Constance Charlotte Elisa Lennox Russell.

The rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance online

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Circassian chief and warrior-prophet was born in 1797 at Himri
in Daghestan, one of the wildest spots of the Caucasus. Of lowly
Tartar extraction, he was for a long time only one of the
Murides, or bodyguards, of the Imam Hamsed Bey, but after
the assassination of the latter he was elected to succeed him ; and
then began that career which gave him a world-wide renown.


The Captive Princesses

He managed to keep in check the best of the Russian generals,
and his passionate love for his native home and freedom gained
him the sympathy of all Europe. He was equally distinguished
as a legislator and as a. warrior, and was considered in the light
of a Prophet. It was said, " Mahomet is the first prophet of
Allah ; Schamyl is the second." A poet wrote of him, " He has
lightning in his eyes and flowers on his lips." In 1839 came
the greatest blow he ever received ; the fortress of Achulgo, or
Akhoulgo, which then was his home, was besieged by the
Russian General Grabbe, and he was driven out. He managed to
escape to Dargi-Vedenno, but his eldest son, Djemmal-Eddin,^
was taken prisoner and conveyed to St. Petersburg. Schamyl
offered ransom and prisoners in exchange for the boy, but in
vain. The Emperor Nicholas refused to give him up. Schamyl's
despair was great, and the child's mother, Patimate, died, it was
said, of grief in consequence. The Emperor had the young
Circassian brought up as a Prince, and he was given the best
possible education. In time he became Nicholas's aide-de-camp
and Colonel of a regiment, and was to all intents and purposes
a thorough Russian. He forgot his mother tongue, but spoke
French and German fluently. He went much into society,
where he was generally liked. This brings him up to the
time of our story, but we shall have more to say of him
later on.

We left the unfortunate captives as they thought at the
end of their terrible journey, for they had reached the fortress
of Pokhalsky, where Schamyl was staying. Shortly after their
arrival he sent some one to Princess Anna to say that he wished
to speak to her.

"Let him come, then. I shall not go to him."

1 Or"Jamala'd-din."

The Captive Princesses

" But he is Imam," said the messenger.

*' And I am Princess," replied the prisoner.

When Schamyl heard this he said, " Very well, take them
on to Veden ; 1 will see them there."

Whether he thought, by still further torturing them, that he
would break their spirit we know not, but the poor captives had
to recommence their painful march, and go on farther into the
fastnesses of the mountains of Daghestan, a journey which took
them, including stoppages, twenty more days. Before starting
the Princesses begged for some clothes, and they were given a
large bundle, one of many stacked in Schamyl's tent — no
doubt plunder from his enemies. In it they found a most weird
assortment, but they v/ere thankful for any covering. They
speedily divided the garments, those falling to Madame
Dran9ay's share being a coachman's old suit ! During this
second half of their wanderings the captives continued to
undergo every sort of trial and exposure. They had often to
proceed on foot, the route being impracticable on horseback, and
constantly got drenched to the skin, as when they ascended the
high mountains they had to pass though unmelted avalanches,
often sinking in the snow. This gave Princess Anna ague and
her sister fever. At other times the heat was intense, which
was most distressing to the weakened captives. When they
stopped for rest in the aouls, or villages, it was even worse,
as they were generally all packed with their servants into one
low room with a suffocating stench and infested with vermin,
and the only food they got was usually such as they could not
eat. The marvel is how they survived such various trials and
privations. At last in one of the aouh they came to they
met with a Good Samaritan in the shape of a "Moulla" (or
Elder of a village), who told Princess Orbeliani that he had

129 I

The Captive Princesses

been a prisoner in Russia, and was exchanged for her husband,
and in consequence he now had obtained permission from
Schamyl to conduct them the remainder of the way to Veden,
and this good man was always trying to do little things to
ameliorate their hardships, and got them some better food.
Finally, they reached one of the largest aouls in the country,
where they stayed two weeks, and where they got some rest, the
first since they had been carried off. To their great delight
they managed to secure a piece of soap in exchange for some
beads. The kind MouUa also got them some red leather to
make themselves shoes, which they had been without hitherto.
They were at a loss how to make them, but Princess Nina
Baratoff, hearing that a Checknian lady in the aoul would be
able to help them in this respect, went off to see her. She
found her gorgeously attired, sitting in a room surrounded by
plates and dishes taken from Tsenondahl ! She made no
remark about this, but only begged for needles and thread and
some instruction in shoe-making — all of which she got, and
the Princesses succeeded in making themselves wearable though
rather clumsy foot-gear.

