Without these cookies, we can't provide services to you. These cookies allow us to monitor OverDrive's performance and reliability. They alert us when OverDrive services are not working as expected. Without these cookies, we won't know if you have any performance-related issues that we may be able to address. These cookies help us understand user behavior within our services. For example, they let us know which features and sections are most popular. This information helps us design a better experience for all users. As, when in a summer afternoon's nap you have been drowsily annoyed, some half-hour durant, by a big blue-bottle, and are suddenly awakened by the sharp agony of a hornet's sting full in the calf of your favourite leg, so, suddenly does the passive annoyance of Captain Smith's evil predictions cede to the active torture of Miss WAPPS's persecution.
Miss Wapps, English, travelling alone, and aged forty, has taken it into her fair head to entertain a violent dislike to me, and pursues me with quite a ferocity of antipathy. She is a lean and bony spinster, with a curiously blue-bronzed nose, and cheekbones to match, and a remarkable mole on her chin with a solitary hair growing from it like One-Tree Hill at Greenwich. She has a profusion of little ringlets that twist and twine like the serpents of the Furies that had taken to drinking, and had been metamorphosed, as a punishment, into corkscrews.
To see her perambulating the decks after they have been newly swabbed, holding up her drapery, and displaying a pair of baggy —well, I suppose there is no harm in the word-pantalettes, and with a great.
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She is one of those terrible specimens of humanity who have a preconceived persuasion-a woman who has made up her mind about everything-arts, sciences, laws, learning, commerce, religion, Shakspeare, and the musical glasses —and nothing can shake, nothing convince, nothing mollify her. Her conclusions are ordinarily unfavourable. She stayed a few hours at the Drei Kronen at Stettin, where I had the advantage of her society, and she made up her mind at a very early stage of our acquaintance that I was an impostor, because I said I was going to St.
I am going to St. Petersburg to recover my p;operty devastated by the late unchristian war. She overwhelmed me at once with a carboy of vitriolic acid: she never took wine-never! And though she said no more, it was very easy to gather from Miss Wapps's tone and looks that in her eyes the person most likely to rob the Bank of England, go over to the Pope of Rome, and assassinate the Emperor of the French, would be the man who did take wine. She flatly contradicted me, too, as to the amount of the fare which I had just paid from Stettin to Cronstadt. She had made up her mind that it was one hundred and fifty francs French money, and all the arguments in the world could not bring her to recognize the existence of such things as roubles or thalers.
But where she was Samsonically strong against me was on the question of my nationality.
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As I happen to be rather swart of hue, and a tolerable linguist, she took it into her head at once that I was a foreigner, and addressed me as " Mossoo. To make the matter worse —it being necessary for me, during one of the endless passport formalities, to answer to my name, which is not very English in sound-it went conclusively to make out a case against me in the mind of Miss Wapps. She called me Mossoo again, but vengefully in sarcastic accents; and complained of the infamy of an honourable English gentlewoman being beset by Jesuits and spies.
On board, Miss Wapps does not abate one atom of her animosity. I have not the fatuity to believe that I am what is usually termed popular with the sex; but as I am, I hope, inoffensive and a good listener, I have been able to retain some desirable female acquaintances; but there is no conciliating Miss Wapps.
She is enraged with me for not being sea-sick. She wants to know what the world is coming to, when men can puff their filthy tobacco under the noses of ladies accustomed to the best society? As a culmination of injury, she publicly accuses me at dinner of detaining the mustard designedly and of malice aforethought -at my end of the table. I am covered with confusion, and endeavour to excuse myself; but she overpowers me with her voice, and Captain Steffens looks severely at me. I have an inward struggle after dinner, as to whether I shall give her a piece of my mind, and so shut her up for ever, or make her an offer of marriage; but I take a middle course, a!
She is going to Moscow for the coronation, when there are to be grand dramatic doings; but she is coming out thus early to stay with her mamma, also an actress, who has been fifteen years in St. Captain' Steffens loves her like a father already, I can see. Even the grim' Captain Smith -regards her with the affection of a Dutch uncle. She dresses every morning for the deck, and every afternoon for dinner, with as much care as though she were still on her beloved Boulevard de Gand.
