Alexander McArthur.

The leveller online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in G-major."

Eubinstein shrugged his shoulders; then
light as thistledown floated out the wonder-
ful double notes, the song in the tenor rising
clear and strong, triumphantly beautiful in
its expressiveness, deeply tender in its
pathos.

Over Rubinstein's mobile face as he fin-
ished there passed a shadow ; he put his finger
to his lips in thoughtful attitude, then he
commenced the great Wanderer Fantasia of
Schubert.

Tired with the emotions of the hour, Loub-
off slipped away from her stand in the door-
way, and with a smile of welcome Boris Alex-
anderowitch made room for her on the lounge
in the study, over which a picture of Lermont-
off's Demon hung.

A worshipper of Schubert, Rubinstein went
through the Fantasia in a fashion that held
his listeners breathless; bringing home to



THE LEVELLER 97

them as it did, in piercing accents, the in-
effable beauty, the nostalgia, the heartsick-
ness, the wistful longing of a composition
unique in its tone painting.

Slowly to all assembled the seconds laden
with their divine harmony passed, and to
many it seemed as if the beauty thrust upon
their tense and straining nerves was more
than their emotional natures could stand.
From stage to stage Kubinstein led them on,
and when he finished a stillness, prolonged,
profound, greeted him as he rose from the
pianoforte.

Eubinstein himself broke the spell.

".Well," he cried, laughing as he gazed at
his audience, huddled together, speechless
with delight and surprise.

They crowded round him to tell him of
their gratitude, but he laughed again and
waved them back.

"I played for myself to-night," he said;
then an expression of ecstasy came over his
face as he added solemnly, "Ah, music,
music! You painters, and poets, and writ-
ers, you give us only part of things ; we musi-
cians give it all. The final word; that that
alone is ours. ' '

A clock struck the hour of ten.



98 THE LEVELLER

"Ten!" he said incredulously. "Three
hours of music!" Then clapping his hands
Eastern fashion he cried :

"Matve, Matve! Where is the fellow?
How many times must I tell him I drink my
tea at nine!"

Just then Matve appeared, samovar in
hand.

"Your Excellency, your Excellency," he be-
gan, "it was the barishnya, she "

"Yes, yes, blame me, Anton Gregorie-
witch," Louboff cried, running up to him. "I
sent Matve away."

Kubinstein caught her in affected but play-
ful anger and crushed her head against his
heart, then bent and kissed the top of her head
affectionately.

"You meddle in my household affairs, you
minx ! * '

Her hair caught in the button of his coat.
Boris Alexanderowitch and the Grand Duke
rushed to her assistance.

"See," said Rubinstein, "what your vanity
of woman does. Wear your hair short like
mine. ' '

Some time later, after all had taken at least
one glass of tea, and several more, the Grand
Duke stood up.



THE LEVELLER 99

"Anton Gregoriewitch, " he said bowing
formally, every one standing up with him;
"I know your inflexible rule: bed at eleven;
it now only wants a quarter of that hour, so
I must make my adieux." Taking his host's
hand, he raised it to his lips, which Rubin-
stein tried to prevent, but the Grand Duke in-
sisted, and as Eubinstein, as is the custom,
kissed him on the forehead, the former said :

" Anton Gregoriewitch, thank you, and
thank you again. This evening will remain
in my memory forever, and be an always un-
sullied source of delight and artistic grati-
fication. ' '

It was the signal for a general movement
of separation. Five minutes later the ante-
chamber was filled with departing guests,
Matve helping them into their shoubas and
pocketing his pour boire with grateful alac-
rity.

Louboff remained to the last, and with her
Boris Alexanderowitch. The latter was about
to put on his cloak, when Eubinstein said
quickly: "Don't go; wait. There is still
time, five minutes yet," and he laid his open
watch face upward on the table.

"Anton Gregoriewitch is the soul of punc-
tuality," said Louboff smiling. "His day is



100 THE LEVELLER

divided into hours for this and hours for

that."

"Don't forget, Louboff, to be here to-mor-
row evening. You will play the Kreutzer
Sonata with Markowitch everyone wants to
hear the Kreutzer Sonata now, since Tolstoi
discovered it, so much for fame and if there
is time I will go through your concert pro-
gram for Berlin; you are practicing well, I
hope?"

Before Louboff could reply, Eubinstein
turned to Boris Alexanderowitch. "And you,
sir," he said cordially, "do not forget that I
am always at home for dinner, and will be de-
lighted to see you as often and whenever you
care to come here."

He looked from one to the other of the eager
young faces bent toward him ; then aloud and
as one who speaks to himself, he ejaculated
passionately: "God, what would I not give
to be as young as either of you!"

