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mands will be my laws, now and always.
There is nothing I am not ready to give up
for you. Don't you know it?"

Eubinstein pressed her hands.


"Back to your soup, you witch," he said
pleadingly, * * this is luncheon time. ' '

When Souroffsky rose to go, after lunch-
eon, so, too, did Louboff, but Rubinstein
stopped her.

"At two I have work to do," he said
quietly, "but, Louboff, I must have a talk
with you. Au revoir," he added carelessly to
the young artist, who left instantly. "Come,

He put his arm about her neck, and they
went together from the salon to the study.

Eubinstein lit a fresh cigarette, then he
bent the fingers of each hand from the
knuckle ; it was one of his characteristic exer-
cises for keeping his fingers limber. Then he
turned to her.

"Louboff, do you realize thoroughly what
it means to belong to our brotherhood our
brotherhood of artists?"

She was not prepared for the question ; she
stammered an unintelligible reply.

"Do you realize how far above the others
we are, the bigness and glory of our world,
our calling! I ask this because I want to
know if you have the stamina in you to reject
that which the world at large calls happiness
or fortune, and because Boris Alexandero-


witch informed me last night that you and
he are betrothed."

Rubinstein's eyes were half closed, but she
knew he was scrutinizing her closely, trying
to mesmerize her into a confession true and
complete, or else confuse her so that she
would reveal her secret.

"We are," she replied slowly.

"And you will be married some day?"

"Anton Gregoriewitch, " she said earn-
estly, "what can I say? There are so many
impediments in our way. It seems almost an
impossibility. I hardly dare hope."

Her tone was matter of fact and very calm.
Her interest in what she was saying was not
extreme; she was too intent on finding out
toward what he was drifting and in molding
her replies to suit. "He is thinking of my
career," she told herself.

Rubinstein smiled.

"Then it is not a matter of vital interest,
Louboff?" he asked earnestly. "Marriage is
not the final goal of all your hopes, as it
seems to be of his f You are not enthusiastic ;
you are satisfied just well, just to love him?
You do love him?"

Again she was guarded.

"Perhaps," she replied with a blush,
charming in its confusion.


Eubinstein drew down her face and kissed
her on the mouth.

"Ah, Louboff, you will not disappoint me,
and it is well ; my hopes are centered on you,
child. Be always true to my teaching. ' '

"Then my marriage would displease you?"

"Marriage! It would be the end of your
career. It's ruin."

"But you "

< t

'Ah! Leave me out. I was thirty-five
years old; my career was made. It is suffi-
cient that I give you counsel of a contrary
nature. ' '

Louboff smiled, unmoved in her intentions
by his remarks. Rubinstein's commands had
not swayed her one iota. She saw through
the gloom and disappointments of life with
the hopefulness and joy of her own youth.
She had nothing to fear. Boris loved her;
loved her in spite of all obstacles.

She was about to commence her career;
she had Rubinstein's own assurance that it
would be notable. And as to marriage, she
was in no hurry; that could wait, for a time
at least. Meanwhile, why not humor Rubin-
stein? She smiled again at her own deduc-
tions, then she arose and said quietly :

"See, it is almost two o'clock, Anton


Gregoriewitch. You must send me away."

"No, I have still something to say. I am
responsible for you now, you understand that


"And all this meddling with with "

Rubinstein had the usual horror, like all the
Tsar's subjects, of even mentioning the idea
in his mind. He hesitated and nodded his

"Oh, yes, yes, Anton Gregoriewitch; I
never realized how foolish it all was," she
replied crestfallen.

"Altogether foolish; yes. See," said
Eubinstein, pointing to a group of happy-
looking moujiks opposite his windows, who
stood together laughing and jesting, "that is
Eussia they are content ; we must be. Now


Once out in the clear crisp of the afternoon,
Louboff began to think over all that Rubin-
stein had said to her, and for the first time
she had leisure to realize what a momentous
change had come into her life.

A marriage with Boris ! Once it had been
a vague idea, a winged thought from fairy-
land, a hope that died in its analyzing; but
now, he had indeed asked her, he had thrown
all his prejudices to the winds and some
time perhaps in the dim roseate future,
yes, they would marry.

