Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

“ And when strong effort has deserv'd the port,
“ And tugg'd it into view, 'tis won ! 'tis lost!
“ Tho' strong their oar, still stronger is their fate:
“ They strike; and while they triumph, they expire.
“ In stress of weather, most; some sink outright;
“ O'er them, and o'er their names, the billows close;
“ To morrow knows not they were ever born.
“ Others a short memorial leave behind,
“ Like a flag floating, when the bark's ingulph'd;
“ It floats a moment and is seen no more,
« One Cæsar lives: a thousand are forgot.”

My attention was soon called to the contem. plation of another objeci'equally, if not more distressing

Near the door of this horrid cage was erected a vile shed that was barely able to shelter one of the most miserable objects I ever had the misfortune to behold. Outstretched on the damp earth appeared an old woman with her haggard cheek resting against the bars of the cage. She was covered by a scanty portion of filthy rags, which were scarcely sufficient to screen her decayed and shrivelled form from the gaze of strangers. Her hollow eye.balls were deeply sunk within her wrinkled front, and from her hooked nose and skinny lips, thin rheum was perpetually oozing. Her dreadfully emaciated form seemed to bespeak alike the most agonising distress of mind and the most deadly state of body.

I could perceive, that as her livid cheek rested on the bars of the cage, her eyes remained fixed, , sorrowful, and immoveable, upon the unhappy man within it, and evinced an expression of grief far beyond the luxury of tears. She sometimes spoke to him with uncommon interest, but she never once so much as glanced her eye upon any other object; not even upon us who were stran. gers and foreigners, and who appeared so much to excite the attention of the other wretches that Janguished in these dreadful dungeons.

There was something so remarkable in her ap. pearance and position, and she wore such a peculiar air of extreme woe, that I requested the Aid du Camp who accompanied us would ask the jailer who she was.

The murderer within the cage immediately replied in the French language, and in the most terrible voice “ Elle est a moi" Being much struck with the circumstance that such a wretch should have any body belonging to him, and remaining with him in such a situation, and also at the singularity of his reply, being made in the French language, which I could have so little expected from a Russian criminal, confined in a dungeon at Moscow, I earnestly begged our conductor would enquire into their story.

The jailer informed me that this murderer was a man of noble family, and at an early age had conie to the inheritance of a very considerable estate, in the cultivation of which, it was necessary to employ a vast number of slaves (that being the dreadfulterm by which the Russian peasantry are denominated and esteemed); and that nothing could exceed the brutality of this man's conduct towards those unhappy beings; being guilty of the greatest cruelties and the most atrocious actions towards them.

It was not an unfrequent act of this hideous monster to order his inoffensive and ignorant peasantry to suffer the most agonising death under the torture of the hellish lash; and this for the most trifling offences, if an offence at all, but much oftenei merely for the satisfaction his diabolical heart felt while domineering and tormenting his unresisting fellow creatures.

For a long time his infernal actions were screened by the ever powerful shield of rank, fortune, and consequently influence; but, at length with unusual shocking particulars, coming to the knowledge of men high in power, and being generally known by the public, the wretch was seized and dragged to that dungeon in which I be. held him, braving his fate, under the frown of gloomy malignity and the hardihood of consummate iniquity,

When the searching eye of heaven is hid
“ Behind the globe, and lights the lower world,
" Then thieves and robbers range abroad unseen,
“ But when, from under this terrestrial ball,
6. He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines,
“ Then murders, treasons, and detested sins,
“ Stand bare and naked, trembling at themselves."

Notwithstanding the magnitude of this man's crimes his relations had sufficient power to prevent his being brought to trial, on which occasion he must inevitably have been doomed to an igno. minious death, which would effectually have sullied the fair name, and intailed eternal disgrace upon the noble title of such a distinguished family.

Yet it is said that under the mild reign of the present Empress Catharine, no unfortunate human being has suffered that capital punishment, except ihe impostor Pugatchy, who pretended to be the

late Emperor, and who had gained over to his party fifty thousand Cassacks, by whose assistance he had hoped to obtain the imperial diadem,

Under these circumstances then, this villain remained confined to the narrow and horrid confines of his cage without the anticipation of any other punishment; and he had been a close prisoner for the period of three years when I beheld him in that cage, but before he had been removed to it, he bad suffered seven years im. prisonment in one of larger dimensions,

The miserable wretch that existed under the shed had been his wet nurse, and had imbibed such a strong affection for him, that when he was first seized and dragged to prison, she solicited and obtained permission to dwell near him in his dun. geon, and there had this affectionate and faithful, but mistaken woman, indured the terrible severity of that in hospitable climate, under which Moscow is situated, for ten long years.

Continuing exposed not only to the 'scoffs, revilings, and contumely of the abandoned and profligate wretches around her, to the scorn or cold indifference of others, and to the keen rigour of Russian winters, with scarcely any covering or food, this woman exhibited an irstance of gene

« AnteriorContinua »