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tion, our beautiful sudden spring, the steppes,
the peasants, the church bells booming in the
frosty air all the Byzantine loveliness, so
peculiarly a part of our country. Ah, what
would I not give for a sight of it I For a drive
down the Nevsky or to scent one of those
wild northern breezes that blow over the
Neva."

"You can love it like that, a land that has
treated you so harshly?" Boris thought, and
as he noted the melancholy droop of her
lovely mouth, he felt like saying things that
were wild and unreasonable.

Their leavetaking was simple. He shook
hands with her, kissed her hand, and, turning
away, asked himself, was this really a part-



THE 'LEVELLER 279

ing! Could it be that, after so many years
of misery and misunderstanding, she was al-
lowing him to go away without one promise
or token of her affection? "Ah!" he told
himself bitterly, "she is a comedienne; she
has never loved me, never!" Then he looked
down into her eyes and the agony he read
there made his heart beat and the blood rush
to his temples. He paused, looked back, tried
to say something, but the old Baron was be-
side him, and the next moment he had entered
the carriage and Louboff stood on the steps
waving adieu, her face white as death.

How the journey back was accomplished
Boris never knew, for to him it passed as a
dream. On reaching St. Petersburg he had
pulled himself sufficiently together to give
lucid answers to the many questions put to
him and make his report, then he collapsed.

When he arrived at Gourowsky, unheralded
and unexpected, his mother met him, enthusi-
astic delight in her welcome.

"Boris, Boris, what lucky wind blows you
here? This is indeed a joy I had not looked
for."

Something in the expression of his face
alarmed her. He made no effort to return
her embrace; he stood stiff and unbending
on the threshold.



280 THE LEVELLER

"What what is it, Boris? Has anything
happened?'* she asked, alarmed.

"Mother," he said at last, "I want to be
alone. I am upset. I have just arrived from
Berlin, as you know; from Berlin a journey
I should have made ten years ago, ' ' he added,
concentrated bitterness in his voice, his blue
eyes bent on her disdainfully.

"Boris, Boris, you have seen her?"

"Yes."

"And "

"Mother, why go over it? You have been a
good mother to me perhaps but when you
came between us "

Emotion overmastered him, he turned
quickly and left her presence.

For several days she saw nothing of him.
Making a pretext of looking over the estate
he slept at the house of his overseer, spend-
ing his days riding and roaming through the
woods.

"It was better as I thought it, during the
last ten years," he told himself bitterly. "A
man can live down the inevitable, but this
this that Louboff should love me yet, work
me so grievous an injury and that my
mother "

The burden of his thoughts seemed greater



THE REVELLER 281

than lie could bear ; the quiet and loneliness of
Gourowsky threw him entirely on his own re-
sources. Night or day it seemed he could not
get away from himself and his trouble even
for a minute.

" Boris Alexanderowitch is mad," said his
people among themselves, and they went with
weird tales to the Countess, who listened ap-
palled.

Before a week was over a telegram came
for him from the Ministerium. He had then
not been seen for several days and the Coun-
tess herself, half maddened by agonizing
doubts and fears, was one of the seekers. They
traced him at last, several miles away to the
house of a peasant, and the Countess Gou-
rowsky threw herself on her knees before him.

"Oh, Boris," she cried, bursting into tears,
"thank God you are living, I I feared "

The expression of his face was ironical.

* ' No, mother, no ; not that, ' ' he said quietly,
' ' only cowards do that. ' ' Then he tore open
the telegram.

"Come at once," it ran, signed by the Min-
ister of Finance.

"There must be work ahead," he thought,
"much work or they would not send for me."

An hour later he was speeding as fast as
steam could take him.



282 TEE LEVELLER

On reaching St. Petersburg he went
straight to the Ministerium and was ushered
at once into the office of his chief.

' ' Gourowsky, " said the latter looking up
hastily, "where have you been? I had ex-
pected that when you knew the loan was in
danger you would have come back without
summoning. ' '

"The loan in danger?" queried Boris.

"Yes, Baron Oppenheim is dead."

Without a word or sign of warning, Boris
Alexanderowitch fell face forward uncon-
scious at the feet of the Minister.

He could never account for it himself, nor
could the doctors hastily summoned. Ten
minutes after they had revived him he was
in full possession of all his senses and an
hour later he was at his desk.



CHAPTEB XXVI.

During the week that Boris had idled at
Gourowsky disquieting telegrams reached
the Eussian Ministry of Finance. Baron Op-
penheim had been stricken with paralysis.
His journey was delayed. Then had come
the telegram announcing his death.

