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that the dinner table was unusually large and

"Yes," said Count d'Annenkoff in the
course of conversation to the Gorodanachal-
nik, or Governor of the City, * * there is a great
deal of disaffection just now among the
students ; my nephew Boris here may perhaps
have something to say on that subject. He
is a student of the Corps des Mines."

Finding all eyes turned toward him, Boris
broke off a conversation with his cousin Vera.

"I I have not observed anything, your
Excellency," he replied unsteadily, in answer



to a somewhat gruffly worded question put to
him by the Governor.

"How is that?" interposed Count d'Annen-
koff with the polished politeness of his best
diplomatic manner, and a smile steely in its
coldness. "There are several members of a
new secret society right in your class; in
fact "

The Governor gave Count d'Annenkoff a
warning glance and the latter hesitated and
then added blandly :

* ' You are devoting yourself too thoroughly
to your studies, I suppose. ' '

"I am," Boris replied quickly, then he
added proudly, ' ' and in any case, knowing my
connections, my views and my sentiments, you
can readily suppose that no matter what may
be the secret intentions of my classmates if
they be as you state I am the last person
they would divulge their plans or inten-
tions to. ' '

"The boy is right," said the Governor

"Perhaps," Count d'Annenkoff remarked
with a shrug, "but their zeal for proselytizing
may get the better of their good sense, and if
so, Boris, you will, of course, listen to all they
have to say and inform us."


The young man's face flushed darkly.

"I would hardly like to do that, mon
oncle," he said after a short pause and very
positively, "it savors too much of espionage
of underhand dealing. I "

"Ah, you think so!" murmured his uncle
blandly. And with a short, disagreeable
laugh, General Gresser, the head of the Secret
Police, remarked en passant. "You would
treat these canaille as gentlemen?" Then
looking around the table, he said sarcasti-
cally : ' ' Your Excellencies, we certainly can-
not look to Count Gourowsky for any infor-
mation on this subject."

The tone of the General's voice was
ominous and pointed, and judging by the
quick frown given him by his uncle and the
glances he met on all sides, Boris became
painfully aware that he had keenly dis-
pleased all those present by his answer. He
threw back his head indignantly.

"What do you want of me?" he asked, un-
abashed. "I am no detective to spy on my

"But you are a loyal subject of his Im-
perial Majesty?" queried the Governor with

"Most certainly."


" Boris," said Count d'Annenkoff in a
tone one would use to a naughty child, "that
will do."

Puzzled and annoyed by the incident,
Boris, a moment later finding himself
ignored, continued his interrupted talk with
his cousin and forgot the incident.

Dinner over, making his excuses to his
aunt, who did not interrupt her conversation
with a high State dignitary, but gave her
nephew the tips of her fingers languidly and
almost disdainfully, he hurried from the
palace and found himself after a short drive
before the house of Louboff Malkiel, on the

Once there, for several minutes he stood
outside, hesitating about entering. A whole
army of prejudices seemed to halt him. He
thought of his parents, and dead and living
hands seemed stretched out to retard his
progress. What was he doing! Ignoring
his mother's warnings and even her com-
mands; forgetting the principles his dead
father had so carefully instilled into his
mind. To enter the house of a Jew as a
guest! he, Boris Gourowsky? It was incred-
ible! What was he doing? What sense was
there in it?


Were not the Jews the bitterest enemies
of his race, the curse of his country, the
mockery of his religion? He coughed and
frowned impatiently, then Louboff's flower-
like face rose before him and the desire to
see her again, to know more of her, grew
with him.

"Bah!" he said to himself impatiently.
"I am going in to hear her music; what harm
is there in that? The Jews have always been
musical ; Eubinstein himself is a warm friend
of the Tsar, and of all the Grand Dukes; he
used to be a friend of my father's. Why
should I hesitate about seeing Louboff?
Principles and prejudices are all very good
at times, but there comes a moment when to
push them becomes silly. It is the music it
is Louboff the musician, and not the Jewess,
I go to see," was the thought that consoled
him and swept away the last fragment of his

He pushed open the door, saluted the
dvornik carelessly, and then walked upstairs
trying to feel comfortable and at ease with
his conscience.

Seeing the name "Malkiel," he rang a bell
and a servant opened the door. Taking his
coat and cap from him, he ushered Boris into


a plainly furnished living room where two
elderly persons of decided Jewish cast, a man
and a woman, were playing cards.

