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rowsky. ' '

"And nothing would have," she replied,
turning her eyes half sternly on him, "but
your interest."

Boris wondered what she meant exactly,



THE LEVELLER 211

but had not the courage to ask. Besides they
were just stopping before the palace.

Boris had jokingly informed Louboff that
it was her photograph that would be his
mother's first intimation of their betrothal,
and so it proved.

As soon as the long ceremonial of welcom-
ing the Countess was over, Boris led her to
their apartment, and, going through it from
room to room, at last halted in his study,
where the pictures of Louboff were con-
spicuously placed over the bookcase, on the
writing table, and one of the largest on an
easel.

As they entered the room Boris turned to
his mother, expecting a cry of pleasure and
surprise to fall from her lips over the beauty
of the lovely Oriental face. Instead, she
raised her lorgnette, and, looking at the pic-
ture, said carelessly :

"Why, what have we here, Boris? A music-
hall singer, an actress?" Then going closer,
she gave one long, scrutinizing look, and,
turning to him, said chidingly, and with a
shiver of disgust: "Faugh! Faugh! Boris!
A Jewess!"

"Mother mother, is she not beautiful?"
he queried, real distress in his tones.



212 THE LEVELLER

"After a fashion, yes; but "

Then turning to Boris, hardly able to keep
up the farce longer, she added hastily : ' ' But
why so many of the same person? Is it pos-
sible that you know her a Jewess ! ' '

"Yes, mother, I know her," he answered
confusedly, feeling as if his very heartstrings
were snapping. "I know her," he added
bravely, ' ' and she is my betrothed. Her name
is Louboff, Louboff Malkiel and she is a
pupil of Rubinstein. ' '

For the first time in their joint lives the
Countess felt her grasp on him had weakened,
and the very bitterness of death came to her
heart. He was her son all that fate had
spared to her, and yet no longer her son as of
old. Another woman had taken her place,
usurped her power a Jewess, at that and
she, his mother, was no longer the pivot about
which his affections centered.

She sank down on a divan.

"Boris," she said weakly, and then she
laughed, half hysterical in her pain and sor-
row, "Boris, you joke, and it is a cruel joke
to me, your mother. Betrothed, at your
age!"

He fell on his knees beside her and kissed
her hand.



TEE LEVELLER 213

1 'Mother, I am a man; I am no longer a
boy; and Louboff "

"Oh, my boy," she interrupted, "you are
only a child, only a child, still in spite of your
six feet of height ; and you rush off like a silly
fellow and betroth yourself ; you dignify calf
love into a passion."

Boris could see her bosom heaving with
emotion, and all the eulogies he had ready
of Louboff died on his lips, stifled by her in-
terruption. Then she bent over his head and
began to stroke it lovingly.

"Boris, my son, how could you?" she went
on in motherly fashion, with the tone and
manner of reproving a small child. "And
to do all this without letting me know.
Why "

"But it came on me all so suddenly," he
said simply. "I was head over ears in love
before I realized it myself. ' '

The Countess laughed as one amused be-
yond control, and Boris could feel his first
sentiment of anger against her grow within
him as he listened. Seeing his sullen face, the
Countess became doubly afraid.

"Mother," he said, at length, "it is useless
to argue in this matter. My mind is made



214 THE LEVELLER

up. You don't know Louboff, but when you

do "

The Countess took up the photograph.

1 'Why, I don't see any beauty in her," she
remarked with a shrug. "How very strange,
my son, that you should have become be-
witched by such such "

Boris raised his face, brooding, impatient,
scornful.

"You understand, mother dear," he said
sweetly, but coldly, "my betrothed. I hope
you realize this "

"I think, Boris, I hardly do."

At that moment luncheon was announced,
and, jumping up, Boris gave his mother his
arm, glad of the fact that Count d'Annen-
koff had insisted on his sister lunching with
him that day.

As the day wore along Boris was con-
scious only of one thing: the society of his
mother, for the first time in his life, failed to
satisfy him. He found his thoughts con-
stantly wandering to Louboff, longing for
her, wondering jealously about her move-
ments ; but the Countess Gourowsky kept him
chained to her side.

He went with her to St. Isaac's; he made
calls with her on some relatives; and all the



THE LEVELLER 215

time the impatience of his surroundings be-
came more acute. But it was the first day of
her arrival, he told himself, and as a matter
of duty his time belonged to her, so he forced
himself to be cordial, and all the time the keen
eyes of his mother noticed the difference ; and
the jealousy and hatred of this unknown
woman who had supplanted her in his affec-
tion grew.

