This was especially remarked by a traveler in a carriage at the front part of the train. This person--evidently a stranger-- made good use of his eyes, and asked numberless questions, to which he received only evasive answers. Every minute leaning out of the window, which he would keep down, to the great disgust of his fellow-travelers, he lost nothing of the views to the right. He inquired the names of the most insignificant places, their position, what were their commerce, their manufactures, the number of their inhabitants, the average mortality, etc., and all this he wrote down in a note-book, already full.
This was the correspondent Alcide Jolivet, and the reason of his putting so many insignificant questions was, that amongst the many answers he received, he hoped to find some interesting fact "for his cousin." But, naturally enough, he was taken for a spy, and not a word treating of the events of the day was uttered in his hearing.
Finding, therefore, that he could learn nothing of the Tartar invasion, he wrote in his book, "Travelers of great discretion. Very close as to political matters."
Whilst Alcide Jolivet noted down his impressions thus minutely, his confrere, in the same train, traveling for the same object, was devoting himself to the same work of observation in another compartment. Neither of them had seen each other that day at the Moscow station, and they were each ignorant that the other had set out to visit the scene of the war. Harry Blount, speaking little, but listening much, had not inspired his companions with the suspicions which Alcide Jolivet had aroused. He was not taken for a spy, and therefore his neighbors, without constraint, gossiped in his presence, allowing themselves even to go farther than their natural caution would in most cases have allowed them. The correspondent of the Daily Telegraph had thus an opportunity of observing how much recent events preoccupied the merchants of Nijni-Novgorod, and to what a degree the commerce with Central Asia was threatened in its transit.
He therefore noted in his book this perfectly correct observation, "My fellow-travelers extremely anxious. Nothing is talked of but war, and they speak of it, with a freedom which is astonishing, as having broken out between the Volga and the Vistula."
The readers of the Daily Telegraph would not fail to be as well informed as Alcide Jolivet's "cousin." But as Harry Blount, seated at the left of the train, only saw one part of the country, which was hilly, without giving himself the trouble of looking at the right side, which was composed of wide plains, he added, with British assurance, "Country mountainous between Moscow and Wladimir."
It was evident that the Russian government purposed taking severe measures to guard against any serious eventualities even in the interior of the empire. The rebel lion had not crossed the Siberian frontier, but evil influences might be feared in the Volga provinces, so near to the country of the Kirghiz.
The police had as yet found no traces of Ivan Ogareff. It was not known whether the traitor, calling in the foreigner to avenge his personal rancor, had rejoined Feofar-Khan, or whether he was endeavoring to foment a revolt in the government of Nijni-Novgorod, which at this time of year contained a population of such diverse elements. Perhaps among the Persians, Armenians, or Kalmucks, who flocked to the great market, he had agents, instructed to provoke a rising in the interior. All this was possible, especially in such a country as Russia. In fact, this vast empire, 4,000,000 square miles in extent, does not possess the homogeneousness of the states of Western Europe. The Russian territory in Europe and Asia contains more than seventy millions of inhabitants. In it thirty different languages are spoken. The Sclavonian race predominates, no doubt, but there are besides Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, Courlanders. Add to these, Finns, Laplanders, Esthonians, several other northern tribes with unpronounceable names, the Permiaks, the Germans, the Greeks, the Tartars, the Caucasian tribes, the Mongol, Kalmuck, Samoid, Kamtschatkan, and Aleutian hordes, and one may understand that the unity of so vast a state must be difficult to maintain, and that it could only be the work of time, aided by the wisdom of many successive rulers.