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sheep ba-a at you with open mouths, or cast sheep's-eyes · at the by-passers; the rabbits, having traveled hundreds of miles, are jumping, or running, or turning somersaults in frozen tableaux to keep themselves warm, and so on with every variety of flesh, fowl, and even fish. The butchers cut short these expressive practical witticisms by means of saws, as one might saw a block of wood; and the saw-dust, which is really frozen flesh and blood in a powdered state, is gathered up in baskets and carried away by the children and ragamuffins to be made into soup.
I can conceive of nothing humorous in these people which is not associated in some way with the cruel and the grotesque. They have many noble and generous traits, but lack delicacy of feeling. Where the range of the thermometer is from a hundred to a hundred and fifty degrees of Fahrenheit, their character must partake in some sort of the qualities of the climate-fierce, rigorous, and pitiless in its wintry aspect, and without the compensating and genial tenderness of spring; fitful and passionate as the scorching heats of summer, and dark, stormy, and dreary as the desolation of autumn.
I could not but marvel, as I sat in some of the common traktirs, at the extraordinary affection manifested by the Russians for cats. It appeared to me that the proprietors must keep a feline corps expressly for the amusement of their customers. At one of these places I saw at least forty cats, of various breeds, from the confines of Tartary to the city of Paris. They were up on the tables, on the benches, on the floor, under the benches, on the backs of the tea-drinkers, in their laps, in their arms—every where. I strongly suspected that they answered the purpose of waiters, and that the owner relied upon them to keep the plates clean. Possibly, too, they were made available as musicians. I have a notion the Russians entertain the same superstitious devotion to cats that the Banyans of India do to cows, and the French and Germans to nasty little poo
MUJIK AND CATS. dles. To see a great shaggy boor, his face dripping with grease, his eyes swimming in vodka, sit all doubled up, fondling and caressing these feline pets; holding them in his hands; pressing their velvety fur to his eyes, cheeks, even his lips; listening with delight to their screams and squalls, is indeed a curious spectacle.
Now I have no unchristian feeling toward any of the
brute creation, but I don't affect cats. Nor can I say that I greatly enjoy their music. I heard the very best bands of tom-cats every night during my sojourn in Moscow, and consider them utterly deficient in style and execution. It belongs, I think, to the Music of Futurity, so much discussed by the critics of Europe during the past few years—a peculiar school of anti-melody that requires people yet to be born to appreciate it thoroughly. The discords may be very fine, and the passion very striking and tempestuous, but it is worse than thrown away on an uncultivated ear like mine.
A MYSTERIOUS ADVENTURE. The police of Moscow are not an attractive class of men, considering them in the light of guardians of the law. With a good deal of pomposity and laziness, they mingle much filth and rascality. The emperor may have great confidence in them, based upon some knowledge of their talents and virtues not shared by casual tourists; but if he would trust one of them with ten kopeks, or agree to place the life of any intimate personal friend in their keeping, in any of the dark alleys of Moscow, his faith in their integrity and humanity must be greater than mine. Indeed, upon casting around me in search of a parallel, I am not quite sure that I ever saw such a scurvy set of vagabonds employed to preserve the public peace in any other country, except, perhaps, in Spain. The guardians of the law in Cadiz and Seville are dark and forbidding enough in all conscience, and unscrupulous enough to turn a penny in any way not requiring the exercise of personal energy; and the police of Barcelona are not inferior in all that constitutes moral turpitude, but they can not surpass the Moscovites in filthiness of person or any of the essential attributes of villainy.
I have it upon good authority that they are the very
worst set of thieves in the place, and that they will not hesitate to unite with any midnight prowler for the purpose of robbing a stranger. True, they did not rob me, but the reason of that is obvious. I gave them to understand at the start that I was connected with the press. You seldom hear of a writer for newspapers being robbed; and if such a thing ever does happen, the amount taken is never large.
As a consequence of this proclivity for ill-gotten gains on the part of the guardians of the law, it is unsafe for a stranger to go through the less frequented streets of Moscow at night. Should he chance to be stopped by two or three footpads and call for help, he will doubtless wake up some drowsy guardian of the law, but the help will be all against him. Instances have been related to me of robberies in which the police were the most active assailants, the robbers merely standing by for their share of the plunder. Should the unfortunate victim knock down a footpad or two in self-defense, it is good ground for an arrest, and both robbers and policemen become witnesses against him. A man had better get involved in a question of title to his property before the courts of California than be arrested for assault and battery, and carried before any of the civil tribunals in Russia. There is no end of the law's delays in these institutions, and his only chance of justice is to get his case before the emperor, who is practically the Supreme Court of the empire. Otherwise the really aggrieved party must pay a fine for defending himself, and support the assaulted man, whose nose he may have battered, during an unlimited period at the hospital, together with physician's fees for all the real or imaginary injuries inflicted. I met with a young American who was followed by a stalwart ruffian one night in returning from one of the public gardens. The man dogged his footsteps for some time. At length, there being nobody near to render aid, the robber mustered courage enough to seize hold and attempt to intimidate his supposed victim by brandishing a knife. Ile came from a country where they were not uncommon, and, besides, was an adept on the shoulder. With a sudden jerk he freed himself, and, hauling off a little, gave his assailant a note of hand that knocked him down. I am not versed in the classics of the ring, or I would make something out of this fight. The pad dropped like a stricken ox, his knife flying picturesquely through the silvery rays of the moon. Next moment he was on his feet again, the claret shining beautifully on his cheeks and beard. Throwing out his claws like a huge grizzly, he rushed in, gnashing his teeth and swearing horribly. This time our friend was fairly aroused, and the wretch promptly measured his length on the ground. Thinking he had scattered it on rather heavy, the American stooped down to see how matters stood, when the fellow grasped him by the coat and commenced shouting with all his might for the police — "Help! help! murder! murder !” There was no remedy but to silence him, which our friend dexterously accomplished by a blow on the os frontis. Hearing the approaching footsteps of the police, he then concluded it was best to make his escape, and accordingly took to his heels. Chase was given, but he was as good at running as he was at the noble art of self-defense, and soon distanced his pursuers. Fortunately, he reached his quarters without being recognized. This was all that saved him from arrest and imprisonment, or the payment of a fine for the assault.
A common practice, as I was informed, is to arrest a stranger for some alleged breach of the law, such as smoking a cigar in the streets, or using disrespectful language toward the constituted authorities. Not being accustomed to the intricacies of a Russian judiciary, it is difficult, when once the matter comes before a tribunal of justice, for a foreigner to rebut the testimony brought against him; and if he be in a hurry to get away, his only course is to bribe the parties interested in his detention. It would be unjust to say that this system prevails universally throughout Russia. There is a small