Paul Dukes.

Red dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia online

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a second would doubtless be detected by the first, with
all sorts of undesirable complications and discoveries.
An idea occurred to me.

"Can we not threaten the life of the investigator
if he plays false?" I suggested.

Zorinsky considered. "You mean hire someone
to shoot him? That would cost a lot of money and



132 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

we should be in the hands of our hired assassin as
much as we are now in those of our investigator,
while if he were shot we should lose the last chance
of saving Melnikoff. Besides, the day after we threaten
the investigator's life he will decamp with the first
thirty thousand in his pocket. Pay up, Pavel Ivan-
itch, pay up and take the chance — that's my advice."

Zorinsky picked up his paper and went on reading.

What should I do? Faint though the chance seemed
I resolved to take it, as it was the only one. I told
Zorinsky I would bring him the money on the morrow.

"All right," he said, adding thoughtfully, as he
laid aside the newspaper, "by the way, I think you
were perhaps right about threatening the investigator's
life. Yes. It is not a bad idea. He need not know
we know we are really powerless. We will tell him
he is being tracked and cannot escape us. I will
see what can be done about it. You are right, after
all, Pavel Ivanitch."

Satisfied at having made this suggestion, I set
about to copy the map of the minefields and then re-
tired for the night.

Not to sleep, however. For hours I paced up and
down the soft carpet, recalling every word of the
evening's conversation, and trying to invent a means
of making myself again independent of Zorinsky.

Would Melnikoff be released? The prospects seemed
suddenly to have diminished. Meanwhile, Zorinsky
knew my name, and might, for all I knew, out of
sheer curiosity, be designing to discover my haunts
and acquaintances. I recalled poignantly how I had
been cornered that evening and forced to show him
my passport.



MESHES 133

With this train of thought I took my newly pro-
cured exemption certificate from my pocket and ex-
amined it again. Yes, it certainly was a treasure.
"Incurable heart- trouble " — that meant permanent
exemption. With this and my passport, I considered,
I might with comparative safety even register myself
and take regular rooms somewhere on the outskirts
of the town. However, I resolved I would not do that
as long as I could conveniently live in the centre of
the city, moving about from house to house.

The only thing I did not like about my new "docu-
ment" was its patent newness. I have never yet seen
anybody keep tidy "documents" in Russia, the normal
condition of a passport being the verge of dissolution.
There was no need to reduce my certificate to that
state at once, since it was only two days old, but I
decided that I would at least fold and crumple it as
much as my passport, which was only five days old. I
took the paper and, folding it tightly in four, pressed
the creases firmly between finger and thumb. Then,
laying it on the table, I squeezed the folds under
my thumb-nail, drawing the paper backward and
forward. Finally, the creases looking no longer new,
I began to ruffle the edges.

And then a miracle occurred!

You know, of course, the conundrum: "Why
is paper money preferable to coin?" — the answer
being, "Because when you put it in your pocket you
double it, and when you take it out you find it in
creases." Well, that is what literally did occur with
my exemption certificate! While holding it in my
hands and ruffling the edges, the paper all at once
appeared to move of itself, and, rather like protozoa



134 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

propagating its species, most suddenly and unexpec-
tedly divided, revealing to my astonished eyes not
one exemption certificate — but two.'

Two of the printed sheets had by some means be-
come so closely stuck together that it was only when
the edges were ruffled that they fell apart, and neither
the doctor nor Zorinsky had noted it. Here was the
means of eluding Zorinsky by filling in another paper!
How shall I describe my joy at the unlooked-for dis-
covery! The nervous reaction was so intense that,
much to my own amusement, I found tears streaming
down my cheeks. I laughed and felt like the Count
of Monte Cristo unearthing his treasure — until,
sobering down a little, I recollected that the blank
form was quite useless until I had another passport
to back it up.

