Paul Dukes.

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

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"And who is going to print it?" I asked, fully
impressed with the wondrousness of his idea.

"The Bolshevist Izvestia," he said, "is printed on the
presses of the Novoye Vremya* but all the printer-men
being strongly against the Bolsheviks, we will ask
them to print a leaflet on the sly."

"And who will pay for it?" I asked, amused by his

"Well, here you can help, Michael Mihailovitch,"
said the journalist, rather as though he were conferring
an honour upon me. "You would not refuse, would
you? Last summer the English "

*A prominent pre-revolutionary journal


"Well, apart from technique," I interrupted, "why
are you so certain of the Allies?"

Dmitri Konstantinovitch stared at me.

"But you " he began, then stopped abruptly.

There followed one of those pauses that are more
eloquent than speech.

"I see," I said at last. "Listen, Dmitri Konstan-
tinovitch, I will tell you a story. In the north of your
vast country there is a town called Archangel. I was
there in the summer and I was there again recently.
"When I was there in the summer the entire population
was crying passionately for the Allies to intervene and
save them from a Bolshevist hooligan clique, and when
at last the city was occupied the path of the British
General was strewn with flowers as he stepped ashore.
But when I returned some weeks after the occupation,
did I find jubilation and contentment, do you think?
I am sorry to say I did not. I found strife, intrigue,
and growing bitterness.

"A democratic government was nominally in power
with the venerable revolutionist Tchaikovsky, protege
of the Allies, at its head. Well, one night a group of
officers — Russian officers — summarily arrested this
government established by the Allies, while the allied
military leaders slyly shut one eye so as not to see what
was going on. The hapless democratic ministers were
dragged out of their beds, whisked away by automo-
liilr to a waiting steam launch, and carried off to are-
mote island in the White Sea where they were uncere-
moniously deposited and left! Sounds like an exploit of
Captain Kidd, doesn't it? Only two escaped, because
they happened that evening to be dining with the Ameri-
can Ambassador, and he concealed them in his bedroom.


"Next morning the city was startled by a sensational
announcement posted on the walls. 'By order of the
Russian Command,' it ran, 'the incompetent govern-
ment has been deposed, and the supreme power in North
Russia is henceforth vested exclusively in the hands
of the military Commander of the occupying forces.'

"There was a hell of a hubbub, I can tell you! For
who was to untangle the knot? The allied military had
connived at the kidnapping by Russian plotters of a
Russian government established by order of the Allies!
The diplomats and the military were already at logger-
heads and now they were like fighting-cocks! Finally,
after two days' wrangling, and when all the factories
went on strike, it was decided that the whole proceeding
had been most unseemly and undemocratic. 'Diplo-
macy' triumphed, a cruiser was despatched to pick up
the wretched ministers shivering on the remote White
Sea island, and brought them back (scarcely a triumphal
procession!) to Archangel, where they were restored to
the tarnished dignity of their ministerial pedestals,
and went on trying to pretend to be a government."

The journalist gaped open-mouthed as I told him
this story. "And what is happening there now?" he
asked after a pause. "I am rather afraid to think of
what is happening now," I replied.

"And you mean," he said, slowly, "the Allies are
not "

"I do not know — they may come, and they may
not." I realized I was rudely tearing down a radiant
castle the poor journalist had built in the air.

"But why — Michael Mihailovitch — are you ?"

"Why am I here?" I said, completing his unfinished
question. "Simply because I wanted to be."


Dmitri Konstantinovitch gasped. " You — wanted to
be here?"

"Yes," I replied, smiling involuntarily at his in-
credulity. "I wanted to be here and took the first
chance that offered itself to come." If I had told him
that after mature consideration I had elected to spend
eternity in Gehenna rather than in the felicity of
celestial domains I should not have astonished the in-
credulous journalist more.

"By the way," I said rather cruelly, as a possibility
occurred to me, "don't go and blurt that Archangel
story everywhere, or you'll have to explain how you
heard it."

But he did not heed me. I had utterly demolished
his castle of hope. I felt very sorry as I watched
him. "Maybe they will learn," I added, wishing to
say something kind, "and not repeat mistakes else-

Learn? As I looked into the journalist's tear-
dimmed eyes, how heartily I wished they would !

