Know that the "schaska" is a sword hung from a bandolier trimmed with studs and silver embroidery, that the "kindjall" or "kandijar" is a dagger worn in the belt, that the armament of the soldiers of the Caucasus is completed by a long Damascus gun ornamented with bands of chiseled metal.
Know that the "tarantass" is a sort of berline hung on five pieces of rather elastic wood between wheels placed rather wide apart and of moderate height; that this carriage is driven by a "yemtchik," on the front seat, who has three horses, to whom is added a postilion, the "falétre," when it is necessary to hire a fourth horse from the "smatritel," who is the postmaster on the Caucasian roads.
Know, then, that the verst is two-thirds of a mile, that the different nomadic people of the governments of Transcaucasia are composed of Kalmucks, descendants of the Eleuthes, fifteen thousand, Kirghizes of Mussulman origin eight thousand, Koundrof Tartars eleven hundred, Sartof Tartars a hundred and twelve, Nogais eight thousand five hundred, Turkomans nearly four thousand.
And thus, after having so minutely absorbed my Georgia, here was this ukase obliging me to abandon it! And I should not even have time to visit Mount Ararat or publish my impressions of a journey in Transcaucasia, losing a thousand lines of copy at the least, and for which I had at my disposal the 32,000 words of my language actually recognized by the French Academy.
It was hard, but there was no way out of it. And to begin with, at what o'clock did the train for Tiflis start from the Caspian?
The station at Tiflis is the junction of three lines of railway: the western line ending at Poti on the Black Sea, where the passengers land coming from Europe, the eastern line which ends at Baku, where the passengers embark to cross the Caspian, and the line which the Russians have just made for a length of about a hundred miles between Ciscaucasia and Transcaucasia, from Vladikarkaz to Tiflis, crossing the Arkhot range at a height of four thousand five hundred feet, and which connects the Georgian capital with the railways of Southern Russia.
I went to the railway station at a run, and rushed into the departure office.
"When is there a train for Baku?" I asked.
"You are going to Baku?" answered the clerk.
And from his trap-door he gave me one of those looks more military than civil, which are invariably found under the peak of a Muscovite cap.
"I think so," said I, perhaps a little sharply, "that is, if it is not forbidden to go to Baku."
"No," he replied, dryly, "that is, if you are provided with a proper passport."
"I will have a proper passport," I replied to this ferocious functionary, who, like all the others in Holy Russia, seemed to me an intensified gendarme.
Then I again asked what time the train left for Baku.
"Six o'clock to-night."
"And when does it get there?"
"Seven o'clock in the morning."
"Is that in time to catch the boat for Uzun Ada?"
And the man at the trap-door replied to my salute by a salute of mechanical precision.
The question of passport did not trouble me. The French consul would know how to give me all the references required by the Russian administration.
Six o'clock to-night, and it is already nine o'clock in the morning! Bah! When certain guide books tell you how to explore Paris in two days, Rome in three days, and London in four days, it would be rather curious if I could not do Tiflis in a half day. Either one is a correspondent or one is not!
It goes without saying that my newspaper would not have sent me to Russia, if I could not speak fluently in Russian, English and German. To require a newspaper man to know the few thousand languages which are used to express thought in the five parts of the world would be too much; but with the three languages above named, and French added, one can go far across the two continents. It is true, there is Turkish of which I had picked up a few phrases, and there is Chinese of which I did not understand a single word.