The last stage of their journey was through marvellously
beautiful country ; their road lay through lovely gardens, and
they came to a mountain covered from the summit to the base
with the most enchanting verdure and magnificent flowers, the
like of which the Princesses had never beheld even in hot-
houses. Wearied and exhausted as they were, they could not
help making exclamations of wonder and admiration.

At last they reached Dargi-Vedenno, or Veden as it is often
called, when the Princesses and little Tamdra were at once con-
ducted to the Seraglio — that is to say, the inner court, or the part

of the Mussulman's house in which the family reside. Here


The Captive Princesses

they were immediately surrounded by a pack of women, includ-
ing Schamyl's three wives. Zaidette, the first wife, who was
directly descended from Mahomet, appeared to be about twenty-
four ; she was of Tartar origin, and not at all pretty, and had
a sly, malicious smile, a true index to her nature, as our captives
found to their cost. Shouanette, the second wife, was an
Armenian, who had been taken captive, but who adored Schamyl,
past thirty but good-looking, and had a very kind expression ;
the Princesses took to her at once and they never altered their
opinion. They received nothing but kindness and warm affec-
tion from her. The third wife, Aminette, was only seventeen
years old and most attractive, but was quite kept in the back-
ground. She told them that she hated Zaidette and loved
Shouanette. The first and second of the wives brought the
Princesses various refreshments, which, as can well be imagined,
they were most thankful to get. Tea, white bread, honey,
cheese, and to their amazement some delicious sweetmeats,
which they knew were only to be had from one French con-
fectioner in Tiflis. The next evening they were informed that
Schamyl was about to pay them a visit, and soon after he
appeared, but did not cross the threshold of their room, and
was provided with a stool at the open door. Schamyl was at
this time fifty-six years of age, and although he was only of
medium height, he had a wonderful look of strength and dignity.
The conversation, which took place through an interpreter, began
by inquiries after their health, which must to them have
savoured of irony, and he added —

" I am astonished at your having all arrived in safety, and
I can see in that a promise that God will now grant me the
wish I have so long cherished, that of redeeming my son who
is with the Russians. I have now come to tell you that no


The Captive Princesses

harm will come to you here, and that you will be treated like
the members of my own family, on one condition — that you
neither write nor receive letters without my permission. If
you attempt to carry on any secret correspondence with your
relations, or if they offend in a similar manner on their side,
then I will kill you all and your children, as 1 did ten Russian
officers, who were prisoners here, and received a letter baked
in a loaf. Remember, too, the young Russian Countess at
Stavropol, who was on the point of being married when she
was taken by my men. That girl could have been ransomed
long ago, but she presumed to set me at defiance, and I would
not listen to any of her relations' offers of ransom."

Princess Tchavtchavadze was so angry at the tone of
Schamyl's speech that she would not answer, but her sister
said —

" You need not threaten us. Our position and our educa-
tion forbid us to break our word."

This finished the interview. The next day was passed in
introductions. Schamyl's three little daughters came to see
them, Napicette, Patimate, and Najabal ; and also his three
mothers-in-law, who appeared to be relegated to the cooking
department. Then there was a Tartar governess and many
others of secondary importance, including a number of very
young girls, some being captives, who, when they reached the
age of sixteen, were given by Schamyl to those of his officers
whom he wished to please.

After a few weeks of unbroken and tiresome monotony

the Princesses were greatly excited by receiving a parcel from

Kahetia containing articles of clothing as well as boots and

shoes, combs, soap, and other necessaries, and with these things

was enclosed a copy of " The Imitation of Christ," which gave


The Captive Princesses

them the greatest satisfaction. Meanwhile, though some of
their troubles had ceased, our captives were not lying on a bed
of roses, even though Schamyl had given orders that they were
to be well treated. The small room, which at first was shared
by the whole family and all their servants, was only lit by one
unglazed window not two feet square, and the smell and smoke
from the dung fire was so insupportable that they were obliged
to leave the door open, which caused a terrible draught.
Princess Orbeliani was consequently attacked with inflammation
of the eyes, and she ultimately lost the sight of one of them.
Their food was very scanty, especially when Schamyl was away
and Zaidette ruled, and Princess Orbeliani also contracted a
disease of the digestive organs from which she died many
years after.