"I " said Louboff.

"We " began Boris, searching for some

remark to pass off the awkward silence that
ensued.

"Come, children," said Rubinstein with a
deep sigh, rising, "one minute to eleven." He
walked with them to the door, waiting while



THE LEVELLER 101

Matve cloaked them. Just as they were leav-
ing he called Louboff back and whispered
something in her ear. She blushed rosy red,
struggled from his embrace and fled to Boris
Alexanderowitch.

Eubinstein stood laughing, his leonine face
lit up with sardonic glee at her confusion.

When she reached the landing he shook his
clenched fist at her, then Matve closed the
door, they could hear him bolting it, and the
two young people, feeling very much excited
and unusually happy, descended the stair-
case.

"What did he say, Louboff Antonivna?"
Boris asked curiously.

' * Oh, I cannot tell, ' ' she replied, the fading
blushes reappearing in her cheeks again. "He
_he

"What?" insisted Boris coaxingly.

"He told me to beware of you."

1 1 To beware of me 1 " he echoed.

Louboff put her hands to her ears. "Oh,
hush, hush," she cried in distress, then she
laughed in quite an hysterical fashion as they
went out into the street.

The air was bitterly cold, the sky clear, the
stars bright, and the moonlight deeply blue.
Not a sound disturbed the silence of the nar-



102 THE LEVELLER

row Troitsky Pereulok where Kubinstein

dwelt.

Boris went forward and throwing off the
fur coverings hiding a huddled figure in the
bottom of the sleigh, the only sleigh in the
street, said sharply:

"Hey there, you! What do you mean, my
friend, sleeping here and your poor beast
uncovered? You will roast in the hot hell for
this, you hear me, I tell you so. A night like
this to leave your beast uncovered!'*

The iswostschik jumped to his feet, stiff
and cold.

"Uncovered," he murmured, just catching
the last word.

"Yes, and in this fearful cold; fifteen below
zero, at least. Have you no heart for the
dumb creature t ' '

" Oh, " said the fellow stupidly. ' ' Yes, it is
cold, but Eurik is used to it."

"Used to it! Yes. He will drop dead at
your feet some night he will be so used to it."

Until the poor animal had thawed out his
frozen limbs they went slowly all the whole
length of the Troitsky Pereulok, but as they
turned into the Nevsky Prospekt and neared
the Grand Ducal palace of Sergius, the ani-
mal took on a better gait.



THE LEVELLER 103

All this way Boris said nothing, but at the
Anitchkoff Palace, the residence of the Tsar,
Louboff said quickly and almost petulantly :

"What is it, Boris Alexander witch? Why
so silent?"

"Yes, and I have so much to say."
He drew her closer. "So very much," he
added in French, "and yet so little, Louboff

Antonivna, because " he paused, trying to

straighten out his thoughts, "you flurry me
so ; you have bewitched me. ' '
"Boris Alexanderowitch, you jest!"
Her glance was frightened; the solemnity
of his tone had done this. Her whole body
trembled beside him ; he could feel her breath-
ing in her excitement.

1 1 No, I am in earnest, in deadly earnest,
Louboff Antonivna. You have a terrifying

no, a beautiful, an adorable influence "

" I, a Jewess ? You, eh all your ideas ! ' *
1 1 They are dead, Louboff Antonivna. They

" he tried to think of something to say,

and finding nothing in his confusion of spirit,
bent down and tried to catch her glance.

Suddenly he knew what he wanted to say,
but the words absolutely refused to come to
his lips. It seemed as if some spirit influence
kept them back, froze them, ere they could be



104 THE LEVELLER

spoken. The look on his face told of his de-
sire.

Dazed, confused, more utterly frightened
than ever before by the sudden rush of happi-
ness that had overtaken her, Louboff gazed
back at him, and the memory of his voice was
sweeter to her ears than even the music of
Eubinstein.

She could feel the warmth of his breath on
her face.

"Is this real!" she asked herself ecstatic-
ally.

They had reached her house on the Moika
and he was thinking of how he had hesitated
only the evening before about entering it.

"Where shall I see you to-morrow?' 7

If she had doubted before, the tone of his
voice and its intense eagerness, she felt con-
vinced of his sincerity, for he kept her hand
in his as they crossed the entrance hall.

"Meet me in St. Isaac's at ten."

Her ready acquiescence enchanted him.

"Yes, yes, at ten." Then he raised her
hand to his lips and began kissing it.

"Boris Alexanderowitch, I hear a door
open above; they expect me to come up. I
must go alone."

