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The Continental Classics, Volume XVIII., Mystery Tales by Various

Part 4 out of 8

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venture to point out to your worship, he once boasted at the public
house that he would kill the master! It happened on account of
Aquilina, the woman, you know. He was making up to a soldier's widow.
She pleased the master; the master made friends with her himself, and
Nicholas--naturally, he was mad! He is rolling about drunk in the
kitchen now. He is crying, and telling lies, saying he is sorry for
the master----"

The examining magistrate ordered Nicholas to be brought. Nicholas, a
lanky young fellow, with a long, freckled nose, narrow-chested, and
wearing an old jacket of his master's, entered Psyekoff's room, and
bowed low before the magistrate. His face was sleepy and tear-stained.
He was tipsy and could hardly keep his feet.

"Where is your master?" Chubikoff asked him.

"Murdered! your worship!"

As he said this, Nicholas blinked and began to weep.

"We know he was murdered. But where is he now? Where is his body?"

"They say he was dragged out of the window and buried in the garden!"

"Hum! The results of the investigation are known in the kitchen
already!--That's bad! Where were you, my good fellow, the night the
master was murdered? Saturday night, that is."

Nicholas raised his head, stretched his neck, and began to think.

"I don't know, your worship," he said. "I was drunk and don't

"An alibi!" whispered Dukovski, smiling, and rubbing his hands.

"So-o! And why is there blood under the master's window?"

Nicholas jerked his head up and considered.

"Hurry up!" said the Captain of Police.

"Right away! That blood doesn't amount to anything, your worship! I
was cutting a chicken's throat. I was doing it quite simply, in the
usual way, when all of a sudden it broke away and started to run. That
is where the blood came from."

Ephraim declared that Nicholas did kill a chicken every evening, and
always in some new place, but that nobody ever heard of a half-killed
chicken running about the garden, though of course it wasn't

"An alibi," sneered Dukovski; "and what an asinine alibi!"

"Did you know Aquilina?"

"Yes, your worship, I know her."

"And the master cut you out with her?"

"Not at all. _He_ cut me out--Mr. Psyekoff there, Ivan Mikhailovitch;
and the master cut Ivan Mikhailovitch out. That is how it was."

Psyekoff grew confused and began to scratch his left eye. Dukovski
looked at him attentively, noted his confusion, and started. He
noticed that the director had dark blue trousers, which he had not
observed before. The trousers reminded him of the dark blue threads
found on the burdock. Chubikoff in his turn glanced suspiciously at

"Go!" he said to Nicholas. "And now permit me to put a question to
you, Mr. Psyekoff. Of course you were here last Saturday evening?"

"Yes! I had supper with Marcus Ivanovitch about ten o'clock."

"And afterwards?"

"Afterwards--afterwards--Really, I do not remember," stammered
Psyekoff. "I had a good deal to drink at supper. I don't remember when
or where I went to sleep. Why are you all looking at me like that, as
if I was the murderer?"

"Where were you when you woke up?"

"I was in the servants' kitchen, lying behind the stove! They can all
confirm it. How I got behind the stove I don't know----"

"Do not get agitated. Did you know Aquilina?"

"There's nothing extraordinary about that----"

"She first liked you and then preferred Klausoff?"

"Yes. Ephraim, give us some more mushrooms! Do you want some more tea,
Eugraph Kuzmitch?"

A heavy, oppressive silence began and lasted fully five minutes.
Dukoyski silently kept his piercing eyes fixed on Psyekoff's pale
face. The silence was finally broken by the examining magistrate:

"We must go to the house and talk with Maria Ivanovna, the sister of
the deceased. Perhaps she may be able to supply some clews."

Chubikoff and his assistant expressed their thanks for the breakfast,
and went toward the house. They found Klausoff's sister, Maria
Ivanovna, an old maid of forty-five, at prayer before the big case of
family icons. When she saw the portfolios in her guests' hands, and
their official caps, she grew pale.

"Let me begin by apologizing for disturbing, so to speak, your
devotions," began the gallant Chubikoff, bowing and scraping. "We have
come to you with a request. Of course, you have heard already. There
is a suspicion that your dear brother, in some way or other, has been
murdered. The will of God, you know. No one can escape death, neither
czar nor plowman. Could you not help us with some clew, some

"Oh, don't ask me!" said Maria Ivanovna, growing still paler, and
covering her face with her hands. "I can tell you nothing. Nothing! I
beg you! I know nothing--What can I do? Oh, no! no!--not a word about
my brother! If I die, I won't say anything!"

Maria Ivanovna began to weep, and left the room. The investigators
looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and beat a retreat.

"Confound the woman!" scolded Dukovski, going out of the house. "It is
clear she knows something, and is concealing it! And the chambermaid
has a queer expression too! Wait, you wretches! We'll ferret it all

In the evening Chubikoff and his deputy, lit on their road by the pale
moon, wended their way homeward. They sat in their carriage and
thought over the results of the day. Both were tired and kept silent.
Chubikoff was always unwilling to talk while traveling, and the
talkative Dukovski remained silent, to fall in with the elder man's
humor. But at the end of their journey the deputy could hold in no
longer, and said:

"It is quite certain," he said, "that Nicholas had something to do
with the matter. _Non dubitandum est!_ You can see by his face what
sort of a case he is! His alibi betrays him, body and bones. But it is
also certain that he did not set the thing going. He was only the
stupid hired tool. You agree? And the humble Psyekoff was not without
some slight share in the matter. His dark blue breeches, his
agitation, his lying behind the stove in terror after the murder, his
alibi and--Aquilina----"

"'Grind away, Emilian; it's your week!' So, according to you, whoever
knew Aquilina is the murderer! Hot-head! You ought to be sucking a
bottle, and not handling affairs! You were one of Aquilina's admirers
yourself--does it follow that you are implicated too?"

"Aquilina was cook in your house for a month. I am saying nothing
about that! The night before that Saturday I was playing cards with
you, and saw you, otherwise I should be after you too! It isn't the
woman that matters, old chap! It is the mean, nasty, low spirit of
jealousy that matters. The retiring young man was not pleased when
they got the better of him, you see! His vanity, don't you see? He
wanted revenge. Then, those thick lips of his suggest passion. So
there you have it: wounded self-love and passion. That is quite enough
motive for a murder. We have two of them in our hands; but who is the
third? Nicholas and Psyekoff held him, but who smothered him? Psyekoff
is shy, timid, an all-round coward. And Nicholas would not know how to
smother with a pillow. His sort use an ax or a club. Some third person
did the smothering; but who was it?"

Dukovski crammed his hat down over his eyes and pondered. He remained
silent until the carriage rolled up to the magistrate's door.

"Eureka!" he said, entering the little house and throwing off his
overcoat. "Eureka, Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch! The only thing I can't
understand is, how it did not occur to me sooner! Do you know who the
third person was?"

"Oh, for goodness sake, shut up! There is supper! Sit down to your
evening meal!"

The magistrate and Dukovski sat down to supper. Dukovski poured
himself out a glass of vodka, rose, drew himself up, and said, with
sparkling eyes:

"Well, learn that the third person, who acted in concert with that
scoundrel Psyekoff, and did the smothering, was a woman! Yes-s! I
mean--the murdered man's sister, Maria Ivanovna!"

Chubikoff choked over his vodka, and fixed his eyes on Dukovski.

"You aren't--what's-its-name? Your head isn't what-do-you-call-it? You
haven't a pain in it?"

"I am perfectly well! Very well, let us say that I am crazy; but how
do you explain her confusion when we appeared? How do you explain her
unwillingness to give us any information? Let us admit that these are
trifles. Very well! All right! But remember their relations. She
detested her brother. She never forgave him for living apart from his
wife. She is of the Old Faith, while in her eyes he is a godless
profligate. There is where the germ of her hate was hatched. They say
he succeeded in making her believe that he was an angel of Satan. He
even went in for spiritualism in her presence!"

"Well, what of that?"

"You don't understand? She, as a member of the Old Faith, murdered him
through fanaticism. It was not only that she was putting to death a
weed, a profligate--she was freeing the world of an antichrist!--and
there, in her opinion, was her service, her religious achievement! Oh,
you don't know those old maids of the Old Faith. Read Dostoyevsky! And
what does Lyeskoff say about them, or Petcherski? It was she, and
nobody else, even if you cut me open. She smothered him! O treacherous
woman! wasn't that the reason why she was kneeling before the icons,
when we came in, just to take our attention away? 'Let me kneel down
and pray,' she said to herself, 'and they will think I am tranquil and
did not expect them!' That is the plan of all novices in crime,
Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch, old pal! My dear old man, won't you intrust
this business to me? Let me personally bring it through! Friend, I
began it and I will finish it!"

Chubikoff shook his head and frowned.

"We know how to manage difficult matters ourselves," he said; "and
your business is not to push yourself in where you don't belong. Write
from dictation when you are dictated to; that is your job!"

Dukovski flared up, banged the door, and disappeared.

"Clever rascal!" muttered Chubikoff, glancing after him. "Awfully
clever! But too much of a hothead. I must buy him a cigar case at the
fair as a present."

The next day, early in the morning, a young man with a big head and a
pursed-up mouth, who came from Klausoff's place, was introduced to the
magistrate's office. He said he was the shepherd Daniel, and brought a
very interesting piece of information.

"I was a bit drunk," he said. "I was with my pal till midnight. On my
way home, as I was drunk, I went into the river for a bath. I was
taking a bath, when I looked up. Two men were walking along the dam,
carrying something black. 'Shoo!' I cried at them. They got scared,
and went off like the wind toward Makareff's cabbage garden. Strike me
dead, if they weren't carrying away the master!"

That same day, toward evening, Psyekoff and Nicholas were arrested and
brought under guard to the district town. In the town they were
committed to the cells of the prison.


A fortnight passed.

