« PreviousContinue »
PIGS, PUPS, AND PANS. ent. So far as any thing of this kind may exist in Moscow or St. Petersburg, it is a notable fact that there are few cities in the world where it is less visible, or where the people seem more unrestrained in the exercise of their popular freedom. Indeed, it struck me rather forcibly, after my experience in Vienna and Berlin, that the Russians enjoy quite as large a share of practical inde
pendence as most of their neighbors. I was particularly impressed by the bold and independent air of the middle classes, the politeness with which even the lower orders address each other, and the absence of those petty and vexatious restraints which prevail in some of the German states. The constant dread of infringing upon the police regulations; the extraordinary deference with which men in uniform are regarded; the circumspect behavior at public places; the nice and well-regulated mirthfulness, never overstepping the strict bounds of prudence, which I had so often noticed in the northern parts of Germany, and which may in part be attributed to the naturally orderly and conservative character of the people, are by no means prominent features in the principal cities of Russia.
Soldiers, indeed, there are in abundance every where throughout the dominions of the Czar, and the constant rattle of musketry and clang of arms show that the liberty of the people is not altogether without limit.
THE NOSE REGIMENT. I saw nothing in the line of military service that interested me more than the Imperial Guard. Without vouching for the truth of the whole story connected with the history of this famous regiment, I give it as related to me by Dominico, merely stating as a fact within my own observation that there is no question whatever about the peculiarity of their features. It seems that the Emperor Nicholas, shortly before the Crimean War, discovered by some means that the best fighting men in his dominions belonged to a certain wild tribe from the north, distinguished for the extreme ugliness of their faces. The most remarkable feature was the nose, which stood straight out from the base of the forehead in the form of a triangle, presenting in front the appearance of
tion that fely statine's give it as a with
a double-barreled pistol. A stiff grizzly mustache underneath gave them a peculiarly ferocious expression, so that brave men quailed, and women and children fled from them in terror. The emperor gave orders that all men in the ranks possessed of these frightful noses should be brought before him. Finding, when they were mustered together, that there was not over one company, he caused a general average of the noses to be taken, from which he had a diagram carefully prepared and disseminated throughout the empire, calling upon the military commanders of the provinces to send him recruits corresponding with the prescribed formula.
In due time he was enabled to muster a thousand of these ferocious barbarians, whom he caused to be carefully drilled and disciplined. He kept them in St. Petersburg under his own immediate supervision till some time after the attack upon Sebastopol, when, finding the fortunes of war likely to go against him, he sent them down to the Crimea, with special instructions to the commander-in-chief to rely upon them in any emergency. In compliance with the imperial order, they were at once placed in the front ranks, and in a very few days had occasion to display their fighting qualities. At the very first onslaught of the enemy they stood their ground manfully till the French troops had approached within ten feet, when, with one accord, they took to their heels, and never stopped running till they were entirely out of sight. It was a disastrous day for the Russians. The commander-in-chief was overwhelmed with shame and mortification. A detachment of cavalry was dispatched in pursuit of the fugitives, who were finally arrested in their flight and brought back. “Cowards !” thundered the enraged commander, as they stood drawn up before him; “miserable poltroons! dastards! is this the way you do honor to your imperial master? Am I to report to his most potent majesty that, without striking one blow in his defense, you ran like sheep ? Wretches, what have you to say for yourselves ?”
“ May it please your excellency,” responded the men, firmly and with unblenched faces, “we ran away, it is true; but we are not cowards. On the contrary, sire, we are brave men, and fear neither man nor beast. But your excellency is aware that nature has gifted us with noses peculiarly open to unusual impressions. We have
smelled all the smells known from the far North to the far South, from the stewed rats of Moscow to the carrion that lies mouldering upon the plains of the Crimea; but, if it please your highness, we never smelled Frenchmen before. There was an unearthly odor about them that filled our nostrils, and struck a mysterious terror into our souls."
“Fools!” roared the commander-in-chief, bursting with rage, “ what you smelled was nothing more than garlic, to which these Frenchmen are addicted.”
“Call it as you will,” firmly responded the men with the noses, “it was too horrible to be endured. We are willing to die by the natural casualties of war, but not by unseen blasts of garlic, against which no human power can contend.”
“Then,” cried the commander, in tones of thunder, “I'll see that you die to-morrow by the natural casualties of war. You shall be put in the very front rank, and care shall be taken to have every man of you shot down the moment you undertake to run."
On the following day this rigorous order was carried into effect. The nose regiment was placed in front, and the battle opened with great spirit. The French troops swept down upon them like an avalanche. For an instant they looked behind, but, finding no hope of escape in that direction, each man of them suddenly grasped up a handful of mud, and, dashing it over his nostrils, shouted “Death to the garlic-eaters !” and rushed against the enemy with indescribable ferocity. Never before were such prodigies of valor performed on the field of battle. The French went down like stricken reeds before the ferocious onslaught of the Imperial Guard. Their dead bodies lay piled in heaps on the bloody field. The fortunes of the day were saved, and, panting and bleeding, the men of Noses stood triumphantly in the presence of their chief. In an ecstasy of pride and delight he complimented them upon their valor, and pronounced them the brightest nosegay in his imperial majesty's service, which name they have borne ever since.