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

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large box was placed in the window in such a position as
to be visible from the street. Its absence would be a
danger-signal. The Doctor had suggested this device
as much for his own sake as mine : he had no desire that
I should come stumbling in if he were engaged in an
altercation with a delegation from No. 2 Gorohovaya, and
there was no house in the city that was immune from
these unwelcome visitors. But the box was in the
window, so I was in the flat.

Before operating with the razor I reduced my beard


as far as possible with the scissors. Even this altered
my appearance to a remarkable degree. Then I
brought soap-brush and blade into play — but the less
said of the ensuing painful hour the better ! The Doctor
then assumed the role of hair-dresser. He cut off my
flowing locks, and, though it was hardly necessary, dyed
my hair coal-black with some German dye-stuff he had

Except for one detail, my transformation was now
complete. Cutting open the lapel of the jacket I was
discarding, I extracted a tiny paper packet, and un-
wrapping it, took out the contents — my missing tooth,
carefully preserved for this very emergency. A little
wadding served effectually as a plug. I inserted it in
the gaping aperture in my top row of teeth, and what
had so recently been a diabolic leer became a smile as
seemly (I hope) as that of any other normal individual.

The clean-shaven, short-haired, tidy but indigent-
looking person in eye-glasses, who made his way down
the Doctor's staircase next morning attired in the
Doctor's old clothes, resembled the shaggy -haired, limp-
ing maniac of the previous day about as nearly as he
did the cook who preceded him down the stairs. The
cook was going to engage the house-porter's attention
if the latter presented himself, in order that he might
not notice the exit of a person who had never entered.
So when the cook disappeared into the porter's cave-like
abode just inside the front door, covering with her back
the little glass window through which he or his wife
always peered, and began greeting the pair with enthu-
siastic heartiness, I slipped unnoticed into the street.

In the dilapidated but capacious boots the Doctor
found for me I was able to walk slowly without limping.


But I used a walking-stick, and this added curiously to
my new appearance, which I think may be described as
that of an ailing, underfed "intellectual" of student
type. It is a fact that during these days, when in view
of my lameness I could not move rapidly, I passed un-
molested and untouched out of more than one scuffle
when raiders rounded up "speculators," and crossed
the bridges without so much as being asked for my

It took me several days to get thoroughly accustomed
to my new exterior. I found myself constantly glancing
into mirrors and shop-windows in the street, smiling
with amusement at my own reflection. In the course
of ensuing weeks and months I encountered several
people with whom I had formerly had connections,
and though some of them looked me in the face I was
never recognized.

It was about a week later, when walking along the
river-quay, that I espied to my surprise on the other
side of the road Melnikoff's friend of Viborg days whom
I had hoped to find in Finland — Ivan Sergeievitch. He
was well disguised as a soldier, with worn-out boots and
shabby cap. I followed him in uncertainly, passing and
repassing him two or three times to make sure. But a
scar on his cheek left no further doubt. So, waiting
until he was close to the gate of the garden on the west
side of the "Winter Palace, the wall of which with the
imperial monograms was being removed, I stepped up
behind him.

"Ivan Sergeievitch," I said in a low voice.

He stopped dead, not looking round.

"It is all right," I continued, "step into the garden,
you will recognize me in a minute."


He followed me cautiously at some paces distance
and we sat down on a bench amongst the bushes. In
this little garden former emperors and empresses had
promenaded when occupying the Winter Palace. In
the olden days before the revolution I often used to
wonder what was hidden behind the massive wall and
railings with imperial monograms that surrounded it.
But it was only a plain little enclosure with winding
paths, bushes, and a small fountain.

"My God!" exclaimed Ivan Sergeievitch, in astonish-
ment, when I had convinced him of my bona fide identity.
"Is it possible? No one would recognize you! It is
you I have been looking for."


"Yes. Do you not know that Zorinsky is in Finland? "

Zorinsky again! Though it was only a week, it
seemed ages since I had last crossed the frontier, and the
Zorinsky episode already belonged to the distant past —
when I was somebody and something else. I was sur-
prised how little interest the mention of his name excited
in me. I was already entirely engrossed in a new politi-
cal situation that had arisen.

