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by Jules Verne



"SIRE, a fresh dispatch."


"From Tomsk?"

"Is the wire cut beyond that city?"

"Yes, sire, since yesterday."

"Telegraph hourly to Tomsk, General, and keep me informed of all that

"Sire, it shall be done," answered General Kissoff.

These words were exchanged about two hours after midnight, at the moment
when the fete given at the New Palace was at the height of its splendor.

During the whole evening the bands of the Preobra-jensky and Paulowsky
regiments had played without cessation polkas, mazurkas, schottisches,
and waltzes from among the choicest of their repertoires. Innumerable
couples of dancers whirled through the magnificent saloons of the
palace, which stood at a few paces only from the "old house of
stones" - in former days the scene of so many terrible dramas, the
echoes of whose walls were this night awakened by the gay strains of the

The grand-chamberlain of the court, was, besides, well seconded in his
arduous and delicate duties. The grand-dukes and their aides-de-camp,
the chamberlains-in-waiting and other officers of the palace, presided
personally in the arrangement of the dances. The grand duchesses,
covered with diamonds, the ladies-in-waiting in their most exquisite
costumes, set the example to the wives of the military and civil
dignitaries of the ancient "city of white stone." When, therefore, the
signal for the "polonaise" resounded through the saloons, and the guests
of all ranks took part in that measured promenade, which on occasions
of this kind has all the importance of a national dance, the mingled
costumes, the sweeping robes adorned with lace, and uniforms covered
with orders, presented a scene of dazzling splendor, lighted by hundreds
of lusters multiplied tenfold by the numerous mirrors adorning the

The grand saloon, the finest of all those contained in the New Palace,
formed to this procession of exalted personages and splendidly dressed
women a frame worthy of the magnificence they displayed. The rich
ceiling, with its gilding already softened by the touch of time,
appeared as if glittering with stars. The embroidered drapery of the
curtains and doors, falling in gorgeous folds, assumed rich and varied
hues, broken by the shadows of the heavy masses of damask.

Through the panes of the vast semicircular bay-windows the light, with
which the saloons were filled, shone forth with the brilliancy of a
conflagration, vividly illuminating the gloom in which for some hours
the palace had been shrouded. The attention of those of the guests not
taking part in the dancing was attracted by the contrast. Resting in the
recesses of the windows, they could discern, standing out dimly in the
darkness, the vague outlines of the countless towers, domes, and spires
which adorn the ancient city. Below the sculptured balconies were
visible numerous sentries, pacing silently up and down, their rifles
carried horizontally on the shoulder, and the spikes of their helmets
glittering like flames in the glare of light issuing from the palace.
The steps also of the patrols could be heard beating time on the stones
beneath with even more regularity than the feet of the dancers on the
floor of the saloon. From time to time the watchword was repeated from
post to post, and occasionally the notes of a trumpet, mingling with
the strains of the orchestra, penetrated into their midst. Still farther
down, in front of the facade, dark masses obscured the rays of light
which proceeded from the windows of the New Palace. These were boats
descending the course of a river, whose waters, faintly illumined by a
few lamps, washed the lower portion of the terraces.

The principal personage who has been mentioned, the giver of the fete,
and to whom General Kissoff had been speaking in that tone of respect
with which sovereigns alone are usually addressed, wore the simple
uniform of an officer of chasseurs of the guard. This was not
affectation on his part, but the custom of a man who cared little for
dress, his contrasting strongly with the gorgeous costumes amid which
he moved, encircled by his escort of Georgians, Cossacks, and
Circassians - a brilliant band, splendidly clad in the glittering
uniforms of the Caucasus.

This personage, of lofty stature, affable demeanor, and physiognomy
calm, though bearing traces of anxiety, moved from group to group,
seldom speaking, and appearing to pay but little attention either to
the merriment of the younger guests or the graver remarks of the exalted
dignitaries or members of the diplomatic corps who represented at the
Russian court the principal governments of Europe. Two or three of these
astute politicians - physiognomists by virtue of their profession - failed
not to detect on the countenance of their host symptoms of disquietude,
the source of which eluded their penetration; but none ventured to
interrogate him on the subject.

