Alexander McArthur.

The leveller online

. (page 7 of 13)
Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 7 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


understand that you cannot cope with his
Imperial Majesty's government. We know
everything. Your private lives are open
books to us, and if occasionally Nihilism does
take a life, how many lives, may I ask, ' ' cried
the Count, pausing impressively, "pay the
price in all our prisons from St. Petersburg
to Siberia?"

Boris at last summoned up courage enough
to allay his agitation, and in a voice trem-
bling with reproach, he said spiritedly:

"Mon oncle, you do not think that I, Boris
Gourowsky, have been one of these revolu-
tionists, or been in with them that I am a
traitor to my Tsar and country?"

Then, seeing that Count d'Annenkoff con-
tinued staring at him, he went on, and without
a shadow of prevarication told the whole
truth of his love affair in all its naked simplic-
ity ; how he met Louboff for the first time in
her brother's room by mere chance; how it
had been a case of love at first sight. Then
he told of his visit to the Corps des Mines ; of
her playing for him that evening; of taking;
her to St. Isaac's; of the dinner at Eubin-
stein's and the drive home; how he had an
appointment with her the morning after at



THE LEVELLER 143

St. Isaac's, and how he had asked some men
there if they had seen her.

The Count listened attentively, and con-
cluded that Boris was speaking the truth.

"Ah! So instead of Nihilism I come on la
grande passion," he laughed. "Your first
love affair?" he questioned sneeringly, as he
glanced up at the handsome youth standing
in his agitation and with the confusion of re-
lating so openly his heart's secrets.

"Yes, mon oncle," replied Boris.

"Well, my nephew, it is only another proof
of how careful one must be in the choice of
one's associates. As to this love affair, that
is ridiculous ; you will realize only how ridicu-
lous when you meet your next divinity."

Boris shook his head and smiled unbeliev-
ingly.

"Why, my boy, how many such affairs do
you think you will have in your life? Hun-
dreds. I am surprised only that you have
commenced so late. At your age I knew as
much practically as I do now. I have gone
through the routine thoroughly, and I know.
The first seems the whole universe, the second
one begins to find out, and from that on it is
only a matter of degree. One masters these
emotions with each succeeding attack, and



144 THE LEVELLER

you only discover what a farce it is when the
years change your sentiments and you find
that which you once loved madly, once could
sacrifice all but life for, grown old and hor-
rible and agonizingly unsympathetic. Yes,
you will have to shake this little Jewess from
your affections. She is undoubtedly a Nihil-
ist, a tool of her brother; we have every
proof of that, and being a good subject of his
Majesty, I know you will.

1 'But we have been talking half an hour. I
am glad to have your statement. I will see
that you are protected from all danger. Send
on your things here at once ; your apartment
is in readiness for you."

Boris, feeling himself dismissed, stumbled
out like one in a trance.

' ' This is the worst yet, ' ' he told himself, as
he hurried back to his lodgings. "Louboff a
Nihilist !"

For a long while he could neither think nor
reason. He kept repeating the words : * * Lou-
boff a Nihilist" over and over again to him-
self aloud; yet, try as he would, he could
neither put her from his thoughts nor hate
her.

The confusion of his ideas tortured him.
His few belongings packed, he threw himself



TEE LEVELLER 145

exhausted on his bed, half maddened by th<j
knowledge that eventually, unless some
miracle intervened, it would mean their part-
ing.

How the day ever passed he knew not, till
at eight o'clock he found himself in Rubin-
stein's dimly lit salon watching for her com-
ing with a mingled agony and joy that seemed
to gnaw at the very vitals of his being.

"It must be a parting forever," said his
reason to him. "Between Louboff and my-
self, come what will, there can be no part-
ing," cried his heart.

At last there was a ring at the doorbell. He
heard her greet Matve as the latter removed
her cloak; then she came in and stood in the
center of the floor, looking at him.

