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Rezanov, by Gertrude Atherton

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country would be at his disposal. He was sound in
health again, as resistant against hardships as when
he had sailed from Kronstadt. And God knew, he
thought with a sigh, his will and purpose had never
been stronger.


Rezanov disembarked from the Juno at Okhotsk
during the first days of October. Had it not been
for a touch of fever that had returned in the filth
and warm dampness of Sitka, he would have felt
almost as buoyant in mind and body as in those days
when California had gone to his head. The Juno
had touched at Kadiak, Oonalaska, and others of
the more important settlements, and he had found
his schools and libraries in good condition, seals
and otters rapidly increasing, in their immunity
from indiscriminate slaughter, new and stronger
forts threatening the nefarious Bostonian and Bri-
ton. At Okhotsk he learned that the embassy of
Count Golofkin to China had failed as signally as
his own, and this alone would have put him in the
best of tempers even had he not found his arma-
ment and caravan awaiting him, facilitating his im-
mediate departure. He wrote a gay letter to Con-
cha, giving her the painful story of the naturalist
attached to the Golofkin embassy, Dr. Redovsky,
who had remained in the East animated by the same
scientific enthusiasm as that of his colleague, the
good Langsdorff; parted some time since from his
too exacting master. Rezanov had written Concha
many letters during his detention in Sitka, and left
them with Baranhov to send at the first opportun-
ity. The Chief-Manager, deeply interested in the
romance of the mighty Chamberlain with whom he
alone dared to take a liberty, vowed to guard all
that came to his care and sooner or later to send
them to California. Rezanov had also written com-
prehensively to the Tsar and the directors of the
Russian-American Company, adroitly placing his
marriage in the light of a diplomatic maneuver, and
painting California in colors the more vivid and en-
ticing for the sullen clouds and roaring winds, the
dripping forests and eternal snows of that derelict
corner of Earth where he had been stranded so
long. He had also, when Langsdorff announced his
intention to start upon a difficult journey in the in-
terest of science, provided him not only with letters
of recommendation, but with all the comforts pro-
curable in a land where the word comfort was the
stock in trade of the local satirist. But Langsdorff,
although punctiliously acknowledging the favors,
never quite forgave the indifference of a mere am-
bassador and chamberlain, rejoicing in the dignity
of an honorary membership in the St. Petersburg
Academy of Sciences, to the supreme division of
natural history.

The first stage of the journey--from Okhotsk to
Yakutsk--was about six hundred and fifty English
miles, not as the crow flew, but over the Stanovoi
mountains in a southwesterly direction to the Maya,
by this river's wavering course to the Youdoma,
then northwest to the Aldan, and south beside the
Lena. The beaten track lay entirely alongside the
rivers at this season, upon their surface in winter;
and in addition to these great streams there were
many too unimportant for the map, but as erratic
in course and as irresistible in energy after the first
rains of autumn.

Captain D'Wolf had proved himself capable and
faithful, and a caravan of forty horses had been in
Okhotsk a week; twenty for immediate use, twenty
for relief, or substitutes in almost certain emer-
gency. As there were but one or two stations of
any importance between Okhotsk and Yakutsk, and
as a week might pass without the shelter of so much
as a hut, it was necessary to take tents and bearskin
beds for the Chamberlain, his Cossack guard, valet-
de-chambre, cook and other servants, one set of fine
blankets and linen, cooking utensils, axes, arms,
tinder-boxes, provisions for the entire trip, besides
a great quantity of personal luggage.

Rezanov lost no time. He had changed his origi-
nal plan and dispatched Davidov on the Avos from
Oonalaska. Guns and provisions awaited the Juno
at Okhotsk, and in less than a week after his ar-
rival Rezanov was able to start on his long journey
with a mind at rest. Although the almost extrava-
gant delight that his body had taken in the com-
forts of his manager's home, after ten weeks on the
Juno, warned him that he might be in a better con-
dition to begin a journey of ten thousand versts, he
hearkened neither to the hint nor to the insistence
of his host. His impatient energy and stern will,
combined with the passionate wish to accomplish
the double object of his journey, returning in the
least possible time to California with his treaty and
the consent of the Pope and King to his marriage,
would have carried him out of Okhotsk in forty-
eight hours had disease declared itself. Nor were
there any inducements aside from a comfortable
bed and refined fare, in the flat, unhealthy town
with its everlasting rattle of chains, and the hideous
physiognomies of criminals always at work to the
rumbling accompaniment of Cossack oaths.

