the Ottomans in
Crete, under the gallant leadership of Delhi-Hussein, who now became
_serdar_ or commander-in-chief, overran and occupied the inland
districts almost without opposition from the Greek inhabitants, in whose
eyes any alternative was preferable to the bloody tyranny under which
they had so long groaned: while the Venitian garrisons, shut up in
the fortified towns along the northern shore, depended for supplies on
the Christian fleet, which the Turks did not venture to bring to action.
The campaign of 1646 was marked by the capture of the important city of
Retimo, which surrendered Nov. 15, after a murderous siege of
thirty-nine days, in which both the governor Cornaro and the provveditor
Molino were slain: but though the Turks received reinforcements to the
amount of 30,000 men, including 10,000 janissaries, in the course of the
following year, it was not till May 1648 that the trenches were at
length opened before Candia, the capital of the island, and the only
fortress of importance still in the hands of the Venetians.
 Many of them adopted the faith of the invaders--and
Tournefort, who visited Crete in 1700, says that "the greater
part of the Turks on the island were either renegades, or sons
of renegades." The Candiote Turks of the present day are
popularly held to combine the vices of the nation from which
they descend with those of their adopted countrymen.
The leaguer of Candia was pushed during several months by the Turks,
animated by the courage and example of their general, with the same
fanatic zeal which they had displayed before Canea and Retimo; but the
besieged, whose tenure of Crete depended on this last stronghold, held
out with equal pertinacity: and their efforts were aided by the presence
of a large body of Maltese auxiliaries, as well as by the succours which
the naval superiority of the Venetians enabled them continually to
introduce by sea. In one sortie, a detachment of the garrison penetrated
even to the tent of the serdar, who owed his safety to his personal
prowess; while the outworks of the town were ruined by the constant
explosion of mines, and the Ottoman standards were planted on the
bastion of Martinengo, and on several of the redoubts which covered the
interior defences. But in spite of their repeated assaults, the
besiegers failed to make any impression on the body of the place; and
the serdar was compelled to withdraw his diminished army into
winter-quarters. The anarchy at Constantinople which followed the
deposition of Ibrahim, combined with the blockade of the Dardanelles by
the Venetians, prevented any reinforcements from reaching the seat of
war--yet the siege was renewed in the ensuing summer, and carried on
with such vigour, that the garrison, weakened by the loss of half its
numbers, including the valiant governor, Colloredo, was reduced to the
last extremity; when the arrival of the Maltese squadron, under
Balbiani, baulked the Turks of their expected prize; and the
janissaries, breaking out into furious mutiny, compelled Delhi-Hussein
once more to abandon the hopeless enterprise. All the remainder of the
island, however, had now peaceably submitted to the Ottoman rule, and
had been organized into sandjaks and districts; so that the garrison of
Candia were rather the occupants of a solitary post in a hostile
country, than defenders of the soil against the invasion; and the
Turkish commanders, ill supplied from Constantinople, during the
troubled minority of Mohammed, with siege equipage and munitions of war,
contented themselves with blockading the town by the erection of
redoubts, and guarding the open country with their cavalry. While the
war thus languished in Crete, the events of the maritime contest
continued to justify the proverbial saying of the Turks, that "Allah had
given the land to the true believers; but the sea to the infidels!" Not
only was the blockade of the Dardanelles so strictly kept up, that it
was only in winter, when the Venetian fleet was unable to remain on its
station, that the Turks could convey reinforcements to their brethren
who were waging the _holy war_ in Crete, but repeated and disastrous
defeats were sustained by the Ottoman navy, whenever it attempted to
dispute the sovereignty of the sea with the Lion of St Mark. In July
1651, a formidable armament with supplies and troops for Crete was
almost entirely destroyed off Naxos by Mocenigo: and on July 6, 1656,
the same commander inflicted on the Turkish fleet, off the mouth of the
Straits, the most decisive overthrow which it had sustained since the
fatal day of Lepanto. Seventy sail of ships and galleys were sunk or
taken; the Capitan-pasha escaped into the Bosphorus with only fourteen
vessels; and the inhabitants of Constantinople, in the first access of
consternation, expected the apparition of the Christian ensigns in the
Golden Horn; but the victors contented themselves with the occupation of
Tenedos and Lemnos, which they held till dislodged in the following year
The serdar, Delhi-Hussein, who had for eleven years gallantly upheld the
renown of the Ottoman arms in Crete, withstanding with equal firmness
the efforts of the enemy, and the mutinous spirit of his own soldiers,
had been recalled early in 1656 to assume the vizirat; a fleeting
glimpse of honour, which, though cancelled even before he reached
Constantinople in favour of the Kaimakam Mustapha, subsequently (as
already related) cost him his life from the jealousy of Mohammed
Kiuprili. His successors possessed neither his energy nor his military
skill; and the Venetians, taking courage from the change of commanders,
sallied from Candia, and even ventured, though without success, to
attempt the recovery of Canea. Negotiations for peace, meanwhile, had
been kept on foot almost from the first; but as the Ottoman pride
absolutely refused to listen to any propositions which did not include
the total and unconditional surrender of Candia, no pacification could
be effected; and the war continued to linger till Ahmed-Kiuprili,
secured on the side of Hungary by the peace with Austria, collected all
the forces of the empire, to crush this last fragment of Venetian
dominion in the Levant.
The advanced season of the year when the vizir disembarked in Candia,
and the disorganized state of the forces which he found there, prevented
the immediate commencement of offensive operations; but in the course of
the winter, the arrival of the contingents of Egypt and Africa, as well
as of a squadron with fresh troops from Constantinople, raised his army
to between 40,000 and 50,000 effective men; and on the 20th of May 1667,
the trenches were once more opened in form on the western side of the
city, while 300 pieces of cannon, thundering from the Ottoman lines,
covered the approaches of the pioneers. Of the seven great
bastions which formed the principal defences on the land side, those of
Panigra, Bethlehem, and Martinengo, were the chief points of attack; the
vizir himself taking post opposite the first, while the Beglerbeg of
Anatolia and the Pasha of Egypt were stationed against the Bethlehem and
the Martinengo. The assault, as on former occasions, was conducted
chiefly by the slow process of sap and mine; but the superior skill of
the Christian engineers, enabled them frequently to explore and
countermine the works of the enemy; and the mining parties were thus
surprised and blown into the air, while murderous combats took place
under ground, from the accidental rencounters of the soldiers employed
in these subterranean galleries. The garrison, which had at first
numbered about 12,000, under the command of the Marchese di Villa, a
Piedmontese officer of approved skill and courage, received, at the end
of June, a reinforcement of 1000 veteran troops, brought by the Venetian
Captain-General Morosini, who arrived with the fleet at the Isle of
Standia, off the entrance of the port; and a concourse of volunteers,
from all parts of Europe, hastened to share in the defence of this last
bulwark of Christendom in the Grecian seas; while the Maltese, Papal,
and Neapolitan galleys cruised in the offing, to intercept the supplies
brought by sea to the Ottoman camp. The Turks, meanwhile, with their
usual stubborn perseverance, continued to push their sap under the
ravelin of Mocenigo, and the Panigra bastion which it covered; and
though their progress was retarded, and their works often ruined, by the
sallies of the defenders, the foundations were at length shaken, and the
ramparts rent and shattered, by the explosion of innumerable mines; and
the janissaries, fired with fanatic zeal, and stimulated by promises of
reward, rushed again and again to the attack under the eye of the vizir.
