CHAPTER XXIII. EUROPEAN RUSSIA.
DEPARTURE FROM REDUTKALE - ATTACK OF CHOLERA - ANAPKA - SUSPICIOUS SHIP - KERTSCH - THE MUSEUM - TUMULI - CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNEY - THEODOSIA (CAFFA) - PRINCE WORONZOFF'S PALACE - THE FORTRESS OF SEWASTOPOL - ODESSA.
On the 17th of September, at 9 in the morning, the steamer arrived, and an hour afterwards I was seated on the deck. The vessel was called Maladetz; it was 140 horse power, and the commandant's name was Zorin.
The distance from Redutkale to Kertsch is only 420 miles in a straight line, but for us, who continually kept close to the shore, it amounted to nearly 580.
The view of the Caucasus - the hills and headlands - the rich and luxuriant country remains fresh in my memory to this day. In a charming valley lies the village Gallansur, the first station, at which we stopped for a short time.
Towards 6 o'clock in the evening, we reached the fortified town Sahun, which lies partly on the shore, and partly on a broad hill. Here I saw, for the first time, Cossacks in full uniform; all those I had previously seen were very badly dressed, and had no military appearance; they wore loose linen trousers, and long ugly coats, reaching down to their heels. These, however, wore close-fitting spencers with breast-pockets, each of which was divided for eight cartridges, wide trousers, which sat in folds upon the upper part of the body, and dark blue cloth caps, trimmed with fur. They rowed a staff officer to the ship.
18th September. We remained the whole day in Sahun. The coal- boats, from some inconceivable negligence, had not arrived; the coals were taken on board after we had been some time at anchor, and our supply was not completed until 6 o'clock in the evening, when we again started.
19th September. During the night there was much storm and rain. I begged permission to seat myself on the cabin steps, which I received; but, after a few minutes, an order came from the commandant to take me under cover. I was much surprised and pleased at this politeness, but I was soon undeceived when I was led into the large sailors' cabin. The people smelt horribly of brandy, and some of them had evidently taken too much. I hastened back on to the deck, where, in spite of the raging of the elements, I felt more comfortable than among these well-bred Christians.
In the course of the day we stopped at Bambur, Pizunta, Gagri, Adlar, and other places. Near Bambur I observed majestic groups of rocks.
20th September. The Caucasian mountains were now out of sight, and the thick woods were also succeeded by wide open spaces. We were still troubled with wind, storm, and rain.
The engineer of the ship, an Englishman, Mr. Platt, had accidentally heard of my journey (perhaps from my passport, which I had to give up on entering the ship); he introduced himself to me today, and offered me the use of his cabin during the day-time; he also spoke to one of the officers for me, and succeeded in obtaining a cabin for me, which, although it joined the sailors' cabin, was separated from it by a door. I was very thankful to both the gentlemen for their kindness, which was the greater, as the preference was given to me, a stranger, over the Russian officers, of whom at least half a dozen were on deck.
We remained a long time at Sissasse. This is an important station; there is a fine fortress upon a hill - round it stand pretty wooden houses.
21st September. This was a terrible night! One of the sailors, who was healthy and well the day before, and had taken his supper with a good appetite, was suddenly attacked with cholera. The cries of the poor fellow disturbed me greatly, and I went upon deck, but the heavy rain and piercing cold were not less terrible. I had nothing but my mantle, which was soon wet through; my teeth chattered; the frost made me shake throughout; so there was nothing to be done but to go below again - to stop my ears, and remain close to the dying man. He was, in spite of all help, a corpse before the end of eight hours. The dead body was landed in the morning, at Bschada; it was packed in a heap of sail-cloth, and kept secret from the travellers. The cabin was thoroughly washed with vinegar, and scoured, and no one else was attacked.
I did not at all wonder that there was sickness on board, only I had expected it would be among the poor soldiers, who were day and night upon the deck, and had no further food than dry, black bread, and had not even mantles or covering; I saw many half-frozen from cold, dripping with rain, gnawing a piece of bread: how much greater suffering must they have to undergo in the winter time! The passage from Redutkale to Kertsch, I was told, then frequently occupied twenty days. The sea is so rough that it is difficult to reach the stations, and sometimes the ship lies for days opposite them. If it should happen that a poor soldier has to proceed the whole distance, it is really a wonder that he should reach the place of his destination alive. According to the Russian system, however, the common man is not worthy of any consideration.
The sailors are indeed better, but, nevertheless, not well provided for; they receive bread and spirits, a very small quantity of meat, and a soup made of sour cabbage, called bartsch, twice a day.
The number of officers, their wives, and soldiers on the deck, increased at every station, very few being landed from the ship.
The deck was soon so covered with furniture, chests, and trunks, that there was scarcely a place to sit down, except on the top of a pile of goods. I never saw such an encampment on board a ship.