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comfort in a letter from one of his old associates. It
brings a breath of familiarity into the arid atmo-
sphere of loneliness which surrounds him, and recalls
vividly to his mind the environment of other days.

I read the letter over and over again ; and then
I went out in search of Anatovitch, who had not
come to see me as I had expected. At his house the
dentchik informed me that he had gone out on



208 A POWER ABO\'E THE TSAR

horseback at an early hour in the morning, and had
not yet returned. I asked the man whether there
was anything unusual in this ; but he declined
to express an opinion, and his attitude gave me to
understand that the habits of Dr. Anatovitch were
no business of mine.

I went to the barracks and called on the Polkovnih,
in the hope of hearing from him of the whereabouts
of the doctor. But the Polkovnik was not at the
barracks. I was leaving the building when I met
one of the officers in the corridor. I asked if he had
lately seen Dr. Anatovitch. He had met him, he
said, on horseback on the great Moscow road at
about nine o'clock in the morning, and he would
probably be back before night, as he had his duties
to attend to the next day.

I was not a little disturbed by the news. Why
had Anatovitch not told me that he was going away
for the day? I had been expecting him to come
and see me ; but he had gone off on some mysteri-
ous errand without a word of explanation.

So I returned to the hotel. The day was stifling
hot and there was not a breath of air. I went to
my room and ordered ices and sat down to think
it over. Perhaps Petrus could throw some light on
the matter. I summoned and questioned him.

" Where does the Moscow road lead to, Petrus ? "

" To Moscow, your Excellency," he replied
promptly — he knew that much, in spite of the
absence of the schoolboard in Russia.

" But in the other direction ? " I persisted.
" Supposing that you followed it from Moscow



IVAN 209

and went East through Tomsk, where would you
get to ? "

" To many places, Bareen — Atchinsk, Marunsk,
and Krasnoiarsk."

" Very good," I answered. " Now send the man
who came with the letter to me."

Petrus saluted and withdrew, and in a few
minutes Ivan presented himself. He looked a very
different man from the ungainly and unkempt
ruffian who had delivered his letter to me in the
afternoon. He wore a clean suit and polished boots,
and his hair and beard were well combed and glossy.

" Well, Ivan," I said, " how long is it since you
left your master in Lithuania ? "

" Six weeks, Bareen," he replied laconically.

" By what route did you come ? "

" To the White City, where I remained for two
days, in accordance with his High-born's instruc-
tions. Then to Yaroslaff. I was four hours in
Yaroslaff. I returned to Moscow, and came here
by Kasan, Ekaterinaburg, and Omsk."

" You have had a long journey on the way to
Eastern Siberia," I said.

"It is nothing," he answered. He spoke as
though a journey of over 4000 miles were part of
his daily routine, and displayed not the slightest
emotion at the separation from his home and people
which it entailed.

"Your master has very kindly placed your ser-
vices at my disposal," I continued. " You will meet
with a great deal of hard work and possibly some
dangers in my service."



210 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

*' So his High-born informed me, Bareen."

" And you are prepared to go through with it
and take the risks ? "

He looked at me with what was almost a pitying
smile. It was the first gleam of expression of any
sort that I had seen in his face ; but he answered
in two words :

"Yes, Bareen."

When he had left the room I realised the measure
of strength which this taciturn man possessed. His
personality, in its cold, unbending rigidity, resembled
an iron girder hidden within the walls of a housed
His presence suggested strength and stability ; and
when he took his departure I was conscious of his
absence. He was one of those men whom the great
of this world use as foundations for the bridge over
which they pass to fame. Silent and uncomplaining
they stand the stress of the flood waters of revolu-
tion, whilst the man who shaped them for his pur-
pose passes in triumph over the structure which they
support.

The evening was wearing on and still Anatovitch
did not return. I despatched Petrus to his house to
make inquiries, but he came back without news of
his master.

To pass the time I went for a walk in the streets
of Tomsk ; but first I delivered my precious belt to
Ivan's keeping, telling him to guard it as his own
life. He buckled it on beneath his ruhaschka with
absolute unconcern, and saluted respectfully when
the adjustment was complete.