Boris waited till the footsteps of Matve
had passed through the dining-room and
down the long passage to the kitchen, then he
came forward.

"Louboff." There was a wail of reproach
and suffering in the deep, mellow tones of his
voice.

With a gesture of passion that unnerved
him completely, she put her two hands out to
him.

"I got your letter," she began, "and "



146 THE LEVELLER

"You did not answer it."

"Because I could not. I will explain
everything. I will tell you later. ' ' Then she
drew nearer to him. "Oh, Boris, Boris, my
friend," she cried in anguish, "do not desert
me now."

His arms were about her on the moment.

"Not now nor ever, sweetheart!" he cried,
his arms tightening as he kissed her in a
paroxysm of delight upon finding that his
heart had gained the ascendency rather than
his head. Then looking down into her startled
eyes, he said softly. "Louboff, I love thee
love thee better than heaven or my soul. ' '

The familiar "thee" made her head swim
with delirious joy; the passionate protest of
the whole sentence from him, Boris the
Orthodox, first elated and then appalled her.

"Boris, Boris, this, can it be "

"Can it be? Sweetheart, I speak in earn-
est, in deadly earnest. I do not know how we
are to arrange it, but you can if you will ; you
must marry me."

"I? A Jewess!"

He caught her hand between his hands.
1 1 Do not say that ! Do not say that ! Jewess,
Nihilist, anything forget all I have said;
only listen and believe me when I tell you that



THE LEVELLER 147

I love you, and that I care not what happens.
You can make hell itself my paradise. ' '

"Boris, I am no Nihilist, I swear it," she

added earnestly. "I Ah, let me tell

you."

She led him to a divan, and, sitting side by
side, his arm about her, she told him in gasps,
with tears, brokenly, her story from the mo-
ment she had left him the night he had
brought her home and Michel had almost
struck her for not finding out the particulars
of d'Annenkoff's departure, and then had
kept her locked in her room till his arrest had
freed her.

"But, LoubofF, you would not have wormed
the secret from me, would you?" he asked
pleadingly.

"My beloved, you yourself are the best
witness. Did I try?"

"No, no, no!" he cried gratefully.

They began to talk of Michel's arrest and
after a while she stood up in her agitation
and laid her hands on his shoulder.

"It is folly," she said bitterly; "pure folly.
The idea of any future for us together is ab-
solutely impossible. Probably they will exile
me and my father. My father is preparing
for it; he expects it; he is waiting for it. I



148 THE LEVELLER

know, myself, something will happen; and

you Ah, Boris! Your career is here,

your home is here, your mother is here, and

I " She looked up at him yearningly

and then burst into tears.

"Louboff, you will never leave me," he
cried hopefully. "You will stay as my wife.
You must come to my uncle; you must tell
what you know."

"No, no, no!" she almost screamed, her
eyes dilated with horror. * * Not for ten thou-
sand lives not if Siberia faced me to-night !
Buy my happiness through the misery of an-
other!"

"Then I alone must manage things," he
cried sturdily, ' ' and believe me, I can, if only
I know that you trust me and that you re-
nounce Nihilism forever."

"I never was a Nihilist," she said quickly;
"never really at heart. I know the wrongs
of Russia to my race, and I ought to be per-
haps even," she went on meditatively, "I
was, till the day I I met you. ' '

Her answer enchanted him; his face
flushed with pleasure.

"Louboff, my beloved, nothing nothing
shall part us," he murmured rapturously.
"If necessary we shall see the Tsar himself,



THE LEVELLER 149

and you you will come," he added, laying
particular stress on the "will" as he smiled
tenderly down at her, "to my uncle and tell
him the truth just tell him why Michel
locked you up. You are no Nihilist, my be-
loved, and I will not have it that this dread-
ful suspicion overshadow you."

"What would he think to see us come in
together?" she asked smiling, the tears glis-
tening on her long lashes.

' * Think, nothing. He knows I love you. I
told him all."