It was morning. The magistrate Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch was sitting in
his office before a green table, turning over the papers of the
"Klausoff case"; Dukovski was striding restlessly up and down, like a
wolf in a cage.

"You are convinced of the guilt of Nicholas and Psyekoff," he said,
nervously plucking at his young beard. "Why will you not believe in
the guilt of Maria Ivanovna? Are there not proofs enough for you?"

"I don't say I am not convinced. I am convinced, but somehow I don't
believe it! There are no real proofs, but just a kind of
philosophizing--fanaticism, this and that----"

"You can't do without an ax and bloodstained sheets. Those jurists!
Very well, I'll prove it to you! You will stop sneering at the
psychological side of the affair! To Siberia with your Maria Ivanovna!
I will prove it! If philosophy is not enough for you, I have something
substantial for you. It will show you how correct my philosophy is.
Just give me permission----"

"What are you going on about?"

"About the safety match! Have you forgotten it? I haven't! I am going
to find out who struck it in the murdered man's room. It was not
Nicholas that struck it; it was not Psyekoff, for neither of them had
any matches when they were examined; it was the third person, Maria
Ivanovna. I will prove it to you. Just give me permission to go
through the district to find out."

"That's enough! Sit down. Let us go on with the examination."

Dukovski sat down at a little table, and plunged his long nose in a
bundle of papers.

"Bring in Nicholas Tetekhoff!" cried the examining magistrate.

They brought Nicholas in. Nicholas was pale and thin as a rail. He was

"Tetekhoff!" began Chubikoff. "In 1879 you were tried in the Court of
the First Division, convicted of theft, and sentenced to imprisonment.
In 1882 you were tried a second time for theft, and were again
imprisoned. We know all----"

Astonishment was depicted on Nicholas's face. The examining
magistrate's omniscience startled him. But soon his expression of
astonishment changed to extreme indignation. He began to cry and
requested permission to go and wash his face and quiet down. They led
him away.

"Bring in Psyekoff!" ordered the examining magistrate.

They brought in Psyekoff. The young man had changed greatly during the
last few days. He had grown thin and pale, and looked haggard. His
eyes had an apathetic expression.

"Sit down, Psyekoff," said Chubikoff. "I hope that to-day you are
going to be reasonable, and will not tell lies, as you did before. All
these days you have denied that you had anything to do with the murder
of Klausoff, in spite of all the proofs that testify against you. That
is foolish. Confession will lighten your guilt. This is the last time
I am going to talk to you. If you do not confess to-day, to-morrow it
will be too late. Come, tell me all----"

"I know nothing about it. I know nothing about your proofs," answered
Psyekoff, almost inaudibly.

"It's no use! Well, let me relate to you how the matter took place. On
Saturday evening you were sitting in Klausoff's sleeping room, and
drinking vodka and beer with him." (Dukovski fixed his eyes on
Psyekoff's face, and kept them there all through the examination.)
"Nicholas was waiting on you. At one o'clock, Marcus Ivanovitch
announced his intention of going to bed. He always went to bed at one
o'clock. When he was taking off his boots, and was giving you
directions about details of management, you and Nicholas, at a given
signal, seized your drunken master and threw him on the bed. One of
you sat on his legs, the other on his head. Then a third person came
in from the passage--a woman in a black dress, whom you know well, and
who had previously arranged with you as to her share in your criminal
deed. She seized a pillow and began to smother him. While the struggle
was going on the candle went out. The woman took a box of safety
matches from her pocket, and lit the candle. Was it not so? I see by
your face that I am speaking the truth. But to go on. After you had
smothered him, and saw that he had ceased breathing, you and Nicholas
pulled him out through the window and laid him down near the burdock.
Fearing that he might come round again, you struck him with something
sharp. Then you carried him away, and laid him down under a lilac bush
for a short time. After resting awhile and considering, you carried
him across the fence. Then you entered the road. After that comes the
dam. Near the dam, a peasant frightened you. Well, what is the matter
with you?"

"I am suffocating!" replied Psyekoff. "Very well--have it so. Only let
me go out, please!"

They led Psyekoff away.

"At last! He has confessed!" cried Chubikoff, stretching himself
luxuriously. "He has betrayed himself! And didn't I get round him
cleverly! Regularly caught him napping----"

"And he doesn't deny the woman in the black dress!" exulted Dukovski.
"But all the same, that safety match is tormenting me frightfully. I
can't stand it any longer. Good-by! I am off!"

Dukovski put on his cap and drove off. Chubikoff began to examine
Aquilina. Aquilina declared that she knew nothing whatever about it.

At six that evening Dukovski returned. He was more agitated than he
had ever been before. His hands trembled so that he could not even
unbutton his greatcoat. His cheeks glowed. It was clear that he did
not come empty handed.

"_Veni, vidi, vici!_" he cried, rushing into Chubikoff's room, and
falling into an armchair. "I swear to you on my honor, I begin to
believe that I am a genius! Listen, devil take us all! It is funny,
and it is sad. We have caught three already--isn't that so? Well, I
have found the fourth, and a woman at that. You will never believe who
it is! But listen. I went to Klausoff's village, and began to make a
spiral round it. I visited all the little shops, public houses, dram
shops on the road, everywhere asking for safety matches. Everywhere
they said they hadn't any. I made a wide round. Twenty times I lost
faith, and twenty times I got it back again. I knocked about the whole
day, and only an hour ago I got on the track. Three versts from here.
They gave me a packet of ten boxes. One box was missing. Immediately:
'Who bought the other box?' 'Such-a-one! She was pleased with them!'
Old man! Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch! See what a fellow who was expelled
from the seminary and who has read Gaboriau can do! From to-day on I
begin to respect myself! Oof! Well, come!"

"Come where?"

"To her, to number four! We must hurry, otherwise--otherwise I'll
burst with impatience! Do you know who she is? You'll never guess!
Olga Petrovna, Marcus Ivanovitch's wife--his own wife--that's who it
is! She is the person who bought the matchbox!"

"You--you--you are out of your mind!"

"It's quite simple! To begin with, she smokes. Secondly, she was head
and ears in love with Klausoff, even after he refused to live in the
same house with her, because she was always scolding his head off.
Why, they say she used to beat him because she loved him so much. And
then he positively refused to stay in the same house. Love turned
sour. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' But come along! Quick,
or it will be dark. Come!"

"I am not yet sufficiently crazy to go and disturb a respectable
honorable woman in the middle of the night for a crazy boy!"

"Respectable, honorable! Do honorable women murder their husbands?
After that you are a rag, and not an examining magistrate! I never
ventured to call you names before, but now you compel me to. Rag!
Dressing-gown!--Dear Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch, do come, I beg of

The magistrate made a deprecating motion with his hand.

"I beg of you! I ask, not for myself, but in the interests of justice.
I beg you! I implore you! Do what I ask you to, just this once!"

Dukovski went down on his knees.

"Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch! Be kind! Call me a blackguard, a
ne'er-do-weel, if I am mistaken about this woman. You see what an
affair it is. What a case it is. A romance! A woman murdering her own
husband for love! The fame of it will go all over Russia. They will
make you investigator in all important cases. Understand, O foolish
old man!"

The magistrate frowned, and undecidedly stretched his hand toward his

"Oh, the devil take you!" he said. "Let us go!"

It was dark when the magistrate's carriage rolled up to the porch of
the old country house in which Olga Petrovna had taken refuge with her

"What pigs we are," said Chubikoff, taking hold of the bell, "to
disturb a poor woman like this!"

"It's all right! It's all right! Don't get frightened! We can say that
we have broken a spring."

Chubikoff and Dukovski were met at the threshold by a tall buxom woman
of three and twenty, with pitch-black brows and juicy red lips. It was
Olga Petrovna herself, apparently not the least distressed by the
recent tragedy.

"Oh, what a pleasant surprise!" she said, smiling broadly. "You are
just in time for supper. Kuzma Petrovitch is not at home. He is
visiting the priest, and has stayed late. But we'll get on without
him! Be seated. You have come from the examination?"

"Yes. We broke a spring, you know," began Chubikoff, entering the
sitting room and sinking into an armchair.

"Take her unawares--at once!" whispered Dukovski; "take her unawares!"

"A spring--hum--yes--so we came in."

"Take her unawares, I tell you! She will guess what the matter is if
you drag things out like that."

"Well, do it yourself as you want. But let me get out of it," muttered
Chubikoff, rising and going to the window.

"Yes, a spring," began Dukovski, going close to Olga Petrovna and
wrinkling his long nose. "We did not drive over here--to take supper
with you or--to see Kuzma Petrovitch. We came here to ask you,
respected madam, where Marcus Ivanovitch is, whom you murdered!"

"What? Marcus Ivanovitch murdered?" stammered Olga Petrovna, and her
broad face suddenly and instantaneously flushed bright scarlet. "I

"I ask you in the name of the law! Where is Klausoff? We know all!"

"Who told you?" Olga Petrovna asked in a low voice, unable to endure
Dukovski's glance.

"Be so good as to show us where he is!"

"But how did you find out? Who told you?"

"We know all! I demand it in the name of the law!"

The examining magistrate, emboldened by her confusion, came forward
and said:

"Show us, and we will go away. Otherwise, we----"

"What do you want with him?"

"Madam, what is the use of these questions? We ask you to show us! You
tremble, you are agitated. Yes, he has been murdered, and, if you must
have it, murdered by you! Your accomplices have betrayed you!"

Olga Petrovna grew pale.

"Come!" she said in a low voice, wringing her hands. "I have
him--hid--in the bath house! Only for heaven's sake, do not tell Kuzma
Petrovitch. I beg and implore you! He will never forgive me!"