She would be Countess Gourowsky. How
could Rubinstein suppose for a moment that
in comparison her career would be first with
her; that much as she loved art she would
give up Boris? She smiled at the mere
thought ; but she argued with herself :

"It is as well to keep Rubinstein satisfied.
He is a great artist; one has to humor him
and then he has done so much for me and has
done it all so willingly. ' '

Little by little she went back over her be-
trothal of the night before; like an echo she



heard Boris tell of his love ; the remembrance
of the love light in his eyes caused a blush to
rise to her cheeks. And then the awful mo-
ment of her arrest, her declaration; what a
confession she had made !

She shrank at the memory of her own
words; of the nightmare-like horror of the
scene in the Annenkoff Palace. How lucky
she was to get her freedom. She sighed as
she thought how happily it had all ended.
To-day Michel returns, she told herself, won-
dering why the fact seemed to matter so little
to her; she could only think that in a short
time, an hour at most, she would see Boris

At three he was to be with her. She took
out her watch; it was then a little after two.
A flutter of excitement went through her. It
was her first love affair, and, oh, how supreme
was her feeling of contentment.

Getting out of the sleigh, she gave the de-
lighted and astonished iswostschik a rouble,
telling him to keep the change, then feeling as
if the worjd belonged to her, she nodded gaily
to the porter sitting by the door and went in.

Going up the staircase, some one came out
of a doorway in the hall, and, running after
her, put his arms about her neck.


"It is Michel," she thought quickly, turn-
ing round to see. She found Boris.

"I was upstairs; they told me you were
out, so I waited. LoubofF, who would think
all that has happened did happen ! You look
adorable, as fresh and lovely as a rose. Are
you glad to see me, sweetheart? But not as
glad as I am to see you."

He gave her no time to answer, and hand
in hand they finished the rest of the climb,
both of them breathless with happiness.

* ' No one was at home ; Michel Antonowitch
had not yet come ; the \>arin, Anton Malkiel,
had received a paper from the Ministerium
and had hurried out," the servant told Lou-
boff as he hung up their shoubas, side by side.
The moment they were alone Boris put his
arms about Louboff and they walked to the

"Tea?" asked Louboff.

"No, no, not unless you want it. I have
something for you, what I told you of last
night. Are you not curious?" Boris said,
fumbling in his pocket. He pulled out a small
jeweler's case, and, opening it, flashed before
her eyes her engagement ring.

"Will it fit you? I could only guess, you
know," he went on anxiously. "Oh, Louboff,


exact, exact!" he cried delightedly as he
slipped the ring on her finger and found it
fitted perfectly. "Sweetheart, it is a lucky
omen," he said, kissing her.

Louboff laughed. "But, Boris, what ex-
travagance. It is perfectly beautiful, the
loveliest ring I ever saw," and she turned the
ring with its two diamonds and turquoise ad-
miringly round and round her finger. "But,"
she went on, "to take so much money away
from your philanthropic schemes at Gou-
rowsky "

Boris flushed. "Oh," he said quickly,
' ' that was bought with my uncle 's money ; he
gave me a cheque yesterday for a thousand
roubles. I live with him now." Boris then
explained the causes of his moving from
Wasily Ostroff.

Louboif 's eyes were twinkling with inward
and almost uncontrollable mirth. "If he
knew," she whispered, and she flashed the
ring back and forth in the sunlight, laughing.

Boris caught her idea and laughed, too.

"Now," she said quietly, "sit down; you
must tell me all about last night. How was it
ever managed? What luck is ours."

Bit by bit Boris told his story, and this led
him up to the scene with Rubinstein, of which


he gave her a mere outline, omitting many of

the master's theories on marriage.

"You must not mind that," she said
soothingly. "Anton Gregoriewitch looks on
me solely as a tool of art, a machine. You
have no idea how he has made me work ; and
then he fears all this to go for nothing
that marriage would mean my returning to
private life." Looking up suddenly she
asked, inquietude in her voice, "You never
intend that, Boris, do you!"

"I I have not thought about it, Louboff.
I all this is so new, so strange, it would be
a queer thing for a Countess Gourowsky to
play in public. But, dear," he added con-
tentedly, "I will leave all that to you."

She put out her hand and grasped his af-
fectionately. "We will arrange all that later.
I will make my debut in two weeks, and then
we will see. I may be a rank failure. ' '

Boris shook his head decisively.

"And our marriage, Louboff," he asked,
"when is that to be?"

"Oh, Boris," she sighed, and the shadows
in her face deepened. "There are so many
obstacles. There is your mother, your
uncle ; I must go to Berlin, you have to finish
your studies."


