Paul Dukes.

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

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Petrograd. Without trial, their father was shot one
night in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, and
his body, together with other near relatives of the
murdered Tsar, was thrown into a common and un-
marked grave.

The incident did not impress me as it did some, for
in the revolutionary tornado those of high estate pass
like chaff before the wind. I could not but feel more
for the hundreds less known and less fortunate who
were unable to flee and escape the cruel scythe of
revolution. Still, I was glad the young girls I had
travelled with were no longer in the place called Sov-
depia. How, I wondered, would they learn of the
grim tragedy of the gloomy fortress? Who would
tell them? To whom would fall the bitter lot to say:
"Your father was shot for bearing the name he bore —
shot, not in fair fight, but like a dog, by a gang of
Letts and Chinese hirelings, and his body lies none
knows where?" And I was glad it was not I.



"Why, yes, Maria!" I exclaimed, "the way Mrs.
Marsh bore up was just wonderful to see! Twelve
miles in deep snow, heavy marching through thickets
and scrub, over ditches and dykes, stumps and pit-
falls, with never a word of complaint, just like a picnic!
You'd never have dreamt she was just out of prison."

"Yes, of course," said Maria, proudly, "that would
be just like her. And where is she now, Ivan Hitch?"

"On the way to England, I guess."

I was back again in Red Petrograd after a brief
stay in Finland. That little country was supposed
to be the headquarters of the Russian counter-revo-
lution, which meant that everyone who had a plan
to overthrow the Bolsheviks (and there were almost
as many plans as there were patriots) conspired with
as much noise as possible to push it through to the
detriment of everybody else's. So tongues wagged
fast and viciously, and any old cock-and-bull story
about anybody else was readily believed, circulated,
and shouted abroad. You got it published if you
could, and if you couldn't (the papers, after all, had
to set some limits), then you printed it yourself in the
form of a libellous pamphlet. I felt a good deal
safer in Petrograd, where I was thrown entirely on
my own resources, than in Helsingfors, where the
appearance of a stranger in a cafe or restaurant in



almost anybody's company was sufficient to set the
puppets of a rival faction in commotion, like an ant
nest when a stone is dropped on it.

So I hid, stayed at a room in a private house, bought
my own food or frequented insignificant restaurants,
and was glad when I was given some money for ex-
penses and could return to my friends Maria, Stepa-
novna, the Journalist, and others in Petrograd.
"How did you get back here, Ivan Hitch?"
"Same old way, Maria. Black night. Frozen
river. Deep snow. Everything around — bushes, trees,
meadows — still and gray-blue in the starlight. Fin-
nish patrols kept guard as before — lent me a white
sheet, too, to wrap myself up in. Sort of cloak of
invisibility, like in the fairy tales. So while the
Finns watched through the bushes, I shuffled across
the river, looking like Csesar's ghost."

Maria was fascinated. "And did nobody see you?"
"Nobody, Maria. To make a good story I should
have knocked at the door of the Red patrol and an-
nounced myself as the spirit of His Late Imperial
Majesty, returned to wreak vengeance, shouldn't I?
But I didn't. Instead of that I threw away the
sheet and took a ticket to Petrograd. Very prosaic,
wasn't it? I'll have some more tea, please."

I found a new atmosphere developing in the city
which is proudly entitled the "Metropolis of the World
Revolution." Simultaneously with the increasing
shortage of food and fuel and the growing embitter-
ment of the masses, new tendencies were observable
on the part of the ruling Communist Party. Roughly,
these tendencies might be classed as political or ad-
ministrative, social, and militarist.


Politically, the Communist Party was being driven
in view of popular discontent to tighten its control
by every means on all branches of administrative
function in the country. Thus the people's cooper-
ative societies and trade unions were gradually being
deprived of their liberties and independence and the
"boss" system under Communist bosses was being
introduced. At the same time elections had to be
strictly "controlled," that is, manipulated in such a
way that only Communists got elected.