Olga Petrovna took down a big key from the wall, and led her guests
through the kitchen and passage to the courtyard. The courtyard was in
darkness. Fine rain was falling. Olga Petrovna walked in advance of
them. Chubikoff and Dukovski strode behind her through the long grass,
as the odor of wild hemp and dishwater splashing under their feet
reached them. The courtyard was wide. Soon the dishwater ceased, and
they felt freshly broken earth under their feet. In the darkness
appeared the shadowy outlines of trees, and among the trees a little
house with a crooked chimney.

"That is the bath house," said Olga Petrovna. "But I implore you, do
not tell my brother! If you do, I'll never hear the end of it!"

Going up to the bath house, Chubikoff and Dukovski saw a huge padlock
on the door.

"Get your candle and matches ready," whispered the examining
magistrate to his deputy.

Olga Petrovna unfastened the padlock, and let her guests into the bath
house. Dukovski struck a match and lit up the anteroom. In the middle
of the anteroom stood a table. On the table, beside a sturdy little
samovar, stood a soup tureen with cold cabbage soup and a plate with
the remnants of some sauce.


They went into the next room, where the bath was. There was a table
there also. On the table was a dish with some ham, a bottle of vodka,
plates, knives, forks.

"But where is it--where is the murdered man?" asked the examining

"On the top tier," whispered Olga Petrovna, still pale and trembling.

Dukovski took the candle in his hand and climbed up to the top tier of
the sweating frame. There he saw a long human body lying motionless on
a large feather bed. A slight snore came from the body.

"You are making fun of us, devil take it!" cried Dukovski. "That is
not the murdered man! Some live fool is lying here. Here, whoever you
are, the devil take you!"

The body drew in a quick breath and stirred. Dukovski stuck his elbow
into it. It raised a hand, stretched itself, and lifted its head.

"Who is sneaking in here?" asked a hoarse, heavy bass. "What do you

Dukovski raised the candle to the face of the unknown, and cried out.
In the red nose, disheveled, unkempt hair, the pitch-black mustaches,
one of which was jauntily twisted and pointed insolently toward the
ceiling, he recognized the gallant cavalryman Klausoff.

"You--Marcus--Ivanovitch? Is it possible?"

The examining magistrate glanced sharply up at him, and stood

"Yes, it is I. That's you, Dukovski? What the devil do you want here?
And who's that other mug down there? Great snakes! It is the examining
magistrate! What fate has brought him here?"

Klausoff rushed down and threw his arms round Chubikoff in a cordial
embrace. Olga Petrovna slipped through the door.

"How did you come here? Let's have a drink, devil take it!
Tra-ta-ti-to-tum--let us drink! But who brought you here? How did you
find out that I was here? But it doesn't matter! Let's have a drink!"

Klausoff lit the lamp and poured out three glasses of vodka.

"That is--I don't understand you," said the examining magistrate,
running his hands over him. "Is this you or not you!"

"Oh, shut up! You want to preach me a sermon? Don't trouble yourself!
Young Dukovski, empty your glass! Friends, let us bring this--What are
you looking at? Drink!"

"All the same, I do not understand!" said the examining magistrate,
mechanically drinking off the vodka. "What are you here for?"

"Why shouldn't I be here, if I am all right here?"

Klausoff drained his glass and took a bite of ham.

"I am in captivity here, as you see. In solitude, in a cavern, like a
ghost or a bogey. Drink! She carried me off and locked me up,
and--well, I am living here, in the deserted bath house, like a
hermit. I am fed. Next week I think I'll try to get out. I'm tired of
it here!"

"Incomprehensible!" said Dukovski.

"What is incomprehensible about it?"

"Incomprehensible! For Heaven's sake, how did your boot get into the

"What boot?"

"We found one boot in the sleeping room and the other in the garden."

"And what do you want to know that for? It's none of your business!
Why don't you drink, devil take you? If you wakened me, then drink
with me! It is an interesting tale, brother, that of the boot! I
didn't want to go with Olga. I don't like to be bossed. She came under
the window and began to abuse me. She always was a termagant. You know
what women are like, all of them. I was a bit drunk, so I took a boot
and heaved it at her. Ha-ha-ha! Teach her not to scold another time!
But it didn't! Not a bit of it! She climbed in at the window, lit the
lamp, and began to hammer poor tipsy me. She thrashed me, dragged me
over here, and locked me in. She feeds me now--on love, vodka, and
ham! But where are you off to, Chubikoff? Where are you going?"

The examining magistrate swore, and left the bath house. Dukovski
followed him, crestfallen. They silently took their seats in the
carriage and drove off. The road never seemed to them so long and
disagreeable as it did that time. Both remained silent. Chubikoff
trembled with rage all the way. Dukovski hid his nose in the collar of
his overcoat, as if he was afraid that the darkness and the drizzling
rain might read the shame in his face.

When they reached home, the examining magistrate found Dr. Tyutyeff
awaiting him. The doctor was sitting at the table, and, sighing
deeply, was turning over the pages of the _Neva_.

"Such goings-on there are in the world!" he said, meeting the
examining magistrate with a sad smile, "Austria is at it again! And
Gladstone also to some extent----"

Chubikoff threw his cap under the table, and shook himself.

"Devils' skeletons! Don't plague me! A thousand times I have told you
not to bother me with your politics! This is no question of politics!
And you," said Chubikoff, turning to Dukovski and shaking his fist, "I
won't forget this in a thousand years!"

"But the safety match? How could I know?"

"Choke yourself with your safety match! Get out of my way! Don't make
me mad, or the devil only knows what I'll do to you! Don't let me see
a trace of you!"

Dukovski sighed, took his hat, and went out.

"I'll go and get drunk," he decided, going through the door, and
gloomily wending his way to the public house.





Princess Anna Chechevinski for the last time looked at the home of her
girlhood, over which the St. Petersburg twilight was descending.
Defying the commands of her mother, the traditions of her family, she
had decided to elope with the man of her choice. With a last word of
farewell to her maid, she wrapped her cloak round her and disappeared
into the darkness.

The maid's fate had been a strange one. In one of the districts beyond
the Volga lived a noble, a bachelor, luxuriously, caring only for his
own amusement. He fished, hunted, and petted the pretty little
daughter of his housekeeper, one of his serfs, whom he vaguely
intended to set free. He passed hours playing with the pretty child,
and even had an old French governess come to give her lessons. She
taught little Natasha to dance, to play the piano, to put on the airs
and graces of a little lady. So the years passed, and the old nobleman
obeyed the girl's every whim, and his serfs bowed before her and
kissed her hands. Gracefully and willfully she queened it over the
whole household.

Then one fine day the old noble took thought and died. He had
forgotten to liberate his housekeeper and her daughter, and, as he was
a bachelor, his estate went to his next of kin, the elder Princess
Chechevinski. Between the brother and sister a cordial hatred had
existed, and they had not seen one another for years.

Coming to take possession of the estate, Princess Chechevinski carried
things with a high hand. She ordered the housekeeper to the cow house,
and carried off the girl Natasha, as her daughter's maid, to St.
Petersburg, from the first hour letting her feel the lash of her
bitter tongue and despotic will. Natasha had tried in vain to dry her
mother's tears. With growing anger and sorrow she watched the old
house as they drove away, and looking at the old princess she said to
herself, "I hate her! I hate her! I will never forgive her!"

Princess Anna, bidding her maid good-by, disappeared into the night.
The next morning the old princess learned of the flight. Already ill,
she fell fainting to the floor, and for a long time her condition was
critical. She regained consciousness, tried to find words to express
her anger, and again swooned away. Day and night, three women watched
over her, her son's old nurse, her maid, and Natasha, who took turns
in waiting on her. Things continued thus for forty-eight hours.
Finally, on the night of the third day she came to herself. It was
Natasha's watch.

"And you knew? You knew she was going?" the old princess asked her

The girl started, unable at first to collect her thoughts, and looked
up frightened. The dim flicker of the night light lit her pale face
and golden hair, and fell also on the grim, emaciated face of the old
princess, whose eyes glittered feverishly under her thick brows.

"You knew my daughter was going to run away?" repeated the old woman,
fixing her keen eyes on Natasha's face, trying to raise herself from
among the lace-fringed pillows.

"I knew," the girl answered in a half whisper, lowering her eyes in
confusion, and trying to throw off her first impression of terror.

"Why did you not tell me before?" the old woman continued, even more

Natasha had now recovered her composure, and raising her eyes with an
expression of innocent distress, she answered:

"Princess Anna hid everything from me also, until the very last. How
dare I tell you? Would you have believed me? It was not my business,
your excellency!"

The old princess shook her head, smiling bitterly and incredulously.

"Snake!" she hissed fiercely, looking at the girl; and then she added

"Did any of the others know?"

"No one but myself!" answered Natasha.

"Never dare to speak of her again! Never dare!" cried the old
princess, and once more she sank back unconscious on the pillows.

About noon the next day she again came to herself, and ordered her son
to be called. He came in quietly, and affectionately approached his

The princess dismissed her maid, and remained alone with her son.

"You have no longer a sister!" she cried, turning to her son, with the
nervous spasm which returned each time she spoke of her daughter. "She
is dead for us! She has disgraced us! I curse her! You, you alone are
my heir!"

At these words the young prince pricked up his ears and bent even more
attentively toward his mother. The news of his sole heirship was so
pleasant and unexpected that he did not even think of asking how his
sister had disgraced them, and only said with a deep sigh:

"Oh, mamma, she was always opposed to you. She never loved you!"

"I shall make a will in your favor," continued the princess, telling
him as briefly as possible of Princess Anna's flight. "Yes, in your
favor--only on one condition: that you will never recognize your
sister. That is my last wish!"

"Your wish is sacred to me," murmured her son, tenderly kissing her
hand. He had always been jealous and envious of his sister, and was
besides in immediate need of money.

The princess signed her will that same day, to the no small
satisfaction of her dear son, who, in his heart, was wondering how
soon his beloved parent would pass away, so that he might get his eyes
on her long-hoarded wealth.