That night I thrashed out my position thoroughly
and determined on a line of action. Zorinsky, I
reflected, was a creature whom in ordinary life I
should have been inclined to shun like pest. I record
here only those incidents and conversations which
bear on my story, but when not discussing "business"
he lavished a good deal of gratuitous information
about his private life, particularly of regimental days,
which was revolting. But in the abnormal circum-
stances in which I lived, to "cut" with anybody with
whom I had once formed a close association was very
difficult, and in Zorinsky's case doubly so. Suppose
he saw me in the street afterward, or heard of me
through any of his numerous connections? Pursuing
his "hobby" of contrc-cspionage he would surely not
fail to follow the movements of a star of the first
magnitude like myself. There was no course open



MESHES 135

but to remain on good terms and profit to the full by
the information I obtained from him and the people
I occasionally met at his house — information which
proved to be invariably correct. But he must learn
nothing of my other movements, and in this respect
I felt the newly discovered blank exemption form
would surely be of service. I had only to procure
another passport from somewhere or other.

What was Zorinsky's real attitude toward Melnikoff,
I wondered? How well had they known each other?
If only I had some means of checking — but I knew none
of Melnikoff' s connections in Russia. He had lived at
a hospital. He had spoken of a doctor friend. I had
already twice seen the woman at the lodge to which he
had directed me. I thought hard for a moment.

Yes, good idea ! On the morrow I would resort once
more to Melnikoff' s hospital on The Islands, question
the woman again, and, if possible, seek an interview
with the doctor. Perhaps he could shed light on the
matter. Thus deciding, I threw myself dressed on the
bed and fell asleep.



CHAPTER V

MELNIKOFF

Some three weeks later, on a cold Sunday morning
in January, I sat in the Doctor's study at his small flat
in one of the big houses at the end of the Kamenostrov-
sky Prospect. The news had just arrived that the
German Communist leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa
Luxembourg, had been killed in Berlin, the former in
attempted flight, the latter mobbed by an incensed
crowd. Nobody in Russia had any idea who these two
people were, but their deaths caused consternation in
the Communist camp, for they had been relied upon
to pull off a Red revolution in Germany and thus accele-
rate the wave of Bolshevism westward across Europe.

Little known as Liebknecht and Luxembourg had
been outside Germany until the time of their death, in
the hierarchy of Bolshevist saints they were placed
second only to Karl Marx and Engels, the Moses and
Aaron of the Communist Party. Russians are noted
for their veneration of ikons, representing to them the
memory of saintly lives, but their religious devotion
is equalled by that of the Bolsheviks. Though he does
not cross himself, the true Bolshevik bows down in spirit
to the images of Marx and kindred revolutionists with
an obsequiousness unexcelled by devotees of the church.
The difference in the two creeds lies in this: that whereas
the orthodox Christian venerates saintly lives according
to their degree of unworldliness, individual goodness,

J 36



MELNIKOFF 137

and spiritual sanctity, the Bolsheviks revere their saints
for the vehemence with which they promoted the class
war, fomented discontent, and preached world-wide
revolution.

To what extent humanity suffered as the result of the
decease of the two German Communists, I am unable
to judge, but their loss was regarded by the revolution-
ary leaders as a catastrophe of the first magnitude.
The official press had heavy headlines about it, and
those who read the papers asked one another who the
two individuals could have been. Having studied the
revolutionary movement to some extent, I was better
able to appreciate the mortification of the ruling party,
and was therefore interested in the great public demon-
stration announced for that day in honour of the dead.

My new friend the Doctor was both puzzled and
amused by my attitude.

"I can understand your being here as an intelligence
officer," he said. "After all, your Government has to
have someone to keep them informed, though it must
be unpleasant for you. But why you should take it
into your head to go rushing round to all the silly meet-
ings and demonstrations the way you do is beyond me.
And the stuff you read ! You have only been here three
or four times, but you have left a train of papers and
pamphlets enough to open a propaganda department."

The Doctor, who I learned from the woman at the
lodge was Melnikoff's uncle, was a splendid fellow. As
a matter of fact, he had sided wholeheartedly with the
revolution in March, 1917, and held very radical views,
but he thought more than spoke about them. His
nephew, Melnikoff, on the contrary, together with a
considerable group of officers, had opposed the revolu-



138 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

tion from the outset, but the Doctor had not quarrelled
with them, realizing one cardinal truth the Bolsheviks
appear to fail to grasp, namely, that the criterion where-
by men must ultimately be judged is not politics, but
character.

The Doctor had a young and very intelligent friend
named Shura, who had been a bosom friend of Melni-
koff's. Shura was a law student. He resembled the
Doctor in his radical sympathies but differed from both
him and Melnikoff in that he was given to philosophiz-
ing and probing deeply beneath the surface of things.
Many were the discussions we had together, when,
some weeks later, I came to know Shura well.

