Carl Joubert.

Russia as it really is online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 9 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to be a connoisseur of " methods of barbarism," and
a champion of the outraged Armenian, should go to
Russia or to his Armenian i^oteges to learn the real
meaning of the word " barbarism," and then return
home and a^iologise to the British army for applying
the term to the conduct of the war in South Africa.

He would find that his Armenian brothers,
together with the Koumanians, Servians, and Bul-
garians, are ruffians who have been schooled in the
science of murder from the cradle ; and that when
Turkey deals out justice to them, they shriek the
name of Christ to the civilised world and implore
her aid, crying : " Come over to Macedonia and
help us."

And because they shelter their crimes under the
cloak of Christianity the civilised world is appalled,
and falls into hysterics ; and implores Russia and
Austria to interfere and stop it.

I do not wish to associate myself with the methods
of the Turk, or to hold the Sultan up as a model of
what a ruler should be. But I would rather a
thousand times be a Turk or even a Hottentot than
a gentle Christian of Russia, Roumania, Bulgaria,
Servia, or Armenia.

The position of the civilised world, then, is this :
that the Armenians must be preserved even at the
cost of a European conflagration, because they are
Christians. But the Jews may be ruthlessly mas-
sacred, and left to their fate, because they are

That is the logical conclusion of the matter ; and
there is only one other admission possible, and that


is not a creditable one to the civilised world, namely:
that the nations are afraid of Russia. Those are
the only alternatives, and I leave it to the reader
to ponder over, and to decide for himself which is
the true one.

PART 111



The narrative which I am about to relate concerns
many people in Russia and in other parts of the
world, most of whom are alive, and I trust well, at
this moment. It is probable that if this book falls
into the hands of any of them, they will recog-
nise themselves under strange names, in strange
places, and at strange times. For this is a true
story ; and, therefore, out of consideration for those
who are my friends in Russia, and for those whose
assistance I obtained by other means than friendship,
I have suppressed all names of persons, changed the
names of towns and governments, and altered the
date of the occurrences. It is therefore impossible
that those who took part in the aifair can be com-
promised by the relation of it now.

My object in telling this story is not to pose as
the hero of it ; for, in fact, the credit is not due to
me, but to the almighty Russian rouble. It is, as I
have said, a true story and not fiction, and, therefore,


no hero is necessary. But I tell it because it is
a story with a moral, and moral tales are always
instructive however unpalatable.

The moral is this : that if you have an object in
view in Russia, you can always attain to it, however
impossible it may appear, by the help of the rouble.
There is another moral which I recommend to the
notice of the relations and friends of those who are
involuntary residents in Siberia and Vladikavkas,
and it is this : that any man who is undergoing a
sentence of penal servitude in Siberia or Vladikavkas
can be liberated with outside help and a sufficiency
of roubles.

The story has also a moral for the Tsar himself,
namely : that there is a poAver in Kussia above the
" God on Earth," and it takes the form of a sub-
stantial silver coin.

In the year 1896 I was returning from Vera Cruz,
Mexico, and arrived in San Francisco in March. At
the Palace Hotel, where I had rooms, I found a
bundle of letters, which had accumulated for three
weeks past, awaiting me. Among the letters was a
cablegram marked via Eydtkuhnen. I tore it open
and read : " If possible come earlier to St. Petersburg,
Kolka in trouble."

There was no signature and the cablegram was
dated February 24. I knew well enough who the
sender was ; but the fact that the cablegram had
been awaiting my arrival for a fortnight caused me
considerable uneasiness. I went hastily through
the bundle of letters, in the hope of finding one
from the sender of the message, which would


throw more light on the subject ; but there was

It had been my intention to start for Russia, on
a visit to some friends in St. Petersburg and Kasan,
later in the spring ; but that cablegram decided me
to start forthwith, and I made arrangements for an
immediate departure.