Later on the same day, in a little narrow chamber of one of the huge,
dirty tenements on Vosnesenski Prospekt, sat a young man of ruddy
complexion. He was sitting at a table, bending toward the one dusty
window, and attentively examining a white twenty-five ruble note.

The room, dusty and dark, was wretched enough. Two rickety chairs, a
torn haircloth sofa, with a greasy pillow, and the bare table at the
window, were its entire furniture. Several scattered lithographs, two
or three engravings, two slabs of lithographer's stone on the table,
and engraver's tools sufficiently showed the occupation of the young
man. He was florid, with red hair; of Polish descent, and his name was
Kasimir Bodlevski. On the wall, over the sofa, between the overcoat
and the cloak hanging on the wall, was a pencil drawing of a young
girl. It was the portrait of Natasha.

The young man was so absorbed in his examination of the twenty-five
ruble note that when a gentle knock sounded on the door he started
nervously, as if coming back to himself, and even grew pale, and
hurriedly crushed the banknote into his pocket.

The knock was repeated--and this time Bodlevski's face lit up. It was
evidently a well-known and expected knock, for he sprang up and opened
the door with a welcoming smile.

Natasha entered the room.

"What were you dreaming about that you didn't open the door for me?"
she asked caressingly, throwing aside her hat and cloak, and taking a
seat on the tumble-down sofa. "What were you busy at?"

"You know, yourself."

And instead of explaining further, he drew the banknote from his
pocket and showed it to Natasha.

"This morning the master paid me, and I am keeping the money," he
continued in a low voice, tilting back his chair. "I pay neither for
my rooms nor my shop, but sit here and study all the time."

"It's so well worth while, isn't it?" smiled Natasha with a
contemptuous grimace.

"You don't think it is worth while?" said the young man. "Wait! I'll
learn. We'll be rich!"

"Yes, if we aren't sent to Siberia!" the girl laughed, "What kind of
wealth is that?" she went on. "The game is not worth the candle. I'll
be rich before you are."

"All right, go ahead!"

"Go ahead? I didn't come to talk nonsense, I came on business. You
help me, and, on my word of honor, we'll be in clover!"

Bodlevski looked at his companion in astonishment.

"I told you my Princess Anna was going to run away. She's gone! And
her mother has cut her off from the inheritance," Natasha continued
with an exultant smile. "I looked through the scrap basket, and have
brought some papers with me."

"What sort of papers?"

"Oh, letters and notes. They are all in Princess Anna's handwriting.
Shall I give them to you?" jested Natasha. "Have a good look at them,
examine them, learn her handwriting, so that you can imitate every
letter. That kind of thing is just in your line; you are a first-class
copyist, so this is just the job for you."

The engraver listened, and only shrugged his shoulders.

"No, joking aside," she continued seriously, drawing nearer Bodlevski,
"I have thought of something out of the common; you will be grateful.
I have no time to explain it all now. You will know later on. The main
thing is--learn her handwriting."

"But what is it all for?" said Bodlevski wonderingly.

"So that you may be able to write a few words in the handwriting of
Princess Anna; what you have to write I'll dictate to you."

"And then?"

"Then hurry up and get me a passport in some one else's name, and have
your own ready. But learn her handwriting. Everything depends on

"It won't be easy. I'll hardly be able to!" muttered Bodlevski,
scratching his head.

Natasha flared up.

"You say you love me?" she cried energetically, with a glance of
anger. "Well, then, do it. Unless you are telling lies, you can learn
to do banknotes."

The young man strode up and down his den, perplexed.

"How soon do you want it?" he asked, after a minute's thought. "In a
couple of days?"

"Yes, in about two days, not longer, or the whole thing is done for!"
the girl replied decisively. "In two days I'll come for the writing,
and be sure my passport is ready!"

"Very well. I'll do it," consented Bodlevski. And Natasha began to
dictate to him the wording of the letter.

As soon as she was gone the engraver got to work. All the evening and
a great part of the night he bent over the papers she had brought,
examining the handwriting, studying the letters, and practicing every
stroke with the utmost care, copying and repeating it a hundred times,
until at last he had reached the required clearness. At last he
mastered the writing. It only remained to give it the needed lightness
and naturalness. His head rang from the concentration of blood in his
temples, but he still worked on.

Finally, when it was almost morning, the note was written, and the
name of Princess Anna was signed to it. The work was a masterpiece,
and even exceeded Bodlevski's expectations. Its lightness and
clearness were remarkable. The engraver, examining the writing of
Princess Anna, compared it with his own work, and was astonished, so
perfect was the resemblance.

And long he admired his handiwork, with the parental pride known to
every creator, and as he looked at this note he for the first time
fully realized that he was an artist.



"Half the work is done!" he cried, jumping from the tumble-down sofa.
"But the passport? There's where the shoe pinches," continued the
engraver, remembering the second half of Natasha's commission. "The
passport--yes--that's where the shoe pinches!" he muttered to himself
in perplexity, resting his head on his hands and his elbows on his
knees. Thinking over all kinds of possible and impossible plans, he
suddenly remembered a fellow countryman of his, a shoemaker named
Yuzitch, who had once confessed in a moment of intoxication that "he
would rather hook a watch than patch a shoe." Bodlevski remembered
that three months before he had met Yuzitch in the street, and they
had gone together to a wine shop, where, over a bottle generously
ordered by Yuzitch, Bodlevski had lamented over the hardships of
mankind in general, and his own in particular. He had not taken
advantage of Yuzitch's offer to introduce him to "the gang," only
because he had already determined to take up one of the higher
branches of the "profession," namely, to metamorphose white paper into
banknotes. When they were parting, Yuzitch had warmly wrung his hand,

"Whenever you want anything, dear friend, or if you just want to see
me, come to the Cave; come to Razyeziy Street and ask for the Cave,
and at the Cave anyone will show you where to find Yuzitch. If the
barkeeper makes difficulties just whisper to him that 'Secret' sent
you, and he'll show you at once."

As this memory suddenly flashed into his mind, Bodlevski caught up his
hat and coat and hurried downstairs into the street. Making his way
through the narrow, dirty streets to the Five Points, he stopped
perplexed. Happily he noticed a sleepy watchman leaning leisurely
against a wall, and going up to him he said:

"Tell me, where is the Cave?"

"The what?" asked the watchman impatiently.

"The Cave."

"The Cave? There is no such place!" he replied, looking suspiciously
at Bodlevski.

Bodlevski put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some small change:
"If you tell me----"

The watchman brightened up. "Why didn't you say so before?" he asked,
grinning. "You see that house, the second from the corner? The wooden
one? That's the Cave."

Bodlevski crossed the street in the direction indicated, and looked
for the sign over the door. To his astonishment he did not find it and
only later he knew that the name was strictly "unofficial," only used
by members of "the gang."

Opening the door cautiously, Bodlevski made his way into the low,
dirty barroom. Behind the bar stood a tall, handsome man with an open
countenance and a bald head. Politely bowing to Bodlevski, with his
eyes rather than his head, he invited him to enter the inner room. But
Bodlevski explained that he wanted, not the inner room, but his friend

"Yuzitch?" said the barkeeper thoughtfully. "We don't know anyone of
that name."

"Why, he's here all the time," cried Bodlevski, in astonishment.

"Don't know him," retorted the barkeeper imperturbably.

"'Secret' sent me!" Bodlevski suddenly exclaimed, without lowering his

The barkeeper looked at him sharply and suspiciously, and then asked,
with a smile:

"Who did you say?"

"'Secret,'" repeated Bodlevski.

After a while the barkeeper said, "And did your--friend make an

"Yes, an appointment!" Bodlevski replied, beginning to lose patience.

"Well, take a seat in the inner room," again said the barkeeper slyly.
"Perhaps your friend will come in, or perhaps he is there already."

Bodlevski made his way into a roomy saloon, with five windows with
faded red curtains. The ceiling was black from the smoke of hanging
lamps; little square tables were dotted about the floor; their covers
were coarse and not above reproach on the score of cleanliness. The
air was pungent with the odor of cheap tobacco and cheaper cigars. On
the walls were faded oleographs of generals and archbishops, flyblown
and stained.

Bodlevski, little as he was used to refined surroundings, found his
gorge rising. At some of the little tables furtive, impudent,
tattered, sleek men were drinking.

Presently Yuzitch made his appearance from a low door at the other end
of the room. The meeting of the two friends was cordial, especially on
Bodlevski's side. Presently they were seated at a table, with a flask
of wine between them, and Bodlevski began to explain what he wanted to
his friend.

As soon as he heard what was wanted, Yuzitch took on an air of
importance, knit his brows, hemmed, and hawed.

"I can manage it," he said finally. "Yes, we can manage it. I must see
one of my friends about it. But it's difficult. It will cost money."

Bodlevski immediately assented. Yuzitch at once rose and went over to
a red-nosed individual in undress uniform, who was poring over the
_Police News_.

"Friend Borisovitch," said Yuzitch, holding out his hand to him,
"something doing!"

"Fair or foul?" asked the man with the red nose. "Hang your cheek!"
laughed Yuzitch; "if I say it, of course it's fair." After a whispered
conference, Yuzitch returned to Bodlevski and told him that it was all
right; that the passport for Natasha would be ready by the next
evening. Bodlevski paid him something in advance and went home

At eleven o'clock the next evening Bodlevski once more entered the
large room at the Cave, now all lit up and full of an animated crowd
of men and women, all with the same furtive, predatory faces.
Bodlevski felt nervous. He had no fears while turning white paper into
banknotes in the seclusion of his own workshop, but he was full of
apprehensions concerning his present guest, because several people had
to be let into the secret.

Yuzitch presently appeared through the same low door and, coming up to
Bodlevski, explained that the passport would cost twenty rubles.
Bodlevski paid the money over in advance, and Yuzitch led him into a
back room. On the table burned a tallow candle, which hardly lit up
the faces of seven people who were grouped round it, one of them being
the red-nosed man who was reading the _Police News._ The seven men
were all from the districts of Vilna and Vitebsk, and were specialists
in the art of fabricating passports.

