Carl Joubert.

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owned a large estate in Kourland. There were also
present at dinner several of their children, most of
whom were grown up, and already serving in the

When I entered the whole family was speaking
German, but out of courtesy to me it was suggested
that the conversation should be carried on in French
or Russian. However, I told them that it was quite
unnecessary, as I spoke German very comfortably.

The opportunity of questioning my host on the
subject of my enterprise came after dinner. The
coffee and liqueurs had been served and the ladies
of the party had retired. He turned to me and
asked if I would smoke a cigar with him in his
study. So for a quarter of an hour we were

I asked him frankly how he came by my name
and the nature of my business, and whether Dimitri
Stankevitch was his informant.

'* That, my friend, you will never know," he
answered ; " nor need you trouble yourself about it.
Your secret will die with the men to whom it is
entrusted. Perhaps it would interest you to know
that three days before your arrival in Yaroslaff I


knew all about you, and that you would come to
see me here."

I felt relieved by the assurance which he had
given me, though, in truth, I was no wiser than
before. For some minutes we smoked on in silence.
Then he laid down his cigar, and, looking at me
with a kindly smile went on with the conversation.

"It is no crime for a man to wish to see his
friend who is a convict. He has a perfect right to
see him ; and he may even obtain a permit to speak
with him — unless his friend happen to be immured
in the fortress of Schlusselburg.* That is all that I
know about you — you wish to visit your friend who
is a convict. You are committing no crime, and I
am satisfied. It is the business of the authorities to
see that the prisoners are safe in their keeping ; it
is nothing to me if they escape — and it is only
human nature if they try to do so. And it is
for the reason that you are doing no wrong in
attempting to find and speak with your friend that
I counselled you to drop your false name and pass-
port. By assuming Russian nationality you are
placing yourself in a false position and violating
the laws of the country ; and I cannot see that you
are thereby benefiting your friend. I hope you will
recognise the advisability of reverting to your own
name and nationality as soon as possible."

I assured him that I would take his advice on
this point, and once more become Carl Joubert, an

* The fortress of Schlusselburg is a living grave ; no com-
munications of any kind are allowed with the prisoners, who are
in solitary confinement in its cells until death.


English doctor, travelling in Russia for pathological

The old gentleman was evidently pleased at my
decision, and repeated that by so doing I should be
acting in the best interest of my friend and of

" I will give you one last word of advice before
we join the ladies," he said, rising from his chair and
throwing away the end of his cigar. " Whatever
your friend in Lithuania tells you to do — do it.
Keep him always informed of your next move, and
his letters will be addressed to you ' Poste Res-
tante.' "

Then we left his study and rejoined the ladies in
the drawing-room, and it was late in the evening
before I returned to my hotel.

In reflecting on the events of the past week one
fact became very clear to me, namely, that the direc-
tion of the " Kolka relief expedition " had passed
out of my hands and had been assumed by Dimitri
Stankevitch. I was to do whatever he told me. I
confess that at first I resented the supersession of
my command. I had my own ideas and my own
plans, and it was mortifying to forego them. But,
on second thoughts, I saw the wisdom of resigning
the chief command to Dimitri. He was a man of
influence in Russia ; his letters of introduction
had proved of the utmost value ; he had means of
ascertaining facts which neither Dr. Denmanovitch,
of Lithuania, nor Carl Joubert, of England, could
possibly find out ; and, lastly, he was Dimitri
Stankevitch, my friend, and the man who had


promised to risk everything for me if trouble befell.
Therefore I resigned myself to the position of
Dimitri's agent in the affair, and was content to
work under his guidance, so long as the object in
view were attained.

I had not long to wait for my orders. On
the day after my dinner with the family of the
mysterious old gentleman I received a telegram
from the Ispravnik.

" Glad you have taken my advice. Go to Tomsk."



I DO not propose to weary my readers with a detailed
account of my journey from Yaroslaff to Tomsk. I
will only mention the fact that I was nearly a month
on the road, travelling sometimes by railway and
sometimes in a di'oshka. Twice the train in which
I travelled came to grief; but finally I arrived
safely with my precious belt at the capital of Tomsk.