I left San Francisco by the midnight express the
same evening, and on the third day arrived at the
Windy City — Chicago. There I determined to stay
for a day, for there was a man in Chicago whom I
wanted to see. I found him at the Iroquois Club.
I told him that I was on my way to St. Petersburg,
and asked If he could give me letters of Introduction
to certain medical officers In high official positions
there. It is always well to go to a foreign country
well furnished with Introductions, and in the present
instance I thought it very possible that I should
require all the Influence I could get.

My friend readily assented ; and I left Chicago,
early the following morning, with his letters In my

At Washington I again broke my journey. I
had friends there, too, who had influence in Russia,
and from them I received an Important letter of
introduction to a high official in Odessa. The next
day I arrived in New York, and secured a berth In
the White Star liner Germanic, which was due to
sail in a few days time.

I thought that voyage across the Atlantic would
never end. The enforced inactivity of life on board
ship was exasperating. A voice from out of Russia


had called me, to I knew not what. But the call
was imperative and I longed to be there. The great,
green waves of the Atlantic rose like huge walls in
endless succession to bar the way ; and the good
ship Germanic climbed them conscientiously and
steadily, gathering her strength on the downward
dip to struggle up the vast incline beyond.

The captain was an old friend of mine, and my
seat at table was next to his ; but I am afraid he
found me very dull company during that trip.
" Come earlier — Kolka in trouble." I could only
speculate on the real meaning of the words ; but my
speculations absorbed me to the exclusion of all
other subjects.

On the ninth day we arrived at Liverpool, and I
started at once for London. It was a relief to be
active again. So long as I could " hustle around,"
getting my passport and letters of introduction, and
making final arrangements for my expedition, I was
happy. In three days I had my passport and every-
thing in readiness ; and after sending three tele-
grams, one to St. Petersburg, one to Moscow, and a
third to Vyatka, I left London to travel via Berlin
and Eydtkuhnen to St. Petersburg.

At the Russian frontier the spirit of the country
in which I had spent so many years of my life came
back to me. The official who inspected my passport
found a five-rouble note pinned to the back of it ;
and, in consequence, my luggage was passed through
the custom house unopened, and I was allowed to
proceed on my journey unmolested. The next day
I reached St. Petersburg.


M. Renault, of the Hotel de France, welcomed me
with effusion. He had received my telegram and
was awaiting me in my room.

I had scarcely sat down when I was interrupted
by the sound of voices in the passage without.
The porter was firm, he would not admit any one to
the Bareen's room without first giving notice of his

" Wait here, your High-born, until I have taken
your card to the Bareen."

The visitor declined to wait, but he was evidently
in the dilemma of not knowing which room to enter.
At this juncture I opened the door of my room and
came out into the passage.

In a moment I was seized in the embrace of the
visitor. His hands, like a great bear's paws, hugged
my shoulders ; he kissed me on both cheeks, and his
venerable grey beard swept against my face ; he
talked and laughed and cried in the same breath.
The porter looked on in amazement, and then dis-
creetly withdrew. But still the old man held me in
his arms, as though he would assure himself that it
was in very truth Carl Joubert who stood before

At last I led him into my room, still clinging to
my arm.

" So you have come — you have really come ! " he

" I should have been here a fortnight ago," I said,
" if I had received your cablegi'am earlier. But I
was away fi^om San Francisco when it arrived."

Then I told him of my journey across two


continents and the Atlantic. I showed him the cable-
gram stamped with the date that I received it from
the Palace Hotel. I explained to him how it had
been delayed at Los Angelos, California, to which
address he had originally directed it. In fact, I
made every imaginable excuse for the tardiness of
my arrival. I would not have him think that for
one moment I had hesitated to respond to his call,
" Come earlier — Kolka in trouble."

He heard me to the end without a word, sitting
bolt upright on the edge of his chair, grasping his
knees in his great, strong hands, and looking into
my face with a half-dazed expression in his eyes, as
though he could not realise that I had come. Then,
all at once, he learned back in his chair, and his
limbs relaxed, and he began to cry like a child.