"All." Her voice was low and penetrated
through and through with horror. "You
told him all? My God, Boris!" she cried
despairingly. "Then I am lost I am
trapped."

"Hush, hush, sweetheart," he broke in
soothingly. "You are unnerved."

"Oh, Boris, you will see! You will see!
This means Siberia for me."

The prophetic ring in her voice alarmed
him, and the sudden terror that had attacked
her communicated itself to him.

They sat looking at each other blankly,
then Boris stood up, his face set and white.

Along the passage from the kitchen they
could hear the tread of spurred boots, the



150 THE LEVELLER

voices of men, and Matve's shrill outcries of

distress.

His grasp tightened on her hands. Then
the curtains leading to the salon were rudely
parted, and an officer with two policemen
entered and saluted them, the dry, hard tones
of his voice falling like a knell on their ears
as he said peremptorily:

"Louboff Antonivna Malkiel, you are my
prisoner. "



CHAPTER XIII.

As the two policemen started forward to
take their prisoner, Boris, with an oath,
jumped before Louboff.

"Swine," he shouted in the Russian of the

people, "lay your hands on this lady, and
j

"Boris!"

It was Louboff who spoke, her voice cold in
its sternness.

The mere touch of her hand on his arm
seemed to recall him to his senses and to the
need of caution.

"You will serve me best by acquiescing in
this thing," she whispered. "I need the aid
of all my friends now. ' '

Then suddenly she broke down and the ter-
rible emotion of the moment convulsed her.

Throwing her arms about his neck, she
clung to him and cried brokenly :

"Boris, Boris, my betrothed, no matter
what happens, remember that I love you ; that
your love has been the supreme happiness of
my life, and that I loved you the moment my
eyes first met yours."

151



152 ,THE LEVELLER

As the men again came forward, she kissed
him on the mouth, and, turning swiftly, said
with a sob, nerve-racking in its despair :

"I am ready."

Like one turned to stone, Boris stood in the
ante-chamber, looking on, while Matve, his
eyes swimming with tears, cloaked Louboff
and took her incoherent message for Anton
Gregoriewitch.

Going down the stairs, she turned back once
more and gave Boris an appealing glance,
then the stalwart forms of the two policemen
hid her from view. Matve led Boris back to
the salon, and he sank into a chair, a sudden
paralysis seeming to come over all his senses.

Ten minutes later Anton Gregoriewitch
burst into the ante-chamber in his usual im-
petuous fashion, halting dumbfounded at the
attitude of the young man and tears of Matve.
He tossed back his hair and blinked his eyes.

"What is the matter?" he thundered.

"Oh, your Excellency, your Excellency "
began Matve. "Louboff Louboff has
been arrested," gasped Boris, his voice
strained and husky.

"Arrested!"

Rubinstein stood like a lion at bay. Lou-
boff, on whom he counted to do so much



THE LEVELLER 153

for the prestige of Russian art! Arrested!

"Arrested?" lie repeated again, as he
looked from one to the other sternly. Then
he began to pace the room. Finally he came
over to Boris.

"Tell me things," he commanded. "Ex-
plain. By heaven, they shall not arrest her
not while Anton Rubinstein lives! She is a
genius, a marvel ; no woman pianist of to-day
can touch her. What has she done? Is it be-
cause her brother " He broke off.

Rapidly, eagerly, Boris told the story as he
knew it, and, listening, Rubinstein's face
underwent many changes ; then he drew a long
breath.

"So," he said, dropping, as he always did
when excited, into German.

He paused for a moment, then clapping his
hands, he said to Matve, who obeyed the sig-
nal at once :

"Find me a good horse and an intelligent
iswostschik. I give you two minutes."

Boris came up to him.

* ' What can I do T " he asked.

"Nothing; nothing," cried Rubinstein.
' * Stay here. Do whatever the devil you please.
You are the cause of all this your uncle, at
least."