The former got up nervously on catching
sight of the tall, soldierly young man, then
he came forward civilly, and when Boris in-
troduced himself, Mr. Malkiel murmured his
own name and with a backward movement of
his head to his partner, who still held her
cards in her hands, said laconically: "My
sister. ' '

Boris Alexanderowitch smiled at seeing
so many expressions in the face of the
Hebrew before him; first fear, then caution,
then surprise, then gratification.

"You thought I was after your wealth;
one of those that Louboff told me of to-day.
Well, I am glad you were frightened, if only
for a second. How many unfortunate vic-
tims have you squeezed in your time?" Boris
thought to himself maliciously, even while
he bowed politely.

Then Michel came in, after him a servant
with a samovar, and last of all, Louboff, de-
mure and lovely in a gray frock.

Boris refused the glass of tea Louboff
offered him, on the plea of just having
finished dinner, but as she insisted, he took


it and put it on a small table; then he sat
down on a stiff chair and began to study the
first Jewish family with whom he found him-
self on terms of comparative intimacy.

"How horrible! How horrible they are!"
he thought disgustedly. "The old man Mal-
kiel cannot' look me straight in the face,
and his sister, fat and greasy, ugh, how

Boris grew more and more ill at ease. He
began to upbraid himself for coming. The
guttural accents, the whine in their voices
and the peculiar gestures of hands and arms
grated on senses otherwise attuned. In des-
peration, he turned to Louboff and tried to
ignore them. But they would not be ignored.
They plied him with questions, and the elder
Malkiel, stretching forth a long, thin hand,
grabbed that of Boris Alexanderowitch, and
touching a handsome cabochon emerald ring
which the latter wore and which had belonged
to his father, said with envious delight :

"Oh, the beautiful emerald! A most rare
stone. I have never seen such a stone, and
emeralds are so dear now that ring must be
worth fifty thousand roubles easily. If ever
you need money, well "

Boris' nerves seemed at the point of crack-


ing. Sell his father's ring? Boris almost
snatched his hand away.

Louboff knew her father was doing his
best to be polite, for to comment on his
possessions, to value them highly, to a 'Rus-
sian Jew, is to gladden him exceedingly, but
she saw the scorn and anger in Boris' face
and not quite understanding why it should
be there, she stood up hastily and said:

" Father, we will not disturb your game.
Come, Boris Alexanderowitch, I promised to
play for you. The music-room is quite a
distance, at the other end of the apartment,
so that my practising will not disturb the
family. You will come, too, Michel?" she
added, turning to her brother.

"In one second," he assented.

As they went along Boris was struck by
two things the largeness of the apartment
and the increasing luxury of its furnishings.

From the first room they passed into
another similar in character, then into a well-
stocked library with magnificent black carved
Norman oak furniture and hangings of
yellow satin ; from that to a salon with Louis
Seize decorations, all gilded mirrors and
whiteness, then through a smoking room
luxuriously appointed in Oriental style, fol-


lowed by a dining room of magnificent pro-
portions, where rare old silver, family
portraits, Flemish furniture, rugs, porcelain,
cut glass and splendid coppers gave an air
of opulence and luxury that came as a sur-
prise to the tall young Russian.

This room led into a music-room, the walls
of which were done in panels, the polished
floor reflecting the Chippendale furniture.
Here and there priceless rugs were placed,
great jardinieres of palms, or roses in full
bloom, and some bowls of old Crown Derby
filled with bunches of lilies and violets per-
fumed the air delightfully.

In old cabinets were housed Louboff's
collection of original manuscripts and auto-
graphs, and the oval mirrors had candelabra
filled with unlighted wax candles.

A harp, several violins, a violoncello, a
double bass, quaint balalikas, some guitars,
lutes and mandolins, with an organ and two
grand pianofortes, completed the furnishing
of a room that delighted Boris Alexandero-
witch. He could not keep back an exclama-
tion of surprise and pleasure.

"Ah, you like my room," she said, laugh-
ing. "You see, it is at the end of the apart-
ment, away from the living rooms, so that the


others may not be disturbed by my

"It is indeed beautiful," Boris said.

"Much better, at least, than the one we

left," she continued. "That is kept ugly
for papa's tormentors. You see, we dare
.not keep anything pretty or valuable where
it could be seen, for one of your Kussian
officials would be sure to pounce on it and
order it sent to his home."