"Many and various," says Rycaut, in his quaint narrative, "were the
valiant assaults and sallies, the traverses extraordinary, the
rencounters bloody, the resistance vigorous, not known or recorded in
any siege before;" and the struggle continued with unabated fury on both
sides, till the approach of winter; while, after each unsuccessful
assault, the Venetians, emulating the ferocity of their enemies,
displayed the heads of the slain and prisoners (for no quarter was given
or taken) in barbarous triumph from the wall. At length, after a
desperate conflict on November 16, the janissaries effected a lodgement
in the Mocenigo bastion and the Panigra; and the Ottoman banners, for
the first time, were displayed from the summit of the works. But this
valiant forlorn hope, in the moment of triumph, was hurled into the air
by the explosion of a previously-prepared mine; and Kiuprili, dismayed
at this last failure, drew off his troops into their lines, where they
lay inactive, till the inundation of the camp by the winter rains
compelled them to withdraw to a greater distance.
 The use of parallels is usually said to have been
introduced at this time by Kiuprili; but they were certainly
employed before Neuhausel, four years earlier.
 These were, the Sabionera, covered by the detached fort of
St Demetrius, the Vetturi, Jesus, Martinengo, Bethlehem,
Panigra, and St Andrew.
Great was the rejoicing throughout Europe at the tidings that the pride
of the Ottoman battle had once more been driven back discomfited, for
the best and bravest of nearly every nation in Christendom were now to
be found in the ranks of the defenders: and great, on the other
hand, was the perplexity of the divan, and the chagrin of the Turkish
population, at the apparently endless duration of an enterprise, a
speedy and glorious termination of which had been expected from the
presence of the vizir. The sultan even dispatched a confidential agent
to the seat of war, to examine personally into the state of affairs; and
finding from his report that the army was reduced, by the sword and the
ravages of disease, to half its original effective strength, he issued
peremptory firmans to the pashas of the empire to hasten the equipment
of their contingents; and even announced his intention of repairing in
person to Crete, to share the perils and glories of the _holy war_.
Kiuprili, meanwhile, was indefatigable in his exertions to reorganize
his army, and restore his artillery to efficiency, even casting new guns
to fit the Venetian bullets, 30,000 of which are said to have been
picked up in the Turkish lines during the preceding campaign! A strict
blockade was kept up on the city, while the Venetian cruisers, and the
Papal galleys under Rospigliosi, the nephew of Pope Clement IX., were
equally vigilant in preventing supplies from reaching the besiegers by
sea; and various maritime encounters took place, generally to the
advantage of the flag of St Mark. The unworthy jealousy entertained
by Morosini of Di Villa, led, however, early in the spring of 1668, to
the withdrawal of that gallant soldier from his command, in which he was
succeeded by the Marquis Montbrun St Andre, a French volunteer, inferior
neither in valour nor diligence to his predecessor.
 The majority of these volunteers were supplied by the fiery
noblesse of France, among whom the crusading spirit of their
ancestors seems to have been revived at this period. At the
battle of St Gothard, a considerable body of French auxiliaries
was present, under the Duc de la Feuillade, (whose name was
travestied by the Turks into, _Fouladi, man of steel_;) and his
subsequent expedition to Candia, as well as the more formidable
armament under Noailles, seem to have received the direct
sanction of Louis XIV. Yet the old treaties between France and
the Porte were still in force; so that it was not without some
reason that Kiuprili replied, a few years later, to the Marquis
de Nointel's professions of amity on the part of France, "I know
that the French are our friends, but I always happen to find
them in the ranks of our enemies!"
 Villa is said to have produced before the senate of Venice
a letter from Morosini to the vizir, offering to betray him into
the hands of the Turks.
It was not till the beginning of June that the vizir recommenced active
operations against Candia; but the plan of attack was now changed. In
order to command the narrow entrance of the harbour, and so cut off
the constant reinforcements which reached the besieged by sea, the
principal batteries were directed against the bastion of Sabionera,
(called by the Turks the _Kizil-Tabiyah,_ or Red Fort,) at the seaward
extremity of the works on one side, and against that of St Andrew on the
other; but the events of the siege during this year present nothing to
distinguish them from the endless succession of mines, sorties,
assaults, and countermines, which had marked the campaign of last year.
The Venetian commanders at length, seeing the Turks preparing to pass
the winter in their trenches, and sensible that (concentrated as the
forces of the two contending powers were now for the attack and defence
of a single fortress) they must eventually be overwhelmed by the
ponderous strength of the Ottoman empire, once more made overtures for
peace, offering an annual tribute for Candia, and the cession of the
rest of the island to the Porte; but the vizir sternly rejected the
proffered compromise; and his reply to the envoy, Molino--"The Sultan is
not a merchant, nor does he need money--he has but one word, and that
is--Candia,"--showed that the long dispute could only be decided by the
sword. Elated by the hope of speedy triumph, the Turks now ran their
approaches so close to the bastion of St Andrew, which was held by the
Maltese knights and militia, that the muzzles of the muskets almost
touched each other; and the vizir wrote to the Sultan, that they had
only three yards more of ground to win, when, at this critical moment,
the spirits of the besieged were revived by the arrival, early in
December, of the Duc de la Feuillade and the Count de St Pol, with a
gallant band of 600 volunteers, many of them of the best families of
France. But the boiling valour of these fiery youths was equally
difficult to restrain or direct; and, after losing two-thirds of their
number in desperate, but irregular, sallies against the Turkish lines,
the survivors of this piece of knight-errantry re-embarked for
Christendom in January, leaving the heads of their fallen comrades
ranged on pikes before the tent of Kiuprili. A stancher reinforcement
was received in the spring of 1669, by the arrival of 3000
Lunenburghers, whose commander, Count Waldeck, fell a few days after, in
repulsing an assault on the breach of St Andrew, as did also the former
governor, Di Villa, whose thirst for glory had brought him back, as
general of the Papal auxiliaries, to the scene of peril.
 The harbour of Candia (now almost choked up) was at all
times so small, and with so little depth of water, as to afford
shelter only to galleys, the station of the larger vessels being
at the isle of Standia, at some leagues' distance.
These repeated reinforcements, joined to the knowledge that the Pope was
exerting himself to unite all the princes of Christendom in a league for
the relief of their hardly-beset brethren, still encouraged the heroic
defenders of Candia, though the Turks had by this time carried their
mines at several points within the bastions and exterior defences, and
compelled the garrison to shelter themselves behind an inner rampart,
constructed during the winter in anticipation of this extremity:--"So
that, in effect," says Rycaut, "this most impregnable fort of the world
was forced and taken by the spade and shovel, and by a crew of unarmed
labourers, who understood nothing more than the plough and harrow." The
promised succours, however, were now at hand. On the 22d of June, a
French fleet appeared off the port, having on board 7000 of the flower
of the French troops and nobility, who were commanded by the Dukes de
Noailles and Beaufort, and comprised in their ranks several princes of
the sovereign houses of Lorrain and Bouillon, the Marshals Colbert and
De la Motte-Fenelon, the Count of St Pol, and many other names of the
noblest and bravest in France, who had crowded to embark as volunteers
in this new and glorious crusade. These gallant auxiliaries landed
amidst the acclamations of the Venetians; and, on the night of the 27th,
a general sortie was made, in order to raise the siege by driving the
Turks from their trenches. The janissaries were driven from their works
by the impetuous onset of the assailants; but, in the tumult of the
fight, a large powder-magazine, between the Sabionera and Fort St
Demetrius, which had been occupied by the French, was accidentally blown
up. The Duke de Beaufort, and many others, perished in the explosion, or
were buried under the ruins; and the survivors, panic-stricken at the
catastrophe, were driven within the walls with terrible slaughter by the
Turks, who rallied and returned to the charge. The usual hideous
trophies of Ottoman triumph--the heads of the slain, were laid at the
feet of the vizir; but the body of the Duc de Beaufort, though anxiously
sought for at the prayer of his comrades, who offered, through a flag of
truce, to redeem it at its weight in gold, could never be discovered.
