Frederick J. Whishaw.

Countess Ida online

. (page 12 of 17)
Online LibraryFrederick J. WhishawCountess Ida → online text (page 12 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

loved you ; you fascinated me a year ago and more,
but I did not then know you for the maniac or devil
you have shown yourself this night. Now, Usten to
me as patiently as I have Ustened to you : if you are
wise, interfere no more with me or with those I love
— ^you know whom I mean. I can threaten as well
as you, and perhaps with as good a reason, for
think, the Ori6ls are in the hollow of my hand ; their
secrets I know, and also the names of the chief
members. These would be a rich harvest for the
poUce, and if you suffered with the rest, why, I
cannot help it beyond warning you as I do now.
Come, now, I have heard your tale, and you have
heard mine ; we are quits. Let me alone, and I shall
let you alone also ; but, before God, if you dare to
interfere with me any further, I will be more than
quits !'

We were sitting now upon a bench in the loneUest

Digitized by



portion of the garden — ^the very one, as it happened,
upon which Liuba and I had rested when we ex-
changed our love vows. How different was my
frame of mind now ! yet but half an hour of time
had passed since then.

* You fool !' said Ida coldly — * you fool to defy
me ! I will tell you this : of the Ori6ls you know
nothing — ^not one name, not one incriminating fact.
Ah, you look surprised ! Think for yourself : the
names you heard were assumed, every one. You
could prove nothing against any one of us. The
police would laugh at you for the fool you are. You
detest me, do you ? Very well ; so be it. What I
have threatened I will perform ; that which you
have threatened you cannot perform. For the rest,
since you will not be loved, you shall be hated.
From Siberia you came, and to Siberia you shall
return. To-morrow the poUce will require to see
your passport ; there will be inquiry — ^prosecution —
identification. Oh, there will be witnesses enough,
trust me !'

* One moment,* I interrupted. * Excuse me, but it
will save trouble if I just mention that I am not, as
you seem to assume, without a passport. It may
surprise you to learn that I have recovered my own
— my very own.*

Digitized by



* You lie !* Ida muttered through her teeth ; * it is

' It is the truth,' I said ; * I swear it.'

' How is it possible ? Where did you find it ?
How did you come by it ? I say it is a lie.'

* It is no lie, but it is my own affair, and I do not
choose to tell you more than that I have the paper,'
I said.

* Then Gregorief has returned against orders, and
you have seen him.'

The moment Ida said the words I realized that
I had given Gregorief away, or had gone near to
doing so.

* Have I ?' I said, laughing ; * you are too clever,
G>untess, for simple folk Uke myself. What of the
letter post ? Cannot a passport be sent as easily as
brought ? Gregorief is not a fool.'

* Is he not ? Maybe ; we shall see in the end.
Meanwhile, you declare that you have your pass-
port ; are you lying ?'


Digitized by



* Send the police to inquire to-morrow, and they
shall see whether I speak truth.*

* How should you have obtained Gregorief s
address ?' she mused. ' I do not think it is possible ;
either you Ue, or he learned your whereabouts, and
negotiated with you by post.*

* Very Ukely. At any rate, you must perceive
that I hold a trump card. With my papers in
order I am no longer at the mercy of every spy that
would like to ruin me. You have lost the odd
trick to-night, Countess.'

^ Bah ! we shall see. For the rest, I would rather
serve you than injure you.'

* So I should have supposed from your amiable
threats. Will you leave me alone now, Countess Ida ?
After all, we may as well be friends as enemies.'

* Yes ; but what of the Lebedef girl ? There is
no peace between us unless you finish with her,
mind that ! If you will not have me you shall have

' I make no conditions,' I said.

* Then you prefer war ?'

* If war it must be. I will be answerable neither
to you nor to your Society. I am free to do as I
please. I shall go armed, moreover, and I shall
keep my eyes open. Remember, I should not have
quarrelled with you, but you have forced a quarrel
upon me.'

Digitized by



* You would have preferred to continue to deceive
me — ^you that vowed you loved me ! I would rather
quarrel or even fight to the death. Do you really
hate me as you declared just now in a moment of

* I should hate you if you did as you threatened,
even if you desired the crimes you hinted at. Yet
I am grateful to you for the service you once did

* All I have done for you, good or evil, love has
done, not I.*

* Well, if so,' I said, * let us leave it at that, and
part friends to-night.'