Boris looked incredulous.

Louboff Antonivna noted this and
shrugged her shoulders.

"Ah, you don't believe me. Well, never
mind; I assure you it is true, alas." Then she
went over to the pianoforte nearest her and
seating herself, said questioningly : "What
shall it be, preludes or nocturnes? I am in
humor for either."

Without waiting for his reply, she began
to wander from key to key, and over her
lovely face there came a rapt expression that
absolutely glorified it.

Boris stood at the end of the pianoforte,
without troubling to find a seat, so absorbed
was he in the music. Like pearls the notes
of the first prelude fell under her fingers.
From prelude to prelude she passed, playing


the last more beautifully, it seemed to him,
than the one before. And all the time she
warmed more and more to her work.

Boris had all the Kussian's inborn love of
music; trained to it and understanding it, he
listened entranced. He kept his eyes fixed
on her bent head, against its background of,
roses, and hardly dared to move. Amaze-
ment and delight and, finally, an ever in-
creasing enthusiasm, took possession of him.

"She is not only beautiful and clever, but
she is an artist," he told himself. "What
does it matter, with that gift, her being a
Jewess? And I, with my prejudices and
notions, came near losing all this! She will
go to Berlin, to London, to Paris, and how
they will fete her."

All that is beautiful in Chopin's music; the
pathos, sadness, revolt; the beatings of a
heart that knew love in its subtlest and most
ethereal phases, with all the consequent
longings, bitterness and outbursts of suprem-
est joy, were revealed in Louboff's music;
and then her technique, its finished elegance
and completeness were not lost on Boris.

"Michel is only twenty and she is younger.
She cannot be over eighteen. It is marvel-
ous, unbelievable," he pondered.


Louboff had reached the great E flat pre-
lude. She commenced it with splendid
bravura. Her flying fingers seemed to sweep
the keyboard. Then suddenly they struck a
false note. She looked up at him and

It was the first false note and the only
false note, but it annoyed her and sent the
blood flying to her face. For a few moments
she sang the joyous melody, and Boris
listened and looked and found the maddest
ideas rushing through his brain in tune with
the music.

The ecstasy and dreaminess of it all ! When
the last note was struck, she turned to him,
tired and happy. He rushed up to her,
caught her two hands, and raising them to
his lips, covered them with kisses.

"Oh, Louboff Antonivna, you play di-
vinely ! You have given me the greatest hap-
piness of my life."

She listened, blushing. "It is so good of
you to say so, ' ' she whispered.

"Good!" he echoed in amazement. "But
where did you get it all; surely not on

"Anything that is good in my playing
belongs to Rubinstein our great Eubin-


stein," she said with a smile adorable in its

malice; "yet, he is a Jew."

"Oh," said Boris, laughing outright, "you
cannot forget that."

"No, I cannot."

"Ah, Louboff Antonivna, you make me feel
ashamed. There are Jews and Jews; I
really see I have been making a mistake.
Perhaps if I listen to your beautiful music
much longer I shall come round to your way
of thinking."

Louboff 's impulses were always gracious.
Again she gave him both her hands.

"Boris Alexanderowitch, you are atoning
nobly; if only some day you might."

Boris smiled enigmatically, and at that
moment Michel entered.

"It is snowing hard," he announced glee-
fully. "It looks as if you would have to re-
main here. Those students' rooms of ours
are so bleak and comfortless. I certainly will
not go to the Wasily Ostroff to-night. What
do you say, Boris Alexanderowitch, had you
not better remain ? ' '

"Thank you, I am not afraid of cold,"
the latter said, rising; "and if it is snow-
ing hard I had better be going. Some
other time, Louboff Antonivna, if you will


allow me, I would like to come again."

"Oh, any time," she assented graciously.
"But won't you stay? The Nicholaiffsky
Bridge is bad at all times, but to cross it on
a night like this "

' ' I shall think only of your music. ' '

"You must not count on it to perform
miracles," she insisted, archly.

"The memory of its magic will banish all
discomfort. ' '

Leisurely they walked through the suite
of rooms to the outer hall, pausing here and
there for Boris to note or admire some piece
of china, a picture or rare curio.

She arranged to take him the following
evening to Eubinstein to dinner, and he
arranged to take her in the afternoon to the
service in St. Isaac's.