"That event," he cried quickly, "hap-
pens this summer. After your debut in Ber-
lin you play in several cities. Now after

"And that reminds me," she said, rising,
"that I have to practice."

"But you have not answered me," he in-

She was smiling and blushing.

"Well, in the summer then, but whatever
you do keep all this from Anton Gregorie-
witch. Just before I left him he was lectur-
ing me."

"As if he or any one could come between
us," Boris cried, as he put his arms about
her, and, lifting her face to his, kissed her
on the mouth.

She went to the pianoforte. Boris sat by
the window while she ran through all the
Eubinstein Barcarollen, and, as the afternoon
wore along and it became evening, her mood
changed and she became melancholy.

Once she stopped in her music and said
apprehensively: "I wonder what keeps
Michel; you are watching for him, are you
not? He will come from the Petro Pavlovsky
fortress over the bridge; you can see him
where you are seated. Such terrible dreams


as I have had, ' ' she went on, sighing, then all
at once she ceased playing and came beside
him. In the dim twilight of the snow-laden
streets a hearse, surrounded by a company
of soldiers, passed over the bridge. Louboff 's
face had grown ashen pale.

"Why does Michel not come!" she said in
agitation. ' ' See that hearse ; it was so in my
dream. But, oh, God, Boris, Michel was in-
side it! I can see him still."

Boris put his arms about her protectingly.
"It is an old saying that dreams go by con-
traries. A funeral means a wedding yours
and mine, sweetheart," he said, trying to be

"Yes, yes; but did you never feel the loom-
ing up of some terrible misfortune!" she
asked, awe and terror in her hushed voice,
her eyes looking straight into his.

Her emotion seemed to infuse itself into
his heart ; a strange feeling of creepy horror
came over him as together they turned to
watch the funeral cortege slowly moving.
Louboff clutched him tighter.

"Come, come," he said resolutely, trying
to make his tone light and gay. "Why tor-
ture yourself, sweetheart! See, here comes a
sleigh and a student in it. In the dim light


one cannot be sure, but I believe it is MicheL
Yes, it must be he."

At that moment there was a ring at the

"Yes, oh, yes," cried Louboff, "it is; you
are right. Oh, heaven, what a feeling takes
possession of one at times. Come, let us meet
him," and her face assumed all its wonted

They hurried to the ante-chamber, and
there they found not Michel, but an officer

"Mademoiselle, Count d'AnnenkofPs com-
pliments, Michel Malkiel is below," he said

Louboff brushed past him, crying, "Where,
where ? Why does he not come up ? " and f ol-
lowed by Boris, hurried downstairs.

As her foot touched the last step she gave
a great moan of horror and threw her hands
above her head.

Six stalwart soldiers were crossing the
outer threshold carrying a coffin between


Before Boris could stop her, Louboff was
by the side of the coffin and had read the
name " Michel Antono witch Malkiel" at a

Then an unnatural calm seemed to take
possession of her. She looked up at Boris
with stony eyes as silently they followed the
grewsome object of death.

When they reached the apartment all was
prepared in the chamber adjoining the ante-
chamber; chairs were ranged against the
wall, the center of the room was cleared. Only
when the soldiers and undertakers crowded
in did Louboff seem to realize her loss.

' * Oh, God of my fathers ! ' ' she cried in He-
brew, as she stood by the coffin. "This is
more than I can bear." Then the awfulness
of her sorrow came home to her in all its
force, and, throwing herself down on her
knees, she rocked herself to and fro in her

Boris, unable to gaze on a spectacle he had
no power to alleviate, followed the officer in
command as he left the room.



4 'When when did this happen?" he
asked, his voice trembling in spite of his ef-
forts to control it.

"On the way to prison, the night of his
arrest. He swallowed poison and died ten
minutes later. Boris Alexanderowitch, "
added the older man kindly, "why are you
here? Do you not realize the danger? I
knew your father; he was a good friend to
me; I feel I can speak to you as I would to
my own son. This is no place for you; get
out of here."

Boris was not listening; he was too busy
thinking of his uncle's treachery. Mechani-
cally he thanked the officer as he left.