It was evidently the intention of the officer of chasseurs that his own
anxieties should in no way cast a shade over the festivities; and, as he
was a personage whom almost the population of a world in itself was wont
to obey, the gayety of the ball was not for a moment checked.

Nevertheless, General Kissoff waited until the officer to whom he had
just communicated the dispatch forwarded from Tomsk should give him
permission to withdraw; but the latter still remained silent. He had
taken the telegram, he had read it carefully, and his visage became even
more clouded than before. Involuntarily he sought the hilt of his sword,
and then passed his hand for an instant before his eyes, as though,
dazzled by the brilliancy of the light, he wished to shade them, the
better to see into the recesses of his own mind.

"We are, then," he continued, after having drawn General Kissoff aside
towards a window, "since yesterday without intelligence from the Grand

"Without any, sire; and it is to be feared that in a short time
dispatches will no longer cross the Siberian frontier."

"But have not the troops of the provinces of Amoor and Irkutsk, as those
also of the Trans-Balkan territory, received orders to march immediately
upon Irkutsk?"

"The orders were transmitted by the last telegram we were able to send
beyond Lake Baikal."

"And the governments of Yeniseisk, Omsk, Semipolatinsk, and Tobolsk - are
we still in direct communication with them as before the insurrection?"

"Yes, sire; our dispatches have reached them, and we are assured at the
present moment that the Tartars have not advanced beyond the Irtish and
the Obi."

"And the traitor Ivan Ogareff, are there no tidings of him?"

"None," replied General Kissoff. "The head of the police cannot state
whether or not he has crossed the frontier."

"Let a description of him be immediately dispatched to Nijni-Novgorod,
Perm, Ekaterenburg, Kasirnov, Tioumen, Ishim, Omsk, Tomsk, and to all
the telegraphic stations with which communication is yet open."

"Your majesty's orders shall be instantly carried out."

"You will observe the strictest silence as to this."

The General, having made a sign of respectful assent, bowing low,
mingled with the crowd, and finally left the apartments without his
departure being remarked.

The officer remained absorbed in thought for a few moments, when,
recovering himself, he went among the various groups in the saloon, his
countenance reassuming that calm aspect which had for an instant been

Nevertheless, the important occurrence which had occasioned these
rapidly exchanged words was not so unknown as the officer of the
chasseurs of the guard and General Kissoff had possibly supposed. It
was not spoken of officially, it is true, nor even officiously, since
tongues were not free; but a few exalted personages had been informed,
more or less exactly, of the events which had taken place beyond the
frontier. At any rate, that which was only slightly known, that which
was not matter of conversation even between members of the corps
diplomatique, two guests, distinguished by no uniform, no decoration,
at this reception in the New Palace, discussed in a low voice, and with
apparently very correct information.

By what means, by the exercise of what acuteness had these two ordinary
mortals ascertained that which so many persons of the highest rank and
importance scarcely even suspected? It is impossible to say. Had
they the gifts of foreknowledge and foresight? Did they possess a
supplementary sense, which enabled them to see beyond that limited
horizon which bounds all human gaze? Had they obtained a peculiar power
of divining the most secret events? Was it owing to the habit, now
become a second nature, of living on information, that their mental
constitution had thus become really transformed? It was difficult to
escape from this conclusion.

Of these two men, the one was English, the other French; both were tall
and thin, but the latter was sallow as are the southern Provencals,
while the former was ruddy like a Lancashire gentleman. The
Anglo-Norman, formal, cold, grave, parsimonious of gestures and words,
appeared only to speak or gesticulate under the influence of a spring
operating at regular intervals. The Gaul, on the contrary, lively and
petulant, expressed himself with lips, eyes, hands, all at once,
having twenty different ways of explaining his thoughts, whereas his
interlocutor seemed to have only one, immutably stereotyped on his

The strong contrast they presented would at once have struck the most
superficial observer; but a physiognomist, regarding them closely, would
have defined their particular characteristics by saying, that if the
Frenchman was "all eyes," the Englishman was "all ears."

In fact, the visual apparatus of the one had been singularly
perfected by practice. The sensibility of its retina must have been as
instantaneous as that of those conjurors who recognize a card merely by
a rapid movement in cutting the pack or by the arrangement only of
marks invisible to others. The Frenchman indeed possessed in the highest
degree what may be called "the memory of the eye."