It was midsummer when I reached my destina-
tion, and it was insufferably hot. The mosquitoes
and flies were maddening in their attentions, I
remember, and those who have lived in tropical
climates will understand and pardon me for descend-
ing to particulars so minute as mosquitoes.

There are certain things in life which impress
themselves indelibly on the memory : the mosquito
is one of them. On the other hand, dates are not.
For obvious reasons I kept no diary of my pere-
grinations in Russia. I have endeavoured to recall
events as they happened ; but after a lapse of years
only the cardinal points stand out clear in my
memory ; the blank days are forgotten.

Hitherto the blanks have been few, and nearly
every day from the date of my departure from San
Francisco to the last interview with the kindly


old official at Yaroslaff was eventful. But on my
arrival at Tomsk the march of events was necessarily-
slower. One reason for this was that I had no
letter of introduction to any official in Tomsk.

I went, on my arrival, to the post office, and
handing my passport (it was my English passport
made out in my own name) to the clerk, I inquired
if there were any letters for me. The Tartar clerk
took down a bundle of letters from a shelf and
looked through them lazily : " No," he said, " there
are no letters for you."

I admit that I felt relieved, for, so long as I was
left without instructions from Dimitri, I was free to
follow my own devices. One of my first actions was
directly opposed to the advice of the old gentleman
in Yaroslaff, who had counselled me on no account
to try to intercept Kolka before his arrival in

It was the sight of the prisoners' barracks, with
the sentries parading up and down outside the
gates, that impelled me to try and gain admission.
At the barred windows I could see faces peering
out — faces of all descriptions ; but all sad. There
were young girls' faces among them with dishevelled
hair and hollow cheeks. They paused for a moment
behind the iron bars to inhale a breath of fresh air,
and then gave place to another. So, like a pro-
cession of damned souls in hell, the faces passed
silently by the grated windows and disappeared.

A Tartar carrying a basket of fish passed me in
the street as I stood gazing up at the windows of
the barracks. I stopped him.


*'What place is that?" I asked pointing to the
grim building.

He answered curtly that it was the halting-place
for prisoners on the road to the far East of Siberia,
and walked on.

The thought that Kolka might be amongst them
maddened me. At whatever cost I must gain
admission and find out whether he is there, or
whether I must go further East seeking him. If
he were behind those bars, how could I let him
go further without making an attempt to free
him ?

But it was useless for me to stand gazing at the
haunting procession of faces at the window ; permits
are not obtained in that way — even if they are
obtained at all. As I was reasoning thus with
myself, my right hand rested on the belt round my
waist, and I was convinced that the necessary per-
mit could be obtained.

I returned to my hotel and asked for the pro-
prietor. He was a typical Tartar with a dark and
smiling visage, and with all the cunning and greed
of his race.

'' I want you to assist me," I said.

The proprietor at once assumed an air of self-

" I am ready to serve your Excellency in any way
that you command.

" I am a stranger in these parts," I continued,
" and I am anxious to see all your institutions and
public buildings. I should especially like, as a
doctor, to inspect your hospitals and prisons."


At the mere mention of the prisons, mine host
sniiFed disdainfully.

" Pfui ! pfui ! " he exclaimed. " If you go there,
you will regret it — they are not pleasant places.
But if you really have such an unsavoury desire, I
can easily arrange the matter for you. The officers
of the prison staff come here every evening to eat
and drink. If you will come to their room this
evening I will be there, and I will introduce you to
the Polkovnik, who is in command. For one bottle
he wiU do anything you wish."

I thanked him, and promised to come to the
officers' room that evening.

Then I went out to take stock of the town. It
is a great straggling place and shelters a population
of many races. The Russian officials and their
families have houses on the higher portion of the
town. Tartars and some Chinese inhabit the
suburbs. There are some substantial buildinofs, and
the towering spires of mosques give an imposing
appearance to the place. But the poorer quarters
are composed of streets of wretched, wooden hovels.

