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The poet's pure immortal part,
"THE Russians," said Egeria one morning, as she was turning carefully over the leaves of several books which happened to be lying on the table,
seem to me to hold a place, in their habits, manners, and pursuits, between the Europeans and Asiatics. They have a great deal of the intelligence, the activity, and the shrewdness of the former, with no small degree of the cunning, the pride, and the selfishness of the latter. Their taste for slaves and magnificence is quite oriental; but they have social and convivial dispositions which do not belong to the Asiatics. The custom among the Muscovite nobility of keeping dwarfs is peculiar, I fancy, to themselves. Porter's account of these unfortunate little creatures is about one of the best things in his Travels in Russia and Sweden."
They are here the pages and the playthings of the great; and at almost all entertainments stand for hours by their lord's chair, holding his snuff-box, or awaiting his commands. There is scarcely a nobleman in this country who is not possessed of one or more of these
frisks of nature; but in their selection, I cannot say that the noblesse display their gallantry, as they choose none but males.
"These little beings are generally the gayest drest persons in the service of their lord, and are attired in a uniform or livery of very costly materials. In the presence of their owner, their usual station is at his elbow in the character of a page; and during his absence, they are then responsible for the cleanliness and combed locks of their companions of the canine species.
"Besides these lilliputians, many of the nobility keep a fool or two, like the motleys of our court in the days, of Elizabeth; but like in name alone, for their wit, if they ever had any, is swallowed up by indolence.Savoury sauce and rich repasts swell their bodies to the most disgusting size; and lying about in the corners of some splendid saloon, they sleep profoundly, till awakened by the command of their lord to amuse the company. Shaking their enormous bulk, they rise from their trance; and, supporting their unwieldy trunks against the wall, drawl out their heavy nonsense, with as much grace as the motions of a sloth in the hands of a reptile-fancier. One glance was sufficient for me of these imbruted creatures; and, with something like pleasure, I turned from them to the less humiliating view of human nature in the dwarf.
"The race of these unfortunates is very diminutive in Russia, and numerous. They are generally well shaped, and their hands and feet particularly graceful. Indeed, in the proportion of their figures, we should no where discover them to be flaws in the economy of nature, were it not for a peculiarity of feature and the size of the head, which is commonly exceedingly enlarged. Take them on the whole, they are such compact, and even pretty little beings, that no idea can be formed of them from the clumsy deformed dwarfs which
are exhibited at our fairs in England. I cannot say that we need envy Russia this part of her offspring. It is very curious to observe how nearly they resemble each other; their features are all so alike, that you might easily imagine that one pair had spread their progeny over the whole country."
"I would also read to you an anecdote of Gustavus Vasa, which is very cleverly told."
"On the little hill just mentioned, stood a very ancient habitation, of so simple an architecture, that you would have taken it for a hind's cottage, instead of a place that, in times of old, had been the abode of nobility. It consisted of a long barn-like structure, formed of fir, covered in a strange fashion with scales and odd ornamental twistings in the carved wood. But the spot was hallowed by the virtues of its heroic mistress, who saved, by her presence of mind, the life of the future deliverer of her country. The following are the circumstances alluded to; and most of them were communicated to me under the very roof.
"Gustavus having, by an evil accident, been discovered in the mines, and after being nearly betrayed by a Swedish nobleman, bent his course towards this house, then inhabited by a gentleman of the name of Pearson (or Peterson), whom he had known in the armies of the late administrator. Here he hoped, from the obligations he had formerly laid on the officer, that he should at least find a safe retreat. Pearson received him with every mark of friendship; nay, treated him with that respect and submission which noble minds are proud to pay to the truly great, when robbed of their external honours. He seemed more afflicted by the misfortunes of Gustavus than that prince was himself; and exclaimed with such vehemence against the Danes, that,
instead of awaiting a proposal to take up arms, he offered, un asked, to try the spirit of the mountaineers ; and declared that himself and his vassals would be the first to set an example, and turn out under the command of his beloved general.
"Gustavus was rejoiced to find that he had at last discovered a man who was not afraid to draw his sword in the defence of his country; and endeavoured, by the most impressive arguments, and the prospect of a suitable recompense for the personal risks he ran, to confirm him in so generous a resolution. Pearson answered with repeated assurances of fidelity; he named the gentlemen, and the leading persons among the peasants, whom he hoped to engage in the enterprise. Gustavus relied on his word, and promising not to disclose himself to any while he was absent, some days afterwards saw him leave the house to put his design in execution.
"It was indeed a design, and a black one. Under the specious cloak of a zealous affection for Gustavus, the traitor was contriving his ruin. The hope of making his court to the Danish tyrant, and the expectation of a large reward, made this son of Judas resolve to sacrifice his honour to his ambition, and, for the sake of a few ducats, violate the most sacred laws of hospitality, by betraying his guest. In pursuance of that base resolution, he went straight to one of Christiern's officers commanding in the province, and informed him that Gustavus was his prisoner. Having committed this treachery, he had not courage to face his victim; and telling the Dane how to surprise the prince, who, he said, believed himself to be under the protection of a friend, (shame to manhood, to dare to confess that he could betray such a confidence!) he proposed taking a wider circuit home, while they, apparently unknown to him, rifled it of its treasuer. It will be an easy mat
ter,' said he, for not even my wife knows that it is Gustavus.'
"Accordingly, the officer, at the head of a party of well-armed soldiers, marched directly to the lake. The men invested the house, while the leader, abruptly entering, found Pearson's wife, according to the fashion of those days, employed in culinary preparations. At some distance from her sat a young man in a rustic garb, lopping off the knots from the broken branch of a The officer went up to her, and told her he came in King Christiern's name to demand the rebel Gustavus, who he knew was concealed under her roof.The dauntless woman never changed colour; she immediately guessed the man whom her husband had introduced as a miner's son, to be the Swedish hero. The door was blocked up by soldiers. In an instant she replied, without once glancing at Gustavus, who sat motionless with surprise, If you mean the melancholy gentleman my husband has had here these few days, he
has just walked out into the wood on the other side of the hill. Some of those soldiers may readily seize him, as he has no arms with him.
"The officer did not suspect the easy simplicity of her manner; and ordered part of the men to go in quest of him. At that moment, suddenly turning her eyes on Gustavus, she flew up to him, and catching the stick out of his hand, exclaimed, in an angry voice,—‹ Unmannerly wretch! What, sit before your betters? Don't you see the king's officers in the room? Get out of my sight, or some of them shall give you a drubbing!' As 'she spoke, she struck him a blow on the back with all her strength; and opening a side-door,' there, get into the scullery,' cried she, it is the fittest place for such company and giving him another knock, she flung the stick after him, and shut the door. Sure,' added