154 THE LEVELLER

Then, seeing the blank dismay in the young
man's face, Rubinstein put his hand on his
shoulder and said more kindly :

1 ' Come along, if you like. ' '

They got into their cloaks without help and
descended the staircase rapidly. Matve, out
of breath from running, stood uncovered in
the bitter cold, waiting to tuck them in.

"God guide you," he said piously, as they
started on their way, and Boris, removing his
cap, made the sign of the cross and said
"Amen" fervently.

Eubinstein, listening, smiled sarcastically;
then he directed the isivostschik to drive to
the palace of the Grand Duke Sergius.

"I go there," said Eubinstein to Boris, as
he tightened his fur collar closer about his
chin, "because it is the nearest."

In every Imperial palace of the city Eubin-
stein was known to some of the entourage.
Some of them were friends; some of them
were pupils, some old acquaintances, dating
from the days of the Grand Duchess Helene,
when Eubinstein himself held a post at Court ;
but all were devoted.

Where others would have found tedious for-
malities in being admitted, to Eubinstein all
palace doors were ajar, and on reaching the



THE LEVELLER 155

Sergius residence it only took a moment till
they were conducted to the salon of chief
lady-in-waiting to the Grand Duchess.

The former came in, effusive in her greet-
ing, but as she listened to Rubinstein's mis-
sion her face became grave.

"The Grand Duke is now in his study/' she
said at length, "and it would be impossible
for me to bring him your message, much as I
would like to ; but I will see some of the gen-
tlemen in waiting and find out if they can do
anything. ' '

After a long delay, during which Boris and
Anton Gregoriewitch exchanged perturbed
glances, an important personage, the military
governor of the household, gold lace and or-
ders decorating his uniform of guardsman,
came toward the two. It was his first meet-
ing with Rubinstein, of a personal nature,
and he seemed greatly elated over it.

After a few minutes' conversation he, too,
looked perturbed ; then he said gravely :

"We never disturb his Imperial Highness.
Now, if she, the Grand Duchess, would do,
she is much more accessible and just as apt
to be successful."

Rubinstein frowned.

"No, no," he said abruptly; "this is a mat-



156 TEE LEVELLER

ter that presses. With her Imperial Highness,
it might take a week some days, at any rate
whereas the Grand Duke Sergius is the
Tsar's brother. He alone will do."

The Prince bowed and shrugged his shoul-
ders. Then he said after a pause, during
which Eubinstein outlined his mission.

"Well, I will see what I can do. You have
given me so much pleasure in my life, Anton
Gregoriewitch ; I am indeed happy to serve
you in any way in my power; although," he
added warningly, "if I know anything of the
Grand Duke and I have been in his service
fifteen years he is about the last person to
be approached on such a mission."

He went away smiling, apologizing in ad-
vance for any delay that might occur. When
he finally returned, his manner was gloomy.

"Just as I told you," he said with a shrug.
"This is what his Imperial Highness has to
say."

Rubinstein took the card and read aloud
hastily :

"A thousand regrets that I cannot grant
your request. Such people should be pun-
ished. SERGIUS."

For a moment Anton Gregoriewitch looked
about him frowning, then he tore the card into



THE LEVELLER 157

fragments and threw them down on the car-
pet, before the horrified eyes of the two royal
serviteurs.

"I thank you very much," he concluded,
bowing, then he shook hands with them and
went out, followed by Boris.

For a while Eubinstein stood on the steps
of the palace, glancing impatiently toward the
Anitchkoff palace, the residence of the Tsar.
Finally he said aloud :

"No, no; better try the Grand Duke Con-
stantine. He is an old friend."

Two obsequious lackeys of enormous size
ran ahead as Eubinstein began to descend the
steps, and held open the fur covering of the
sleigh, assisting him most politely.

"Your Excellency wishes to go where?"

"To the palace of the Grand Duke Con-
stantine. ' '

There was a crunch of snow, and the feet
of the horses scattered it like powder in their
faces. They were once more off.

