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Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers, Vol. I. by Thomas De Quincey

Part 4 out of 4

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march was, and severe beyond example: there the forewarning proved
correct; but the promised rest proved a mere phantom of the wilderness
--a visionary rainbow, which fled before their hope-sick eyes, across
these interminable solitudes, for seven months of hardship and
calamity, without a pause. These sufferings, by their very nature, and
the circumstances under which they arose, were (like the scenery of the
_Steppes_) somewhat monotonous in their coloring and external
features: what variety, however, there was, will be most naturally
exhibited by tracing historically the successive stages of the general
misery, exactly as it unfolded itself under the double agency of
weakness still increasing from within, and hostile pressure from
without. Viewed in this manner, under the real order of development, it
is remarkable that these sufferings of the Tartars, though under the
moulding hands of accident, arrange themselves almost with a scenical
propriety. They seem combined, as with the skill of an artist; the
intensity of the misery advancing regularly with the advances of the
march, and the stages of the calamity corresponding to the stages of
the route; so that, upon raising the curtain which veils the great
catastrophe, we behold one vast climax of anguish, towering upwards by
regular gradations, as if constructed artificially for picturesque
effect:--a result which might not have been surprising, had it been
reasonable to anticipate the same rate of speed, and even an
accelerated rate, as prevailing through the later stages of the
expedition. But it seemed, on the contrary, most reasonable to
calculate upon a continual decrement in the rate of motion according to
the increasing distance from the head-quarters of the pursuing enemy.
This calculation, however, was defeated by the extraordinary
circumstance, that the Russian armies did not begin to close in very
fiercely upon the Kalmucks until after they had accomplished a distance
of full two thousand miles; one thousand miles further on the assaults
became even more tumultuous and murderous; and already the great
shadows of the Chinese Wall were dimly descried, when the frenzy and
_acharnement_ of the pursuers, and the bloody desperation of the
miserable fugitives had reached its uttermost extremity. Let us briefly
rehearse the main stages of the misery, and trace the ascending steps
of the tragedy, according to the great divisions of the route marked
out by the central rivers of Asia.

The first stage, we have already said, was from the Wolga to the Jaik;
the distance about three hundred miles; the time allowed seven days.
For the first week, therefore, the rate of marching averaged about
forty-three English miles a day. The weather was cold, but bracing;
and, at a more moderate pace, this part of the journey might have been
accomplished without much distress by a people as hardy as the
Kalmucks: as it was, the cattle suffered greatly from overdriving: milk
began to fail even for the children: the sheep perished by wholesale:
and the children themselves were saved only by the innumerable camels.

The Cossacks, who dwelt upon the banks of the Jaik, were the first
among the subjects of Russia to come into collision with the Kalmucks.
Great was their surprise at the suddenness of the irruption, and great
also their consternation: for, according to their settled custom, by
far the greater part of their number was absent during the winter
months at the fisheries upon the Caspian. Some who were liable to
surprise at the most exposed points, fled in crowds to the fortress of
Koulagina, which was immediately invested, and summoned by Oubacha. He
had, however, in his train only a few light pieces of artillery; and
the Russian commandant at Koulagina, being aware of the hurried
circumstances in which the Khan was placed, and that he stood upon the
very edge, as it were, of a renewed flight, felt encouraged by these
considerations to a more obstinate resistance than might else have been
advisable, with an enemy so little disposed to observe the usages of
civilized warfare. The period of his anxiety was not long: on the fifth
day of the siege, he descried from the walls a succession of Tartar
couriers, mounted upon fleet Bactrian camels, crossing the vast plains
around the fortress at a furious pace, and riding into the Kalmuck
encampment at various points. Great agitation appeared immediately to
follow; orders were soon after despatched in all directions: and it
became speedily known that upon a distant flank of the Kalmuck movement
a bloody and exterminating battle had been fought the day before, in
which one entire tribe of the Khan's dependents, numbering not less
than nine thousand fighting men, had perished to the last man. This was
the _ouloss_, or clan, called _Feka-Zechorr_, between whom and
the Cossacks there was a feud of ancient standing. In selecting,
therefore, the points of attack, on occasion of the present hasty
inroad, the Cossack chiefs were naturally eager so to direct their
efforts as to combine with the service of the Empress some
gratification to their own party hatreds; more especially as the
present was likely to be their final opportunity for revenge if the
Kalmuck evasion should prosper. Having, therefore, concentrated as
large a body of Cossack cavalry as circumstances allowed, they attacked
the hostile _ouloss_ with a precipitation which denied to it all
means for communicating with Oubacha; for the necessity of commanding
an ample range of pasturage, to meet the necessities of their vast
flocks and herds, had separated this _ouloss_ from the Khan's
head-quarters by an interval of eighty miles: and thus it was, and not
from oversight, that it came to be thrown entirely upon its own
resources. These had proved insufficient; retreat, from the exhausted
state of their horses and camels, no less than from the prodigious
encumbrances of their live stock, was absolutely out of the question:
quarter was disdained on the one side, and would not have been granted
on the other; and thus it had happened that the setting sun of that one
day (the 13th from the first opening of the revolt) threw his parting
rays upon the final agonies of an ancient _ouloss_, stretched upon
a bloody field, who on that day's dawning had held and styled
themselves an independent nation.

Universal consternation was diffused through the wide borders of the
Khan's encampment by this disastrous intelligence; not so much on
account of the numbers slain, or the total extinction of a powerful
ally, as because the position of the Cossack force was likely to put to
hazard the future advances of the Kalmucks, or at least to retard, and
hold them in check, until the heavier columns of the Russian army
should arrive upon their flanks. The siege of Koulagina was instantly
raised; and that signal, so fatal to the happiness of the women and
their children, once again resounded through the tents--the signal for
flight, and this time for a flight more rapid than ever. About one
hundred and fifty miles ahead of their present position, there arose a
tract of hilly country, forming a sort of margin to the vast, sea-like
expanse of champaign savannas, steppes, and occasionally of sandy
deserts, which stretched away on each side of this margin both
eastwards and westwards. Pretty nearly in the centre of this hilly
range, lay a narrow defile, through which passed the nearest and the
most practicable route to the river Torgai (the further bank of which
river offered the next great station of security for a general halt.)
It was the more essential to gain this pass before the Cossacks,
inasmuch as not only would the delay in forcing the pass give time to
the Russian pursuing columns for combining their attacks and for
bringing up their artillery, but also because (even if all enemies in
pursuit were thrown out of the question) it was held by those best
acquainted with the difficult and obscure geography of these pathless
steppes--that the loss of this one narrow strait amongst the hills
would have the effect of throwing them (as their only alternative in a
case where so wide a sweep of pasturage was required) upon a circuit of
at least five hundred miles extra; besides that, after all, this
circuitous route would carry them to the Torgai at a point ill fitted
for the passage of their heavy baggage. The defile in the hills,
therefore, it was resolved to gain; and yet, unless they moved upon it
with the velocity of light cavalry, there was little chance but it
would be found pre-occupied by the Cossacks. They, it is true, had
suffered greatly in the recent sanguinary action with their enemies;
but the excitement of victory, and the intense sympathy with their
unexampled triumph, had again swelled their ranks--and would probably
act with the force of a vortex to draw in their simple countrymen from
the Caspian. The question, therefore, of pre-occupation was reduced to
a race. The Cossacks were marching upon an oblique line not above fifty
miles longer than that which led to the same point from the Kalmuck
head-quarters before Koulagina: and therefore without the most furious
haste on the part of the Kalmucks, there was not a chance for them,
burdened and 'trashed' [Footnote: _'Trashed'_--This is an expressive
word used by Beaumont and Fletcher in their Bonduca, etc., to describe
the case of a person retarded and embarrassed in flight, or in pursuit,
by some encumbrance, whether thing or person, too valuable to be left
behind.] as they were, to anticipate so agile a light cavalry as the
Cossacks in seizing this important pass.