"Is he?" I replied. "I went to Finland myself re-
cently, partly to see you about that very fellow. I saw
your wife. But nobody seems to know anything about
him, and I have ceased to care."

"You have no notion what a close shave you have
had, Pavel Pavlovitch. I will tell you what I know.
When I heard from my wife that Varia was arrested and
that you were in touch witli Zorinsky, I returned to
Finland and, although I am condemned by the Bolshe-
viks to be shot, set out at once for Petrograd. You see,
Zorinsky "'

Drawn for the Illustrated London News from material supplied by the author.

Night quarters of the "bourgeois"

A Daughter of the Soil


And Ivan Sergeievitch unfolded to me a tale that was
strange indeed. I have forgotten some details of it
but it was roughly as follows:

Zorinsky, under another name, had been an officer
in the old army. He distinguished himself for reckless
bravery at the front and drunkenness in the rear.
During the war he had had some financial losses, became
implicated in attempted embezzlement, and later was
caught cheating at cards. He was invited to resign from
his regiment, but was reinstated after an interval in
view of his military services. He again distinguished
himself in battle, but was finally excluded from the regi-
ment shortly before the revolution, this time on the
ground of misconduct. During 1917 he was known to
have failed in some grandiose deals of a speculative
and doubtful character. He then disappeared for a
time, but in the summer of 1918 was found living in
Petrograd under various names, ostensibly hiding from
the Bolsheviks. Although his business deals were usu-
ally unsuccessful, he appeared always to be in affluent
circumstances. It was this fact, and a certain strange-
ness of manner, that led Ivan Sergeievitch to regard him
with strong suspicion. He had him watched, and estab-
lished beyond all doubt that he was endeavouring to
gain admission to various counter-revolutionary organ-
izations on behalf of the Bolsheviks.

Shortly afterward, Ivan Sergeievitch was arrested
under circumstances that showed that only Zorinsky
could have betrayed him. But he escaped on the very
night that he was to be shot by breaking from his guards
and throwing himself over the parapet of the Neva
into the river. In Finland, whither he fled, he met and
formed a close friendship with Melnikoff, who, after the


Yaroslavl affair and his own escape, had assisted in the
establishment of a system of communication with
Petrograd, occasionally revisiting the city himself.

"Of course I told Melnikoff of Zorinsky," said Ivan
Sergeievitch, "though I could not know that Zorinsky
would track him. But he got the better of us both."

"Then why," I asked, "did Melnikoff associate with

"He never saw him, so far as I know."

"What!" I exclaimed. "But Zorinsky said he knew
him well and always called him 'an old friend'!"

"Zorinsky may have seen Melnikoff, but he never
spoke to him, that I know of. Melnikoff was a friend of
a certain Vera Alexandrovna X., who kept a secret cafe
— you knew it? Ah, if I had known Melnikoff had told
you of it I should have warned you. From other people
who escaped from Petrograd I learned that Zorinsky
frequented the cafe too. He was merely lying in wait
for Melnikoff."

"You mean he deliberately betrayed him?"

"It is evident. Put two and two together. Melni-
koff was a known and much-feared counter-revolution-
ary. Zorinsky was in the service of the Extraordinary
Commission and was well paid, no doubt. He also
betrayed Vera Alexandrovna and her cafe, probably
receiving so much per head. I heard of that from other

"Then why did he not betray me too?" I asked in-

"You gave him money, I suppose?"

I told Ivan Sergeievitch the whole story, how I had
met Zorinsky, his offer to release Melnikoff, the sixty
thousand roubles and other payments "for odd ex-


penses" amounting to about a hundred thousand in all.
I also told him of the valuable and accurate information
Zorinsky had provided me with.

"That is just what he would do," said Ivan Sergeie-
vitch. "He worked for both sides. A hundred thous-
and. I suppose, is all he thought he could get out of
you, so now he has gone to Finland. Something must
have happened to you here, for he wanted to prevent
your returning to Russia and pose as your saviour. Is
it not true that something has happened.'"