This dreadful blow not only threw a fatal gloom over the ardour of the
French, but gave rise to an altercation between Morosini and De
Noailles, each of whom threw on the other the blame of the failure;
till, after a month thus unprofitably spent, the French commander
re-embarked his troops, and sailed for Toulon, August 31, leaving the
town to its fate. The Maltese and Papal galleys departed in his
company;--"for thus did these accursed swine of Nazarenes" (says the
Turkish historiographer, Rashid) "withdraw from the doom of hell, which
awaited them at the hands of the Faithful." The condition of the
remaining defenders, thus deserted by their allies, and separated from
the Turks only by breastworks hastily thrown up in the interior of the
town, was now utterly hopeless, as not more than 3600 men remained fit
for duty, while the loss in slain and disabled averaged more than a
hundred a-day. In these desperate circumstances, a council of war was
summoned by Morosini, to consider whether it might not even yet be
practicable to avoid the ignominy of a surrender, by evacuating the
town, and escaping, with the inhabitants, by sea. Their deliberations
were hastened by a furious assault from the Turks, who were impatient to
seize their prey; and, though the enemy were repulsed for the time by
the remains of the Lunenburghers, two officers were eventually
dispatched to the vizir's headquarters, to announce the submission of
the garrison, and arrange the terms of capitulation. They were
courteously received by Kiuprili, who appointed an officer of his own
household, with Panayoti, the dragoman of the Porte, to confer with
them; and the articles were settled without much difficulty. Peace was
concluded between the Porte and the Republic. Candia and the whole of
Crete was ceded to the Sultan, with the exception of the harbours of
Grabusa, Suda, and Spinalonga, which the Venetians were allowed to
retain for purposes of commerce; the garrison and inhabitants of Candia
were to embark with their arms, baggage, and a certain proportion of
artillery, and the Ottomans were not to enter the town till the
embarkation was completed. These conditions were scrupulously observed
by the victors; till the 27th of September, the evacuation being
effected, the standard of the cross was at length lowered from the
walls; and the vizir, standing on the breach of the St Andrew's bastion,
(thence called by the Turks the _Fort of Surrender_,) in the midst of a
crowd of pashas and generals, received the keys of the city in a silver
basin. A body of Turkish troops immediately entered by the breaches, and
mounted guard on the principal posts; but it was not till the 4th of
October that the vizir made his triumphant entry at the head of his
army, (now reduced to about 15,000 regular troops, and 11,000 pioneers
and irregulars,) and proceeded, bearing in his hand the sacred standard
of the Prophet, to the cathedral, which was purified from the dead
bodies interred within its walls, and re-consecrated as a mosque. All
the other churches underwent the same transformation, with the exception
of two which Panayoti purchased for the use of the Greeks; for so
completely was the town deserted, that there remained only, in the words
of an anonymous eyewitness, "two Greeks, three Jews, and eight other
strangers, whom the vizir would also have suffered to depart; but they
chose rather to change their religion than their quarters."
 The appointment of the _Greek_ Panayoti marks an important
change in the system of Ottoman diplomacy; as previously the
Porte had disdained to employ the _rayahs_ in places of trust,
depending wholly, in their intercourse with foreign ambassadors,
on the interpreters attached to the suite of the latter.
Thus ended this famous siege, the longest, and one of the most
memorable, recorded in history. During its continuance, the Venetians
and their allies lost 30,000 men, and the Turks more than 100,000;
fifty-six assaults were made on the town above ground, and the same
number through the mines; and nearly an equal number of sorties was made
by the garrison. 460 mines were sprung by the Turks, and no less than
1172 by the Venetians; and the quantity of missiles hurled into the town
exceeded all calculation. The fortifications were, however, speedily
repaired by the care of Kiuprili, who remained in the island nine months
after the surrender, employed in the final organization of this new
province, which was divided into the three pashaliks of Canea, Retimo,
and Candia--the last being the residence of the beglerbeg, or supreme
pasha. The arrangements being at length completed, he quitted Candia for
Constantinople, whither the capitan-pasha had preceded him with the
fleet; and, on the 3d of July 1670, he replaced in the hands of the
Sultan, in his hunting-camp near Rodosto, the _sandjak-sheeref_, which
had been committed to his charge for the war against the infidels. "In
this manner," says Rycaut, writing not in a spirit of prophecy, three
years only before the battle of Vienna, "expired the action of the year,
fortunate in its success to the Turks; for though they gained but thirty
acres of land, with expense inestimable of blood and treasure, yet the
glory and fame which attended it, being the consummation of twenty-five
years' war, and the theatre where the whole world were spectators, was
of greater value to the Turks than any other consideration, and may with
time prove a place of advantage to the further increase of their western
empire, unless God Almighty, by his mercy and providence, give a stop to
the progress of this grand oppressor."
* * * * *
A PASSAGE IN THE LIFE OF A MAITRE-D'ARMES
The excitement produced in St Petersburg on the occasion of a rash
conspiracy which had broken out on the inauguration of the Emperor
Nicholas, had ample time to die away before the sentence pronounced upon
the conspirators became known. Six months elapsed, months of terrible
suspense and anxiety to the friends of the unfortunate prisoners. At
length, on the 14th of July, the decision of the high court of justice
appeared in the _St Petersburg Gazette_. Six-and-thirty of the accused
were condemned to death, the others to the mines and to exile. My friend
and patron, Count Alexis W----, was included in the former list; but an
act of clemency on the part of the Emperor tempered the severity of
justice, and only five of the condemned were left for execution, while
the remaining thirty-one had their sentence commuted to banishment. My
friend's name was, God be thanked! among the latter.
On reading this announcement, I rushed into the street, and ran, without
once stopping, until I reached the house of his beloved Louise. Of her,
for the present, it will be sufficient to say, that she was a young,
lovely, and intelligent Frenchwoman, whose sister I had known in Paris,
and to whose patronage, from her position as a first-rate _modiste_ in
St Petersburg, I was much indebted. Between this truly amiable woman and
the Count had for some years existed an attachment, not hallowed,
indeed, by the church, but so long and deeply-rooted in the hearts of
both, and so dignified by their mutual constancy and worth, as to have
won the sympathies even of the Count's mother and sisters. To return,
however, to Louise, whom I found with a copy of the _Gazette_ in her
hand, and bathed in tears, but they were tears of joy--
"He is saved!" cried she, on seeing me enter; "thank God and the
The first moment of joy over, Louise's thoughts turned to the mother and
sisters of her lover. She calculated that the _Gazette_ would only leave
St Petersburg by the post of that night, and that by sending off an
express immediately the news might reach Moscow twelve hours sooner. She
asked me if I knew a trusty messenger, who could start without delay to
bear the glad tidings to the Count's family. I had a Russian servant, an
intelligent active fellow, and I offered his services, which she
accepted with delight. The only difficulty was the passport, and through
the kindness of the ex-chief of police, Monsieur de Gorgoli, it was
procured in half an hour. At the expiration of that time the courier set
off, with a thousand rubles in his pocket for travelling expenses.
He arrived at Moscow fourteen hours before the post; fourteen hours of
mortal anxiety saved to the Count's mother and sisters.
The letter he brought back, was one of those that seem written with a
feather plucked from an angel's wing. The old Countess called Louise her
daughter, and the young girls named her their sister. They entreated
that, when the day was known on which the prisoners were to set off for
their banishment, a courier might be despatched to Moscow with the news.
I accordingly told my servant to hold himself in readiness to start, to
his no small satisfaction; for the Count's mother had given him a
thousand rubles for his first trip, and he trusted the second might be
equally well rewarded.
There had not been an execution in St Petersburg for sixty years, and
the curiosity and excitement caused by the anticipation of this one,
were proportionably great. The day was not fixed beforehand, and the
inhabitants of the capital got up each morning, expecting to hear that
the bloody tragedy had been enacted. I had requested a young Frenchman
attached to Marshal Marmont's special mission, and who was on that
account likely to have early information, to let me know when it was to
take place; and on the evening of the 23d of July, he sent me word that
the marshal and his suite had been invited to repair by four o'clock the
following morning to the hotel of the French embassy, the windows of
which commanded the place of execution.