Dreadful were the feelings of the poor women on hearing this exposition
of the case. For they easily understood that too capital an interest
(the _summa rerum_) was now at stake to allow of any regard to
minor interests, or what would be considered such in their present
circumstances. The dreadful week already passed,--their inauguration in
misery,--was yet fresh in their remembrance. The scars of suffering
were impressed not only upon their memories, but upon their very
persons and the persons of their children. And they knew that where no
speed had much chance of meeting the cravings of the chieftains, no
test would be accepted, short of absolute exhaustion, that as much had
been accomplished as could be accomplished. Weseloff, the Russian
captive, has recorded the silent wretchedness with which the women and
elder boys assisted in drawing the tent-ropes. On the 5th of January
all had been animation, and the joyousness of indefinite expectation:
now, on the contrary, a brief but bitter experience had taught them to
take an amended calculation of what it was that lay before them.

One whole day and far into the succeeding night had the renewed flight
continued: the sufferings had been greater than before: for the cold
had been more intense: and many perished out of the living creatures
through every class, except only the camels--whose powers of endurance
seemed equally adapted to cold and heat. The second morning, however,
brought an alleviation to the distress. Snow had begun to fall: and
though not deep at present, it was easily foreseen that it soon would
be so; and that, as a halt would in that case become unavoidable, no
plan could be better than that of staying where they were: especially
as the same cause would check the advance of the Cossacks. Here then
was the last interval of comfort which gleamed upon the unhappy nation
during their whole migration. For ten days the snow continued to fall
with little intermission. At the end of that time keen bright frosty
weather succeeded: the drifting had ceased: in three days the smooth
expanse became firm enough to support the treading of the camels, and
the flight was recommenced. But during the halt much domestic comfort
had been enjoyed: and for the last time universal plenty. The cows and
oxen had perished in such vast numbers on the previous marches, that an
order was now issued to turn what remained to account by slaughtering
the whole, and salting whatever part should be found to exceed the
immediate consumption. This measure led to a scene of general
banqueting and even of festivity amongst all who were not incapacitated
for joyous emotions by distress of mind, by grief for the unhappy
experience of the few last days, and by anxiety for the too gloomy
future. Seventy thousand persons of all ages had already perished;
exclusively of the many thousand allies who had been cut down by the
Cossack sabre. And the losses in reversion were likely to be many more.
For rumors began now to arrive from all quarters, by the mounted
couriers whom the Khan had despatched to the rear and to each flank as
well as in advance, that large masses of the Imperial troops were
converging from all parts of Central Asia to the fords of the river
Torgai as the most convenient point for intercepting the flying tribes:
and it was already well known that a powerful division was close in
their rear, and was retarded only by the numerous artillery which had
been judged necessary to support their operations. New motives were
thus daily arising for quickening the motions of the wretched Kalmucks,
and for exhausting those who were previously but too much exhausted.

It was not until the 2d day of February that the Khan's advanced guard
came in sight of Ouchim, the defile among the hills of Moulgaldchares,
in which they anticipated so bloody an opposition from the Cossacks. A
pretty large body of these light cavalry had, in fact, pre-occupied the
pass by some hours; but the Khan having too great advantages, namely, a
strong body of infantry, who had been conveyed by sections of five on
about two hundred camels, and some pieces of light artillery which he
had not yet been forced to abandon, soon began to make a serious
impression upon this unsupported detachment; and they would probably at
any rate have retired; but at the very moment when they were making
some dispositions in that view, Zebek-Dorchi appeared upon their rear
with a body of trained riflemen, who had distinguished themselves in
the war with Turkey. These men had contrived to crawl unobserved over
the cliffs which skirted the ravine, availing themselves of the dry
beds of the summer torrents, and other inequalities of the ground, to
conceal their movement. Disorder and trepidation ensued instantly in
the Cossack files; the Khan, who had been waiting with the _elite_
of his heavy cavalry, charged furiously upon them; total overthrow
followed to the Cossacks, and a slaughter such as in some measure
avenged the recent bloody extermination of their allies, the ancient
_ouloss_ of Feka-Zechorr. The slight horses of the Cossacks were
unable to support the weight of heavy Polish dragoons and a body of
trained _cameleers_ (that is, cuirassiers mounted on camels);
hardy they were, but not strong, nor a match for their antagonists in
weight; and their extraordinary efforts through the last few days to
gain their present position, had greatly diminished their powers for
effecting an escape. Very few, in fact, _did_ escape; and the
bloody day of Ouchim became as memorable amongst the Cossacks as that
which, about twenty days before, had signalized the complete
annihilation of the Faka-Zechorr. [Footnote: There was another _ouloss_
equally strong with that of _Feka-Zechorr_, viz., that of Erketunn,
under the government of Assarcho and Machi, whom some obligations of
treaty or other hidden motives drew into the general conspiracy of
revolt. But fortunately the two chieftains found means to assure the
Governor of Astrachan, on the first outbreak of the insurrection, that
their real wishes were for maintaining the old connection with Russia.
The Cossacks, therefore, to whom the pursuit was intrusted, had
instructions to act cautiously and according to circumstances on coming
up with them. The result was, through the prudent management of
Assarcho, that the clan, without compromising their pride or
independence, made such moderate submissions as satisfied the Cossacks;
and eventually both chiefs and people received from the Czarina the
rewards and honors of exemplary fidelity.]