He was about to kiss her hand again, but



THE LEVELLER 105

she tore it quickly away and ran up the stairs.

Michel met her on the threshold of the
apartment.

"Well, well," he cried, gazing into her
lovely face, dazzlingly beautiful just then
with its confused blushes and the unearthly
brilliance of her large Oriental eyes, his own
face white, pinched and excited.

"What is it?" she faltered.

"Did you find out?"

"What?" she gasped.

"The date of d'AnnenkofFs departure?"

"Oh, Michel, I I forgot!"

An oath, loud and terrible, fell from his
lips.

"You traitor! You cursed snake!" he
cried, his eyes blazing, his hand clenched
threateningly as he rushed toward her.



CHAPTER IX.

"Tell his Excellency I have come on im-
portant business.**

It was nine o'clock, the day dark and
gloomy with one of those leaden skies which
make St. Petersburg, for months at a time,
unutterably sad and dreary, driving all those
who can get away to the sunny skies and
warmth of the Riviera or the Crimea. The
hour was unusually early for Russian cus-
tom: the better classes scarcely ever rising
before noon.

The servant made a low bow to the Gover-
nor of the city an official whose word is law
and whose mere figure strikes terror to the
hearts of the lower orders and having re-
moved his Excellency's sable-lined shouba,
the man showed him into the study and then
went to find Count d'Annenkoff's valet to
learn if his master was awake or could be
awakened.

"The Governor to see me !" cried the Count
incredulously, as he glanced at the timepiece
nearest his bed. "His Excellency? Good!



THE LEVELLER 107

Tell the Governor I will be with him
directly. ' '

Count d'Annenkoff dipped a towel in per-
fumed water, drew it across his face,
smoothed out his hair, wrapped the dressing
gown handed to him about his portly form,
and sat on the edge of the bed while his man
servant drew on his hose and slippers.

All the time he was whispering to himself.
"What can have happened? Alexei Alexei-
witch to be out of bed at this hour! Nine
o'clock. This must be important business."
And he began wondering what it could be.

A few minutes later he was shaking hands
with his guest.

"Why, Alexei Alexeiwitch, this is a charm-
ing surprise. Ah, I see you have vodka. Can
I offer you anything some breakfast?"

"Thank you, no. A glass of tea with you,
if you take it."

"Of course." And the servant lingering
at the door went immediately to fetch the
brass urn so characteristic of life in Russia.

"What horrible weather!"

Count d'Annenkoff looked up sharply.
Surely his guest had not come to speak of
the weather. It was disagreeable enough
without discussing it.



108 THE LEVELLER

"Yes. Horrible, horrible!"

''It will be a miracle if Melba can sing to-
night. You go, of course?"

"Most assuredly. Who would miss
Melba?"

Then the Governor began chatting of
various social topics; and St. Petersburg is
ever a seething pit of gossip. The Minister
of the Interior heard Him patiently, not show-
ing his inward curiosity at the cause of so
early a visit. A servant made tea and handed
it to them, lit the candle on the writing table
so that the two men could light their ciga-
rettes without the effort of striking a match,
and only when the door had closed behind the
footman did the Governor cease gossiping.

"We are alone?" he asked, glancing at the
door leading into another room.

"Absolutely. But prevention is better than
cure," laughed the Count, jumping up with
alacrity and going to the door. "Abso-
lutely," he said again, as he closed the second
door. Then he went to the big, leather-cush-
ioned armchair by the table, and seating him-
self comfortably therein, began to play with
the tassels of his robe de cliainbre, anxiously
awaiting what was coming.

"I came," began the Governor, his air be-



THE LEVELLER 109

coming more businesslike, "on account of
your nephew."

"My nephew f You mean Gourowsky?
What of him?" asked the Count, astonish-
ment showing in his haughty features.

The Governor fumbled in his coat pocket
for some papers, which he laid on the writing
table.

"It is anything but pleasant."

The Count glanced at the bundle, then he
said breathlessly: "You don't mean to say
he is implicated in the Wasily Ostroff affair?
You cannot mean "

"I am afraid so. It is a case of cherchez la
femme. He is altogether in the toils of the
Jewess, Louboff Malkiel, sister of one of the
ringleaders. Here are the papers setting
forth his surveillance.

"He was in her company Tuesday and
Wednesday. He was seen speaking to some
of those suspected in St. Isaac's Thursday
morning. He sent her this letter a copy, of
course Thursday night."