The Englishman, on the contrary, appeared especially organized to listen
and to hear. When his aural apparatus had been once struck by the sound
of a voice he could not forget it, and after ten or even twenty years he
would have recognized it among a thousand. His ears, to be sure, had not
the power of moving as freely as those of animals who are provided with
large auditory flaps; but, since scientific men know that human ears
possess, in fact, a very limited power of movement, we should not be far
wrong in affirming that those of the said Englishman became erect, and
turned in all directions while endeavoring to gather in the sounds, in
a manner apparent only to the naturalist. It must be observed that this
perfection of sight and hearing was of wonderful assistance to these two
men in their vocation, for the Englishman acted as correspondent of the
Daily Telegraph, and the Frenchman, as correspondent of what newspaper,
or of what newspapers, he did not say; and when asked, he replied in a
jocular manner that he corresponded with "his cousin Madeleine." This
Frenchman, however, neath his careless surface, was wonderfully shrewd
and sagacious. Even while speaking at random, perhaps the better to hide
his desire to learn, he never forgot himself. His loquacity even helped
him to conceal his thoughts, and he was perhaps even more discreet than
his confrere of the Daily Telegraph. Both were present at this fete
given at the New Palace on the night of the 15th of July in their
character of reporters.

It is needless to say that these two men were devoted to their mission
in the world - that they delighted to throw themselves in the track of
the most unexpected intelligence - that nothing terrified or discouraged
them from succeeding - that they possessed the imperturbable sang froid
and the genuine intrepidity of men of their calling. Enthusiastic
jockeys in this steeplechase, this hunt after information, they
leaped hedges, crossed rivers, sprang over fences, with the ardor of
pure-blooded racers, who will run "a good first" or die!

Their journals did not restrict them with regard to money - the surest,
the most rapid, the most perfect element of information known to this
day. It must also be added, to their honor, that neither the one nor
the other ever looked over or listened at the walls of private life,
and that they only exercised their vocation when political or social
interests were at stake. In a word, they made what has been for some
years called "the great political and military reports."

It will be seen, in following them, that they had generally an
independent mode of viewing events, and, above all, their consequences,
each having his own way of observing and appreciating.

The French correspondent was named Alcide Jolivet. Harry Blount was the
name of the Englishman. They had just met for the first time at this
fete in the New Palace, of which they had been ordered to give an
account in their papers. The dissimilarity of their characters, added to
a certain amount of jealousy, which generally exists between rivals
in the same calling, might have rendered them but little sympathetic.
However, they did not avoid each other, but endeavored rather to
exchange with each other the chat of the day. They were sportsmen,
after all, hunting on the same ground. That which one missed might be
advantageously secured by the other, and it was to their interest to
meet and converse.

This evening they were both on the look out; they felt, in fact, that
there was something in the air.

"Even should it be only a wildgoose chase," said Alcide Jolivet to
himself, "it may be worth powder and shot."

The two correspondents therefore began by cautiously sounding each

"Really, my dear sir, this little fete is charming!" said Alcide Jolivet
pleasantly, thinking himself obliged to begin the conversation with this
eminently French phrase.

"I have telegraphed already, 'splendid!'" replied Harry Blount calmly,
employing the word specially devoted to expressing admiration by all
subjects of the United Kingdom.

"Nevertheless," added Alcide Jolivet, "I felt compelled to remark to my
cousin - "

"Your cousin?" repeated Harry Blount in a tone of surprise, interrupting
his brother of the pen.

"Yes," returned Alcide Jolivet, "my cousin Madeleine. It is with her
that I correspond, and she likes to be quickly and well informed, does
my cousin. I therefore remarked to her that, during this fete, a sort of
cloud had appeared to overshadow the sovereign's brow."

"To me, it seemed radiant," replied Harry Blount, who perhaps, wished to
conceal his real opinion on this topic.

"And, naturally, you made it 'radiant,' in the columns of the Daily


"Do you remember, Mr. Blount, what occurred at Zakret in 1812?"