The road was now open to the river Igritch, and as yet even far beyond
it to the Torgau; but how long this state of things would continue, was
every day more doubtful. Certain intelligence was now received that a
large Russian army, well appointed in every arm, was advancing upon the
Torgau, under the command of General Traubenberg. This officer was to
be joined on his route by ten thousand Bashkirs, and pretty nearly the
same amount of Kirghises--both hereditary enemies of the Kalmucks--both
exasperated to a point of madness by the bloody trophies which Oubacha
and Momotbacha had, in late years, won from such of their compatriots
as served under the Sultan. The Czarina's yoke these wild nations bore
with submissive patience, but not the hands by which it had been
imposed; and, accordingly, catching with eagerness at the present
occasion offered to their vengeance, they sent an assurance to the
Czarina of their perfect obedience to her commands, and at the same
time a message significantly declaring in what spirit they meant to
execute them, viz., 'That they would not trouble her Majesty with

Here then arose, as before with the Cossacks, a race for the Kalmucks
with the regular armies of Russia, and concurrently with nations as
fierce and semi-humanized as themselves, besides that they were stung
into threefold activity by the furies of mortified pride and military
abasement, under the eyes of the Turkish Sultan. The forces, and more
especially the artillery, of Russia, were far too overwhelming to
permit the thought of a regular opposition in pitched battles, even
with a less dilapidated state of their resources than they could
reasonably expect at the period of their arrival on the Torgau. In
their speed lay their only hope--in strength of foot, as before, and
not in strength of arm. Onward, therefore, the Kalmucks pressed,
marking the lines of their wide-extending march over the sad solitudes
of the steppes by a never-ending chain of corpses. The old and the
young, the sick man on his couch, the mother with her baby--all were
left behind. Sights such as these, with the many rueful aggravations
incident to the helpless condition of infancy--of disease and of female
weakness abandoned to the wolves amidst a howling wilderness, continued
to track their course through a space of full two thousand miles; for
so much at the least, it was likely to prove, including the circuits to
which they were often compelled by rivers or hostile tribes, from the
point of starting on the Wolga until they could reach their destined
halting-ground on the east bank of the Torgau. For the first seven
weeks of this march their sufferings had been embittered by the
excessive severity of the cold; and every night--so long as wood was to
be had for fires, either from the lading of the camels, or from the
desperate sacrifice of their baggage-wagons, or (as occasionally
happened) from the forests which skirted the banks of the many rivers
which crossed their path--no spectacle was more frequent than that of a
circle, composed of men, women, and children, gathered by hundreds
round a central fire, all dead and stiff at the return of morning
light. Myriads were left behind from pure exhaustion of whom none had a
chance, under the combined evils which beset them, of surviving through
the next twenty-four hours. Frost, however, and snow at length ceased
to persecute; the vast extent of the march at length brought them into
more genial latitudes, and the unusual duration of the march was
gradually bringing them into the more genial seasons of the year: Two
thousand miles had at least been traversed; February, March, April were
gone; the balmy month of May had opened; vernal sights and sounds came
from every side to comfort the heart-weary travellers; and at last, in
the latter end of May, they crossed the Torgau, and took up a position
where they hoped to find liberty to repose themselves for many weeks in
comfort as well as in security, and to draw such supplies from the
fertile neighborhood as might restore their shattered forces to a
condition for executing, with less of wreck and ruin, the large
remainder of the journey.

Yes; it was true that two thousand miles of wandering had been
completed, but in a period of nearly five months, and with the terrific
sacrifice of at least two hundred and fifty thousand souls, to say
nothing of herds and flocks past all reckoning. These had all perished:
ox, cow, horse, mule, ass, sheep, or goat, not one survived--only the
camels. These arid and adust creatures, looking like the mummies of
some antediluvian animals, without the affections or sensibilities of
flesh and blood--these only still erected their speaking eyes to the
eastern heavens, and had to all appearance come out from this long
tempest of trial unscathed and unharmed. The Khan, knowing how much he
was individually answerable for the misery which had been sustained,
must have wept tears even more bitter than those of Xerxes when he
threw his eyes over the myriads whom he had assembled: for the tears of
Xerxes were unmingled with compunction. Whatever amends were in his
power he resolved to make by sacrifices to the general good of all
personal regards; and accordingly, even at this point of their advance,
he once more deliberately brought under review the whole question of
the revolt. The question was formally debated before the Council,
whether, even at this point, they should untread their steps, and,
throwing themselves upon the Czarina's mercy, return to their old
allegiance? In that case, Oubacha professed himself willing to become
the scapegoat for the general transgression. This, he argued, was no
fantastic scheme, but even easy of accomplishment; for the unlimited
and sacred power of the Khan, so well known to the Empress, made it
absolutely iniquitous to attribute any separate responsibility to the
people--upon the Khan rested the guilt, upon the Khan would descend
the Imperial vengeance. This proposal was applauded for its generosity,
but was energetically opposed by Zebek-Dorchi. Were they to lose the
whole journey of two thousand miles? Was their misery to perish without
fruit; true it was that they had yet reached only the half-way house;
but, in that respect, the motives were evenly balanced for retreat or
for advance. Either way they would have pretty nearly the same distance
to traverse, but with this difference--that, forwards, their rout lay
through lands comparatively fertile--backwards, through a blasted
wilderness, rich only in memorials of their sorrow, and hideous to
Kalmuck eyes by the trophies of their calamity. Besides, though the
Empress might accept an excuse for the past, would she the less forbear
to suspect for the future? The Czarina's _pardon_ they might obtain,
but could they ever hope to recover her _confidence_? Doubtless there
would now be a standing presumption against them, an immortal ground of
jealousy; and a jealous government would be but another name for a
harsh one. Finally, whatever motives there ever had been for the revolt
surely remained unimpaired by anything that had occurred. In reality
the revolt was, after all, no revolt, but (strictly speaking) a return
to their old allegiance, since, not above one hundred and fifty years
ago (viz., in the year 1616,) their ancestors had revolted from the
Emperor of China. They had now tried both governments; and for them
China was the land of promise, and Russia the house of bondage.

Spite, however, of all that Zebek could say or do, the yearning of the
people was strongly in behalf of the Khan's proposal; the pardon of
their prince, they persuaded themselves, would be readily conceded by
the Empress; and there is little doubt that they would at this time
have thrown themselves gladly upon the Imperial mercy; when suddenly
all was defeated by the arrival of two envoys from Traubenberg. This
general had reached the fortress of Orsk, after a very painful march,
on the 12th of April; thence he set forwards towards Oriembourg, which
he reached upon the 1st of June, having been joined on his route at
various times through the month of May by the Kirghises and a corps of
ten thousand Bashkirs. From Oriembourg he sent forward his official
offer to the Khan, which were harsh and peremptory, holding out no
specific stipulations as to pardon or impunity, and exacting
unconditional submission as the preliminary price of any cessation from
military operations. The personal character of Traubenberg, which was
anything but energetic, and the condition of his army, disorganized in
a great measure by the length and severity of the march, made it
probable that, with a little time for negotiation, a more conciliatory
tone would have been assumed. But, unhappily for all parties, sinister
events occurred in the meantime, such as effectually put an end to
every hope of the kind.