With a hand shaking more or less from
agitation, the Count took the letter and read
as follows:
* ' Dearest Louboff Antonivna :

"What has happened? I waited for you



110 THE LEVELLER

three hours at our place of rendezvous and
am overcome with apprehension and fear.
What prevented your coming? I also waited
outside Rubinstein's door all the evening ex-
pecting you would go there, but to no avail,
and now I sit here eating my heart. What is
it? What am I to think? For heaven's sake,
answer this. I do not make light of the diffi-
culties besetting our path, but I can assure
you every pulse of my heart beats in affection
for you. I await your answer with impa-
tience. Yours,

"Boris."

"All this means what?" Count d'Annen-
koff raised an ashen face to the Governor.

They had been comrades in arms, and spent
their school years together and were more
like two brothers than friends.

"I fear, only too plainly, that Malkiel has
succeeded in contaminating his mind with
revolutionary ideas."

"And the fool! To write such a letter
such a letter to a Nihilist! Why, Siberia is
written across it in letters of flame!"

"Were he not your nephew "

"And these Malkiels why are they not in
chains ? ' ' demanded the Count hotly. ' ' What
have we got our fortresses for? Ach! The



THE LEVELLER 111

accursed Jews! Why must our holy Russia
be burdened with them. Aliens, traitors,
breeders of discontent ; why do they not go to
their Jerusalem ! Why stay in a country that
loathes them!"

''For the best of all reasons: What
would they do there? On whom would they
fatten?"

"Why, I repeat, are the Malkiels not in
chains 1 ' ' the Count inquired angrily.

The Governor lit his cigarette noncha-
lantly.

"Haste is not always a wise handmaiden,"
he began sententiously. "Many more than
the Malkiels are implicated in this affair and
we want to round up the whole herd. Besides
we are studying their methods. Then, too,
we still lack documentary proof against
Michel Malkiel still need proof against those
connected with him. Your nephew is a fool,
and were he not your nephew, as I was going
to say before, he would certainly be in chains
in the Petro Pavlovsky fortress now. But
this Malkiel is a very different fellow a cun-
ning, crafty plotter. Two of my men are
in his house; they examine his papers daily,
but he has all the natural wiliness of the Jew.
He slips through our fingers in the moment



112 TEE LEVELLER

when we seem to have him most securely,
and he can do this principally because he
has such a clever tool in the person of his
sister Louboff."

"And who is this Louboff? Young, of
course?"

"Yes; more. Young, beautiful and a very
clever pianist; a pupil of Kubinstein. ' *

"Alexei Alexeiwitch, if this matter comes
to the knowledge of anyone, I am ruined. My
nephew faugh ! It is sickening, and it comes
it all comes because of my sister and her
philanthropy. Educating the children of the
peasant and neglecting her own son. What
business has Boris Alexanderowitch over in
the miserable student, Jew-infested lodgings
of the "Wasily Ostroff? What business, I
ask?"

The Governor puffed away at his cigarette,
then, removing it slowly, he made a gesture
with his hands.

"None whatever. The best thing you can
do is to take him away from there as quickly
as possible. Anything may happen any min-
ute. Our men have Malkiel pretty well
trapped. His surveillance has been complete,
and the hatchet will fall when he least expects
it. Get Boris Alexanderowitch away; send



THE LEVELLER 113

him across the frontier for a time. Do what-
ever you think best, but do it quickly."

The Governor stood up.

"No, no," said the Count with more show
of perturbation in his manner than the Gov-
ernor ever remembered seeing before; "you
must not go yet. Another glass of tea. And
this thing : tell me some more about it. How
long has it been going on? Since when have
you been forced to have Boris Alexandero-
witch shadowed?"

"Only within the last few days. Before
that his conduct was exceptional. We watched
him, of course; we watch all of them," said
the Governor with a shrug. "But we never
found anything not even a note from a
woman and young men will be young men,
you know. He seemed the student, pure and
simple, and if all of them had been like him
my sleep would have been easier. But you
see, even the best of them fall. Youth is so
hot headed and stupid. I was simply stag-
gered when I got these papers last night. ' '

"Well, I will act at once."

"Good, there are the papers; you know
what to do. Destroy them if you see fit. Such
things are best destroyed. I will give you
as long as I can."



114 TEE LEVELLER

The Governor moved to the door, and
Count d'Annenkoff saw him to the ante-
chamber, where a footman cloaked his depart-
ing guest carefully.

" Au revoir, Alexei Alexeiwitch. A thou-
sand thanks for your courtesy. ' '

"Pas de quoi, mon ami. I regret having
to wake you up at an hour so unearthly."

Count d'Annenkoff walked back to his
study slowly, and having given orders not to
be disturbed till his secretaries came at
twelve, he sat down to a quick consideration
of the whole matter.

