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

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in a pink Japanese kimono. The table was daintily
set and decked with flowers. As at Vera Alexandrovna's
cafe, I again felt myself out of place, and apologized
for my uncouth appearance.

"Oh! Don't excuse yourself," said Elena Ivanovna,
laughing. "Everyone is getting like that nowadays.
How dreadful it is to think of all that is happening!


Have the olden days gone for ever, do you think?
Will these horrid people never be overthrown?"

"You do not appear to have suffered much, Elena
Ivanovna," I remarked.

"No, of course, I must admit our troupe is treated
well," she replied. "Even flowers, as you see, though
you have no idea how horrible it is to have to take a
bouquet from a great hulking sailor who wipes his nose
with his fingers and spits on the floor. The theatre
is just full of them, every night."

"Your health, Pavel Ivanitch," said Zorinsky,
lifting a glass of vodka. "Ah!" he exclaimed with
relish, smacking his lips, "there are places worse than
Bolshevia, I declare."

"You get plenty of vodka?" I asked.

"You get plenty of everything if you keep your
wits about you," said Zorinsky. "Even without join-
ing the Communist Party. I am not a Communist,"
he added (somehow I had not suspected it), "but
still I keep that door open. What I am afraid of is
that the Bolsheviks may begin to make their Com-
munists work. That will be the next step in the revo-
lution unless you Allies arrive and relieve them of
that painful necessity. Your health, Pavel Ivanitch."

The conversation turned on the Great War and
Zorinsky recounted a number of incidents in his
career. He also gave his views of the Russian people
and the revolution. "The Russian peasant," he said,
" is a brute. What he wants is a good hiding, and unless
I'm much mistaken the Communists are going to give it
to him. Otherwise the Communists go under. In my
regiment we used to smash a jaw now and again on
principle. That's the only way to make Russian


peasants fight. Have you heard about the Red Army?
Comrade Trotzky, you see, has already abolished his
Red officers, and is inviting — inviting, if you please —
us, the 'counter-revolutionary Tsarist officer swine,'
to accept posts in his new army. Would you ever be-
lieve it? By God, I've half a mind to join! Trotzky
will order me to flog the peasants to my heart's content.
Under Trotzky, mark my words, I would make a career
in no time."

The dinner was a sumptuous banquet for the Pet-
rograd of the period. There was nothing that suggested
want. Coffee was served in the drawing room, while
Zorinsky kept up an unceasing flow of strange and
cynical but entertaining conversation.

I waited till nearly ten for the call from Zorinsky's
friend with regard to Melnikoff, and then, in view of
my uncertainty as to whether the journalist's house
would still be open, I accepted Zorinsky's invitation
to stay overnight. "There is no reason," he said,
"why you should not come in here whenever you
like. We dine every day at six and you are wel-

Just as I was retiring Zorinsky was called to the
telephone and returned explaining that he would only
be able to begin the investigation of Melnikoff's case
next day. I was shown to the spare bedroom, where I
found everything provided for me. Zorinsky apolo-
gized that he could not offer me a hot bath. "That
rascal dvornik downstairs," he said, referring to the
yard keeper whose duty it was to procure wood for the
occupants, "allowed an extra stock of fuel that I had
my eyes on to be requisitioned for somebody else, but
next week I think I shall be able to get a good supply


from the theatre. Good-night — and don't dream of
No. 2 Gorohovaya!"

The Extraordinary Commission, spoken of with
such abhorrence by Zorinsky, is the most notorious
of all Bolshevist institutions. It is an instrument of
terror and inquisition designed forcibly to uproot all
anti-Bolshevist sentiment through Lenin's dominions.
Its full title is the Extraordinary Commission for the
Suppression of the Counter -Revolution and Specula-
tion, "speculation" being every form of private com-
merce — the bugbear of Communism. The Russian
title of this institution is Tchrezvitchainaya Kommis-
sia, popularly spoken of as the Tchrezviichaika, or
still shorter the Tche-Ka. The headquarters of the
Tche-Ka in Petrograd are situated at No. 2 of the street
named Gorohovaya, the seat of the Prefecture of Po-
lice during the Tsar's regime, so that the popular
mode of appellation of the Prefecture by its address —
"No. 2 Gorohovaya''' — has stuck to the Extraordinary
Commission and will go down as a by-word in Russian

At the head of No. 2 Gorohovaya there sits a soviet,
or council, of some half-dozen revolutionary fanatics
of the most vehement type. With these lies the final
word as to the fate of prisoners. Recommendations
are submitted to this soviet by "Investigators" whose
duty it is to examine the accused, collect the evidence
and report upon it. It is thus in the hands of the
"Investigators" that power over prisoners' lives act-
ually lies, since they are in a position to turn the evi-
dence one way or the other, as they choose.


