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" 1 am ready "

The Leveller


Alexander McArthur

(Author of "Gemmo," "Rubinstein," "Irih Rebel*," Etc., Etc.)

New York
C H. Doscher & Co.

Copyright, 1908, by

Inscribed to



The Leveller


Out of the gloom of the great Isaacs Cathe-
dral a young girl, wrapped to the teeth in
furs, stole furtively, and casting an eager
glance up and down the snow-covered road-
way, beckoned to a passing iswostschik, who
quickly responded to her order and drove up
to the sidewalk.

"Wasily Ostroff, Line Four," Louboff Mal-
kiel said briefly.

"Twenty-five kopecks, Barishnya."

The young girl shrugged her shoulders dis-
dainfully. Bargaining is a custom and a
necessity in Eussia.

"Twenty-five kopecks!" she echoed. "Do
you take me for the Minister of Finance? I
will give you fifteen or nothing."

"Make it twenty, Barishnya meliya,"
pleaded the driver, as he looked down admir-
ingly into the dazzling fairness of her lovely
face. "I will take you for fifteen, but a beau-
tiful young lady like you, I know, would not
have the heart to force so close a bargain.
You see, the day is cold, my horse is hungry,


and I I am hungry, too. Ye Bokha bar-


The soft, delicious curves of Louboff An-
tonivna's beautifully chiseled mouth widened
into a smile.

"I don't believe you," she replied with
mock severity, "but charasho; I will give you
tea money. ' '

Smiling, the iswostschik threw back the fur
of his sleigh with that servile yet gracious
courtesy so characteristic of the peasant Rus-
sian, and handed her in.

He buttoned the rug at the back of the seat
with clumsy fingers, for his hands were en-
cased in thick fur gloves, tucked the fur well
about her feet, and got up on his own seat
with as much alacrity as the heavy swathings
of his body would allow; then with a grunt
of approval and a word of endearment to his
lean and hungry beast, he drove off in the
direction of the Neva.

Louboff settled down under her heavy fur
coverings comfortably; then the noise of
horses' hoofs behind her made her look round
suddenly. All at once the usual fairness of
her complexion deepened with a flush of an-
noyance, and her starlike eyes lost their soft-
ness in one swift flash of anger.


"Ah, so I am under surveillance !" she mut-
tered petulantly.

The she bent forward to the iswostschik.
"Turn and drive toward the Winter Palace,"
she commanded briefly. "Drive quickly and
there is big tea money for you ! ' '

"Charasho! Charasho!" assented the
driver, and turning immediately, LoubofF was
enabled to get a good look at the official fol-
lowing her. Then, as she expected, the latter
gave a like order to his iswostschik, seeing
which LoubofF laughed.

"And it is to such stupids as these that
they entrust our surveillance!" she thought

A few seconds later she bent forward again.
"It is too cold to go farther. Drive directly
to Wasily OstrofF," she said, not without a
tremor in her voice as her hand touched some
papers inside the fur lining of her cloak.

"I hear; I obey," replied the man gladly,
and whipping up his horse they drove swiftly
along the quay and over the Nicholaifsky
Most or Nicholas Bridge ; the winds sweeping
up the frozen Neva cutting the exposed flesh
of their faces till it tingled.

Turning to the right, they entered the quar-
ter of St. Petersburg which corresponds to


the famous Quartier Latin of Paris. The
Masily Ostroff, or Basil Island, is one of the
many islands of the Neva the quarter of the
city where the various schools, colleges and
academies of art are situated, and the quarter
where students of all classes congregate daily
and usually find lodgings.

They drove up Line Four, and again Lou-
boff cast an anxious glance behind. The same
official was following.

Calling to the iswostschik to stop, Louboff
Antonivna got out and paid the man his fif-
teen kopecks, with twenty-five extra for
natschai, or tea money, listening with a smile
of amusement to his blessing, which embraced
the whole hierarchy of heaven. Then she went
through a small garden, up a steep flight of
wooden steps, and after ringing was admitted
at once.

A young man, like her in features and col-
oring, but unlike her in that he was sinister
and forbidding, whereas she was beautiful
with a beauty that was startling in its fresh
youthfulness and candor of expression, came
to the door.

"I waited a full half hour," she began
crossly, ' ' but no one came. I have the papers


still, and I was followed right here, even to
the very door."

"Followed?" he whispered, and blinked his
eyes perplexedly.

