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--I had almost said baptized-in tea. The traveler must see the families seated under the trees, with the burnished urn before them — the children romping about over the grass; joy beaming upon every face; the whole neighborhood a repetition of family groups and steaming urns, bound together by the mystic tie of sympathy, before he can fully appreciate the important part that tea performs in the great drama of Russian life.
THE PETERSKOI GARDENS.
This draws me insensibly toward the beautiful gardens of the Peterskoi—a favorite place of resort for the Moskovites, and famous for its chateau built by the Empress Elizabeth, in which Napoleon sought refuge during the burning of Moscow. It is here the rank and fashion of the city may be seen to the greatest advantage of a fine summer afternoon. In these gardens all that is brilliant, beautiful, and poetical in Russian life finds a congenial atmosphere.
I spent an evening at the Peterskoi which I shall long remember as one of the most interesting I ever spent at any place of popular amusement. The weather was charming-neither too warm nor too cold, but of that peculiarly soft and dreamy temperature which predisposes one for the enjoyment of music, flowers, the prattle of children, the fascinations of female loveliness, and the luxuries of idleness. In such an atmosphere no man of sentiment can rack his brain with troublesome problems. These witching hours, when the sun lingers dreamily on the horizon; when the long twilight weaves a web of purple and gold that covers the transition from night to morning; when nature, wearied of the dazzling glare of day, puts on her silver-spangled robes, and receives her worshipers with celestial smiles, are surely enough to soften the most stubborn heart. We must make love,
sweet ladies, or die. There is no help for it. Resistance is an abstract impossibility. The best man in the world could not justly be censured for practicing a little with his eyes, when away from home, merely as I do, you know, to keep up the expression.
The gardens of the Peterskoi are still a dream to me. For a distance of three versts from the gate of St. Petersburg the road was thronged with carriages and droskies, and crowds of gayly-dressed citizens, all wending their way toward the scene of entertainment. The pressure for tickets at the porter's lodge was so great that it required considerable patience and good-humor' to get through at all. Officers in dashing uniforms rode on spirited chargers up and down the long rows of vehicles, and with drawn swords made way for the foot-passengers. Guards in imperial livery, glittering from head to foot with embroidery, stood at the grand portals of the gate, and with many profound and elegant bows ushered in the company. Policeman with cocked hats and shining epaulets were stationed at intervals along the leading thoroughfares to preserve order.
The scene inside the gates was wonderfully imposing. Nothing could be more fanciful. In every aspect it presented some striking combination of natural and artificial beauties, admirably calculated to fascinate the imagination. I have a vague recollection of shady and undulating walks, winding over sweeping lawns dotted with masses of flowers and copses of shrubbery, and overhung by wide-spreading trees, sometimes gradually rising over gentle acclivities or points of rock overbung with moss and fern. Rustic cottages, half hidden by the luxuriant foliage, crowned each prominent eminence, and little byways branched off into cool, umbrageous recesses, where caves, glittering with sea-shells and illuminated stalactites, invited the wayfarer to linger a while and rest. Far down in deep glens and grottoes were retired nooks, where lovers, hidden from the busy throng, might mingle their vows to the harmony of falling waters; where the
very flowers seemed whispering love to each other, and the lights and shadows fell, by some intuitive sense of fitness, into the form of bridal wreaths. Marble statues representing the Graces, winged Mercuries and Cupids, are so cunningly displayed in relief against the green banks of foliage that they seem the natural inhabitants of the place. Snow-spirits, too, with outspread wings, hover in the air, as if to waft cooling zephyrs through the soft summer night. In the open spaces fountains dash their sparkling waters high into the moonlight, spreading a mystic spray over the sward. Through vistas of shrubbery gleam the bright waters of a lake, on the far side of which the embattled towers of a castle rise in bold relief over the intervening groups of trees.
On an elevated plateau, near the centre of the garden, stands a series of Asiatic temples and pagodas, in which the chief entertainments are held. The approaching avenues are illuminated with many-colored lights suspended from the branches of the trees, and wind under triumphal archways, festooned with flowers. The theatres present open fronts, and abound in all the tinsel of the stage, both inside and out. The grounds are crowded to their utmost capacity with the rank and fashion of the city, in all the glory of jeweled head-dresses and decorations of order. Festoons of variegated lights swing from the trees over the audience, and painted figures of dragons and genii are dimly seen in the background.
Attracted by sounds of applause at one of these theatres, I edged my way through the crowd, and succeeded, after many apologies, in securing a favorable position. Amid a motley gathering of Russians, Poles, Germans, and French-for here all nations and classes are represented—my ears were stunned by the clapping of hands and vociferous cries of Bis! Bis! The curtain was down, but in answer to the call for a repetition of the last scene it soon rose again, and afforded me an opportunity of witnessing a characteristic performance. A wild Mujik has the impudence to make love to the maid-servant of his master, who appears to be rather a crusty old gentleman, not disposed to favor matrimonial alliances of that kind. Love gets the better of the lover's discretion, and he is surprised in the kitchen. The bull-dog is let loose upon him; master and mistress and subordinate
members of the family rush after him, armed with saucepans, tongs, shovels, and broomsticks. The affrighted Mujik runs all round the stage bellowing fearfully; the bull-dog seizes him by the nether extremities and hangs on with the tenacity of a vice. Round and round they run, Mujik roaring for help, bull-dog swinging out horizontally. The audience applauds; the master flings down his broomstick and seizes the dog by the tail; the old woman seizes master by the skirts of his coat; and all three are dragged around the stage at a terrific rate, while the younger members of the family shower down miscellaneous blows with their sticks and cudgels, which always happen to fall on the old people, to the great satisfaction of the audience. Shouts, and shrieks, and clapping of hands but faintly express the popular appreciation of the joke. Finally the faithful maid, taking advantage of the confusion, flings a bunch of fire-crackers at her oppressors and blows them up, and the Mujik, relieved of their weight, makes a brilliant dash through the door, carrying with him the tenacious bull-dog, which it is reasonable to suppose he subsequently takes to market and sells for a good price. The curtain falls, the music strikes up, and the whole performance is greeted with the most enthusiastic applause. Such are the ent tainments that delight these humorous people-a little broad to be sure, but not deficient in grotesque spirit.
From the theatre I wandered to the pavilion of Zingalee gipsies, where a band of these wild sons of Hagar were creating a perfect furor by the shrillness and discord of their voices. Never was such terrific music inflicted upon mortal ears. It went through and through you, quivering and vibrating like a rapier; but the common classes of Russians delight in it above all earthly sounds. They deem it the very finest kind of music. It is only the dilettante who have visited Paris who profess to hold it in contempt.
Very soon surfeited with these piercing strains, I rambled away till I came upon a party of rope-dancers, and