He was glad to find the old people had
finished their game and had retired for the
night. Their presence had been the only dis-
cordant note of the evening. It was quite ten.
minutes till Boris finally ended his adieux.

"Au revoir, Boris Alexander owitch, " she
said, her head outside the door, as he de-
scended the staircase, her eyes bright and
shining, her face flushed with happiness and


"Au revoir et a bientot, Louboff Anto-
nivna," he replied, and the smile each gave
the other was magical in its effect.

Only when his footsteps had died away
and ceased did Louboff close the door, then
lingeringly and preoccupied, she went toward
the sitting-room. A peremptory call from
Michel made her finally hurry.

"Well," he said, when she reached the
room where he was, "you managed pretty
finely. What do you think yourself?"

Her face changed as she shrugged her
shoulders coldly. "He is a great Jew hater;
it all depends on what you want me to do."

"That I will tell you later."

"Do not count on much; you might as well
try to corrupt the Tsar himself as the incor-
ruptible Boris Alexanderowitch. "

"Corrupt?" he echoed laconically, and he
gave her a glance of surprise that confused

"Well, bring him to your way of think-
ing," she stammered.

"Love is a mighty leveller of prejudices,
and you you made a decided impression on
him, and he he made a decided impression
on you, ma belle."

"Nonsense!" cried Louboff angrily.


Then, eager to change the conversation,
she said crossly: "I hope your plotting does
not get me into trouble. We were followed
from the Corps des Mines right across the
river here."

Michel bit his lips. ''You were, eh I Well,
as long as you did not deliver the papers, and
you were not arrested, and found with them,
it is all right," said Michel, yawning. "You
don't want to have another try at delivering
them to-morrow? They are two passports
for men that are in grave danger."

"Most assuredly not."

Again Michel glanced at her sharply.

"What! Has Boris Alexanderowitch made
a proselyte already?"

"No, but I am not going to run any such
risk. No theory or fact is worth the sacrifice
of a human life or human liberty. I won't
ever go on such a mission again."

"Not for a while; you would make a bad
envoy if you invite surveillance so easily,"
sneered Michel. "There is one point I wish
you would try and find out from Boris Alex-
anderowitch to-morrow," he added, trying
to make his tone light and inconsequential.
"Does his uncle leave Petersburg Thursday
or Friday?"


"Because Count d'Annenkoff goes with the

"Because nothing at all, Mademoiselle,"
retorted Michel sarcastically, but the expres-
sion of his face changed instantly and she
saw it. Then after a pause during which
brother and sister glared at each other,
Michel said sneeringly:

"Go to bed now and get your beauty sleep,
and dream, if you like, that you are Countess
Gourowsky. ' '

Louboff tossed her head indignantly,
nevertheless the sound of the name was
pleasant to her ears.

"An impossibility an utter impossibil-
ity," she told herself. "Still, life is full of
them and if he wished it, ah, if only "


When Boris Gourowsky left the house of
the Malkiels his brain was in a whirl. No
vehicle was in sight, so down the Nevsky,
all along the Quay and over the Nicholaiffsky
Bridge he trudged to the "Wasily Ostroff, in-
different to the cold, the blinding snow that
pelted his face like sand, and the gale blow-
ing in wildly from the Gulf of Finland.

When he reached his lodgings he sat down
to his nightly task; a letter to his mother.
Ordinarily it was the pleasantest of duties,
but on this occasion he got only as far as the
opening phrase of endearment; then he

Sitting, pen in hand, he pondered how best
to tell her of Louboff, and her music, and
how also he came to make her acquaintance;
but the more he pondered the harder seemed
the formation of the phrases with which to
express his own ideas.

There was absolutely no use, none what-
ever, he decided at last. She would never
understand, never, never. She would think
the end of the world had come, that he, her


son Boris, was on terms of intimacy with a
Jewish family. It would only annoy her,
worry her, make a misunderstanding.

No, he had better wait; better say nothing
at all. He sat going over the events of the
evening, and LoubofPs lovely face in all its
expressiveness, its haunting melancholy, its
wistful repose, was ever before him.

