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voiced disapproval he said confidentially:


"There is much disaffection among his
classmates, and for my own sake I intend to
keep him clear of all suspicion in that re-
gard. ' '

"You are perfectly right, and as wise as
usual, mon ami/' she said, with a flash of her
still beautiful blue eyes.

Then luncheon being announced, they went
to the dining-room together a state of
affairs that had not existed in a twelve-


The note from Count d'Annenkoff reached
Boris Alexanderowitch about three o'clock,
and he tossed it aside impatiently. He was
then in a state of mind bordering on frenzy.
Michel had not been to his lodgings in the
house, and all Boris' efforts to hear of Loub-
off or see her were in vain. She had not re-
plied to his note in any form, and he had
spent the morning in St. Isaac's on the mere
chance of finding her there.

Having eaten nothing since the day before,
he had just arrived home, tired, hungry with-
out wanting to eat, and dejected beyond com-
parison. The more he thought the matter out
the greater became his confusion of mind.

After a while he glanced again at his
uncle's note.

"I should like to have a talk with you as
soon as possible. Call this evening before
dinner or to-morrow before luncheon.


Boris wrinkled his brows. What could his
uncle have to talk to him about? All at once
a horrible suspicion drove the color from



his face, and he stood up in agitation.

In a town like St. Petersburg, where espion-
age is complete, there are no secrets. What if
his uncle knew of his affection for Louboif 1
Boris realized his power; realized, too, that
in a case where Count d'Annenkoff's own
family and prestige were concerned his uncle
would use this power ruthlessly. What if
Louboff had been taken away sent to Si-
beria to Schlusselburg ; murdered?

He clenched his hands in sudden agony and
began to pace up and down his narrow room
restlessly. So complete was the jangle of
his nerves in that moment that a knock at
the door made him cry out in startled alarm.
It was only a servant who came with luncheon
and the samovar.

The sight of the familiar and rosy, smiling-
faced woman in her bright dress and red
and white dotted kerchief, tied over her thick
blond hair, relieved his feelings.

"Thank you, Natascha," he said in his
normal tone, and he sat down, feeling the
color come back to his face. "You haven't,"
he asked as the woman set the table, "seen
anything of Michel Antonowitch?"

"No, barin; he has not slept here in three
nights. ' '


She went out, and he uncovered the viands
before him.

' ' I must eat, ' ' he told himself. ' ' After all,
why should there be any coincidence in this
strange silence of Louboff 's and a letter from
my uncle? I am simply weak-headed from
loss of sleep and want of food. I will eat
now," he concluded, and, sitting down to the
big plate of soup, he finished it. Soon he
felt better, and such is the buoyancy and the
need of youth that he began to enjoy his
food and even to find it scanty. He cleaned
everything from the dishes bread, meat,
vegetables then he made himself several
glasses of tea, and began to smoke, for
the first time in twenty-four hours, with

A dozen possible causes of Louboff 's si-
lence presented themselves. She might be test-
ing his affection ; she might not be sure of her
own mind; she might perhaps be ashamed.
Boris himself reddened at the ardor of his
wooing, at the meaning and passion he had
put into his kisses.

He certainly had been effusive, and then
she was an artist ; she might at first resent his
occupying her attention in any degree. A
friendship between them was surely unwise.


So many family and artistic difficulties pre-
sented themselves.

"Yes, yes," thought Boris; "it is all very
awful. No two in all Russia could face
greater obstacles than we: class hatred, pre-
judice, ambition, family pride, all are arrayed
against us; but it is love, and that in itself
says everything and is an excuse for all
things. And love, if it be great enough, can
break down any and all barriers. She may
be testing me ; she may be testing herself, per-
haps, but there is no escape no escape for
either of us.

' ' One thing, however ; I must not let myself
go as I have in the last few days. God is
good. Time unravels all tangles.'*

He got up, stretched himself with a feeling
of great satisfaction, and, dressing, went out.
He reached his uncle's house as the clock
struck five.

That he was expected was evident, for he
was shown at once to his uncle's study, where
he found the latter with a mass of legal
papers before him to which he was affixing his
seal and signature.

"Ah, Boris! Good-evening. I am glad to
see you come so promptly. You got my letter,
of courseT'


"Yes, mon oncle."