As an off-set to this, it was evident the Communists
were beginning to realize that political "soundness"
(that is, public confession of the Communist creed)
was a bad substitute for administrative ability. The
premium on ignorance was being replaced by a pre-
mium on intelligence and training, and bourgeois
"specialists" of every calling, subject to rigid Com-
munist control, were being encouraged to resume
their avocations or accept posts with remunerative
pay under the Soviet Government. Only two con-
ditions were required, namely, that the individual
renounce all claim to former property and all partici-
pation in politics. These overtures were made par-
ticularly to members of the liberal professions, doctors,
nurses, matrons, teachers, actors, and artists, but
also to industrial and commercial experts, and even
landlords who were trained agriculturalists. Thus
was established a compromise with the bourgeoisie.

No people in the world are so capable of heroic and
self-sacrificing labour for purely altruistic motives
as a certain type of Russian. I remember in the
summer of 1918, when the persecution of the intel-
ligentsia was at its height, drawing attention in an


official report to the remarkable fact of the large
number of educated Russians who had heroically
stuck to their posts and were struggling in the face
of adversity to save at least something from the gen-
eral wreck. Such individuals might be found at
times even within the ranks of "the party," but they
cared little for the silly politics of Bolshevism and
nothing whatever for the world revolution. Credit
is due to the Communists at least to this extent, that
they realized ultimately the value of such humane
service, and, when they discovered it, encouraged it,
especially if the credit for it accrued to themselves.
The work done by heroic individuals of this type
served largely to counterbalance the psychological
effect of ever-increasing political and industrial slavery,
and it has therefore been denounced as "treacherous"
by some counter-revolutionary emigres, and especially
by those in whose eyes the alleviation of the bitter
lot of the Russian people was a minor detail compared
with the task of restoring themselves to the seat of

The third growing tendency, the militarist, was the
most interesting, and, incidentally, to me the most
embarrassing. The stimulus to build a mighty Red
army for world-revolutionary purposes was accentu-
ated by the pressing need of mobilizing forces to beat
off the counter-revolutionary, or "White," armies
gathering on the outskirts of Russia, particularly in
the south and east. The call for volunteers was
a complete failure from the start, except in so far as
people joined the Red army with the object of getting
bigger rations until being sent to the front, and then
deserting at the first opportunity. So mobilization


orders increased in frequency and stringency and
until I got some settled occupation I had to invent
expedients to keep my passport papers up to date.

My friends the Finnish patrols had furnished me
with a renewed document better worded than the
last and with a later date, so I left the old one in Fin-
land and now keep it as a treasured relic. As a pre-
cautionary measure I changed my name to Joseph
Krylenko. But the time was coming when even
those employees of the Extraordinary Commission
who were not indispensable might be subject to mo-
bilization. The Tsarist police agents, of course, and
Chinese and other foreign hirelings, who eavesdropped
and spied in the factories and public places, were in-
dispensable, but the staff of clerical employees, one
of whom I purported to be, might be cut down. So
I had somehow to get a document showing I was
exempt from military service.

It was Zorinsky who helped me out. I called him
up the day after my return, eager to have news of Mel-
nikoff. He asked me to come round to dinner and
I deliberated with myself whether, having told him I
expected to go to Moscow, I should let him know
I had been to Finland. I decided to avoid the subject
and say nothing at all.

Zorinsky greeted me warmly. So did his wife.
As we seated ourselves at the dinner table I noticed
there was still no lack of comestibles, though Elena
Ivanovna of course complained.

"Your health, Pavel Ivanitch," exclaimed Zo-
rinsky as usual, "glad to see you back. How are
things over there?"

"Over where?" I queried*


"Why, in Finland, of course."

So he knew already! It was a good thing for me
that I had devoted a deal of thought to the enigmati-
cal personality of my companion. I could not make
him out. Personally, I disliked him intensely, yet
he had already been of considerable service and in
any case I needed his assistance to effect Melnikoff's
release. On one occasion he had mentioned, in passing,
that he knew Melnikoff's friend Ivan Sergeievitch,
so it had been my intention to question the latter on the
subject while in Finland, but he was away and I had
seen no one else to ask. The upshot of my delibera-
tions was that I resolved to cultivate Zorinsky's ac-
quaintance for my own ends, but until I knew him
better never to betray any true feelings of surprise,
fear, or satisfaction.

Disconcerted, therefore, as I was by his knowledge
of my movements, I managed to divert my undeniable
confusion into an expression of disgust.