"Communist speeches," he used to say, "often sound
like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signi-
fying nothing. But behind the interminable jargon
there lie both an impulse and an ideal. The ideal is a
proletarian millenium, but the impulse is not love of
the worker, but hatred of the bourgeois. The Bolshevik
believes if a perfect proletarian state be forcibly
established by destroying the bourgeoisie, the perfect
proletarian citizen will automatically result! There
will be no crime, no prisons, no need of government.
But by persecuting liberals and denying freedom of
thought the Bolsheviks are driving independent think-
ers into the camp of that very section of society whose
provocative conduct caused Bolshevism ! That is why
I will fight to oust the Bolsheviks," said Shura, "they
are impedimenta in the path of the revolution."

It had been a strange interview when I first called on
the Doctor and announced myself as a friend of Melni-
koff's. He sat bolt upright, smiling affably, and ob-
viously ready for every conceivable contingency. The



MELNIKOFF 139

last thing in the world he was prepared to do was to be-
lieve me. I told him all I could about his nephew and
he evidently thought I was very clever to know so much.
He was polite but categorical. No, sir, he knew nothing
whatsoever of his nephew's movements, it was good of
me to interest myself in his welfare, but he himself had
ceased to be interested. I might possibly be an English-
man, as I said, but he had never heard his nephew men-
tion an Englishman. He had no knowledge nor any
desire for information as to his nephew's past, present,
or future, and if his nephew had engaged in counter'
revolutionary activities it was his own fault. I could
not but admire the placidity and suavity with which he
said all this, and cursed the disguise which made me
look so unlike what I wanted the Doctor to see.

"Do you speak English?" I said at last, getting ex-
asperated.

I detected a twinge — ever so slight. "A little," he
replied.

"Then, damn it all, man," I exclaimed in English,
rising and striking my chest with my fist — rather melo-
dramatically, it must have seemed — "why the devil
can't you see I am an Englishman and not a provocateur?
Melnikoff must have told you something about me.
Except for me he wouldn't have come back here. Didn't
he tell you how we stayed together at Viborg, how he
helped dress me, how he drank all my whisky, how "

The Doctor all at once half rose from his seat. The
urbane, fixed smile that had not left his lips since the
beginning of the interview suddenly burst into a half-
laugh.

"Was it you who gave him the whisky?" he broke in,
in Russian.



140 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

"Of course it was," I replied. "I "



"That settles it," he said, excitedly. "Sit down, I'll
be back in a moment."

He left the room and walked quickly to the front door.
Half suspecting treachery, I peered out into the hall and
feeling for the small revolver I carried, looked round to
see if there were any way of escape in an emergency.
The Doctor opened the front door, stepped on to the
landing, looked carefully up and down the stairs, and,
returning, closed all the other doors in the hall before
reentering the cabinet. He walked over to where I
stood and looked me straight in the face.

"Why on earth didn't you come before?" he ex-
claimed, speaking in a low voice.



We rapidly became friends. Melnikoff's disappear-
ance had been a complete mystery to him, a mystery
which he had no means of solving. He had never heard
of Zorinsky, but names meant nothing. He thought it
strange that so high a price should be demanded for
Melnikoff, and thought I had been unwise to give it all
in advance under any circumstances; but he was none
the less overjoyed to hear of the prospects of his re-
lease.

After every visit to Zorinsky I called on the Doctor
to tell him the latest news. On this particular morning
I had told him how the evening before, in a manner
which I disliked intensely, Zorinsky had shelved the
subject, giving evasive answers. We had passed the
middle of January already, yet apparently there was no
information whatever as to Melnikoff's case.

"There is another thing, too, that disquiets me, Doc-



MELN1K0FF 141

tor," I added. "Zorinsky shows undue curiosity as to
where I go when I am not at his house. He happens to
know the passport on which I am living, and examina-
tion of papers being so frequent, I wish I could get an-
other one. Have you any idea what Melnikoff would
do in such circumstances?"

The Doctor paced up and down the room.

"Would you mind telling me the name?" he asked.

I showed him all my documents, including the exemp-
tion certificate, explaining how I had received them.

"Well, well, your Mr. Zorinsky certainly is a useful
friend to have, I must say," he observed, looking at the
certificate, and wagging his head knowingly. "By the
way, does he cost you much, if one may ask?"