Her -hair is always smooth, her eyes always bright, her little foot always bien chaussee, her dress always in applepie order, her temper always lively, cheerful, amiable. She is all lithe movements, and silver laughter, and roguish sayings. Enfin: she is a Parisienne! What need I say more? She has a dozen of the gentlemen passen. He follows her about like a corpulent poodle; he takes care of her baskets, shawls, and furs; he toils up ladders with camp-stools for her; he holds an umbrella over her'to shield her from the sun; he cuts the leaves of books for her; he produces for her benefit private stores of chocolate and bon-bons; he sits next to her at dinner, and carves tit-bits for her; he pays for the champagne; he walks the deck with her by moonlight, shielding her from the midnight air with ample pelisses, and rolling his little eyes in his fat face.
She is all smiles and amiability to him as, indeed, to every one else ; she allows him to sit at her feet; she gives him to snuff from her vinaigrette; she pats his broad back and calls him "] Mon bon gros;" she is as familiar with him as if she had known him a quarter of a century; she orders him about like a dog or a black man; but is never cross, never pettish.
She will probably give him the tips of her little fingers to kiss when she leaves him at Cronstadt; and, when some day perhaps she meets him by chance on the Nevskoi, she won't know him from Adam. Somebody else gets the pleasant travelling companions; I get the Miss Wappses. I never fall in love with a pretty girl, but I find she has a sweetheart already, or has been. Am I not as good as a wine-merchant's bagman?
Never mind; let me console myself with the Russian. The Russian is a gentleman whose two years' term of travel has expired, and who, not, being able to obtain an extension of his leave of absence, and not very desirous of having his estates sequestered, which would be the penalty of disobedience, is returning, distressingly against his own inclination, to Russia, is an individual who looks young enough to be two or three and twenty, and old enough to be two or three and forty.
How are you to tell in a gentleman whose hair, without a speck of gray, is always faultlessly brushed, oiled, perfumed, and arranged; whose moustache is lustrous, firm, and black; whose teeth are sound and white; whose face is perfectly smooth, and clear, and clean shaven; who is always perfectly easy, graceful, and self-possessed? The Russian speaks English and French-the first language as you and I, my dear Bob, speak it; the second as our friend, Monsieur Adolphe, from Paris, would speak his native tongue; by which I mean that the Russian speaks English like an Englishman, and French like a Frenchman, without hesitation, accent, or foreign idiom.
He is versed in the literature of both countries, and talks of Sam Weller and Jerome Paturot with equal facility. I am, perhaps, not so well qualified to judge of his proficiency in Italian; but he seems to speak that tongue with at least the same. He laughs when I talk about the special and astounding gift that his countrymen seem to possess for the acquisition of languages. I certainly picked up Italian in six months, during a residence in the country; but I could speak French, English, and German long before I could speak Russian.
Nous autres gentilhommes Russes, we have English nurses; we have French and Swiss governesses; we have German professors at college. As children and as adults we often pass days and weeks without hearing a word of Russian; and the language with which we have the slightest acquaintance is our own.
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He talks, and seems to be well informed, on every body and every thing, and speaks about governments and dynasties in precisely the same tone of easy persiflage in which he discusses the Italian opera and the ballet. He tells me a great deal about the Greek church; but it is easy to see that matters ecclesiastical don't trouble "nous autres gentilhommes Russes "' much. He has been in the army, like the vast majority of his order, and is learned in horses, dogs, and general sportsmanship; a branch of knowledge that clashes strangely with his grassailleing Parisian accent.
He proposes edcarte in an interval of chat; but finding that I am but a poor cardplayer, he shows me a few tricks on the cards sufficient to set a moderately ambitious wizard up in business on the spot, and. He shows me an album bound in green velvet, and with his cipher and coronet embroidered in rubies thereupon, and filled with drawings of his own execution.