"While the journalist's home until my arrival was only
on the downward grade toward pigstydom, that of
the Policeman had already long since arrived at the
thirty-third degree. His rooms were in an abominable
condition, and quite unnecessarily so. The sanitary
arrangements in many houses were in a sad state of
dilapidation, but people took urgent measures to main-
tain what cleanliness they could. Not so the Policeman,
who lived in conditions too loathsome for words and
took no steps to check the progressive accumulation of
dust, dirt, and filth.


He kept a Chinese servant, who appeared to be
permanently on strike, and whom he would alternately
caressingly wheedle and tempestuously upbraid, so
far as I could see with equal inefTect. In the nether
regions of the house he occupied there lived, or fre-
quently gathered, a bevy of Chinamen who loafed about
the hall or peeped through gratings up the cellar stair-
ways. There was also a mysterious lady, whom I
never saw, but whom I would hear occasionally as I
mounted the stairs, shrieking in a hysterical catter-
waul, and apparently menacing the little Policeman
with physical assault. Sometimes he would snarl back,
and one such scene d' amour was terminated by a violent
crash of crockery. But the affable female, whom I
somehow figured as big and muscular with wild, floating
hair, a sort of Medusa, had always vanished by the time
I reached the top of the stairs, and the loud door-slam
that coincided with her disappearance was followed by
death-like silence. The little Policeman, whose bearing
was always apologetic, would accost me as though
nothing were amiss, while the insubordinate Chinese
servant, if he condescended to open the front door,
would stand at the foot of the staircase with an enigmati-
cal sneering grin spread over his evil features. It was
altogether an uncanny abode.

Marsh had prepared the way, and the Policeman
received me with profuse demonstrations of regard. I
was fortunately not obliged to accept his proffered
hospitality often, but when I did, it was touching to
note how he would put himself out in the effort to make
me as comfortable as the revolting circumstances
would permit. Despite his despicable character, his
cringing deceitfulness, and mealy-mouthed flattery, he


still possessed human feelings, showed at times a gen-
uine desire to please not merely for the sake of gain,
and was sincerely and passionately fond of his children,
who lived in another house.

He was excessively vain and boastful. In the course
of his career he had accumulated a collection of signed
photographs of notables, and loved to demonstrate
them, reiterating for the fiftieth time how Count Witte
said this, Stolypin said that, and so-and-so said some-
thing else. I used to humour him, listening gravely, and
he interpreted my endurance as ability to venerate the
great ones of the earth, and an appreciation of his
illustrious connections, and was mightily pleased. He
was full of grandiose schemes for the downthrow of
the Red regime, and the least sign of so much as patience
with his suggestions excited his enthusiasm and inspired
his genius for self-praise and loquacity.

"Your predecessors, if you will allow me to say so,"
he launched forth on the occasion of my first visit,
"were pitifully incompetent. Even Mr. Marsh, de-
lightful man though he was, hardly knew his business.
Xow you, Michael Ivanitch, I can see, are a man of
understanding — a man of quite different stamp. I
presented a scheme to Marsh, for instance," and he
bent over confidentially, "for dividing Petrograd into
ten sections, seizing each one in turn, and thus throwing
the Bolsheviks out. It was sure of success, and yet
Mr. Marsh would not hear of it."

"How were you going to do it?"

He seized a sheet of paper and began hastily making
sketches to illustrate Lis wonderful scheme. The capi-
tal was all neatly divided up, the chiefs of each district
were appointed to their respective posts, he had the


whole police force at his beck and call and about half
a dozen regiments.

"Give but the signal," he cried, dramatically, "and
this city of Peter the Great is ours."

"And the supreme commander?" I queried, "who
will be Governor of the liberated city?"

The sanguine little Policeman smiled a trifle con-
fusedly. "Oh, we will find a Governor," he said,
rather sheepishly, hesitant to utter the innermost hopes
of his heart. "Perhaps you, Michael Ivanitch "

But this magnanimous offer was mere formal cour-
tesy. It was plain that I was expected to content
myself with the secondary role of kingmaker.

"Well, if all is so far ready," I said, "why don't you
blow the trumpets and we will watch the walls of
Jericho fall?"