At the dinner table he said, when coffee
was served, relief and joy in his voice:

' * And now, mother, I must leave you. I am
going to Eubinstein's to take Louboff home."

For a moment the Countess hesitated,
studying her son meanwhile intently, then she
said quietly :

"To Eubinstein's? Why, if you have no
objection, I will accompany you. It will be
like old times to see our great Anton Greg-
oriewitch again."

Boris looked up in amazement. For a mo-
ment he seemed nonplussed, then he smiled.

"Why, come along!" he cried, and his joy
at her decision was suddenly extreme. "At
Eubinstein's," he told himself, "she will hear
Louboff play, and therefore make her ac-
quaintance in the best possible fashion."



CHAPTER XIX.

"The Count and Countess Gourowsky,"
announced Matve, and with an expression of
keen delight, Rubinstein hurried forward,
and, raising the Countess' hand to his, was
greeted by her, Russian fashion, with a kiss
on the forehead.

Then he turned and said quietly and for-
mally :

"Countess, allow me to present my pupil,
Louboff Antonivna Malkiel. A very great
pianist, whom you will hear much of, one
day," he added flatteringly.

Louboff, who had nervously greeted Boris,
came forward and bowed to the great lady,
who looked her over so critically, then some-
thing pathetic in the young girl's beauty
something winsome and sweet in her small
figure, in its clinging robes of white woolen
stuff awoke the sympathies of the Countess.

"Ah," she said, extending her hand
graciously, so white and statuesque against
the deep purple of her velvet gown, * ' my son
has already spoken of you, Louboff An-
tonivna, and I have seen your picture. I

210



THE LEVELLER 111

think," she added, turning a swift glance on
the mollified Boris, "they hardly do you
justice."

"Now, Louboff," said Anton Rubinstein
authoritatively when there was business to
be done he was always energetic "get to the
pianoforte. The Countess," he added, "I
know, will excuse you. Mademoiselle Malkiel
makes her debut in Germany two weeks
hence, and must play over the program of
that concert to-night, ' ' he said in explanation,
turning to Boris' mother. "We two will sit
here quietly and chat. I think you will be in-
terested," he whispered, as Boris and Lou-
boff went to the pianoforte, the former assist-
ing her in opening it. "A really great talent,
and she has everything besides youth,
beauty, industry. I expect her to become one
of the shining lights of the Conservatory."

Eubinstein was visibly nervous; Louboff
herself seemed indifferent. Boris having left
her, she sat down to the pianoforte, while the
Countess scrutinized her covertly. "She cer-
tainly is beautiful ; more than beautiful ; sym-
pathetic, most magnetic in personality,"
thought the older woman uneasily.

With fearless attack, broadly, her tone
beautiful in its singing quality, Louboff com-



218 THE LEVELLER

menced one of the Bach Preludes and Fugues.

In her younger days, when a dame d'hon-
neur of the Empress Marie, and when Rubin-
stein was the bright and shining light of the
Grand Duchess Helene's Court, Countess
Gourowsky, then Mdlle. d'Annenkoff, had
been one of his most promising pupils, and
her knowledge of music was therefore
thorough. As soon as Louboff had finished
the Prelude and commenced the Fugue, one
of the most difficult of the forty-eight, the
Countess turned, really surprised, and said to
her old master with enthusiasm :

" Surely a marvelous talent, and so
young ! ' '

"Yes, but wait till you hear her Beethoven,
superb; and her Chopin" he kissed the fin-
gers of his right hand "exquisite. Poor
child, she has just lost her brother. I was
afraid it would mean nervous breakdown, but
I insisted on her giving the concert as ar-
ranged, and the hard work seems to have had
a beneficial effect. There is only one thing, ' '
continued the great musician after a pause, as
Bach's music filled the room with its sonorous
harmony, "I hope she will fall in love."

The old-time pupil and master looked at
each other meaningly.



THE LEVELLER 219

Then the Countess said with her slow smile
of grande dame: "Say it, Anton Gregorie-
witch, you think my Boris and "

Eubinstein shrugged his shoulders; then
he laughed.

"It looks like it. "

"But it is foolish; it is impossible."

' ' I know, and therefore I am glad of it. It
will be the making of her as an artist. ' ' Then
he added, his blue eyes fiery in their penetra-
tion : ' ' That is why you are here, Countess. ' '

' * Hu sh ! He must not know. ' '

Bubinstein put his finger to his lips, and
at that moment Louboff finished and looked
round.

Bubinstein got up, and, going to the piano-
forte, put his arm about her. "Little soul,
you have played well. Only play so at the
concert and you will do yourself honor. Now,"
he added, straightening himself and looking
at the two auditors triumphantly, "now, for
a great feat: the Op. 106 of Beethoven."

