RUSSIANS, TURKS, AND BULGARIANS.
Favoritism as inevitably begets intrigue as rottenness engenders maggots. Under an irresponsible absolutism the Absolute must have an almost impossible thoroughness and strength of purpose if favors do not frequently go through caprice and from other motives than the sheer claims of honest desert. So far as I can see, even the recognition of merit in the Russian court and military circle is too often capricious. Young Skobeloff had fought as splendidly on the grey morning when we crossed the Danube and plashed through the mud on its further bank to come to close quarters with the enemy, as on the day when he gained the name of the "hero of Lovca," or on that other later day when he stood master of the three Turkish redoubts on the south-west of Plevna. But whereas on the news of Lovca he was toasted at the imperial board, and whereas the Plevna fighting worthily earned him his lieutenant-generalcy, after the first exploit, when the emperor embraced Dragimiroff and shook hands with Yolchine, he turned his back ostentatiously on Skobeloff, simply because he was out of favor, and had not yet got back into favor by dint of hard fighting. Every Russian circle I have had experience of — the camp, court, the headquarter staff, the subsidiary staffs, the regiment, the battalion — each is a focus of unworthy intrigue. Men live in superficial amity one with another, while, to use an Americanism, they are "going behind" each other by every underhand means in their power. Young Skobeloff was under a cloud, and Prince ——— was his enemy. Skobeloff, who is not a courtier, cleft the cloud with the edge of his good sword, and the cloud drifts on to settle above Prince ———. General Ignatieff is in high favor, seemingly fixed firmly in his place close to the emperor's right hand, a man of power, influence, and position. The bad fortune of the war goads certain people, on whom the odium lies of that bad fortune, to wrath against the man who had done so much to bring the war about. There is a period of swaying to and fro of the forces of intrigue, and then Ignatieff goes back to Russia to assist his wife in the nursing of her sick sister. The wheel will come full circle again, no doubt, and then that presently afflicted lady will recover. The mischief of this all-pervading intrigue is that it is a distraction of the forces that ought to be concentrated on real and earnest duty. A man cannot concentrate all his energies on aiding in coping with the king's enemies without when he has to spend — or waste — a share of them in plotting to get the better of a man in the next tent, or to foil the devices of that man to get the better of him. And unfortunately, the man who is the greatest adept in intrigue, and benefits by it in the attainment of a high place, has not always — indeed, as intrigue is demoralizing, it may be said seldom — the qualifications which the high place into which he may have intrigued himself demands.
The deficiency in an adequate sense of responsibility is greatly caused by the evil treated of in the last paragraph. But, indeed, it seems to me that the lack of that thoroughness which a sense of responsibility inspires is innate in the Russian military character, so far as preparation, organization, and system, distinguished from mere fighting, are concerned. The Orientalism of the Russian extraction tends to laissez-faire — hinders from the patient, plodding, steady industry of the north-German soldiering man. Nobody holds himself directly charged with the responsibility of the urgent mending of a bridge, and the bridge is not mended. Nobody has it borne in upon him that it is a bounden duty he owes to himself, to his comrades, and to the State, to see that reserves are ready at hand to be used in the nick of time, and an enterprise collapses for want of reserves. A general of division gets an order to send forward into the fight two of his regiments. His luncheon is spread under yonder tree. A German or an English general would disregard his food, and concentrate himself on the proper execution of the work; his staff-officers would compete with each other in orderly zeal for the successful fulfilment of the order, and crave furthermore for the good luck of being permitted to take a share in the "fun." It is as likely as not — I have witnessed the scene — that the Russian general endorses the order, and passes it on to the brigadier by the messenger who has brought it, while he and his fainéant staff-officers, who have been sitting supinely about when they ought to have been in the saddle, seek the grateful shade of the tree and the contented enjoyment of the refection. Coming down from the Shipka Pass while the fate of the fighting there hung in the scales, I was sent for by the commander-in-chief to give a narrative of what I had seen. The circumstance vividly impressed me, that with the exception of Monseigneur himself, nobody appeared to feel that the general staff, and he himself as a member of it, had intense, engrossing,