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MOSCOW, BEFORE THE CONFLAGRATION.
There is nothing more extraordinary in this country than the transition of the seasons. The people of Moscow have no spring. Winter vanishes and summer is/ This is not the work of a week, or a day, but of one instant; and the manner of it exceeds belief. We came from Petersburg to Moscow in sledges. The next day snow was gone. On the eighth of April, at mid-day, snow beat in at our carriage windows. On the same day, at sunset, arriving in Moscow, we had difficulty in being dragged through the mud to the commandant's. The next morning the streets were dry, the double windows had been removed from the houses, the casements thrown open, all the carriages were upon wheels, and the balconies filled with spectators. Another day brought with it twenty-three degrees of heat of Celsius, when the thermometer was placed in the shade at noon.
We arrived at the season of the year when this city is most interesting to strangers. Moscow is in every thing extraordinary; as well in disappointing expectation, as in surpassing it; in causing wonder and derision, pleasure and regret. Let me conduct the reader back with me again to the gate by which we entered, and thence through the streets. Numerous spires, glittering with gold, amidst burnished domes and painted palaces, appear in the midst of an open plain, for several versts before you reach this. gate. Having passed, you look about, and wonder what is become of the city, or where you are; and are ready to ask once more, How far is it to Moscow? They will tell you, " This is Moscow!" and you behold nothing but a wide and scattered suburb, huts, gardens, pig-sties, brick walls, churches, dunghills, palaces, timber-yards, warehouses, and a refuse, as it were, of materials sufficient to stock an empire with miserable towns and miserable villages. One might imagine all the states of Europe and Asia had sent a building, by way of representative, to Moscow; and under this impression the eye is presented with deputies from all countries, holding congress: timber huts from regions beyond the Arctic; plastered palaces from Sweden and Denmark, not whitewashed since their arrival; painted walls from the Tyrol; mosques from Constantinople; Tartar temples from Bucharia; pagodas, pavilions, and virandas, from China; cabarets from Spain; dungeons, prisons, and public offices, from France; architectural ruins from Rome; terraces and trellises from Naples; and warehouses from Wapping.
Having heard accounts of its immense population, you wander through deserted streets. Passing suddenly towards the quarter where the shops are situated, you might walk upon the heads of thousands. The daily throng is there so immense, that, unable to force a passage through it, or assign any motive that might convene such a multitude, you ask the cause; and are told that it is always the same. Nor is the costume less various than the aspect of the buildings: Greeks, Turks, Tartars, Cossacks, Chinese, Muscovites, English, French, Italians, Poles, Germans, all parade in the habits of their respective countries. Dr. Clarke.
A SCENE ON THE RIVER SPEY.
In the narrow part of the valley through which the Spey makes its way from the parish of Laggan downwards to that of Kugussie there is some scenery of a very singular character. To the south the Spey is seen making some fine bends round the foot of wooded hills. It is bordered by a narrow stripe of meadow, of the richest verdure, and fringed with an edging of beautiful shrubbery. On the north side rises with precipitate boldness, Craigow, or the Black Rock, the symbol and boundary of the clan who inhabit the valley. It is very black indeed; yet glitters in the sun, from the many little streams which descend from its steep, indeed perpendicular, surface. In the face of this lofty rock are many apertures, occasioned by the rolling down of portions of the stone, from which echoing noises are often heard. This scene of terror overlooks the soft features of a landscape below, that is sufficient, with this association, to remind us of what has been said of " Beauty sleeping in the lap of Horror." An eminence, as you approach towards the entrance of the strait, appears covered with regularly formed hillocks, of a conical form, and of different sizes, clothed with a kind of dwarf birch, extremely light-looking, and fanciful, sighing and trembling to every gale, and breathing odours after a calm evening shower, or rich dewy morning. In the depth of the valley, there is a lochan (the diminutive of loch) of superlative beauty. It is a round, clear, and shallow bason, richly fringed with water lilies, and presenting the clearest mirror to the steep woody banks on the south, and the rugged face of the lofty and solemn rock which frowns darkly to the north. On the summit, scarce approachable by human foot, is the only nest of the gosshawk now known to remain in Scotland; and, in the memory of the author, the nearest farm to this awful precipice was held by the tenure of taking down, every year, one of the young of this rare bird for the lord of the soil.
The screaming of the birds of prey on the summit, the roaring of petty waterfalls down its sides, and the frequent falls of shivered stone from the surface, made a melancholy confusion of sounds, very awful and incomprehensible to the travellers below, who could only proceed on a very narrow path on the edge of the lake, and under the side of this gloomy rock.—It did not require a belief in fairies to look round for them in this romantic scene. If one had merely heard of them, an involuntary operation of fancy would summon them to a place so suited for their habitation. MRS. GRANT.
A HIGHLAND INN OF FORMER TIMES.
The exterior of our inn was certainly none of the most inviting. The walls, composed of turf and loose stones, were too low to prevent me from plucking the harebells which grew on the top of them; and the thatch, varied with every hue of moss and lichen, was more to be admired for picturesque effect than for any more useful quality of a roof. The chimney crag seemed composed of the wreck of what had once been a tub; the hoops of which having yielded to the influence of time and the seasons, were rather imperfectly supplied by bands of twisted heath. The hut was, however, distinguished from its fellow hovels by a sashed window on one side of the door, a most incondite picture of a bottle and glass on the other, and a stone lintel, bearing, in characters of no modern shape, the following iuscription :—
10...W. M. T. Pilgrims we be ilk ane, M. M. B...07
Before we could draw up to the door of this superb hotel, it poured forth a swarm of children more numerous than I could have thought it possible for such a place to contain. I was prepared to expect the savage nakedness of legs and feet, which was universal among these little barbarians. For the rest, their attire was rather ludicrous than mean. The boys, even though