I told him of the discovery of the Journalist's flat and
"No. 5." but. unless I had been tracked unnoticed, there
was no especial reason to believe Zorinsky could have
discovered either of these. The betrayal of the name
"Krylenko" was of course easily traceable to him, but
whence had he known the addresses?

And then I remembered that I had never telephoned
to Zorinsky from anywhere except from "No. o" and
the Journalist's, for those were the only places where I
could speak without being overheard. I suggested the
coincidence to Ivan Sergeievitch.

"Aha!" he cried, obviously regarding the evidence
as conclusive. "Of course he enquired for your tele-
phone numbers directly you had spoken ! But he would
not betray you as long as you continued to pay him.
Besides, he doubtless hoped eventually to unearth a
big organization. As for your betrayal, any time would
do, and the reward was always certain. It might be
another hundred thousand for your haunts. And then,
you see, in Finland he would warn you against returning
and get some more out of you for this further great
service. He was furious to find you had just left."

From the windows of the Winter Palace prying eyes


were looking down into the garden. Two figures sit-
ting so long on a cold day in the bushes would begin
to be suspicious. We rose and walked out on to the

Seating ourselves on one of the stone benches set in
the parapet of the river, Ivan Sergeievitch told me many
things that were of the greatest value. An entirely
new set of associations grew out of this conversation.
He also said that Varia had just been released from
prison and that he was going to take her with him across
the frontier that night. He had been unable to find
Stepanovna, but supposed she was staying with friends.
I agreed if ever I heard of her to let him know.

"Will Zorinsky come back to Russia, do you think?"
I asked.

"I have no idea," was the reply; and he added,
again staring at my transformed physiognomy and
laughing, "but you certainly have no cause to fear his
recognizing you now!"

Such was the strange story of Zorinsky as I learnt it
from Ivan Sergeievitch. I never heard it corroborated
except by the Doctor, who didn't know Zorinsky, but I
had no reason to doubt it. It certainly tallied with my
own experiences. And he was only one of several.
As Ivan Sergeievitch observed: "There are not a few
Zorinskys, I fear, and they are the ruin and shame of
our class."

Twice, later, I was reminded acutely of this singular
personage, who, as it transpired, did return to Russia.
The first time was when I learned through acquaintances
of Ivan Sergeievitch that Zorinsky believed me to be
back in Petrograd, and had related to somebody in tones
of admiration that he himself had seen me driving down


the Nevsky Prospect in a carriage and pair in the
company of one of the chief Bolshevist Commissars!

The second time was months later, when I espied him
standing in a doorway, smartly dressed in a blue
"French" and knee-breeches, about to mount a motor-
cycle. I was on the point of descending from a street
car when our eyes met. I stopped and pushed my way
back into the crowd of passengers. Being in the uni-
form of a Red soldier I feared his recognition of me not
by my exterior, but by another peculiar circumstance.
Under the influence of sudden emotion a sort of tele-
pathic communication sometimes takes place without
the medium of words and even regardless of distance. It
has several times happened to me. Rightly or wrongly
I suspected it now. I pushed my way through the car
to the front platform and looking back over the heads
of the passengers, imagined (maybe it was mere imagin-
ation) I saw Zorinsky's eyes also peering over the
passengers' heads toward me.

I did not wait to make sure. The incident occurred
in the Zagorodny Prospect. Passing the Tsarskoselsky
station I jumped off the car while it was still in motion,
stooped beneath its side till it passed, and boarded
another in the opposite direction. At the station I
jumped off, entered the building and sat amongst the
massed herds of peasants and "speculators" till dusk.

Eventually I heard that Zorinsky had been shot by the
Bolsheviks. If so, it was an ironic and fitting close to
his career. Perhaps they discovered him again serving
two or more masters. But the news impressed me but
little, for I had ceased to care whether Zorinsky was
shot or not.




A detailed narrative of my experiences during the
following six months would surpass the dimensions to
which I must limit this book. Some of them I hope to
make the subject of a future story. For I met other
"Stepanovnas," "Marias "and "Journalists," in whom
I came to trust as implicitly as in the old and who
were a very present help in time of trouble. I also
inevitably met with scoundrels, but though No. 2
Gorohovaya again got close upon my track — even closer
than through Zorinsky — and one or two squeaks were
very narrow indeed , still I have survived to tell the tale.