"He himself? Nothing at all, or very little. Be-
sides the sixty thousand for IMelnikoff," I calculated,
"I have given him a few thousand for odd expenses con-
nected with the case; I insist on paying for meals; I
gave his wife an expensive bouquet at New Year with
which she was very pleased; then I have given him
money for the relief of Melnikoff's sister, and "

"For MelnikofT's sister?" ejaculated the Doctor.
"But he hasn't got one!"

Vol tibie nd! No sister — then where did the money
go? I suddenly remembered Zorinsky had cnce asked
if I could give him English money. I told the Doctor.

"Look out, my friend, look out," he said. "Your
friend is certainly a clever and a useful man. But I'm
afraid you will have to go on paying for MelnikofT's
non-existent sister. It would not do for him to know
you had found out. As for your passport, I will ask
Shura. By the way," he added, "it is twelve o'clock.
Will you not be late for your precious demonstration?"



142 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

I hurried to leave. "I will let you know how things
go," I said. "I will be back in two or three days."

The morning was a frosty one with a bitter wind.
No street cars ran on Sundays and I walked into town
to the Palace Square, the great space in front of the
Winter Palace, famous for another January Sunday —
"Bloody Sunday" — thirteen years before. Much had
been made in the press of the present occasion, and it
appeared to be taken for granted that the proletariat
would surge to bear testimony to their grief for the fallen
German Communists. But round the base of a red-
bedizened tribune in the centre of the square there clus-
tered a mere handful of people and two rows of soldiers,
stamping to keep their feet warm. The crowd con-
sisted of the sturdy Communist veterans who organized
the demonstration, and on-lookers who always join any
throng to see whatever is going on.

As usual the proceedings started late, and the small
but patient crowd was beginning to dwindle before the
chief speakers arrived. A group of commonplace-look-
ing individuals, standing on the tribune, lounged and
smoked cigarettes, apparently not knowing exactly
what to do with themselves. I pushed myself forward
to be as near the speakers as possible.

To my surprise I noticed Dmitri, Stepanovna's
nephew, among the soldiers who stood blowing on
their hands and looking miserable. I moved a few steps
away, so that he might not see me. I was afraid he
would make some sign of recognition which might lead
to questions by his comrades, and I had no idea who
they might be. But I was greatly amused at seeing him
at a demonstration of this sort.

At length an automobile dashed up, and amid faint



MELNIKOFF 143

cheers and to the accompaniment of bugles, Zinoviev,
president of the Petrograd Soviet, alighted and mounted
the tribune. Zinoviev, whose real name is Apfelbaum,
is a very important person in Bolshevist Russia. He is
considered one of the greatest orators of the Commun-
ist party, and now occupies the proud position of presi-
dent of the Third International, the institution that is to
effect the world revolution.

It is to his oratorical skill rather than any administra-
tive ability that Zinoviev owes his prominence. His
rhetoric is of a peculiar order. He is unrivalled in his
appeal to the ignorant mob, but, judging by his speeches,
logic is unknown to him, and on no thinking audience
could he produce any impression beyond that of wonder-
ment at his uncommon command of language, ready
though cheap witticisms, and inexhaustible fund of
florid and vulgar invective. Zinoviev is, in fact,
the consummate gutter-demagogue. He is a coward,
shirked office in November, 1917, fearing the instability
of the Bolshevist coup, has since been chief advocate of
all the insaner aspects of Bolshevism, and is always the
first to lose his head and fly into a panic when danger-
clouds appear on any horizon.

Removing his hat Zinoviev approached the rail, and
stood there in his rich fur coat until someone down be-
low gave a signal to cheer. Then he began to speak in
the following strain:

"Comrades! Wherefore are we gathered here to-
day? What mean this tribune and this concourse of
people? Is it to celebrate a triumph of world-revolution,
to hail another conquest over the vicious ogre of
Capitalism? Alas, no! To-day we mourn the two
greatest heroes of our age, murdered deliberately, bru-



144 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

tally, and in cold blocd by blackguard capitalist agents.
The German Government, consisting of the social-
traitor Scheidemann and other supposed Socialists, the
scum and dregs of humanity, have sold themselves like
Judas Iscariot for thirty shekels of silver to the German
bourgeoisie, and at the command of the capitalists or-
dered their paid hirelings foully to murder the two
chosen representatives of the German workers and
peasants ... " and so on.