I hastened to communicate this intelligence to Louise. All her fears
returned. Was it certain that Alexis was pardoned? Might not the
commutation of punishment announced in the _Gazette_ be a ruse to
conceal the truth from the people? These, and a thousand other doubts,
arose in her mind; but I at last succeeded in tranquillizing her, and
returned home to take some repose till the hour of the execution. Before
doing so, however, my servant was sent off to Moscow, to inform the
Countess W---- that the following day her son would leave St Petersburg
for his place of exile.
At half-past three, I left my house and hastened in the direction of the
citadel. A grey tinge in the east announced the approach of day, and a
thin white fog hung like a veil over the Neva. As I passed the corner of
the French embassy, Marmont and his suite entered the house, and a
minute afterwards they appeared upon the balcony.
A few persons were standing upon the quay, not in expectation, or
because they were informed of what was going to take place, but because
the bridge of the Trinity was occupied by troops, and they were thereby
prevented from proceeding whither their affairs called them. They seemed
uneasy, and uncertain whether it might not be dangerous to remain there.
Some minutes before four, a large fire was lighted on the platform of
the fortress. My attention being drawn to that point, I perceived, by
the now increasing daylight, a wooden scaffolding, on which were erected
five black and ominous looking gibbets.
Four o'clock struck, and the prisoners whose punishment had been
commuted to banishment appeared upon the platform, and ranged themselves
round the scaffold. They were all in full uniform, wearing their
epaulettes, and the stars and ribands of their different orders. Their
swords were carried by soldiers. I tried to distinguish the Count, but
the distance, and still imperfect light, rendered the attempt fruitless.
The five who were to suffer death now ascended the scaffold, dressed in
coarse linen frocks, and with a sort of white hood over their heads.
They doubtless arrived from separate dungeons, for, as they met, they
were allowed to embrace one another. Immediately afterwards, a man went
up to them and said something, which was followed by a cheer from the
soldiers and others attending the execution. It was afterwards reported,
I know not with what truth, that this man was sent to offer them their
lives if they chose to beg them; but that they replied to the offer by
cries of Russia and Liberty!--cries that were rendered inaudible by the
hurras of the guards and attendants.
The executioners stepped forward, passed the halters round the necks of
the condemned, and pulled the hoods over their eyes. A neighbouring
clock struck the first quarter after four, and simultaneously with the
sound, a trap-door gave way under the feet of the culprits. There was a
great cry and much confusion, and a number of soldiers jumped upon the
Two of the ropes had snapped, and the unhappy men round whose necks they
had been fastened, had fallen through the scaffolding to the platform;
one of them had broken his thigh, and the other his arm. Ladders were
brought, and the sufferers carried up to the scaffold and laid upon
their backs, for they were unable to stand. In a few minutes new halters
were ready, and with the help of the executioners, the victims managed
to drag themselves under the gibbets. Their last words were, Russia and
Liberty! This time the ropes did their duty.
It was said, that when the Emperor was afterwards informed of this
incident, he was much vexed at its not having been immediately reported
to him; but nobody had dared take upon himself the responsibility of
suspending the execution.
It was now the turn of the exiles. Their sentence was read, declaring
them to have forfeited every thing, rank, possessions, orders, family,
all that bound them to the world, and the executioners then tore off
their epaulettes and decorations, which they threw into the fire. Then
taking the prisoners' swords from the soldiers who held them, they
seized them by the hilt and point, and broke them over their owners'
heads, exclaiming, as each snapped in two, "This is the sword of a
traitor!" This ceremony over, they were stripped of their uniforms,
which were replaced by coarse grey smock-frocks, and they were then led
back to prison. The evening of the same day they set out for Siberia.
I returned to Louise, whom I found on her knees, praying and weeping.
She looked at me as I entered the room as though afraid to interrogate
me; but I relieved her anxiety by informing her that all had passed as
announced in the _Gazette_. She raised her eyes to heaven with an
expression of pious gratitude.
After a pause, "How far is it from here to Tobolsk?" she enquired.
"About eight hundred leagues."
"It is not so far as I thought," was her observation. I looked at her
for a moment in silence. I began to suspect her intentions.
"Why do you ask the question?" enquired I.
"Can you not guess?"
"But, Louise, it is impossible, at least at this moment."
"Do not be uneasy, my friend. I know my duty to my child, and my
affection for its father shall not make me forget it. I will wait."
It was not without a motive that the Count's mother and sisters had been
anxious to obtain the earliest possible intelligence of his departure
from St Petersburg. The road from that capital to Tobolsk ran through
Iroslaw, a town about sixty leagues from Moscow, and they entertained
hopes of being able to see their son and brother as he passed. Their
passports were ready, and arrangements made; and as soon as they
received from my servant the news of the departure of the prisoners,
they got into a _kubiltka_, and without saying a word to any body of
their intentions, set out for Iroslaw.
Travelling is rapid in Russia; in less than twenty-four hours they
reached their destination, and learned with delight that the prisoners
had not yet passed. As their stay at Iroslaw might have excited
suspicion, they left that town, and took up their quarters in a small
village on the road, at a solitary cottage, near which the carriages
containing the exiles were to change horses. In all such cases in
Russia, the persons in charge of criminals are forbidden to stop or to
change horses in towns, or even in villages.
After waiting two days, a servant whom the Countess had stationed upon
the road to watch for the convoy, hastened to her with the news that the
first division of the prisoners had just arrived in five carriages, and
that the corporal in charge had sent men to fetch horses from the
village. The ladies got into their carriage, and set off at full gallop
for the cottage at which the convoy had halted. They stopped upon the
high-road opposite the hut, and gazed eagerly through the half-open door
of its only room. It was crowded with prisoners; but Alexis was not
In a quarter of an hour horses were brought; the prisoners re-entered
the carriage, which immediately set off.
Half an hour later the second division of the convoy arrived; but the
Count was not with it. The third, fourth, and fifth passed, each being
obliged to wait longer than the preceeding one for horses, those at the
post-house and in the immediate neighbourhood having all been taken.
It was some time after nightfall when the sixth and last division was
heard approaching. The poor women clasped their trembling hands
together. The much wished-for moment had arrived, yet their greatest
difficulty was to come. It was more than uncertain whether they would be
permitted to embrace their son and brother.
The convoy stopped, Alexis got out of the third carriage. In spite of
the darkness and of his ignoble garb, the Countess and her daughters
recognized him. One of the latter was about to call out his name; but
her mother placed her hand on her mouth in time to prevent the
imprudence, and the Count entered the cottage.
The corporal commanding the escort began enquiring about horses, and on
learning that they were scarce, he sent off his soldiers with orders to
seize all they could find in the name of the Emperor. The men departed,
and he remained alone with the prisoners. There was no danger of an
attempt at escape. In the heart of the Czar's immense dominions, whither
could a fugitive betake himself without a certainty of being overtaken,
or of dying from hunger before he reached the frontier?
Corporal Ivan remained then walking up and down in front of the cottage,
alternately whistling and floging his leathern overalls with his riding
whip, and occasionally stopping to gaze at the Countess's travelling
carriage, which was standing without horses in the road. Presently the
door of the vehicle opened, three ladies alighted and advanced towards
the corporal. Two of them remained a little behind, the third approached
him with clasped hands.
"My friend," said the Countess, "my son is amongst the prisoners you are
escorting; let me see him but for a moment, and name your own reward."
"It is impossible, madam," replied the corporal respectfully. "My orders
are strict to allow no one to communicate with the prisoners, and the
knout is the least I may expect if I transgress them."
"But who will know that you have transgressed them?" cried the Countess,
her voice trembling with eagerness and suspense. Her daughters stepped
forward, and joined their hands, as in supplication to the soldier.
"It is quite impossible, madam," repeated the man.
"My mother!" cried Alexis, pushing open the cottage door. He had heard
her voice, and in an instant was clasped in her arms.
The corporal made a movement as though to seize his prisoner; but at the
same moment the two young girls fell at his feet, and embracing his
knees, pointed to the touching spectacle before them.