"Yes. Don't ask me again to do such
work. See, my hands are trembling."

"Well, it is good, doushinka (little soul),
that you thought of coming here. Boris Alex-
anderowitch is with me ; your visit could not
be better timed. He is in my room now. Ee-
member, he is a fanatic a Slavophile of
Slavophiles. It would be an excellent thing
if you could pretend that you thought well of
his faith. I have been able to tell him much

about you, but " He put his finger to his

lips, smiled, and led the way upstairs to a
room on the first landing.

"Boris Alexanderowitch, this is my sister,
Louboif Antonivna."

A young man jumped to his feet as they
entered the room, and to Louboff, slender and
petite, he looked a young giant. He drew his
six feet to their full scope, and, with his heels
well together, gave her the regulation Russian
military salute, bending the head only.

In his uniform of a student of the Engineer-
ing School, or Corps des Mines, he was a sol-
dierly and handsome figure. Looking up,


Louboff caught the flash of blue eyes, the
sheen of golden hair, and a smile which illumi-
nated a countenance singularly honest and

"What a nice boy!" she thought instan-
taneously, and she gave him her hand, blush-
ing because of the circumstances of their
meeting. There had been so much plotting to
accomplish it, and he looked so simple, so
honest. It seemed a shame to take advantage
of his good nature; but Michel was looking
on lynx-eyed, and her animation and smile
came in readiness.

i Boris Alexanderowitch was conscious of a
curious sensation as he looked down into the
delicious Oriental face, with its wistfulness in
repose, its sensitiveness and its expression of
dreamy languor a sensation of coming sud-
denly on something long sought for and much
wanted, a sensation of finality ; the settling of
a desire poignant, keen and overwhelming
to the senses.

A delightful feeling of the deeper scope of
life took possession of him as he feasted his
eyes on her beauty. The color in her cheeks,
caused by contact with the frosty air out-
doors, was faint and lovely, like the petals of


a wild rose. Her eyes shone and danced, and
Boris noticed, when cast down, that her
lashes lay thick and curling fully an inch on
her cheeks.

His admiration was undisguised. For sev-
eral minutes he kept his eyes on her like one
fascinated, and his courtesy toward her was
exaggerated and extreme, tinged with a shy-
ness very flattering to the instincts of a

Michel turned to a cupboard to get out the
vodka, with which all guests on arrival in
winter time are greeted, and while he fumbled
with the liquor glasses he smiled.

"It will be as easy as a song, as easy as a
dream," he thought triumphantly, as he
turned with the glasses and the bottle. "He
is smitten already."

"Louboff, roll some cigarettes," he said

"Pardon me," cried Alexanderowitch,
jumping to his feet. "Can I not do that?"

' i No ; Louboff is an expert. I never smoke
any but those she rolls. You must try some."
Michel interposed, and Louboff laughingly
got the tobacco and papers, working these
into cigarettes with incredible swiftness.
Boris gazed intently.


Michel poured out the vodka, and they
drank standing. Then a servant brought in
the samovar and Louboff made tea, pouring
into glasses with silver holders and long
spoons, gilded and heavily enameled. They
settled themselves comfortably, and after a
while Michel excused himself for a few min-
utes on the plea of a letter to write, and, going
into an adjoining room, left Louboff and
Boris alone.

For a few moments neither spoke. Both
felt a little awkward the awkwardness of
interest and youth then Louboff, remember-
ing her brother's advice as to the Slavophile
tendencies of their guest, said gently:

" Just fancy, Boris Alexanderowitch, where
I have just come from I was born ; I may say
under its very shadow, and only to-day I see
it for the first time your great Isaacs Cathe-
dral. How splendid it is ! "

Boris looked up, and Louboff, seeing the
sudden flash of interest in his eyes, knew she
had scored a point.

"Yes, it is very splendid, Louboff Anto-
nivna. Were you there for service?"

"No; the fancy just took me to go in and
see it," she went on, keeping her starlike eyes


fixed on his interested face. "I am not an
Orthodox, you know, but I am very much
drawn toward your religion. It has some-
thing that goes to my heart. A je ne sais quoi
that appeals to me. It is wrong of me to ad-
mit this, I suppose," she added, faltering.

( i Oh, no, no ! " he broke in eagerly, with the
enthusiasm of one whose faith was the vital
part of his life the beginning and ending of
his day's thought, the pivot about which his
whole Slavophile sentiments centered. His
heart commenced to beat quicker. The
thought of a possible proselyte in Louboff set
all his interest afire. It would be a task he
would undertake, as Louboff well knew and
counted on.

