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I could not even move my lips. But why prolong the dreadful scene? One more glance with the fierce white eyes, a deep grating malediction, and the ruffian braced himself for his deadly job. He tightened his grip upon the bar, swung it high over his head, and with one fell blow-DASHED MY BRAINS OUT!!
* * * * Don't believe it, eh ? Well, sir, you would insist upon my telling you the adventure, and now I stand by it! If it be your deliberate opinion that my statement is not to be relied upon, nothing remains between us but to arrange the preliminaries. I have no disposition to deprive my publishers of a valuable contributor, or society of an ornament; but, sir, the great principles of truth must be maintained. As it will not be convenient for me to attend to this matter in person, you will be pleased to select any friend of mine in California who may desire to stand up for my honor; place him before you at the usual distance of ten paces; then name any friend of yours at present in Europe as a similar substitute for yourself—the principals only to use pistols—notify me by the Icelandic telegraph when you are ready, and then, upon return of signal, pop away at my friend. But, since it is not my wish to proceed to such an extremity unnecessarily, if you will admit that I may possibly have been deceived—that there may have been some hallucination about the adventure--that strong tea and nervous excitement may have had something to do with it, then, sir, I am willing to leave the matter open to future negotiation.
It is true I found myself in my room at the Hotel de Venise when I recovered from the stunning effects of the blow; also, that the door was locked on the inside; but I am by no means prepared to give up the point on such flimsy evidence as that. Should the physiological fact be developed in the course of these sketches that there is still any portion of the brain left, and that it performs its legitimate functions, of course I shall be forced to admit that the case is at least doubtful; yet even then it can not be regarded in the light of a pure fabrication. Has not Dickens given us, in his “Dreams of Venice," the most vivid and truthful description of the City of the Sea ever written; and what have I done, at the worst, but try in my humble way to give you a general idea of Moscow in the pleasing form of a midnight adventure, ending in an assassination? You have seen the Kremlin and the Church of St. Basil, and the by-streets and alleys, and the interior of a low traktir, and the cats, and the Russian beds, and many other interesting features of this wonderful city, in a striking and peculiar point of view, and I hold that you have no right to complain because, like Louis Philippe, I sacrificed my crown for the benefit of my subject. Besides, has not my friend Bayard Taylor given to the world his wonderful experiences of the Hasheesh of Damascus; his varied and extraordinary hallucinations of intellect during the progress of its operations ? And why should not I my humble experiences of the tchai of Moscow ?
Reader. Slightly sprinkled with vodka, or “the little
Oh, that was just thrown in to give additional effect to the tea!
Reader. It won't do, sir-it won't do! The deception was too transparent throughout.
Well, then, since you saw through it from the beginning, there is no harm done, and you can readily afford to make an apology for impugning my veracity.
Lady Reader. But who was the heroine ? What became of her ? :
Ah! my dear madam, there you have me! I suspect she was a French countess, or more likely an actress engaged in the line of tragedy. Her style, at all events, was tragical.
Lady Reader (elevating her lovely eyebrows superciliously). She was rather demonstrative, it must be admitted. You brought her in apparently to fulfill your promise, but sent her off the stage very suddenly. You should, at least, have restored her to her friends, and not left her in that den of robbers.
That, dear madam, was my natural inclination; but the fact is, d’ye see, I was drugged
Lady Reader (sarcastically). It won't do, Mr. Butterfield—your heroine was a failure! In future you had better confine yourself to facts—or fresh water.
