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have arranged for that wibh the officer in charge.
He will be treated like a gentleman."

" What was his offence ? " I asked innocently.

"Oh, well ! " said the Polkovnik, " we won't talk
about that."

Anatovitch glanced at himself in the glass, and
twisted up the ends of his moustache. An orderly
entered the room with papers for the Polkovnih to
siofn : and whilst the Polkovnik sat down at the
table to append his signature, the doctor turned
to me.

" His offence — eh ? " he said quietly. " His
oHence may be mine to-morrow."

I liked Anatovitch from the first ; and this simple
confession increased my respect for the man.

When the Polkovnih had despatched his business,
I asked them both to return and dine with me at the
hotel. I could see by their faces that they were
pleased by my invitation, and they accepted it
readily. So we left the barracks and returned to
the hotel together. I dispensed with my blue
spectacles, finding that my eyes no longer troubled
me. I knew now that there would be no need for
me to wear them when I visited the prisoners in
the barracks, for I should not find Kolka amongst

The proprietor of the hotel greeted us with a
smiling countenance. Guests were always welcome,
especially when expensive dinners and champagne
were ordered for their consumption. There was some
misunderstanding over the champagne. When it
arrived, I noticed at once that the bottle bore no


resemblance to the ordinary champagne bottle of
France. I called the proprietor and questioned him
about it.

'* This is the finest Russian champagne, your
High-born," he explained, turning the bottle in his
hands and displaying the label. " It costs one rouble
and seventy-five kopeks a bottle. But, of course, if
you wish for imported wine you shall have it ; but
the price is very high — as much as fourteen roubles
a bottle."

'' Never mind," I answered ; "let us have two
bottles of French champagne."

I think the proprietor put me down as a madman.
Not once in six months did he receive a demand for
imported champagne, and an order for two bottles
at once was unprecedented. As for the Polhovnik,
I could see his greedy little eyes twinkling in anti-
cipation of the feast. A man who flourished hundred
rouble notes and ordered French champagne was
worthy of encouragement and friendship, and he
frankly extended both to me before the meal was
over. The third bottle, ordered at the end of the
feast, sealed the bond of eternal amity between us.
We rose from the table on terms of brotherhood.



The Polkovnik was perfectly satisfied with the
arrangement. Dr. Anatovitch was to conduct me
round the prisoners' barracks and show me every-
thing I wished to see, and give me liberty to
examine any prisoners whom I wished to examine.
It was a carte blanche order to inspect the interior
of a Siberian prison.

The cells were without furniture, and were fitted
with sloping plank beds across the whole breadth of
the compartment. There was no straw or covering
of any kind for the wretched prisoners, who sat
huddled together on the bare benches which
formed their seat by day and their resting-place
at night. In the women's cells the state of
things was just the same — no consideration was
extended to their gentler sex. They were pri-
soners — that was all ; and a Russian prisoner has
no sex.

On one bench I saw as many as fourteen prisoners
sitting or lying together with their heavy chains
upon their legs. At every movement the chains
clank and rattle upon the boards ; and as they can
never keep still for a moment, but must of necessity
scratch their tormented limbs, the clatter of the


chains is ceaseless, and proclaims the measure of
their wretchedness.

Their food is repulsive. They are given a piece of
bread and a bowl of soup. I inspected the rations
in the prison at Tomsk. The soup stank with the
odour of a soap factory. I asked for a piece of the
bread from a warder, and when I had examined it
I called for a bowl of warm water. I put the bread
to soak in the water, and in a couple of minutes I
handed the wooden bowl to Dr. Anatovitch, and
asked him to look at it.

" Why should I examine it ? " he asked. But a
moment later I heard him exclaim : " My God ! My
God ! "

The surface of the water was covered with worms.

He gave his permission to have the bowl sealed
and sent to my hotel for analysis ; and confessed to
me that he had never discovered the state of the
bread before.