I attracted but little notice in the town, for I
wore a Bussian Bubashka, and belt and lono^ boots.
My costume and the black beard and drooping
moustaches which covered my face gave me the
appearance of a Tartar. But if I looked " at home"
in Tomsk, I was feeling very lonely ; and the
thought that Kolka might also be in Tomsk made
me the more determined to find him if I could.

When I entered the officers' room in the hotel
that evening there were about a dozen officers


present. Some were eating, some were enjoying
ices, and a good number were playing cards, with
little piles of roubles in front of them.

The proprietor came up to me smiling and bowing,
and asked if I would not take something to drink.
I ordered a bottle of Kievskoi Nalivka, a mild
liqueur of a dark reddish colour which is contained
in bottles coated with fine gravel. He served me
with a bottle, and standing by the table at which
I sat, he pointed out the Polkovnik playing cards at
a neighbouring table.

" I will ask him to leave his play and allow me
to introduce you to him," he said, and went across
to the table where the Polkovnik sat.

But the Polkovnik was a loser, and declined to be
disturbed until he had had his revenge, and so the
proprietor conducted me to the table and introduced
me to the Polkovnik, placing a chair behind him for
me. The game was " Ocko," and it was obvious
from the single coin in front of him, and the large
heap that had accumulated on the opposite side
of the table, that the Polkovnik was having a bad
time of it.

However he shook hands good-naturedly and bade
me sit down.

" I have lost a lot of money to-night," he said

I asked if I might be allowed to go into partner-
ship with him, and said I should be very glad to put
up the money if he was agreeable.

My suggestion met with general approval ; for it
was evident that the Polkovnik could not continue


playing much longer with a solitary five-rouble
piece, and I daresay the idea of relieving a stranger
of some of his superfluous cash was not without its
charms for the rest of the players.

I pulled out a hundred rouble note and handed
it to the Polhovnih, though there were not more
than sixty roubles on the table. The eflect on the
players was instantaneous, their eyes brightened
greedily, and they promptly doubled the stakes.

But my hundred rouble note gave the Polhovnih
fresh courage, and brought a change of luck. We
were winning money hand over fist, and before an
hour was over the Polhovnih had won back all that
he had lost and a good deal more.

When the game broke up, at about one o'clock,
the Polhovnih handed me back my hundred rouble
note and sixty-five more as my share of the win-
nings. I pocketed the money and invited him to
have some supper with me.

We sat down at a table away from the others,
and supper was brought for us.

" I want you to do me a favour," I said quietly.

" What is it ? " the Polhovnih asked.

" I wish you would take this back," I answered,
pushing the sixty-five roubles across the table to

The Polhovnih demurred. He declared that I was
entitled to the money and should keep it. The
notes lay on the table between us, and I could see
in his greedy Calmuck eyes that he was afraid that
I should put them back into my pocket. So he
accepted them with a show of reluctance, and


with the stipulation that he should pay for our

Then we talked of many things, and he questioned
me on my travels, and asked for what part of the
world I was bound.

I told him that at 23resent I was on my way to
the Government of Irkutsk, and that I contemplated
returning home by China for the study of Asiatic

" Then you are a doctor ? " he said.

" Yes," I answered. " 1 have made quite a re-
putation by the graveyards I have filled."

The Polkovnik was amused at my pleasantry ; at
least, he laughed uproariously till the windows
rattled, and even the yellow cat who was slumbering
peacefully in the corner got up and stretched herself

" And how long are you staying in Tomsk ? " he

" That depends on whether I find anything to
interest me here."

" I suppose you have seen Russian churches ? "

" Yes — hundreds of them."

" And prisons ? "

" A few. I had a permit from the Governor of
Moscow to visit the central prison there, and to
inspect the prisoners."

" I know the Governor," said the Polkovoiik. ** He
is a dear old man. I served under him a long time

*' He was very kind to me," I said. ** I was much
interested in examining the prisoners."


*' Oh, then 1 hope you will come and inspect our
prison barracks here, if it interests you. 1 should
like to hear what you think of the health of the
prisoners. I am always receiving complaints from
them that they cannot walk or that they have
consumption. Some of our doctors say that they are
malingering, and others that they are really ill. I
don't know what to make of it. We lose a good
many men and women certainly before they arrive
at their destinations. When I see the casualty
reports it seems almost like murder."

