As correspondent of the New York American, then The Journal, Richard went from Florence, where he was visiting me, to Moscow. He was accompanied by Augustus Trowbridge, an old friend of my brother's and a rarely good linguist. The latter qualification proved of the greatest possible assistance to Richard in his efforts to witness the actual coronation ceremony. To have finally been admitted to the Kremlin my brother always regarded as one of his greatest successes as a correspondent.
The night is passed and with the day comes "a hope" but during the blackness I had "a suffer"-- I read until two--five hours--and then slept until five when the middle man who had slept on my shoulder all night left the train and the second one to whom Bernardi was so polite left me alone and had the porter fit me up a bed so that I slept until seven again-- Then the Guardian Angel returned for his traps and I bade him a sleepy adieu and was startled to see two soldiers standing shading their eyes in salute in the doorway and two gentlemen bowing to my kind protector with the obsequiousness of servants-- He sort of smiled back at me and walked away with the soldiers and 13 porters carrying his traps. So I rung up the conductor and he said it was the King's Minister with his eyes sticking out of his head--the conductor's eyes--not the Minister's. I don't know what a King's Minister is but he liked your whiskey-- I am now passing through the Austrian Tyrol which pleases me so much that I am chortling with joy-- None of the places for which my ticket call are on any map--but don't you care, I don't care-- I wish I could adequately describe last night with nothing but tunnels hours in length so that you had to have all the windows down and the room looked like a safe and full of tobacco smoke and damp spongey smoke from the engine, and bad air. That first compartment I went in was filled later with German women who took off their skirts and the men took off their shoes. Everybody in the rear of the car is filthy dirty but I had a wash at the Custom house and now I am almost clean and quite happy. The day is beautiful and the compartment is all my own-- I am absolutely enchanted with the Tyrol-- I have never seen such quaint picture book houses and mills with wheels like that in the Good for Nothing and crucifixes wonderfully carved and snow mountains and dark green forests-- The sky is perfect and the air is filled with the sun and the train moves so smoothly that I can see little blue flowers, baby blue, Bavarian blue flowers, in the Spring grass. Such dear old castles like birds nests and such homelike old mills and red-faced millers with feathers in their caps you never saw out of a comic opera-- The man in here with me now is a Russian, of course, and saw the last Coronation and knows that my suite is on the principal Street and attends to my changing money and getting an omelette-- I can survive another night now having had an omelette not so good as Madam Masi's but still an omelette-- I have now left Munich and the Russian and a conductor whom I mistook for a hereditary prince of Bavaria, with tassels down his back, has assured me he is going to Berlin, and that I am going to Berlin and much else to which I smile knowingly and say mucho gracia, wee wee, ya ya, ich ich limmer and other long speeches ending with "an er--"
May 15th, 1896. Moscow. DEAR CHAS:
We left Berlin Monday night at eleven and slept well in a wagon-lit. That was the only night out of the five that I spent in the cars that I had my clothes off, although I was able to stretch out on the seats, so I am cramped and tired now. At seven Monday morning the guard woke us and told us to get ready for the Custom House and I looked out and saw a melancholy country of green hills and black pines and with no sign of human life. It was raining and dreary looking and then I saw as we passed them a line of posts painted in black and white stripes a half mile apart on each side of the train and I knew we had crossed the boundary and that the line of posts stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea and from the Pacific to the Caucasus Mountains and the Pamirs. It gave me a great thrill but I have had so many to-day, that I had almost forgotten that one. For two days we jogged along through a level country with meanthatched huts and black crows flying continually and peasants in sheepskin coats, full in the skirt and tight at the waist, with boots or thongs of leather around their feet. The women wore boots too and all the men who were not soldiers had their hair cropped short like mops. We could not find any one who understood any language, so as we never knew when we would stop for food, we ate at every station and I am of the opinion that for months I have been living on hot tea and caviar and hash sandwiches. The snow fell an inch deep on Wednesday and dried up again in an hour and the sun shone through it all. So on the whole it was a good trip and most interesting. But here we are now in a perfect pandemonium and the Czar has not yet come nor one-fifth even of the notables. It is a great city, immense and overpowering in its extent. The houses are ugly low storied and in hideous colors except the churches which are like mosques and painted every color. I confess I feel beaten to night by the noise and rush and roar and by so many strange figures and marvellous costumes. Our rooms are perfect that is one thing and the situation is the very best. If the main street were Fifth Avenue and Madison Square the Governor's Square, his palace would be Delmonico's and our rooms would be the corner rooms of the Brunswick, so you can see how well we are placed. We can sit in our windows and look down and up the main street and see every one who leaves or calls upon the Governor. We are now going out for a dinner and to one of many cafe-chantants and I will tell you the rest to-morrow, when I get sleep, for after five nights of it I feel done up, but I feel equally sure it is going to be a great experience and I cannot tell you how glad 1 am that I came. Love to you all and to dear Florence in which Trowbridge, who is a brick, joins me.