I am aware that in no part of the world is the lot
of the prisoner a happy one. It is not intended
that it should be ; but in civilised countries they
are, at least, given the opportunity of keeping them-
selves clean and decent. They are treated as human
beings, and their health is considered ; but in Kussia
it is different. The prisoners in Russia, whether
before or after the trial — and a gi'eat many of the
political prisoners have no trial — the Russian
prisoners are considered beasts, and treated accord-
ingly. The warders know what is expected of them ;
and if a warder shows any glimmering of humanity
in his treatment of the prisoners committed to his


charge, his services are dispensed with and a
stronger-hearted warder takes his place.

I said that Russian prisoners have no sex ; but I
must quaHfy that statement. In so far as the nor-
mal treatment of the women is concerned, they are
separated from the men, but no other distinction is
made. If they are young and attractive, however,
their sex can procure for them, and worse still, for
those who are dear to them, a certain amount of con-
sideration from those in authority over them on the
road to Siberia.

Dr. Anatovitch raised no objections to my ex-
amination of some of the prisoners who had reported
themselves as unfit to travel, and who had therefore
been accused of malingering. He lent me his office
for the purpose of my inspection, and very consider-
ately allowed me to be alone with each case.

I begged that the fetters might be removed from
the prisoners before they were sent in to me, and
asked that I might see the "politicals " first. One
by one they were admitted to the office, where I
examined and questioned them.

I am able to give some of the cases which came
under my notice.

(i) A young man, aged twenty, a student from
Kasan, stated that he has committed no crime ; but was
found reading a certain book in which the censor's
name did not figure on the title-page, was arrested
by the secret police, and sent for five years hard
labour in the Government of Irkutsk. I examined
him and found him in the second stage of consump-
tion. His troubles would soon be over.


(2) A man, aged thirty-four, a compositor by trade
— this is a suspicious trade in Russia — stated that he
was taken from his home in Odessa, two years ago,
and sent to penal servitude for life in the Govern-
ment of the Amurs without trial. On examination
I found that he was infected with sarcoma. Nothing
had been done for him, and he slept and ate with the
other prisoners.

(3) A lad, aged eighteen, a student in Moihilev,
stated that he was arrested for being in company
with a man who had certain pamphlets against the
Greek Church in his possession. He was but very
slightly acquainted with the man. Sentenced to
three years voilnoie poselenia in the Government of
Yenisei. Health, internal aneurism. An immediate
operation was necessary ; but there was no one
capable of performing the operation.

(4) Man, aged twenty-five, medical student from
Kieff. Sentenced to fifteen years in the Govern-
ment of the Amurs for being implicated in a students'
riot. Health, first stage of consumption.

I examined many other cases that day amongst
the male prisoners, and found a very large propor-
tion of them sufiering from diseases for which they
had received no treatment of any kind.

On the following day I was allowed to make an
examination of some of the women.

(i) A girl, aged nineteen, from Taganrog, stated
that she was found in the house of a Nihilist. The
Nihilist got away before arrest, but she was
taken, though absolutely innocent, as a substitute.
No trial. Twenty years voilnoie poselenia in the


'Government of Irkutsk. Examined her and found
that she was suffering from cancer of the breast.
Nothing had been done for her.

(2) A woman, aged twenty-seven, from the city
of Moscow, wife of a lawyer. Her husband, in the
same prison, was sentenced to ten years voilnoie
poselenia for being in the possession of certain
books. Health, advanced pregnancy.

(3) Woman, aged twenty-two, stated that she was
found in the company of advanced thinkers. Sen-
tenced to ten years in the Government of Irkutsk.
I found that she was suffering from tetanus. Nothing
had been done for her. I advised that she should
be treated hypodermically with anti- tetanus serum,
morphine with atropine, &c.

(4) Woman, aged thirty-one, was arrested in
Odessa with her husband, who had made a " revolu-
tionary" speech. Sentenced to twenty years voilnoie
poselenia in the Government of Yenesei. On ex-
amination I found that she had lupus in an advanced
stage. She needed good, healthy air, and to be
treated with Rontgen rays, poor soul !

Such were a few of the cases that came under my
notice. I have no reason to think that there was
anything exceptional in the gang of prisoners to
which they belonged. It was just the normal treat-
ment of all prisoners consigned to Siberia, and it is
not therefore surprising that a large number of them
never reach their destinations.

