It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. — G. K. Chesterton

Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe




Some Adventures in Russia

Soon after my last hunting adventure I went on a journey through Russia, but I tarried so long in Warsaw that winter had already set in with unwonted severity when I continued my way northwards through Poland.

"I soon became so accustomed to the prevailing cold that I hardly felt it; but I thought it very strange that I should ride all day long without coming across a village, an inn, or even a single isolated house. I knew I was shaping my course due north, but according to the map I should be traversing a dense forest, whereas I found myself in the midst of a snowy desert without tree or house in sight.

"Tired out at nightfall I dismounted, and considered myself lucky to have as provision a large loaf, which I had really purchased for my horse and could now share with him. I discovered a kind of pointed tree-stump to which I fastened my horse, and then lay down on the snow a few paces off, using my saddle for a pillow. I was so exhausted that I instantly fell into a deep sleep, and did not wake till broad daylight. You can imagine my astonishment to find myself in the midst of a village, lying in a churchyard, and my horse nowhere to be seen; then I heard human voices near and a neighing somewhere above me. The peasants pointed upwards, and I beheld my horse hanging by his bridle to the summit of the church steeple! Matters now became quite clear to me; the whole village had been covered with snow, and what in the dark I had taken for a tree-stump proved to be the cross or weathercock of the church steeple. During the night the snow had melted, and I had gradually sunk down into the church-yard while still asleep.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
PICKING UP MY PISTOL, I SHOT THE BRIDLE IN TWO.


"My first thought was to release my horse from his uncomfortable position. Picking up my pistol, I shot the bridle in two; my trusty steed slipped gently down the church-tower and alighted near my feet. The landlord of the inn, a very worthy man, regaled us with a good breakfast; and while my Brownie was munching a double allowance of corn, he told me that such a deep snowfall was by no means uncommon in Poland, and that they usually had several such every winter. It was with great difficulty that I prevailed upon my host to accept a gold piece for his hospitality, and then, strengthened and refreshed, I pursued my way, which, Plow that the snow was melted, certainly lay through a dense forest.

"After a journey of a few days I arrived at the celebrated Count Pumstock's magnificent country estate, where I intended to make a short stay in order to recover from the fatigue of my travels.

"We were sitting at the tea-table, when the gentlemen were summoned into the courtyard to inspect a young thoroughbred horse, which had just arrived. Meantime I remained with the ladies in the drawing-room till sounds of distress made me start up.

"I hastened downstairs, and, to my astonishment, found all the gentlemen standing helplessly round a horse, so restive and unruly that not even the most resolute horseman dared mount or handle him. Seeing me approach, the Count called out in jest: 'Come, Nunchausen, here is a task for you!'

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
I FORCED HIM TO LEAP IN AT THE OPEN WINDOW.


"With one leap I was on the horse's back, took him by surprise, and, with the best display of horsemanship of which I was capable, soon reduced him to gentleness and obedience.

"In order to show this to the ladies and save them unnecessary trouble, I forced him to leap in at the open window of the tea-room and to walk, trot, and gallop several times round; finally, I made him mount the tea-table and repeat the performance in miniature without breaking a single cup or saucer. This amused the ladies exceedingly, and the count was so delighted that he insisted on my accepting the horse from him as a present.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
I MADE HIM MOUNT THE TEA-TABLE.


"I could have received nothing more welcome, since I was about to enter on my apprenticeship as a soldier in a campaign against the Turks. Our leader was the renowned Count Munnig, and, though I lay claim to no special share of glory, I may say without boasting that we all did our duty right nobly, and that the magnificent results of the campaign were entirely due to our efforts, although, as is usually the case, all the credit was given to the commander.

"I still had a few days to spare before joining my regiment, and I cannot complain that they were devoid of adventure. But I will reserve these tales till to-morrow night."