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When the serjeant reported that all was arranged, he received, to my great astonishment, an order to kill two oxen, and to distribute a pound of bread, and a glass of brandy, to each man. “How!" exclaimed I doubtfully, and with a hearty wish to be contradicted, do you think there is any thing besides grass and water to be found in this place? No,' answered Pineda, with much coolness; this order is merely a matter of form, because the blank columns in the marching billet, under the head supplies, must be filled up.' In this manner we had long to contend with fate, and to live upon form.” P. 37.
After this tantalizing supply, to which we can alone compare the lamb fed with pistachio nuts in the Arabian Nights, ensues a far more affecting scene. We envy not the heart of that inali, who can survey, without emotion, the painful description of domestic, no less than of military suffering, which is now presented to his view.
“ The evening was fine, and I felt inclined to remain on the steps; Pineda, however, entered, with the design of searching the house ; and I soon heard to my astonishment the sound of voices within it. Many proprietors had still thought it prudent, on account of the numerous bands of robbers by which the roads were infested, to remain in their own houses ; they contrived to conceal themselves, but could observe through small apertures all that was passing without doors. When approached by a few persons, and they thought themselves sufficiently strong to resist, they rushed out to repel the visitors; but if the houses were entered by numerous parties, they never stirred from their hiding-places, unless discovered, when they were obliged, with a good or ill grace, to supply the demands of their unwelcome guests. I now saw an old man, his wife, his son, and three young women, his daughters, issue unexpectedly from the ruins : they were followed by a French officer of the Horse Chasseurs : he appeared to have been wounded ; on one foot he wore a boot, and a shoe on the other; a great bearskin-cap covered his head. He informed us that he was a baron, a native of Brussels ; that he had fought with honour for his coune' try; and, though wounded, still sought to add to the merit of his services, by doing the duty of safeguard to this worthy family.
“Knight of the rueful countenance !' exclaimed Pineda, “ You a safeguard! Why then do you hide yourself in the cellar? But no matter for that.-- What can you give us to eat?' The poor people turned towards each other with enquiring looks. • There lies a Russian prisoner,' continued Pineda.
“ Never shall I forget the sympathy which the poor family displayed on hearing these last words. The old man advanced towards me, his eyes filled with tears, and silently pressed my hand, whilst he pointed to his starving and ragged family. The mother then addressed me: 'You,' said she, are the first Russian we
have beheld, since our country was plundered by those who premised us freedom; this occasions our emotion. We lived under your emperor for twenty happy years, and to him we owe all that we possess. We have but little to offer you, but to that little you are welcome.'
“One of the daughters brought a piece of bread, which she presented to me with down-cast eyes. A sensation of inexpressible pain overcanie me; I could not take the bread, but threw myself on the stops, and burst into tears. The old man then approached me, and addressing himself to me in a whisper, said: “Do not hesitate to accept the little gilt. We have still some bread and potatoes remaining, though we are indeed very sparing of them, as we know not how long our dreadful situation may last; only grant us the satisfaction of at least not seeing you depart hungry from our house.' The family had in the mean while been entertaining the lieutenant wi an account of their poverty ; and it was easy to guess, from the length of his countenance, that there remained no hope for him in the way of eating.
“ Ac last the old man suddenly said, in good French : Children, our guests seem to be very worthy people ; we will, therefore, trusting to Heaven for the future, freely share our scanty morsels with them.' Pineda smiled; the chasseur leaped about, in spite of his wounds ; and one of the young women, who seemed to T: have waited only for this hint, hastened to the cellar. She returved with some boiled potatoes and stale bread. We seated ourselves round the hearth, and made a cheerful meal; during which we fraternally shared the remains of our brandy, which I seasoned to the family by the hope that Polotzk would shortly be in the hands of the Russians." P. 41,
The miseries of famine and desolation still follow him in his march. Another scene occurs, not unlike the former, which, as it was the cause of a quarrel between our general and his commander, we shall extract.
“ One Sunday evening, while we were still two days march from Wilna, we directed our steps, as usual, towards a place which appeared to be the residence of human beings. We found, however, a strong safeguard here, and also a number of people in the house. We, therefore, could not hope to succeed in obtaining a forced hospitality, though we had eaten almost nothing for three days, and were all greatly fatigued. I seated myself, according to my custom, at the door ; and envied the swallows that flew about, and freely gathered the food which nature had provided for them.
“ Pineda and the surgeon made loud demands on our host for provisions, which they insisted he should give at least for the wounder!; but he protested that he had not enough to appease the cravings of his wife and children. Our party, at first, treated him courteously, and he was addressed with the title of Baron,
which at last gave place to the most abusive epithets, and the safe. guard soon showed themselves ready to protect their charge. In the midst of the bustle, the unfortunate owner of the house said, • Had you not so abused the hospitality which was shown youhad you not plundered every thing, and let the wine run waste from the casks, every one passing this way might still have had a norsel of bread, and a drop of wine, but now I am quite ruined, and am not able to help you.'
“I was silent during the whole of this scene; indeed what right had I to interfere in the business? Pineda, however, came to me, and roughly asked me why I did not assist him in bringing the raseal of a Pole to reason. I told hiin very coolly my mind, and he appeared extremely dissatisfied. Our dialogue took place in the parlour, which he paced up and down with rapid strides. I returned to my place at the door, having nothing to hope for, unless some good fairy should take pity on my hunger.- And, lo; one really did appear, in the shape of our host's daughter, a child about ten years old. She looked cautiously about on every side, then kindly approaching me, asked me to come in and take a share of a frugal supper: I thanked the little angel with a sigh ; for I could not easily reconcile myself to the idea of accepting the offer alone, when all the rest of the party, even the wounded, were starving. The master of the house, however, soon came himself, and began to make the same proposal, but seeing Pineda passing behind us, in a situation in which what passed might be observed, he pointed with his hand to a neighbouring church, as if our conversation had been about it; he afterwards took an opportunity of repeating his invitation. I explained the reasons which made me unwilling to accept it, and begged him to give us all something, if it should be but bread. He assured me most earnestly that he was able only to give something to one; he observed also, that as I was a prisoner, I could not help myself so well as the others; and he thought, therefore, that I ought to have no delicacy in separating from them. I was very well satisfied with the justice of his remark, but still declined to accept his offer, unless on the condition of communicating it to Pineda. This at first did not seem agreeable to my good laudlord, but, after reflecting for a moment, he said I might do so. I then went to Pineda, and told him my good fortune.