As I was returning to the hotel, and was about to



IVAN 211

enter, I heard the clatter of a horse's hoofs on the
roadway ; and on looking back I saw Anatovitch
ride up to the entrance, covered with dust and
perspiration. He leaned over in the saddle and
whispered that he was tired and hungry, and would
go to his house to change his clothes, and then come
back to the hotel for supper.

I ordered a meal for us both ; and in less than an
hour Anatovitch returned and flung himself into a
chair in my room.

" I have done a good day's work," he said,
lighting a cigarette. " Yes, by God, a good day's
work ! "

" Tell me about it," I said. I knew quite well
that his day's work was in connection with our
scheme to rescue Alexander Bogdanovitch, and I
was desperately anxious to hear his news.

" I have located a certain convoy of prisoners
which left this place some time ago for Krasnoiarsk.
I rode along the Krasnoiarsk road until I got
definite news of them. They are at a halting-
place about half-way, and according to my informant,
whom I met coming from Krasnoiarsk, they have
been at the halting- place for several days."

*' How far is it to Krasnoiarsk ? " I asked.

" About 500 versts."

"That is about 350 English miles," I mused
aloud. *' Then according to your information the
convoy is some 250 versts from Tomsk ? "

" Yes," he answered, " and making very slow
progress. I expect this hot weather is breaking
the poor creatures down by the score. That is my



SI 2 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

news, and I have come straight to you with it,
so that we may talk it over."

" I have had some news to-day, too," I said,
handing him Dimitri Stankevitch's letter. There
was no heading to it and no signature, so I did not
compromise Dimitri by showing it to Anatovitch.
He read it through several times and then handed
it back to me, and I held it in the flame of a candle
until it was burnt.

Then supper was served, and we fell to. We were
both hungry, and the presence of the servants and
our appetites prevented any further discussion until
after the meal was over.

I noticed that Anatovitch looked approvingly at
Ivan, who was assisting Petrus to wait on us. The
man instilled confidence even by the'manner in which
he handed the dishes. His impassive features never
relaxed into a smile or frown. He was perfectly
imperturbable in his demeanour and movements.

After the table had been cleared, and the servants
had retired, we lighted our cigarettes and came to
business once more.

" We must act at once," I said. " That letter
which I showed you leaves me unfettered, and there
is no one now whom I need consult. My idea is that
we should not allow our friend to enter Irkutsk nor
Balogansk. The further he goes on the road the
greater will be the difficulty of bringing him back. I
think I should intercept him before the rota arrives
at Krasnoiarsk. For if once he enters the strong-
holds of Krasnoiarsk or Balogansk goodness knows
when or how we can get him out."



IVAN 21S

Anatovitch was in complete agreement with me
on this point.

" The rota cannot arrive at Krasnoiarsk for at
least three weeks," he said, ** though the road is
shaded for the greater part of the way by forests of
trees. It is a magnificent road, from an aesthetic
point of view, though a deal of human suffering and
sorrow finds a path along it."

He paused for a few minutes, as though he were
planning the details of the scheme.

" Of course you will take Ivan and Petrus with
you ? " he said at last. " I can trust Petrus, though
I do not pretend that he is of the same stamp as that
fellow Ivan. But he is a reliable man and under-
stands horses. I can get the horses for you here,
and Petrus will look after them on the road. When
will you start ? "

There was nothing to prevent my starting the
next day, and I told him so.

" Very well," he said. " I will give you a letter
to the officer in command of the convoy. I shall say
that you are a doctor travelling for pathological re-
search — the old story; and that you were entertained
royally by the regiment here — which is not true, but
will serve its turn as an introduction. As to the rest,
you must rely upon your belt ; there is enough in
that to corrupt all the officials in Asiatic Russia."

" And when I have obtained possession of Alex-
ander Bogdanovitch — what then ? " I asked.

" You can bring him back here, and I will do
the rest ; or, at least, I can help you to dispose
of him," he answered.



214 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

His suggestions seemed feasible. Certainly I was
not in a position to improve upon them. But there
was one question which I had still to ask him. We
were very good friends by this time, and the formal
"you" had given place to the familiar "thou" in
our intercourse — a distinction which cannot well be
adhered to in English.

" If I can get Alexander Bogdanovitch safely out
of the country, and myself too, will you come with
us ? "I asked. " You would be happier out of
B/Ussia."