"Well, take a seat. I want to have a long
talk with you, even if I must meanwhile go
on with these tiresome documents. As you
will soon know by experience, I hope, official
life means much more than gold lace and
emoluments. Make yourself comfortable ; be-
side you are the cigars and cigarettes, and the
liquer decanters as well.'*

Boris sat down.

"Now," began the Count, "I am aware of
the bequest left you by your father ; I am also
aware that the Gourowsky revenues are not
what they were when my sister married your
father. But, as you know, my wealth has
been steadily increasing, and I have but one
daughter; so I have decided to make you an

"I have been greatly pleased with your in-
dependence and pluck, in finding lodgings in
the Wasily Ostroff and living there. It was
very noble of you, my boy, considering that
you had the money to live otherwise, yet pre-
ferred to devote it to your dead father's
philanthropic schemes ; but it is about time I
came forward.

"Now don't thank me, and do not flush up
and tell me you are content and prefer inde-


pendence. Independence is a great thing, to
be sure, but, my dear Boris, which of us is
really independent? Not one of us, not even
the Tsar himself. Now you are of my own
blood my heir, in fact, if anything, which
God forbid," cried the Count as he crossed
himself piously, turning to the ikon before
which a silver lamp was burning, "should
happen to your cousin Vera and my plan is
this ; I have already written to your mother ;
she is coming here."

"Coming here!" gasped Boris.

"Yes ; she will be here by next week. I am
having an apartment fitted up in the house
for her for both of you and on the first of
each month my steward will hand you a
cheque for a thousand roubles. ' '

Count d'Annenkoff smiled blandly as he
looked at the amazed and silent Boris.

* * You see, ' ' he went on, signing the papers,
and tossing them to one side uninterruptedly,
* ' everything depends in St. Petersburg on the
keeping up of appearances. You have your
career before you and it is doubtless brilliant.
Your father's name alone will insure that,
but it is only in youth real friendships are
formed, and I want you to keep up with your
own set, and this you can only do by having


a few roubles in your pocket to spend and by

spending them.

1 1 Women do not understand these things;
I speak to you as man to man. Now, to-mor-
row I want you to go and choose your horses
you will stable them here, of course, with
mine and if you do not find a thousand
roubles sufficient for spending money, why,
you can always come to me and I will be your
banker. **

Boris listened absently as one in a dream.

What was the matter with life suddenly?
He found himself in love ; here was his uncle
offering him, even pressing on him, a small
fortune, and his beloved mother was coming
to St. Petersburg.

"But, mon oncle, how can I ever thank you !
Such generosity I do not deserve it. I hardly
feel as if I dare accept it."

"Yes," laughed the Count's bland, well-
modulated voice, and to Boris it sounded far
away and unreal. "But I mean you shall. It
is for my benefit as well as yours. I cannot
have a nephew over in Wasily Ostroff, so
look on it as my affair entirely and that the
service is altogether a benefit to me rather
than to you. ' '

"But this goes beyond generosity.**


"Nonsense, my dear nephew; it is only
duty. Now, go to your aunt, and, of course,
you will remain to dinner. Alexei Alexei-
witch and some others dine here."

Boris stood up.

"Yes," he said absent-mindedly. Then he
caught his uncle '& firm white hand in a cordial
grasp of gratitude.

"Well, run along, my boy; I am very
busy," the latter said apologetically, seeing
that Boris still hesitated. Then tapping a
bell, two secretaries came forward, carrying
between them a well-filled basket of letters
and public documents.

Boris saluted and went out. He made his
way slowly to the salon, hardly knowing
whether to be glad or sorry at his uncle's


During dinner Boris could not prevent his
attention continually wandering from the
subjects discussed by those around him, and
his neighbor, a well-known society woman,
used to being admired and amused, was quite
annoyed at finding his remarks so often at
random. He was placed opposite the Gover-
nor of the city, and more than once he found
that high official studying him intently.

At first Boris felt somewhat conscious and
confused under the scrutiny, then it occurred
to him that Alexei Alexeiwitch and his uncle
were very great friends, so perhaps this
bringing him to the house was a purport of
further good fortune.