In the year 1898 s. pai'tiaof 310 prisoners left the
Moscow prison for Siberia. Only seventy-two ar-
rived at their destination. Some were murdered by


their guards, some by infectious diseases, some by
starvation, and some because they wanted to be

And who is responsible for this appalling state of
affairs ?

Can you blame the doctors, ignorant as most of
them are ? Their ignorance is fostered by the Gro-
vernment, and their reports of the facts are used as
a weapon against them.

Can you blame the military escorts and the staff
of the prisons and halting-places on the route, brutal
and callous as they generally are ? Their conduct
towards the prisoners is but the outcome of their
training, and it is not called in question by their

The fireside philanthropist, who is charitably dis-
posed to all men, says that it is the fault of the
system, and nobody is to blame. But the system is
the Government, and the Government is the Tsar,
and the Tsar is the " Zembla Bogh." Here, as else-
where, the chain of responsibility is complete, and it
is easy to lay the blame on the right man.



After the inspection and examination of the wards
and prisoners I returned with Dr. Anatovitch to
the hotel. I invited him to my room to discuss
our two days' work, and he appeared glad of the
opportunity of talking frankly on a subject which
interested him so deeply.

He was very sad about the state of the prisoners.

" You see how helpless I am ! " he exclaimed. " I
can do nothing ! It will continue to be hopeless so
long as "

He checked himself Even to me he dared
not say what was in his mind. But I knew
Dr. Anatovitch well enough by this time to fear
nothing from him as regards my mission.

My heart was already directed towards Kras-
noiarsk. Yet I could not leave Tomsk before I
received instructions from Dimitri Stankevitch. I
felt as helpless as Anatovitch ; like him, I knew
what it was in my heart to do, and yet I could not
do it without breaking faith with Dimitri. I was
inwardly raging at my impotence ; and whilst my
thoughts were travelling to Krasnoiarsk and thence
to Balogansk, Dr. Anatovitch was helping himself
to tea from the samovar and lighting a cigarette.


" You English enjoy life," he said, dropping a
slice of lemon into his glass. " You travel wherever
it pleases you, and, when you are tired of travelling,
you marry and settle down to domestic bliss."

" Possibly," I answered, with discretion. " And
what do you Russians do ? "

" You know what our existence is well enough,"
he said bitterly. " In the last two days you have
seen how we travel, with chains and disease, and
we are permitted to settle down to domestic bliss —
in the Government of Irkutsk."

What I answered I cannot remember ; but a little
later he said that he seemed to have known me for
years, and asked if he might tell me his story.
I encouraged him to unburden himself, not out
of curiosity or civility but because I liked and
sympathised with him.

" My mother was a Mohammedan," he began, and
thus his strange " Christian " name was explained.
"She was a * lady-in-waiting ' to a certain Kniaz in
Moscow. I am the illegitimate son of the Kniaz.
My mother died when I was quite young. I had a
beggarly sort of education and my father neglected
me. However, he sent me to Moscow to study
medicine, and I worked night and day to save up
a little money to enable me to go to London for a
course in one of the hospitals there before I entered
the Service.

" After I returned I became an army doctor ; but
my father would still do nothing for me. He could
have procured my promotion if he had liked ; but he
considered that he had done his duty by giving me


a start in life, and he washed his hands of me. I
was not going to ask any favours of him, and so it
comes about that I have a hard struggle for life on
less than a hundred roubles a month, and every-
thing to find for myself. I have nothing to which
to look forward, and if I do my duty conscientiously
I am reprimanded by my superior officers. Can
you wonder that I am not a happy man ? Do
you blame me for envying you English, with your
education and liberty ? Do you realise that in this
country we are not allowed even to express an
opinion, and that I would not dare to say to any of
my own countrymen what I am saying to you now ?
It is the same with all of us : we have senses
and reasoning powers, and, therefore, we must
feel and think ; but, if we gave expression to our
thoughts, how many, even of the highest officials,
would retain their posts ? How many would
go where my friend Alexander Bogdanovitch is
going ? "

The mention of that name again set my pulses
beating faster. Why had Dr. Anatovitch referred
to him again ? And why did he speak of Kolka as
" my friend ? "

"You have mentioned Bogdanovitch 's name to me
twice," I said. " Is he, then, a friend of yours ? "

" Yes," he answered. " I know him and his family
very well. I regard Alexander as one of my best

" Then why did you not effect his rescue ? " I

Anatovitch leaned over the table towards me with


an eager expression in his eyes, and sank his voice
almost to a whisper.