Only once during their eight months' captivity were they
allowed to see any one from the outer world, and that only
for ten minutes. One of the Tchavtchavadze serfs brought
Princess Anna a message from her husband, saying that he was
well and hoped for news of her. When this messenger returned
to Prince David, he told his master that he should not have
recognised the Princess, so pale and altered had she become, and
she had lost nearly all her beautiful luxuriant hair. Meanwhile
negotiations were always going on between Prince David and
Schamyl concerning the amount of the ransom to be paid. The
former had offered ;/,40,ooo roubles silver, but Schamvl asked
for a million besides the restitution of his son and other
prisoners, amounting to one hundred and seventeen in all.
Many letters passed between them : Schamyl would not give in,
and at one time he threatened to break off all negotiations
and to divide the prisoners amongst his naibs ! This state
of affairs went on for months, and the poor captive Princesses


The Captive Princesses

were beginning to despair, their troubles being aggravated by
the mutiny of most of their servants, who complained that
sufficient steps were not being taken for their release.

It is time now to go back to Djemmal-Eddin, Schamyl's
eldest son, who was the innocent cause of the raid on
Tsenondahl, We have said how, taken prisoner as a child by
the Russians, he had become one of them, and was a favoured
member of the Court society of St. Petersburg. For sixteen
years his father had been trying to get him back, but without
success ; and now that Schamyl had these Princesses of high
descent and position in his power, he determined not to let them
go unless he received back his son in exchange, as well as a large
ransom. After months of negotiations the Emperor Nicholas
sent one day for his Caucasian aide-de-camp, and said to him in
a very grave manner :

" Djemmal-Eddin, you are free to accept or refuse the pro-
position which I have to make. I do not wish in any way
to influence you, but I think, if you accept, you will be
doing something worthy of you. Two Princesses of Georgia,
Princess Tchavtchavadze and Princess Orbelidni, have been made
prisoners by your father, who says he will not give them up
unless you return to him. If you say yes, they will be free ; if
you say no, they will remain prisoners for ever. Do not answer
me in a hurry : I will give you three days to think it over."

The young man smiled sadly.

"Sire," said he, "it does not take three days to teach the
son of Schamyl and the servant of the Emperor Nicholas what
he ought to do ; Caucasian by birth, I am a Russian at heart —
I shall die in the mountains where nothing will be in harmony
with the education I have received, but I shall die thinking
that I have accomplished a duty. The three days that your


The Captive Princesses

Majesty gives me will not be required for my decision, but
for my farewells. From this moment 1 am at your Majesty's
disposition, and will start when I am ordered."

Without a complaint this noble young man gave up his
life, his friends, his lady-love — for it was said he had fixed his
affections upon a fair Russian — and hastened his departure,
being accompanied by Prince Tchavtchavadze, who was at St.
Petersburg arranging about the ransom.

In consequence of the self-sacrifice of Djemmal-Eddin, on
March 5, 1855, the Princesses were informed that they were
free, just eight months after they were taken captive. When
the day came for their departure Shouanette and Aminette were
plunged in grief, and their leave-taking was most affecting.
Zaidette sent to ask them if they would like to buy back any of
the spoil taken from Tsenondahl ; but when they saw the things,
they were so battered and broken that they declined to deal.
Amongst them were the fragments of a magnificent diamond
bouquet which had been given by the great Empress Catherine
to Prince David's grandmother, and which was quite a work
of art.