Count d'Annenkoff, he knew, never made a
move in the game of life that was not thought
out and reasoned over. The Governor had
many snug berths at his disposal ; he had the
reputation also of liking young blood, so what
more natural than that he would have in view
isome such post for his friend's nephew!

The more Boris pondered over this proba-
bility the surer he felt about it, and his con-



fusion increased under the searching glance
of the stern blue eyes so often sent in his

He excused himself as soon as dinner was
over, on the plea of an engagement, and, tak-
ing an iswostschik, was driven to Rubin-
stein's. Here fate seemed against him. The
ante-chamber was crowded with departing
guests, and Matve informed him that Rubin-
stein had left five minutes earlier for the Con-

Boris went away from Troitsky Pereulok
very much dejected and depressed. Rubin-
stein, he knew, if any one could, would of all
others be the one able to give him news of
Louboff; assure him as to her health and
safety, at least. Not quite knowing what best
to do, he walked slowly to the Nevsky, and
had about made up his mind to call openly
on Louboff she had certainly given him a
cordial invitation right before her brother
when the fear of causing her trouble in any
way decided him to change his mind, and he
hurried home in the hope of finding a note
from her at his lodgings.

When Natascha opened the door for him he
inquired again if Michel Antonowitch was in,
but Natascha replied in the negative. Then


he went to his room, and was further disap-
pointed by not finding any note from Louboff.
As usual there was the big, fat letter, directed
in the bold handwriting he knew so well a
letter from his mother lying on the pink
blotting pad which almost covered the whole
of his small writing-table.

Something unfamiliar in the arrangement
of his table made Boris wonder. His cigar-
ette box had been tampered with and opened,
and much of its contents extracted. Cigarette
ash was strewn all over his papers, and some
mathematical problems he had been working
out or, rather, trying to work out that
morning were scattered and disarranged.

Taking up his mother's letter, and opening
it, he found, greatly to his dismay, that it had
been previously opened and only recently
closed, for the gum on the edges of the enve-
lope was still moist and stuck to his fingers.

Boris sat up straight, startled completely
out of his habitual composure. What did it
mean? Thieves, or something worse? He
drew his breath in several short gasps.

If his latter suspicion was correct, then he
understood why his uncle should be so anx-
ious to get him away from the students ' quar-
ter. Then that quick, keen thrill of fear that


shoots through every Russian breast be its
owner ever so brave or innocent when it is
a question of police surveillance, smote him

"But I am a Gourowsky! They could never
suspect me," he thought, his face pale with
apprehension. Then he looked at the enve-
lope again, and, taking out the letter, tried to
read it with attention, but found that the
words and their meaning failed to impress
themselves on his brain in any intelligible

Then again he looked through it to find any
trace of his mother's intention of leaving for
St. Petersburg, but found instead every indi-
cation that she would be busy for months with
her work at Gourowsky.

"I must get out of here as quickly as pos-
sible," he thought; "that is certain. What-
ever it is, thieves or police surveillance the
one is as bad as the other." He sat down to
plan out his packing. "I will commence first
with these, ' ' he told himself as he opened the
drawer of his writing-table, where a mass of
papers were thrown.

He began to sort them, and those that were
to be destroyed he caught up and was about
to burn in the stove when a note that had


fallen on the floor attracted his attention, and
before stooping for it he placed the bulky
bundle on the table and reseated himself.

He read the note, then glancing at the let-
ters to be destroyed, said lazily:

"Natascha can do that to-morrow. If I
open that stove I may not be able to close it
again, and besides if I am under police sur-
veillance, it is as well not to leave the charred
remains of paper about ; it looks too much as
if I had something to burn. ' '

A sound below caught his ear. It was the
opening of the outside door. Then Boris
could hear someone come upstairs and enter
Michel's room. It was difficult for Boris to
overcome a desire to go down on some trivial
excuse and see him, so as to find out about
Louboff. It would be very natural he should
inquire about her no more than politeness
on his part but then, he reasoned, he had
never gone of his own accord to Michel's
rooms, and if there was any unpleasantness
about Louboff having gone with him to Bub-
instein's and there might be Jews were just
as anxious to prevent the friendship of their
people with Christians as Christians with
Jews why, it would only make matters still
more disagreeable for her.


Then Boris remembered that Michel and
he had a class to attend at eleven, so he de-
cided to take no chances but wait till then.
It was only a few hours more, he told himself
consolingly, for, looking up at the clock, he
saw it was almost two. Then he went to bed.