His letter to his mother had brought mem-
ories of his home to him; he contrasted it
with Louboff 's home and found it for the first
time sadly wanting. He wondered how
Louboff would like Gourowsky. He fancied
himself showing it all to her, walking by the
lake, where the lilacs blossomed so beauti-
fully in spring time. He thought of the place
in the scorching summer, when acre after
acre of ripening wheat lay golden in the sun-
shine, and again it was the weird, silent
solitude of the moonlit woods in winter time.

The house, he told himself, would look very
poorly furnished and uncomfortable to her.
He thought of the old square pianoforte in
the sitting-room ; that, he decided, would have
to go, and a grand pianoforte be substituted

If he suggested such a change, how would
his mother take it his mother, who practised


the most rigid economy in order that she
might build the schools his father was so set
on. Then he lit a cigarette and laughed at
himself as an imbecile.

"The little witch! She has hypnotized me
with her music and her beauty. It is absurd,
fatal; what am I thinking of?"

Outside, the wind whistled and howled, and
he listened to it dreamily. Then a vision of
Louboff converted to his faith, of Louboff
a bride, his bride, came before him and he
plunged his face in his hands.

"Am I crazy, or what?" he asked himself,
horrified. "It would kill my mother; my
father would turn in his grave Louboff Mal-
kiel, Countess Gourowsky! A Jewess in my
mother's place!"

He began to undress in a hurry, like one
who tries to get away from his thoughts, and,
putting out his light, he at last fell into a
sleep filled with dreams of Louboff and her

Next morning when Boris found the un-
finished letter to his mother and remembered
that for the first in his student life he had
disobeyed her commands, a great wave of
remorse swept over him.

He thought of her far away in the interior,


far away from the joys of civilization, sacri-
ficing herself completely for others, without
relaxation or amusement or even comfort,
and when he recollected that her one pleas-
ure, for which a man drove daily some fifteen
versts, his letter, had been denied her through
his carelessness and selfishness, the recollec-
tion caused him a bitter pang of remorse and

He looked up at the care-worn face smiling
benignly at him from her portrait ; the glance
of the gentle eyes seemed to pierce his
soul. "And all for a woman whom I only
met yesterday; a Jewess at that! Only be-
cause she is young and pretty!" he thought

"I do not deserve such a mother,'* he mur-
mured to himself aloud, while a thousand
instances of her kindness and thoughtfulness
flitted before his mind's eye. He ran over
the salient events of the dinner of the pre-
vious evening at his uncle 's house, and sitting
down he wrote a detailed account of the per
sons he had met, winding up with news of the
bitter cold and the terrible snowstorm that
had suddenly fallen on the city, hoping that
the last item would account to her for the
delay of his letter.


Boris then turned to his studies, but study
and himself for once were altogether at vari-
ance. Calculations and mathematical prob-
lems swarmed before his eyes, a meaningless
jumble of figures.

He would concentrate his interest only to
find, the next instant, his thoughts wandering
to Louboff, her music, or their digression on
the Jewish question. He made his tea
stronger than usual, smoked cigarette after
cigarette, left his books and began pacing up
and down his room, all in an effort to settle
his thoughts and control his ideas; but his
efforts were futile. Louboff 's voice, Lou-
boff 's face, Louboff 's personality would not
efface itself; it followed him persistently,
surrounded him, overwhelmed him.

He tried to laugh, to reason with himself,
but thoughts of a future with her beckoned
him and lured him in spirit. A future where
the other half of him, that other half so
dreamed of in youth, would be the girl he had
met but a few hours previously, the Jewess,
Louboff Antonivna.

The more he thought of this possibility the
more the dreamer and fatalist, so strong in
the personality of all Russians, asserted
itself. "If it is love," he soliloquized, "well,


then there is nothing to be done; and if she
loves me "

The mere idea set his blood afire. He
thought of her in her pretty abandon when
she had given him her two hands to kiss ; he
thought of her as she had been when stirred
to deep emotion by the loveliness of Chopin's
music. He thought of her as she might be if,
loving and loved, she would yield herself to
his embrace in their betrothal kiss. Agitated
beyond control by this thought, he tramped
the floor of his little room heavily. A servant
brought him his breakfast ; he left it untasted.
Then he began to count the hours.

Someone whom he was afraid might be
Micnel let himself in, and, climbing the two
flights of stairs, knocked at his door, but re-
ceiving no answer, went to the rooms be-
neath MichePs rooms.

One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock; how
the hours lagged. At four o'clock he was to

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Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 3 of 13)