"I remember it as well as if I had been there, sir," replied the English

"Then," continued Alcide Jolivet, "you know that, in the middle of a
fete given in his honor, it was announced to the Emperor Alexander that
Napoleon had just crossed the Niemen with the vanguard of the
French army. Nevertheless the Emperor did not leave the fete, and
notwithstanding the extreme gravity of intelligence which might cost him
his empire, he did not allow himself to show more uneasiness."

"Than our host exhibited when General Kissoff informed him that the
telegraphic wires had just been cut between the frontier and the
government of Irkutsk."

"Ah! you are aware of that?"

"I am!"

"As regards myself, it would be difficult to avoid knowing it, since
my last telegram reached Udinsk," observed Alcide Jolivet, with some

"And mine only as far as Krasnoiarsk," answered Harry Blount, in a no
less satisfied tone.

"Then you know also that orders have been sent to the troops of

"I do, sir; and at the same time a telegram was sent to the Cossacks of
the government of Tobolsk to concentrate their forces."

"Nothing can be more true, Mr. Blount; I was equally well acquainted
with these measures, and you may be sure that my dear cousin shall know
of them to-morrow."

"Exactly as the readers of the Daily Telegraph shall know it also, M.

"Well, when one sees all that is going on...."

"And when one hears all that is said...."

"An interesting campaign to follow, Mr. Blount."

"I shall follow it, M. Jolivet!"

"Then it is possible that we shall find ourselves on ground less safe,
perhaps, than the floor of this ball-room."

"Less safe, certainly, but - "

"But much less slippery," added Alcide Jolivet, holding up his
companion, just as the latter, drawing back, was about to lose his

Thereupon the two correspondents separated, pleased that the one had not
stolen a march on the other.

At that moment the doors of the rooms adjoining the great reception
saloon were thrown open, disclosing to view several immense tables
beautifully laid out, and groaning under a profusion of valuable
china and gold plate. On the central table, reserved for the princes,
princesses, and members of the corps diplomatique, glittered an epergne
of inestimable price, brought from London, and around this chef-d'oeuvre
of chased gold reflected under the light of the lusters a thousand
pieces of most beautiful service from the manufactories of Sevres.

The guests of the New Palace immediately began to stream towards the

At that moment. General Kissoff, who had just re-entered, quickly
approached the officer of chasseurs.

"Well?" asked the latter abruptly, as he had done the former time.

"Telegrams pass Tomsk no longer, sire."

"A courier this moment!"

The officer left the hall and entered a large antechamber adjoining. It
was a cabinet with plain oak furniture, situated in an angle of the New
Palace. Several pictures, amongst others some by Horace Vernet, hung on
the wall.

The officer hastily opened a window, as if he felt the want of air, and
stepped out on a balcony to breathe the pure atmosphere of a lovely July
night. Beneath his eyes, bathed in moonlight, lay a fortified inclosure,
from which rose two cathedrals, three palaces, and an arsenal. Around
this inclosure could be seen three distinct towns: Kitai-Gorod,
Beloi-Gorod, Zemlianai-Gorod - European, Tartar, and Chinese quarters of
great extent, commanded by towers, belfries, minarets, and the cupolas
of three hundred churches, with green domes, surmounted by the silver
cross. A little winding river, here and there reflected the rays of the

This river was the Moskowa; the town Moscow; the fortified inclosure
the Kremlin; and the officer of chasseurs of the guard, who, with folded
arms and thoughtful brow, was listening dreamily to the sounds floating
from the New Palace over the old Muscovite city, was the Czar.


THE Czar had not so suddenly left the ball-room of the New Palace,
when the fete he was giving to the civil and military authorities and
principal people of Moscow was at the height of its brilliancy, without
ample cause; for he had just received information that serious events
were taking place beyond the frontiers of the Ural. It had become
evident that a formidable rebellion threatened to wrest the Siberian
provinces from the Russian crown.