The red-nosed man approached Bodlevski: "We must get acquainted with
each other," he said amiably. "I have the honor to present myself!"
and he bowed low; "Former District Secretary Pacomius Borisovitch
Prakkin. Let me request you first of all to order some vodka; my hand
shakes, you know," he added apologetically. "I don't want it so much
for myself as for my hand--to steady it."

Bodlevski gave him some change, which the red-nosed man put in his
pocket and at once went to the sideboard for a flask of vodka which he
had already bought. "Let us give thanks! And now to business!" he
said, smacking his lips after a glass of vodka.

A big, red-haired man, one of the group of seven, drew from his pocket
two vials. In one was a sticky black fluid; in the other, something as
clear as water.

"We are chemists, you see," the red-nosed man explained to Bodlevski
with a grin, and then added:

"Finch! on guard!"

A young man, who had been lolling on a couch in the corner, rose and
took up a position outside the door.

"Now, brothers, close up!" cried the red-nosed man, and all stood in
close order, elbow to elbow, round the table. "And now we take a
newspaper and have it handy on the table! That is in case," he
explained to Bodlevski, "any outsider happened in on us--which Heaven
prevent! We aren't up to anything at all; simply reading the political
news! You catch on?"

"How could I help catching on?"

"Very well. And now let us make everything as clear as in a
looking-glass. What class do you wish to make the person belong to?
The commercial or the nobility?"

"I think the nobility would be best," said Bodlevski.

"Certainly! At least that will give the right of free passage through
all the towns and districts of the Russian Empire. Let us see. Have we
not something that will suit?"

And Pacomius Borisovitch, opening his portfolio, filled with all kinds
of passports, certificates, and papers of identification, began to
turn them over, but without taking any out of the portfolio. All with
the same thought--that some stranger might come in.

"Ha! here's a new one! Where did it come from?" he cried.

"I got it out of a new arrival," muttered the red-headed man.

"Well done! Just what we want! And a noble's passport, too! It is
evident that Heaven is helping us. See what a blessing brings!

"'This passport is issued by the District of Yaroslav,'" he continued
reading, "'to the college assessor's widow, Maria Solontseva, with
permission to travel,'" and so on in due form. "Did you get it here?"
he added, turning to the red-headed man.

"Came from Moscow!"


"Knocked on the head!" briefly replied the red-headed man.

"Knocked on the head?" repeated Pacomius Borisovitch. "Serious
business. Comes under sections 332 and 727 of the Penal Code."

"Driveling again!" cried the red-headed man. "I'll teach you to talk
about the Penal Code!" and rising deliberately, he dealt Pacomius
Borisovitch a well-directed blow on the head, which sent him rolling
into the corner. Pacomius picked himself up, blinking with

"What is the meaning of such conduct?" he asked loftily.

"It means," said the red-headed man, "that if you mention the Penal
Code again I'll knock your head off!"

"Brothers, brothers!" cried Yuzitch in a good-humored tone; "we are
losing precious time! Forgive him!" he added, turning to Pacomius.
"You must forgive him!"

"I--forgive him," answered Pacomius, but the light in his eye showed
that he was deeply offended.

"Well," he went on, addressing Bodlevski, "will it suit you to have
the person pass as Maria Solontseva, widow of a college assessor?"



Bodlevski had not time to nod his head in assent, when suddenly the
outer door was pushed quickly open and a tall man, well built and
fair-haired, stepped swiftly into the room. He wore a military uniform
and gold-rimmed eyeglasses.

The company turned their faces toward him in startled surprise, but no
one moved. All continued to stand in close order round the table.

"Health to you, eaglets! honorable men of Vilna! What are you up to?
What are you busy at?" cried the newcomer, swiftly approaching the
table and taking the chair that Pacomius Borisovitch had just been
knocked out of.

"What is all this?" he continued, with one hand seizing the vial of
colorless liquid and with the other the photograph of the college
assessor's widow. "So this is hydrochloric acid for erasing ink? Very
good! And this is a photo! So we are fabricating passports? Very fine!
Business is business! Hey! Witnesses!"

And the fair-haired man whistled sharply. From the outer door appeared
two faces, set on shoulders of formidable proportions.

The red-headed man silently went up to the newcomer and fiercely
seized him by the collar. At the same moment the rest seized chairs or
logs or bars to defend themselves.

The fair-haired man meanwhile, not in the least changing his
expression of cool self-confidence, quickly slipped his hands into his
pockets and pulled out a pair of small double-barreled pistols. In the
profound silence in which this scene took place they could distinctly
hear the click of the hammers as he cocked them. He raised his right
hand and pointed the muzzle at the breast of his opponent.

The red-headed man let go his collar, and glancing contemptuously at
him, with an expression of hate and wrath, silently stepped aside.

"How much must we pay?" he asked sullenly.

"Oho! that's better. You should have begun by asking that!" answered
the newcomer, settling himself comfortably on his chair and toying
with his pistols. "How much do you earn?"

"We get little enough! Just five rubles," answered the red-headed man.

"That's too little. I need a great deal more. But you are lying,
brother! You would not stir for less than twenty rubles!"

"Thanks for the compliment!" interrupted Pacomius Borisovitch.

The fair-haired man nodded to him satirically. "I need a lot more," he
repeated firmly and impressively; "and if you don't give me at least
twenty-five rubles I'll denounce you this very minute to the
police--and you see I have my witnesses ready."

"Sergei Antonitch! Mr. Kovroff! Have mercy on us! Where can we get so
much from? I tell you as in the presence of the Creator! There are ten
of us, as you see. And there are three of you. And I, Yuzitch, and
Gretcka deserve double shares!" added Pacomius Borisovitch

"Gretcka deserves nothing at all for catching me by the throat,"
decided Sergei Antonitch Kovroff.

"Mr. Kovroff!" began Pacomius again. "You and I are gentlemen----"

"What! What did you say?" Kovroff contemptuously interrupted him. "You
put yourself on my level? Ha! ha! ha! No, brother; I am still in the
Czar's service and wear my honor with my uniform! I, brother, have
never stained myself with theft or crime, Heaven be praised. But what
are you?"

"Hm! And the Golden Band? Who is its captain?" muttered Gretcka
angrily, half to himself.

"Who is its captain? I am--I, Lieutenant Sergei Antonitch Kovroff, of
the Chernovarski Dragoons! Do you hear? I am captain of the Golden
Band," he said proudly and haughtily, scrutinizing the company with
his confident gaze. "And you haven't yet got as far as the Golden
Band, because you are _cowards_! Chuproff," he cried to one of his
men, "go and take the mask off Finch, or the poor boy will suffocate,
and untie his arms--and give him a good crack on the head to teach him
to keep watch better."

The "mask" that Kovroff employed on such occasions was nothing but a
piece of oilcloth cut the size of a person's face, and smeared on one
side with a thick paste. Kovroff's "boys" employed this "instrument"
with wonderful dexterity; one of them generally stole up behind the
unconscious victim and skillfully slapped the mask in his face; the
victim at once became dumb and blind, and panted from lack of breath;
at the same time, if necessary, his hands were tied behind him and he
was leisurely robbed, or held, as the case might be.

The Golden Band was formed in the middle of the thirties, when the
first Nicholas had been about ten years on the throne. Its first
founders were three Polish nobles. It was never distinguished by the
number of its members, but everyone of them could honestly call
himself an accomplished knave, never stopping at anything that stood
in the way of a "job." The present head of the band was Lieutenant
Kovroff, who was a thorough-paced rascal, in the full sense of the
word. Daring, brave, self-confident, he also possessed a handsome
presence, good manners, and the worldly finish known as education.
Before the members of the Golden Band, and especially before Kovroff,
the small rascals stood in fear and trembling. He had his secret
agents everywhere, following every move of the crooks quietly but
pertinaciously. At the moment when some big job was being pulled off,
Kovroff suddenly appeared unexpectedly, with some of his "boys," and
demanded a contribution, threatening instantly to inform the police if
he did not get it--and the rogues, in order to "keep him quiet," had
to give him whatever share of their plunder he graciously deigned to
indicate. Acting with extraordinary skill and acumen in all his
undertakings he always managed so that not a shadow of suspicion could
fall on himself and so he got a double share of the plunder: robbing
the honest folk and the rogues at the same time. Kovroff escaped the
contempt of the crooks because he did things on such a big scale and
embarked with his Golden Band on the most desperate and dangerous
enterprises that the rest of roguedom did not even dare to consider.

The rogues, whatever their rank, have a great respect for daring,
skill, and force--and therefore they respected Kovroff, at the same
time fearing and detesting him.

"Who are you getting that passport for?" he asked, calmly taking the
paper from the table and slipping it into his pocket. Gretcka nodded
toward Bodlevski.

"Aha! for you, is it? Very glad to hear it!" said Kovroff, measuring
him with his eyes. "And so, gentlemen, twenty-five rubles, or
good-by--to our happy meeting in the police court!"

"Mr. Kovroff! Allow me to speak to you as a man of honor!" Pacomius
Borisovitch again interrupted. "We are only getting twenty rubles for
the job. The whole gang will pledge their words of honor to that. Do
you think we would lie to you and stain the honor of the gang for
twenty measly rubles?"

"That is business. That was well said. I love a good speech, and am
always ready to respect it," remarked Sergei Antonitch approvingly.

"Very well, then, see for yourself," went on the red-nosed Pacomius,
"see for yourself. If we give you everything, we are doing our work
and not getting a kopeck!"

"Let him pay," answered Kovroff, turning his eyes toward Bodlevski.

Bodlevski took out his gold watch, his only inheritance from his
father, and laid it down on the table before Kovroff, with the five
rubles that remained.