For what seemed to him a long while he lay
awake listening to the merry jingle of the
sleigh bells outside, the shouts and laughter
of roisterers on their way homeward; then,
as in a dream, Boris, half asleep, heard more
sleigh bells, till finally it seemed to him as
if the whole street were alive with their

There must be hundreds, he told himself,
waking up. Yes, and they seemed to be stop-
ping right outside the house. He could hear
carriage wheels crunching, too, over the hard-
ened snow; then he heard orders given and
knew them to be military orders.

He suddenly sprang to a sitting position in
his bed. There was a sharp, stifled scream in
the room beneath him Michel's room a
scuffle, and several hoarse cries of rage.

Boris jumped out of bed. The noise in the
street grew louder each moment, and then
the ominous click of sabres and spurred boots
sounded outside on the landing.


" Water! water! A bucket of water at
once ! ' ' roared an excited voice.

Could it be fire? The house was old and
built of wood; a very tinder box for flame.

He rushed to the door, unlocked it, but
stopped short when he saw the landing.
Soldiers were everywhere about.

* * What do you want, young man ? Get back
to your room," said a stern voice at his
elbow, and a gloved hand grasped him rudely
by the arm and thrust him back.

Boris ran at once to the window. The
house was built back in a garden and gave
him a good view of the sidewalks.

Soldiers were posted all about; groups of
men were passing and repassing constantly.
Then Boris saw a slight figure, half led, half
pushed by two stalwart policemen down the
garden path and up to a waiting carriage.

It was Michel Malkiel.

A pang of horror and even of pity smote
Boris, much as he disliked his classmate, as
he saw the unfortunate youth, bent and
huddled with fear and terror, uttering piteous
cries of despair, roughly thrust within the
vehicle. Then the carriage drove off, and the
next instant Boris turned round to find his
privacy invaded by several uniformed men.


"Your name?"

Boris drew himself up haughtily.

"I am Count Gourowsky, Boris Alexander-
owitch," he said calmly.

"Your passport?"

"In the drawer of my writing table."

"Everything in this room belongs to you?"

' ' Everything but the furniture. ' '

"Officer, take all the papers."

In a portfolio Boris saw all the papers he
had intended to burn thrown carelessly. Then
the men began a systematic search of his
room, tapping the walls and the floors for
places of concealment; searching his clothes
and trunks, and even opening the stove to
look for any traces of charred paper. With-
out a word, the search over, the men left, and
Boris, wrapping his dressing gown closer
about himself and covering this with his fur
cloak, sat down to think out what it all meant.

Ten minutes later the chief officer entered
unannounced. Boris saw he was a general.

"Have you any statement to make any
confession Bori s Alexanderowitch ? ' '

"//" The inflexion of scorn in the single
vowel betokened all the young man's amaze-
ment and anger.

"Yes," replied his interrogator calmly.


"You; whom else? Am I asking questions of

your stove or of your writing table ? ' '

"Most assuredly I have no confession to
make, and any further questioning of that
sort will be resented by me," cried Boris
hotly. "I shall see my uncle, Count d'Annen-
koff, about this in the morning."

The officer shrugged his shoulders, and then
for one awful moment Boris felt his heart die
within him. Was he not altogether in this
man's power? Was it wise, he argued, to
anger so potent an advocate or witness for
good or evil, as this general?

Yes, it might even mean Siberia for him.
"Show me your company and I will decide
what you are" is the axiom Russian police
have implicit faith in, and here he had
been seen in Michel Malkiel's company; he
had been in his rooms; visited his father's

"Then you have nothing to say?"

Boris could feel his heart beating violently,
but curbed his anger.

"No, your Excellency; I have nothing
whatever to say."

"So much the better," said the general
lightly. Then he said affably (he, on his side,
was anxious not to incur the enmity of a Min-


ister so great and powerful as Count
d'Annenkoff) : " Spakoinee notch."

"Spakoinee notch," echoed Boris, uncon-
scious of the irony in the good wish for a
peaceful night, as he bowed and returned the
military salute.