The little man twirled his moustache, smirking
apologetically. "But, Michael Ivanitch," he said,
growing bold and bordering even on familiarity " — er
— funds, don't you know — after all, nowadays, you
know, you get nowhere without — er — money, do you?
Of course, you quite understand, Michael Ivanitch, that
I, personally "

"How much did you tell Marsh it would cost?" I
interrupted, very curious to see what he would say. He
had not expected the question to be put in this way.
Like a clock ticking I could hear his mind calculating
the probability of Marsh's having told me the sum,
and whether he might safely double it in view of my
greater susceptibility.

"I think with 100,000 roubles we might pull it off,"
he replied, tentatively, eyeing me cautiously to see how
I took it. I nodded silently. "Of course, we might


do it for a little less," he added as if by afterthought,
"but then there would be subsequent expenses."

"Well, well," I replied, indulgently, "we will see.
We'll talk about it again sometime."

"There is no time like the present, Michael Ivanitch."

"But there are other things to think of. We will
speak of it again when "

"When ?"

" When you have got Mrs. Marsh out of prison."

The little man appeared completely to shrivel up
when thus dragged brusquely back into the world of
crude reality. He flushed for a moment, it seemed to
me, with anger, but pulled himself together at once and
reassumed his original manner of demonstrative ser-

"At present we have business on hand, Alexei Fom-
itch," I added, "and I wish to talk first about that.
How do matters stand?"

The Policeman said his agents were busily at work,
studying the ground and the possibilities of Mrs.
Marsh's escape. The whole town, he stated, was
being searched for Marsh, and the inability to unearth
him had already given rise to the suspicion that he had
fled. In a day or two the news would be confirmed by
Bolshevist agents in Finland. He foresaw an allevia-
tion of Mrs. Marsh's lot owing to the probable cessa-
tion of cross-examinations. It only remained to see
whether she would be transferred to another cell or
prison, and then plans for escape might be laid.

"Fire ahead," I said in conclusion. "And when
Mrs. Marsh is free — we will perhaps discuss other

"There is no time like the present, Michael Ivanitch,"


repeated the little Policeman, but his voice sounded

Meanwhile, what of MelnikofF?

Zorinsky was all excitement when I called him up.

"How is your brother?" I said over the 'phone.
"Was the accident serious? Is there any hope of re-

"Yes, yes," came the reply. "The doctor says he
fears he will be in hospital some time, but the chances
are he will get over it."

"Where has he been put?"

"He is now in a private sanitarium in Gorohovaya
Street, but we hope he will be removed to some larger
and more comfortable hospital."

"The conditions, I hope, are good?"

"As good as we can arrange for under present-day
circumstances. For the time being he is in a separate
room and on limited diet. But can you not come
round this evening, Pavel Ivanitch?"

"Thank you, I am afraid I have a meeting of our
House Committee to attend, but I could come to-

"Good. Come to-morrow. I have news of Leo,
who is coming to Petrograd."

"My regards to Elena Ivanovna."

"Thanks. Good-bye."


The telephone was an inestimable boon, but one
that had to be employed with extreme caution. From
time to time at moments of panic the Government
would completely stop the telephone service, causing


immense inconvenience and exasperating the popula-
tion whom they were trying to placate. But it was
not in Bolshevist interests to suppress it entirely, the
telephone being an effectual means of detecting "counter-
volutionary" machinations. The lines were closely
watched, a suspicious voice or phrase would lead to a
line being "tapped," the recorded conversations would
be scrutinized for hints of persons or addresses, and
then the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold to
seize books, papers, and documents, and augment the
number of occupants of Gorohorayan cells. So one
either spoke in fluent metaphor or by prearranged
verbal signals camouflaged behind talk of the weather
or food. The "news of Leo," for instance, I understood
at once to mean news of Trotzky, or information re-
garding the Red army.

Zorinsky was enthusiastic when I called next day and
stayed to dinner. "We'll have Melnikoff out in no
time," he exclaimed. "They are holding his case over
for further evidence. He will be taken either to the
Shpalernaya or Deriabinskaya prison, where we shall
be allowed to send him food. Then we'll communicate
by hiding notes in the food and let him know our plan
of escape. Meanwhile, all's well with ourselves, so
come and have a glass of vodka."

I was overjoyed at tin's good news. The conditions
at either of the two prisons he mentioned were much
better than at No. 2 Gor6hovaya, and though trans-
ference to them meant delay in decision and conse-
quent prolongation of imprisonment, the prison regime
was generally regarded as more lenient.

