+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

are certain to receive from some friend, who
expects to share in the result of the speculation,
early and accurate knowledge of any new firms
established within reach; and they generally
contrive to swindle them before they have
acquired sufficient experience to protect themselves.
The complicated and ingenious intrigues by
which these swindles are frequently made
successful are, happily, quite unknown and
inconceivable in the more healthy atmosphere of
Western Europe. But the true-bred Russian
magnate lives upon deceit as the breath of life,
and may pass from the cradle to the grave
without ever having spoken one plain truth, or
accomplished one straightforward action, in the
course of a long life. From the peculiar title-
loving constitution of the British mind, Englishmen,
and, strange to add, Scotchmen, who are
very fond of trying to trade in Southern Russia,
fall an easy prey to the cunning traps set for
them; and an Irish firm of considerable capital
and great respectability was utterly ruined in a
few months by advances fraudulently extracted
from them upon wheat never delivered, and of
which they could never obtain any account
whatever. Even when a boyard has actually
sold the produce of his land many times over,
he is not always satisfied. He nas still
another resource left, which he does not hesitate to
adopt whenever possible. He contrives, by the
influence of some personal friend or bribed
official, to obtain a loan from one of the government
land banksbanks which have been lately
opened by imperial ukase for the purpose of
affording relief to the small proprietors ruined
by the emancipation of the serfs, and who
have no money to hire agricultural labour
except that advanced to them by the mercy
of the State.

Now, there is a very true proverb in Russia,
that "The Crown loses nothing"—which
means that, under what circumstances soever
money may be due to the imperial treasury, it
must be paid, let who will go without their due.
Accordingly, it frequently occurs that when
the different persons who have made
advances on the same crop, finding that faith is
not kept with them, come to look after it, they
discover that it has just been seized by government,
and sold once more for a mere nominal
price to some local pedlar, who has bribed the
official man in possession. All remonstrance is
worse than useless. If the complainant is at
all troublesome or persistent, he is certain to
get into some mischief or trouble, which
has ostensibly nothing to do with his
complaint, but which infallibly results from it,
as a shadow follows substance. Indeed, as a
rule in Russia, a dupe is always bullied by
invariable routine. The noble and magnificent
cheat who has got the money, is, of course, not
to be found upon the spot, nor anywhere
near it. When his financial operations for the
year were complete in all their details, he would
be sure to go his pleasant ways to Baden-Baden,
to Kreutznach, to Paris, or to England. There
he would be always received with every respect
and distinction, spending his money very freely;
and not unfrequently borrowing more from the
families of governesses and awe-stricken people
about him. No law can reach him, either in his
own country or elsewhere, for  these infamous
breaches of contract, and they do not seem in
the slightest degree to affect his social position
even among respectable Russians who derive
their incomes from legitimate sources. The
common law of Russia is in a state of hopeless
muddle, and its administration is utterly
corrupt even when any definite principle is laid
down by it. A creditor, if he can obtain
a recognition of his debt, has no power
whatever of enforcing it. If, after twenty
years of litigation, an obstinate firm of
foreigners obtain judgment upon a bill of
exchange or a bond, the judgment has no
practical effect whatever. If a debtor is too poor
to leave the neighbourhood of his creditor, too
friendless, insignificant, or utterly rascally to
have a single friend in authority, instances
have sometimes occurred when a judicial order
has been extorted for his arrest. It is a mere
sham when issued. The creditor will have to
pay thirty kopecks, or about a shilling a day, for
the support of his debtor while he is alleged to
be incarcerated; but all the debtor will have to
do on his part will be to share this money with
his jailers, when he sends for it every morning,
and no further inconvenience can arise from his
fictitious imprisonment.

This is the manner, simply and truly told, in
which the great corn markets of Southern
Russiawhich might have been a blessing to the
worldhave been entirely spoiled and ruined, so
that no honest trade has hitherto been possible
there. No merchant having any experience
whatever of the country would go upon the
Exchange of Odessa or Taganrog to buy
or sell anything but bills of exchange. The
corn markets are, in reality, attended merely
by money-changers. Commercial business
is transacted elsewhere. It is done in the
far-away villages of the steppe by a special and
peculiar class of travelling and resident pedlars,
acting in concert with each other, and
commissioned by the Greek houses to buy for them.
All the queer history of every landlord in the
country is known to these men. They are often
a pleasant, amusing set of fellows, who find an
eager welcome, especially from the half-savage
women at the desolate "courts," or country-
houses of the boyards. All the news from the
outer world (of which he once formed part)
that can reach many a dejected Boor of
title, exiled by his rogueries to his neglected
and dreary estate, comes to him through the
gossip of these pedlars. They are his chief
amusement; his guides, philosophers, and
friends. But he abuses them awfully. His
peculiar notion of merriment is to send for
some pedlar, who is sure to be lurking about
the premises and doing a stroke of business
among the peasantry. The pedlar comes, all
humility and homage. The boyard may once
more fancy himself, if he pleases, among a