The two envoys sent forward by Traubenberg had reported to this officer
that a distance of only ten days' march lay between his own head-
quarters and those of the Khan. Upon this fact transpiring, the
Kirghises, by their prince Nourali, and the Bashkirs, entreated the
Russian general to advance without delay. Once having placed his cannon
in position, so as to command the Kalmuck camp, the fate of the rebel
Khan and his people would be in his own hands; and they would
themselves form his advanced guard. Traubenberg, however, _why_
has not been certainly explained, refused to march, grounding his
refusal upon the condition of his army, and their absolute need of
refreshment. Long and fierce was the altercation; but at length, seeing
no chance of prevailing, and dreading above all other events the escape
of their detested enemy, the ferocious Bashkirs went off in a body by
forced marches. In six days they reached the Torgau, crossed by
swimming their horses, and fell upon the Kalmucks, who were dispersed
for many a league in search of food or provender for their camels. The
first day's action was one vast succession of independent skirmishes,
diffused over a field of thirty to forty miles in extent; one party
often breaking up into three or four, and again (according to the
accidents of ground) three or four blending into one; flight and
pursuit, rescue and total overthrow, going on simultaneously, under all
varieties of form, in all quarters of the plain. The Bashkirs had found
themselves obliged, by the scattered state of the Kalmucks, to split up
into innumerable sections; and thus, for some hours, it had been
impossible for the most practised eye to collect the general tendency
of the day's fortune. Both the Khan and Zebek-Dorchi were at one moment
made prisoners, and more than once in imminent danger of being cut
down; but at length Zebek succeeded in rallying a strong column of
infantry, which, with the support of the camel-corps on each flank,
compelled the Bashkirs to retreat. Clouds, however, of these wild
cavalry continued to arrive through the next two days and nights,
followed or accompanied by the Kirghises. These being viewed as the
advanced parties of Traubenberg's army, the Kalmuck chieftains saw no
hope of safety but in flight; and in this way it happened that a
retreat, which had so recently been brought to a pause, was resumed at
the very moment when the unhappy fugitives were anticipating a deep
repose without further molestation, the whole summer through.

It seemed as though every variety of wretchedness were predestined to
the Kalmucks; and as if their sufferings were incomplete unless they
were rounded and matured by all that the most dreadful agencies of
summer's heat could superadd to those of frost and winter. To this
sequel of their story we shall immediately revert, after first noticing
a little romantic episode which occurred at this point between Oubacha
and his unprincipled cousin Zebek-Dorchi.

There was at the time of the Kalmuck flight from the Wolga, a Russian
gentleman of some rank at the court of the Khan, whom, for political
reasons, it was thought necessary to carry along with them as a
captive. For some weeks his confinement had been very strict, and in
one or two instances cruel. But, as the increasing distance was
continually diminishing the chances of escape, and perhaps, also, as
the misery of the guards gradually withdrew their attention from all
minor interests to their own personal sufferings, the vigilance of the
custody grew more and more relaxed; until at length, upon a petition to
the Khan, Mr. Weseloff was formally restored to liberty; and it was
understood that he might use his liberty in whatever way he chose, even
for returning to Russia, if that should be his wish. Accordingly, he
was making active preparations for his journey to St. Petersburg, when
it occurred to Zebek-Dorchi that, not improbably, in some of the
battles which were then anticipated with Traubenberg, it might happen
to them to lose some prisoner of rank, in which case the Russian
Weseloff would be a pledge in their hands for negotiating an exchange.
Upon this plea, to his own severe affliction, the Russian was detained
until the further pleasure of the Khan. The Khan's name, indeed, was
used through the whole affair, but, as it seemed, with so little
concurrence on his part, that, when Weseloff in a private audience
humbly remonstrated upon the injustice done him, and the cruelty of
thus sporting with his feelings by setting him at liberty, and, as it
were, tempting him into dreams of home and restored happiness only for
the purpose of blighting them, the good-natured prince disclaimed all
participation in the affair, and went so far in proving his sincerity
as even to give him permission to effect his escape; and, as a ready
means of commencing it without raising suspicion, the Khan mentioned to
Mr. Weseloff that he had just then received a message from the Hetman
of the Bashkirs, soliciting a private interview on the banks of the
Torgau at a spot pointed out; that interview was arranged for the
coming night; and Mr. Weseloff might go in the Khan's _suite_,
which on either side was not to exceed three persons. Weseloff was a
prudent man, acquainted with the world, and he read treachery in the
very outline of this scheme, as stated by the Khan--treachery against
the Khan's person. He mused a little, and then communicated so much of
his suspicions to the Khan as might put him on his guard; but, upon
further consideration, he begged leave to decline the honor of
accompanying the Khan. The fact was, that three Kalmucks, who had
strong motives for returning to their countrymen on the west bank of
the Wolga, guessing the intentions of Weseloff, had offered to join him
in his escape. These men the Khan would probably find himself obliged
to countenance in their project; so that it became a point of honor
with Weseloff to conceal their intentions, and therefore to accomplish
the evasion from the camp, (of which the first steps only would be
hazardous,) without risking the notice of the Khan.

