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society of British gentlemen who have just
heard that he is a prince. The airs the
creature gives himself to the pedlar are
wonderful, and painful to witness. The
interview opens with the outward rush of a
torrent of boasting long pent-up by the frosts
of domestic life under difficulties. The pedlar
bows himself sideways, and bareheaded, at the
close of every phrase; and when the boyard
pauses to light a fresh cigarette, he murmurs a
guttural chorus of praise, setting forth the
virtues and greatness of his host. This flattery
to ears long unused to it is always extremely
welcome to the boyard, who soon warms to the
entertainment, and lauds his own condescension
in talking to the pedlar, to whom he relates
many stately anecdotes of the time when he
could borrow money. By-and-by he gets drunk,
partly with adulation and partly with the fierce
white brandy extracted, by a rude process, from
corn. Then he falls to insulting the pedlar.
He will lounge in uncouth attitudes with his
henchmen and dependents, and shout with rude
laughter as he vilifies his guest and pours taunt
after taunt upon him. He does not often get
to blows, but he does sometimes. When
exhausted by these witticisms, he becomes
maudlin, and declares, as drunken men will,
that the pedlar is his best friend, and must
get him a loan to go back to Paris. Then
comes the sale of the wheat, if it is not
mortgaged to government. The speculation
is perfectly safe, as far as the pedlar and
his employers are concerned, for if he makes
an advance on the crop he will certainly
remain in the neighbourhood till it is ripe,
reaped, and carted. There is no deceiving him,
for he is in the confidence and intimacy of every
man, woman, and child about the place.
Perhaps, under these circumstances, he may buy
wheat at something under seven shillings a
quarter, which leaves a large margin on an
average price of forty-five shillings. But,
although the pedlars can do this, nobody else
could. No British commercial traveller has
ever yet been found who could make head or tail
of such an aggravating business; and for many
years past he has ceased to try it. There
is certainly no other partially civilised country
in the world equally important to British
interests, where there is not a single British
merchant who can obtain a reasonable profit out
of the produce exported to his own country.
Many firms of every degree of respectability, men
supported by unlimited capital, as well as sharp,
keen-witted adventurers, have tried it; but
every one of them has failed without exception;
failed hopelessly, utterly, and been glad to
escape, half-crazed by lawsuits, false swearing,
and every torment which can afflict a mercantile
man. Honourable persons, without a stain upon
their character, have been advised by their best
friends to fly the country in disguise by night,
and smuggle themselves off to merchant ships
that have weighed anchor, in order to get out
of the clutches of the local harpies who have
fastened upon them. Not an Englishman has
left without being humbugged, worried, and
plundered, so as never to desire to set foot
in Russia any more. When he endeavours
to collect his wits and recal the circumstances
under which he has been robbed, the uppermost
feeling in his mind is sheer amazement. He
seems to himself to have passed through a
startling dream. It is difficult for him to
convince himself, and he will find it still harder to
convince others, that every person he has had
to deal with is a rogue, whose sole object, for
the time being, has been to coax him, or to snub
him, or to vex him, or to badger him, or to awe
him, or to threaten him out of money, and that
they have one and all succeeded in their several
ways of doing so. There has been quite a spell
upon the corn trade. Governors-general, mere
local governors, princes, pedlars, small clerks,
swarms of policemen, thievish notaries, have
stuck to this simple business of fraudulently
buying and selling like so many barnacles or

Thus, every merchant of repute being
absolutely banished from the land, the whole of our
vast corn trade with the south of Russia and
the Moldo-Wallachian Principalities is mere
gambling. It does not signify a straw what
may be the price of wheat in Podolia, Volhynia,
and Kherson. A great deal of it is worth so
little that it is left to rot upon the ground
unreaped, much of it is spoiled by the autumn
rains, much of it is idly wasted. We do
not get it any cheaper for that. The price of
wheat on the shores of the Euxine and the
Azoff, as well as in the quasi-Polish provinces,
is entirely regulated by the quotations of Marklane,
Marseilles, and Genoa. The corn to be
purchased in Eastern Europe is entirely in the
hands of gamblers, and this is the sole secret
that has kept up the price of it. Twenty
times the quantity actually exported is grown
and lost. Twenty times more might be grown
and saved; and doubtless many landlords live
in a state of humiliating poverty who have all
the materials of wealth about them. Nothing
is wanted but a little thrift and honesty to set
all this to rights; and the opening of the new
railways must bring about a great change.
Facilities for swindling of every kind have
existed so long in Russia only because of the
difficulty of travelling. In a few years, even
such a brilliant impostor as Dooyoumalsky will
have no chance of making the profits which
now accrue to him. He will be obliged, like
all other foes to civilised men, to retire to
deserts where the engineer and navvy are still
unknown; and even Siberia itself is about to
be closed to him. He will have cause to rejoice
at this himself in due season, for, enormous as
are the trade returns of his business, they never
make him really rich. Although a corn crop
may be sold, long before it is ripe, to different
persons, not one of them pays the full
price for it. Probably all of them together
do not pay one half of its real value if honestly
reaped and sold in the right way. None of the
dupes will part with their money without a