Part 5 out of 8
birth; and he kept his oath till his next run of bad luck, when he
once more neutralized the cut and turned the "luck" in his direction.
The result was almost a certainty from the outset, Prince Chechevinski
became a habitual card sharper.
For a long time fortune favored him. His mother's reputation for
wealth, the knowledge that he was her sole heir, the high position of
the family, shielded him from suspicion. Then came the thunderclap. He
was caught in the act of "dealing a second" in the English Club, and
driven from the club as a blackleg. Other reverses followed: a public
refusal on the part of an officer to play cards with him, followed by
a like refusal to give him satisfaction in a duel; a second occasion
in which he was caught redhanded; a criminal trial; six years in
Siberia. After two years he escaped by way of the Chinese frontier,
and months after returned to Europe. For two years he practiced his
skill at Constantinople. Then he made his way to Buda-Pesth, then to
Vienna. While in the dual monarchy, he had come across a
poverty-stricken Magyar noble, named Kallash, whom he had sheltered in
a fit of generous pity, and who had died in his room at the Golden
Eagle Inn. Prince Chechevinski, who had already borne many aliases,
showed his grief at the old Magyar's death by adopting his name and
title; hence it was that he presented himself in St. Petersburg in the
season of 1858 under the high-sounding title of Count Kallash.
An extraordinary coincidence, already described, had brought him face
to face with his sister Anna, whom he had never even heard of in all
the years since her flight. He found her now, poverty-stricken,
prematurely old, almost demented, and, though he had hated her
cordially in days gone by, his pity was aroused by her wretchedness,
and he took her to his home, clothed and fed her, and surrounded her
with such comforts as his bachelor apartment offered.
In the days that followed, every doubt he might have had as to her
identity was dispelled. She talked freely of their early childhood, of
their father's death, of their mother; she even spoke of her brother's
coldness and hostility in terms which drove away the last shadow of
doubt whether she was really his sister. But at first he made no
corresponding revelations, remaining for her only Count Kallash.
THE PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM
Little by little, however, as the poor old woman recovered something
of health and strength, his heart went out toward her. Telling her
only certain incidents of his life, he gradually brought the narrative
back to the period, twenty years before, immediately after their
mother's death, and at last revealed himself to his sister, after
making her promise secrecy as to his true name. Thus matters went on
for nearly two years.
The broken-down old woman lived in his rooms in something like
comfort, and took pleasure in dusting and arranging his things. One
day, when she was tidying the sitting room, her brother was startled
by a sudden exclamation, almost a cry, which broke from his sister's
"Oh, heaven, it is she!" she cried, her eyes fixed on a page of the
photograph album she had been dusting. "Brother, come here; for
heaven's sake, who is this?"
"Baroness von Doering," curtly answered Kallash, glancing quickly at
the photograph. "What do you find interesting in her?"
"It is either she or her double! Do you know who she looks like?"
"Lord only knows! Herself, perhaps!"
"No, she has a double! I am sure of it! Do you remember, at mother's,
my maid Natasha?"
"Natasha?" the count considered, knitting his brows in the effort to
"Yes, Natasha, my maid. A tall, fair girl. A thick tress of chestnut
hair. She had such beautiful hair! And her lips had just the same
proud expression. Her eyes were piercing and intelligent, her brows
were clearly marked and joined together--in a word, the very original
of this photograph!"
"Ah," slowly and quietly commented the count, pressing his hand to his
brow. "Exactly. Now I remember! Yes, it is a striking likeness."
"But look closely," cried the old woman excitedly; "it is the living
image of Natasha! Of course she is more matured, completely developed.
How old is the baroness?"
"She must be approaching forty. But she doesn't look her age; you
would imagine her to be about thirty-two from her appearance."
"There! And Natasha would be just forty by now!"
"The ages correspond," answered her brother.
"Yes." Princess Anna sighed sadly. "Twenty-two years have passed since
then. But if I met her face to face I think I would recognize her at
once. Tell me, who is she?"
"The baroness? How shall I tell you? She has been abroad for twenty
years, and for the last two years she has lived here. In society she
says she is a foreigner, but with me she is franker, and I know that
she speaks Russian perfectly. She declares that her husband is
somewhere in Germany, and that she lives here with her brother."
"Who is the 'brother'?" asked the old princess curiously.