* No,' she said, with glowing eyes and quickened
breath — ' no, there is that girl. It cannot be peace ;
it must be war. I have seen too much to-night.
Take me to the skate-house ; I shall go home.'

* So be it,' I said ; * I have done my best !'

As I searched about for Liuba, after Ida had
departed, I could not help reflecting with some
concern upon the events of the evening. I was at
war with Ida, and therefore, I suppose, with the
Society of Ori6ls. Very well ; I could take care of
myself. I, armed with my own passport, was a
vastly different being from the same individual
sans papers^ and therefore (in Russia) sans civil
rights. Indeed, I was in a way reUeved to have
had it out with Countess Ida, for, not being a

Digitized by



habitual deceiver, I did not relish living in a state
of continual deception in so far as my relations
with her had been concerned.

I now knew the worst ; let me count it up. She
might or might not vent her spite against myself.
She might set her Society upon my track, and get
me murdered, or find someone to attempt my
removal. Well, in the first plaoe, I did not think she
would do this, for shcreally seemed to cherish some
pecuUar tiger-like sentiment towards me which
she was pleased to call ' love.' And, in the second
place, I intended to keep a very sharp look-out in
order to obviate any amiable designs that might
be set on foot against me.*

But the real danger was that liuba was threat-
ened. So far as I could understand her, Ida had
hinted that both Liuba and her father were, for
some reason unknown to me, obnoxious to the
Society, irrespective of the grievance existing in
the fact that I had fallen in love with the little

Should I warn the Prince ?

If I did he would naturally want to know aU
details — who were the Ori6ls, where they met, how
I came to know them, and so forth. In case of
need I could, of course, put him upon the track of
the Society; but inasmuch as the only individual
really known to me was Countess Ida herself, the

Digitized by



matter would resolve itself into information against
her alone and serious trouble for her, and to be
the cause of her ruin I had no desire. I could not
make so wretched a return for her service to me,
nor could I forget that she loved me, after her

No ; I would not warn Prince Lebedef at present,
but I might speak to Liuba about it, and put her
on her guard.

Then, when I had arrived at this conclusion,
another idea occurred to me, namely, that I had
unwittingly done a very iU turn to Gregorief . ^ He
deserved Uttle good at my hands, no doubt, but he
had repented of his misdeeds as* it seemed, and at
any rate he had given up my passport this day,
having come to Russia, as he averred, at great per-
sonal risk in order to right, as far as possible, the
wrong he had done me. I ought not to allow him
to live in danger of his hfe. He must be warned,
and I would do this in the morning as early as

Meanwhile, I found Liuba, with whom I enjoyed
a last skate round and about the gardens. I asked
her, having ingeniously piloted the conversation
to the topic of Nihilism and revolutionists generally^
whether her father had ever done anything Ukely
to render him obnoxious to such folk.

Not that she knew of, said Liuba, imless it were


Digitized by



that he had served upon the committee which tried
a group of revolutionists for an attempt upon the
Tsar's Ufe three years ago. The men were all sent
to Siberia^ she said, on life sentences, and that was
all she knew of the matter.

* And your father has no enemies that you know
of ?' I continued — * made, I mean, in the exercise
of his duty as one of the Sub-Ministers of the
Interior ?'

*I cannot conceive anyone feeling hostiUty
towards my father,' said Liuba, glancing at me anxi-
ously. * Why do you ask these questions ? Have
you heard or seen anything that has alarmed you ?'

I told her I had heard there was movement among
the revolutionary groups, of which there were no-
toriously many at all times in St. Petersburg, and
that there might possibly be attempts before very
long upon the lives of those public men who had
made themselves hateful to the dissatisfied element
of the population by sternness and fearlessness in
the execution of their duty. It behoved all to be
careful at such times, I said, though there was no
cause for alarm.

* Is that really all ?' said Liuba.

Then I sa^ there was no help for it, and that I
must tell my Uttle Princess all that I have set down
in my diary — ^namely, of my connection with the
Ori6ls, who had saved me from Siberia, and of the

Digitized by



Countess Ida and her unfortunate infatuation
for me.

* I forgive her that/ interposed Liuba, pinching
my arm and smiUng most bewitchingly.