He paused, as though this were a subject that he
either dared not or disliked to pursue further. Then
he broke out again suddenly.

'* Of course, I have to do my duty. But I am
more than sure that the prisoners are not fed suffi-
ciently to keep them alive. I have forwarded
reports on the subject to St. Petersburg. But that
is all I can do — and nothing more is ever done.
Before the Boje Materi it is little short of murder !
You are a disinterested party, and I should like to
hear what you think of it, when you have seen the
prisoners for yourself."

I assured him that I should be very happy to fall
in with his suggestion, and expressed a hope that
my services might be of some use to humanity and
contribute to his peace of mind.

** If you will call at the barracks at any hour that
is convenient to you, and ask to see me, I shall be
glad to show you over the place," said the Polkovnik,
handing me his card.

I thanked him and bade him good-night.



I BREAKFASTED early the next morning, and having
ascertained that my medical chest and instruments
were in order, I sat down for a few minutes thought
before starting for the barracks.

It was quite probable that I should find Kolka
among the prisoners — and what was to be done if
he were there ? It was impossible to come to any
conclusion on the subject. But there was a dread
in my mind that Kolka might recognise me, and by
some word or gesture give evidence of the fact, and
in one uns^uarded moment wreck the whole scheme
for his rescue. It was true that he had never seen
me wearing a Russian Rubashka and with a beard ;
but still he might recognise me by my eyes, and I
determined to leave nothing to chance.

So taking my case of instruments in my hand I
went out into the business quarter of the town. It
was a long time before I discovered what I wanted,
but at last I found a shop where they kept coloured
glasses. With a pair of dark blue spectacles on my
nose I was convinced that nobody could recognise
me unless they heard my voice, and I was deter-
mined that if Kolka were among the prisoners he
should not hear me speak.


Thus equipped, I took my way through the streets
of Tomsk, until I stood before the gates of the
barracks where the sentry on guard marched up
and down before the inhospitable entrance. I passed
in unchallenged by him — I daresay that he thought
me beneath his notice — and arrived at the main
door of the barracks.

I presented my card to the soldier who opened
the door, and requested to see the Polkovnih. He
bade me follow him, and conducted me across an
open courtyard, where several squads of soldiers
were being drilled, and finally brought me to a
corridor, and handed me over to another soldier,
with the remark that his mission ended here, and I
could give him whatever I thought fit. I handed
him twenty kopeks, and he saluted, addressed me as
" Excellency " and left me in charge of the other

In a few minutes I was face to face with my
friend the Polkovnik. He was surprised to see me
in blue goggles ; but I explained that the strong
sunlight tried my eyes, and I was sometimes obliged
to wear them.

*' You have come just at the right time," he said,
" our regimental doctor is here and will like to go
round with you."

He called the doctor to him, and introduced us.

" This is Dr. Mahomed Anatovitch."

The man whom the Polkovnik presented was a
young fellow of about thirty, good looking and
smart in his white linen double-breasted uniform
and sword. He made a favourable impression upon


me at once, but the peculiarity of his Christian
name puzzled me. Why Mahomed ? 1 asked myself.
However, there was no time for speculations on the
creed or patronymics of the young doctor. He pro-
duced his cigarette case and handed it to me and to
the Polkovnih ; then we all sat down and entered
into conversation.

The Polkovnik was full of his good fortune of the
night before, and recounted for the doctor's benefit
the story of our partnership in the game of " Ocko,"
and how he had won three weeks' pay — after losing
all he possessed. It did not appear to trouble him
that somebody else had lost three weeks' pay — that
was no affair of his ; his juniors must look after

Dr. Anatovitch congratulated the Polkovnik on
his success, though he did not appear to be deeply
interested in the story. But he brightened up
when the Polkovnik began to speak of our subse-
quent conversation on the subject of the casualty
reports of the Siberian prisoners.

" Dr. Joubert is travelling with hundred rouble
notes in the research of science," he explained to
Anatovitch, " so I invited him to come and inspect
our prisoners' barracks here. It will be interesting
to hear what he thinks of our arrangements."

