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Having thus completely blindfolded the cabinet of Russia, Zebek-Dorchi proceeded in his new character to ful. fil his political mission with the Khan of the Kalmucks. So artfully did he prepare the road for his favorable reception at the court of this prince, that he was at once and universally welcomed as a public benefactor. The pensions of the councillors were so much additional wealth poured into the Tartar exchequer: as to the ties of dependency thus created, experience had not yet enlightened these simple tribes as to that result. And that he himself should be the chief of these mercenary councillors, was so far from being charged upon Zebek as any offence or any ground of suspicion, that his relative the khan returned him hearty thanks for his services, under the belief that he could have accepted this appointment only with a view to keep out other and more unwelcome pretenders, who would not have had the same motives of consanguinity or friendship for executing its duties in a spirit of kindness to the Kalmucks. The first use which he made of his new functions about the khan's person was to attack the court of Russia, by a romantic villany not easily to be credited, for those very acts of interference with the council which he himself had prompted. This was a dangerous step; but it was indispensable to his further advance upon the gloomy path which he had traced out for himself. A triple vengeance was what he meditated : 1. Upon the Russian cabinet, for having undervalued his own pretensions to the throne; 2. Upon his amiable rival, for having supplanted him; and, 3. Upon all those of the nobility who had manifested their sense of his weakness by their neglect, or their sense of
his perfidious character by their suspicions. Here was a colossal outline of wickedness; and by one in his situation, feeble (as it might seem) for the accomplishment of its humblest parts, how was the total edifice to be reared in its comprehensive grandeur ? He, a worm as he was, - could he venture to assail the mighty behemoth of Muscovy, the potentate who counted three hundred languages around the footsteps of his throne, and from whose “lion ramp” recoiled alike “baptized and infidel,”
- Christendom on the one side, strong by her intellect and her organization, and the “barbaric East” on the other, with her unnumbered numbers ? The match was a monstrous one; but in its very monstrosity there lay this germ of encouragement, - that it could not be suspected. The very hopelessness of the scheme grounded his hope; and he resolved to execute a vengeance which should involve as it were, in the unity of a well-laid tragic fable, all of whom he judged to be his enemies. That vengeance lay in detaching from the Russian empire the whole Kalmuck nation and breaking up that system of intercourse which had thus far been beneficial to both. This last was a consideration which moved him but little. True it was that Russia to the Kalmucks had secured lands and extensive pasturage; true it was that the Kalmucks reciprocally to Russia had furnished a powerful cavalry; but the latter loss would be part of his triumph, and the former might be more than compensated in other climates, under other sovereigns. Here was a scheme which, in its final accomplishment, would avenge him bitterly on the czarina, and in the course of its accomplishment might furnish him with ample occasions for removing his other enemies. It may be readily supposed, indeed, that he who could deliberately raise his eyes to the Russian autocrat as an antagonist in single duel with himself was not likely to feel much anxiety about Kalmuck enemies of whatever rank. He took his resolution, therefore, sternly and irrevocably to effect this astonishing translation of an ancient people across the pathless deserts of Central Asia, intersected continually by rapid rivers rarely furnished with bridges, and of which the fords were known only to those who might think it for their interest to conceal them, through many nations inhospitable or hostile, — frost and snow around them (from the necessity of commencing their flight in the winter), famine in their front, and the sabre, or even the artillery, of an offended and mighty empress hanging upon their rear for thousands of miles. But what was to be their final mark, the port of shelter, after so fearful a course of wandering? Two things were evident: it must be some power at a great distance from Russia, so as to make return even in that view hopeless, and it must be a power of sufficient rank to insure them protection from any hostile efforts on the part of the czarina for reclaiming them or for chastising their revolt. Both conditions were united obviously in the person of Kien Long, the reigning emperor of China, who was further recommended to them by his respect for the head of their religion. To China, therefore, and, as their first rendezvous, to the shadow of the great Chinese Wall, it was settled by Zebek that they should direct their flight.
Next came the question of time, When should the flight comnience ? and, finally, the more delicate question as to
the choice of accomplices. To extend the knowledge of the conspiracy too far was to insure its betrayal to the Russian government. Yet at some stage of the preparations it was evident that a very extensive confidence must be made, because in no other way could the mass of the Kalmuck population be persuaded to furnish their families with the requisite equipments for so long a migration. This critical step, however, it was resolved to defer up to the latest possible moment, and, at all events, to make no general communication on the subject until the time of departure should be definitely settled. In the mean time Zebek admitted only three persons to his confidence,
- of whom Oubacha, the reigning prince, was almost necessarily one; but him, from his yielding and somewhat feeble character, he viewed rather in the light of a tool than as one of his active accomplices. Those whom (if anybody) he admitted to an unreserved participation in his counsels were two only, — the great lama among the Kalmucks, and his own father-in-law, Erempel, a ruling prince of some tribe in the neighborhood of the Caspian Sea, recommended to his favor not so much by any strength of talent corresponding to the occasion, as by his blind devotion to himself and his passionate anxiety to promote the elevation of his daughter and his son-in-law to the throne of a sovereign prince. A titular prince Zebek already was; but this dignity, without the substantial accompaniment of a sceptre, seemed but an empty sound to both of these ambitious rivals. The other accomplice, whose name was Loosang-Dchaltzan, and whose rank was that of lama, or Kalmuck pontiff, was a person of far more distinguished pretensions. He
had something of the same gloomy and terrific pride which marked the character of Zebek himself, manifesting also the same energy, accompanied by the same unfaltering cruelty, and a natural facility of dissimulation even more profound. It was by this man that the other question was settled as to the time for giving effect to their designs. His own pontifical character had suggested to him, that in order to strengthen their influence with the vast mob of simple-minded men whom they were to lead into a howling wilderness, after persuading them to lay desolate their own ancient hearths, it was indispensable that they should be able, in cases of extremity, to plead the express sanction of God for their entire enterprise. This could only be done by addressing themselves to the great head of their religion, — the dalai lama of Tibet. Him they easily persuaded to countenance their schemes ; and an oracle was delivered solemnly at Tibet, to the effect that no ultimate prosperity would attend this great exodus unless it were pursued through the years of the tiger and the hare. Now, the Kalmuck custom is to distinguish their years by attaching to each a denomination taken from one of twelve animals, the exact order of succession being absolutely fixed; so that the cycle revolves, of course, through a period of a dozen years. Consequently, if the approaching year of the tiger were suffered to escape them, in that case the expedition must be delayed for twelve years more; within which period, even were no other unfavorable changes to arise, it was pretty well foreseen that the Russian government would take the most effectual means for bridling their vagrant propensities by a ring fence of forts, or military posts, to