The exchange of prisoners was to take place, by Schamyl's
wish, on the borders of the river Mitcnik, which divided his
forests from the Russian territory, and the meeting was to be
under a certain tree fixed upon by him. His second son was to
conduct the Princesses at the head of a large escort, who with
their family and servants made a party of twenty-two. For
their conveyance four arbas^ vehicles with four wheels, were
made such as had never before been seen in Checkni. Later
on the cavalcade was joined by Schamyl himself in the midst of
his " Murids." The two parties arrived almost simultaneously,
when the brothers dismounted and threw themselves into each

The Captive Princesses

other's arms, all the Murids crying, "Allah, il Allah." The
Princesses, when the Russian regiments came in view, got into
a state of indescribable agitation, and descending from their
carriages began to pray before they were conducted to Prince
David. Meanwhile the cases containing the 40,000 roubles
were passed to the Murids. Schamyl's people had been induced
to abate their demand through the intervention of a hermit who
was held in great awe by them. Djemmal-Eddin was then pre-
sented to the Princesses, who thanked him as their liberator ;
he had an affectionate parting with General Nicola'i and, shedding
the last tears for Russia that were permitted him, withdrew, and
after relinquishing his Russian uniform put on the costume of
his race, and mounting a beautiful black horse caparisoned in
scarlet disappeared with his newly-found brother and proceeded
to meet Schamyl. When they met, Djemmal-Eddin dismounted
and was received in the arms of his father, who was much
affected, tears flowing in streams down his face and beard.

The Princesses on their return journey insisted on attending
a thanksgiving service in the church of the fortress of Kourinsk,
and received the Holy Sacrament there, and again when they
reached Tiflis, before going to their house, they stopped at the
church for prayer.

The rejoicings throughout Georgia and especially in Tiflis

at the deliverance of the Princesses was very remarkable. The

whole party remained at the latter place for more than a month

to recruit their health, which had been so cruelly tried — in several

cases beyond recovery. The Georgian servants, excepting one

nurse who had been carried off during their march and whose

whereabouts they had failed to trace, all returned to Tsenondahl,

and the Princesses with their children started off for Moscow to

see their mother, Anastasia, Princess of Georgia, who lived there,


The Captive Princesses

and who had suffered greatly from anxiety on their account.
They then went on to St. Petersburg, where they were eager to
assure the Emperor personally of their deep gratitude. He,
however, died before they got there, and Princess Orbeliani
wrote to his successor, the Emperor Alexander, who answered
her letter in the following manner : —

"Princess Varvara Elinichna, — Your expressions of
gratitude to my ever-memorable parent have deeply affected me.
The liberation from captivity of yourself and family was the
object of his earnest wishes ; but it did not please God to fulfil
them until after his death. Consoled by the thought that the
measures indicated by him had the desired result, it gives me
great pleasure to assure you of the sincere joy with which I
heard of your return from the mountains. In the hope that the
Most High will reward you for all the difficult trials you have
suffered by developing in your son those lofty qualities which
distinguish the noblemen of Georgia, I remain for ever, your
well-disposed, Alexander."

Madame Dran9ay accompanied the Princesses as far as St.
Petersburg, and then went on to Paris, having, as can well be
understood, no wish to return to the Caucasus. She did not
live very long, and died of a disease contracted during her
captivity. She did, however, live long enough to commit to
paper her experiences, from which many of the details of this
account are taken.

Poor Djemmal-Eddin renounced civilisation with deep regret,
but gave in to all his father's wishes, even to the agreement that
he should only write very occasionally to his friends, and that
his letters should not be long, and that he should see no Russian
books or newspapers. He made a journey of inspection round
all the territory over which Schamyl reigned ; and on his return


The Captive Princesses

to Dargi-Vedenno he married the wife chosen for him, the
daughter of Talgik, a celebrated naib. Djemmal-Eddin refused
to interfere in military affairs, but occupied himself with the
superintendence of the administrative and judicial proceedings.
The sole amusement which he could enter into was the chase.
It was most pathetic how he strove to do his duty as Schamyl's
son, but all his surroundings were so distasteful to him, and the
longings for his former life were so strong in him, that he could
not fight against them, and he gradually sank, into a sort of decline.
In the month of February 1858 Colonel Prince Minsky,
commanding a regiment at Kasafiourte, was told a man from
the mountains wished to see him. On being introduced, he said
he came from Schamyl, whose son was attacked by an illness
which the Tartar doctors did not understand, and he prayed for
some advice from a European doctor. Prince Minsky sent for
the doctor of the regiment, who, on hearing the symptoms
of Djemmal-Eddin, prescribed and prepared medicines for him,
which the messenger took back. Four months later the man
reappeared ; Djemmal-Eddin was rapidly getting worse, and
Schamyl begged that the doctor might come and see him, which
he accordingly did, leaving three na'ibs as hostages ! After an
arduous and dangerous journey the doctor arrived at the aoul,
where he was conducted to the house of the invalid. He
found him in a poor room with very little furniture, and lighted
by one tallow candle. He was no longer able to leave his bed,
and the doctor, after staying three days, left feeling certain that
nothing could save him. He saw that the malady was as much
moral, so to say, as physical, and that Djemmal-Eddin had not
the slightest wish to recover. His life had been for the last
three years a living death. He did not, however, make a com-
plaint of any kind, and was patient and resigned. Three