" I tried to persuade him to escape," he said
hoarsely ; " I made every avenue clear for him, and
I offered him all the money I have in the world — it
only amounts to 3 lo roubles — but he would not listen
to me. He was afraid that I should get into trouble.
I could do no more than I have done."

And then I did a thing which I fear will meet
with the disapproval of my readers. I rose and
went across to him, and, laying my hands on his
shoulders, kissed him.

We are an unemotional race, and such exhibitions
of weakness shock our sense of decorum. I will only
urge in my defence that Tomsk is not Piccadilly,
and that the studied reserve of Belerravia is not de


rigueur in Siberia.

It was some moments before I could trust myself
to speak ; but at last I found my voice again.

"I have travelled 1 1 ,000 miles to release Alexander
Bogdanovitch," I said.

" You ! " Anatovitch exclaimed incredulously.

" He is more than a brother to me, and his father
treats me as his son," I explained.

Anatovitch unbuttoned his tunic, and from an
inside pocket produced a letter-case.

'* Bogdanovitch gave me this," he said, drawing a
carte-de-visite photograph from the case, " and told
me that it was a friend of his who would come for
him. If he came through Tomsk, and I recognised
him, I was to tell him to comfort his father and
sisters, and to warn him not to be reckless on his


account ; but that he would follow him when he

He handed the photograph to me with a puzzled
look. It was a picture of myself taken many years
before without a beard, and in English clothes —
quite unrecognisable.

" It is a photograph of me," I said, " though you
might not think so."

I was glad that Kolka expected me ; and this
extraordinary message from him gave me renewed
hope, and seemed to bring him closer. But I could
see that Anatovitch was sceptical, and I wanted to
convince him, for, apart from the fact that I liked
the man, I saw in him a valuable and willing ally.

And so I told him the whole story from the begin-
ning, up to the time when I appeared at the prison in
blue spectacles, to avoid startling Kolka, and dis-
carded them when I discovered that he was not
there. As a further argument that I was not an
impostor, I lifted up my ruhashka and unfastened
the belt which I wore beneath it. From one of the
pockets in it I produced a passport and a chorosho
povedenia made out to suit Kolka's figure and face,
even to the scar which I had placed there in a duel
at Heidelberg University many years before.

Dr. Anatovitch was convinced, even to the extent
of tracing a likeness in the photograph.

" How do you intend to rescue him ? " he asked.

" Look in the belt and you will see," I answered.

At the sight of so much money Anatovitch
became visibly excited.

" Boje moi ! " he exclaimed. " If the proprietor


of the hotel knew of this you would be murdered in

He went to the door and looked outside, to make
sure that nobody was listening. Then he closed it
again carefully and came back to his chair. I
buckled on the belt beneath my ruhashka, and for
some minutes neither of us spoke. Anatovitch was
evidently deep in thought.

" Destiny is in it," he exclaimed at length. " I
shall stand in with you my English friend, and take
the chances."

" Since we understand each other, and have the
same purpose in view," I said, " tell me what we
should do. I have friends helping me in the
matter, as I have told you ; but they are thousands
of miles from the base of operations, and we are on
the spot, and the time has come to act on our own

" Just at present," Anatovitch answered, " I am
not thinking of Alexander Bogdanovitch, but of you.
With all that money about you your life is in danger
here. You do not realise that there are men in this
country who will be murderers for fifty kopeks ; and
I am frankly anxious for the life of a man who
orders three bottles of imported champagne at a
sitting. You must do what I advise in this matter,
my friend, or there will be an untimely end to all
our schemes."

I told him that he need not trouble himself
about my safety, but find out some means to rescue

" We have been together quite long enough," he


answered. " We must go downstairs and see what
the Polkovnik is doing at the card-table. I will
think it over."

And so we quitted my room and went to the
restaurant. The Polkovnik was absorbed in his
play, and I noticed that he was a winner. We
showed ourselves for a few minutes in the room,
and then went out into the streets of Tomsk together,
and I walked with Anatovitch to his house.