I also told her of my meeting with Gregorief,
and of his surrender of my passport ; of his entreaty
to me to give no hint of his presence to the Ori6ls,
by the ukase of whose president he had been strictly
forbidden to show his face in St. Petersburg ; and
of the slip by which I had practically allowed
Countess Ida to guess that he might be in town.

* You must warn him/ said Liuba, * at once — ^the
first thing in the morning. Bid him leave St.
Petersburg immediately. If he wants money he
shall have it.'

* It is a passport he will want,* I said, * for he
must have been living upon mine, and now that is
lost to him. He cannot get away without it any
more than I could.'

* Then let him lie hid until something is arranged ;
he must not be seen abroad. Tell him so.'

I promised to do this, and, as a matter of fact, I
had no sooner swallowed my tea and rusks next
morning — the orthodox breakfast of all classes in
St. Petersbiu-g — ^than I set out to find Gregorief s
lodging, and to warn him that I had unwittingly
done him a mischief.

Outside the front entrance of the Lebedef mansion


Digitized by



I was greatiy surprised to catch sight of a man, just
passing at the moment, whose face I seemed to
recognise, though, cudgel my brain as I would, I
could not recall who he was or where I had seen

It was not until I had almost reached Gregorief s
house that I suddenly remembered. This was one
of the Ori61s whom I had met at Ida's reception.

The strangest part of the matter was, however,
that no sooner had I recalled this fact than I saw
my man again. He was at this moment in con-
versation with another person at the comer of the
Ofl&ts6rskaya Street, the thoroughfare for which I
was bound. How had he reached this spot before
me ? He had been walking away from it when
last I saw him ; he must have driven after me,
whether intentionally or unintentionally, and
aUghted before I arrived here. Could he be
dogging me ? Surely not ; why should he ?

I should never have thought of such a thing but
that my thoughts were incUned to run upon the
subject of the Ori61s and of Ida's animosity and ot
Gregorief s danger.

At any rate, the man did not see me at the present
moment, or he appeared not to see me ; he was talk-
ing busily with his friend at the comer, and was
apparently absorbed in the conversation.

Well, there was no need to run useless risks. I

Digitized by



turned my back and gazed in at a shop window.
As I stood Kere someone touched my arm. I
looked over my shoulder; it was Gregorief. I
started, and twisted him round with his back to the

* Don't look round, for God's sake I' I said.

* What is it ? What's the matter ?' he whispered.

* There is an Ori61 at the comer there. I hope
you did not come down the Ofl&ts6rskaya ? No ?
That's all right so far. Here, follow me into this yard,
keeping your back to the comer; they are not
looking at us. fJow then, in Heaven's name, why
do you court disaster by walking about the streets ?'

* I don't, as a rule, before dark ; I was just going
to your place to tell you where I might be found in
case you should be in further trouble on the old

* Upon my Ufe, Gregorief,' I said heartily, * I am
beginning to think you are really in a state of grace,
as you declare. Stop ! we will shake hands ; I was
rude the other day and unbelieving. You must
understand that, having in remembrance — ^well,
certain events, one was not too ready to trust a
fellow again ; but I now beUeve I was wrong, and
that you are really doing your best to right things.'

* I quite understand,' said poor Gregorief, * and
I thank you. I tAke no credit to myself, though ;
remorse, or terror for sin, or whatever it may b/e

Digitized by



called, has cowed me into a kind of repentance. I
want to save you further unjust suffering, but I am
anxious to escape myself also.'

* Then for God*s sake don't leave the house again
until after dark, and then go straight away to your
native village and stay there. Write down your
address, for though I am sorry for you as a victim of
these infernal Ori61s, and respect you for your present
conduct, I am not prepared to go to Siberia for you
a second time. Wait here imtil those fellows at
the comer have gone ; you can watch from the gate
here without being seen, and then slink out and get
home. What time shall you start to-night ?'

* About ten.'

* Very well. Good-bye, and good luck to you t
You've been a thorough blackguard in your time,
Gregorief, but I admit that you're a bit of a hero
to have come to Petersburg now, and I'm glad to
know you are a better man than I thought you !'

Digitized by



My Ori6l friend was no longer at the street comer
when I emerged from the yard gate. I signed to
Gregorief that this was so» and he came out also.
We shook hands, and he went up the road and I
went down it.