* ' Do not let such a wrong thought take hold
of you. Your religion is good all religions
are good but, Louboff Antonivna, our re-
ligion is best of all."

She smiled. "It is a very wonderful re-
ligion," she assented gravely; "an ideal
religion. But so many of our people affect
your belief for mercenary reasons, I hate
even to say it well even interests me."

"You are so honest too honest !" he broke
in admiringly.

"No," she said simply, "I only tell you a


fact. Michel, for instance, he would join the
Orthodox Church to-morrow only because it
would help him in his profession.'*

"Of course Michel would, and why not?"
the young man himself said laughing, as he
entered the room. "All religions are a farce.
Do right ; that is the main precept which most
people forget in their concern for form. Yes,
Boris Alexanderowitch, I would go through
the longest ordeal and prostrate myself be-
fore your images till my knees ached. Nor, ' '
he added tauntingly, seeing the surprised re-
proach mingled with pity in Boris Alexan-
derowitch 's face, "would I be the first Jew,
either, to do so! "

"Michel!" cried Louboff pleadingly.

"He talks of that of which he knows noth-
ing," Boris said soothingly, turning to
Louboff. "Perhaps he will know some day."

Michel laughed derisively. "Oh, perhaps,
perhaps," he said, drawling out the last word,
"but don't put notions into Louboff 's head.
See her face she is too much interested as it
is. Let us talk of something else. She came
here to have me take her to see our collection
in the Corps des Mines. Suppose we go
there, all three. I know it will only make the
thousandth time you have played the part of


cicerone, Boris Alexanderowitch ; I saw you
with some ladies yesterday one of them, I
think, the daughter of the Minister of the
Interior. ' '

"Yes, my cousin, Vera d'Annenkoff."

Brother and sister exchanged glances.

"Your cousin! Why, how many cousins
have you among the Ministers ? The Minister
of Instruction is also your cousin. What
splendid chances you have, Boris Alexandero-
witch ! ' ' Michel went on with meditative envi-
ousness, "you will get some great post; be
made a general a member of the Privy
Council, perhaps."

"I hope so, why not?" assented Boris Alex-
anderowitch, well pleased to have his possible
brilliant prospects commented on in Louboff 's

"Yes, why not?" echoed Michel with a

"Well, I will get my cloak," said Boris

"Clnarasho, charasho," said Michel nod-
ding as he went with him to the door.

As soon as the footsteps of the young
Eussian student had died away, Michel turned
to his sister hastily.

"Can you do it! Your instincts of a


woman must tell you," he queried in a whis-
per of intense earnestness.

"Do what?" Louboff's face had grown
paler, her eyes were troubled.

"Use him."

"Michel, I I cannot say."

Into the face of the young Jew there came a
frenzied enthusiasm.

' ' You must ! You must ! Listen, Louboff , ' '
he cried, catching hold of her two hands and
gazing sternly into her frightened eyes. ' ' We
need him. He holds the key to our success, and
no sacrifice will be too great to gain him.
Flatter him, lead him on, let him make love to

you. A kiss What may he not tell you

for "

"Michel!" Louboff's eyes were blazing, her
expression full of angry amazement, her voice
shrill in its horror.

He flung her hands from him. "Can you
not forget yourself for a purpose ? " he asked
with sinister wrath. "Is there any price too
great to pay for revenge revenge for our
wrongs; the wrongs of years, the cruelties,
merciless, inhuman, hellish, against our peo-
ple. Louboff, have you forgotten them? Are
you so lacking in spirit? Would you hesi-


tate?" He went on breathlessly; then he
paused. * ' Bah ! " he cried derisively.

"Michel, you are out of your mind !" Lou-
boff put her arms about her brother's neck
and kissed him gently and tenderly ; then she
said, her musical voice low and surcharged
with emotion:

"My brother, I hate them as they hate us;
I will use him if I can, but "

It was Michel who roused himself first, and
in a second his features had assumed their
wonted expression of passiveness and pa-
tience. Boris Alexanderowitch was descend-
ing the stairs.

"May the God of our fathers assist us !" he
murmured reverently, then he went forward
to open the door. Ten minutes later the trio
were strolling along the banks of the Neva,
Boris a little ashamed. It was the first time
in his life that he had ever been in the com-
pany of Jews, and he tried to ignore the sur-
prised glances of his comrades whom he met
and to give all his attention to Louboff.