Kovroff again measured him with his eyes and smiled.

"You are a worthy young man!" he said. "Give me your hand! I see that
you will go far."

And he warmly pressed the engraver's hand. "But you must know for the
future," he added in a friendly but impressive way, "that I never take
anything but money when I am dealing with these fellows. Ho, you!" he
went on, turning to the company, "some one go to uncle's and get cash
for this watch; tell him to pay conscientiously at least two thirds of
what it is worth; it is a good watch. It would cost sixty rubles to
buy. And have a bottle of champagne got ready for me at the bar,
quick! And if you don't, it will be the worse for you!" he called
after the departing Yuzitch, who came back a few minutes later, and
gave Kovroff forty rubles. Kovroff counted them, and put twenty in his
pocket, returning the remainder in silence, but with a gentlemanly
smile, to Bodlevski.

"Fair exchange is no robbery," he said, giving Bodlevski the passport
of the college assessor's widow. "Now that old rascal Pacomius may get
to work."

"What is there to do?" laughed Pacomius; "the passport will do very
well. So let us have a little glass, and then a little game of cards."

"We are going to know each other better; I like your face, so I hope
we shall make friends," said Kovroff, again shaking hands with
Bodlevski. "Now let us go and have some wine. You will tell me over
our glasses what you want the passport for, and on account of your
frankness about the watch, I am well disposed to you. Lieutenant
Sergei Kovroff gives you his word of honor on that. I also can be
magnanimous," he concluded, and the new friends accompanied by the
whole gang went out to the large hall.

There began a scene of revelry that lasted till long after midnight.
Bodlevski, feeling his side pocket to see if the passport was still
there, at last left the hall, bewildered, as though under a spell. He
felt a kind of gloomy satisfaction; he was possessed by this
satisfaction, by the uncertainty of what Natasha could have thought
out, by the question how it would all turn out, and by the conviction
that his first crime had already been committed. All these feelings
lay like lead on his heart, while in his ears resounded the wild songs
of the Cave.



It was nine o'clock in the evening. Natasha lit the night lamp in the
bedroom of the old Princess Chechevinski, and went silently into the
dressing room to prepare the soothing powders which the doctors had
prescribed for her, before going to sleep.

The old princess was still very weak. Although her periods of
unconsciousness had not returned, she was still subject to paroxysms
of hysteria. At times she sank into forgetfulness, then started
nervously, sometimes trembling in every limb. The thought of the blow
of her daughter's flight never left her for a moment.

Natasha had just taken the place of the day nurse. It was her turn to
wait on the patient until midnight. Silence always reigned in the
house of the princess, and now that she was ill the silence was
intensified tenfold. Everyone walked on tiptoe, and spoke in whispers,
afraid even of coughing or of clinking a teaspoon on the sideboard.
The doorbells were tied in towels, and the whole street in front of
the house was thickly strewn with straw. At ten the household was
already dispersed, and preparing for sleep. Only the nurse sat
silently at the head of the old lady's bed.

Pouring out half a glass of water, Natasha sprinkled the powder in it,
and took from the medicine chest a phial with a yellowish liquid. It
was chloral. Looking carefully round, she slowly brought the lip of
the phial down to the edge of the glass and let ten drops fall into
it. "That will be enough," she said to herself, and smiled. Her face,
as always, was coldly quiet, and not the slightest shade of any
feeling was visible on it at that moment.

Natasha propped the old lady up with her arm. She drank the medicine
given to her and lay down again, and in a few minutes the chloral
began to have its effect. With an occasional convulsive movement of
her lower lip, she sank into a deep and heavy sleep. Natasha watched
her face following the symptoms of unconsciousness, and when she was
convinced that sleep had finally taken complete possession of her, and
that for several hours the old woman was deprived of the power to hear
anything or to wake up, she slowly moved her chair nearer the
bedstead, and without taking her quietly observant eyes from the old
woman's face, softly slipped her hand under the lower pillow. Moving
forward with the utmost care, not more than an inch or so at a time,
her hand stopped instantly, as soon as there was the slightest nervous
movement of the old woman's face, on which Natasha's eyes were fixed
immovably. But the old woman slept profoundly, and the hand again
moved forward half an inch or so under the pillow. About half an hour
passed, and the girl's eyes were still fastened on the sleeping face,
and her hand was still slipping forward under the pillow, moving
occasionally a little to one side, and feeling about for something.
Natasha's expression was in the highest degree quiet and concentrated,
but under this quietness was at the same time concealed something
else, which gave the impression that if--which Heaven forbid!--the old
woman should at that moment awake, the other free hand would instantly
seize her by the throat.

At last the finger-ends felt something hard. "That is it!" thought
Natasha, and she held her breath. In a moment, seizing its treasure,
her hand began quietly to withdraw. Ten minutes more passed, and
Natasha finally drew out a little bag of various colored silks, in
which the old princess always kept her keys, and from which she never
parted, carrying it by day in her pocket, and by night keeping it
under her pillow. One of the keys was an ordinary one, that of her
wardrobe. The other was smaller and finely made; it was the key of her
strong box.

About an hour later, the same keys, in the same order, and with the
same precautions, found their way back to their accustomed place under
the old lady's pillow.

Natasha carefully wiped the glass with her handkerchief, in order that
not the least odor of chloral might remain in it, and with her usual
stillness sat out the remaining hours of her watch.



The old princess awoke at one o'clock the next day. The doctor was
very pleased at her long and sound sleep, the like of which the old
lady had not enjoyed since her first collapse, and which, in his view,
was certain to presage a turn for the better.

The princess had long ago formed a habit of looking over her financial
documents, and verifying the accounts of income and expenditure. This
deep-seated habit, which had become a second nature, did not leave
her, now she was ill; at any rate, every morning, as soon as
consciousness and tranquillity returned to her, she took out the key
of her wardrobe, ordered the strong box to be brought to her, and,
sending the day nurse out of the room, gave herself up in solitude to
her beloved occupation, which had by this time become something like a
childish amusement. She drew out her bank securities, signed and
unsigned, now admiring the colored engravings on them, now sorting and
rearranging them, fingering the packets to feel their thickness,
counting them over, and several thousands in banknotes, kept in the
house in case of need, and finally carefully replaced them in the
strong box. The girl, recalled to the bedroom by the sound of the
bell, restored the strong box to its former place, and the old
princess, after this amusement, felt herself for some time quiet and

The nurses had had the opportunity to get pretty well used to this
foible; so that the daily examination of the strong box seemed to them
a part of the order of things, something consecrated by custom.

After taking her medicine, and having her hands and face wiped with a
towel moistened with toilet water, the princess ordered certain
prayers to be read out to her, or the chapter of the Gospel appointed
for the day, and then received her son. From the time of her
illness--that is, from the day when she signed the will making him her
sole heir--he had laid it on himself as a not altogether pleasant duty
to put in an appearance for five minutes in his mother's room, where
he showed himself a dutiful son by never mentioning his sister, but
asking tenderly after his mother's health, and finally, with a deep
sigh, gently kissing her hand, taking his departure forthwith, to sup
with some actress or to meet his companions in a wine shop.

When he soon went away, the old lady, as was her habit, ordered her
strong box to be brought, and sent the nurse out of the room. It was a
very handsome box of ebony, with beautiful inlaid work.

The key clicked in the lock, the spring lid sprang up, and the eyes of
the old princess became set in their sockets, full of bewilderment and
terror. Twenty-four thousand rubles in bills, which she herself with
her own hands had yesterday laid on the top of the other securities,
were no longer in the strong box. All the unsigned bank securities
were also gone. The securities in the name of her daughter Anna had
likewise disappeared. There remained only the signed securities in the
name of the old princess and her son, and a few shares of stock. In
the place of all that was gone, there lay a note directed "to Princess

The old lady's fingers trembled so that for a long time she could not
unfold this paper. Her staring eyes wandered hither and thither as if
she had lost her senses. At last she managed somehow to unfold the
note, and began to read:

"You cursed me, forced me to flee, and unjustly deprived me of my
inheritance. I am taking my money by force. You may inform the police,
but when you read this note, I myself and he who carried out this act
by my directions, will have left St. Petersburg forever.

"Your daughter,


The old lady's hands did not fall at her sides, but shifted about on
her lap as if they did not belong to her. Her wandering, senseless
eyes stopped their movements, and in them suddenly appeared an
expression of deep meaning. The old princess made a terrible,
superhuman effort to recover her presence of mind and regain command
over herself. A single faint groan broke from her breast, and her
teeth chattered. She began to look about the room for a light, but the
lamp had been extinguished; the dull gray daylight filtering through
the Venetian blinds sufficiently lit the room. Then the old lady, with
a strange, irregular movement, crushed the note together in her hand,
placed it in her mouth, and with a convulsive movement of her jaws
chewed it, trying to swallow it as quickly as possible.

A minute passed, and the note had disappeared. The old princess closed
the strong box and rang for the day nurse. Giving her the usual order
in a quiet voice, she had still strength enough to support herself on
her elbow and watch the nurse closing the wardrobe, and then to put
the little bag with the keys back under her pillow, in its accustomed
place. Then she again ordered the nurse to go.

When, two hours later, the doctor, coming for the third time, wished
to see his patient and entered her bedroom, he found only the old
woman's lifeless body. The blow had been too much--the daughter of the
ancient and ever honorable line of Chechevinski a fugitive and a

Natasha had had her revenge.



On the morning of that same day, at nine o'clock, a well-dressed lady
presented at the Bank of Commerce a number of unsigned bank shares. At
the same time a young man, also elegantly dressed, presented a series
of signed shares, made out in the name of "Princess Anna
Chechevinski." They were properly indorsed, the signature
corresponding to that in the bank books.