Investigators vary considerably. There are some
who are sincere and upright, though demoniacal vision-
aries, cold as steel, cruel, unpolluted by thirst for
filthy lucre, who see the dawn of proletarian liberty
only through mists of non-proletarian blood. Such
men (or women) are actuated by malignant longing
for revenge for every wrong, real or imaginary, suffered
in the past. Believing themselves to be called to per-
form a sacred task in exterminating the "counter-
revolution," they can upon occasion be civil and cour-
teous, even chivalrous (though that is rare), but never
impartial. There are other investigators who are
merely corrupt, ready to sacrifice any proletarian
interest for a price, regarding their job purely as a means
of amassing a fortune by the taking of bribes.

Every responsible official of the Extraordinary Com-
mission must be a member of the Communist Party.
The lower staff, however, is composed of hirelings,
frequently of foreign origin, and many of them re-
engaged agents of the Tsarist police. The latter, who
lost their jobs as the result of the revolution which
overthrew the Tsarist autocracy, have been reenlisted
as specialists by the Bolsheviks, and find congenial
occupation in spying, eavesdropping, and hounding
down rebellious or suspected workmen just as they did
when the government was the Tsar's instead of Lenin's.
It is this fact which renders it almost impossible for
the Russian workers to organize a revolt against their
new taskmasters. It is thus that arose the sobriquet
applied to the Red regime of "Tsarism inside out."
The faintest signs of sedition are immediately re-
ported to the Tche-Ka by its secret agents disguised as
workers, the ringleaders are then "eliminated" from the


factory under pretext of being conscripted elsewhere,
and they are frequently never heard of afterward.

The Extraordinary Commission overshadows all
else in Red Russia. No individual is free from its
all-perceiving eye. Even Communists stand in awe
of it, one of its duties being to unearth black sheep
within the Party ranks, and since it never errs on the
side of leniency there have been cases of execution of
true adherents of the Communist creed under suspi-
cion of being black sheep. On the other hand, the
black sheep, being imbued with those very qualities of
guile, trickery, and unscrupulous deceit which make
the Extraordinary Commission so efficient a machine,
generally manage to get off.

One of the most diabolic of the methods copied from
Tsarist days and employed by the Extraordinary Com-
mission against non-Bolsheviks is that known in Russia
as provocation. Provocation consisted formerly in the
deliberate fomentation, by agents who were known as
agents-provocateurs, of revolutionary sedition and plots.
Such movements would attract to themselves ardent
revolutionaries and when a conspiracy had matured and
was about to culminate in some act of terrorism it
would be betrayed at the last moment by the agent-
provocateur, who frequently succeeded in making himself
the most trusted member of the revolutionary group.
Agents-provocateurs were recruited from all classes, but
chiefly from the intelligentsia. Imitating Tsarism in
this as in most of its essentials, the Bolsheviks em-
ploy similar agents to foment counter-revolutionary
conspiracies and they reward munificently a pro-
vocateur who yields to the insatiable Tche-Ka a plenti-
ful crop of "counter-revolutionary" heads.


As under the Tsar, every invention of exquisite vil-
lainy is practised to extract from captives, thus or
otherwise seized, the secret of accomplices or sym-
pathizers. Not without reason was Marsh haunted
with fears that his wife, nerve-racked and doubtless
underfed if fed at all, might be subjected to treatment
that would test her self-control to the extreme. She
did not know where he was, but she knew all his friends
and acquaintances, an exhaustive list of whom would
be insistently demanded. She had already, according
to the Policeman, given confused replies, which were
bound to complicate her case. The inquisition would
become ever more relentless, until at last

On the day following my visit to Zorinsky I appeared
punctually at eleven o'clock at the empty flat with "No.
5" chalked on the back door. It was not far from
Zorinsky's, but I approached it by a circuitous route,
constantly looking round to assure myself I was not be-
ing followed. The filthy yard was as foul and noisome
as ever, vying in stench with the gloomy staircase, and
I met no one. Maria, no longer suspicious, opened the
door in answer to my three knocks. "Peter Ivanitch is
not here yet," she said, "but he should be in any min-
ute." So I sat down to read the Soviet newspapers.