"Rotten," I replied with a good deal of emphasis,
and, incidentally, of truth. "Absolutely rotten. If
people here think Finland is going to do anything
against the Bolsheviks they are mistaken. I never
saw such a mess-up of factions and feuds in my life."

"But is there plenty to eat there?" put in Elena
Ivanovna, this being the sole subject that interested her.

"Oh, yes, there is plenty to eat," and to her delight
and envy I detailed a comprehensive list of delicacies
unobtainable in Russia even by the theatrical world.

"It is a pity you did not let me put you across the
bridge at Bielo'ostrof," observed Zorinsky, referring
to his offer to assist me in getting across the frontier.

"Oh, it was all right," I said. "I had to leave at a


moment's notice. It was a long and difficult walk,
but not unpleasant."

"I could have put you across quite simply," he said,
" — both of you."

"Who, 'both of us'?"

"Why, you and Mrs. Marsh, of course."

Phew! So he knew that, too!

"You seem to know a lot of things," I remarked, as
casually as I could.

"It is my hobby," he replied, with his crooked,
cynical smile. "You are to be congratulated, I must
say, on Mrs. Marsh's escape. It was, I believe, very
neatly executed. You didn't do it yourself, I suppose?"

"No," I said, "and, to tell the truth, I have no idea
how it was done." I was prepared to swear by all
the gods that I knew nothing of the affair.

"Nor have they any idea at No. 2 Gorohovaya," he
said. "At least, so I am told." He appeared not to
attach importance to the matter. "By the way," he
continued a moment later, "I want to warn you against
a fellow I have heard Marsh was in touch with. Alexei —
Alexei — what's his name? — Alexei Fomitch something-
or-other — I've forgotten the surname."

The Policeman!

"Ever met him?"

"Never heard of him," I said, indifferently.

"Look out if you do," said Zorinsky, "he is a Ger-
man spy."

"Any idea where he lives?" I inquired, in the same

"No, he is registered under a pseudonym, of course.
But he doesn't interest me. I chanced to hear of him
the other day and thought I would caution you."


Was it mere coincidence that Zorinsky mentioned the
Policeman? I resolved to venture a query.

"Any connection between Mrs. Marsh and this — er —
German spy?" I asked, casually.

"Not that I know of." For a moment a transitory
flash appeared in his eyes. "You really think Mrs.
Marsh was ignorant of how she escaped?" he added.

"I am positive. She hadn't the faintest notion."

Zorinsky was thoughtful. We changed the subject,
but after a while he approached it again.

"It is impertinent of me to ask questions," he said,
courteously, "but I cannot help being abstractly in-
terested in your chivalrous rescue of Mrs. Marsh. I
scarcely expect you to answer, but I should, indeed,
be interested to know how you learned she was free."

"Why, very simply," I replied. "I met her quite
by chance at a friend's house and offered to escort her
across the frontier."

Zorinsky relapsed, and the subject was not men-
tioned again. Though it was clear he had somehow
established a connection in his mind between the
Policeman's name and that of Mrs. Marsh, my relief
was intense to find him now on the wrong tack and
apparently indifferent to the subject.

As on the occasion of my first visit to this interesting
personage, I became so engrossed in subjects he in-
troduced that I completely forgot Melnikoff, although
the latter had been uppermost in my thoughts since I
successfully landed Mrs. Marsh in Finland. Nor did
the subject recur to mind until Zorinsky himself
broached it.

"Well, I have lots of news for you," he said as we
moved into the drawing room for coffee. "In the first


place, Vera Alexandrovna's cafe is rounded up and she's
under lock and key."

He imparted this information in an indifferent tone.

"Are you not sorry for Vera Alexandra vna?" I said.

"Sorry? Why should one be? She was a nice girl,
but foolish to keep a place like that, with all those
stupid old fogeys babbling aloud like chatterboxes. It
was bound to be found out."

I recalled that this was exactly what I had thought
about the place myself.

"What induced you to frequent it?" I asked.

"Oh, just for company," he replied. "Sometimes
one found someone to talk to. Lucky I was not
there. The Bolsheviks got quite a haul, I am told,
something like twenty people. I just happened to
miss, and should have walked right into the trap
next day had I not chanced to find out just in time."