" I can make no promises," Anatovitch replied.
*' I am not thinking of myself just now. I am
thinking of Alexander Bogdanovitch."

I said no more on the subject, and we discussed
the details of our plans. I was to take with me
clothes for Kolka ; and Anatovitch suggested that
I should carryall my spare clothes with me. "There
may be others," he explained, laconically.

" Then it is quite settled that you start to-
morrow ? "

I nodded assent, and Anatovitch called in
Petrus.

" Petrushka," he said, "you will go now, at once,
to Demidoff and tell him to get three of his best
horses ready for to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock
— and see that they are well rested. If he wants to
know for how long they will be required, you can
tell him for some weeks — that is all. Mind, two in a
droshka, and one saddled ; to be here at eleven o'clock
to-morrow. Come back and report if he can do it."

It was very late when Petrus returned with the



IVAN 215

news that the horses and dr'oshka would be ready at
eleven o'clock in the morning.

" Petrushka," said Anatovitch, " you will drive
the droshka and look after the horses. And you are
to go with the Bareen, and defend him if necessary,
and bring him back to me safely."

Petrus grinned good-naturedly, and replied that
he would protect me with his life. He was evidently
elated at the idea of the journey, though he knew
nothing of its destination or duration. It was
enough for him that the hum-drum existence of
Tomsk was to be exchanged for a pair of horses and
the road.

When he had gone, Anatovitch said that he must
be returning to his house. I walked home with him,
and said good-bye at his door.

" I wonder if we shall ever meet again ? " he said,
resting his hand on my shoulder.

" Yes," I answered laughing. " You and Bog-
danovitch are going to practise medicine in London- "



CHAPTER XI

IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTA

At half-past ten the following morning a droshka
with a pair of serviceable black horses was at the
entrance of the hotel. Petrus was stowing my
baggage under the seat, whilst Ivan tightened
the girths of his saddle and inspected the stirrup
leathers and bridle with a critical eye.

Anatovitch had found time to come and see me
start, in spite of our farewell of the night before.
He was with me for about an hour, and embraced
me affectionately before I left my room.

There was yet another person who lamented my
departure, and he was the hotel proprietor. I think
he was wondering who would be the next to order
his imported champagne. It cheered him consider-
ably when I told him that I should be back in
Tomsk in a few weeks.

So we took the road eastwards, Petrus driving
with the mantle of Jehu and Ivan cantering behind
the droshka.

We were soon clear of the town, and its spires
and domes glinted fitfully through the cloud of dust
which rose in our wake. Then we entered the
forest, and the scent of the trees and the songs of
the birds filled my mind with pleasant fancies, until



IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTA 217

the thought of the tens of thousands who had
tramped that road in chains and bitter anguish
recalled me to the stern realities of Russian life.
The dust which we scattered light-heartedly-
had been trodden by the feet of men, women, and
children who trailed their weary steps along the
great highway of misery and destitution, urged on
by the whips of their mounted escort, or left to die
forgotten by the wayside.

By half-past one we had covered twenty miles of
the road, and stopped at a farmhouse to water the
horses. An old man came out and invited me to
enter the house. I was surprised to see no icon in
the room to which he conducted me, and I asked
the reason of the absence of this emblem, universal
in Russia.

"We are not Christians," the old man hastened
to inform me, " we are Sabbatarians."

He went on to explain that the Sabbatarians
regard themselves as the only true Jews, and observe
laws which differ materially from those of the recog-
nised Children of Israel. I regretted that I had not
time to be enlightened further on the subject ; but
the horses were ready, and I would not keep them
waiting.

I offered the old man some money, but he refused
to take anything, and expressed the hope that I
would visit him on my return.

The road was no longer in good order, and
our rate of progress was necessarily slower. We
blundered along in a dense cloud of dust for several
hours, and arrived at last at a dilapidated wooden



218 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

farmhouse, where we again stopped to rest the horses.
A woman, who appeared to be the sole occupant of
the place, told me that it was fourteen versts to
Atchinna, where we could obtain good accommodation
for the night.

We started once more, and it was dark w|ien we
arrived at the village. Petrus found a good house
where we could lodge, and he and Ivan divided the
night into watches, each mounting guard in turn
over my door.