"The deuce knows! He is also a bit shady. Oh, yes! Sergei Kovroff
knows him; he told me something about their history; he came here with
a forged passport, under the name of Vladislav Karozitch, but his real
name is Kasimir Bodlevski."
"Kasimir Bodlevski," muttered the old woman, knitting her brows. "Was
he not once a lithographer or an engraver, or something of the sort?"
"I think he was. I think Kovroff said something about it. He is a fine
"He was? Well, there you are!" and Princess Anna rose quickly from her
seat. "It is she--it is Natasha! She used to tell me she had a
sweetheart, a Polish hero, Bodlevski. And I think his name was
Kasimir. She often got my permission to slip out to visit him; she
said he worked for a lithographer, and always begged me to persuade
mother to liberate her from serfdom, so that she could marry him."
This unexpected discovery meant much to Kallash. Circumstances,
hitherto slight and isolated, suddenly gained a new meaning, and were
lit up in a way that made him almost certain of the truth. He now
remembered that Kovroff had once told him of his first acquaintance
with Bodlevski, when he came on the Pole at the Cave, arranging for a
false passport; he remembered that Natasha had disappeared immediately
before the death of the elder Princess Chechevinski, and he also
remembered how, returning from the cemetery, he had been cruelly
disappointed in his expectations when he had found in the strong box a
sum very much smaller than he had always counted on, and with some
foundation; and before him, with almost complete certainty, appeared
the conclusion that the maid's disappearance was connected with the
theft of his mother's money, and especially of the securities in his
sister's name, and that all this was nothing but the doing of Natasha
and her companion Bodlevski.
"Very good! Perhaps this information will come in handy!" he said to
himself, thinking over his future measures and plans. "Let us see--let
us feel our way--perhaps it is really so! But I must go carefully and
keep on my guard, and the whole thing is in my hands, dear baroness!
We will spin a thread from you before all is over."
THE BARONESS AT HOME
Every Wednesday Baroness von Doering received her intimate friends. She
did not care for rivals, and therefore ladies were not invited to
these evenings. The intimate circle of the baroness consisted of our
Knights of Industry and the "pigeons" of the bureaucracy, the world of
finance, the aristocracy, which were the objects of the knights'
It often happened, however, that the number of guests at these
intimate evenings went as high as fifty, and sometimes even more.
The baroness was passionately fond of games of chance, and always sat
down to the card table with enthusiasm. But as this was done
conspicuously, in sight of all her guests, the latter could not fail
to note that fortune obstinately turned away from the baroness. She
almost never won on the green cloth; sometimes Kovroff won, sometimes
Kallash, sometimes Karozitch, but with the slight difference that the
last won more seldom and less than the other two.
Thus every Wednesday a considerable sum found its way from the
pocketbook of the baroness into that of one of her colleagues, to find
its way back again the next morning. The purpose of this clever scheme
was that the "pigeons" who visited the luxurious salons of the
baroness, and whose money paid the expenses of these salons, should
not have the smallest grounds for suspicion that the dear baroness's
apartment was nothing but a den of sharpers. Her guests all considered
her charming, to begin with, and also rich and independent and
passionate by nature. This explained her love of play and the
excitement it brought, and which she would not give up, in spite of
her repeated heavy losses.
Her colleagues, the Knights of Industry, acted on a carefully devised
and rigidly followed plan. They were far from putting their uncanny
skill in motion every Wednesday. So long as they had no big game in
sight, the game remained clean and honest. In this way the band might
lose two or three thousand rubles, but such a loss had no great
importance, and was soon made up when some fat "pigeon" appeared.
It sometimes happened that this wily scheme of honest play went on for
five or six weeks in succession, so that the small fry, winning the
band's money, remained entirely convinced that it was playing in an
honorable and respectable private house, and very naturally spread
abroad the fame of it throughout the whole city. But when the fat
pigeon at last appeared, the band put forth all its forces, all the
wiles of the black art, and in a few hours made up for the generous
losses of a month of honorable and irreproachable play on the green
Midnight was approaching.
The baroness's rooms were brilliantly lit up, but, thanks to the thick
curtains which covered the windows, the lights could not be seen from
the street, though several carriages were drawn up along the sidewalk.
Opening into the elegant drawing-room was a not less elegant card
room, appreciatively nicknamed the Inferno by the band. In it stood a
large table with a green cloth, on which lay a heap of bank notes and
two little piles of gold, before which sat Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff,
presiding over the bank with the composure of a true gentleman.