My misgivings, then, regarding Vera's secret cafe
had been correct, and I was thankful I had fought shy
of the place after my one visit. But I felt very sorry
for poor Vera Alexandra vna. I was still thinking
of her when Zorinsky thrust a big blue sheet of oil
paper into my hands.

"What do you think of that?" he asked.

The paper was a pen-sketch of the Finnish Gulf, but
for some time I could make neither head nor tail
of the geometrical designs which covered it. Only
when I read in the corner the words Fortress of Cron-
stadt, Distribution of Mines, did I realize what the
map really was.

"Plan of the minefields around Cronstadt and in
the Finnish Gulf," explained Zorinsky. The mines
lay in inner and outer fields and the course was shown


which a vessel would have to take to pass through
safely. The plan proved subsequently to be quite

"How did you get hold of it?" I asked, interested
and amused.

"Does it matter?" he said. "There is generally a
way to do these things. That is the original. If you
would like to make a copy of it, you must do so to-night.
It must be returned to its locked drawer in the Ad-
miralty not later than half-past nine to-morrow morn-

A few days later I secured through my regular
admiralty connections whom I met at the Jour-
nalist's confirmation of this distribution of mines.
They could not procure me the map, but they gave
a list of the latitudes and longitudes, which tallied
precisely with those shown on Zorinsky's plan.

While I was still examining the scheme of minefields
my companion produced two further papers and asked
me to glance at them. I found them to be official
certificates of exemption from military service on the
ground of heart trouble, filled up with details, date
of examination (two days previously), signatures of
the officiating doctor, who was known to me by name,
the doctor's assistant, and the proxy of the controlling
commissar. One was filled out in the name of Zorin-
sky. The other was complete — except for the name
of the holder! A close examination and comparison
of the signatures convinced me they were genuine.
This was exactly the certificate I so much needed to
avoid mobilization and I began to think Zorinsky a
genius — an evil genius, perhaps, but still a genius!

"One for each of us," he observed, laconically. "The


doctor is a good friend of mine. I needed one for my-
self, so I thought I might as well get one for you, too.
At the end of the day the doctor told the commissar's
assistant he had promised to examine two individuals
delayed by business half an hour later. There was no
need for the official to wait, he said ; if he did not mind
putting his signature to the empty paper, he assured
him it would be all right. He knew exactly what was
the trouble with the two fellows; they were genuine
cases, but their names had slipped his memory. Of
course, the commissar's assistant might wait if he chose,
but he assured him it was unnecessary. So the com-
missar's assistant signed the papers and departed.
Shortly after, the doctor's assistant did the same. The
doctor waited three quarters of an hour for his two cases.
They did not arrive, and here are the exemption cer-
tificates. Will you fill in your name at once?"

What? My name! I suddenly recollected that I
had never told Zorinsky what surname I was living
under, nor shown him my papers, nor initiated him
into any kind of personal confidence whatsoever. Nor
had my reticence been accidental. At every house I
frequented I was known by a different Christian name
and patronymic (the Russian mode of address), and
I felt intensely reluctant to disclose my assumed sur-
name or show the passport in my possession.

The situation was one of great delicacy, however.
Could I decently refuse to inscribe my name in Zo-
rinsky's presence after the various favours he had shown
me and the assistance he was lending me — especially
by procuring me the very exemption certificate I so
badly needed? Clearly it would be an offence. On
the other hand, I could not invent another name and


thus lose the document, since it would always have
to be shown together with a regular passport. To
gain time for reflection I picked up the certificate to
examine it again.

The longer I thought the clearer I realized that,
genuine though the certificate undoubtedly was, the
plot had been laid deliberately to make me disclose
the name under which I was living! Had it been the
Journalist, or even the Policeman, I should not have
hesitated, certainly not have winced as I did now.
But it was Zorinsky, the clever, cynical, and mysterious
Zorinsky, for whom I suddenly conceived, as I cast
a sidelong glance at him, a most intense and over-
powering repugnance.

Zorinsky caught my sidelong glance. He was lolling
in a rocking chair, with a bland expression on his mis-
formed face as he swung forward and backward, intent
on his nails. He looked up, and as our eyes met for
the merest instant I saw he had not failed to note my

I dropped into the desk chair and seized a pen.