Madam, I'd confine myself to the Rock of Gibraltar or an iceberg to oblige you; therefore, with your permission, I shall proceed to give you, in my next, a reliable description of the Kremlin.
ver about the woenough to turn to pick out o
THE KREMLIN. Not the least of the evils resulting from this harumscarum way of traveling and writing is the fact that one's impressions become sadly tumbled together and very soon lose their most salient features. To be whirled about the world by land and sea, as I have been for the last year, is enough to turn one's brain into a curiosity shop. When I undertake to pick out of the pile of rubbish some picture that must have been originally worth a great deal of money, I find it so disfigured by the sheer force of friction that it looks no better than an old daub. The pity of it is, too, that the very best of my gatherings are apt to get lost or ruined ; and sometimes it happens that when I varnish up what appears to be valuable, it turns out not a groat. Want of method would ruin a Zingalee gipsy or a Bedouin Arab. No doubt you have already discovered to your sorrow that when we start on a visit to the Kremlin, it is no sure indication that we will not spend the day in the Riadi or the old-clothes market. If either you or I ever reach our destination, it will be by the sheerest accident. And yet one might as well undertake to see Rome without the Capitoline Hill, or Athens without the Acropolis, as Moscow without the Kremlin. We have had several glimpses of it, to be sure, in the course of our rambles, but you must admit that they were very vague and indefinite—especially the last, when, if you remember, we were laboring under some strange mental hallucination.
The Kremlin has been fully described by many learned and accomplished travelers. Coxe, Atkinson, Kohl, and various others, have given elaborate accounts of it; yet why despair of presenting, in a homely way, some general idea of it, such as one might gather in the course of an afternoon's ramble? After reading all we find about it in books of travel, our conceptions are still vague and unsatisfactory. Probably the reason is, that minute details of history and architecture afford one but a very faint and inadequate idea of the appearance of any place. Like the pictures of old Dennen, they may give you every wrinkle with the accuracy of a daguerreotype, but they fail in the general effect, or resemble the corpse of the subject rather than the living reality. I must confess that all I had read on Russia previous to my visit afforded me a much less vivid idea of the actual appearance of the country, the people, or the principal cities, than the rough crayon sketches of Timm and Mitreuter, which I had seen in the shop windows of Paris. This may not be the fault of the writers, who, of course, are not bound to furnish their own eyes or their own understanding to other people, but it seems to me that elaborate detail is inimical to strong general impressions. I would not give two hours' personal observation of any place or city in the world for a hundred volumes of the best books of travel ever written upon it; and next to that comes the conversation of a friend who possesses, even in an ordinary degree, the faculty of conveying to another his own impressions. A word, a hint, a gesture, or some grotesque comparison, may give you a more vivid picture of the reality than you can obtain by a year's study. Now, if you will just consider me that friend, and resign yourself in a genial and confiding spirit to the trouble of listening; if you will fancy that I mean a great deal more than I say, and could be very learned and eloquent if I chose; if you will take it for granted that what you don't see is there nevertheless, the Kremlin will sooner or later loom out of the fogs of romance and mystery that surround it, and stand before you, with its embattled walls and towers, as it stood before me in the blaze of the noonday sun, when Dominico, the melancholy guide, led the way to the Holy Gate. You will then discover that the reality is quite wonderful enough in its natural aspect, without the colored spectacles of fancy or the rigid asperities of photographic detail to give it effect.
Like many of the old cities of Europe, Moscow probably had its origin in the nucleus of a citadel built upon the highest point, and commanding an extensive sweep of the neighborhood. Around this houses gathered by degrees for protection against the invasions of the hostile tribes that roamed through Russia at an early period of its history. The first object of the Kremlin was doubtless to form a military strong-hold. It was originally constructed of wood, with ramparts thrown up around it for purposes of defense, but, in common with the rest of Moscow, was destroyed by the Tartars in the fourteenth century. Under the reign of Dimitri it was rebuilt of stone, and strongly fortified with walls and ditches, since which period it has sustained, without any great injury, the assaults of war, the ravages of fire, and the wear and tear of time. Kief and Vladimir, prior to that reign, had each served in turn as the capital of the empire. After the removal of the capital to Moscow, that city was besieged and ravaged by Tamerlane, and suffered from time to time during every succeeding century all the horrors of war, fire, pestilence, and famine, till 1812, when it was laid in ashes by the Russians themselves, who by this great national sacrifice secured the destruction of the French army under Napoleon.