What Homeric, Jovine calm rested on every feature of his face! What
charming, fearless self-assurance, what noble self-confidence in his
smile, in his glance! What grace, what distinction in his pose, and
especially in the hand which dealt the cards! Sergei Kovroff's hands
were decidedly worthy of attention. They were almost always clad in
new gloves, which he only took off on special occasions, at dinner, or
when he had some writing to do, or when he sat down to a game of
cards. As a result, his hands were almost feminine in their delicacy,
the sensibility of the finger tips had reached an extraordinary degree
of development, equal to that of one born blind. And those fingers
were skillful, adroit, alert, their every movement carried out with
that smooth, indefinable grace which is almost always possessed by the
really high-class card sharper. His fingers were adorned with numerous
rings, in which sparkled diamonds and other precious stones. And it
was not for nothing that Sergei Kovroff took pride in them! This
glitter of diamonds, scattering rainbow rays, dazzled the eyes of his
fellow players. When Sergei Kovroff sat down to preside over the bank,
the sparkling of the diamonds admirably masked those motions of his
fingers which needed to be masked; they almost insensibly drew away
the eyes of the players from his fingers, and this was most of all
what Sergei Kovroff desired.
Round the table about thirty guests were gathered. Some of them sat,
but most of them played standing, with anxious faces, feverishly
sparkling eyes, and breathing heavily and unevenly. Some were pale,
some flushed, and all watched with passionate eagerness the fall of
the cards. There were also some who had perfect command of themselves,
distinguished by extraordinary coolness, and jesting lightly whether
they lost or won. But such happily constituted natures are always a
minority when high play is going on.
Silence reigned in the Inferno. There was almost no conversation; only
once in a while was heard a remark, in a whisper or an undertone,
addressed by a player to his neighbor; the only sound was that short,
dry rustle of the cards and the crackling of new bank notes, or the
tinkle of gold coins making their way round the table from the bank to
the players, and from the players back to the bank.
The two Princes Shadursky, father and son, both lost heavily. They sat
opposite Sergei Kovroff, and between them sat Baroness von Doering, who
played in alliance with them. The clever Natasha egged them on,
kindling their excitement with all the skill and calculation possible
to one whose blood was as cold as the blood of a fish, and both the
Shadurskys had lost their heads, no longer knowing how much they were
Count Kallash and his sister had just breakfasted when the count's
French footman entered the study.
"Madame la baronne von Doering!" he announced obsequiously.
Brother and sister exchanged a rapid glance.
"Now is our opportunity to make sure," said Kallash, with a smile.
"If it is she, I shall recognize her by her voice," whispered Princess
Anna. "Shall I remain here or go?"
"Remain in the meantime; it will be a curious experience. _Faites
entrer_!" he added to the footman.
A moment later light, rapid footsteps were heard in the entrance hall,
and the rustling of a silk skirt.
"How do you do, count! I have come to see you for a moment. I came in
all haste, on purpose. I have come _in person_, you must be duly
appreciative! Vladislav is too busy, and the matter is an important
one. I wanted to see you at the earliest opportunity. Well, we may all
congratulate ourselves. Fate and fortune are decidedly on our side!"
said the baroness, speaking rapidly, as she entered the count's study.
"What has happened? What is the news?" asked the count, going forward
to meet her.
"We have learned that the Shadurskys have just received a large sum of
money; they have sold an estate, and the purchaser has paid them in
cash. Our opportunity has come. Heaven forbid that we should lose it!
We must devise a plan to make the most of it."
The baroness suddenly stopped short in the middle of the sentence, and
became greatly confused, noticing that there was a third person
"Forgive me! I did not give you warning," said the count, shrugging
his shoulders and smiling; "permit me! _Princess Anna Chechevinski!_"
he continued with emphasis, indicating his poor, decrepit sister. "Of
course you would not have recognized her, baroness."
"But _I_ recognized Natasha immediately," said the old woman quietly,
her eyes still fixed on Natasha's face.
The baroness suddenly turned as white as a sheet, and with trembling
hands caught the back of a heavy armchair.
Kallash with extreme politeness assisted her to a seat.
"You didn't expect to meet me, Natasha?" said the old woman gently and
almost caressingly, approaching her.