The district in which they were now encamped abounded, through many
hundred miles, with wild horses of a docile and beautiful breed. Each
of the four fugitives had caught from seven to ten of these spirited
creatures in the course of the last few days; this raised no suspicion;
for the rest of the Kalmucks had been making the same sort of provision
against the coming toils of their remaining route to China. These
horses were secured by halters, and hidden about dusk in the thickets
which lined the margin of the river. To these thickets, about ten at
night, the four fugitives repaired; they took a circuitous path, which
drew them as little as possible within danger of challenge from any of
the outposts or of the patrols which had been established on the
quarters where the Bashkirs lay; and in three quarters of an hour they
reached the rendezvous. The moon had now risen, the horses were
unfastened, and they were in the act of mounting, when the deep silence
of the woods was disturbed by a violent uproar, and the clashing of
arms. Weseloff fancied that he heard the voice of the Khan shouting for
assistance. He remembered the communication made by that prince in the
morning; and requesting his companions to support him, he rode off in
the direction of the sound. A very short distance brought him to an
open glade in the wood, where he beheld four men contending with a
party of at least nine or ten. Two of the four were dismounted at the
very instant of Weseloff's arrival; one of these he recognized almost
certainly as the Khan, who was fighting hand to hand, but at great
disadvantage, with two of the adverse horsemen. Seeing that no time was
to be lost, Weseloff fired, and brought down one of the two. His
companions discharged their carbines at the same moment, and then all
rushed simultaneously into the little open area. The thundering sound
of about thirty horses, all rushing at once into a narrow space, gave
the impression that a whole troop of cavalry was coming down upon the
assailants; who, accordingly, wheeled about and fled with one impulse.
Weseloff advanced to the dismounted cavalier, who, as he expected,
proved to be the Khan. The man whom Weseloff had shot was lying dead;
and both were shocked, though Weseloff at least was not surprised, on
stooping down and scrutinizing his features, to recognize a well known
confidential servant of Zebek-Dorchi. Nothing was said by either party.
The Khan rode off, escorted by Weseloff and his companions, and for
some time a dead silence prevailed. The situation of Weseloff was
delicate and critical; to leave the Khan at this point was probably to
cancel their recent services; for he might be again crossed on his
path, and again attacked by the very party from whom he had just been
delivered. Yet, on the other hand, to return to the camp was to
endanger the chances of accomplishing the escape. The Khan also was
apparently revolving all this in his mind, for at length he broke
silence, and said--'I comprehend your situation; and, under other
circumstances, I might feel it my duty to detain your companions. But
it would ill become me to do so after the important service you have
just rendered me. Let us turn a little to the left. There, where you
see the watchfire, is an outpost. Attend me so far. I am then safe. You
may turn and pursue your enterprise; for the circumstances under which
you will appear, as my escort, are sufficient to shield you from all
suspicion for the present. I regret having no better means at my
disposal for testifying my gratitude. But tell me, before we part, was
it accident only which led you to my rescue? Or had you acquired any
knowledge of the plot by which I was decoyed into this snare?' Weseloff
answered very candidly that mere accident had brought him to the spot
at which he heard the uproar, but that _having_ heard it, and
connecting it with the Khan's communication of the morning, he had then
designedly gone after the sound in a way which he certainly should not
have done at so critical a moment, unless in the expectation of finding
the Khan assaulted by assassins. A few minutes after they reached the
outpost at which it became safe to leave the Tartar chieftain; and
immediately the four fugitives commenced a flight which is perhaps
without a parallel in the annals of travelling. Each of them led six or
seven horses besides the one he rode; and by shifting from one to the
other (like the ancient _Desultors_ of the Roman circus,) so as
never to burden the same horse for more than half an hour at a time,
they continued to advance at the rate of two hundred miles in the
twenty-four hours for three days consecutively. After that time,
considering themselves beyond pursuit, they proceeded less rapidly;
though still with a velocity which staggered the belief of Weseloff's
friends in after years. He was, however, a man of high principle, and
always adhered firmly to the details of his printed report. One of the
circumstances there stated is, that they continued to pursue the route
by which the Kalmucks had fled, never for an instant finding any
difficulty in tracing it by the skeletons and other memorials of their
calamities. In particular, he mentions vast heaps of money as part of
the valuable property which it had been necessary to sacrifice. These
heaps were found lying still untouched in the deserts. From these,
Weseloff and his companions took as much as they could conveniently
carry; and this it was, with the price of their beautiful horses, which
they afterwards sold at one of the Russian military settlements for
about £15 a-piece, which eventually enabled them to pursue their
journey in Russia. This journey, as regarded Weseloff in particular,
was closed by a tragical catastrophe. He was at that time young, and
the only child of a doating mother. Her affliction under the violent
abduction of her son had been excessive, and probably had undermined
her constitution. Still she had supported it. Weseloff, giving way to
the natural impulses of his filial affection, had imprudently posted
through Russia, to his mother's house without warning of his approach.
He rushed precipitately into her presense; and she, who had stood the
shocks of sorrow, was found unequal to the shock of joy too sudden and
too acute. She died upon the spot.

We now revert to the final scenes of the Kalmuck flight. These it would
be useless to pursue circumstantially through the whole two thousand
miles of suffering which remained; for the character of that suffering
was even more monotonous than on the former half of the flight, but
also more severe. Its main elements were excessive heat, with the
accompaniments of famine and thirst, but aggravated at every step by
the murderous attacks of their cruel enemies, the Bashkirs and the

These people, 'more fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea,' stuck to
the unhappy Kalmucks like a swarm of enraged hornets. And very often
whilst _they_ were attacking them in the rear, their advanced
parties and flanks were attacked with almost equal fury by the people
of the country which they were traversing; and with good reason, since
the law of self-preservation had now obliged the fugitive Tartars to
plunder provisions, and to forage wherever they passed. In this respect
their condition was a constant oscillation of wretchedness; for,
sometimes, pressed by grinding famine, they took a circuit of perhaps a
hundred miles, in order to strike into a land rich in the comforts of
life; but in such a land they were sure to find a crowded population,
of which every arm was raised in unrelenting hostility, with all the
advantages of local knowledge, and with constant preoccupation of all
the defensible positions, mountain passes, or bridges. Sometimes,
again, wearied out with this mode of suffering, they took a circuit of
perhaps a hundred miles, in order to strike into a land with few or no
inhabitants. But in such a land they were sure to meet absolute
starvation. Then, again, whether with or without this plague of
starvation, whether with or without this plague of hostility in front,
whatever might he the 'fierce varieties' of their misery in this
respect, no rest ever came to their unhappy rear; _post equitem sedet
atra cura_; it was a torment like the undying worm of conscience.
And, upon the whole, it presented a spectacle altogether unprecedented
in the history of mankind. Private and personal malignity is not
unfrequently immortal; but rare indeed is it to find the same
pertinacity of malice in a nation. And what embittered the interest
was, that the malice was reciprocal. Thus far the parties met upon
equal terms; but that equality only sharpened the sense of their dire
inequality as to other circumstances. The Bashkirs were ready to fight
'from morn to dewy eve.' The Kalmucks, on the contrary, were always
obliged to run; was it _from_ their enemies, as creatures whom
they feared? No; but _towards_ their friends--towards that final
haven of China--as what was hourly implored by their wives, and the
tears of their children. But though they fled unwillingly, too often
they fled in vain--being unwillingly recalled. There lay the torment.
Every day the Bashkirs fell upon them; every day the same unprofitable
battle was renewed; as a matter of course, the Kalmucks recalled part
of their advanced guard to fight them; every day the battle raged for
hours, and uniformly with the same result. For, no sooner did the
Bashkirs find themselves too heavily pressed, and that the Kalmuck
march had been retarded by some hours, than they retired into the
boundless deserts where all pursuit was hopeless. But if the Kalmucks
resolved to press forward, regardless of their enemies, in that case
their attacks became so fierce and overwhelming, that the general
safety seemed likely to be brought into question; nor could any
effectual remedy be applied to the case, even for each separate day,
except by a most embarrassing halt, and by countermarches, that, to men
in their circumstances, were almost worse than death. It will not be
surprising, that the irritation of such a systematic persecution,
superadded to a previous and hereditary hatred, and accompanied by the
stinging consciousness of utter impotence as regarded all effectual
vengeance, should gradually have inflamed the Kalmuck animosity into
the wildest expression of downright madness and frenzy. Indeed, long
before the frontiers of China were approached, the hostility of both
sides had assumed the appearance much more of a warfare amongst wild
beasts than amongst creatures acknowledging the restraints of reason or
the claims of a common nature. The spectacle became too atrocious; it
was that of a host of lunatics pursued by a host of fiends.