"By the way." said Zorinsky, "it is lucky you have
come to-day. A certain Colonel H. is coming in this


evening. He works in the General Staff and has
interesting news. Trotzky is planning to come up to

Elena Ivanovna was in a bad mood because a lot of
sugar that had been promised to her and her colleagues
had failed to arrive and she had been unable to make
cakes for two days.

"You must excuse the bad dinner to-night, Pavel
Ivanitch," she said. "I had intended to have choco-
late pudding for you, but as it is there will be no
third course. Really, the way we are treated is out-

"Your health, Pavel Ivanitch," said Zorinsky, un-
dismayed by the prospect of no third course. "Here
we have something better even than chocolate pudding,
haven't we?"

He talked on volubly in his usual strain, harping
back again to pre-war days and the pleasures of regi-
mental life. I asked him if he thought most of the
officers were still monarchists.

"I don't know," he said. "I expect you'll find they
are pretty evenly divided. Very few are socialists,
but a lot think themselves republicans. Some, of
course, are monarchists, and many are nothing at all.
As for me," he continued, "when I joined my regiment
I took the oath of allegiance to the Tsar." (At the
mention of the Tsar he stood upright and then sat down
again, a gesture which astonished me, for it really
seemed to be spontaneous and unfeigned.) "But I
consider myself absolved and free to serve whom I
will from the moment the Tsar signed the deed of
abdication. At present I serve nobody. I will not
serve Trotzky, but I will work with him if he offers a


career. That is, if the Allies do not come into Petro-
grad. By the way," he added, checking himself
abruptly and obviously desirous of knowing, "do you
think the Allies really will come — the English, for in-

"I have no idea."

"Strange. Everyone here is sure of it. But that
means nothing, of course. Listen in the queues or
market places. Now Cronstadt has been taken, now
the Allies are in Finland, and so on. Personally, I
believe they will bungle everything. Nobody really
understands Russia, not even we ourselves. Except,
perhaps, Trotzky," he added as an afterthought,
"or the Germans."

"The Germans, you think?"

"Surely. Prussianism is what we want. You see
these fat-faced commissars in leathern jackets with
three or four revolvers in their belts? Or the sailors
with gold watch chains and rings, with their pros-
titutes promenading the Nevsky? Those rascals, I
tell you, will be working inside of a year, working like
hell, because if the Whites get here every commissar
will be hanged, drawn and quartered. Somebody must
work to keep things going. Mark my words, first the
Bolsheviks will make their Communists work, they'll
give them all sorts of privileges and power, and then
they'll make the Communists make the others work.
Forward the whip and knout! The good old times
again! And if you don't like it, kindly step this
way to No. 2 Gorohovaya! Ugh!" he shuddered. "No.
2 Gorohovaya! Here's to you, Pavel Ivanitch!"

Zorinsky drank heavily, but the liquor produced no
visible effect on him.


"By the way," he asked, abruptly, "you haven't
heard anything of Marsh, have you?"

"Oh, yes," I said, "he is in Finland."

"What!" he cried, half-rising from the table. He
was livid.

"In Finland," I repeated, regarding him with aston-
ishment. "He got away the day before yesterday."

"He got away — ha! ha! ha!" Zorinsky dropped
back into his seat. His momentary expression changed
as suddenly as it had appeared, and he burst into up-
roarious laughter. "Do you really mean to say so?
Ha! ha! My God, won't they be wild ! Damned clever !
Don't you know they've been turning the place upside
down to find him? Ha, ha, ha! Now that really is
good news, upon my soul!"

"Why should you be so glad about it?" I inquired.
"You seemed at first to "

"I was astounded." He spoke rapidly and a little
excitedly. "Don't you know Marsh was regarded as
chief of allied organizations and a most dangerous man?
But for some reason they were dead certain of catching
him — dead certain. Haven't they got his wife, or his
mother, or somebody, as hostage?"

"His wife."

"It'll go badly with her," he laughed cruelly.

It was my turn to be startled. "What do you
mean?" I said, striving to appear indifferent.

"They will shoot her."

It was with difficulty that I maintained a tone of
mere casual interest. "Do you really think they will
shoot her?" I said, incredulously.

"Sure to," he replied, emphatically. "What else do
they take hostages for?"