There was a great deal to tell when I shut down last night, but I thought I would have had things settled by this time and waited, but it looks now as though there was to be no rest for the weary until the Czar has put his crown on his head. The situation is this: there are ninety correspondents, and twelve are to get into the coronation, two of these will be Americans. There are five trying for it.
Count Daschoff, the Minister of the Court, has the say as to who gets in of those five. T. and I called on him with my credentials just as he was going out. Never have I seen such a swell. He made us feel like dudes from Paterson, New Jersey. He had three diamond eagles in an astrakan cap, a white cloak, a gray uniform, top boots and three rows of medals. He spoke English perfectly, with the most politely insolent manner that I have ever had to listen to; and eight servants, each of whom we had, in turn, mistaken for a prince royal, bowed at him all the brief time he talked over our heads. He sent us to the bureau for correspondents, where they gave me a badge and a pocketbook, with my photo in it. They are good for nothing, except to get through the police lines. No one at the bureau gave us the least encouragement as to my getting in at the coronation. We were frantic, and I went back to Breckenridge, our Minister, and wrote him a long letter explaining what had happened, and that what I wrote would "live," that I was advertised and had been advertised to write this story for months. I dropped The Journal altogether, and begged him to represent me as a literary light of the finest color. This he did in a very strong letter to Daschoff, and I presented it this morning, but the Minister, like Edison, said he would let me know when he could see me. Then I wrote Breck a letter of thanks so elegant and complimentary that he answered with another, saying if his first failed he would try again. That means he is for me, and at the bureau they say whichever one he insists on will get in, but they also say he is so good-natured that he helps every one who comes. I told him this, and he has promised to continue in my behalf as soon as we hear from Daschoff.
The second thing of importance is the getting the story, IF WE GET IT, on the wire. That, I am happy to say, we are as assured of as I could hope to be. I own the head of the Telegraph Bureau soul, body and mind. He loves the ground T. and I spurn, and he sent out my first cable today, one of interrogation merely, ahead of twelve others; he has also given us the entree to a private door to his office, all the other correspondents having to go to the press-rooms and undergo a sort of press censorship, which entails on each man the cutting up of his story into three parts, so as to give all a chance. I gave T. three dictums to guide him; the first was that we did not want a fair chance--we wanted an unfair advantage over every one else. Second, to never accept a "No" or a "Yes" from a subordinate, but to take everything from head-quarters. Third, to use every mouse, and not to trust to the lions. He had practise on the train. When he told me we would be in Moscow in ten hours, I would say, "Who told you that," and back he would go to the Herr Station Director in a red gown, and return to say that we would get there in twenty hours. By this time I will match him against any newspaper correspondent on earth. He flatters, lies, threatens and bribes with a skill and assurance that is simply beautiful, and his languages and his manners pull me out of holes from which I could never have risen. With it all he is as modest as can be, and says I am the greatest diplomat out of office, which I really think he believes, but I am only using old reporters' ways and applying the things other men did first.
My best stroke was to add to my cable to The Journal, "Recommend ample recognition of special facilities afforded by telegraph official"--and then get him to read it himself under the pretext of wishing to learn if my writing was legible. He grinned all over himself, and said it was. After my first story is gone I will give him 200 roubles for himself in an envelope and say Journal wired me to do it. That will fix him for the coronation story, as it amounts to six months' wages about. But, my dear brother, in your sweet and lovely home, where the sun shines on the Cascine and the workmen sleep on the bridges, and dear old ladies knit in the streets, that is only one of the thousand things we have had to do. It would take years to give you an account of what we have done and why we do it. It is like a game of whist and poker combined and we bluff on two flimsy fours, and crawl the next minute to a man that holds a measly two-spot. There is not a wire we have not pulled, or a leg, either, and we go dashing about all day in a bath-chair, with a driver in a bell hat and a blue nightgown, leaving cards and writing notes and giving drinks and having secretaries to lunch and buying flowers for wives and cigar boxes for husbands, and threatening the Minister with Cleveland's name.