I could see the tears rolling from his grey beard
like drops of dew in spite of the big hands that
covered his face. How the veins stood out on the
backs of those hands ! And between the gusts of
tears he cried pitifully : " Kolka — my poor Kolka ! "



But the impatient reader, who hates mysteries at
the outset of a story, Is no doubt anxiously de-
manding "who Is Kolka? What Is his trouble?
What has the old man to do with It ? And what
business Is It at all of the author of this book ? "

Then let me explain.

Maximov Bogdanovltch, whom we left overcome by
his feelings In the Hotel de France, St. Petersburg,
Is known as a great doctor of medicine. His experi-
ence stretches over a period of forty years. He has
taken many degrees, among others M.D. of London,
and he Is a Fellow of the Royal Society. In his
younger days he was a great traveller. But for the last
thirty years he has seldom left his estate In Vyatka,
and has not journeyed beyond the borders of Russia.
His estate Is large, but his Income Is by no means
commensurate with It. He could have become
rich. If he had desired it, by the practice of medi-
cine ; but for the last forty years he has not
made a kopek from his practice, for reasons of his
own. He treats all comers free of charge, be they
Christians, Jews, Tartars, or Mahommedans. He
has been excommunicated from the Greek Church ;
and when he Is not attending to his patients he Is


engaged with his microscope or in the study of

His family consists of three daughters and one
son. One of his daughters is married to a doctor
who has a good practice at Mentone. The other
two are unmarried and live at home. The two un-
married daughters guard their father with a jealous
care. They keep house for him, and will allow no
servant to wait upon him, preferring to attend to
all his wants themselves. They are well educated
girls, and very musical, and as charming as they are
accomplished. The son's name is Alexander ; but
he is always called " Kolka." At the time of which
I speak he was thirty-four years old.

So much for Dr. Bogdanovitch and Kolka. It
remains to be explained how I became an intimate
in their household.

In my student days I met Kolka at the University
of Heidelberg. We were both studying medicine ;
and I was first attracted to him by his fine qualities.
He was a great lover of nature ; he was absolutely
unselfish ; he would never take advantage of a
weaker fellow student ; he was good-natured to the
point of carelessness ; he was clever at his work,
and he had a respect and love for the memory of
his mother, who was dead, which was very touching.

We became friends, and he would often talk to
me without reserve about his mother. She would
have wished him to do this ; he had promised her
never to do that. He shaped his life on the influ-
ence which she had left behind her. If I advised
a certain course of action, he would pause before


adopting it, and I knew what was passing in his mind.
Then, when he declared quite frankly that he did
not approve of my suggestion I felt reproved, though
there was never a thought of reproof in his mind,
nor a word to show that he resented my proposal.

His ambition was to become a doctor, like his
father, and to treat all his patients gratuitously. Bat
he dreaded Russia and the idea of succeeding his
father to the estates in Vyatka.

" Do you think that I should be allowed to set up
a free practice in your land of Johnny Bull ? " he
would ask me sometimes. He always called England
" The land of Johnny Bull." It was a mild form of
wit perhaps ; but there was not a particle of malice
in it.

In the vacations I would invite him to my home
in England. Sometimes he came. Then the old
doctor would write me charming letters, and express
the hope that I would some day pay him a visit
in Vyatka.

Kolka was beloved of all who met him. His very
diflfidence was attractive, more especially to the
weaker sex, in whose presence he would be covered
with confusion.

But this is hardly fair to you, Kolka — is it ? I
have started to tell your story without your per-
mission ; and the least I can do is to spare your
blushes. So I will leave your many good qualities
alone, and go on with the narrative.

The first time that I visited Dr. Bogdanovitch's
home in Vyatka a great friendship sprang up be-
tween the whole family and myself. I was made to


understand that I was to look upon the house and
the inmates as my own home and people. When
Kolka and I left Vyatka to return to Heidelberg it
was a sad day for us all. But that was only the
first of many visits to Vyatka.

After we had both taken our degrees at the
university, Kolka went to Moscow to practise medi-
cine ; and I wandered over Kussia, visiting every
part of the vast Empire, and studying the manners
and customs of her peoples. In the course of my
wanderings I often found myself back in Vyatka.
And the intimacy which had begun in my student
days was continued during the whole nine years
that I spent in Russia.