The Captive Princesses

months later he was dead, and this sad episode, as far as he was
concerned, was closed for ever.

His poor father was plunged in grief, but probably never
realised that he had practically killed him. It was remarked that
Schamyl never had any successes after his son's death, and only a
year after, the Russian general, Bariatinsky, managed, by placing
a cordon round the mountains, to trap the old chieftain, who was
taken at Gounib. His life was spared, and he was conveyed to St.
Petersburg. The Emperor Alexander granted him a pension for
himself and his family, and a residence at Kief. He was admitted
into the highest society, and our King Edward saw him at the
Court of St. Petersburg. It is said that, at one of the Emperor's
entertainments, he was so struck with the appearance of the
Russian ladies, that he exclaimed, " I was far from expecting to
find Mahomet's Paradise on earth." Schamyl did not long sur-
vive his fall ; he asked permission to go to Mecca, which was
granted, and he died at Medina in 1871.

The two principal characters of this episode are now both
dead. Princess Orbeliani, who was beloved by all who knew
her, and who was a most delightful creature in every way, died
at Cannes in 1883, tenderly nursed at the last by her brother,
Prince Nicholas of Georgia, by Mademoiselle Demidoff, and by

her English friend, Lady H . Her only son. Prince George,

the infant who so nearly succumbed during the raid, and
who was now in the Imperial Guard, started off with his cousin.
Princess Nina Baratoff, as soon as he heard of his mother's
danger, but did not arrive in time to see her alive. The funeral
took place at Nice, but ten days after the remains of Varvara,
Princess of Georgia, was taken to her native country, where
they were laid at Mtzkhetha, beside the tombs of the kings
who were her ancestors.


The Captive Princesses

Princess Anna Tchavtchavadz6 survived her sister 'many-
years, and it is curious to think that there should have been
still living in Paris two or three years ago a Princess who had
undergone such strange vicissitudes, and that some of her
children who were exposed to such terrible trials are alive
and well.



" Born in a cottage, in a cottage bred,
In a cottage living, from a cottage wed."

On the 23rd of May 1776 the noble house of Cecil assembled
at St. George's Church, Hanover Square, to assist at the nuptials
of Mr. Henry Cecil and Miss Emma Vernon. This marriage
seemed in every way most suitable ; Mr. Cecil was the nephew
and heir-presumptive of Brownlow, ninth Earl of Exeter, and the
bride was an heiress, sole daughter of Thomas Vernon, Esq., of
Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire. The only thing that could be
said against it was that the bridegroom was somewhat young,
being only just twenty-two years of age.

Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cecil lived happily together
for some years, though they had the sorrow of losing their only
child, a boy, who died an infant.

In the year 1780 the Rev. William Sneyd, a handsome though

sickly young man, came as curate in charge to Hanbury, which

now belonged to the Cecils and where they lived. Mr. Cecil,

being acquainted with his family, showed him much kindness.

He had him constantly to dinner, and when the weather was bad

often put him up for the night, taking pity on his delicacy. In

May 1789 Mr. Sneyd removed to Birmingham, which was about

twenty miles off. Whilst there he fell seriously ill, and overcome

with remorse, sent for Mr. Cecil, and from his bed of sickness

confessed that he had had a guilty intimacy with his wife.

Mr. Cecil would have condoned the offence and was prepared to


" The Peasant Peeress "

forgive his wife, but was weak enough to allow her to go and (as

she said) bid farewell to Mr. Sneyd ; with the result that she

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Online LibraryConstance Charlotte Elisa Lennox RussellThe rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance → online text (page 11 of 22)