Louboff dusted her fingers with the lace
handkerchief she had put on the folded desk
of the pianoforte, bit her lips, looked over at
Boris with a smile, then, like a clarion call,
there rang out the majestic chords of Beetho-
ven's masterpiece.



220 THE LEVELLER

The Countess allowed her eyes to rest be-
nignantly on Louboff. From time to time
Bubinstein ran his fingers through his hair
with a grunt of approval and an occasional
loud bravo. Boris could feel every pulse in
his body beating madly. Louboff herself
seemed like one possessed as she grappled
with the enormous difficulties, technical and
intellectual, surmounting all in a fashion that
brought from Bubinstein as she finished the
exclamation: "Colossal!"

Trembling, worked up to pitch almost hys-
terical, Louboff came and stood up by Bubin-
stein. He took her in his arms and felt her
slight figure shaking in his grasp.

"Louboff, Louboff, to-night I know your
success is assured!" and, bending down, he
kissed her affectionately.

"Mademoiselle," said the Countess, "I
have not heard in ages such playing as yours ;
never certainly from a woman. Let me con-
gratulate you, too, child," and, also taking
Louboff in her arms, she kissed her on both
cheeks.

"And I," said Boris. "Louboff," he be-
gan and hesitated his mother and Bubin-
stein were both watching him with curious
eyes then he raised her hand to his lips, in



THE LEVELLER 221

spite of her resistance, and kissed them with
a fervor that made the two elder people seek
each other's eyes with a surreptitious glance.

Matve brought in the tea, and for half an
hour Eubinstein insisted on Louboff resting.
Then she went again to the pianoforte and for
more than an hour played Chopin.

It was then that Countess Gourowsky
understood the full extent of her witchery
and charm, the emotional beauty of soul in
her that had so entirely enslaved her son.

There was but one encomium possible. She
played divinely. All the pathos and loveli-
ness of Chopin's were revealed with a master
touch, thrilling the hearts of her hearers
through and through.

"Genius, artist, young, beautiful yet a
Jewess. Did ever Russian mother have so
difficult a task before her I" the Countess
thought dejectedly. Then all the old d'An-
nenkoff instincts awoke within her; the
finesse and diplomacy that had made the men
of her race famous as statesmen for genera-
tions came to her assistance. When Louboff
had finished the Countess went over to her,
and, sitting beside her, began such eulogies as
delighted the heart of the young artist.

Boris looked on well pleased. He gave his



222 THE LEVELLER

mother every opportunity, laughing and chat-
ting himself with Eubinstein, who was in
great good humor.

A little before eleven Matve announced
that the Countess* sleigh was waiting. Boris
stood up. "You will excuse me, mother dear,"
he said somewhat diffidently, "I cannot re-
turn with you, as I have to see Mademoiselle
Malkiel home."

The Countess turned to him with her sweet-
est smile. ' * Boris, ' ' she said quietly, but with
the air of one who has weighed matters and
come out the conqueror, "I intend to give
myself that pleasure. Louboff Antonivna,
you will let me be your chaperone ? ' '

Blank dismay fell for a second on the two
young faces, but Louboff was quickest to re-
cover herself.

"You do me too much honor, Madame,"
she faltered.

"Ma chere, the honor is mine," responded
the Countess blandly, as she turned to bid
Rubinstein au revoir.

Boris saw them cloaked, bringing them to
the sleigh. On returning, he faced Rubin-
stein, who was waiting for him, a peculiar
smile on his face, partly cynical, wholly sar-
castic.



THE LEVELLER 223

"You are," said Rubinstein, with disdain,
"the picture of woe and disappointment.
"Well, Boris Alexanderowitch, be a man and
bear up under it. It comes to all of us!"
Then his mood changed and he said genially,
"You don't know how lucky you are to be
able to feel so."

Boris tried to smile and laugh off the sal-
lies of the great composer, but his success
was poor. A few minutes later he left the
house, rage and disgust in his heart.



CHAPTER XX.

Long before his mother had risen, long be-
fore the household of the Palace Annenkoff
had shaken off slumber, Boris was out and
away to the Moika.

At Louboff 's house the still sleepy servants
greeted him with surprise.

"Do not wake the Toarishyna. Do not tell
her I am here," he said smiling. "Just give
me some tea ; I will wait for her."

Almost two hours later, when Louboff came
to the music-room for her morning practice,
she found him there, smoking and reading the
morning papers.

