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ety? My fears, however, were somewhat dispelled upon looking around the saloon into which I had been so strangely introduced. Several tables were ranged along the walls, at each of which sat a group of the most horrible-looking savages that probably ever were seen out of jail—the very dregs and offscourings of Moscow. Their faces were mostly covered with coarse, greasy beards, reaching half way down their bodies; some wore dirty blue or gray blouses, tied around the waist with ropes, or fastened with leather belts; others, long blue coats, reaching nearly to their feet; and all, or nearly all, had caps on their heads, and great heavy boots reaching up to their knees, in which their pantaloons were thrust, giving them a rakish and ruffianly appearance. A few sat in their shirt-sleeves; and, judging by the color of their shirts, as well as their skins, did not reckon soap among the luxuries of life. Several of these savage-looking Mujiks were smoking some abominable weed, intended, perhaps, for tobacco, but very much unlike that delightful narcotic in the foul and tainted odor which it diffused over the room. They were all filthy and brutish in the extreme, and talked in some wretched jargon, which, even to my inexperienced ear, had but little of the gentle flow of the Russian in it. The tables were dotted with dice, cards, fragments of black bread, plates of grease, and cabbage soup, and glasses of vodka and tea; and the business of gambling, eating, and drinking was carried on with such earnestness that my entrance attracted no farther attention than a rude stare from the nearest group. No wonder they were a little puzzled, for I was covered with ashes, and must have presented rather a singular appearance. The three ruffians who had brought me in closed the door, and motioned me to a seat at a vacant table. They then called for tea, vodka, and quass, together with a great dish of raw cucumbers, which they set to work devouring with amazing voracity. During a pause in the feast they held a low conversation with the man who served them, who went out and presently returned with a small tea-pot full of tea and a glass, which he set before me. They motioned to me, in rather a friendly way, to drink. I was parched with thirst, and was not sorry to get a draught of any thing—even the villainous compound the traktir bad set before me; so I drank off a tumblerfull at once. Soon I began to experience a whirling sensation in the head. A cold tremor ran through my limbs. Dim and confused visions of the company rose before me, and a strange and spectral light seemed shed over the room. The murmur of voices sounded like rushing waters in my ears. I gradually lost all power of volition, while my consciousness remained unimpaired, or, if any thing, became more acute than ever. The guests, if such they were, broke up their carousal about this time, and began to drop off one by one, each bowing profoundly to the landlord, and crossing himself devoutly, and bowing three times again before the shrine of the patron saint as he passed out. It was really marvelous to see some of these ruffians, so besotted with strong drink that they were scarcely able to see the way to the door, stagger up before the burnished shrine, and, steadying themselves the best they could, gravely and solemnly go through their devotions.
But I see you are beginning to yawn, and, notwith. standing the most exciting part of the adventure is about to commence, it would be extremely injudicious in me to force it upon you under circumstances so disadvantageous to both parties. You will therefore oblige me by finishing your nap, and, with your permission, we will proceed with our narrative as soon as it may be mutually agreeable. In the mean time, I beg you will regard what I have already told you as strictly confidential. My reputation, both for veracity and general good character, is involved in this very extraordinary affair, and it would be unfair that either the one or the other should be prejudiced by a partial exposition of the facts.
THE DENOUEMENT. I NOTICED that the traktir, in settling accounts with his customers, made use of a peculiar instrument commonly seen in the shops and market-places throughout the city. Behind a sort of bar or counter at the head of the room he kept what is called a schot, upon which he made his calculations. This is a frame about a foot square, across which run numerous wires. On each wire is a string of colored pieces of wood somewhat resembling billiard-counters, only smaller. The merchant, trader, traktir, or craftsman engaged in pecuniary transactions uses this instrument with wonderful dexterity in making his calculations. He believes it to be the only thing in the world that will not lie or steal. If you have purchased to the amount of thirty kopeks, you would naturally conclude that out of a ruble (one hundred kopeks) your change would amount to seventy. Not so the sagacious and wary Russian. He takes nothing for granted in the way of trade. Your calculations may be erroneous— figures obtained through the medium of mental arithmetic may lie, but the schot never. The experience of a lifetime goes for nothing. He must have proof positive. Taking his schot between his knees, he counts off thirty balls out of a hundred. Of course there is no mistake about that. Neither you nor he can dispute it. Then he counts the remainder, and finds that it amounts to seventy-therefore your change is seventy kopeks! Do you dispute it? Then you can count for yourself. You might cover pages with written calculations, or demonstrate the problem by the four cardinal rules of arithmetic; you might express the numbers by sticks, stones, beans, or grains of coffee, but it would be all the same to this astute and cautious calculator-facts can only reach his understanding through the colored balls of his beloved schot. I don't think he would rely with certainty upon the loose verbal statement that two and two make four without resorting to the schot for a verification. But to proceed :
A few of the guests, too far gone with “little water” to get up and perform their devotions, rolled over on the floor and went to sleep. The lights grew dim. A gloomy silence began to settle over the room, interrupted only by the occasional grunting or snoring of the sleepers. The ruffians who sat at the table with me had been nodding for some time; but, roused by the cessation of noises, they called to the man of the house, and in a low voice gave him some orders. He got a light and opened a small door in a recess at one side of the room. I was then lifted up by the others and carried into an adjoining passage, and thence up a narrow stairway. In a large dingy room overhead I could see by the flickering rays of the lamp a bed in one corner. It was not very clean--none of the Russian beds are—but they laid me in it, nevertheless, for I could offer no remonstrance. What they had hitherto done was bad enough, but this capped the climax of outrages. Were the cowardly villains afraid to murder me, and was this their plan of getting it done, and at the same time getting rid of the body ? Great heavens! was I to be devoured piecemeal by a rapacious horde of the wild beasts that are said to infest the Russian beds! And utterly helpless, too, without the power to grapple with as much as a single flea—the least formidable, perhaps, of the entire gang! It was absolutely fearful to contemplate such an act of premeditated barbarity; yet what could I do, unable to speak a word or move a limb.
I am reminded by this that the Russians derive the most striking features of their civilization from the French and Germans. Their fashions, their tailors, their confectioners, their perfumeries, their barbers, are nearly