“ • Do as you like,' was the answer. It was not necessary for him to say so twice. I made but one step to the apartment where the family were assembled; the mistress of the house, surrounded by four children, received me with the greatest frankness, and shared her little meal with me in the kindest manner: every thing appeared, however, so scanty, that I could venture to silence only half the cravings of my appetite; but a glass of brandy, with which the repast terminated, invigorated and enlivened me." P. 5+.
A quarrel ensues between himself and Pineda, ju which the latter, though decidedly in the wrong, bad still the all-atoning
palliation of a starving stomach to offer in his defence. Kot. zebue is committed to close custody, and it was not till the middle of the next day that he and his conductor were reconciled.
Such a mixture of tragedy and farce is human life, that this affecting narrative is not without one circumstance to enliven it, and to cheer the reader amidst the melancholy feelings which this tale must excite. As thus they proceed in their march, a Jew, with a pig, falls into the hands of our starving company. They proceed in a very summary manner to rescue the conscience of the poor Israelite from the sin of eating unclean meat, by seizing upon the animal, and roasting him immediately for their sustenance. Nor was this all, for in the possession of this said little Isaac, they find also a cask of brandy, which was divided among them after their feast, and on they march as merrily as if famine and death were not at their very
elbows. When they arrived at Wilna, they found, as might have been expected, a very bad reception from the populace. That the Poles should bear a most inveterate hatred to the Russians is by no means extraordinary, and it must be owned, that the despot of the north has fully deserved it. When Europe shamelessly consented to gratify the ambition of Russia, by annihilating the existence of Poland as a kingdom, aud when the surrounding Potentates were bribed to silence by a division of the spoil, little did they think to how dreadful an extent the example would be followed. The policy which Russia had adopted Buonaparte only extended. He would have subjugated the dynasties of the Continent as they had subjugated the unhappy Poles. Among the inhabitants of Wilna, the Jews alone were attached to the Russians, and from one of these our prisoner received much real hospitality. During his stay in this city he was enabled to be of the most signal service to many Russian ladies, who were in a state of the utmost destitution. Here he parts with his old conductor Pineda, and proceeds on his route under better auspices. He is indulged with a place in the carriage of Court Counsellor Barts, inspector of the customs in Bialystock, who had been arrested as an object of suspicion to the French, and was now conveyed away from his home as a state prisoner. With him was also arrested an eccentric personage, with whose name our author has not made us acquainted.
This gentleman, Titular Counsellor C-, had been so deeply affected with the misfortunes of his country, as to have been driven almost to a state of insanity. When he met a Frenchman, or a Pole, he would growl and spit at them, and even asa sault them with stones : the following is the description of their setting out.
He “I then went, accompanied by Pineda, to Barts's quarters, and got acquainted with the eccentric Titular-Counsellor, whom I have already mentioned. From his dress it was difficult to say to what nafion he belonged. Being much distressed for clothing, he had adopted a very ingenious method of supplying that want. He had obtained through charity, from a woollen-draper's shop, some list and selvages of cloth, and with these he stitched together a jacket and a pair of pantaloons. The habiliments which he had thus formed were to be sure of variegated colours, and moreover far from fitting with exactness; but these were matters of trifling importance ; they served to cover him, and even to protect him against the severity of the weather. To complete this elegant costume, he wore a cap of the same materials as the dress, and fabricated by the same ingenious hands. It was impossible to regard him without a smile. He resembled a half filled air balloon. Like an enraged cat, he continued to growl and spit at all who approached him. The gendarmes brought a kind of litter cart for his conveyance, and as there was a scarcity of attendants, he was intrusted to drive it himself. With his usual muttering he threw himself upon the straw, and rolled about in it.
“ After having once more pressed my friend Pineda to my bosom, I stepped into the carriage, where Barts had already seated himself.' Two gendarmes, and our conductor, then mounted their horses ; and (as Barts observed) our retinue on leaving Wilna resembled that of an exiled prince, to whom none but the court fool remained faithful. Unfortunately our state carriage was furnished with nothing but hay." P. 101.
He proceeds through the effluvia of putrifying carcases on to Kowno, where, after two days balt, they sail down the Memel for Tilsit. Before, however, they arrive at that city, they are driven from their vessel by a party of mutinous French soldiers, and are compelled to pursue the remainder of their journey by jand.
The chapters which describe their route through the domipions of Prussia, delighted us much. The narrative assumes a more cheerful aspect. It is pleasing to read of so many examples of kind and frank hospitality. At Koningsberg, Kotzebue is reluctantly separated from his friend and fellow traveller Barts. He is now ordered to proceed to Berlin. Here he is introduced, through the good offices of his friend Countess Voss, governess to the younger branches of the royal family, tó The king himself, from whom he experiences a very gracious reception, and is honoured with a handsome present. We shall not follow him minutely on his march through Germany, in every town of which he received very extraordinary civilities, partly from feelings of general hospitality, partly from the respect towards his father. We cannot, however, omit to present
the YOL. VII. SEPTEMBER, 1816.