Asiatic Russia, or Siberia, covers a superficial area of 1,790,208
square miles, and contains nearly two millions of inhabitants. Extending
from the Ural Mountains, which separate it from Russia in Europe, to the
shores of the Pacific Ocean, it is bounded on the south by Turkestan and
the Chinese Empire; on the north by the Arctic Ocean, from the Sea of
Kara to Behring's Straits. It is divided into several governments or
provinces, those of Tobolsk, Yeniseisk, Irkutsk, Omsk, and Yakutsk;
contains two districts, Okhotsk and Kamtschatka; and possesses two
countries, now under the Muscovite dominion - that of the Kirghiz and
that of the Tshouktshes. This immense extent of steppes, which includes
more than one hundred and ten degrees from west to east, is a land to
which criminals and political offenders are banished.

Two governor-generals represent the supreme authority of the Czar over
this vast country. The higher one resides at Irkutsk, the far capital of
Eastern Siberia. The River Tchouna separates the two Siberias.

No rail yet furrows these wide plains, some of which are in reality
extremely fertile. No iron ways lead from those precious mines which
make the Siberian soil far richer below than above its surface. The
traveler journeys in summer in a kibick or telga; in winter, in a

An electric telegraph, with a single wire more than eight thousand
versts in length, alone affords communication between the western
and eastern frontiers of Siberia. On issuing from the Ural, it passes
through Ekaterenburg, Kasirnov, Tioumen, Ishim, Omsk, Elamsk, Kolyvan,
Tomsk, Krasnoiarsk, Nijni-Udinsk, Irkutsk, Verkne-Nertschink, Strelink,
Albazine, Blagowstenks, Radde, Orlomskaya, Alexandrowskoe, and
Nikolaevsk; and six roubles and nineteen copecks are paid for every
word sent from one end to the other. From Irkutsk there is a branch to
Kiatka, on the Mongolian frontier; and from thence, for thirty copecks a
word, the post conveys the dispatches to Pekin in a fortnight.

It was this wire, extending from Ekaterenburg to Nikolaevsk, which had
been cut, first beyond Tomsk, and then between Tomsk and Kolyvan.

This was why the Czar, to the communication made to him for the second
time by General Kissoff, had answered by the words, "A courier this

The Czar remained motionless at the window for a few moments, when the
door was again opened. The chief of police appeared on the threshold.

"Enter, General," said the Czar briefly, "and tell me all you know of
Ivan Ogareff."

"He is an extremely dangerous man, sire," replied the chief of police.

"He ranked as colonel, did he not?"

"Yes, sire."

"Was he an intelligent officer?"

"Very intelligent, but a man whose spirit it was impossible to subdue;
and possessing an ambition which stopped at nothing, he became involved
in secret intrigues, and was degraded from his rank by his Highness the
Grand Duke, and exiled to Siberia."

"How long ago was that?"

"Two years since. Pardoned after six months of exile by your majesty's
favor, he returned to Russia."

"And since that time, has he not revisited Siberia?"

"Yes, sire; but he voluntarily returned there," replied the chief of
police, adding, and slightly lowering his voice, "there was a time,
sire, when NONE returned from Siberia."

"Well, whilst I live, Siberia is and shall be a country whence men CAN

The Czar had the right to utter these words with some pride, for often,
by his clemency, he had shown that Russian justice knew how to pardon.

The head of the police did not reply to this observation, but it was
evident that he did not approve of such half-measures. According to
his idea, a man who had once passed the Ural Mountains in charge of
policemen, ought never again to cross them. Now, it was not thus under
the new reign, and the chief of police sincerely deplored it. What! no
banishment for life for other crimes than those against social order!
What! political exiles returning from Tobolsk, from Yakutsk, from
Irkutsk! In truth, the chief of police, accustomed to the despotic
sentences of the ukase which formerly never pardoned, could not
understand this mode of governing. But he was silent, waiting until
the Czar should interrogate him further. The questions were not long in

"Did not Ivan Ogareff," asked the Czar, "return to Russia a second time,
after that journey through the Siberian provinces, the object of which
remains unknown?"

"He did."

"And have the police lost trace of him since?"

"No, sire; for an offender only becomes really dangerous from the day he
has received his pardon."

The Czar frowned. Perhaps the chief of police feared that he had gone
rather too far, though the stubbornness of his ideas was at least
equal to the boundless devotion he felt for his master. But the Czar,
disdaining to reply to these indirect reproaches cast on his policy,
continued his questions. "Where was Ogareff last heard of?"

"In the province of Perm."

"In what town?"

"At Perm itself."

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