On a fine morning in early autumn of the year 1771, Kien Long, the
Emperor of China, was pursuing his amusements in a wild frontier
district lying on the outside of the Great Wall. For many hundred
square leagues the country was desolate of inhabitants, but rich in
woods of ancient growth, and overrun with game of every description. In
a central spot of this solitary region, the Emperor had built a
gorgeous hunting-lodge, to which he resorted annually for recreation
and relief from the cares of government. Led onwards in pursuit of
game, he had rambled to a distance of two hundred miles or more from
this lodge, followed at a little distance by a sufficient military
escort, and every night pitching his tent in a different situation,
until at length he had arrived on the very margin of the vast central
deserts of Asia. [Footnote: All the circumstances are learned from a
long state paper upon the subject of this Kalmuck migration, drawn up
in the Chinese language by the Emperor himself. Parts of this paper
have been translated by the Jesuit missionaries. The Emperor states the
whole motives of his conduct and the chief incidents at great length.]
Here he was standing, by accident, at an opening of his pavilion,
enjoying the morning sunshine, when suddenly to the westward there
arose a vast cloudy vapor, which by degrees expanded, mounted, and
seemed to be slowly diffusing itself over the whole face of the
heavens. By-and-by this vast sheet of mist began to thicken towards the
horizon, and to roll forward in billowy volumes. The Emperor's suite
assembled from all quarters. The silver trumpets were sounded in the
rear, and from all the glades and forest avenues began to trot forward
towards the pavilion the yagers, half cavalry, half huntsmen, who
composed the Imperial escort. Conjecture was on the stretch to divine
the cause of this phenomenon, and the interest continually increased,
in proportion as simple curiosity gradually deepened into the anxiety
of uncertain danger. At first it had been imagined that some vast
troops of deer, or other wild animals of the chase, had been disturbed
in their forest haunts by the Emperor's movements, or possibly by wild
beasts prowling for prey, and might be fetching a compass by way of re-
entering the forest grounds at some remoter points secure from
molestation. But this conjecture was dissipated by the slow increase of
the cloud, and the steadiness of its motion. In the course of two hours
the vast phenomenon had advanced to a point which was judged to be
within five miles of the spectators, though all calculations of
distance were difficult, and often fallacious, when applied to the
endless expanses of the Tartar deserts. Through the next hour, during
which the gentle morning breeze had a little freshened, the dusty vapor
had developed itself far and wide into the appearance of huge aerial
draperies, hanging in mighty volumes from the sky to the earth; and at
particular points, where the eddies of the breeze acted upon the
pendulous skirts of these aerial curtains rents were perceived,
sometimes taking the form of regular arches, portals, and windows,
through which began dimly to gleam the heads of camels 'indorsed'
[Footnote: _Camels 'indorsed;'_--'And elephants indorsed with
towers.' MILTON in _Paradise Regained_.] with human beings--and at
intervals the moving of men and horses, in tumultuous array--and then,
through other openings or vistas, at far distant points, the flashing
of polished arms. But sometimes, as the wind slackened or died away,
all those openings, of whatever form, in the cloudy pall, would slowly
close, and for a time the whole pageant was shut up from view; although
the growing din, the clamors, the shrieks and groans, ascending from
infuriated myriads, reported, in a language not to be misunderstood,
what was going on behind the cloudy screen.

It was in fact the Kalmuck host, now in the last extremities of their
exhaustion, and very fast approaching to that final stage of privation
and intense misery, beyond which few or none could have lived, but
also, happily for themselves, fast approaching (in a literal sense)
that final stage of their long pilgrimage, at which they would meet
hospitality on a scale of royal magnificence, and full protection from
their enemies. These enemies, however, as yet still were hanging on
their rear as fiercely as ever, though this day was destined to be the
last of their hideous persecution. The Khan had, in fact, sent forward
couriers with all the requisite statements and petitions, addressed to
the Emperor of China. These had been duly received, and preparations
made in consequence to welcome the Kalmucks with the most paternal
benevolence. But as these couriers had been despatched from the Torgau
at the moment of arrival thither, and before the advance of Traubenberg
had made it necessary for the Khan to order a hasty renewal of the
flight, the Emperor had not looked for their arrival on their frontier
until full three months after the present time. The Khan had indeed
expressly notified his intention to pass the summer heats on the banks
of the Torgau, and to recommence his retreat about the beginning of
September. The subsequent change of plan being unknown to Kien Long,
left him for some time in doubt as to the true interpretation to be put
upon this mighty apparition in the desert; but at length the savage
clamors of hostile fury, and the clangor of weapons, unveiled to the
Emperor the true nature of those unexpected calamities which had so
prematurely precipitated the Kalmuck measure.

Apprehending the real state of affairs, the Emperor instantly perceived
that the first act of his fatherly care for these erring children (as
he esteemed them) now returning to their ancient obedience, must be--
to deliver them from their pursuers. And this was less difficult than
might have been supposed. Not many miles in the rear was a body of well
appointed cavalry, with a strong detachment of artillery, who always
attended the Emperor's motions. These were hastily summoned. Meantime
it occurred to the train of courtiers that some danger might arise to
the Emperor's person from the proximity of a lawless enemy; and
accordingly he was induced to retire a little to the rear. It soon
appeared, however, to those who watched the vapory shroud in the
desert, that its motion was not such as would argue the direction of
the march to be exactly upon the pavilion, but rather in a diagonal
line, making an angle of full forty-five degrees with that line in
which the Imperial _cortège_ had been standing, and therefore with
a distance continually increasing. Those who knew the country judged
that the Kalmucks were making for a large fresh-water lake about seven
or eight miles distant; they were right; and to that point the Imperial
cavalry was ordered up; and it was precisely in that spot, and about
three hours after and at noon-day on the 8th of September, that the
great Exodus of the Kalmuck Tartars was brought to a final close, and
with a scene of such memorable and hellish fury, as formed an
appropriate winding-up to an expedition in all its parts and details so
awfully disastrous. The Emperor was not personally present, or at least
he saw whatever he _did_ see from too great a distance to
discriminate its individual features; but he records in his written
memorial the report made to him of this scene by some of his own