This is partly because the precautions I took to avoid
detection became habitual. Only on one occasion was
I obliged to destroy documents of value, while of the
couriers who, at grave risk, carried communications
back and forth from Finland, only two failed to arrive
and I presume were caught and shot. But the mes-
sages they bore (as indeed any notes I ever made) were
composed in such a manner that they could not possibly
be traced to any individual or address.

I wrote mostly at night, in minute handwriting on
tracing-paper, with a small caoutchouc bag about four
inches in length, weighted with lead, ready at my side.
In case of alarm all my papers could be slipped into
this bag and within thirty seconds be transferred to the
bottom of a tub of washing or the cistern of the water-



closet. In efforts to discover arms or incriminating
documents, I have seen pictures, carpets, and book
shelves removed and everything turned topsy-turvy
by diligent searchers, but it never occurred to anybody
to search through a pail of washing or thrust his hand
into the water-closet cistern.

Through the agency of friends I secured a post as
draftsman at a small factory on the outskirts of the
city. A relative of one of the officials of this place,
whose signature was attached to my papers and who
is well known to the Bolsheviks, called on me recently
in New York. I showed him some notes I had made on
the subject, but he protested that, camouflaged though
my references were, they might still be traced to individ-
uals concerned, most of whom, with their families, are
still in Russia. I therefore suppressed them. For
similar reasons I am still reticent in details concerning
the regiment of the Red army to which I was finally

Learning through military channels at my disposal
that men of my age and industrial status were shortly
to be mobilized and despatched to the eastern front,
where the advance of Kolchak was growing to be a
serious menace, I forestalled the mobilization order by
about a week and applied for admission as a volunteer
in the regiment of an officer acquaintance, stationed a
short distance outside Petrograd. There was some
not unnatural hesitation before I received an answer,
due to the necessity of considering the personality of
the regimental commissar — a strong Communist who
wished to have the regiment despatched to perform its
revolutionary duty against Kolchak's armies. But at
the critical moment this individual was promoted to a


higher divisional post, and the commander succeeded
in getting nominated to his regiment a commissar of
shaky communistic principles, who ultimately devel-
oped anti-Bolshevist sympathies almost as strong as his
own. How my commander, a Tsarist officer, who de-
tested and feared the Communists, was forced to serve
in the Red army I will explain later.

Despite his ill-concealed sympathies, however, this
gentleman won Trotzky's favour in an unexpected and
remarkable manner. Being instructed to impede an
advance of the forces of the "White" general, Yuden-
itch, by the destruction of strategic bridges, he resolved
to blow up the wrong bridge, and, if possible, cut off the
Red retreat and assist the White advance. By sheer
mistake, however, the company he despatched to per-
form the task blew up the right bridge, thus covering a
precipitate Red retreat and effectually checking the
WTiite advance.

For days my commander secretly tore his hair
and wept, his mortification rendered the more acute
by the commendation he was obliged for the sake
of appearances to shower upon his men, whose judg-
ment had apparently been so superior to his own.
His chagrin reached its height when he received an
official communication from army headquarters ap-
plauding the timely exploit, while through the Com-
munist organization he was formally invited to join
the privileged ranks of the Communist Party! In the
view of my commander no affront could have been
more offensive than this unsought Bolshevist honour.
He was utterly at a loss to grasp my point of view
when I told him what to me was obvious, namely,
that no offer could have been more providential and


that he ought to jump at it. Though inside Russia
the approaching White armies were often imagined
to be a band of noble and chivalrous crusaders, certain
information I had received as to the disorganization
prevailing amongst them aroused my misgivings, and
I was very doubtful whether my commander's error
had materially altered the course of events. The
commissar, who did not care one way or the other,
saw the humour of the situation. He, too, urged
the commander to smother his feelings and see the
joke, with the result that the would-be traitor to the
pseudo-proletarian cause became a Communist, and
combining his persuasions with those of the commis-
sar, succeeded in keeping the regiment out of further
action for several weeks. The confidence they had
won made it easy to convince army headquarters
that the regiment was urgently required to suppress
uprisings which were feared in the capital. When
disturbances did break out, however, the quelling
of them was entrusted to troops drafted from the
far south or east, for it was well known that no troops
indigenous to Petrograd or Moscow could be relied
upon to fire on their own population.

