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64

ANTIQUITIES.

CHAPTER IV.

Circassian antiquities–Departure from Pchat-Visit to Indar

Oglou-Superstitions—Descent of Russian troops on the coast-View from the mountains-Mystification.

All that is to be found in the neighbourhood of Pchat, or, I may say, in Circassia, in the shape of antiquities, may be summed in a very few words. There is a mouldering wooden cross on the acclivity, not far from the sea, which, while it probably still attests the zeal of the Georgian queen, Thamar, who laboured to spread the light of Christianity on these shores, has long ceased to convey the slightest knowledge of Christianity, or a ray of its light, to the Circassians. Those who accompanied us, it is true, doffed their bonnets on approaching it; but on asking why they did so,

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they answered me, with a shrug, that their fathers had done so before them. Shreds of cloth were attached to the wood, which I was told were meant for votive offerings; also to tie up the malady of those who placed them there. Painful may

be to a Christian to see the emblem of his faith become thus to “ dumb forgetfulness a prey,” it is a fate which attends every monument of antiquity in this country. Oblivion drops her veil alike over all.

There are two descriptions of tombs to be seen here; one, the tumulus or cairn, a heap of rude stones, in some instances of great height and circumference; and the other a cenotaph, for no remains have been found near it, composed of fine ponderous flat stones, four in a quadrangle of five or six feet, and one at the top. Through one of the upright stones is a hole, about a foot in diameter, made in a well-described circle, with a smooth orifice: the inside is empty. These edifices, kept together by the very solidity of their truly Cyclopeian materials, have suggested to the natives, who have lost every clue to the real purpose for which they were constructed, the story that they were built by the giants as houses for the pigmies not that “small infantry warred on by cranes,” but a nation of light horsemen, mounted

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on hares instead of chargers. These, they say, were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Caucasus. With respect to any other ruins or remains, fortresses, monuments, or chapels, they have one answer to all inquiries—that is, “ they are Gennyvis” (Genoese), and they will not trouble themselves, or expect you should trouble yourself further on the matter. Genoa has much to answer for in the way of ruins (whatever hand she

may have had in building) here as well as in Turkey; “ lone mother of dead empires,” she is responsible for them all.

But this was no time, I was soon aware, however inviting to such dreams the soft tranquillity of these drowsy vales, to indulge in the visions and to ponder over the relics of the past; the hour itself was pregnant with events, superior in importance to any these valleys had hitherto been the theatre of, and by which that tranquillity was so speedily and so fearfully to be interrupted. Rumours, like the gusts that prelude the tempest, had already begun to agitate the simple minds of the inhabitants, and cold must have been the bosom that could remain unmoved by their anxiety, or did not kindle with the fire that animated every heart against their oppressors. The object I had immediately in view was to join my countryman,

DEPARTURE FROM PCHAT.

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Mr. Bell, who had been a month in the country, and, according to the intelligence of a messenger who, since my arrival, had come from the interior, had already crossed the mountains, and, surrounded by a gallant host of elders, warriors, and influential chieftains, was at Adhencum, on the plains of the Kuban. Accompanied, therefore, by a band of fifteen warriors, (the imminent dangers to which the families and properties of the inhabitants were now exposed making me cheerfully dispense with a larger escort,) I left Pchat on the 24th of May.

Our cavalcade, which issued from the yard of our konag amidst the cries of “Ogmafl ogmaf!" (Farewell ! farewell !) from the assembled neighbourhood, presented a train as motley and picturesque almost as that of the pilgrims to Canterbury. Foremost of all, borne by my Greek, whom I had constituted my beiraktar, or standard-bearer, fluttered in the morning breeze the white arrows and stars on the field of green silk, already familiar, I presume, to the English public as the national banner of Circassia. The standard-bearer himself, with his dashing dress of the Islands; the embroidered jacket and redundant trowsers ; his gallant bearing and military glee at finding himself once more on a war-saddle, formed no contemptible figure-head to the procession. After

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HOUSE OF INDAR OGLOU.

him came Alcide Bey, (the metamorphosed writer of these volumes,) having Islam Gheri Indar Oglou on his right, and his rogue of a Hadji on his left. The former with the bow, quiver, and costume, the gentle and dignified demeanour I have already described; the latter jogging along in the high turban, autery, and shalvar of the Turk, as fidgety and talkative as my other companion was grave and sedate. As for myself, the dress I wore was like my sentiments, at that time in a state of transition ; nor had I yet renounced my European surtout, or all my European prejudices. The costume of the rest of my train, composed of my servants and escort, exhibited much the same variety.

The first part of the journey was over the stony and dried-up stream of Pchat, a spendthrift torrent, compelled quickly to retrench, but leaving evident traces of its former profusion, in a channel upwards of two hundred feet in breadth. As it occupies the whole bottom of the valley, and the mountains (those to the left dividing it from the sea) descend to it abruptly, the horses, which are here unshod, advanced painfully over the rocks and pebbles. About three miles from the shore, in one of the shelving hollows to the left, wider and of more gradual declivity than the others, is the house of Indar Oglou : it is completely covered

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