After a short interval the cashier of the bank paid over to the
well-dressed lady a hundred and fifty thousand rubles in bills, and to
the elegantly dressed young man seventy thousand rubles. The lady
signed her receipt in French, Teresa Dore; the young man signed his
name, Ivan Afonasieff, son of a merchant of Kostroma.

A little later on the same day--namely, about two o'clock--a light
carriage carried two passengers along the Pargoloff road: a quietly
dressed young woman and a quietly dressed young man. Toward evening
these same young people were traveling in a Finnish coach by the stony
mountain road in the direction of Abo.

Four days later the old Princess Chechevinski was buried in the Nevski

On his return from the monastery, young Prince Chechevinski went
straight for the strong box, which he had hitherto seen only at a
distance, and even then only rarely. He expected to find a great deal
more money in it than he found--some hundred and fifty thousand
rubles; a hundred thousand in his late mother's name, and fifty
thousand in his own. This was the personal property of the old
princess, a part of her dowry. The young prince made a wry face--the
money might last him two or three years, not more. During the lifetime
of the old princess no one had known accurately how much she
possessed, so that it never even entered the young prince's head to
ask whether she had not had more. He was so unmethodical that he never
even looked into her account book, deciding that it was uninteresting
and not worth while.

That same day the janitor of one of the huge, dirty tenements in
Vosnesenski Prospekt brought to the police office notice of the fact
that the Pole, Kasimir Bodlevski, had left the city; and the
housekeeper of the late Princess Chechevinski informed the police that
the serf girl Natalia Pavlovna (Natasha) had disappeared without
leaving a trace, which the housekeeper now announced, as the three
days' limit had elapsed.

At that same hour the little ship of a certain Finnish captain was
gliding down the Gulf of Bothnia. The Finn stood at the helm and his
young son handled the sails. On the deck sat a young man and a young
woman. The young woman carried, in a little bag hung round her neck,
two hundred and forty-four thousand rubles in bills, and she and her
companion carried pistols in their pockets for use in case of need.
Their passports declared that the young woman belonged to the noble
class, and was the widow of a college assessor, her name being Maria
Solontseva, while the young man was a Pole, Kasimir Bodlevski.

The little ship was crossing the Gulf of Bothnia toward the coast of



In the year 1858, in the month of September, the "Report of the St.
Petersburg City Police" among the names of "Arrivals" included the

_Baroness van Doering, Hanoverian subject.
Ian Vladislav Karozitch, Austrian subject_.

The persons above described might have been recognized among the
fashionable crowds which thronged the St. Petersburg terminus of
the Warsaw railway a few days before: A lady who looked not
more than thirty, though she was really thirty-eight, dressed
with simple elegance, tall and slender, admirably developed,
with beautifully clear complexion, piercing, intelligent gray eyes,
under finely outlined brows, thick chestnut hair, and a firm
mouth--almost a beauty, and with an expression of power, subtlety and
decision. "She is either a queen or a criminal," a physiognomist would
have said after observing her face. A gentleman with a red beard, whom
the lady addressed as "brother," not less elegantly dressed, and with
the same expression of subtlety and decision. They left the station in
a hired carriage, and drove to Demuth's Hotel.

Before narrating the adventures of these distinguished persons, let us
go back twenty years, and ask what became of Natasha and Bodlevski.
When last we saw them the ship that carried them away from Russia was
gliding across the Gulf of Bothnia toward the Swedish coast. Late in
the evening it slipped into the port of Stockholm, and the worthy
Finn, winding in and out among the heavy hulls in the harbor--he was
well used to the job--landed his passengers on the wharf at a lonely
spot near a lonely inn, where the customs officers rarely showed their
noses. Bodlevski, who had beforehand got ready the very modest sum to
pay for their passage, with pitiable looks and gestures and the few
Russian phrases the good Finn could understand, assured him that he
was a very poor man, and could not even pay the sum agreed on in full.
The deficit was inconsiderable, some two rubles in all, and the good
Finn was magnanimous; he slapped his passenger on the shoulder, called
him a "good comrade," declared that he would not press a poor man, and
would always be ready to do him a service. He even found quarters for
Bodlevski and Natasha in the inn, under his protection. The Finn was
indeed a very honest smuggler. On the next morning, bidding a final
farewell to their nautical friend, our couple made their way to the
office of the British Consul, and asked for an opportunity to speak
with him. At this point Natasha played the principal role.

"My husband is a Pole," said the handsome girl, taking a seat opposite
the consul in his private office, "and I myself am Russian on the
father's side, but my mother was English. My husband is involved in a
political enterprise; he was liable to transportation to Siberia, but
a chance made it possible for us to escape while the police were on
their way to arrest him. We are now political fugitives, and we
intrust our lives to the protection of English law. Be generous,
protect us, and send us to England!"

The ruse, skillfully planned and admirably presented, was completely
successful, and two or three days later the first passenger ship under
the English flag carried the happy couple to London.

Bodlevski destroyed his own passport and that of the college
assessor's widow, Maria Solontseva, which Natasha had needed as a
precaution while still on Russian soil. When they got to England, it
would be much handier to take new names. But with their new position
and these new names a great difficulty presented itself: they could
find no suitable outlet for their capital without arousing very
dangerous suspicions. The many-sided art of the London rogues is known
to all the world; in their club, Bodlevski, who had lost no time in
making certain pleasant and indispensable acquaintances there, soon
succeeded in getting for himself and Natasha admirably counterfeited
new passports, once more with new names and occupations. With these,
in a short time, they found their way to the Continent. They both felt
the full force of youth and a passionate desire to live and enjoy
life; in their hot heads hummed many a golden hope and plan; they
wished, to begin with, to invest their main capital somewhere, and
then to travel over Europe, and to choose a quiet corner somewhere
where they could settle down to a happy life.

Perhaps all this might have happened if it had not been for cards and
roulette and the perpetual desire of increasing their capital--for the
worthy couple fell into the hands of a talented company, whose agents
robbed them at Frascati's in Paris, and again in Hamburg and various
health resorts, so that hardly a year had passed when Bodlevski one
fine night woke up to the fact that they no longer possessed a ruble.
But they had passed a brilliant year, their arrival in the great
cities had had its effect, and especially since Natasha had become a
person of title; in the course of the year she succeeded in purchasing
an Austrian barony at a very reasonable figure--a barony which, of
course, only existed on paper.

When all his money was gone, there was nothing left for Bodlevski but
to enroll himself a member of the company which had so successfully
accomplished the transfer of his funds to their own pockets. Natasha's
beauty and Bodlevski's brains were such strong arguments that the
company willingly accepted them as new recruits. The two paid dear for
their knowledge, it is true, but their knowledge presently began to
bear fruit in considerable abundance. Day followed day, and year
succeeded year, a long series of horribly anxious nights, violent
feelings, mental perturbations, crafty and subtle schemes, a complete
cycle of rascalities, an entire science of covering up tracks, and the
perpetual shadow of justice, prison, and perhaps the scaffold.
Bodlevski, with his obstinate, persistent, and concentrated character,
reached the highest skill in card-sharping and the allied wiles. All
games of "chance" were for him games of skill. At thirty he looked at
least ten years older. The life he led, with its ceaseless effort,
endless mental work, perpetual anxiety, had made of him a fanatical
worshiper at the shrine of trickery. He dried up visibly in body and
grew old in mind, mastering all the difficult arts of his profession,
and only gained confidence and serenity when he had reached the
highest possible skill in every branch of his "work." From that moment
he took a new lease of life; he grew younger, he became gay and
self-confident, his health even visibly improved, and he assumed the
air and manner of a perfect gentleman.

As for Natasha, her life and efforts in concert with Bodlevski by no
means had the same wearing effect on her as on him. Her proud, decided
nature received all these impressions quite differently. She continued
to blossom out, to grow handsomer, to enjoy life, to take hearts
captive. All the events which aroused so keen a mental struggle in her
companion she met with entire equanimity. The reason was this: When
she made up her mind to anything, she always decided at once and with
unusual completeness; a very short time given to keen and accurate
consideration, a rapid weighing of the gains and losses of the matter
in hand, and then she went forward coldly and unswervingly on her
chosen path. Her first aim in life had been revenge, then a brilliant
and luxurious life--and she knew that they would cost dear. Therefore,
once embarked on her undertaking, Natasha remained calm and
indifferent, brilliantly distinguished, and ensnaring the just and the
unjust alike. Her intellect, education, skill, resource, and innate
tact made it possible for her everywhere to gain a footing in select
aristocratic society, and to play by no means the least role there.
Many beauties envied her, detested her, spoke evil of her, and yet
sought her friendship, because she almost always queened it in
society. Her friendship and sympathy always seemed so cordial, so
sincere and tender, and her epigrams were so pointed and poisonous,
that every hostile criticism seemed to shrivel up in that glittering
fire, and there seemed to be nothing left but to seek her friendship
and good will. For instance, if things went well in Baden, one could
confidently foretell that at the end of the summer season Natasha
would be found in Nice or Geneva, queen of the winter season, the
lioness of the day, and the arbiter of fashion. She and Bodlevski
always behaved with such propriety and watchful care that not a shadow
ever fell on Natasha's fame. It is true that Bodlevski had to change
his name once or twice and to seek a new field for his talents, and to
make sudden excursions to distant corners of Europe--sometimes in
pursuit of a promising "job," sometimes to evade the too persistent
attentions of the police. So far everything had turned out favorably,
and his name "had remained unstained," when suddenly a slight mishap
befell. The matter was a trifling one, but the misfortune was that it
happened in Paris. There was a chance that it might find issue in the
courts and the hulks, so that there ensued a more than ordinarily
rapid change of passports and a new excursion--this time to Russia,
back to their native land again, after an absence of twenty years.
Thus it happened that the papers announced the arrival in St.
Petersburg of Baroness von Doering and Ian Vladislav Karozitch.