Corporal Ivan was a good fellow in the main. He uttered something
between a sigh and a growl, and the sisters saw that their prayer was
"Mamma," said one of them in a low tone, "he will allow us to embrace
our brother." The Countess extricated herself from her son's arms, and
held out a heavy purse to the corporal.
"You risk a punishment for our sakes, my friend, and it is fair you
should be recompensed for it."
Ivan looked hard at the purse for a moment, then shaking his head and
putting his hands behind his back, "No, your ladyship," said he, "I am
committing a breach of duty, but it is not for gold. Here is the best
excuse I can give my judges, and if they don't accept it, God will;" and
he pointed to the two weeping girls. The Countess seized the soldier's
rough hand and pressed it to her lips.
"The horses cannot be here yet;" continued Ivan, "get into your carriage
and pull down the blinds. By that means nobody will see you, and I may
perhaps avoid making acquaintance with the knout."
"Thank you, corporal," said Alexis; "but at least take this purse.
"Take it yourself, lieutenant," said Ivan in a low voice, from habit
giving the Count a title to which he had no longer a right. "You will
find the use of it at the end of your journey."
"But on arriving they will search me."
"You can give it to me before the search, and I will return it to you.
But I hear the gallop of a horse; quick into the carriage!" The corporal
pushed Alexis into the carriage; the ladies followed, and he shut the
door upon them.
An hour elapsed, an hour of mingled joy and sorrow. At the expiration of
that time, the door opened, and Ivan appeared. "You must separate," said
he, "the horses are arriving."
"A few moments longer!" cried the ladies, with tearful voices.
"Not a second, or I am ruined. Go on to the next relay; it is dark, no
one will see you, and I sha'n't be punished more for twice than once."
"Oh! you will not be punished at all," cried the ladies; "surely God
will reward you."
"Hum," said the corporal doubtingly, and half pulling his prisoner out
of the carriage.
At the next relay, things went equally well. A third interview was
rendered impossible by the approach of day. The sad word _farewell_ was
pronounced, and the weeping women took the road to Moscow, having
previously arranged a plan of correspondence, and carrying with them a
few affectionate lines that Alexis had scrawled in pencil for Louise.
The Countess had ordered my servant to wait at Moscow till she returned,
and on her arrival there immediately dispatched him to St Petersburg. He
brought Louise the Count's note, and a letter from his mother, inviting
her to go to Moscow, for that she was impatient to embrace her as her
Louise kissed her lover's note. She shook her head on reading the
Countess's letter, and smiled one of those sad smiles that were peculiar
to her. "I shall not go to Moscow," said she, "my place is elsewhere."
As I had suspected, Louise had resolved to join Count W---- at Tobolsk;
but she could not set out till after her confinement, which was to take
place in a couple of months. Meantime she busied herself with
preparations. By turning every thing she possessed into money, she got
together a sum of thirty thousand rubles. At her request, I applied to
my kind friend, Monsieur de Gorgoli, to obtain from the Emperor
permission for her to rejoin her lover. Her intentions had got wind in
St Petersburg, and every body spoke with admiration of the devoted
attachment of the young Frenchwoman. Many thought, however, that her
courage would fail her when the moment of departure arrived; but I knew
her better, and felt assured of the contrary.
At the commencement of September, she became the mother of a boy. I
wished her to write to the mother of Alexis to announce this event; but
she refused. The Countess heard of it, however, and wrote to Louise, to
say that she was expecting her with her child.
Her recovery was slow, the various emotions she had undergone during her
pregnancy having weakened her health. She would have left St Petersburg
long before she was strong enough to do so; but the permission to join
Count W---- was to come through me, and I refused to apply for it till
her medical attendant gave her leave to travel.
One morning the door of my apartment opened and Louise entered, her face
radiant with joy. "He will escape!" cried she.
"How! Escape? It is impossible."
"Read that," she said and handed me a letter in the Count's
hand-writing. It was as follows:--"Dearest Louise--Place all confidence
in the bearer of this letter. He is more than my friend--he is my
"I fell ill upon the road, and was obliged to stop at Perm. The
physicians declared I was not able to continue my journey, and it was
decided I should pass the winter in the prison of that town. As good
fortune would have it, the jailer's brother is an old servant of my
family and willing to aid my escape. He and his brother fly with me; but
I must have means of indemnifying them for what they give up on my
account, and for the risk they run. Give the bearer all the money and
jewels you possess. As soon as I am in safety I will write to you to
come and join me. Adieu. W----."
"Well," said I after reading the letter twice over, "what have you
"Can you ask the question?"
"What!" cried I. "You have given ...?"
"Every ruble I had," interrupted she.
"And if this letter were not from the Count? If it were a forgery?"
She changed colour, and snatched the paper from my hand.
"Oh, no!" said she. "I know his hand-writing. I cannot be mistaken."
But, on reading the letter again, I observed that she grew still paler.
"I do not think," I observed, "that Alexis would have addressed such a
demand to you."
"And why not? Who loves him better than I do?"
"Understand me rightly. For an act of friendship or devotion he would
have applied to _you_, but for money to his mother. I tell you again,
either I do not know Count W----'s character, or this letter is not
written by him."
"But what will become of me? I have given every thing I possessed."
"How did the Count usually sign his letters?"
"You see this one is signed W----. It is evidently a forgery and we must
immediately inform the police."
"And if we are mistaken? If it is not a forgery, by doing so I shall
prevent his escape. Oh, no! Better lose the money. I can manage without.
All that I am anxious to know is, whether he is at Perm."
It occurred to me, that I might easily ascertain this latter point
through a lieutenant of gendarmerie to whom I gave lessons; and begging
Louise to wait my return, I hastened to his quarters. I told him I had
particular reasons for wishing to know whether my friend W---- had
reached Tobolsk, and asked him if it were possible to ascertain. He
immediately sent an orderly for the non-commissioned officer who had
commanded the Count's division. Ten minutes afterwards, Corporal Ivan
entered the room; and, although I was not then aware of the service he
had rendered the Countess and her daughters, I was immediately
prepossessed in his favour, by his frank open countenance and soldierly
"You commanded the sixth division of the prisoners lately sent to
Siberia?" enquired I.
"I did so, your excellency."
"Count W---- was in your division?"
The corporal hesitated, and did not seem much to like the question.
"Fear nothing," said I, "you are speaking to a friend, who would
sacrifice his own life for him. Tell me the truth, I beseech you. Was
Count W---- ill on the road?"
"Not the least."
"Did he stop at Perm?"
"Not even to change horses. I left him at Koslowo, a pretty little
village on the Irtich, twenty leagues from Tobolsk."
"You are sure of what you say?"
"Quite sure. I had a receipt from the authorities, which I delivered
over to his excellency the grand-master of police."
I now hastened to Monsieur de Gorgoli, and related all that had passed.
When I had finished--
"Is this young girl decided to go penniless, as she now is, to join her
lover in Siberia?"
"Quite decided, your excellency; and I am persuaded nothing will alter
"Then go, and tell her from me, that she shall have the permission."
I hurried back to Louise, and informed her of the result of my two
interviews. She appeared indifferent to the loss of her little fortune,
but overjoyed to learn that she would be allowed to join her lover. Her
only anxiety now was to obtain the requisite permission as soon as
Before leaving her, I placed at her disposal what money I had, which,
unfortunately, was only two or three thousand rubles; for I had, a short
time previously, remitted to France all that I had laid by during my
residence at St Petersburg.
The same evening I was at Louise's house, when one of the Emperor's
aides-de-camp was announced. He brought her a letter of audience for the
following day. Monsieur de Gorgoli had kept his word.