I never listened to Zinoviev without recalling a meet-
ing in the summer of 1917 when he was the chief speaker.
He had just returned to Russia with a group of other
Bolshevist leaders (very few of whom were present
during the revolution) and held incendiary meetings in
out-of-the-way places. He was thin and slim and
looked the typical Jewish student of any Russian uni-
versity. But after a year's fattening on the Russian
proletariat he had swelled not only politically but physi-
cally, and his full, handsome features and flowing bushy
hair spoke of anything but privation.

Contrary to custom, Zinoviev's speech was short.
It must have been cold, speaking in the chilly wind, and
in any case there were not many people to talk to.

The next speaker was more novel — Herr Otto Pertz,
president of the German Soviet of Petrograd. Why a
German Soviet continued to live and move and have its
being in Petrograd, or what its functions were, nobody
seemed to know. The comings and goings of unsere
deutsche Genossen appeared to be above criticism and
were always a mystery. Herr Otto Pertz was tall,
clean shaven, Germanly tidy, and could not speak
Russian.

"Genossen ! heute feiern wir " he began, and pro-



MELNIKOFF 145

ceeded to laud the memory of the fallen heroes and
to foretell the coming social revolution in Germany.
The dastardly tyrants of Berlin, insolently styling
themselves Socialists, would shortly be overthrown.
Kapitalismus , Imperialismvs, in fact everything but Kom-
munismus, would be demolished. He had information
that within a week or two Spartacus (the German
Bolshevist group), with all Germany behind it, would
successfully seize power in Berlin and join in a triumph-
ant and indissoluble alliance with the Russian Socialist
Federative Soviet Republic.

As Otto Pertz commenced his oration a neatly dressed
little lady of about fifty, who stood at my side near the
foot of the tribune, looked up eagerly at the speaker.
Her eyes shone brightly and her breath came quickly.
Seeing I had noticed her she said timidly, "Spricht er
nicht gut? Sagen Sie dock, spricht er nicht gut?"

To which I of course replied, " Sehr gut," and she
relapsed bashfully into admiration of Otto, murmuring
now and again, "Ach! es ist dock wahr, nicht?" with
which sentiment also I would agree.

The crowd listened patiently, as the Russian crowd
always listens, whoever speaks, and on whatever sub-
ject. The soldiers shivered and wondered what the
speaker was talking about. His speech was not trans-
lated.

But when Otto Pertz ceased there was a commotion
in the throng. For some moments I was at a loss
as to what was in progress, until at last a passage was
made and, borne on valiant Communist shoulders, a
guy was produced, the special attraction of the day.
The effigy, made of pasteboard, represented a ferocious-
looking German with Kaiserlike moustachios, clothed



146 RED DUSK AND THE MORROW

in evening dress, and bearing across its chest in large
letters on cardboard the name of the German Socialist,

SCHEIDEMANN.

At the same time an improvised gallows was thrust
over the balustrade of the tribune. Amid curses, jeers,
and execrations, the moustachioed effigy was raised
aloft. Eager hands attached the dangling loop and
there it hung, most abjectly, most melancholy, en-
cased in evening dress and black trousers with hollow
extremities flapping in the breeze.

The crowd awoke and tittered and even the soldiers
smiled. Dmitri, I could see, was laughing outright.
This was after all worth coming to see. Kerosene was
poured on the dangling Scheidemann and he was set
alight. There were laughter, howls, and fanfares.
Zinoviev, in tragic pose, with uplifted arm and pointed
finger, cried hoarsely, "Thus perish traitors!" The bu-
gles blew. The people, roused with delight, cheered
lustily. Only the wretched Scheidemann was indiffer-
ent to the interest he was arousing, as with stony glare
on his cardboard face he soared aloft amid sparks and
ashes into eternity.

Crowd psychology, I mused as I walked away, has
been an important factor on all public occasions since
the revolution, but appreciated to the full only by the
Bolsheviks. Everyone who was in Russia in 1917 and
who attended political meetings when free speech be-
came a possibility remembers how a speaker would get
up and speak, loudly applauded by the whole audience;
then another would rise and say the precise opposite,
rewarded with equally vociferous approbation; followed


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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 10 of 22)