The lackeys of the Grand Duke Constan-
tine all knew Eubinstein, for he was a fre-
quent visitor at this palace, and he was ad-
mitted without delay to the small salon, where
the Grand Duke, with some officers, were play-
ing cards.



158 THE LEVELLER

The Grand Duke greeted Rubinstein with
great cordiality, but as soon as Anton Gre-
goriewitch made known his errand he turned
to him with the patient reproach of manner
one would bestow on a petulant child.

"Ah, my dear friend," he said gravely,
"what you ask is utterly impossible. To dis-
turb the Tsar now, I could not dream of it;
to-morrow perhaps, although," he added sotto
voce, ' ' I hardly think even then I dare. My
sympathies are reported as ultra-revolution-
ary at Court, and it behooves me therefore in
these troublous times to be careful. One, you
know, has not only the Tsar to face; there is
also," he added, bending over till his mouth
almost touched Rubinstein's ear, "Pobiedo-
nostseff," and the Grand Duke ended with a
shrug of superb disdain.

Rubinstein bit his lip a moment, then he
said almost haughtily, so great was his disap-
pointment and surprise :

"Well, your Imperial Highness knows best.
A thousand pardons for disturbing you."

"Anton Gregoriewitch, " cried the Grand
Duke, jumping up, "you never could disturb
me ; your visits are always an honor ; you are
a big, whole-souled artist, and if I were
Tsar "



THE LEVELLER 159

Eubinstein's handclasp was cordial, and the
momentary anger in his face died away.

Ten minutes later Boris and Anton Greg-
oriewitch were entering the courtyard of the
AnitchkofF palace, Eubinstein's face black in
its pessimism and gloom.

"The Lord Chamberlain?"

' ' The Lord Chamberlain is not at home. ' '

' * Who is at home ! ' ' Rubinstein 's voice was
a roar.

"Why, why," stammered the man, "eh?
Every one."

"Well, tell 'every one/ " cried Eubinstein,
his face red with anger, "I want to see him."

A few minutes later an officer in a general's
uniform entered the room, and with a cry of
relief Eubinstein caught him by the two hands
and embraced him.

" General Killieff!"

"Anton Gregoriewitch!"

"You are just the man I want, General. I
must see the Tsar at once, on an affair of
great importance."

A mellow laugh rang out.

"You are joking, master."

"No, I am in earnest ; in deadly earnest."

"But it is near midnight."

Eubinstein had taken out his card and had



160 THE LEVELLER

scratched on it in his clear handwriting:

"Anton Kubinstein most humbly craves an
audience of his Imperial Majesty."

General Killieff took the card, read it, then
laughed again, his florid, handsome, Slavonic
features beaming.

"You want me to have this presented?" he
asked incredulously.

"I do."

"Well, Anton Gregoriewitch, I do not know
how I am to do it if I can do it but one
must humor you." Calling an aide-de-camp
as he finished, he handed the latter the card
and ordered it delivered.

Ten minutes passed slowly ; Rubinstein was
visibly nervous, and the conversation was
desultory and uninteresting.

Then a pompous footman entered the room
and said loudly :

"His Imperial Majesty, Alexander Alexan-
derowitch, will receive General Anton Rubin-
stein. ' '

Killieff looked astounded, Boris jumped to
his feet in his excitement, and Rubinstein's
.face flushed. Preceded by the lackey with
his gold stick, the trio hurried along up and
down staircases, through corridors, salons,
and ante-chambers, till they reached what



THE LEVELLER 161

seemed the farthest end of the palace, the cor-
ridors of which were thronged with pages,
officers in order-decorated uniforms, and
Tartar sentries.

They entered an immense salon, and here
the guide beckoned Rubinstein alone, Boris
and General Killieff halting on the threshold.

* * His Excellency, Anton Gregoriewitch Ru-
binstein," announced the pompous lackey
loudly.