Marsh's three thumps at the back door were not
long in making themselves heard. Maria hurried
along the passage, I heard the lock creak, the door
stiffly tugged open, and then suddenly a little stifled
cry from Maria. I rose quickly. Marsh burst, or
rather tumbled, into the room with his head and face
bound up in a big black shawl. As he laboriously
unwound it I had a vision of Maria in the doorway, her
fist in her mouth, staring at him speechless and terrified.


It was a strange Marsh that emerged from the folds
of the black shawl. The invincible smile struggled
to maintain itself, but his eyes were bleared and wan-
dered aimlessly, and he shook with agitation despite his
efforts to retain self-control.

"My wife " he stammered, half -coherently, drop-
ping into a chair and fumbling feverishly for his
handkerchief. "She was subjected yesterday — seven
hours' cross-examination — uninterruptedly — no food —
not even allowed to sit down — until finally she swooned.
She has said something — I don't know what. I am
afraid " He rose and strode up and down, mum-
bling so that I could scarcely understand, but I caught
the word "indiscretion" — and understood all he wished
to say.

After a few moments he calmed and sat down again.
"The Policeman came home at midnight," he said,
"and told me all about it. I questioned and questioned
again and am sure he is not lying. The Bolsheviks
believe she was implicated in some conspiracy, so they
made her write three autobiographies, and" (he paused)
"they — are all different. Now — she is being compelled
to explain discrepancies, but she can't remember any-
thing and her mind seems to be giving. Meanwhile,
the Bolsheviks are resolved to eradicate, once and for
all, all 'English machinations,' as they call it, in Russia.
They know I've shaved and changed my appearance
and a special detachment of spies is on the hunt for
me, with a big reward offered to the finder."

He paused and swallowed at a gulp the glassful of
tea Maria had placed beside him.

"Look here, old man," he said, suddenly, laying his
hands out flat on the table in front of him, "I am going


to ask you to help me out. The 'Policeman' says
it's worse for her that I should be here than if I go.
So I'm going. Once they know I've fled, the Policeman
says, they will cease plaguing her, and it may be easier
to effect an escape. Tell me, will you take the job
over for me?"

''My dear fellow," I said, "I had already resolved
that I would attempt nothing else until we had safely
got your wife out of prison. And the day she gets out
I will escort her over the frontier myself. I shall have
to go to Finland to report, anyway."

He was going to thank me but I shut him up.

"When will you go?" I asked.

"To-morrow. There are a number of things to be
done. Have you got much money?*'

"Enough for myself, but no reserve."

"I will leave you all I have," he said, "and to-day
I'll go and see a business friend of mine who may be
able to get some more. He is a Jew, but is absolutely

"By the way," I asked, when this matter was decided,
"ever heard of a Captain Zorinsky?"

"Zorinsky? Zorinsky? Xo. Who is he?"

"A fellow who seems to know a lot about you,"
I said. "Says he is a friend of Melnikoff's, though I
never heard Melnikoff mention him. Yesterday he
was particularly anxious to know your present address."

"You didn't tell him?" queried Marsh, nervously.

"What do you take me for?"

"You can tell him day after to-morrow," he laughed.

Marsh went off to his business friend, saying he would
premonish him of my possible visit, and stayed there
all day. I remained at "Xo. 5" and wrote up in


minute handwriting on tracing paper a preliminary
report on the general situation in Petrograd, which I
intended to ask Marsh to take with him. To be pre-
pared for all contingencies I gave the little scroll to
Maria when it was finished and she hid it at the bot-
tom of a pail of ashes.

Next morning Marsh turned up at "No. 5" dressed
in a huge sheepskin coat with a fur collar half engulf-
ing his face. This was the disguise in which he was
going to escape across the frontier. As passport he
had procured the "certificate of identification" of his
coachman, who had come into Petrograd from the
expropriated farm to see Maria. With his face pur-
posely dirtied, and decorated with three days' growth
of reddish beard, a driver's cap that covered his ears,
and a big sack on his back to add a peasant touch to
his get-up, Marsh looked — well, like nothing on earth,
to use the colloquial expression! It was a get-up that
defied description, yet in a crowd of peasants would
not attract particular attention.