The lake of Tengis, near the frightful desert of Kobi, lay in a hollow
amongst hills of a moderate height, ranging generally from two to three
thousand feet high. About eleven o'clock in the forenoon, the Chinese
cavalry reached the summit of a road which led through a cradle-like
dip in the mountains right down upon the margin of the lake. From this
pass, elevated about two thousand feet above the level of the water,
they continued to descend, by a very winding and difficult road, for an
hour and a half; and during the whole of this descent they were
compelled to be inactive spectators of the fiendish spectacle below.
The Kalmucks, reduced by this time from about six hundred thousand
souls to two hundred thousand, and after enduring for two months and a
half the miseries we have previously described--outrageous heat,
famine, and the destroying scimitar of the Kirghises and the Bashkirs,
had for the last ten days been traversing a hideous desert, where no
vestiges were seen of vegetation, and no drop of water could be found.
Camels and men were already so overladen, that it was a mere
impossibility that they should carry a tolerable sufficiency for the
passage of this frightful wilderness. On the eighth day the wretched
daily allowance, which had been continually diminishing, failed
entirely; and thus for two days of insupportable fatigue, the horrors
of thirst had been carried to the fiercest extremity. Upon this last
morning, at the sight of the hills and the forest scenery, which
announced to those who acted as guides the neighborhood of the lake of
Tengis, all the people rushed along with maddening eagerness to the
anticipated solace. The day grew hotter and hotter, the people more and
more exhausted, and gradually, in the general rush forwards to the
lake, all discipline and command were lost--all attempts to preserve a
rear-guard were neglected--the wild Bashkirs rode in amongst the
encumbered people, and slaughtered them by wholesale, and almost
without resistance. Screams and tumultuous shouts proclaimed the
progress of the massacre; but none heeded--none halted; all alike,
pauper or noble, continued to rush on with maniacal haste to the
waters--all with faces blackened by the heat preying upon the liver,
and with tongue drooping from the mouth. The cruel Bashkir was affected
by the same misery, and manifested the same symptoms of his misery as
the wretched Kalmuck; the murderer was oftentimes in the same frantic
misery as his murdered victim--many indeed (an ordinary effect of
thirst) in both nations had become lunatic--and in this state, whilst
mere multitude and condensation of bodies alone opposed any check to
the destroying scimitar and the trampling hoof, the lake was reached;
and to that the whole vast body of enemies rushed, and together
continued to rush, forgetful of all things at that moment but of one
almighty instinct. This absorption of the thoughts in one maddening
appetite lasted for a single minute; but in the next arose the final
scene of parting vengeance. Far and wide the waters of the solitary
lake were instantly dyed red with blood and gore; here rode a party of
savage Bashkirs, hewing off heads as fast as the swathes fall before
the mower's scythe; there stood unarmed Kalmucks in a death-grapple
with their detested foes, both up to the middle in water, and
oftentimes both sinking together below the surface, from weakness, or
from struggles, and perishing in each other's arms. Did the Bashkirs at
any point collect into a cluster for the sake of giving impetus to the
assault? Thither were the camels driven in fiercely by those who rode
them, generally women or boys; and even these quiet creatures were
forced into a share in this carnival of murder, by trampling down as
many as they could strike prostrate with the lash of their fore-legs.
Every moment the water grew more polluted: and yet every moment fresh
myriads came up to the lake and rushed in, not able to resist their
frantic thirst, and swallowing large draughts of water, visibly
contaminated with the blood of their slaughtered compatriots.
Wheresoever the lake was shallow enough to allow of men raising their
heads above the water, there for scores of acres were to be seen all
forms of ghastly fear, of agonizing struggle, of spasm, of convulsion,
of mortal conflict, death, and the fear of death--revenge, and the
lunacy of revenge--hatred, and the frenzy of hatred--until the neutral
spectators, of whom there were not a few, now descending the eastern
side of the lake, at length averted their eyes in horror. This horror,
which seemed incapable of further addition, was, however, increased by
an unexpected incident. The Bashkirs, beginning to perceive here and
there the approach of the Chinese cavalry, felt it prudent--wheresoever
they were sufficiently at leisure from the passions of the murderous
scene--to gather into bodies. This was noticed by the governor of a
small Chinese fort, built upon an eminence above the lake; and
immediately he threw in a broadside, which spread havoc amongst the
Bashkir tribe. As often as the Bashkirs collected into 'globes' and
'turms' as their only means of meeting the long line of descending
Chinese cavalry--so often did the Chinese governor of the fort pour in
his exterminating broadside; until at length the lake at the lower end,
became one vast seething cauldron of human bloodshed and carnage. The
Chinese cavalry had reached the foot of the hills: the Bashkirs,
attentive to their movements, had formed; skirmishes had been fought:
and, with a quick sense that the contest was henceforwards rapidly
becoming hopeless, the Bashkirs and Kirghises began to retire. The
pursuit was not as vigorous as the Kalmuck hatred would have desired.
But, at the same time, the very gloomiest hatred could not but find, in
their own dreadful experience of the Asiatic deserts, and in the
certainty that these wretched Bashkirs had to repeat that same
experience a second time, for thousands of miles, as the price exacted
by a retributary Providence for their vindictive cruelty--not the very
gloomiest of the Kalmucks, or the least reflecting, but found in all
this a retaliatory chastisement more complete and absolute than any
which their swords and lances could have obtained, or human vengeance
could have devised.

Here ends the tale of the Kalmuck wanderings in the Desert; for any
subsequent marches which awaited them, were neither long nor painful.
Every possible alleviation and refreshment for their exhausted bodies
had been already provided by Kien Long with the most princely
munificence; and lands of great fertility were immediately assigned to
them in ample extent along the river Ily, not very far from the point
at which they had first emerged from the wilderness of Kobi. But the
beneficent attention of the Chinese Emperor may be best stated in his
own words, as translated into French by one of the Jesuit
missionaries:--"La nation des Torgotes (_savoir les Kalmuques_) arriva
à Ily, toute _delabree_, n'ayant ni de quoi vivre, ni de quoi se vêtir.
Je l'avais prévu; et j'avais ordonné de faire en tout genre les
provisions nécessaires pour pouvoir les secourir promptement; c'est ce
qui a été exécuté. On a fait la division des terres; et on a assigné à
chaque famille une portion suffisante pour pouvoir servir à son
entretien, soit en la cultivant, soit en y nourissant des bestiaux. On
a donne a chaque particulier des étoffes pour l'habiller, des grains
pour se nourrir pendant l'espace d'une année, des ustensiles pour le
ménage et d'autres choses nécessaires: et outre cela plusieurs onces
d'argent, pour se pourvoir de ce qu'on aurait pu oublier. On a désigné
des lieux particuliers, fertiles en pâturages; et on leur a donné des
boeufs, moutons, &c. pour qu'ils pussent dans la suite travailler par
euxmêmes a leur entretien et à leur bienêtre."