Early the following morning I called upon Louise, to accompany her to
the palace. I found her waiting for me, dressed in deep mourning, and
without a single ornament; but her pale, melancholy style of beauty, was
rather improved than impaired by the simplicity and sombre colour of her
At the palace gate we separated, and I awaited her return in the
carriage. On presenting her letter of audience, an officer on duty
conducted her to the Emperor's private cabinet, and desiring her to wait
there, left the room. She remained alone for about ten minutes, during
which time, she afterwards told me, she was more than once near fainting
away. At last a step was heard in the adjoining apartment; a door
opened, and the Emperor appeared. On seeing him, she, by a spontaneous
movement, fell upon her knees, and, unable to find words, clasped her
hands together in mute supplication.
"Rise!" said the Emperor kindly, advancing towards her. "I have been
already spoken to on the subject of your application. You wish for
permission to join an exile?"
"Yes, sire, if such a favour may be granted."
"You are neither his sister nor his wife, I believe?"
"I am his--friend, sire," replied poor Louise, a tinge of pink
over-spreading her pale cheek. "He must sadly need a friend."
"You know that he is banished for life to a country where there are
scarcely four months of spring, and the rest of the year is one dreary
"I know it, sire."
"Do you know, also, that he has neither rank, fortune, nor title to
share with you--that he is poorer than the poorest mendicant in St
"You have doubtless some fortune, some resources of your own?"
"Alas, sire, I have nothing! Yesterday I had thirty thousand rubles,
produced by the sale of all I possessed, but even that little fortune
was stolen from me."
"I know it. By a forged letter. It was more than a theft, it was a
sacrilege; and, should its perpetrator be detected, he shall be punished
as though he had broken open the poor-box in a church. But there are
means of repairing your loss?"
"Inform his family of the circumstance. They are rich, and will assist
"I thank your Majesty; but I desire no assistance save that of God."
"But without funds how can you travel? Have you no friends who would
"Pardon me, sire, but I am too proud to borrow what I could never repay.
By selling what little property I have left, I shall raise two or three
"Scarcely sufficient for a quarter of the journey. Do you know the
distance from here to Tobolsk, my poor girl?"
"Yes, sire--about eight hundred French leagues."
"And how will you get over the five or six hundred leagues you will
still have to travel when your last ruble is spent?"
"There are towns on the road, sire. When I reach a town I will work till
I have enough to continue my journey to the next."
"That may do as far as Perm," replied the Emperor; "but after that you
have the Ural mountains, and you are at the end of Europe. After that
nothing but a few scattered villages; no inns upon the road; large
rivers without bridges or ferries, and which must be traversed by
dangerous fords, whence men and horses are frequently swept away."
"Sire, when I reach the rivers they will be frozen; for I am told that
in those regions the winter begins earlier than at St Petersburg."
"What!" cried the Emperor, astonished, "do you think of setting out
now--of performing such a journey in winter?"
"It is during the winter that _his_ solitude must be most intolerable."
"It is impossible. You must be mad to think of it."
"Impossible if your Majesty so wills it. No one can disobey your
"_I_ shall not prevent it; but surely your own reason, and the immense
difficulties of such an undertaking, will."
"Sire! I will set out to-morrow."
"But if you perish on the road?"
"If I perish, sire, he will have lost nothing, for I am neither his
mother, his daughter, nor sister, but only his mistress--that is, a
woman to whom society gives no rights, and who must consider herself
fortunate if the world looks upon her with no harsher feeling than
indifference. But if I _am_ able to join him, I shall be _every thing_
to him--mother, sister, family, and friends. We shall be two to suffer
instead of one, and that fearful exile will lose half its terrors. You
see, sire, I _must_ rejoin him, and that as soon as possible."
"You are right," said the Emperor, looking fixedly at her, "and I no
longer oppose your departure."
He rang; an aide-de-camp appeared.
"Is Corporal Ivan in attendance?"
"He waits your Majesty's orders."
"Let him come in."
The aide-de-camp bowed, and disappeared. Two minutes afterwards the door
reopened, and Corporal Ivan stepped into the room, then halted, upright
and motionless, one hand on the seam of his overalls, the other to the
front of his schako.
"Draw near," said the Emperor, in a stern voice.
The corporal made four paces to the front, and relapsed into his former
Four more paces, and Ivan was close to the Emperor's writing-table.
"You are Corporal Ivan?"
"You commanded the escort of the sixth division?"
"You had orders to allow the prisoners to communicate with no one?"
This time the corporal's tongue seemed embarrassed by something, and his
affirmative was uttered in a less steady tone than the preceding ones.
"Count Alexis W---- was one of the prisoners in your division, and in
spite of your orders you allowed him to have two interviews with his
mother and sisters. You knew the punishment you exposed yourself to by
Ivan grew very pale, and was forced to support himself against the
"Pardon, sire!" gasped he.
Louise seemed about to speak, but a motion of the Emperor's hand warned
her to remain quiet. After a moment's silence--
"You are pardoned," said the Emperor.
The soldier drew a deep breath. Louise uttered an exclamation of joy.
"Where did you leave Count W----?"
"At Koslowo, your Majesty."
"You will set off again, and escort this lady thither."
"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Louise, who began to understand the Emperor's
"You will obey her in all respects, consistently with her safety, for
which you answer to me with your head; and if, on your return, you bring
me a letter from her, saying that she is satisfied with your conduct,
you shall be made sergeant."
"Thanks, father," said Ivan, forgetting for a moment his military
stiffness, and falling upon his knees. The Emperor gave him his hand to
kiss, as he was in the habit of doing to the lowest of his subjects.
Louise was going to throw herself at his feet and kiss his other hand,
but the Emperor stopped her.
"You are indeed a true and admirable woman," said he. "I have done all I
can for you. May God bless and protect you!"
"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Louise, "how can I show my gratitude!"
"When you pray for your child," said the Emperor, "pray also for mine."
And waving his hand kindly to her, he left the room.
When Louise returned home she found a small packet that had been sent
from the Empress during her absence. It contained thirty thousand
It had been arranged that I should accompany Louise as far as Moscow, a
city that I was desirous of visiting, and thence she would pursue her
journey under Ivan's escort. The day after her interview with the
Emperor, we started in a carriage that Ivan brought, and the combined
strength and elegance of which surprised me, until I observed on a
corner of the pannel the mark of the imperial stables. It was an
excellent travelling berline, lined throughout with fur. Ivan was
provided with an order, by virtue of which post-horses would be
furnished us the whole of the journey, at the Emperor's expense. Louise
got into the carriage with her child in her arms; I seated myself beside
her, Ivan jumped on the box, and in a few minutes we were rattling along
the Moscow road.
Louise was received with open arms by the Countess W---- and her
daughters. The nature of her connexion with Alexis was lost sight of and
forgotten in the devotion and disinterestedness of her attachment. A
room was prepared for her in the Countess's house; and, however anxious
the Count's mother and sisters were that he should have society and
consolation in his exile, they nevertheless entreated her to pass the
winter at Moscow, rather than run the risk of so long a journey during
the bad season that was approaching. But Louise was inflexible. Two days
were all she would consent to remain. She was forced, however, to leave
her child in charge of its grandmother, for it would have been madness
to have done otherwise.
I had been offered an apartment in the Countess's house, but preferred
taking up my quarters at an hotel, in order to have liberty to spend my
time in visiting whatever was remarkable at Moscow. On the evening of
the second day I went to call upon the Countess. The ladies were making
another effort to persuade Louise to defer her perilous journey till a
more favourable season. But no arguments, no entreaties, could move her:
she was determined to set off the following morning. I was invited to
breakfast, and to witness her departure.
I had been for some days turning over in my mind a project that I now
resolved to put in execution. I got up early the next morning and bought
a fur coat and cap, thick furred boots, a carbine, and a brace of
pistols, all of which I gave to Ivan, and desired him to place them in
the carriage. I then hastened to the Countess W----'s.
Breakfast over, the carriage drove up to the door. Louise was
alternately clasped in the arms of the Countess and her daughters. My
turn came, and she held out her hand. I made a motion to assist her into
the carriage. "Well," said she, astonished, "don't you bid me farewell?"