Confident that he was doing the right thing by
quitting, Marsh had completely recovered his former
good spirits and joked boisterously as he put a finishing
touch here and there to his disguise. I gave him my
report and folding it flat into a packet about two
inches square he removed one of his top boots and hid
it inside the sole of his sock. "The population of hell
will be increased by several new arrivals before the Bol-
sheviks find that," he said, pulling on his boot again
and slipping a heavy revolver inside his trousers.

Poor Maria was terribly distressed at Marsh's
departure. So was the coachman, who could find
no terms wherein to express his disgust and indig-


nation at the conduct of the elder of the two stable-
boys, who had joined the Bolsheviks, assisted in sack-
ing Marsh's country house and farm, and was now
appointed Commissar in supreme control of the estab-
lishment. The coachman exhausted a luxuriant fund
of expletives in describing how the stable boy now
sprawled in Marsh's easy-chairs, spitting on the floor,
how all the photographs had been smashed to pieces,
and the drawing-room carpets littered with dirt,
cigarette-ends, and rubbish. At all of which Marsh
roared with laughter, much to the perplexity of the
coachman and Maria.

With trembling hands Maria placed a rough meal on
the table, while Marsh repeated to me final details of
the route he was taking and by which I should follow
with his wife. "Fita," he said, mentioning the name
of the Finnish guide on whom he was relying, "lives
a mile from Grusino station. When you get out of
the train walk in the other direction till everybody has
dispersed, then turn back and go by the forest path
straight to his cottage. He will tell you what to do."

At last it was time to start. Marsh and I shook
hands and wished each other good-luck, and I went
out first, so as not to witness the pathetic parting
from his humble friends. I heard him embrace them
both, heard Maria's convulsive sobs — and I hurried
down the stone stairway and out into the street. I
walked rapidly to the street-car terminal in the Mi-
hailovsky Square, and wandered round it till Marsh
appeared. We made no sign of recognition. He jumped
on one of the cars, and I scrambled on to the next.

It was dark by the time we reached the distant
Okhta railway station, a straggling wooden structure


on the outskirts of the town. But standing on the
wooden boards of the rough platform I easily discerned
the massive figure, pushing and scrambling amid a
horde of peasants toward the already over-crowded
coaches. Might is right in Red Russia, as everywhere
else. The Soviet Government has not yet nation-
alized muscle. I watched a huge bulk of sheepskin,
with a dangling and bouncing gray sack, raise itself
by some mysterious process of elevation above the heads
and shoulders of the seething mass around and trans-
plant itself on to the buffers. Thence it rose to the
roof, and finally, assisted by one or two admiring
individuals already ensconced within the coach, it
lowered itself down the side and disappeared through
the black aperture of what had once been a window.
I hung around for half an hour or so, until a series of
prolonged and piercing whistles from the antediluvian-
looking locomotive announced that the driver had that
day condescended to set his engine in motion. There
was a jolt, a series of violent creaks, the loud ejacula-
tions of passengers, a scramble of belated peasants to
hook themselves on to protruding points in the vicinity
of steps, buffers, footboards, etc., and the train with
its load of harassed animality slowly rumbled forward
out of the station.

I stood and watched it pass into the darkness and,
as it vanished, the cold, the gloom, the universal dilapi-
dation seemed to become intensified. I still stood,
listening to the distant rumble of the train, until I
found myself alone upon the platform. Then I turned,
and as 1 slowly retraced my steps into town an aching
sense of emptiness pervaded all around, and the future
seemed nothing but impenetrable night.



I will pass briefly over the days that followed
Marsh's flight. They were concentrated upon efforts
to get news of Mrs. Marsh and Melnikoff. There
were frequent hold-ups in the street: at two points
along the Nevsky Prospect all passengers were stopped
to have their documents and any parcels they were
carrying examined, but a cursory glance at my pass-
port of the Extraordinary Commission sufficed to
satisfy the militiamen's curiosity.

I studied all the soviet literature I had time to de-
vour, attended public meetings, and slept in turn at
the homes of my new acquaintances, making it a
rule, however, never to mention anywhere the secret of
other night-haunts.