For the first week the exercise he loved best and
the long days in the crisp open air renewed his
vigor, and he even looked forward to the four
months of what was then the severest traveling in
the world, in a boyish spirit of adventure. He re-
flected that he might as well give his brain a relief
from the constant revolving of schemes and plans
for the advancement of his country, his company,
and himself, and let his thoughts have their car-
nival of anticipation with the unparalleled happiness
and success that awaited him in the future. There
was no possible doubt of the acquiescence and assist-
ance of the Tsar, and no man ever looked down a
fairer perspective than he, as he galloped over the
ugly country, often far ahead of his caravan, splash-
ing through bogs and streams, fording rivers with-
out ferries, camping at night in forests so dense the
cold never escaped their embrace, muffled to the eyes
in furs as he made his way past valleys whose eter-
nal ice fields chilled the country for miles about;
sometimes able to procure a little fresh milk and
butter, oftener not; occasionally passing a caravan
returning for furs, generally seeing nothing but a
stray reindeer for hours together, once meeting the
post and finding much for himself that in nowise
dampened his spirit.

But on the eighth day the rains began: a fine
steady mist, then in torrents as endless. Wrapped
in bearskins at night within the shelter of a tent or
of some wayside hut, and closely covered by day,
Rezanov at first merely cursed the inconvenience of
the rain; but while crossing the river Allach Juni,
his guides without consulting him having taken him
miles out of his way in order to avoid the hamlet of
the same name where the small-pox was raging, but
where there was a government ferry, his horse lost
his footing in the rapid, swollen current and fell.
Rezanov managed to retain his seat, and pulled the
frightened, plunging beast to its feet while his Cos-
sacks were still shouting their consternation. But
he was soaked to the skin, his personal luggage was
in the same condition, and they did not reach a hut
where a fire could be made until nine hours later.
It was then that the seeds of malaria, accumulated
during the last three years in unsanitary ports and
sown deep by exceptional hardships, but which he
believed had taken themselves off during his six
weeks in California, stirred more vigorously than
in Sitka or Okhotsk. He rode on the next day in a
burning fever. Jon, minding Langsdorff's instruc-
tions, doctored him--not without difficulty--from
the medicine chest, and for a day or two the fever
seemed broken. But Jon, sick with apprehension,
implored him to turn back. He might as well have
implored the sky to turn blue.

"How do you think men accomplish things in
this world?" asked Rezanov angrily. "By turning
back and going to bed every time they have a mi-

"No, Excellency," said the man humbly. "But
health is necessary to the accomplishment of every-
thing, and if the body is eaten up with fever--"

"What are drugs for? Give me the whole
damned pharmacopeia if you choose, but don't talk
to me about turning back."

"Very well, Excellency," said Jon, with a sigh.

The next day he and one of the Cossack guard
caught him as he fell from his horse unconscious.
A Yakhut hut, miserable as it was, offered in the
persistent downpour a better shelter than the tent.
They carried him into it, and his bedding at least
was almost as luxurious as had he been in St.
Petersburg. Jon, at his wits' end, remembered the'
practice of Langsdorff in similar cases, and used
the lancet, a heroic treatment he would never have
accomplished had his master been conscious. The
fever ebbed, and in a few days Rezanov was able
to continue the journey by shorter stages, although
heavy with an intolerable lassitude. But his will
sustained him until he reached Yakutsk, not at the
end of twenty-two days, but of thirty-three. Here
he succumbed immediately, and although his sick-
bed was in the comfortable home of the agent of
the Company, and he had medical attendance of a
sort, his fever and convalescence lasted for eight
weeks. Then, in spite of the supplications of his
friends, chief among whom was his faithful Jon,
and the prohibition of the doctor, he began the sec-
ond stage of his journey.