"Why should I?"
"I am going to set off."
"So am I."
"Certainly. You recollect the Persian fable--the pebble that was not the
rose, but had caught some of its fragrance by living near it."
"Well, I have caught some of your devotedness, and I shall go with you
to Tobolsk. I will deliver you safe and sound to the Count, and then
come back again."
Louise looked me earnestly in the face. "I have no right," said she, "to
prevent your doing a good action--come."
The Countess and her daughters were in tears. "My child! my child!"
cried Louise, who had remained firm up to this moment, but burst into a
passion of weeping as she clasped her infant for the last time in her
"Adieu! Adieu!" The whip cracked; the wheels rattled over the pavement.
We were off to Siberia. On we went, day and night. Pokrow, Vladimir,
Nijni-Novogorod, Casan. "_Pascare! Pascare!_" Quicker! Quicker! was
Ivan's cry to each new postilion. The snow had not yet begun to fall,
and he was anxious, if possible, to cross the Ural mountains before it
set in. The immense plains between Moscow and Perm were traversed with
tremendous rapidity. On reaching the latter place, Louise was so much
exhausted that I told Ivan we must halt one night. He hesitated a
moment, then looking at the sky, which was dark and lowering, "It will
be as well," said he; "we must soon have snow, and it is better it
should fall before than during our journey." The next morning his
prediction was verified. There were two feet of snow in the streets of
Ivan now wished to remain till the cold increased, so that the snow
might become hard, and the rivers frozen. But all his arguments could
only induce Louise to wait two days. On the third morning we set off,
leaving our carriage, and packed into a sort of small vehicle without
springs, called a _telegue_.
On reaching the foot of the Ural mountains, the cold had so much
increased that it became advisable to substitute a sledge for our
wheels. We stopped at a miserable village, composed of a score of
hovels, in order to effect this exchange, and entered a wretched hut,
which did duty both as posting-house and as the only inn in the place.
Eight or nine men, carriers by trade, were crowded round a large fire,
lighted in the centre of the room, and the smoke of which found a vent
through a hole in the roof. They paid no attention to our entrance; but
when I had taken off my cloak, my uniform at once obtained for us the
best place at the hearth. The landlord of this wretched hostelry met my
enquires about supper with a stare of astonishment, and offered me a
huge loaf of hard black bread as the whole contents of his larder. Ivan,
however, presently appeared, having managed to forage out a couple of
fowls, which, in an inconceivably short space of time, were plucked, and
one of them simmering in an iron pot over the fire, while the other hung
suspended by a string in front of the blaze. Supper over, we wrapped
ourselves in our furs, and lay down upon the floor, beds in such a place
being of course out of the question.
Before daybreak, I awoke, and found Ivan and the carriers already afoot,
and in consultation as to the practicability of continuing our journey.
The question was at last decided in favour of the march; the waggoners
hastened to harness their horses, and I went to inspect our carriage,
which the village blacksmith had taken off its wheels and mounted upon a
sledge. Ivan meantime was foraging for provisions, and shortly returned
with a ham, some tolerable bread, and half a dozen bottles of a sort of
reddish brandy, made, I believe, out of the bark of the birch-tree.
At length all was ready, and off we set, our sledge going first,
followed by the carriers' waggons. Our new companions, according to a
custom existing among them, had chosen one of their number as a chief,
whose experience and judgment were to direct the movements of the party,
and whose orders were to be obeyed in all things. Their choice had
fallen on a man named George, whose age I should have guessed to be
fifty, but who, I learned with astonishment, was upwards of seventy
years old. He was a powerful and muscular man, with black piercing eyes,
overhung by thick shaggy eyebrows, which, as well as his long beard,
were of an iron grey. His dress consisted of a woollen shirt and
trousers, a fur cap, and a sheepskin with the wool turned inside. To the
leathern belt round his waist were suspended two or three horse-shoes, a
metal fork and spoon, a long-bladed knife, a small hatchet, and a sort
of wallet, in which he carried pipe, tobacco, flint, steel, nails,
money, and a variety of other things useful or necessary in his mode of
life. The garb and equipment of the other carriers were, with some small
differences, the same.
The first day's journey passed without incident. Our march was slow and
even dangerous, all trace of the road being obliterated, and we were
obliged to feel our way, as it were, by sending men forward with long
pikes to sound the depth of snow before us. At nightfall, however, we
found ourselves in safety on a sort of platform surmounted by a few
pine-trees. Here we established our bivouac. Branches were cut, and a
sort of hut built; and, with the aid of enormous fires, the night passed
in greater comfort than might have been expected on a mountain-side, and
with snow many feet deep around us.
At daybreak we were again in movement. Our difficulties increased as we
ascended the mountain: the snow lay in prodigious masses, and more than
once we were delayed by having to rescue one or other of our advanced
guard from some hole or ravine into which he had fallen. No serious
accident, however, occurred, and we had at length the satisfaction of
finding ourselves descending. We had passed the highest point of the
We had been going downhill for some three hours, the way zig-zaging
among rocks and precipices, when suddenly we were startled by a loud
cracking, followed by a noise that resembled a clap of thunder repeated
by many echoes. At the same moment a sort of whirlwind swept by us, and
the air was darkened by a cloud of snow-dust. "An avalanche!" cried
George, stopping his waggon. Every body halted. In another instant the
noise ceased, the air became clear, and the avalanche continued its
downward course, breaking, as it passed, a couple of gigantic pines that
grew upon a rock, some five hundred feet below us. The carriers gave a
hurra of joy at their escape, nor was it without reason. Had we been
only half a verst further on our road, our journey had been at an end.
The avalanche had not passed, however, without doing us some harm, for,
on reaching the part of the road over which it had swept, we found it
blocked up by a wall of snow thirty feet thick and of great height.
There were several hours' work for all of us to clear it away; but
unfortunately it was already nightfall, and we were obliged to make up
our minds to remain where we were till morning.
No wood was to be had either for hut or fire. The want of the latter was
most unfortunate; for independently of the cold rendering it very
necessary, it was our chief protection against the wolves. Doing the
best we could under such unfavourable circumstances, we drew up the
carts in the form of a half circle, of which the two extremities rested
against the wall of snow it our rear, and within the sort of
fortification thus formed we placed the horses and our sledge. Our
arrangements were scarcely completed when it became perfectly dark.
In the absence of fire Louise's supper and mine consisted of dry bread.
The carriers, however, made a hearty meal on the flesh of a bear they
had killed that morning, and which they seemed to consider as good raw
I was regretting the want of any description of light in case of an
attack from the wolves, when Louise suddenly recollected that Ivan had
put the lanterns belonging to the travelling carriage into our _telegue_
when we changed horses. On searching I found them under the seat, each
furnished with a thick wax taper.
This was, indeed, a treasure. We could not hope to scare away the wolves
by the light of our two candles; but it would enable us to see them
coming, and to give them a proper reception. We tied the lanterns to the
top of two poles fixed firmly in the snow, and saw with pleasure that
they cast their clear pale light nearly fifty yards around our
We were ten men in all. Two stood sentry on the carts, while the
remainder set to work to pierce through the obstacle left by the
avalanche. The snow had already become slightly frozen, so that they
were able to cut a passage through it. I joined the working party as
being a warmer occupation than standing sentry. For three or four hours
we toiled incessantly, and the birch-tree brandy, with which I had
provided myself, and which we had carefully economized, was now found
most useful in giving strength and courage to the labourers.
It was about eleven o'clock at night when a long howl was heard, which
sounded so close and startling that with one accord we suspended our
work. At the same moment old George, who was on sentry, called to us. We
ran to the waggons and jumped upon them. A dozen enormous wolves were
prowling about the outside edge of the bright circle thrown by our
lanterns. Fear of the light kept them off; but each moment they were
growing bolder, and it was easy to see that they would not be long
without attacking us.
