Michael Strogoff HTML version

4. The Triumphal Entry
TOMSK, founded in 1604, nearly in the heart of the Siberian provinces, is one of
the most important towns in Asiatic Russia. Tobolsk, situated above the sixtieth
parallel; Irkutsk, built beyond the hundredth meridian-- have seen Tomsk
increase at their expense.
And yet Tomsk, as has been said, is not the capital of this important province. It
is at Omsk that the Governor-General of the province and the official world
reside. But Tomsk is the most considerable town of that territory. The country
being rich, the town is so likewise, for it is in the center of fruitful mines. In the
luxury of its houses, its arrangements, and its equipages, it might rival the
greatest European capitals. It is a city of millionaires, enriched by the spade and
pickax, and though it has not the honor of being the residence of the Czar's
representative, it can boast of including in the first rank of its notables the chief of
the merchants of the town, the principal grantees of the imperial government's
But the millionaires were fled now, and except for the crouching poor, the town
stood empty to the hordes of Feofar-Khan. At four o'clock the Emir made his
entry into the square, greeted by a flourish of trumpets, the rolling sound of the
big drums, salvoes of artillery and musketry.
Feofar mounted his favorite horse, which carried on its head an aigrette of
diamonds. The Emir still wore his uniform. He was accompanied by a numerous
staff, and beside him walked the Khans of Khokhand and Koundouge and the
grand dignitaries of the Khanats.
At the same moment appeared on the terrace the chief of Feofar's wives, the
queen, if this title may be given to the sultana of the states of Bokhara. But,
queen or slave, this woman of Persian origin was wonderfully beautiful. Contrary
to the Mahometan custom, and no doubt by some caprice of the Emir, she had
her face uncovered. Her hair, divided into four plaits, fell over her dazzling white
shoulders, scarcely concealed by a veil of silk worked in gold, which fell from the
back of a cap studded with gems of the highest value. Under her blue-silk
petticoat, fell the "zirdjameh" of silken gauze, and above the sash lay the
"pirahn." But from the head to the little feet, such was the profusion of jewels--
gold beads strung on silver threads, chaplets of turquoises, "firouzehs" from the
celebrated mines of Elbourz, necklaces of cornelians, agates, emeralds, opals,
and sapphires-- that her dress seemed to be literally made of precious stones.
The thousands of diamonds which sparkled on her neck, arms, hands, at her
waist, and at her feet might have been valued at almost countless millions of
The Emir and the Khans dismounted, as did the dignitaries who escorted them.
All entered a magnificent tent erected on the center of the first terrace. Before the
tent, as usual, the Koran was laid.
Feofar's lieutenant did not make them wait, and before five o'clock the trumpets
announced his arrival. Ivan Ogareff-- the Scarred Cheek, as he was already nick-
named--wearing the uniform of a Tartar officer, dismounted before the Emir's