The road from Yakutsk to Irkutsk, some two
thousand six hundred versts, or fifteen hundred and
fifty English miles, lay for the most part alternately
on and along the river Lena in a southeasterly di-
rection; there being no attempt to cross Siberia at
any point in a straight line. By this time the river
was frozen, and the only concession Rezanov would
make to his enfeebled frame was an arrangement
to cover the entire journey by private sledge instead
of employing the swifter course of post sledge on
the long stretches and horseback on the shorter cuts.

The weather was now intensely cold, the river
winding, the delays many, but there were adequate
stations for the benefit and accommodation of trav-
elers every hundred versts or less. Rezanov felt so
invigorated by the long hours in the open after the
barbarous closeness of his sick room, that at the
end of a fortnight he was again possessed with all
his old ardor of desire to reach the end of his jour-
ney. He vowed he was well again, abandoned his
comfortable sledge, and pushed on in the common
manner. In the wretched post sledges he was often
exposed to the full violence of a Siberian winter,
and although the horseback exercise stirred his blood
and refreshed him for the moment, he suffered in
reaction and was several times forced to remain two
nights instead of one at a station. But he was muf-
fled in sables to his very eyes, and the road was
diverting, often beautiful, with its Gothic moun-
tains, its white plains set with villages and farms,
the high thin crosses above the open or swelling
domes of the little churches. Sometimes the Lena
narrowed until its frozen surface looked like a mass
of ice that had ground its way between perpendicu-
lar walls or overhanging masses of rock that awaited
the next convulsion of nature to close the pass alto-
gether. Then the dogs trotted past caves and grot-
tos, left the abrupt and craggy banks, crossed level
plains once more; where herds of cattle grazed in
the summertime, now a vast uncheckered expanse
of white. The Government and Company agents
fawned upon him, the best of horses and beds, food
and wine, were eagerly placed at the disposal of the
favorite of the Tsar. Rezanov's spirit, always of
the finest temper, suffered no eclipse for many days.
He reveled in the belief that his sorely tried body
was regenerating its old vigors.

From Wercholensk to Katschuk the journey was
so winding by river that it consumed more than
twice the time of the land route, which although
only thirty versts in extent was one of the most
difficult in Siberia. Rezanov chose the latter with-
out hesitation, and would listen to no discussion
from the Commissary of the little town or from his
distracted Jon: the journey from Yakutsk had now
lasted five weeks and the servant's watchful eye
noted signs of exhaustion.

The hills were very high and very steep, the roads
but a name in summer. Had not the snow been
soft and thin, the horses could not have made the
ascent at all; and, as it was, the riders were forced
to walk the greater part of the way and drag their
unwilling steeds behind them. They were twelve
hours covering the thirty versts, and at Katschuk
Rezanov succumbed for two days, while Jon scoured
the country in search of a telega; as sometimes hap-
pened there was a long stretch of country without
snow, and sledges, by far the most comfortable
method of travel in Siberia, could not be used. The
rest of the journey, but one hundred and ninety-
six versts, must be made by land. Rezanov admit-
ted that he was too weary to ride, and refused to
travel in the post carriage. On the third day the
servant managed to hire a telega from a superior
farmer and they started immediately, the heavy lug-
gage having been consigned to a merchant vessel at

Rezanov stood the telega exactly half a day.
Little larger than an armchair and far lighter, it
was drawn by horses that galloped up and down
hill and across the intervening valleys with no
change of gait, and over a road so rough that the
little vehicle seemed to be propelled by a succession
of earthquakes. Rezanov, in a fever which he at-
tributed to rage, dismissed the telega at a village
and awaited the coming of Jon, who followed on
horseback with the personal luggage.

It was a village of wooden houses built in the
Russian fashion, and inhabited by a dignified tribe
wearing long white garments bordered with fur.
They spoke Russian, a language little heard farther
north and east in Siberia, and when Rezanov de-
clined their hospitality they dispatched a courier at
once to the Governor-General of Irkutsk acquaint-
ing him with the condition of the Chamberlain and
of his imminent arrival. In consequence, when
Rezanov drew rein two days later and looked down
upon the city of Irkutsk with its pleasant squares
and great stone buildings beside the shining river,
the gilded domes and crosses of its thirty churches
and convents glittering in the sun, the whole pic-
ture beckoning to the delirious brain of the traveler
like some mirage of the desert, his appearance was
the signal for a salute from the fort; and the Gov-
ernor-General, privy counselor and senator de
Pestel, accompanied by the civil governor, the com-
mandant, the archbishop, and a military escort, sal-
lied forth and led the guest, with the formality of
officials and the compassionate tenderness of men,
into the capital.