"Certainly," I said, "I will inscribe my name at
once. This is, indeed, a godsend."

Zorinsky rose and stood at my side. "You must
imitate the writing," he said. "I am sorry I am not
a draftsman to assist you."

I substituted a pencil for the pen and began to draw
my name in outline, copying letters from the hand-
writing on the certificate. I rapidly detected the es-
sentials of the handwriting, and Zorinsky applauded
admiringly as I traced the words — Joseph Krylenko.
Vs'hvn they were done I finished them off in ink and
laid down the pen, very satisfied.


"Occupation?" queried my companion, as quietly
as if he were asking the hour.

Occupation! A revolver-shot at my ear could not
have startled me more than this simple but completely
unexpected query! The two blank lines I took to be
left for the name only, but, locking closer, I saw that
the second was, indeed, intended for the holder's busi-
ness or occupation. The word zaniatia (occupation)
was not printed in full, but abbreviated — zan., while
these three letters were concealed by the scrawling
handwriting of the line below, denoting the age
" thirty, " written out in full.

I managed somehow not to jump out of my
seat. "Is it. essential?" I asked. "I have no occu-

"Then you must invent one," he replied. "You
must have some sort of passport with you. What
do you show the guards in the street? Copy what-
ever you have from that."

Cornered! I had put my foot in it nicely. Zo-
rinsky was inquisitive for some reason or other to
learn how I was living and under what name, and had
succeeded effectually in discovering part at least of
what he wanted to know. There was nothing for it.
I reluctantly drew my passport of the Extraordinary
Commission from my pocket in order that I might
copy the exact wording.

"May I see?" asked my companion, picking up the
paper. I scrutinized his face as he slowly perused it.
An amused smile flickered round his crooked mouth,
one end of which jutted up into his cheek. "A very
nice passport, indeed," he said, finally, looking with
peculiar care at the signatures. "It will be a long


time before you land in the cells of No. 2 Gorohovaya
if you continue like this."

He turned the paper over. Fortunately the regu-
lation had not yet been published rendering all "docu-
ments of identification" invalid unless stamped by one's
house committee, showing the full address. So there
was nothing on the back.

"You are a pupil of Melnikoff, that is clear," he
said, laying the paper down on the desk. "By the
way, I have something to tell you about Melnikoff.
But finish your writing first."

I soon inscribed my occupation of clerk in an office of
the Extraordinary Commission, adding also "six" to
the age to conform with my other papers. As I
traced the letters I tried to sum up the situation.
Melnikoff, I hoped, would now soon be free, but mis-
givings began to arise regarding my own position,
which I had a disquieting suspicion had in some way
become jeopardized as a result of the disclosures I
had had to make that evening to Zorinsky.

When I had finished I folded the exemption certifi-
cate and put it with my passport in my pocket.

"Well, what is the news of Melnikoff?" I said.

Zorinsky was engrossed in Pravda, the official press
organ of the Communist Party. "I beg your pardon?
Oh, yes — Melnikoff. I have no doubt he will be
released, but the investigator wants the whole G0,000
roubles first."

"That is strange," I observed, surprised. "You
told me he would only want the second half after
Melnikoff's release."

"True. But I suppose now he fears he won't have
time to get it, since he also will have to quit."




"And meanwhile what guarantee have I — have
we — that the investigator will fulfill his pledge?"

Zorinsky looked indifferently over the top of his

"Guarantee? None," he replied, in his usual la-
conic manner.

"Then w T hy the devil should I throw away another
30,000 roubles on the off-chance "

"You needn't if you don't want to," he put in,
in the same tone.

"Are you not interested in the subject?" I said,
secretly indignant at his manner.

"Of course I am. But what is the use of getting
on one's hind legs about it? The investigator wants
his money in advance. Without it he will certainly
risk nothing. With it, he may, and there's an end of
it. If I were you I would pay up, if you want Melnikoff
let out. What is the good of losing your first 30,000
for nothing? You won't get that back, anyway."

I thought for a moment. It seemed to me highly
improbable that a rascal investigator, having got
his money, would deliberately elect to put his neck
in a noose to save someone he didn't care two pins
about. Was there no other means of effecting the
escape? I thought of the Policeman. But with
inquiries being made along one line, inquiries along

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 9 of 22)