* * Oh, Boris, ' ' she said, her face lighting up
with delight, "how nice of you! I feared I
was never going to see you again." Then
pausing, she said pleadingly and half pout-
ingly, "Do let us enjoy the remaining days
and be together as much as possible; there
are only four more. Oh, how lonely I was
yesterday. I could not work, I could not
practice, I kept watching for you all day."

Boris could not help contrasting his feel-
ings with hers, and finding them identical his
spirits rose.

224



THE LEVELLER 225

"Yes," he said eagerly, "and was it not
mean of mother! Oh, Louboff, when I saw
you go off with her it almost broke my heart.
I had been looking forward all day to that one
little half hour. It was really a crime on her
part." Then he added anxiously, "And how
did you get along with mother ? How did she
strike you?"

"Boris well well, I hardly like to say.
You see, dearest, she is your mother, and
therefore I hesitate about giving you my im-
pressions ; they may not be right. ' '

"No, no; say just what you think," he in-
terrupted eagerly.

"Well, she gave me the impression of being
ires grande dame, and worldly ; quite differ-
ent to the idea you had given me in your de-
scription of her." Then Louboff shivered a
little as one who has cold, and drew closer to
him. "But I don't want any outside influence
to spoil our last days together, Boris. I mean
just to revel in your love, forgetting the
world, forgetting the future, forgetting all
things but that just you are you, and that we
are together."

It was all that he could get her to say of his
mother in the days that ensued. Adroitly,
cleverly and most carefully, she avoided all



226 THE LEVELLER

mention of the Countess in their conversation,
and on the few remaining occasions that they
saw each other she gave herself up, as she
said, to a delirium of happiness, born of the
knowledge that Boris loved her and loved her
passionately.

On the night of the second day of her ar-
rival the Countess, who had only seen her son
for a moment he had spent the day with
Louboff waited for him in his study.

Her emotions were many. She sat in the
stillness, thinking over the past, remembering
her son as a curly-headed cherub, who adored
her and would not be comforted in her ab-
sence. She saw him a lad, devoted, chival-
rous, always dreading the inevitable separa-
tion that must come when his college days
began. She contrasted all that with his pres-
ent attitude. He hardly seemed the same
Boris. He had slipped out of her grasp,
turned from her.

At last she heard his footsteps, and all the
maternal pride in her heart awakened. He
was so handsome, so manly.

She smiled up at him, nevertheless she said
reprovingly :

"You certainly keep late hours, Boris,
When do you get time to study!**



THE LEVELLER 227

"I am giving myself a little holiday these
days," he said moodily. "Louboff goes away
Monday, and it is going to be a long separa-
tion I am afraid; almost three months until
my vacation. I am going to be very neglectful
of you, mother, for a little while," he added,
coming up and putting his hand on her shoulr
der affectionately, "but I know you under-
stand the circumstances and will forgive me.*'

The Countess felt anything but flattered at
his frank admission and consequent deduc-
tion. A bitter reproach rose to her lips, but,
looking up, she saw it would be useless; his
face wore a sad, dreamy, far-away expres-
sion. He was not thinking of her, not even
thinking of what he was saying, but of the
new interest that held his fancy so completely
captive.

"Well," she said at length, and with af-
fected carelessness. "Boys, Boris, will be
boys, and this first love affair of yours, of
course, seems a most serious fact."

"Mother," he said abruptly, his patience
not proof against her doubting assertion, "it
is a fact, a most serious fact ; you still do not
realize that it is a betrothal, that some day
you will have to take Louboff to your heart
as your son's wife."



228 TEE LEVELLER

"Now, Boris," she said, smiling indul-
gently, "do not let us misunderstand each
other. You are not twenty-one yet, and I am
old and experienced. We will say nothing fur-
ther about this betrothal till your birthday, a
year hence and then, well, then, if you come
to me and still insist, I am ready to 'take her
to my heart, 7 as you say, and give you both
my blessing."

Boris flung his arms about her boyishly, his
face radiant.

"Mother! Dearest, sweetest, and best of
mothers, you mean this ? ' *

' ' Surely, my boy. * '

"Then it is assured, settled; and, oh,
mother, I do appreciate your kindness and
greatness of heart, your love for me, for I
know your prejudices. ' '

"Well, then, be happy, dear," she said,
kissing him; "so run off now and sleep
soundly. ' ' Then, a sudden thought coming to
her, the Countess said graciously: "Since I
will not see you because of your preoccupa-
tion, why not bring Mademoiselle Malkiel
here to luncheon, to dinner, or any time you
like that she is free?"