I looked to the priming of my carbine and pistols. Ivan was similarly
armed; but the carriers had only their pikes, hatchets, and knives. With
these weapons, however, they boldly awaited the attack.
Half an hour passed in this state of suspense, the wolves occasionally
advancing a pace or two into the circle of light, but always retreating
again. At length one of them approached so near that I asked George if
it would not be advisable to reward his temerity with a bullet.
"Yes," was the answer, "if you are certain of hitting him."
"Why must I be certain?"
"Because if you kill him his companions will amuse themselves with
eating him; to be sure," added he to himself, "if once they taste blood
they will be mad for more."
"The mark is so good," said I, "I can hardly miss him."
"Fire, then, in God's name!" returned George; "all this must have an end
one way or the other."
Before the words were out of his mouth I fired, and the wolf writhed in
agony on the snow. In an instant half a dozen wolves darted forward,
and, seizing their comrade, carried him off into the darkness.
The howlings now increased, and it was evident more wolves were
arriving. At length there was a moment's silence.
"Do you hear the horses," said George, "how they neigh, and paw? It is a
signal for us to be prepared."
"I thought the wolves were gone," replied I; "they have left off
"No, they have finished their repast, and are preparing for an attack.
Here they come."
And that moment eight or ten wolves, that in the imperfect flickering
light looked as big as jackasses, rushed forward, and instead of
endeavouring to pass under the waggons, bounded boldly upon them. By
some chance, however, none of them attacked the waggon on which I was
The cart on my right, defended by George, was escaladed by three wolves,
one of which was immediately disabled by a thrust of the vigorous old
man's pike. A ball from my carbine settled another, and seeing George's
hatchet raised over the head of the third I knew he wanted no further
aid, and looked to see what was going on to my left. Two wolves had
attacked the waggon which was defended by one of George's sons, who
received the first of his foes with a lance thrust. But apparently no
vital part was touched, and the wolf had broken the pike with his teeth;
so that for a moment the man opposed to him had nothing but the pole
wherewith to defend himself. The second wolf was scrambling along the
cart, and on the point of attacking him, when I sprang from one waggon
to another, and fired one of my pistols into the animal's ear. He fell
dead beside his companion, who was rolling in the snow, and making
violent efforts to tear the broken lance from his wound.
Meantime Ivan was hard at work, and I heard a carbine or two pistol
shots, which told me that our adversaries were as warmly received on the
left as on the right of the line. An instant later four wolves again
crossed the circle of light, but this time in full retreat; and at the
same moment, to our no small astonishment, three others, that we had
thought dead or mortally wounded, raised themselves up and followed
their companions, leaving large tracks of blood behind them. Three
carcasses remained upon the field of battle.
"Load again, and quickly," cried George. "I know their ways; they will
be back directly." And the old man pointed with his finger into the
darkness. I listened, and heard distant howlings replying to the nearer
ones. What we had as yet had was a mere skirmish. The general engagement
was to come.
"Look behind you!" cried a voice. I turned and saw two fiery eyes
gleaming on the top of the snow wall in our rear. Before I could draw a
trigger the wolf gave a leap, and falling upon one of the horses struck
his fangs into its throat. Three men left their waggons.
"There is but one wolf," cried George, "and one man is enough. Let the
others remain at their posts."
Two of the men resumed their places. The third crept upon his hands and
knees among the horses who, in their terror, were kicking and plunging
violently, and throwing themselves against the carts by which they were
surrounded. The next instant I saw the gleam of a knife blade, and the
wolf let go the horse, which reared up on its hind-legs, the blood
streaming from its throat. A dark mass was rolling and struggling on the
ground. It was the man and the wolf.
At the end of a few seconds the man stood up. "David," said he to one of
his comrades, "come and help me to carry away this carrion. The horses
wont be quiet while it lies here."
They dragged the wolf towards George's waggon, and then raising it up
from the ground, the old man took it by the hind-legs, as though it had
been a hare, and threw it outside the line of carts.
"Well, Nicholas," said George to the successful combatant, "don't you
take your place again."
"No," replied the other; "I have enough as it is."
"Are you wounded?" cried Louise, opening the door of the _telegue_.
"I believe I have killed my last wolf," answered the poor fellow in a
I gave George my carbine, and hastened to the wounded man. A part of his
jaw was torn away, and the blood flowed abundantly from a large wound in
his neck. I for a moment feared that the carotid artery was opened, and
scarcely knowing whether I did right or wrong, I seized a handful of
snow and applied it to the wound. The sufferer uttered a cry and fainted
"O God!" cried Louise, "have mercy upon him!"
"To your posts," shouted George in a stentorian voice; "the wolves are
I left the wounded man in Louise's care, and jumped upon the cart.
I can give no details of the combat that followed. I had too much
occupation myself to attend to what my companions were doing. We were
attacked by at least twenty wolves at once. After discharging my two
pistols, I armed myself with an axe that George gave me. The fight
lasted nearly a quarter of an hour, and certainly the scene was one of
the most terrible it is possible to imagine. At length, and just as I
was splitting the skull of a wolf that hung on to one of the wheels of
my waggon, a shout of victory resounded along our line, and again our
enemies fled, but this time it was for good.
Three of our men were wounded, besides Nicholas, who was still alive,
but in a desperate state. We were obliged to shoot the horse that had
been torn by the wolf.
By daybreak, a passage was opened through the wall of snow, and we
resumed our journey. The evening of the same day we reached a small
village, where we found an inn, that, under any other circumstances,
would have been pronounced abominable, but which appeared a palace after
three such days as we had passed. The following morning we parted from
our friends the carriers, leaving George five hundred rubles to divide
All now went well. Thanks to the imperial order with which we were
provided, the best horses were always for us, and, when necessary,
escorts of ten or twelve men galloped on either side of our sledge. The
country was flat and the pace good, and exactly a week after leaving the
Ural mountains we entered Tobolsk.
We were dreadfully fatigued, but yet Louise would only remain long
enough to take a bath; and at two in the morning we set out for the
little town of Koslowo, which had been selected as the abode of twenty
of the exiles, among whom was Alexis. On arriving, we hastened to the
officer commanding there, and showing him the Emperor's order, which
produced its usual effect, enquired after the Count. He was well, was
the answer, and still at Koslowo.
It had been agreed between Louise and myself that I should go and see
him first, and inform him of her arrival. I asked the governor for a
pass, which he gave me without hesitation, and a Cossack conducted me to
a part of the town composed of some twenty houses enclosed within high
palisades, and guarded by sentries. We stopped before a door, and my
guide knocked. "Come in!" said a voice which I recognized as that of
When I opened the door, he was lying on his bed, dressed, and with a
book on the floor near him. I stopped upon the threshold. He stared at
me without speaking, and seemed hardly to believe his eyes.
"Well," said I, "have you forgotten me?"
At the sound of my voice, he sprang from his bed and threw his arms
round me. But the next instant he started back. "Good heavens!"
exclaimed he, "you are exiled, and I am probably the cause."
"No, indeed," I replied, "I come here as an amateur." He smiled
"As an amateur! Into the heart of Siberia! Explain your meaning. But
first--Louise--what of her?"
"I have just now left her."
"Just now? A month ago, you mean?"
"Five minutes ago."
"Good God! what do you mean?" cried Alexis, growing very pale.
"That Louise has accompanied me, and is now here."
"Oh woman! woman! Thy heart is ever the same," murmured Alexis, while
tear after tear rolled down his cheek. He was then silent for a time,
but his lips moved, and I doubt not in thanksgiving to God for such
"Where is she?" he at length exclaimed.
"At the governor's house."
He rushed towards the door. "I am mad," said he, pausing, "I forget that
I cannot leave my cage without permission. My dearest friend, bring her
here, I beseech you! Or stay, this man will go." He spoke in Russian to
the Cossack, who went out.
In a few minutes, and before I could answer a tithe of the numerous
questions Alexis asked me, the man returned, but alone.
"Well?" said the Count, changing countenance.