At daybreak we started again. For five days we
travelled without any incident worth recording. The
road lay through huge forests and across open plains.
Sometimes we crossed rivers and streams on rough
wooden bridges, at others we splashed through fords.
The horses had stood the hard going well, and at
sunset on the fifth day we had made 165 miles.

I despatched Petrus to find a shelter for all of us
for the night. He returned shortly, and led the way
to a lowly house in the vicinity. The owner of it
came out to greet us, apologising for the poverty of
his abode, but assuring us of his willingness to serve
us if we wished to stay.

There was no question of wishing with me, for
the evening was falling and there was no other
accommodation available. So I followed the man
into his house, whilst Ivan and Petrus stabled the
horses in a shed behind it.

After I had eaten of the fare which our host and
his wife provided, I strolled out on to the road. It
was a lovely evening, and the air was laden with the
fragrance of perfumed trees and wild flowers. The



IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTA 219

short twilight of the East was rapidly sinking to the
darkness of night, and here and there in the opal
sky a star shone with lonely brilliance.

Ivan had evidently seen me leave the house and
take the road through the forest ; for I noticed that
he was following me at a respectful distance. In
the daytime I was never out of this man's sight, and
for half of the night he watched by my door, resign-
ing his charge to Petrus reluctantly when it was his
turn to mount guard.

I had walked some little distance when in front of
me I saw a man slink out of the woods on to the
road. He caught sight of me at once and darted
into the thicket again. I hailed him and called him
to me. After a few moments hesitation he emerged
from his hiding-place and came towards me.

Never in my life have I seen a rougher and more
wretched -lookino^ individual. His hair and beard
were matted all over his head and face, his clothes
were in rags, and his feet were sticking out through
the remnants of his boots. He stood a few yards off
and regarded me suspiciously from head to foot
without speaking.

I asked him if he were an inhabitant of the
neighbourhood. He laughed drearily and answered
that he was anxious to get out of the neighbour-
hood as quickly as possible, but that, unfortunately,
he did not know the way.

" And even if I did, I think I should starve
before I got through," he concluded bitterly.

" Where is your home then ? " I asked.

" Vilna," he answered. " And I have been six



220 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

weeks wandering in these cursed forests, and cannot
find the road."

" But if your home Is in Vilna, how do you come
to be here ? "

" Oh," he said, " I am not here of my own free
will, you may depend on that. I did something
which offended the police, and they sent me to
Irkutsk Government for ten years ; but I did not
stop with them for more than a couple of months
when they got me there. I left them a long time
ago."

" But surely you were chained," I suggested. I
was not at all sure that the man was not an im-
postor, who was trying to work on my sympathies
by the story of his escape from a penal settlement.
It was quite possible that he was nothing but a
common bradjaga.

" They put me to gold washing," he answered
" and my chains were off during the day — and so
was I. That must be about nine months ago. I
have begged my way thus far, tramping by night
and lying up during the day. Then I came to these
forests and I lost myself."

" Who has fed you ? " I asked.

" At the farms and villages I have begged for
food, and they generally give me something. The
Sabbatarians are the best. They let me shelter
in their barns, and sometimes give me a little
money."

I mentioned the possibility of his re-capture ;
but the long months of wandering unmolested had
weakened his apprehension on this score.



IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTA 221

" I do not think they will take me again," he said
carelessly. " At any rate, I am as free as a beast in
the woods at present."

I called to Ivan, who, I knew, was not far off.
When the wretched tramp saw a second man
approaching he drew off hurriedly to the woods
again, and it was with diflSculty that I persuaded
him to return, assuring him that he need fear
nothing from us.

I told Ivan to take him quietly to the shed where
our horses were stabled, and to give him some food,
and then to try and make him more presentable in
appearance. For I felt that it was useless to en-
deavour to help the fellow in his present condition
of raggedness. His appearance would arouse im-
mediate suspicion wherever he went. What he
needed most was a new suit of clothes, and I was
glad that, acting on Anatovitch's advice, I had
brought several changes with me.

Ivan entered into the scheme without any dis-
play of his feelings in the matter. It was impos-
sible to judge whether he regarded it favourably or
not. But he had a suggestion to make which was
eminently practical, namely, that the man should
stay where he was until it was quite dark before he
came to the shed.