" I am going to lend you one of my dentchiks" he
said, when we arrived at his quarters. " He will
mount guard over you and your roubles. I have
two of them, and I can quite well spare one for you.
You will greatly relieve my mind by accepting his
services. He is a trustworthy man from my own
country, and he has my orders to do whatever he
is told."

So that night, whilst I slept, the dentchik paraded
the passage outside my door, or sat by the closed
portal. I daresay Anatovitch was perfectly right,
and that the possession of so large a sum of money
constituted a personal danger ; but I cannot pretend
that the presence of the dentchik made any appreci-
able difference to my peace of mind; and the thought
that the unfortunate man was doing sentry-go out-
side my room all night made me quite uncomfort-

In the morning he brought me my samovar and
sacharais, and I dressed myself and went to the
post office to inquire if there were any letters for
rae. The clerk knew me, and it was not necessary
to produce my passport again ; but there was no


letter. And so I returned to the hotel, wondering
that Dimitri Stankevitch had sent no word since my
arrival in Tomsk.

At the hotel I found the dentchik cleaning my
boots with vigour, and seeming to enjoy the work.
There was something thorough and cheerful about
the man which was pleasing. I stopped to speak to
him, and asked his name.

" I am called Petrus, your Excellency," he replied,

standing to "attention" with a boot in either hand.

"Very well, Petrus," I said, "you are to stay

here with me for the present, and I will give orders

to the servants to look after you well."

His face expressed satisfaction with the arrange-
ment, and I have reason to believe that Petrus fared
sumptuously during his stay in the hotel in Tomsk.
I was expecting Anatovitch to come and see me,
and therefore I did not go out again. But the
morning wore on and he did not put in an appear-
ance. At last I fell asleep in my chair, and it was
past four o'clock when I awoke to a loud knocking
at the door.

Petrus entered in answer to my summons. He
reported that a very tall man of rough appearance
had come to see me. He had refused to state
his business or to say who he was. The dentchih
evidently regarded him as a suspicious personage,
and had warned him with threats not to approach
my door.

I could not imagine who the stranger could be ;
but I told Petrus to admit him, and to wait for
further orders.



He was a very tall man, with long muscular limbs
and an inscrutable face, which seemed vaguely-
familiar to me. He was travel-stained and unkempt^
but he held himself straight as an arrow, and saluted
with military precision when he entered the room.
From a leather wallet, slung with a strap across his
shoulder beneath his coat, he produced a large
envelope, and handed it to me in silence. The
moment I caught sight of the seals on the envelope
I knew from whom he had come, and I told Petrus
to take him to the restaurant and see that he was
given food and drink.

They both saluted and left the room. As they
retired I could hear Petrus explaining, that if he
had known that the stranger was acquainted with
his Excellency he would not have made any trouble
about admitting him. But the saturnine stranger
did not trouble to answer, nor to meet the friendly
overtures of Petrus in a like spirit. He was morosely

I closed the door behind them and broke the seals
of the letter. It was from Dimitri Stankevitch, and
the purport of it was this :

Greetings from his family circle. This communi-

IVAN 207

cation would be handed to me by his most trusted
servant, Ivan, whom I must have seen about his
home in Lithuania — probably with the children, to
whom he was a devoted and constant companion.
Ivan could be as tender as a child, but when there
was work to be done there was no man more com-
petent to do it — especially if it were work of a
dangerous nature. He had, therefore, instructed
Ivan to stay with me for so long as I remained
in the country, and to watch over and serve me to
the best of his ability. He went on to caution me
as to the dangerous character of the people amongst
whom I was now living, describing them as " cut-
throats and thieves." And he hoped that Ivan
would prove a protection to me. And then followed
a sentence which gave me much relief of mind. It
was to the effect that I need not further consult
him as to my plans for attaining my object ; and
that I must follow my own inclinations in future in
the matter. In conclusion he invoked the blessing of
Heaven on my enterprise — and there was no signature.

The letter of Dimitri Stankevitch cheered me not
a little. When a man is thousands of miles from his
friends, and in a land alone, there is a deal of

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Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 12 of 18)