For three weeks longer Rezanov lay in the pal-
ace of the Governor. Between fever and lassitude,
his iron will seemed alternately to melt in the fiery
furnace of his body, then, a cooling but still viscous
and formless mass, sink to the utmost depths of his
being. But here he had the best of nursing and
attendance, rallied finally and insisted upon continu-
ing his journey. His doctor made the less demur
as the traveling was far smoother now, in the early
days of March, than it would be a month hence,
when the snow was thinner and the sledges were
no longer possible. Nevertheless, he announced his
intention to accompany him as far as Krasnoiarsk,
where the Chamberlain could lodge in the house of
the principal magistrate of the place, Counselor Kel-
ler, and, if necessary, be able to command fair nurs-
ing and medical attendance; and to this Rezanov
indifferently assented.

The prospect of continuing his journey and the
bustle of preparation raised the spirits of the in-
valid and gave him a fictitious energy. He had
fought depression and despair in all his conscious
moments, never admitted that the devastation in his
body was mortal. With but a remnant of his for-
mer superb strength, and emaciated beyond recog-
nition, he attended a banquet on the night preced-
ing his departure, and on the following morning
stood up in his sledge and acknowledged the God-
speed of the population of Irkutsk assembled in the
square before the palace of the Governor. All his
life he had excited interest wherever he went, but
never to such a degree as on that last journey when
he made his desperate fight for life and happiness.


The snow rarely falls in Krasnoiarsk. It is a little
oasis in the great winter desert of Siberia. Reza-
nov, his face turned to the window, could see the
red banks on the opposite side of the river. The
sun transformed the gilded cupolas and crosses into
dazzling points of light, and the sky above the spires
and towers, the stately square and narrow dirty
streets of the bustling little capital, was as blue and
unflecked as that which arched so high above a land
where Castilian roses grew, and one woman among
a gay and thoughtless people dreamed, with all the
passion of her splendid youth, of the man to whom
she had pledged an eternal troth. Rezanov's mind
was clear in those last moments, but something of
the serenity and the selfishness of death had already
descended upon him. He heard with indifference
the sobs of Jon, crouched at the foot of his bed.
Tears and regrets were a part of the general futility
of life, insignificant enough at the grand threshold
of death.

No doubt that his great schemes would die with
him, and were he remembered at all it would be as
a dreamer; or as a failure because he had died be-
fore accomplishing what his brain and energy and
enthusiasm alone could force to fruition. None
realized better than he the paucity of initiative and
executive among the characteristics of the Slav.
What mattered it? He had had glimpses more than
once of the apparently illogical sequence of life, the
vanity of human effort, the wanton cruelty of Na-
ture. He had known men struck down before in
the maturity of their usefulness, cities destroyed by
earthquake or hurricane in the fairest and most
promising of their days: public men, priests, par-
ents, children, wantons, criminals, blotted out with
equal impartiality by a brutal force that would
seem to have but a casual use for the life she flung
broadcast on her planets. Man was the helpless
victim of Nature, a calf in a tiger's paws. If she
overlooked him, or swept him contemptuously into
the class of her favorites, well and good; otherwise
he was her sport, the plaything of her idler mo-
ments. Those that cried "But why?" "What rea-
son?" "What use?" were those that had never
looked over the walls of their ego at the great dra-
matic moments in the career of Nature, when she
made immortal fame for herself at the expense of
millions of pigmies.