This latter created consternation. Would
the loan fall through? Would the Baron's
decease make any difference? were the ques-
tions that agitated the Ministers.

Boris brought all his energies to bear on
the situation. He was once more cool headed,
keen, alert of intellect. Couriers were at
once despatched and telegrams began to pour
in on the banking house in Berlin.

"Yes," ciphered the dead banker's repre-
sentatives, "it may make a difference. The
enormous fortune of the Baron has passed
absolutely to his wife, it remains with her."

Boris laid the telegram before the Council
of the Emperor and Count d'Annenkoff,
reading it, made a gesture of hopelessness.

"That settles it," he said calmly. "The
Baroness Oppenheim is a Russian Jewess



283



284 THE LEVELLER

and the game is hers. She holds trumps. We
may as well acknowledge ourselves beaten."

Boris smiled. The other Ministers were
equally as pessimistic as the Count. Boris
made no move to allay their fears. He had
no voice in the Council, he was merely acting
as secretary to the chief; but on returning
home with the latter, he said quietly:

"Prince, sleep quietly and comfortably, do
not let this thing worry you, just give them
time to bury the Baron. Rest assured the
loan is made."

Two days later another Council was called
hastily and Count d'Annenkoff, strangely
elated and jubilant, was reading the contents
of the latest cipher telegram to his colleagues.
Boris was looking straight at him and for a
moment as the old statesman felt the glance
he was cowed by the triumph and resentful
scorn that seemed to blaze at him from his
nephew's eyes. He paused, confused, stam-
mered, and for the first time lost his self-
control. Then he delivered his message.

The Russian Jewess in the end had forgot-
ten old wrongs and proved herself a patriot.

The great loan was made.

** *****#

A year later, Boris, agitated but smiling,



THE LEVELLER 285

was walking up and down the platform of the
railway station waiting for the train from
Berlin. It was early summer and the scorch-
ing sun beat fiercely down on the streets of
the city.

The train steamed in slowly and LouboiT,
her lovely face radiant with joy and happi-
ness, waved from her far-off position on the
platform a gay recognition. One moment
more and they were together.

People descending from the train, and
those awaiting relatives, stared at the fero-
city of his embrace; then they smiled. A
group of moujiks chewing sunflower seeds in
happy contentment looked, too, and nudged
each other, but of all this Louboff and Boris
were blissfully unconscious.

''Is it not as I said? Is it not as I said!"
Boris cried joyfully. " Beloved, I saw it all,
as it was, not you. You are back in Eussia,
as I always told you you would, and to-mor-
row will see you my wife. ' '

" Boris, Boris," said Louboff, as she dis-
engaged herself from his clasp and turned to
greet his mother, who had just arrived.

11 Welcome home, welcome to Eussia," the
older woman said with a catch in her voice.
''Welcome, my daughter."



286 THE LEVELLER

"Baroness, may I, too, offer my congratu-
lations and my wishes for your happiness?"
It was the suave, high-bred tones of Count
d'Annenkoff that fell on her ear, and Louboff
turned, and offered him her hand with a smile
that made even him marvel at her beauty.

The Gourowsky palace in the Islands was
all lit up. Boris and Louboff themselves
would have preferred a simple wedding, but
the Tsar had intimated a wish to see his
youngest Minister's marriage, and a great
ball terminated the ceremony which had been
solemnized in St. Isaac's with all the pomp
and stateliness known to the Orthodox
Church.

At last the Tsar and Tsaritza left, the
other guests quickly followed, and Louboff
and Boris were, for the first time that even-
ing, alone.

Dawn was creeping over the waters and
the forest, the heavens in the East shone
resplendent with intermingling hues of gold
and rose. All at once it seemed to Louboff
and her husband that nature awoke.

A sweet piping from a thrush in the lilac
bushes was answered by its mate ; the call of
a blackbird sounded in the distance; then
every twig and blade of grass, every tree-top



THE LEVELLER 287

gave sign of movement in the first cool loveli-
ness of the dawn. The darkness of night was
over, the light grew stronger and stronger
and far up in the blue of the heavens a lark
commenced its wild, sweet paeon of gladness.

His arm stole about her, his lips sought
hers in one long kiss of passionate delight;
then the soft tones of his voice smote her ear
and mingled with the lark's song, blither and
more triumphant in their intensity :

"Oh, my love, my love," he cried. "We
belong to each other, forever!"



THE END.



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Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 13 of 13)