Boris again embraced her rapturously, feel-
ing as if all good fortune were coming his



THE LEVELLER 229

way, and, looking up into his frank, bright
eyes, the Countess' own fell in their first con-
fusion before those of her son.

" Mother has consented to our betrothal,"
shouted Boris to Louboff the moment of their
meeting next day.

Louboff wrinkled her pretty eyebrows.

' ' Consented ! ' ' she whispered in awe. Then
she listened to his story, and smiled wisely.
She made no remark.

"You must come to luncheon to-day," he
finished. "You are expected."

"To-day? Friday? Oh, no, Boris, not to-
day ; I would not care to enter your house for
the first time on a Friday. ' '

"But it would not be the first time," he
said quickly. "You were there before; you
know it is the house of my uncle. So, Louboff,
sweetheart, run and get on your things at
once. Mother expects us. Put on your pretty
heliotrope frock the one I first saw you in
and wear your sable cloak, the one with the
diamond clasps, ' ' he added eagerly.

"Boris, at times you are such a boy," she
said tenderly, and, drawing down his head,
she kissed him on the mouth and then, Rus-
sian fashion, on each eyelid.

She followed his advice, however, as he



230 THE REVELLER

noted with glee, and they went at once to the
Annenkoff palace. Vera d' Annenkoff was
there, and the moment Boris' mother caught
sight of Louboff she rose and greeted her cor-
dially. Then, with her arm about her, led her
forward to her niece.

"Vera," she said smiling, "this is Made-
moiselle Louboff Malkiel. Perhaps I ought
to introduce her more correctly as the be-
trothed of Boris, but you young people ought
not to betroth yourselves too readily, so I will
merely say that in all probability you will
know her one day as your cousin. ' '

Vera d' Annenkoff had been trained in her
father's way. She showed no surprise, not
even by the quiver of an eyelid.

"I am delighted to meet you," she said in
easy fashion, ' ' and I congratulate you both. ' '
She looked over at Boris and smiled know-
ingly. "She has the most beautiful face I
ever laid eyes on," she whispered a few mo-
ments later to the gratified young man, as
they followed the Countess and Louboff in to
luncheon.

The luncheon was pleasant and the attitude
of the Countess charming. Louboff was forced
to leave early ; when the Countess saw her de-
part in the company of Boris she said gaily:



THE LEVELLER 231

* * Now, remember, Louboff Antonivna, come
to luncheon or dinner; you will always find
me. You know it is the only way I can get a
glimpse at all of my son. ' ' Then she bent and
kissed the lovely flushed face, with its glory
of youth and happiness, and said, turning to
Boris: "You hear, Boris? Insist on her com-
ing."

On Saturday evening, much against her
will, Boris brought Louboff to dinner, and
just as they were rising from the table a serv-
ant came, asking Boris to attend on his Ex-
cellency, Count d'Annenkoff, for a few min-
utes.

Boris excused himself and went unsuspect-
ingly. Then, the Countess knowing the coast
was clear for an hour at least, got the long
talk she wanted with Louboff.

She was all kindness and delicacy, and a
very real and true affection seemed to look
out of her handsome eyes, so like those of
Boris in color, so unlike in expression, as she
took Louboff 's hand protectingly.

"I speak, my dear," she said softly, "as
your friend, but more especially as the mother
of Boris." Then quietly, insidiously, cun-
ningly, she laid before the heartbroken Lou-
boff what the consequences of any marriage



232 THE LEVELLER

between herself and Boris would be his com-
plete and absolute ruin, socially and finan-
cially.

Louboff needed no convincing ; she knew all
that the Countess had to tell her she knew
even more about her Russia and the Govern-
ment than the elder woman did ; but when the
latter said softly: "A woman is always older
than a man at your age ; you have twice the
wisdom of Boris ; I leave the whole matter in
your hands and to your decision.'* Louboff
could have screamed aloud in her agony.

And Louboff in her youth, in her generosity,
and in her love, was as wax in the hands of
the Countess, who had behind her pleadings
all the wiles and cunning of her forty years'
experience.

"Now," finished the Countess, "to come be-
tween a great love even if it would save my
son from ruin is something I could not do,
but Louboff Antonivna, what is real love?
"What is great love? What is true love ? Is it
not that which sacrifices self for the benefit
of the one beloved ? Life is so short, so short.
See me ; I loved Boris 'father ; we were happy,
ah, so happy; but now I am alone, and it is
all a memory, and all the bitterer, I assure
you, because a memory of great happiness. I



THE LEVELLER 233

do not hesitate, my child, to say that many,
many times when my sufferings were great-
est I regretted that I gave way to the love that
was later to cause me such anguish, and that


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