When he returned to Louboff she was
standing by the coffin, calm once more, and
the face of Michel, cold and awful in its
serenity of death, stared up at them. The
soldiers had all gone ; only the weeping serv-
ants stood around. All at once Louboff cried
fiercely :

1 ' Boris, I am not a Nihilist ; I was not. But
what does this mean? But vengeance I will
have. Examine his body, see if he died of
torture before I can swear to you that I may
not become one."

Boris put his arm about her; with tender


love words he tried to calm her. But stories

of the torture chamber had reached her. She

would not be comforted. In spite of all his

entreaties she insisted on his doing as she


With the female servants she withdrew,
leaving Boris a task that frightened him.

Ten minutes later he called her in.

"Louboff," he said tenderly, "there is not
a mark on his body not one ; he died of poi-
son, by his own hand." And then gently he
told her what the officer had said.

"Thank God," she said bitterly, "he was
at least saved the torture chamber, and Si-
beria. It is well."

All of them had forgotten the father, An-
ton Malkiel. He came in just then, and,
dazed at first, looked and then went straight
to the coffin. At sight of Michel's face he
gave one piercing shriek and fell across the
bier, his arms outstretched.

"Oh, Michel, Michel, my son, have they
taken you from me!" he moaned, and the
glance of his old eyes as it passed from face
to face of the saddened group in piteous ap-
peal went to the heart of Boris. Louboff
went over to him and put her arms about


"Oh, child, child," he sobbed, "to-day I
blasphemed against my God. They sent me
a paper from the Ministerium, demanding
that I, that you, with all my household, leave
Eussia within three weeks, and I cursed my
God for allowing the Christians this glory
over me. But now. Oh, Michel, Michel, my
boy, what are worldly possessions in com-
parison to thee!"

Hours later Boris faced his uncle.

"It was cruel! it was horrible!" he cried
in his anger at the powerful Minister, who
sat watching him with calm insolence in his
haughty eyes. "And you cheated her; you
lied ; you knew her brother was dead ! ' '

Count d'Annenkoff shrugged his shoulders,
and without taking notice of his nephew's
angry denunciation, remarked very calmly :

"All is fair in love and war; did I not give
her back her brother as she asked?"


For three days after the funeral Louboff
shut herself up in her room and would see no
one. Listening outside the door, Boris could
hear no sound of weeping within, nothing but
a silence that terrified him, and he would
rush for her maid to have her enter the room
to see if matters were all right within.

All day long in the grief-stricken house-
hold there were sounds of hammering and
the moving of furniture.

Anton Malkiel had sold his household ef-
fects at a great sacrifice among his friends,
and bit by bit they were hastily removed, lest
some greedy official come to demand them.

When Louboff at last emerged from her se-
clusion, Boris marveled, and was delighted to
find her outwardly calm and composed, with-
out wish to speak of the dead. "It has to be
borne," she said once, when he mentioned
Michel's name. "It is the will of God, but do
not let us talk about it, my camarade; it is as
much as I can do to think in fortitude. I must
bear it, and I will bear it. ' '

She had not even put on mourning.



* ' What does that matter ? ' ' she said with a
shrug of lassitude, as she noticed Boris look-
ing askance at her gown of gray woolen stuff.
And Boris felt the truth of her remark. Grief
such as hers was far too deep for any out-
ward show.

She shuddered as they walked through the
half empty rooms with their litter of pack-
ing cases and trunks. Only her music-room
remained intact, the furniture of which was
to be forwarded to Berlin, where she had de-
cided to make headquarters.

"I cannot realize it," she said sadly. "To
think that in another week I begin life anew,
amid strange scenes, strange people, away
from all the associations of home and friends
I have known since childhood."

"But," whispered Boris, hopefully, "it
will be only for a while. My mother comes to-
morrow. She loves me, I know, better than
her own life. My happiness is her whole con-
cern, and after a time, when she knows you,
she will see things as I see them. So your
departure now has no significance.

"You will go to Berlin; you will make a
great success; do honor to Rubinstein and
please him. You will become famous, and
then, just as soon as my studies are over and


I get my Government position, no matter how
small that may be at first, I shall come for
you, and we will marry. Then as my wife
you will return to Eussia, and, as the story
books say, live happy ever after.

"The Gourowsky estate we will leave alto-
gether to my mother, while she lives, and
afterward afterward, Louboff, you and I
will end our days there and devote our lives
to philanthropy."

She smiled back at him, her beautiful face
shadowed by grief.

"I see nothing of all that," she whispered.
"I see nothing."

