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Sunday is always at Petersburg a day of great festivity, but it only manifests itself after the hours of devotion. On this day the parade is well worthy the traveller's notice: it commences at ten o'clock, in that great area which lies between one side of the winter palace and the magnificent crescent, which formerly constituted the palace of Catherine's most cherished favourite Lanskoi; the men amounted to four thousand, and presented a very noble and martial appearance; their uniform consisted of a round hat, with only a rim in front, and green feather, a short green coat, buttoned tight round the body, and white duck breeches cut very high, so that no waistcoat is necessary. The belly of the soldier is tightly strapped in, for the purpose of giving an artificial breadth to the chest. With an exception to the English and consular guards, I never saw finer men in my life, nor greater neatness in dress and person. The Emperor came from the palace, mounted upon a beautiful grey charger, attended by two or three officers; he wore an amazing large cocked hat, fastened under his chin by a black leather strap, and buttoned to prevent the wind from occasioning that accident, for which a cruel disciplinarian (Frederick the Great) once severely flogged a poor Prussian soldier. The rest of his dress was a short coat of dark olive-green colour, decorated with a small star and the cordon bleu, white leather breeches, and high military boots, with very long projecting spurs. Upon this occasion there is always a great concourse of the commonalty, and a
great muster of officers to pay their respects to the Emperor, who rode at an easy canter down the line. As he passed I was much surprised to hear each company salute him with deep-toned voices, and highly gratified when I was informed that the salutation was, Good day to our Emperor.” The words seemed to bring down the haughty disdain of military discipline to its proper level, and to place the hearts of the Emperor and his brave soldiers in contact with each other. Upon his return he alighted and took his station in the centre, when the regiments passed the Emperor, who stood uncovered all the time, in open order, the band playing and officers saluting. As the imperial colours passed, which time or war, or both, had reduced to a few shreds of silk, all the officers and spectators bowed. As the last company was marching off the ground, a lane was formed to the palace through the people, who gazed upon their young Emperor with enthusiastic delight. The whole was a very interesting spectacle, for which by the bye I had nearly paid rather dearly. Thinking, perhaps, that I was far removed from the nimble-fingered disciples of London, or what is more likely, not thinking about the matter, I carelessly carried my pocket-book to the parade: a common Russian had for some time, it appeared, watched me with a cat-like eye, and at the moment the Emperor passed me, he affected to relieve me from the pressure of the mob, and at the same time really endeavoured to relieve me of my letter of credit, some ruble notes, and what I fear the critics will wish I never
had recovered, many of the memorandums from which I am now writing. A German valet, belonging to a gentleman who was with me, instantly seized him by the throat ere his hand could leave my pocket, when he as speedily relinquished his
prey. The attempt was made with a skilful knowledge of seizing opportunities, by which some folks become wealthy, others imperial, and the dexterity and lightness of his finger would have obtained a medal of felonious honour in the academy of Barrington. However, as I lost no property by the fellow, I ordered the active servant to dismiss him; and the terrified Russian rushed rapidly from my sight, and was lost in the surrounding crowd.
The Russian is not naturally addicted to thieving: he is seldom seen in hostility to life, in order to obtain the felonious possession of another man's property. A rare instance of what however may be committed in an ebullition of passion, , occurred at the preceding parade. An officer, in consequence of very improper behaviour, was put under arrest; in the bitterness of wounded pride, he slew the centinel who was placed at his chamber door: the Emperor, instead of dooming him to death, ordered him to receive twenty-tive strokes of the knout, to be branded in the forehead with vor, or rogue, and be sent to Siberia.
As I was quitting the throng, two fellows, somewhat tipsy,
began to quarrel; and, after abusing each other very violently as they walked along, they at last proceeded to blows. No pugilistic science was displayed: they fought with the hand expanded, as awkwardly as women play at battledore and shuttlecock; no desperate contusion ensued. A police officer soon appeared, and, taking out a cord from his pocket, tied the combatants back to back, and placing them upon a droshka, gallopped them off to the nearest sieja. The police of England would do well to act with the same spirit and promptitude towards those academic bruisers, who, in the most daring manner, violate the public tranquillity, and bid defiance to the authority of the law.
A short time before my arrival, an affair, which in some degree illustrates the Russian character, had created considerable interest. A gallant English merchant conceiving himself rudely treated at the theatre by a Russian officer, one of the Emperor's aid-du-camps, sent him a challenge. The officer declined the combat, and appealed to the Emperor, which, according to the custom of his country, he might do without a stain
Those martial notions of honour, which reign so imperiously in England and France, are but little known in Russia, where the feudal system, the judicial combat and its chivalrous concomitants, never obtained, and where the sword never forms, and never has formed,
a necessary appendage to the dress of the people, which, till lately, has for ages been worn amongst their brethren in more southern latitudes.
It was with great pleasure that I availed myself of an introduction to the venerable Doctor Guthrie, physician to the Noble Land Cadet corps, a gentleman of the most amiable manners, a philosopher, and well known to the world for his various scientific and literary productions, and particularly for being the editor, as he has modestly announced himself, of the Letters of his deceased lady from the Crimea, whither she went, but in vain, in search of health. It is very generally believed, that the Doctor very largely contributed to this able and beautiful work, which, from fondness to the memory of the departed, he is anxious should be considered as her own.
I found the Doctor protected, by his philosophical knowledge, from one of the most sultry days I ever experienced. He was in a little study built of wood, raised upon piles in a little meadow. Instead of his summer windows being open to admit the air, they were all closed and fastened without; his servant occasionally moistened the branches of the trees, that were supsended over the building, with water from a garden-engine; and to prevent, as much as possible, the admission of the flies, the entrance was through an outer door, and an inner one of gauze, and in the centre of the room stood