And if his energies, his talents, his usefulness,
were held of no account, at least he could look back
upon a past when he would have seemed to be one
of the few supreme favorites of the forces that
shaped man's life and destiny. Until he had started
from Kronstadt four years before on a voyage that
had humiliated his proud spirit more than once, and
undermined as splendid a physique as ever was
granted to even a Russian, he had rolled the world
under his foot. With an appearance and a personal
magnetism, gifts of mind and manner and charac-
ter that would have commanded attention amid the
general flaccidity of his race and conquered life
without the great social advantages he inherited, he
had enjoyed power and pleasure to a degree that
would have spoiled a coarser nature long since.
True, the time had come when he had cared little
for any of his endowments save as a means to great
ends, when all his energies had concentrated in the
determination to live a life of the highest possible
usefulness--without which man's span was but exist-
ence--his ambitions had cohered and been driven
steadily toward a permanent niche in history; then
paled and dissolved for an hour in the glorious vision
of human happiness.

And wholly as he might realize man's insignifi-
cance among the blind forces of nature, he could
accept it philosophically and die with his soul uncor-
roded by misanthropy, that final and uncompromis-
ing admission of failure. The misanthrope was the
supreme failure of life because he had not the in-
telligence to realize, or could not reconcile himself
to, the incomplete condition of human nature. Man
was made up of little qualities, and aspirations for
great ones. Many yielded in the struggle and sank
into impotent discontent among the small material
things of life, instead of uplifting themselves with
the picture of the inevitable future when develop-
ment had run its course, and indulgently pitying the
children of their own period who so often made life
hateful with their greed, selfishness, snobbery--
most potent obstacle to human endeavor--and in-
justice. The bad judgment of the mass! How
many careers it had balked, if not ruined, with its
poor ideals, its mean heroes, its instinctive avoid-
ance of superior qualities foreign to itself, its con-
temptible desire to be identified with a fashion. It
was this low standard of the crowd that induced
misanthropy in many otherwise brave spirits who
lacked the insight to discern the divine spark un-
derneath, the persistence, sure of reward, to fight
their way to this spark and reveal it to the gaze of
astonished and flattered humanity. Rezanov's very
arrogance had led him to regard the mass of man-
kind as but one degree removed from the nursery;
his good nature and philosophical spirit to treat
them with an indulgence that kept sourness out of
his cynicism and inevitably recurring weariness and
disgust; his ardent imagination had consoled itself
with the vision of a future when man should live in
a world made reasonable by the triumph of ideals
that now lurked half ashamed in the high spaces of
the human mind.

He looked back in wonder at the moment of wild
regret and protest--the bitterer in its silence--
when they had told him he must die; when in the
last rally of the vital forces he had believed his will
was still strong enough to command his ravaged
body, to propel his brain, still teeming with a vast
and complicated future, his heart, still warm and
insistent with the image it cherished, on to the ulti-
mates of ambition and love. How brief it had been,
that last cry of mortality, with its accompaniment
of furious wonder at his unseemly and senseless
cutting off. In the adjustment and readjustment
of political and natural forces the world ambled on
philosophically, fulfilling its inevitable destiny.

If he had not been beyond humor, he would have
smiled at the idea that in the face of all eternity it
mattered what nation on one little planet eventually
possessed a fragment called California. To him
that fair land was empty and purposeless save for
one figure, and even of her he thought with the
terrible calm of dissolution. During these last
months of illness and isolation he had been less
lonely than at any time of his life save during those
few weeks in California, for he had lived with her
incessantly in spirit; and in that subtle imaginative
communion had pressed close to a profound and
complex soul, revealed before only in flashes to a
vision astray in the confusion of the senses. He
had felt that her response to his passion was far
more vital and enduring than dwelt in the capacity
of most women; he had appreciated her gifts of
mind, her piquant variousness that scotched monot-
ony, the admirable characteristics that would give
a man repose and content in his leisure, and subtly
advance his career. But in those long reveries, at
the head of his forlorn caravan or in the desolate
months of convalescence, he had arrived at an abso-
lute understanding of what she herself had divined
while half comprehending.