Musing, as I returned homewards, it occurred to
me that Gregorief ran a great risk in creeping back
to his lodging. What if those fellows had seen us,
and, guessing that we should not leave our sanctuary
until they were out of the way, had simply stepped
into some shop or restaurant opposite, and watched
for us at their leisure ?

It was quite a reasonable supposition that Ida
should have suspected my rephes as to Gregorief s
presence or absence from St. Petersburg, and have
placed a spy to shadow me in the beUef that I would
some time or other visit Gregorief, whether to warn
him or to obtain the passport, supposing that
negotiations still went on for its return to me, or
for some other purpose.

Digitized by



If so, and she was quite acute enough to have
done this, how feebly I had played into her hands, and
what terrible danger this wretched Gregorief was in !

So much did this idea prey upon me all day that
I determined to walk over to the Oflfits6rskaya at
about ten o'clock in the evening in order to satisfy
myself that the poor fellow had successfully evaded
the dangers which I imagined to beset him, and had
got safely away to the Moscow station, which was his

It was half-past nine when I set out with this
purpose in view. I was oppressed with strange
fears. The weird events of the last few days were
making a coward of me. A year or two ago I
should never have dreamed of harbouring such
fooUsh thoughts as presentiments of evil, and so on,
but now it was different — my nerves were not up
to the mark. Probably I should find that Gregorief
had got away in perfect safety; my bogey man
at the street-comer had not been dreaming of either
of us, and probably had not seen us. It would be
all right; these Ori61s, Uke most secret societies,
consisted merely of a set of conceited persons —
harmless cowards actually, but who believed them-
selves second only in power to the Creator Himself,
and to have been specify designed by their Maker
to order sublunary matters after any fashion that
appeared expedient to themselves.

Digitized by



Why, after all, should not my Ori6l friend have
passed me at my own door, and have met an
acquaintance afterwards at the comer of the
Oflftts^rskaya ? Any two men had a perfect right
to stand and talk at that or any other comer with-
out interference from me. Lord ! what a fool I
was to come out in the dark and in the rain and slush
(for it had thawed, and the rain fell cold and miser-
able, as winter rain does in Russia), impelled solely
by a sickly fear at my heart that something might
have happened to Gregorief, who would never be
missed if the Ori61s did get hold of him !

Thus, then, I reflected, and I told myself that my
conclusions were correct, and that common-sense
was a better guide than presentiment. I assured
myself that all presentiments a^e the merest foolery ;
and yet — and yet in the deserted yard, just outside
Gregorief s lodging, deserted b|bcause of the lateness
and of the cold rain, which had sent all sensible
people, unhaunted by presentiments, liome or to
warm restaurants and beer-shops, upon the wet
pavement I. came upon just such a spectacle as I
suppose I expected to see. The body of a man
l3dng dose up against the wall (^ the house, dead
or dying, while a second figure bent over the first
examining the wounds or otherwise busy, half in the
dim Ught of a lamp and half out.

My limbs took to trembling so suddenly and so

Digitized by



violentiy at the sight that for a moment I stopped
still, and made no move forward to inquire and
assist. I suppose the Uving man, he who bent
over the supposed dead one, had heard my steps
approaching, and now missed the sound, for he
raised his head and looked round for me.

* Come, in God*s name !* he said ; * why do you
stop ? Come and assist me with the poor fellow.
There has been a crime.'

* Is he dead ?* I asked, moving my feet forward
with the utmost difficulty, for they seemed rooted
to the ground.

* He breathes ; he has been stabbed four times
or more. But I cannot examine him here ; it is too
dark. Do you live close by ? Or do you know of
any house in the neighbourhood to which we might
carry him, you and I ?*

* He lives in this very house outside which he
now lies,' I said.

The man started and looked fully at me ; then I
saw for the first time that he was a priest.

* How do you know that ?* he asked ; * you
have not yet looked at him closely. I am
between you an<J his face ; you cannot have
recognised him. I adjure you to tell me, are you
the murderer ?*

* No, no, before God I am not I* I said, realizing
that I had seriously compromised myself. ' It is

Digitized by



true I have not looked at his face ; I am guessing
upon the foundation of my fears. I have come on
purpose, because I had reason to fear a certain
crime might be committed this night upon a certain
person. I had a presentiment. He is the victim
of a secret society; more than that I cannot say.
Let me see his face.'