1 'Could Alexei Alexeiwitch be trusted I
Could anyone in Eussia be trusted?" This
was the first thought that presented itself,
and it formed the basis of his reflections
throughout. Nothing but the presence of the
papers left behind by the Governor served
to allay his fears.

That he was surrounded by enemies, po-
lite of mien, suave of voice, copious in the
wiles of flattery and strategy, all awaiting an
opportunity to hurl him from his present high
favor at Court, he knew. Just such a chance
as this presenting itself in the escapade of his
nephew Boris was exactly what they were
watching for and would surely pounce on



THE LEVELLER 115

with avidious glee. Long years of diplomacy
had trained the Count in distrust, and had
also taught him the uselessness of a man who
had fallen from grace to expect the smallest
mercy.

The friendship, therefore, of Alexei Alexei-
witch had not touched his gratitude; it had
only alarmed him.

One thing above all : he must lay his plans
carefully; and as to Boris, he certainly must
not excite his suspicions or let him suspect
that Government spies were in the secret of
his plottings. This last, he told himself,
would be hard to manage, but he felt sure at
the same time his diplomacy was equal to the
task.

Count d'Annenkoff wrote a letter to his
sister. It was a peremptory command that she
come at once to St. Petersburg and that she
lodge in his house; one of the apartments
of which he would place at her disposal. The
letter also contained the information that
Boris had a flirtation with a young Jewess,
the Count strictly enjoining his sister to keep
this piece of news to herself, and more espe-
cially its source.

This letter Count d'Annenkoff was far too
astute to intrust to transmission by post. He



116 THE LEVELLER

knew the workings of Russian officialdom too
thoroughly. He rang for his servant and
directed that one of his confidential chasseurs
be sent for. When the latter arrived, he
handed him the letter, telling him to take the
first train to Gourowsky, to deliver the letter
directly into the hands of the Countess, to
wait till the lady was ready, return with her
and act as her courier.

Next, Count d'Annenkoff dashed off hastily
a note to Boris, asking him to call at his earli-
est convenience. Another chasseur left with
this note, and then the Count rose, satisfied,
having mapped out his whole plan of cam-
paign.

By this time it was twelve o'clock. He
saw his secretaries on several matters of
State business, then he put himself into the
hands of his valet to make his toilet for the
day.

This was elaborate. After a bath in aro-
matic herbs, with several atmospheric
changes, there was the masseur, who rubbed
oils and liquids into his body for almost an
hour ; then the manicure took him in charge ;
next his barber, whose sole duty in the house-
hold was the shaving of his master, and lastly
his valet commenced his dressing.



TEE LEVELLER 117

Dressed, Count d'Annenkoff gave several
small orders, lastly one to his florist and con-
fectioner for the forwarding of flowers and
candy to one of the celebrated actresses of the
French theatre.

His domestic duties being finished for the
day, Count d'Annenkoff descended to his
wife's salon to await the announcement of
luncheon, and entertain any guest she might
happen to have.

It was a matter of surprise to him to find
her alone. His daughter Vera was lunching
out, so he seized the occasion to confide to the
Countess the plans for his sister's arrival.
She gave but one ejaculation. "Mon cher
ami!" she cried slowly, but it was expressive
of keen displeasure. Then she sat silent, lis-
tening to his explanations, knowing her own
displeasure was futile so far as he was con-
cerned.

When Count d'Annenkoff gave an order in
the household it was final. So far as social
matters went he never interfered, never
sought to restrain her liberty in any way. He
had the utmost confidence in her good taste
and in her good sense.

"It hardly befits our station," he went on
in his bland, formal way, "to have Boris



118 THE LEVELLER

Alexandero witch in Wasily Ostroff. Several
persons have commented on the matter, there-
fore I have made the arrangements I speak
of. At the same time I do not care to take
upon myself the responsibility of looking
after him. Young men will be young men,
you know, and it is best his mother look after
him, as it is her duty she should. It will not
put you out any way. I have selected her
apartments and will attend to the getting of
servants, carriages and all necessities."

* * She will necessarily be much with us, and
her monde is so stupid," murmured the
Countess poutingly. "You will find all the
philanthropic cranks in St. Petersburg dining
at your table."

' * Oh, no, ' ' said the Count quickly ; ' * I shall
provide against that. She will have her
separate menage and can entertain whom she
pleases."

The face of the Countess brightened. She
had imagined an arrangement of a much
more intimate order.

"Then you intend she remains here?"

"Yes, as long as Boris is a student." Then
from sheer gratitude at her ready acquies-
cence he had expected at least strongly


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 5 of 13)