Then I determined to go home again for a time.
But I had acquired a roving disposition and I did
not remain at home for very long. There are other
countries in the world besides England and Russia,
and I wanted to see them and find out something:
about them for myself So I left my home and
travelled for several years in the American conti-
nent. And during all my wanderings I kept up a
correspondence with the Bogdanovitches in Vyatka.

And this brings me up to the day when I
received the cablegram at the Palace Hotel, San

When the old doctor had recovered his self-
possession in my room at the Hotel de France, I
asked him anxiously about Kolka. What had he
done ? And what had become of him ?

The old man told me the whole story.

Kolka was practising in Moscow, where he had


made himself unpopular with the authorities by
constantly bringing to their notice the fact that the
restrictions of the benefits of medical science, which
were imposed on the Jews, were a scandal and
a disgrace to civilisation. When the authorities
ignored his communications he wrote openly on the
subject. That was too much for the authorities
with whom he was already unpopular, not only on
account of his views but also because his father
was an excommunicant from the Church.

Then a riot broke out among the students at the
university, and the authorities saw their oppor-
tunity. Kolka was charged with instigating the
students to riot. The rest, of course, was easy for
the authorities, and Kolka was sentenced to five
years' penal servitude in Siberia.

The fate of Kolka has been the fate of thousands
and thousands of innocent men in Russia. But it
is only when the iniquity of the sentence is brought
home to us by the infliction of it on those who are
dear to us that we experience the full measure of
indignation and impotent wrath against the system
of government which makes such outrages possible.
To grind the teeth and swear oaths of vengeance,
to clench the hands until the nails cut into the flesh
of the palms and curse the Tsar, to weep copious
tears and cry aloud for mercy — all are in vain.
Nothing can assuage our burning sense of injustice
or lift one link of the chain that drags upon the
limbs of our beloved one.

Oh, the bitterness and gall of man's injustice !
Let God in his mercy afflict us with misfortune and


pain ; but God send that we fall not into the burning
pit of human injustice.

As I looked at the bowed head of the venerable
old man before me, who in faltering words told the
story of his son's persecution and banishment, I de-
termined that it was impossible to sit down meekly
under the lash of the " God on Earth." It was not
to be thought of ; something must be done.

So when Dr. Bogdanovitch asked me to return
with him to Vyatka I gave him at once to under-
stand that I had not come to Kussia on this occa-
sion to pay visits, for I had important business on
hand to which I must immediately attend.

He looked at me narrowly, and I could see that
he understood what I meant, though he said

" And now, doctor," I said, " you must go home
to Vyatka, and give my kindest remembrances to
your daughters. Tell them I am in Kussia for the
purposes of pathological research. You must expect
no letters from me, and I cannot give you any fixed
address to which to write. But you may expect me
when you see me."

He kissed me and implored me to be careful, and
we parted, he to his home in Vyatka and I back
to my room in the Hotel de France.



I RANG the bell and told the waiter to bring me a
samovar. There is something companionable and
friendly about a Russian samovar. He sits on the
table in front of you buzzing and fuming good-
naturedly ; and as you watch the steam pouring
from the air holes and vanishing into space, and
listen to the varied assortment of noises with which
he enlivens the tedium of his work, you gain confi-
dence in his abilities and look to him for counsel ;
and he will help you to think.

Therefore, after I had said farewell to the old
doctor, I drew up a comfortable chair and sat down
to consult my trusty friend the samovar.

The first thing he told me was that I was engaged
on a dangerous venture, and that I would do well to
bear in mind my old friend's warning to be careful.
He reminded me of this with a great deal of un-
necessary groaning and bubbling. I informed him
that it was quite superfluous to gird at me on that
point, and if he had nothing more practical to suggest
that he had better look sharp and boil, and have
done with it. Then, he suddenly pitched his note
higher and came to business :

" What's your name ? " he asked.


I thought before replying. It would be as well to
change my name perhaps ; so I answered him :

" My name is Denman."