"Well, even if she is a Jewess, surely she
is divinely lovely, ' ' he told himself for solace.


When Boris Gourowsky took up his quar-
ters in Line Four of the Wasily Ostroff an
anxious mother in the Provinces wrote to

" Whatever you do, my boy, make no
friends with young people whose family ante-
cedents are not well known to you. I would
rather you had found lodgings the other side
of the Neva; but since you say they are all
too dear, you must only be very careful.
Above all, avoid the Jews. They are the ring-
leaders in all the student riots, and it is so
easy for one totally innocent to become mixed
up in such affairs.

"Every evening write me exactly your
movements of the day; whom you have seen,
what you have done, and where you have
spent your time. Go to the Annenkoffs as
often as possible, even if they are not cordial
to a poor relative.

"Remember Count d'Annenkoff is my
brother and you have a right to his protec-
tion. Therefore, shut your eyes to anything

the Countess may say or do. She is very


mondaine and severe of manner ; consequent-
ly, she may snub you, but that must make no
difference in your attitude.

' ' I have a premonition, about you, my boy.
I fear this journey of yours to St. Peters-
burg; you would take it on Friday, but I am
probably only superstitious. Still, do as I
tell you, and, God willing, all will be well."

On the receipt of this epistle, Boris Alex-
anderowitch smiled with the heedless con-
temptuousness of youth. He knew what his
mother feared, and that her fears were based
on well-grounded facts.

The whole Wasily Ostroff was honey-
combed with Nihilism and Nihilistic doctrines,
but Nihilism had no attraction and no terrors
for him. He despised it principally because
he considered that the Poles and the Jews
were its leading spirits, and for both races
he had the Bussian's profound and inborn

That there were abuses and disadvantages
in the government of his country, he was the
first to acknowledge. He longed, like thou-
sands of his conservative countrymen, for a
constitutional government, but he was also
aware that his country was far from ripe for
it. He knew this, having watched his father's


labors, his disappointments on behalf of his

Alexander Gourowsky had been one of the
first to free the five thousand souls that
labored for him, and before the Ukase of the
Tzar liberating them had been a diligent
worker toward this end; but the results had
been far from those desired. Boris Gourow-
sky had seen his father die a slow death,
caused by disillusions and disappointment.
The once prosperous lands of Gourowsky,
when owned by Count Gourowsky, had given
a generous revenue; the peasants were uni-
formly content and happy. They always had
plenty to eat, fur cloaks or shoubas for the
winter, a warm stove* to sleep on, and most
of them owned a balalika or a concertina to
make music on in the evenings when their
work was done.

Then the Ukase of Alexander II., freeing
the serfs, changed the old order. On the
Gourowsky estate there was great rejoicing,
none being happier than Count Alexander
Gourowsky himself. For a while things went
on splendidly, but only for a while. Then,
little by little, the once prosperous property
began to decline.

* During the six months of cold weather the Russian
peasants sleep on the tile covering of their massive stoves.


In the various villages of the estate Jewish
money lenders settled in the guise of shop-
keepers, ostensibly assuming Orthodoxy to
make their residence possible.

Ivan, the thriftless, suddenly a land owner
where formerly he had been a slave, all too
soon, because of easy credit, found himself in
debt. Vodka was plentiful, and it was much
easier and far pleasanter to sit at home and
drink than work.

Bit by bit, the holdings of the peasants were
mortgaged to the Jews. Alexander Gourow-
sky did his best to stem the new tide of
affairs. He went among his once happy peo-
ple, threatening, reasoning, and exhorting,
but to no purpose. Sometimes when Ivan was
sober he would listen to reason, but when
Ivan was drunk a usual condition, for
vodka of the vilest sort, at extortion prices,
was plentiful the money lenders were his
best friends and Count Alexander a med-

For some years things went on so, till credit
and with it vodka, had ceased ; then the peas-
ants too late realized that their boasted free-
dom had brought with it a bondage cruel and
merciless, that of the rapacious Jews, who
now assumed practical ownership of their


holdings. This forced the peasants to a
ceaseless round of toil, that the mere interest
of moneys lent might be paid.