We left him seated by the roadside, with instruc-
tions to wait until it was dark when Ivan would
fetch him.

I returned to the house, and found that our poor
host and his wife had done all that they could to
make us comfortable. The man came to my room to



222 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

bid me good-night, and asked if there were anything
more he could do for us. I thanked him, and said
that we should be starting early in the morning, and
I should therefore be obliged if he would leave out
the samovar so that my servants could make tea
before we started.

In about an hour's time, when the good people of
the house were asleep in their bed, I went out to the
shed to see the horses. The spectacle which con-
fronted me as I opened the door was one which
I shall never forget.

Petrus was holding a candle in his hand which
illumined the tall, solemn figure of Ivan girt about
the waist with an old sack, which did duty as an
apron, and with a large pair of scissors in his hand.
Seated on an old box between them was the un-
fortunate tramp, half shorn of his matted locks and
beard and looking the picture of dejection. There
was enough hair on the floor to stuff a pillow.
Petrushka was busy giving advice to Ivan on ton-
sorial art, and pointing with the butt end of the
candle to indicate where the finishing touches were
required. Ivan, of course, was perfectly grave and
silent, and wholly absorbed in the operation.

I did not interrupt them ; but told Ivan when he
had completed the tramp's toilet to bring him to my
room.

It was a long time before Ivan appeared, and
announcing "All is ready" showed the wanderer
into the room. The change in the man's appearance
was most remarkable. He glanced at himself in the
broken mirror on the wall, and I heard him mutter :



IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTA 223

" I must be dreaming ! "

I bade him sit down, and talk quietly, so as not to
arouse the people of the house. By degrees I got
his story from him. He was a lawyer's assistant in
Vilna, and a member of a revolutionary society.
One day a certain member of the society was arrested
in Moscow, and papers were found in his possession,
including a list of the members of the society.
Within twenty-four hours over one hundred and fifty
men and women were arrested in various parts of
Kussia as a result of this one man's arrest. The
semblance of a trial was given them, and most of
them were ordered to Siberia. For his part, he
was sentenced to ten years.

In order to test his veracity I asked him several
questions about people in Vilna whom I knew there,
and he answered correctly. I also asked him for
what lawyer he was working, and he gave me his
name and address. He further told me that he had
been educated at the Eeal School, and could speak
German and French.

'* Now," I said, " it is not necessary for you to
know who I am ; but if I am going to help you, will
you keep your mouth shut and do what I tell
you?"

He promised secrecy and obedience. Indeed, I
think he would have promised anything at that
moment.

"Where do you want to go ? " I asked.

" I have an uncle living in Paris. I think it
would be best for me to go to him if I can get
there."



224 A POWER ABOVE THE TSAR

' " If I advance you money to go to Paris, will you
promise to pay me back with 5 per cent, interest?"
I asked.

The man looked at me in open-eyed astonish-
ment, and then burst out laughing.

" It is no laughing matter," I said ; " and I will
trouble you not to make so much noise. If I offer to
advance you money I shall expect to be repaid. I
am not a travelling philanthropist."

The man sobered down at once.

" I will pay you, Bareen, whenever I can. I am
a young man and I can earn a living."

I told Ivan to take the man outside, whilst I
opened my belt and took from it 200 roubles and a
blank passport and a chorosho povidenia.

I asked the man to come in again, and left Ivan
outside.

" From Tomsk to Kovno costs on the railway
about twenty roubles," I said. " From Kovno to
Berlin sixty marks. From Berlin to Paris sixty-five
marks, in all about eighty roubles. That will leave
you 120." I handed him the notes. "At night
time you can get over the frontier with official
sanction for two roubles, and you can use the
balance for incidental expenses. Now for your pass-
port and chorosho povidenia. Here they are, and
you can fill them in for yourself."

The astonished man was biting his finger to make
sure that he was awake. I asked him if his finger
hurt, but he did not answer.

" Now I shall trouble you for a receipt for my



IN THE WAKE OF THE ROTxV 225

bill," I said, and I made out the following
account :



To one hair-cutting and shaving .
„ one suit of clothes, kaftan, and boots
„ cash ......


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Online LibraryCarl JoubertRussia as it really is → online text (page 13 of 18)