A few days after there was a brilliant reunion at Princess
Shadursky's. All the beauty and fashion of St. Petersburg were
invited, and few who were invited failed to come. It happened that
Prince Shadursky was an admirer of the fair sex, and also that he had
had the pleasure of meeting the brilliant Baroness von Doering at
Hamburg, and again in Paris. It was, therefore, to be expected that
Baroness von Doering should be found in the midst of an admiring throng
at Princess Shadursky's reception. Her brother, Ian Karozitch, was
also there, suave, alert, dignified, losing no opportunity to make
friends with the distinguished company that thronged the prince's

Late in the evening the baroness and her brother might have been seen
engaged in a _tete-a-tete_, seated in two comfortable armchairs, and
anyone who was near enough might have heard the following

"How goes it?" Karozitch asked in a low tone.

"As you see, I am making a hit," answered the baroness in the same
quiet tone. But her manner was so detached and indifferent that no one
could have guessed her remark was of the least significance. It should
be noted that this was her first official presentation to St.
Petersburg society. And in truth her beauty, united with her lively
intellect, her amiability, and her perfect taste in dress, had
produced a general and even remarkable effect. People talked about her
and became interested in her, and her first evening won her several
admirers among those well placed in society.

"I have been paying attention to the solid capitalists," replied
Karozitch; "we have made our _debut_ in the _role_ of practical
actors. Well, what about him?" he continued, indicating Prince
Shadursky with his eyes.

"In the web," she replied, with a subtle smile.

"Then we can soon suck his brains?"

"Soon--but he must be tied tighter first. But we must not talk here."
A moment later Karozitch and the baroness were in the midst of the
brilliant groups of guests.

A few late comers were still arriving. "Count Kallash!" announced the
footman, who stood at the chief entrance to the large hall.

At this new and almost unknown but high-sounding name, many eyes were
turned toward the door through which the newcomer must enter. A hum of
talk spread among the guests:

"Count Kallash----"

"Who is he----?"

"It is a Hungarian name--I think I heard of him somewhere."

"Is this his first appearance?"

"Who is this Kallash? Oh, yes, one of the old Hungarian families----"

"How interesting----"

Such questions and answers crossed each other in a running fire among
the various groups of guests who filled the hall, when a young man
appeared in the doorway.

He lingered a moment to glance round the rooms and the company; then,
as if conscious of the remarks and glances directed toward him, but
completely "ignoring" them, and without the least shyness or
awkwardness, he walked quietly through the hall to the host and
hostess of the evening.

People of experience, accustomed to society and the ways of the great
world, can often decide from the first minute the _role_ which anyone
is likely to play among them. People of experience, at the first view
of this young man, at his first entrance, merely by the way he entered
the hall, decided that his _role_ in society would be brilliant--that
more than one feminine heart would beat faster for his presence, that
more than one dandy's wrath would be kindled by his successes.

"How handsome he is!" a whisper went round among the ladies. The men
for the most part remained silent. A few twisted the ends of their
mustache and made as though they had not noticed him. This was already
enough to foreshadow a brilliant career.

And indeed Count Kallash could not have passed unnoticed, even among a
thousand young men of his class. Tall and vigorous, wonderfully well
proportioned, he challenged comparison with Antinoues. His pale face,
tanned by the sun, had an expression almost of weariness. His high
forehead, with clustering black hair and sharply marked brows, bore
the impress of passionate feeling and turbulent thought strongly
repressed. It was difficult to define the color of his deep-set,
somewhat sunken eyes, which now flashed with southern fire, and were
now veiled, so that one seemed to be looking into an abyss. A slight
mustache and pointed beard partly concealed the ironical smile that
played on his passionate lips. The natural grace of good manners and
quiet but admirably cut clothes completed the young man's exterior,
behind which, in spite of all his reticence, could be divined a
haughty and exceptional nature. A more profound psychologist would
have seen in him an obstinately passionate, ungrateful nature, which
takes from others everything it desires, demanding it from them as a
right and without even a nod of acknowledgment. Such was Count
Nicholas Kallash.

A few days after the reception at Prince Shadursky's Baroness von
Doering was installed in a handsome apartment on Mokhovoi Street, at
which her "brother," Ian Karozitch, or, to give him his former name,
Bodlevski, was a frequent visitor. By a "lucky accident" he had met on
the day following the reception our old friend Sergei Antonovitch
Kovroff, the "captain of the Golden Band." Their recognition was
mutual, and, after a more or less faithful recital of the events of
the intervening years, they had entered into an offensive and
defensive alliance.

When Baroness von Doering was comfortably settled in her new quarters,
Sergei Antonovitch brought a visitor to Bodlevski: none other than the
Hungarian nobleman, Count Nicholas Kallash.

"_Gentlemen, you are strangers_; let me introduce you to each other,"
said Kovroff, presenting Count Kallash to Bodlevski.

"Very glad to know you," answered the Hungarian count, to Bodlevski's
astonishment in Russian; "very glad, indeed! I have several times had
the honor of hearing of you. Was it not you who had some trouble about
forged notes in Paris?"

"Oh, no! You are mistaken, dear count!" answered Bodlevski, with a
pleasant smile. "The matter was not of the slightest importance. The
amount was a trifle and I was unwilling even to appear in court!"

"You preferred a little journey to Russia, didn't you?" Kovroff
remarked with a smile.

"Little vexations of that kind may happen to anyone," said Bodlevski,
ignoring Kovroff's interruption. "You yourself, dear count, had some
trouble about some bonds, if I am not mistaken?"

"You are mistaken," the count interrupted him sharply. "I have had
various troubles, but I prefer not to talk about them."

"Gentlemen," interrupted Kovroff, "we did not come here to quarrel,
but to talk business. Our good friend, Count Kallash," he went on,
turning to Bodlevski, "wishes to have the pleasure of cooperating in
our common undertaking, and--I can recommend him very highly."

"Ah!" said Bodlevski, after a searching study of the count's face. "I
understand! the baroness will return in a few minutes and then we can
discuss matters at our leisure."

But in spite of this understanding it was evident that Bodlevski and
Count Kallash had not impressed each other very favorably. This,
however, did not prevent the concert of the powers from working
vigorously together.



On the wharf of the Fontauka, not far from Simeonovski Bridge, a crowd
was gathered. In the midst of the crowd a dispute raged between an old
woman, tattered, disheveled, miserable, and an impudent-looking youth.
The old woman was evidently stupid from misery and destitution.

While the quarrel raged a new observer approached the crowd. He was
walking leisurely, evidently without an aim and merely to pass the
time, so it is not to be wondered at that the loud dispute arrested
his attention.

"Who are you, anyway, you old hag? What is your name?" cried the
impudent youth.

"My name? My name?" muttered the old woman in confusion. "I am a--I am
a princess," and she blinked at the crowd.

Everyone burst out laughing. "Her Excellency, the Princess! Make way
for the Princess!" cried the youth.

The old woman burst into sudden anger.

"Yes, I tell you, I am a princess by birth!" and her eyes flashed as
she tried to draw herself up and impose on the bantering crowd.

"Princess What? Princess Which? Princess How?" cried the impudent
youth, and all laughed loudly.

"No! Not Princess How!" answered the old woman, losing the last shred
of self-restraint; "but Princess Che-che-vin-ski! Princess Anna

When he heard this name Count Kallash started and his whole expression
changed. He grew suddenly pale, and with a vigorous effort pushed his
way through the crowd to the miserable old woman's side.

"Come!" he said, taking her by the arm. "Come with me! I have
something for you!"

"Something for me?" answered the old woman, looking up with stupid
inquiry and already forgetting the existence of the impudent youth.
"Yes, I'll come! What have you got for me?"

Count Kallash led her by the arm out of the crowd, which began to
disperse, abashed by his appearance and air of determination.
Presently he hailed a carriage, and putting the old woman in, ordered
the coachman to drive to his rooms.

There he did his best to make the miserable old woman comfortable, and
his housekeeper presently saw that she was washed and fed, and soon
the old woman was sleeping in the housekeeper's room.

To explain this extraordinary event we must go back twenty years.

In 1838 Princess Anna Chechevinski, then in her twenty-sixth year, had
defied her parents, thrown to the winds the traditions of her princely
race, and fled with the man of her choice, followed by her mother's
curses and the ironical congratulations of her brother, who thus
became sole heir.

After a year or two she was left alone by the death of her companion,
and step by step she learned all the lessons of sorrow. From one stage
of misfortune to another she gradually fell into the deepest misery,
and had become a poor old beggar in the streets when Count Kallash
came so unexpectedly to her rescue.

It will be remembered that, as a result of Natasha's act of vengeance,
the elder Princess Chechevinski left behind her only a fraction of the
money her son expected to inherit. And this fraction he by no means
hoarded, but with cynical disregard of the future he poured money out
like water, gambling, drinking, plunging into every form of
dissipation. Within a few months his entire inheritance was

Several years earlier Prince Chechevinski had taken a deep interest in
conjuring and had devoted time and care to the study of various forms
of parlor magic. He had even paid considerable sums to traveling
conjurers in exchange for their secrets. Naturally gifted, he had
mastered some of the most difficult tricks, and his skill in card
conjuring would not have done discredit even to a professional

The evening when his capital had almost melted away and the shadow of
ruin lay heavy upon him, he happened to be present at a reception
where card play was going on and considerable sums were staked.

A vacancy at one of the tables could not be filled, and, in spite of
his weak protest of unwillingness, Prince Chechevinski was pressed
into service. He won for the first few rounds, and then began to lose,
till the amount of his losses far exceeded the slender remainder of
his capital. A chance occurred where, by the simple expedient of
neutralizing the cut, mere child's play for one so skilled in
conjuring, he was able to turn the scale in his favor, winning back in
a single game all that he had already lost. He had hesitated for a
moment, feeling the abyss yawning beneath him; then he had falsed,
made the pass, and won the game. That night he swore to himself that
he would never cheat again, never again be tempted to dishonor his

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