Nevertheless they made their plans, such
as they could make. Louboff promised to
write him daily, no matter how busy she
might be, if only one word; and Boris as-
sured her that every Russian post would
bring her an epistle, and that whenever his
studies allowed he would cross the frontier
just for a sight of her face.

That same evening a package of photo-
graphs of all sizes and kinds came : Louboff
in evening dress, Louboff in walking dress,
Louboff at the pianoforte. Boris pounced
greedily on samples of each till he had placed
aside some dozen in all for himself.


"But where will you put them all I'* she
inquired. "I will not have enough for the
music shops of Berlin. What, too, will your
uncle think, or your mother say? Believe
me, Boris, you are unwise, if you have any
intention, as you say, of decorating your
room with these. You do not realize things
as they are."

Boris laughed.

"The first thing my mother will see in my
rooms will be this," he said, lifting up the
largest and handsomest; "and she will ask,
'Who is that? What a beautiful face,' and I
will reply, 'Beautiful indeed, mother. Your
new daughter to be, and my betrothed, Lou-
boff Malkiel, the future Countess Gourow-
sky.' "

Louboff blushed with pleasure, and, listen-
ing to him, the sorrow in her face grew
lighter and the curves about her mouth less

That day she played for him the greater
part of her repertoire, and one of the smaller
Nocturnes of Chopin she promised to include
in all her programs as a souvenir of him, be-
cause it was his favorite.

From that on Boris was practically at
home in the Malkiel household, coming and


going at will. Anton Malkiel had heard in
terror the announcement of the betrothal, but
had said practically nothing, partly from con-
fusion, partly from apathy.

As to the anger that would have come to
him a week earlier, that he allowed no place
in his sentiments. The death of Michel, his
first born and only son, seemed to have dead-
ened every passion within him.

Boris he scarcely noticed. He ate his
meals in silence and then went out to at-
tend to the many business affairs consequent
on his forced and hurried departure.

At midnight preceding the day of the
Countess Gourowsky's arrival, Boris and
Louboff were saying an revoir.

"Now to-morrow, sweetheart," he said
somewhat diffidently, "I do not know when I
can come; but you are sensible, you under-
stand that."

"Perfectly, perfectly," she replied with a
little smile sad in its forced resignation.

"My mother gets here early," he went on,
"and she is sure to monopolize a lot of my
time; but if nothing else, I shall be at Eubin-
stein's to take you home."

"Then come early. I shall be very lonely
without you," she said gently, and Boris, as


he kissed her, made up his mind to be with
her for at least an hour during the day*

When the train from Moscow steamed into
the station, Boris, who was far ahead on the
platform, caught sight of his mother's eager
face leaning out, looking for him, and, run-
ning along with the train till it stopped,
shouting out his greetings, he found himself
in a few moments more clasped in her arms.

''My boy," she said fervently, and as his
nostrils scented once more the old familiar
odor of violets, faint, yet aromatic, that al-
ways perfumed her person, and felt her
strong protecting arms about him in that ma-
ternal embrace, so different to all others, his
lips trembled and his eyes grew moist.

This was the old love of his childhood, the
old love he had so completely forgotten of
late in the newer, stronger, passion inspired
by Louboff, and as he looked down into the
beaming face raised to his he felt ashamed.

There was something searching and pene-
trating in the glance she gave him kind as it
was that caused him to redden, and her
startled, "Why, Boris, my boy, what is it?
You have changed. You have grown up all
at once into manhood," gratified him beyond


' ' Why not, mother ? " He pitched his voice
to a deeper tone proudly. "I am a man."
whereat the Countess Gourowsky sighed.

' ' Yes, you have grown, ' ' she added, survey-
ing him.

"And you, mother dear, you have
widened. " He laughed teasingly, knowing
that any allusion to her increasing bulk was
sure to make her forget for the moment every
other subject.

"Alas, yes ; in spite of all I do."

Then they entered the sleigh and were
driven rapidly to Count d'Annenkoff 's palace
on the Neva.

During the drive the Countess plied Boris
with all kinds of questions as to his studies,
his life in general, and all the time Boris was
wondering when the moment would arrive
wherein he would have sufficient courage to
tell her of LoubofF.

"Mother," he said at length,." what put it
into your head to come to St. Petersburg? I
thought nothing would make you desert Gou-

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Online LibraryAlexander McArthurThe leveller → online text (page 9 of 13)