''Anton Gregoriewitch Rubinstein, Sire,"
said a general, and Rubinstein went forward
into the presence of the Tsar of all the Rus-
sias.

The light was subdued. Against a back-
ground of silver and Nile green, Boris caught
sight of a charming interior. Flowers were
everywhere ; great pots of growing roses and
azaleas. The Tsaritza sat reading some let-
ters. She nodded pleasantly to the Russian
composer, and the Tsar, Alexander III., a
man of enormous proportions, wearing the
uniform of the Preobragensky regiment,
turned slowly in the swivel chair before his
writing table of ebony.

"Oh," he said graciously, as Rubinstein
bowed low. "What is it that presses now,
Anton Gregoriewitch? A new conservatory?



162 THE LEVELLER

A permanent orchestra? A new theatre?"

"Sire, the life of an artist. "

"Indeed!" Into the Tsar's florid face
there crept caution, and his blue eyes trav-
eled up and down the well-known features of
the great composer.

"Be seated and tell me what I can do."

When occasion required, Eubinstein had a
simple eloquence which could always com-
mand the attention of his hearer. This, with
all the force of his well-known personal mag-
netism, seldom left him in any lurch for long.
As he began his story the Tsaritza dropped
her letters and looked up to listen. The Tsar
kept his hand on the open page of the book
he had been reading, and his slow, penetrat-
ing glance wandered frequently to where a
doll lay on a sofa, covered with a silken
shawl: the plaything of one of his younger
children. Once or twice he stroked his thick
red beard thoughtfully, but he heard Eubin-
stein through.

In his story Rubinstein had softened
particulars, dwelling on Louboff's youth
and her immense talents. "Sire," he said,
"I pledge myself for her future behavior.
I "

This seemed to amuse the Tsar.



THE LEVELLER 163

"What would you do?" asked his Majesty
smiling. ' ' Use the rod ! ' '

Eubinstein gave a sigh of great relief.

"No, no, Sire; the exhortations of good,
every-day common sense and the commands
of a master."

The Tsar looked over at his wife for in-
spiration, and caught a sympathetic glance.

' * Well, ' ' he began in his slow, precise way,
' ' I never meddle in such affairs not, at least,
without consulting some of my people. ' ' Then
turning to an aide-de-camp, he said quietly:
"Telephone for his Excellency, Count d'An-
nenkoff , to come here without delay. ' '

Eubinstein 's heart sank, and his expressive
features lost their look of recent hopefulness.
He pursed up his lips and knew that then or
never it was his task to use all his powers of
persuasion. He looked over at the Tsaritza;
then in lower tones he commenced the recital
of the love affair between Boris and Louboff.
All the world loves a lover, even a Tsar, and
Eubinstein noted that both the royal person-
ages listened with renewed interest.

"Appearances are against my pupil," fin-
ished Eubinstein earnestly, after ten min-
utes* rapid conversation, "and Count d'An-
nenkoff will doubtless raise many objections.



164 TEE LEVELLER

but, Sire, you are beyond all prejudice, and
I ask your Majesty to grant this favor in the
name of Russian art. ' '

The Tsar smiled.

"Your story interests me," he replied.
"The young girl, because of her artistic na-
ture, is doubtless impressionable and easily
led ; but you have spoken so much and so elo-
quently of music, you make me long to hear
some. It will be a treat for the Tsaritza and
myself."

Rubinstein rose at once, his face beaming.
He was in the humor; more, he was deter-
mined to play as he had never played before.
He opened the pianoforte himself, sat down,
and let his hands wander over the keys while
waiting until it was time to begin.

A moment later and the ante-chamber was
crowded: pages, lackeys, ladies and gentle-
men in waiting moved noiselessly nearer to
the door of the Tsar's salon, and then one
could hear the clocks ticking, so tense was
the silence as Rubinstein commenced the


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 7 of 13)