* It is very extraordinary, and somewhat
suspicious,* said the priest. *Well, is it your
friend ?'

I had now examined the victim ; sure enough it
was Gregorief .

* Yes,' I said ; * I knew it must be he. But he
breathes, as you say, thanks be to God ! The ques-
tion is where to take him to.*

* But you said this very house is his home !' said
the other. * Your manner is suspicious, my friend ;
do you know more of this crime than you have
told ? We will carry him to his own lodging —
where else ?'

* I know no more of the crime than you, beyond
that I had reason to expect it. Perhaps he will
regain consciousness presently. I am not afraid to
await that moment ; he will tell you that I am
friendly disposed to him, and even warned him of
danger. I hesitate to carry him up to his own
rooms because I fear they might come there to com-
plete their work.'

Digitized by



' Do not fear for that I' said the other, ' for I sha^
not leave his bedside.*

* That will only expose you to danger as well as
himself/ I said.

He laughed.

* Expose me to danger !' he exclaimed ; * danger
and I are utter strangers. Look in my face : do you
not know who I am V

I stared at the priest, but could not recognise

* I am a foreigner,' I said, * not a native of St.
Petersburg ; this must be my excuse.*

* I am Father John of Cronstadt. No man, were
he the most reckless of malefactors, would dare to
lay a finger upon me or upon anyone under my

I gazed at my companion with interest and great

* Father John * was, perhaps is still, a household
word in St. Petersburg and over half the length
and breadth of Russia — a name held in love and awe
by every man and woman of every class. Many
regarded the good priest as more than mortal — as
a prophet and a miracle worker, one who was able to
restore those whom the doctors had given up for
dead through the special efl&cacy of his prayers or
of the marvellous grace which he possessed in the
simple la3dng of his hands upon sick or dying persons.

Digitized by



Father John himself claimed no miraculous gifts.
His special grace was nothing more miraculous than
a wonderful, tmdoubting faith in the efficacy of
prayer — a faith which was so firm and convincing
that it communicated itself to those over whom his
prayers were said, with the result that the patient
was often cu'-ed by faith when dings had proved
entirely unavailing.

There was, and perhaps is at this moment, no
man in all Russia so beloved of the people, high
and low, as this same Father John {Otds Ivan) of
Cronstadt ; and when he had revealed to me his name
I gazed, as I say, in wonder and some astonishment
at this man. How did he chance to be here, on
the spot, at the right moment, as, report said, he
so often contrived to be ? Had he, too, been led to
this place by some mysterious foreknowledge of a
catastrophe just as I had been ? If so, in his case
it was far more remarkable than in mine, fpr I had
only too good a reason to suspect disaster, while
for him, of course, the whole affair was unfamiliar
and unexpected.

* It was well that you found him. Father,' I
said feebly — ' you, of all others, for now he will

* That neither you nor I can say,* he replied, * but
I shall kneel at his bed until he recovers or dies ;
for what other purpose was I sent here this night ?

Digitized by



An accident, you will say. I differ. There are no
accidents ; the world is God's and all that is in it.
Come, we will carry him up, you and I. Which is
his lodging ? I see by your face that your story is
true. Your presentiment was a remarkable ex-
perience, but not unique ; I have known of many
such. Take his feet, place one hand under the
knees, and the other beneath the small of his back —
so ; now lift and carry. . . .*

We bore the poor fellow up three flights of stairs
to his own quarters, and laid him upon his bed.
Here Father John examined the wounds mote care-
fully. There were four stabs, three of which
were obviously mere flesh wounds ; as to the
fourth I was very uncertain, and Father John
shook his head over it. It was a straight dig in
the chest, and to my ignorant eyes looked ugly

* Go for a doctor as quickly as you can,' said
Father John ; ' I will pray meanwhile.' And with-
out waiting to see me depart this ascetic enthusiast,
with a face like that of a medieval saint, went down
upon his knees by the bedside, and with eyes and
hands raised upward commenced his share of the
* treatment.' I was surprised and pleased to observe
that he was not so far gone in bigotry as to prefer

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryFrederick J. WhishawCountess Ida → online text (page 12 of 17)