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of that big poland ?
You will easily find great big Russia on the map. It looks big enough to swallow up all the other countries of Europe. However, large as Russia is, the Emperor of that big country owns other land besides. Do you see little Poland ? Part of it was seized by Russia some years ago. Every now and then the Poles try to get back their freedom ; but the Russians will not hear of that, and many a Pole has lost his life in the attempt.
In the map of Asia you will see a great big tract of land to the north, called Siberia, which belongs to Russia. But although the Emperor of Russia has so much ground, he has not so very many subjects as you would expect. Russia is a very cold barren country, and not many people live there in proportion to its size. .
However, we will suppose that you do not mind a little cold, and so are going to spend a few months in Russia. I shall be happy to show you the way. I think that you had better go from Hull, in Yorkshire, by a steamboat, which will take you to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia. Directly you arrive you must go and buy some furs, or you will be very cold. If you cannot afford furs, you must imitate the Russian peasants, and dress in sheepskins.
All the books you bring with you will be looked at, for fear that there should be anything in them against the Emperor; and if there should be, it is likely that you will be punished, by being sent to Siberia, and there made to work hard for some years, and treated little better than an animal. At least, such is the punishment received by a Russian if he has any books or papers which speak ill of the Emperor, and I do not know that an Englishman would get off better.
But we will suppose that you take no books or papers at all; that you have bought yourself some furs, and are all ready to see St. Petersburg.
First of all you had better have a look at the “Winter Palace,” the largest palace in Europe. When the Emperor and his attendants are there it is said to contain seven thousand people. Then you might see a most splendid church, with a gold cross at the top. It cost enormous sums of money to build this church. And then you can walk about the wide streets of St. Petersburg and admire the shops. Take care to rub your nose every now and then with snow, or it may freeze off. You will not be very cold inside the houses, for they are warmed by great stoves, which throw out a great deal of heat, but make the air feel stilling, and soon, I think will make you long for a bright English fire.
At night the poorest people will lie down to sleep on the top of their stove, in order to get a little warmth into their bones.
You will not care for the food which the poor people eat. One thing which they like very much is a kind of cake dipped in green oil.
Perhaps, while you are at St. Petersburg, you will like to make an excursion to lake Ladoga, the most beautiful lake in Russia.
The best way to see the lake is to go on it in & steamer. The Russians think that this lake is even more beautiful than any of the Swiss ones.
Further north is lake Omega.
The lakes look beautiful in smooth weather. But sometimes they are visited by violent and dangerous storms. But in all northern skies there are beautiful clouds and colouring, which, when reflected in the lakes, make them look like molten gold. There is an island in lake Ladoga, where some monks or priests live, and where there is a big church. This church contains a silver statue of a famous saint, and many Russians go there on that account, for their religion (which is that of the Greek Church) teaches them to pay much honour to saints.
The old capital of Russia is Moscow. It will take us about 20 hours on the railroad to go from St. Petersburg there, but it is worth while, for Moscow is a pretty and curious city, containing many things worth seeing. There is a big tower there, 270 feet high, which contains 34 bells,—a fine noise they make, when they ring on Sundays and feast days. There is one bell besides, which is very big indeed, which has only just been dug out of a pit, where it had been buried for a hundred years. The Russians are very proud of this bell, which weighs 443,772 lbs., but it is cracked, and so quite useless. It is called the “ great bell of Moscow.”
The Kremlin is a curious palace, or rather collection of buildings. There is a great treasury there, which contains, amongst other things, the Emperor's throne (or rather we ought to call him the Czar). This throne contains numbers of precious stones. There is also an arsenal, or place for keeping guns and all sorts of war implements; a picture-gallery; and many other things worth seeing.
Are the Russians a happy people ? Not very ; they have been too much oppressed. The poor are little better than slaves, though they have more freedom now than they had years ago. Still the knowledge that there is a chance of being sent to Siberia for some small fault, to live, and perhaps die, in misery, does not let the Russians have very peaceful lives. And if you are afraid of wild beasts, you would not care to stay long in some parts of Russia. But you had better make up your mind on that point after reading the next chapter.
Principal Rivers.—Volga, Ural, Dnieper.
Religion.—Greek Church, very like the Roman Catholic in doctrine, but the priests are not under the Pope.
THE FAITHFUL SERVANT.
Many years ago, a Russian nobleman was travelling with his wife and little child across one of the large forests of Russia. Their carriage was drawn by four horses. On the coach-box sat the nobleman's servant and the driver. The night was very dark, and as the carriage rolled quickly on, a strange noise was
heard. The little girl was frightened, and asked her father what it was.
“Only the wind,” said he ; “try to go to sleep.”
But the noise grew louder and louder, and sounded nearer and nearer, for it did not come from the wind, but from a pack of wolves. At last the nobleman spoke to his servant on the box, saying:
“The wolves will be upon us directly ; load your pistols, and, as soon as they are within shot, fire and try to hit the leader of the pack, and I will aim at the second.”
The howls of the wolves got nearer and nearer, at last they were close upon the carriage. The nobleman and his servant both fired their pistols. Two wolves fell dead, and the rest of the savage creatures stopped to eat them up, while the driver urged his horses to greater speed. In vain! wolves run faster than horses, and soon the pack were again close to the carriage. Once more the nobleman and his servant fired; but although again two wolves fell, others joined the pack, and rushed violently after the carriage. The travellers were still some way from the inn, which they hoped to reach that night.
“There is nothing for it,” said the driver, “but to let a horse loose for the wolves to eat."
They stopped, unfastened the harness, and the leader cantered off into the wood, pursued by the wolves. They either eat him or he escaped, but it was not long before the pack were again surrounding the carriage. With sorrow and pain another horse was set loose ! and then a third !