" I fear he w'ill not find them up to the standard
of his owm country," Anatovitch replied. " I had
the advantage of attending at a London hospital for
four months six years ago. I wish I could have put
in four years there."

Then he began to question me about the physicians


and surgeons whom he had met in the hospital in
London. It was evident that he looked upon his
visit to Enfrland as the event of his life. He was
enthusiastic about our hospitals and institutions.
And the more Dr. Anatovitch talked the better I
liked him.

Presently the conversation came back to the health
of the prisoners.

" We have not received much encouragement
from St. Petersburg for the petition which we sent
in seven months ago," said Anatovitch to the
Polhovnih. " The answer has come back, that if we
are not competent to take proper care of the pris-
oners there will have to be a change made."

The Polkovnih laughed aloud ; but Anatovitch
did not regard the matter from a humorous point
of view. There was a look of rebellion in his eyes
as he continued :

'* For my part I should welcome the change. The
present state of things is intolerable. Dr. Sutayeif,
my galova (head physician), says we are wasting
our sympathy on the prisoners, and that we take
their word for everything. I would rather give up
my profession at once than act on my superior
officer's advice in this matter. But so long as I
remain a doctor I shall make my reports in accord-
ance with my professional knowledge and conscience,
and in spite of my superiors, even if I am sent to
voilnoie poselenia for it, as was the case with
Alexander Bogdanovitch."

My heart stood still at the mention of Kolka's
name. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly that


I was taken completely aback. In his outburst of
righteous indignation Dr. Anatovltch had blurted
out the one name that I was most anxious to hear
spoken. What did he know of Alexander Bogdano-
vitch ? I could hardly restrain myself from asking
the question. But there was no need to ask it ; for
after a pause Anatovitch turned to me and said :

" This Dr. Bogdanovitch was here as a ' political '
a short time ago. He is a great man in the science of
surgery and medicine. You have probably heard of
his father, old Dr. Bogdanovitch, a great doctor in
Vyatka ; he was excommunicated, and the sins of
the father were visited on the unfortunate son.
Whilst he was here I gave him thirty-eight prisoners
to examine and to diagnose their cases. His diagnosis
agreed with my own in thirty-four cases out of the
thirty-eight ; and, I can tell you, I was very proud of
myself, for Bogdanovitch is by far my superior in
medical science. He had his education at Bonn, and
was a post-graduate of Heidelberg, and he was for a
long time in London and Edinburgh University."

He paused, and I was desperately afraid that the
conversation might take a different turn, and the
subject of Alexander Bogdanovitch be dropped
before I could find out all I wanted to know. I
dared not show interest in the son ; but I could
speak of the father without arousing suspicion.

" Yes," I said, " I have heard of old Dr. Bogdano-
vitch of Vyatka. I have read his name in some
medical journal, I think it was the Lancet of

Dr. Anatovitch did not pursue the subject ; and


again I felt that if I let this opportunity slip of
finding out where Kolka had been sent, I might not
have another chance of questioning Anatovitch on
the subject. The moment was tense with anxiety.
I must risk the question.

" And what has become of young Dr. Bogdano-
vitch ? " I asked with as much unconcern as I could

" He left here ten days ago for Krasnoiarsk,"
Anatovitch answered. " To what place is he con-
signed ? " he asked, addressing the question to the

The Polkovnik went over to a shelf at the far end
of the room and took down a large volume and
began to search the index.

*' Bogdanovitch is consigned to Balogansk in the
Government of Irkutsk," he said at last, closing the
book and returning it to the shelf.

" Poor boy ! " said Anatovitch with a sigh. " It
was on my recommendation that he went to Kras-
noiarsk, I thought they could find some professional
work for him there."

" Balogansk," " Balogansk," the word was ring-
ing in my ears. " How long will it be before he
reaches Balogansk ? " I asked the question of the

" How long ? " he reiterated. " I expect the
partia will be five or six months on the road.
What with the invalids and women, and their
chains, the convicts are not fast travellers."

" Bogdanovitch wiU at least be without chains,"
said the doctor, " nor will he have bis head shaved.

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Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 11 of 18)