The meetings I attended were all Communist meet-
ings, at each of which the same banal propagandist
phraseology was untiringly reeled off. The vulgar
violence of Bolshevist rhetoric and the triumphant
inaccuracy of statement due to the prohibition of criti-
cism soon became wearisome. In vain I sought meetings
for discussion, or where the people's point of view
would be expressed: freedom of speech granted by the
revolution had come to mean freedom for Bolshevist
speech only and prison for any other. Some of the
meetings, however, were interesting, especially when
9. prominent leader such as Trotzky, Zinoviev, or


Lunacharsky spoke, for the unrivalled powers of speech
of a few of the leading Bolsheviks, who possess in a
marked degree "the fatal gift of eloquence," had an
almost irresistible attraction.

During these days also I cultivated the friendship
of the ex-journalist, whom, despite his timidity, I
found to be a man of taste and culture. He had an
extensive library in several languages, and spent his
leisure hours writing (if I remember rightly) a treatise
on philosophy, which, for some reason or other, he was
convinced would be regarded as "counter-revolutionary"
and kept it locked up and hidden under a lot of books
in a closet. I tried to persuade him of the contrary
and urged him even to take his manuscript to the de-
partment of education, in the hope that some one of the
less virulent type there might be impressed with the
work and obtain for him concessions as regards leisure
and rations.

When I visited him the day after Marsh's flight I
found him, still wrapped in his green coat, running
feverishly from stove to stove poking and coaxing the
newly lit fires. He was chuckling with glee at the re-
turn of forgotten warmth and, in truly Russian style,
had lit every stove in his flat and was wasting fuel as
fast as he possibly could.

"What the devil is the use of that?" I said in dis-
gust. "Where the deuce do you think you will get
your next lot of wood from? It doesn't rain wood in
these regions, does it?"

But my sarcasm was lost on Dmitri Konstantino-
vitch, in whose system of economy, economy had no
place. To his intense indignation I opened all the
grates and, dragging out the half -burnt logs and glow-


ing cinders, concentrated them in one big blaze in the
dining-room stove, which also heated his bedroom.

"That's just like an Englishman," he said in un-
speakable disgust as he shuffled round watching me at
work. "You understand," I said, resolutely, "this
and the kitchen are the only stoves that are ever to
be heated."

Of course I found his larder empty and he had no
prospect of food except the scanty and unappetizing
dinner at four o'clock at the local communal eating-
house two doors away. So, the weather being fine,
I took him out to the little private dining room I had
eaten at on the day of my arrival. Here I gave him
the biggest meal that miniature establishment could
provide, and intoxicated by the unaccustomed fumes of
gruel, carrots, and coffee he forgot — and forgave me —
the stoves.

A day or two later the journalist was sufficiently
well to return to work, and taking the spare key of his
flat I let myself in whenever I liked. I took him
severely to task in his household affairs, and as the
result of our concerted labours we saved his untidy
home from degenerating completely into a pigsty.
Here I met some of the people mentioned by Marsh.
The journalist was very loth to invite them, but in a
week or so I had so firm a hold over him that by the
mere hint of not returning any more I could reduce him
to complete submission. If I disappeared for as much
as three days he was overcome with anxiety.

Some people I met embarrassed me not a little by
regarding me as a herald of the approaching Allies and
an earnest of the early triumph of the militarist counter-
revolution. Their attitude resembled at the other


extreme that recently adopted by the Bolshevist
Government toward impartial foreign labour delegates,
who were embarrassingly proclaimed to be forerunners
of the world-revolution.

One evening the journalist greeted me with looks of
deep cunning and mystification. I could see he had
something on his mind he was bursting to say. When
at last we were seated, as usual huddled over the dining-
room stove, he leaned over toward my chair, tapped
me on the knee to draw my very particular attention,
and began.

"Michael Mihailovitch," he said in an undertone,
as though the chairs and table might betray the
secret, "I have a won-der-ful idea!" He struck one
side of his thin nose with his forefinger to indicate the
wondrousness of his idea. "To-day I and some col-
leagues of former days," he went on, his finger still
applied to the side of his nose, "determined to start a
newspaper. Yes, yes, a secret newspaper — to prepare
the way for the Allies!"

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 6 of 22)