I had hitherto evaded military service as long as
possible, fearing that it might impede the conduct of
my intelligence work. The contrary proved to be
the case, and for many reasons I regretted I had not
enlisted earlier. Apart from greater freedom of move-
ment and preference over civilians in application for
lodging, amusement, or travelling tickets, the Red soldier
received rations greatly superior both in quantity and
quality to those of the civilian population. Previous
to this time I had received only half a pound of bread


daily and had had to take my scanty dinner at a filthy
communal eating-house, but as a Red soldier I received,
besides a dinner and other odds and ends not worth
mentioning, a pound and sometimes a pound and a
half of tolerably good black bread, which alone was
sufficient, accustomed as I am to a crude diet, to sub-
sist on with relative comfort.

The commander was a good fellow, nervous and
sadly out of place in "the party," but he soon got used
to it and enjoyed its many privileges. He stood me
in good stead. Repeatedly detailing me off to any
place I wished to go to, on missions he knew were
lengthy (such as the purchase of automobile tires
which were unobtainable, or literature of various kinds)
I was able to devote my main attention as before to
the political and economic situation.

As a Red soldier, I was sent to Moscow and there
consulted with the National Centre, the most promis-
ing of the political organizations whose object was to
work out a programme acceptable to the Russian people
as a whole. On account of its democratic character
this organization was pursued by the Bolshevist
Government with peculiar zeal, and was finally un-
earthed, and its members, of whom many were So-
cialists, shot.* From Moscow also I received regularly
copies of the summaries on the general situation
that were submitted to the Soviet of People's Com-
missars. The questions I was instructed in messages
from abroad to investigate covered the entire field

*The Bolsheviks assert that I lent the National Centre financial assis-
tance. This is unfortunately untrue, for the British Government had fur-
nished me with no funds for such a purpose. I drew the Government's
attention to the existence of the National Centre, but the latter was sup-
pressed by the Reds too early for any action to be taken.


of soviet administration, but I do not plan to deal
with that huge subject here. It is the present and
the inscrutable future that fascinate me rather than
the past. I will speak only of the peasantry, the army,
and "the party." For it is on the ability or inability
of the Communists to control the army that the
stability of the Bolshevist regime in considerable
measure depends, while the future lies in the lap
of that vast inarticulate mass of simple peasant toilers,
so justly termed the Russian Sphinx.



The day I joined my regiment I donned my Red
army uniform, consisting of a khaki shirt, yellow
breeches, putties, and a pair of good boots which I
bought from another soldier (the army at that time
was not issuing boots), and a gray army overcoat.
On my cap I wore the Red army badge — a red star with
a mallet and plough imprinted on it.

This could not be said to be the regular Red army
uniform, though it was as regular as any. Except
for picked troops, smartly apparelled in the best the
army stores could provide, the rank and file of recruits
wore just anything, and often had only bast slippers
in place of boots. There is bitter irony and a world
of significance in the fact that in 1920, when I ob-
served the Red army again from the Polish front, I
found many of the thousands who deserted to the
Poles wearing British uniforms which had been sup-
plied, together with so much war material, to Denikin.

" Tovarishtch Kommandir," I would say on presenting
myself before my commander, "pozvoltye dolozhitj. .
. . Comrade Commander, allow me to report that
the allotted task is executed."

"Good, comrade So-and-so," would be the reply,
"I will hear your report immediately," or: "Hold
yourself in readiness at such and such an hour to-



The terminology of the former army, like the nomen-
clature of many streets in the capitals, has been altered
and the word "commander" substituted for "officer. "
When we were alone I did not say "Comrade Com-
mander" (unless facetiously) but called him "Vasili
Petrovitch," and he addressed me also by Christian

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 15 of 22)