Theirs was one of the few immortal loves that
reveal the rarely sounded deeps of the soul while
in its frail tenement on earth; and he harbored not
a doubt that their love was stronger than mortality
and that their ultimate union was decreed. Mean-
while, she would suffer, no one but he could dream
how completely, but her strong soul would conquer,
and she would live the life she had visioned in mo-
ments of despair; not of cloistered selfishness, but
of incomparable usefulness to her little world; and
far happier, in her eternal youthfulness of heart, in
that divine life of the imagination where he must
always be with her as she had known him briefly at
his best, than in the blunt commonplaceness of daily
existence, the routine and disillusionment of the
world. Perhaps--who knew?--he had, after all,
given her the best that man can offer to a woman
of exalted nature; instead of taking again with his
left hand what his right had bestowed; completed
the great gift of life with the priceless beacon of

How unlike was life to the old Greek tragedies!
He recalled his prophetic sense of impending hap-
piness, success, triumph, as he entered California,
the rejuvenescence of his spirit in the renewal of
his wasted forces even before he loved the woman.
Every event of the past year, in spite of the obstacles
that mortal must expect, had marched with his am-
bitions and desires, and straight toward a future
that would have given him the most coveted of all
destinies, a station in history. There had not been a
hint that his brain, so meaningly and consummately
equipped, would perish in the ruins of his body in
less than a twelvemonth from that fragrant morn-
ing when he had entered the home of Concha Ar-
guello tingling with a pagan joy in mere existence,
a sudden rush of desire for the keen, wild happiness
of youth--

His eyes wandered from the bright cross above
the little cemetery where he was to lie, and con-
tracted with an expression of wonder. Where had
Jon found Castilian roses in this barren land? No
man had ever been more blest in a servant, but
could even he--here-- With the last triumph of
will over matter he raised his head, his keen, search-
ing gaze noting every detail of the room, bare and
unlovely save for its altar and ikons, its kneeling
priests and nuns. His eyes expanded, his nostrils
quivered. As he sank down in the embrace of that
final delusion, his unconquerably sanguine spirit
flared high before a vision of eternal and unthink-
able happiness.

So died Rezanov; and with him the hope of Rus-
sians and the hindrance of Americans in the west;
and the mortal happiness and earthly dross of the
saintliest of California's women.

Note: I have made the following changes to the text:
ii 13 unforgetable unforgettable
ii 26 vizu- visu-
vi 29 Krasnioarsk Krasnoiarsk
14 22 Arguella Arguello
15 28 Anna Ana
15 28 Gertrudes Gertrudis
16 6 Ignacia Ignacio
18 17 Dios de mi alma! Dios de mi alma!*
20 11 Madre de Dios!" Madre de Dios!"*
23 3 Ay yi! Ay yi!*
23 4 Dios, Dios
23 20 Propietario Proprietario
23 23 plebian plebeian
23 26 Madre de Dios! Madre de Dios!*
25 18 Dios mio! Dios mio!
25 19 mio!" mio!
33 17 embarassing embarrassing
33 24 Nadesha Nadeshda
40 10 commercal commercial
40 13 momentuous momentous
43 28 disintergrating disintegrating
51 5 He lover Her lover
55 4 Morga Moraga
71 22 Rafella Rafaella
72 3 straights straits
75 9 "You "Your
94 16 inexhautible inexhaustible
103 2 embarassed embarrassed
105 3 preciptate precipitate
106 28 Bueno Buena
111 8 Madre de Dios, Madre de Dios,*
117 30 prefer, prefer.
118 20 I "I
128 10 Arillaga Arrillaga
128 18 ride of rid of
133 8 Arillaga Arrillaga
133 22 Arillaga Arrillaga
135 10 Are "Are
137 28 Arrilaga Arrillaga
137 29 Nakasaki Nagasaki
146 21 refuse--' refuse--"
155 24 dumfounded dumbfounded
169 29 Moragas Moraga
171 7 twice--' twice--"
177 14 said said he said
178 16 phasis." phasis.
178 26 modoties modities
195 17 civilized that civilized than
200 27 gente de gente de*
201 1 razon razon*
201 21 silk silks
204 29 Duena duena
209 2 beneficient beneficent
211 13 Ay yi! Ay yi!*
211 14 yi! yi!
212 22 Ay yi! Ay yi!*
213 3 ay yi! ay yi!*
I have also omitted the accents over proper names such as Rezanov,
Baranhov, and Jose, and have omitted the umlaut over the u in

* indicates that the italics were NOT used as emphasis, but merely
as indicators of SOME of the non-English words, and were eventually
stripped of their italicism for easier reading.

The first words of each chapter were also capitalized on paper,
as least most of them. These have also been uncapitalized.

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