For the rest of the evening I thought of nothing else
but the possibility of Mrs. Marsh being shot. The
Policeman had said the direct opposite, basing his
statement on what he said was inside information. On
the other hand, why on earth should hostages be taken
if they were to be liberated when the culprits had fled?
I could elicit nothing more from Zorinsky except that
in his opinion Mrs. Marsh might be kept in prison a
month or two, but in the long run would most un-
doubtedly be shot.

I listened but idly to the colonel, a pompous gentle-
man with a bushy white beard, who came in after dinner.
Zorinsky told him he might speak freely in my presence
and, sitting bolt upright, he conversed in a rather
ponderous manner on the latest developments. He
appeared to have a high opinion of Zorinsky. He
confirmed the latter's statements regarding radical
changes in the organization of the army, and said
Trotzky was planning to establish a similar new regime
in the Baltic Fleet. I was not nearly so attentive as
I ought to have been, and had to ask the colonel to
repeat it all to me at our next meeting.

Maria was the only person I took into my confidence
as to all my movements. Every morning I banged
at the chalk-marked door. Maria let me in and I told
her how things were going with Mrs. Marsh. Of
course, I always gave her optimistic reports. Then I
would say, "To-night, Maria, I am staying at the
journalist's — you know his address — to-morrow at
Stepanovna's, Friday night at Zorinsky's, and Satur-
day, here. So if anything happens you will know where


it probably occurred. If I disappear, wait a couple
of days, and then get someone over the frontier — per-
haps the coachman will go — and tell the British Con-
sul." Then I would give her my notes, written in
minute handwriting on tracing paper, and she would
hide them for me. Two more Englishmen left by
Marsh's route a few days after his departure and Maria
gave them another small packet to carry, saying it
was a letter from herself to Marsh. So it was, only
on the same sheet as she had scrawled a pencil note to
Marsh I wrote a long message in invisible ink. I
made the ink by — oh, it doesn't matter how.

Zorinsky's reports as to Melnikoff continued to be
favourable. He hinted at a certain investigator who
might have to be bought off, to which I gave eager
assent. He gave me further information on political
matters which proved to be quite accurate, and repel-
lent though his bearing and appearance were, I began
to feel less distrustful of him. It was about a week
later, when I called him up, that he told me "the
doctors had decided his brother was sufficiently well to
leave hospital." Tingling with excitement and expecta-
tion I hurried round.

"The investigator is our man," explained Zorinsky,
"and guarantees to let Melnikoff out within a month."

"How will he do it ?" I inquired.

"That rather depends. He may twist the evidence,
but Melnikoff's is a bad case and there's not much
evidence that isn't damaging. If that's too hard,
he may swap Melnikoff's dossier for somebody else's
and let the error be found out when it's too late. But
he'll manage it all right."

"And it must take a whole month?"


"Melnikoff will be freed about the middle of Janu-
ary. There's no doubt about it. And the investiga-
tor wants 60,000 roubles."

"Sixty thousand roubles! " I gasped. I was appalled
at this unexpected figure. Where should I get the
money from? The rouble was still worth about 40
to the pound, so that this was some £1,500 or $6,000.

"Melnikoff's case is a hopeless one," said Zorinsky,
drily. "No one can let him off and go scot free. The
investigator wants to be guaranteed, for he will have
to get over the frontier the same night, too. But I
advise you to pay only half now, and the rest the day
Melnikoff gets out. There will also be a few odd bribes
to accomplices. Better allow 75,000 or 80,000 roubles
all told."

"I have very little money with me just now," I said,
"but I will try to get you the first 30,000 in two or three

"And by the way," he added, "I forgot to tell you
last time you were here that I have seen Melnikoff's
sister, who is in the direst straits. Elena Ivanovna
and I have sent her a little food, but she also needs
money. We have no money, for we scarcely use it
nowadays, but perhaps you could spare a thousand or
so now and again."

"I will give you some for her when I bring the

"Thank you. She will be grateful. And now, un-
pleasant business over, let's go and have a glass of
vodka. Your health, Pavel Ivanitch."

Rejoicing at the prospect of securing Melnikoff's
release, and burdened at the same time with the prob-
lem of procuring this large sum of money, I rang up next


day the business friend of whom Marsh had spoken,
using a pre-arranged password. Marsh called this

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 7 of 22)