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and an incident of the kind would now no longer surprise me. From a long series of observations I have come to the conclusion that the great majority of the Russian peasants, when dealing with the authorities, consider the most patent and barefaced falsehoods as a fair means of self-defence. Thus, for example, when a Muzhik is implicated in a criminal affair, and a preliminary investigation is being made, he probably begins by constructing an elaborate story to explain the facts and exculpate himself. The story may be a tissue of self-evident falsehoods from beginning to end, but he defends it valiantly as long as possible. When he perceives that the position which he has taken up is utterly untenable, he declares openly that all he has said is false, and that he wishes. to make a new declaration. This second declaration may have the same fate as the former one, and then he proposes a third. Thus groping his way, he tries various stories till he finds one that seems proof against all objections. In the fact of his thus telling lies there is of course nothing remarkable, for criminals in all parts of the world have a tendency to deviate from the truth when they fall into the hands of justice. The peculiarity is that he retracts his statements with the composed air of a chess-player who requests his opponent to let him take back an inadvertent move. Under the old system of procedure, which was abolished about ten years ago, clever criminals often contrived, by means of this simple device, to have their trial postponed for many years.


Such incidents naturally astonish a foreigner, and he is apt, in consequence, to pass a very severe judgment on the Russian peasantry in general. The reader may remember Karl Karl'itch's remarks on the subject. These remarks I have heard repeated in various forms by Germans in all parts of the country, and there must be a certain amount of truth in them, for even an eminent Slavophil once publicly admitted that the peasant is prone to perjury.* It is necessary, however, as it seems to me, to draw a distinction. In the ordinary intercourse of peasants among themselves, or with people in whom they have confidence, I do not believe that the habit of lying is abnormally developed. It is only when the peasant comes in contact with authorities that he shows himself an expert fabricator of falsehoods. In this there is nothing that need surprise us. For ages the peasantry were exposed to the arbitrary power and ruthless exactions of those who were placed over them; and as the law gave them no means of legally protecting themselves, their only means of self-defence lay in cunning and deceit.

We have here, I believe, the true explanation of that "Oriental mendacity," about which Eastern travellers have written so much. It is simply the result of a lawless state of society. Suppose a truthloving Englishman falls into the hands of brigands or savages. Will he not, if he have merely an ordinary moral character, consider himself justified in inventing

*Kiréyefski, in the Rússkaya Besêda.

a few falsehoods in order to effect his escape? If so, we have no right to condemn very severely the hereditary mendacity of those races which have lived for many generations in a position analogous to that of the supposed Englishman among brigands. When legitimate interests cannot be protected by truthfulness and honesty, prudent people always learn to employ means which experience has proved to be more effectual. In a country where the law does not afford protection, the strong man defends himself by his strength, the weak by cunning and duplicity. This fully explains the fact-if fact it be-that in Turkey the Christians are less truthful than the Mahometans.

But we have wandered a long way from the road to Bashkiria. Let us therefore return at once.

Of all the journeys which I made in Russia this was one of the most agreeable. The weather was bright and warm, without being unpleasantly hot; the roads were tolerably smooth; the tarantass, which had been hired for the whole journey, was nearly as comfortable as a tarantass can be; good milk, eggs, and white bread could be obtained in abundance; there was not much difficulty in procuring horses in the villages through which we passed, and the owners of them were not very extortionate in their demands. But what most contributed to my comfort was that I was accompanied by an agreeable, intelligent young Russian, who kindly undertook to make all the necessary arrangements, and I was thereby freed from those annoyances and worries, which are always

encountered in primitive countries where travelling is not yet a recognised institution. To him I left the entire control of our movements, passively acquiescing in everything, and asking no questions as to what was coming. Taking advantage of my passivity, he prepared for me one evening a pleasant little surprise.

About sunset we had left a village called Morsha, and shortly afterwards, feeling drowsy, and being warned by my companion that we should have a long uninteresting drive, I had lain down in the tarantass and gone to sleep. On awaking I found that the tarantass had stopped, and that the stars were shining brightly overhead. A big dog was barking furiously close at hand, and I heard the voice of the Yemstchik informing us that we had arrived. I at once sat up and looked about me, expecting to see a village of some kind, but instead of that I perceived a wide open space, and at a short distance a group of haystacks. Close to the tarantass stood two figures in long cloaks, armed with big sticks, and speaking to each other in an unknown tongue. My first idea was that we had been somehow led into a trap, so I drew my revolver in order to be ready for all emergencies. My companion was still snoring loudly by my side, and stoutly resisted all my efforts to awake him.

"What's this?" I said, in a gruff, angry voice, to the Yemstchik. "Where have you taken us to?" "To where I was ordered, master!"

For the purpose of getting a more satisfactory explanation I took to shaking my sleepy companion, but before he had returned to consciousness the moon shone

out brightly from behind a thick bank of clouds, and cleared up the mystery. The supposed haystacks turned out to be tents. The two figures with long sticks, whom I had suspected of being brigands, were peaceable shepherds, dressed in the ordinary Oriental khalát, and tending their sheep, which were grazing beside them. Instead of being in an empty hay-field, as I had imagined, we had before us a regular Tartar Aoul, such as I had often read about. For a moment I felt astonished and bewildered. It seemed to me that I had fallen asleep in Europe and awoke in Asia!

In a few minutes we were comfortably installed in one of the tents, a circular, cupola-shaped erection, of about twelve feet in diameter, composed of a framework of light wooden rods covered with thick felt. It contained no furniture, except a goodly quantity of carpets and pillows, which had been formed into a bed for our accommodation. Our amiable host, who was evidently somewhat astonished at our unexpected visit but refrained from asking questions, soon bade us good-night and retired. We were not, however, left alone. A large number of black beetles remained and gave us a welcome in their own peculiar fashion. Whether they were provided with wings, or made up for the want of flying appliances by crawling up the sides of the tent and dropping down on any object they wished to reach, I did not discover, but certain it is that they somehow reached our heads-even when we were standing upright-and clung to our hair with wonderful tenacity. Why they should show such a marked preference for

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