" I suppose it is on your passport," said the

Here was a dijficulty ; for my passport bore the
name of Joubert, and it would be quite impossible
for me to persuade the British or the American
Ambassador to make me out a fresh j)assport in the
name of Denman, I was known to both of them as

The samovar' saw that he had scored a point, and
laughed until his lid clattered.

" If you are going to change your name," he said
at last, *' why not change your nationality at the
same time ? What is to prevent you from becoming
a Russian ? "

" But the Russian must have a passport just the
same," I objected.

" I should have thought," said the samovar, with
a disdainful hiss, " that you had lived long enough
in Russia to know that any Russian can obtain a
passport on payment. That friend of yours on the
Lithuanian border could arrange that for you."

" Very well, then," I answered, " my name is

The samovar chuckled uproariously.

" And how are you going to get money from the
banks ? The cashiers will never allow Denmanovitch
to draw on Carl Joubert's account ; and without
money you can do nothing in this country."

That samovar is a level-headed fellow. What he


said was perfectly true. My letter of credit was for
10,000 roubles, and I had already spent nearly a
thousand. I should want more money, and I must
get it all in notes, and carry it about with me.

"I shall send a telegram to London at once," I said,
"telling my bankers to wire me back 40,000 roubles."

" Now you are talking ! " exclaimed the samovar.
With that he relapsed into a tranquil silence, and
I knew that my tea was ready.

The same evening I went out and sent the tele-
gram. Then I walked from one shop to another in
St. Petersburg to find some receptacle in which to
carry my money. An ingenious tradesman in Mala
Marskaja designed a belt for me. It was four inches
wide and lined with fine kid leather ; it was divided
into pockets, and a flap covered the openings of the
pockets, and was fastened with small buttons at the
bottom of the belt. In this belt I calculated that I
should be able to carry my 50,000 roubles in small
notes. I promised the tradesman a substantial bonus
if he would undertake to deliver the belt to me on the
following day ; and I left his shop with the title of
Grand Duke, and returned to the Hotel de France.

At the hotel I found several friends, English and
American, waiting for me. They had seen my name
in the list of arrivals at St. Petersburg hotels in the
Paris edition of the New York Herald. That I had
come to Kussia in the month of April seemed a
matter for surprise.

" Well," said an American, " for what have you
come to this God-forsaken country at this season ? "

" My dear friend," I answered, " you are surely


mistaken. Russia is not God-forsaken — she is Holy

I invited them all to supper with me at the hotel,
and it was late when we parted. I could not help
wondering what their opinion of me would have
been had they known the thoughts which were in
my head. I think they would have kept me a
prisoner in my room and wired to my people in
England to come at once, bringing a strait-waistcoat
with them.

On the following afternoon, at about three o'clock,
I once more returned to the hotel and locked myself
into my room and hung a hat over the keyhole.
Then I opened a thick bundle of notes, and counted
out 49,000 roubles in all kinds and values and in
every shade of colour, engraved with portraits of the
rulers of Russia from Catherine to Alexander III,
These I deposited in the safe of the proprietor of the
hotel pending the arrival of the belt from the Mala
Marskaja, and went out again. At a druggist's
shop I completed my medicine chest, and bought
several hundred pathological glass slides and some
spare lenses for my microscope. There was no diffi-
culty about supplying as much pure morphine and
prussic acid as I required, and I completed my
outfit with forceps and other surgical appliances.

The next day I left St. Petersburg and took the
train for a certain town on the Lithuanian border,
which shall be nameless. I will only so far indicate
its position by stating that the journey occupied
two days in a train, which was abominably slow for
the last 200 miles of the journey.


And once more I was seated in front of a samovar
in a hotel sitting-room, but I did not seek its advice.
I was waiting for a certain friend of mine, an
Ispravnik (district chief of poHce), a man whom
I had known for many years and wdth whom I was
on the terms of the greatest intimacy.

Presently I heard the clank of his sword on the
stairs, and in another moment he held me in his
embrace, kissing me on both cheeks, as is the
custom of his country. There were many questions
to be asked and answered concerning the health

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 9 of 18)