On the Gourowsky estate there followed
several bloody anti-Semitic riots. Count
Alexander Gourowsky was blamed for these.
Paid emissaries of the money lenders circu-
lated various reports till, harassed beyond en-
durance, Count Gourowsky, broken down in
health, was forced to start for St. Petersburg
in a raging snow storm, to answer the ques-
tions of the authorities. An attack of pneu-
monia caused his death, but, even at the last,
he still thought of his " souls," as he always
called his people.

He had impoverished himself in the vain
attempt to pay off their mortgages. In
leaving all to his widow and his only son,
Count Boris, he begged them to live frugally
and continue the building of the schools he
had planned throughout his estate.

' ' It is not in Nihilism, but in education, that
the ultimate salvation of my country lies,"
wrote the philanthropist, in his will; and
Boris, who was then only fourteen, vowed to
follow his father's teachings and comply with
his request to the uttermost.


It had been pure accident that led Boris
Gourowsky, as he thought, to the rooms of
Michel Malkiel. Malkiel, a schoolmate, had
the rooms immediately below him, and much
as he tried to avoid the young Jew, still total
avoidance was out of the question.

On several occasions Michel had invited
him to a "spread" in his rooms, but Boris
had always found a means of excusing him-
self. Michel would offer him a cigarette;
Boris if he had to accept it would crumble it
unsmoked between his fingers, throw it away
or purposely drop it.

But Malkiel had a purpose, and Boris' good
nature was not proof against it. On the
morning in question, immediately after
luncheon, while Boris was working, there had
been a knock at his door, and Michel, humble,
perplexed and begging, stood outside. He
was utterly at sea over a proposition the
examination was near would Boris Alex-
anderowitch help him out?

The young Eussian had hesitated. He



would have slammed the door in Michel's face
had he followed his instincts, but his good
nature was stronger. It would only be a mat-
ter of a few minutes, he told himself, an hour
at most, and then it would be a case of a
double avoidance, of picking a quarrel, of
anything to free himself from the insistent
courtesy of his schoolmate.

Even as he followed the latter downstairs,
he decided to change his lodgings. Then
Louboff arrived, and Boris, vanquished,
drank vodka and tea with them.

"Why did I not refuse?" he asked himself
angrily, as he found himself between the
brother and sister, on the banks of the Neva.
"I am without stamina," he thought; then
Louboff glanced up at him and his misgivings
were lost in wonder at her beauty.

After an hour in her company, Boris Gou-
rowsky's preconceived notions of the Jewish
race received a somewhat rude jolting. In
her all the distinctive traits of a people he had
learned to dislike intensely were absent or
so effaced as to be nonrecognizable. The
more he talked to her the more his notions
became confused or upset, and he began to ask
himself if he were not narrow-minded to sup-
pose it was otherwise with Jews than with


Christians, or if in one race, as in the
other, various classes were not to be found.
He asked himself if the lines between the
objectionable and the unobjectionable were
not equally marked among his own people.

He realized his feelings with overmaster-
ing force.

Louboff a Jewess ! He looked at her side-
ways and the loveliness of her features daz-
zled his senses. There came to his memory
the Jews of the Provinces: the sleek, hawk-
nosed men with their whining voices, oil
soaked ringlets, evil smelling gaberdines ; the
Jews who had fattened in his father's vil-
lages. Decidedly Louboff was not of this
class, hardly even Michel, although Michel
had their eyes, and his lips, like theirs, were
outcurled and sensual. Yet his senses told
him she was of their race. But what did it
matter? He flattered himself with the deci-
sion that, after all, beauty was always
beauty, removing barriers, effacing preju-
dices, always a law unto itself.

"But why do I worry about this?" the
young Eussian asked himself scornfully.
"What is Louboff Malkiel to me? She was a
stranger to me an hour ago, and an hour
hence "


Just then Louboff laid her hand on his arm,
and even through the thickness of his fur coat,
the mere contact of her fingers caused his
blood to run riot in his veins.

Then a great horror took possession of him.
He thought of his mother, and a dozen contin-
gent ideas scurried through his brain. They
had reached the Corps des Mines, and an
overmastering desire to fly, to save himself
while there was yet time, took possession of

Hastily he sought in his mind for some ex-

"Oh," said Michel at his elbow, "here are
some friends of mine. Do take Louboff in
and show her the collection. You can do it
so much better than I. ' '

Boris looked helplessly from brother to
sister, and caught a soft, expectant glance
from Louboff 's widely opened eyes.

"Of course, of course; with the greatest
pleasure," he stammered; and the scene of
that moment the snow-covered streets daz-
zling in the sunshine, the golden dome of St.

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