"I do not know you. Who are you?" the baroness managed to whisper, by
a supreme effort.
"No wonder; I am so changed," replied Princess Anna. "But _you_ are
just the same. There is hardly any change at all."
Natasha began to recover her composure.
"I don't understand you," she said coldly, contracting her brows.
"But I understand _you_ perfectly."
"Allow me, princess," Kallash interrupted her, "permit me to have an
explanation with the baroness; she and I know each other well. And if
you will pardon me, I shall ask you in the meantime to withdraw."
And he courteously conducted his sister to the massive oak doors,
which closed solidly after her.
"What does this mean?" said the baroness, rising angrily, her gray
eyes flashing at the count from under her broad brows.
"A coincidence," answered Kallash, shrugging his shoulders with an
"How a coincidence? Speak clearly!"
"The former mistress has recognized her former maid--that is all."
"How does this woman come to be here? Who is she?"
"I have told you already; Princess Anna Chechevinski. And as to how
she came here, that was also a coincidence, and a strange one."
"Impossible!" exclaimed the baroness.
"Why impossible? They say the dead sometimes return from the tomb, and
the princess is still alive. And why should the matter not have
happened thus, for instance? Princess Anna Chechevinski's maid Natasha
took advantage of the confidence and illness of the elder princess to
steal from her strong box, with the aid of her sweetheart, Kasimir
Bodlevski, money and securities--mark this, baroness--securities in
the name of Princess Anna. And might it not happen that this same
lithographer Bodlevski should get false passports at the Cave, for
himself and his sweetheart, and flee with her across the frontier, and
might not this same maid, twenty years later, return to Russia under
the name of Baroness von Doering? You must admit that there is nothing
fantastic in all this! What is the use of concealing? You see I know
"And what follows from all this?" replied the baroness with a forced
smile of contempt.
"Much _may_ follow from it," significantly but quietly replied
Kallash. "But at present the only important matter is, that I know
all. I repeat it--_all_."
"Where are your facts?" asked the baroness.
"Facts? Hm!" laughed Kallash. "If facts are needed, they will be
forthcoming. Believe me, dear baroness, that if I had not legally
sufficient facts in my hands, I would not have spoken to you of this."
Kallash lied, but lied with the most complete appearance of
The baroness again grew confused and turned white.
"Where are your facts? Put them in my hands!" she said at last, after
a prolonged silence.
"Oh, this is too much! Get hold of them yourself!" the count replied,
with the same smile. "The facts are generally set forth to the
prisoner by the court; but it is enough for you in the meantime to
know that the facts exist, and that they are in my possession.
Believe, if you wish. If you do not wish, do not believe. I will
neither persuade you nor dissuade you."
"And this means that I am in your power? she said slowly, raising her
piercing glance to his face.
"Yes; it means that you are in my power," quietly and confidently
answered Count Kallash.
"But you forget that you and I are in the same boat."
"You mean that I am a sharper, like you and Bodlevski? Well, you are
right. We are all berries of the same bunch--except _her_" (and he
indicated the folding doors). "She, thanks to many things, has tasted
misery, but she is honest. But we are all rascals, and I first of all.
You are perfectly right in that. If you wish to get me in your
power--try to find some facts against me. Then we shall be quits!"
"And what is it you wish?"
"It is too late for justice, at least so far as she is concerned,"
replied the count, with a touch of sadness; "but it is not too late
for a measure of reparation. But we can discuss that later," he went
on more lightly, as if throwing aside the heavy impression produced by
the thought of Princess Anna's misery. "And now, dear baroness, let us
return to business, the business of Prince Shadursky! I will think the
matter over, and see whether anything suggests itself."
He courteously conducted the baroness to the carriage, and they
parted, to all appearance, friends. But there were dangerous elements
for both in that seeming friendship.
A wonderful scheme was hatched in Count Kallash's fertile brain.
Inspired by the thought of Prince Shadursky's newly replenished
millions, he devised a plan for the gang which promised brilliant
results, and only needed the aid of a discreet and skillful
confederate. And what confederate could be more trustworthy than
Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff? So the two friends were presently to be
found in secret consultation in the count's handsome study, with a
bottle of good Rhine wine before them, fine cigars between their lips,
and the memory of a well-served breakfast lingering pleasantly in
their minds. They were talking about the new resources of the
"To take their money at cards--what a wretched business--and so
infernally commonplace," said Count Kallash. "To tell you the truth, I
have for a long time been sick of cards! And, besides, time is money!