These are the words of the Emperor himself, speaking in his own person
of his own paternal cares; but another Chinese, treating the same
subject, records the munificence of this prince in terms which proclaim
still more forcibly the disinterested generosity which prompted, and
the delicate considerateness which conducted this extensive bounty. He
has been speaking of the Kalmucks, and he goes on thus:--"Lorsqu'ils
arrivèrent sur nos frontières (au nombre de plusieurs centaines de
mille), quoique la fatigue extrême, la faim, la soif, et toutes les
autres incommodités inséparables d'une très-longue et très pénible
route en eussent fait périr presque autant, ils étaient réduits a la
dernière misère: ils manquaient de tout. Il" (viz. l'Empereur, Kien
Long) "leur fit préparer des logemens conformes a leur manière de
vivre; il leur fit distribuer des aliments et des habits; il leur fit
donner des boeufs, des moutons, et des ustensiles, pour les mettre en
état de former des troupeaux et de cultiver la terre, _et tout cela à
ses propres frais_, qui se sont montés à des sommes immenses, sans
compter l'argent qu'il a donné à chaque chef-de-famille, pour pourvoir
à la subsistance de sa femme et de ses enfans."

Thus, after their memorable year of misery, the Kalmucks were replaced
in territorial possessions, and in comfort equal perhaps, or even
superior, to that which they had enjoyed in Russia, and with superior
political advantages. But, if equal or superior, their condition was no
longer the same; if not in degree, their social prosperity had altered
in quality; for instead of being a purely pastoral and vagrant people,
they were now in circumstances which obliged them to become essentially
dependent upon agriculture; and thus far raised in social rank, that by
the natural course of their habits and the necessities of life they
were effectually reclaimed from roving, and from the savage customs
connected with so unsettled a life. They gained also in political
privileges, chiefly through the immunity from military service which
their new relations enabled them to obtain. These were circumstances of
advantage and gain. But one great disadvantage there was, amply to
overbalance all other possible gain; the chances were lost or were
removed to an incalculable distance for their conversion to
Christianity, without which in these times there is no absolute advance
possible on the path of true civilization.

One word remains to be said upon the _personal_ interests
concerned in this great drama. The catastrophe in this respect was
remarkable and complete. Oubacha, with all his goodness and incapacity
of suspecting, had, since the mysterious affair on the banks of the
Torgau, felt his mind alienated from his cousin; he revolted from the
man that would have murdered him; and he had displayed his caution so
visibly as to provoke a reaction in the bearing of Zebek-Dorchi, and a
displeasure which all his dissimulation could not hide. This had
produced a feud, which, by keeping them aloof, had probably saved the
life of Oubacha; for the friendship of Zebek-Dorchi was more fatal than
his open enmity. After the settlement on the Ily this feud continued to
advance, until it came under the notice of the Emperor, on occasion of
a visit which all the Tartar chieftains made to his Majesty at his
hunting-lodge in 1772. The Emperor informed himself accurately of all
the particulars connected with the transaction--of all the rights and
claims put forward--and of the way in which they would severally affect
the interests of the Kalmuck people. The consequence was, that he
adopted the cause of Oubacha, and repressed the pretensions of Zebek-
Dorchi, who, on his part, so deeply resented this discountenance to his
ambitious projects, that in conjunction with other chiefs he had the
presumption even to weave nets of treason against the Emperor himself.
Plots were laid--were detected--were baffled--counterplots were
constructed upon the same basis, and with the benefit of the
opportunities thus offered.

Finally, Zebek-Dorchi was invited to the imperial lodge, together with
all his accomplices; and under the skilful management of the Chinese
nobles in the Emperor's establishment, the murderous artifices of these
Tartar chieftains were made to recoil upon themselves; and the whole of
them perished by assassination at a great imperial banquet. For the
Chinese morality is exactly of that kind which approves in everything
the _lex talionis:_--

----'lex nec justior ulla est (as _they_ think)
Quam necis artifices arte perire sua.'

So perished Zebek-Dorchi, the author and originator of the great Tartar
_Exodus_. Oubacha, meantime, and his people, were gradually
recovering from the effects of their misery, and repairing their
losses. Peace and prosperity, under the gentle rule of a fatherly lord
paramount, re-dawned upon the tribes; their household _lares_,
after so harsh a translation to distant climates, found again a happy
reinstatement in what had in fact been their primitive abodes; they
found themselves settled in quiet sylvan scenes, rich in all the
luxuries of life, and endowed with the perfect loveliness of Arcadian
beauty. But from the hills of this favored land and even from the level
grounds as they approach its western border, they still look out upon
that fearful wilderness which once beheld a nation in agony--the utter
extirpation of nearly half a million from amongst its numbers, and, for
the remainder, a storm of misery so fierce, that in the end (as
happened also at Athens during the Peloponnesian war from a different
form of misery) very many lost their memory; all records of their past
life were wiped out as with a sponge--utterly erased and cancelled; and
many others lost their reason; some in a gentle form of pensive
melancholy, some in a more restless form of feverish delirium and
nervous agitation, and others in the fixed forms of tempestuous mania,
raving frenzy, or moping idiocy. Two great commemorative monuments
arose in after years to mark the depth and permanence of the awe--the
sacred and reverential grief with which all persons looked back upon
the dread calamities attached to the year of the Tiger--all who had
either personally shared in those calamities, and had themselves drunk
from that cup of sorrow, or who had effectually been made witnesses to
their results, and associated with their relief; two great monuments,
we say; first of all, one in the religious solemnity, enjoined by the
Dalai Lama, called in the Tartar language a _Romanang_, that is, a
national commemoration, with music the most rich and solemn, of all the
souls who departed to the rest of Paradise from the afflictions of the
Desert: this took place about six years after the arrival in China.
Secondly, another more durable and more commensurate to the scale of
the calamity and to the grandeur of this national Exodus, in the mighty
columns of granite and brass, erected by the Emperor Kien Long, near
the banks of the Ily: these columns stand upon the very margin of the
_steppes_; and they bear a short but emphatic inscription
[Footnote: This inscription has been slightly altered in one or two
phrases, and particularly in adapting to the Christian era the
Emperor's expressions for the year of the original Exodus from China
and the retrogressive Exodus from Russia. With respect to the
designation adopted for the Russian Emperor, either it is built upon
some confusion between him and the Byzantine Caesars, as though the
former, being of the same religion with the latter (and occupying in
part the same longitudes, though in different latitudes) might be
considered as his modern successor; or else it refers simply to the
Greek form of Christianity professed by the Russian Emperor and
Church.] to the following effect:--

By the Will of God
Here, upon the Brink of these Deserts,
Which from this Point begin and stretch away
Pathless, treeless, waterless,
For thousands of miles--and along the margins of many mighty Nations,
Rested from their labors and from great afflictions
Under the shadow of the Chinese Wall,
And by the favor of KIEN LONG, God's Lieutenant upon Earth,
The ancient Children of the Wilderness--the Torgote Tartars
Flying before the wrath of the Grecian Czar,
Wandering Sheep who had strayed away from the Celestial Empire in the
year 1616,
But are now mercifully gathered again, after infinite sorrow,
Into the fold of their forgiving Shepherd.
Hallowed be the spot for ever,
Hallowed be the day--September 8, 1771!

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