After that, Boris heard doors shutting
below, the heavy tread of booted and spurred
heels, of men evidently going the rounds from
room to room. After an hour or so all was
still, the noise of the sleigh bells sounded
again and then passed away, leaving the
street in the absolute stillness of early morn-

Boris sat on, too agitated and miserable
even to light a cigarette. How was it possible
that he should not have suspected it? Michel
Malkiel a Nihilist, and Louboff? What was
she! A fugitive, perhaps, or worse still a

How else could her silence be construed?
In utter wretchedness and misery, with the
memory of her lovely face haunting him,
Boris laid his head down on his outspread
elbows, and sitting the rest of the night before
the writing table, dozed from time to time,
only to waken again with a start of terror.

Earlier than usual Natascha was about.


He could hear her below working. Then
slowly she mounted the stairs, and he knew
she was bringing him his samovar, for Boris
was the first to be served, being the earliest
worker. When she opened the door her round
fat face showed white and agitated.

"Ah, barin," she whispered.

"Yes, yes, Natascha," he said soothingly.

"Michel Antonowitch has gone."

' * I know, Natascha. ' '

"And they took a bomb out of his room.
Oh, the poor misguided young gentleman!
Only last night he gave me a rouble; see, I
have it yet. I, myself, saw the bomb," she
continued in an awed whisper. "I brought
the pail of water and watched them put it
in it."

"I know; I know," assented Boris.

"Ah, barin, you have not slept at all?"

"Very little."

"Nor I; nor I. It is a sad world, barin.
Drink your tea, my pigeon; you look white
and weary."

"Weary, weary; that is- just it," he
thought, as he tried to smile at the sympa-
thetic peasant woman, so young yet so moth-
erly, like all her class. "Yes, weary enough
to die."


Then he drank his tea, and roused himself.
"I must go to my uncle's house without de-
lay, ' ' he mused, and began packing his books
and clothes in a hurry.

An hour later a knock at the door caused
him to jump.

A man servant was outside when he opened
it and handed him a letter.

The quick blood rushed to his face when,
on opening it, he found it signed "Louboff."

"Come to Eubinstein's to-night at eight.
He will be out at a concert, but wait for me
till I come.

"Always yours,


"At last," cried Boris aloud.

He read the letter over and over again.
Then he saw the man watching him, evidently
waiting for a reply.

"The answer is yes, and that I am de-
lighted to get this note," said Boris, delving
in his pocket for a fee, as his voice rang out
clear, proud and strong for the first time in
three days.


The hardest task Boris had ever lived up
to was his class work the morning following
Michel MalkiePs arrest. The mathematical
problem swam before his eyes, and every time
his glance fell on MalkiePs empty place a
feeling of horror drove all else from his mind
as he thought of what Louboff's anguish
must be.

Not a word was said by anyone in the class
as to Michel's arrest, but the moment the
lecture was over the students slunk away one
by one, careful to avoid conversation; dis-
trust and aloofness in the manner of each.

Boris hurried to the house of his uncle, and
after waiting an hour in the ante-chamber,
was informed that the latter could only see
him for a few moments.

"Well," said the Count genially, after his
usual polite greeting. "What is it, my

Boris hesitated.

"Speak," cried his uncle testily.

"We are not alone, mon oncle," said Boris
in a low tone.



With a wave of his hand the Count dis-
missed his secretaries and then in a minute or
two Boris related the events of the night be-
fore and his indignation at being so uncere-
moniously searched and questioned.

"What a pretty dissembler we have here,"
thought the Count with gratification. ' ; Even
knowing the facts as I do he almost convinces

Then he commenced in his easy, quiet way
to tell what he knew. His voice growing more
stern as he proceeded. Boris could feel the
blood recede from his heart as he listened.
After all, how wise were the kindly warnings
of his mother!

"Boris," he heard the Count say. "You
were with Louboff Malkiel on such and such
a day; you wrote her this note" and then,
relying on a marvelous memory, the Count
gave him verbatim the contents of his letter
to Louboff "and on Thursday morning you
were speaking to well-known revolutionists in
St. Isaac's Cathedral. How do you account
for that? Your story is plausible, but

"Malkiel is in irons, and you you are here
before me now rather than with him because
you are my nephew and I commanded it.

"Now, let this be a lesson to you forever.


No matter what your sympathies may be,

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Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 6 of 13)