He rolls paper cigarettes with the dexterity of a Castilian caballero; and he has the most varied and exact statistical knowledge on all sorts of topics, political, social, agricultural, and literary, of any man I ever met with. And this is, believe me, as ordinary and every-day-to-be-found specimen of the Russian gentlemen as the unlettered, unlicked, uncouth, untravelled John Smith one meets at a Boulogne boarding-house is of an English esquire.
My friend, the Russian, has his little peculiarities; without being in the slightest degree grave or senten-. If he have an opinion on any subject, and he converses on almost all topics, it is not on board the " Preussischer Adler," or to me, that he will impart it. With his handsome face and graceful. It may have struck the reader, that beyond alluding to the bare fact of being on the Baltic, and in a fair way for Cronstadt, I have said little or nothing as yet concerning our actual voyage.
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In the first place, there is but little marine intelligence to be chronicled; for from Saturday at noon, when we started, to this present Monday evening, we have had uninterrupted fair weather and smooth water; and are gliding along as on a lake. And, in the second place, I generally avoid the subject of the sea as much as I can.
I hate it. I have a dread for it, as Mrs. Hemans had. To me it is simply a Monster, cruel, capricious, remorseless, rapacious, insatiable, deceitful; sullenly unwilling to disgorge its treasures; mockingly refusing to give up its dead.! But it must, and Shall, some day: the Sea. If any thing could reconcile me, however, to that baseless highway, it would be the days and nights we have had since Saturday. And the white ships that glide on the tranquil sea, far far away towards the immensity of the horizon, are as auguries of peace and hope to me; and the very smoke from the boat's funnel that was black and choky at Stettin, is now, in the undying sun, all gorgeous in purple and orange as it rolls forth in clouds that wander rudderless through the empty sky, till the sea-birds meet them, and break them into fragments with their sharp-Aected wings.
Among them is a humorous character from the south of France, who is proceeding to Russia to superintend a sugar manufactory belonging to some Russian seigneur. He has been established by common consent chief wag and joke-master in ordinary to the Prussian Eagle. I hear shouts of laughter from where he holds his merry court long after I am snug in my berth; and the steward retails his latest witticisms to us at dinner, hot and hot, between the courses. He lives at free quarters, for his jests' sakes, in the way of wines, spirits, and cigars; and I don't think the steward can have the heart to take" any money of him for fees or extras at the voyage's end.
As a wag he must, of course, have a butt: and he has fixed on a little, snuffy, old Frenchwoman, with a red cotton pocket-handkerchief tied round her head, who, with a large basket, a larger umbrella, and no other perceptible luggage, started up suddenly at Stettin. She has got a passport with Count Orlofi's own signature appended to it,.
Who can she be? The Czar's fostermother, perhaps.
Pantomime, Burlesque, and Children's Drama
The funny Frenchman who never saw her before in his life now calls her "maman," now assumes to be madly in love with her, to the infinite merriment of the other passengers; but she repulses his advances with the utmost good humour, and evidently considers him to be a wag of the first water. Many of this good fellow's jokes are of a slightly practical nature, and would, in phlegmatic English society, probably lead to his being kicked by somebody; but to me they are all amply redeemed by his imperturbable good humour, and his frank, hearty laughter. Besides, he won my heart in the very commencement by making a face behind Miss Wapps's back so supernaturally comic, so irresistibly ludicrous, that Grimaldi, had he known him, would have been jaundiced with envy.
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The great Captain Steffens favours this jovial blade, and unbends to him, they say, more than he has ever been known to do to mortal second-cabin passenger. The ill-boding Captain Smith came to my berth last night, with a rattlesnake-like smile, to tell me we were off Hango Head, a fit place for such a raven -to herald, and to refresh my memory about the ice; and here, sure enough, this Tuesday morning, we are in the very thick of floating masses of the frozen sea!
Green, transparent, and assuming every kind of weird and fantastic shapes, they hem the "Preussischer Adler" round, cracking and groaning "like noises in a swound," as the Ancient Mariner heard them. Warm and balmy as the May air was. We are obliged to move with extreme caution and slowness, stopping altogether from time to time; but the ice gradually lessens, gradually disappears; the shores of the Gulf keep gradually becoming more distinct; and, on the Russian side, I can see white houses and the posts of the telegraph.