Why should we waste several weeks, or even months, over something that
could be done in a few days?"
Kovroff agreed completely, but at the same time put the question, if
not cards, what plan was available?
"That is it exactly!" cried Kallash, warming up. "I have thought it
all over. The problem is this: we must think up something that would
surprise Satan himself, something that would make all Hades smile and
blow us hot kisses. But what of Hades?--that's all nonsense. We must
do something that will make the whole Golden Band throw up their caps.
That is what we have to do!"
"Quite a problem," lazily answered Kovroff, chewing the end of his
cigar. "But you are asking too much."
"But that is not all," the count interrupted him; "listen! This is
what my problem demands. We must think of some project that unites two
precious qualities: first, a rapid and huge profit; second, entire
absence of risk."
"Conditions not altogether easy to fulfill," remarked Kovroff
"So it seems. And daring plans are not to be picked up in the street,
but are the result of inspiration. It is what is called a 'heavenly
gift,' my dear friend."
"And you have had an inspiration?" smiled Sergei Antonovitch, with a
slightly ironical shade of friendly skepticism.
"I have had an inspiration," replied the supposititious Hungarian
nobleman, falling into the other's tone.
"And your muse is----?"
"The tenth of the muses," the count interrupted him: "another name is
"She is the muse of all of us."
"And mine in particular. But we are not concerned with her, but with
her prophetic revelations."
"Oh, dear count! Circumlocutions apart! This Rhine wine evidently
carries you to misty Germany. Tell me simply what the matter is."
"The matter is simply this: we must institute a society of 'gold
miners,' and we must find gold in places where the geological
indications are dead against it. That is the problem. The Russian
laws, under threat of arrest and punishment, sternly forbid the
citizens of the Russian Empire, and likewise the citizens of other
lands within the empire, to buy or sell the noble metals in their
crude form, that is, in nuggets, ore, or dust. For example, if you
bought gold in the rough from me--gold dust, for example--we should
both, according to law, have to take a pleasant little trip beyond the
Ural Mountains to Siberia, and there we should have to engage in
mining the precious metal ourselves. A worthy occupation, no doubt,
but not a very profitable one for us."
"Our luxuries would be strictly limited," jested Kovroff, with a wry
"There it is! You won't find many volunteers for that occupation, and
that is the fulcrum of my whole plan. You must understand that gold
dust in the mass is practically indistinguishable in appearance from
brass filings. Let us suppose that we secretly sell some perfectly
pure brass filings for gold dust, and that they are readily bought of
us, because we sell considerably below the market rate. It goes
without saying that the purchaser will presently discover that we have
done him brown. But, I ask you, will he go and accuse us knowing that,
as the penalty for his purchase, he will have to accompany us along
the Siberian road?"
"No man is his own enemy," sententiously replied Kovroff, beginning to
take a vivid interest in what his companion was saying. "But how are
you going to work it?"
"You will know at the proper time. The chief thing is, that our
problem is solved in the most decisive manner. You and I are pretty
fair judges of human nature, so we may be pretty sure that we shall
always find purchasers, and I suggest that we make a beginning on
young Prince Shadursky. How we shall get him into it is my business.
I'll tell you later on. But how do you like the general idea of my
"It's clever enough!" cried Kovroff, pressing his hand with the gay
enthusiasm of genuine interest.
"For this truth much thanks!" cried Kallash, clinking glasses with
him. "It is clever--that is the best praise I could receive from you.
Let us drink to the success of my scheme!"
THE FISH BITES
Three days after this conversation the younger prince Shadursky dined
with Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff.
That morning he received a note from Kovroff, in which the worthy
Sergei complained of ill health and begged the prince to come and dine
with him and cheer him up.
The prince complied with his request, and appearing at the appointed
time found Count Kallash alone with his host.
Among other gossip, the prince announced that he expected shortly to
go to Switzerland, as he had bad reports of the health of his mother,
who was in Geneva.
At this news Kallash glanced significantly toward Kovroff.
Passing from topic to topic, the conversation finally turned to the
financial position of Russia. Sergei Antonovitch, according to his
expression, "went to the root of the matter," and indicated the
"source of the evil," very frankly attacking the policy of the
government, which did everything to discourage gold mining, hedging
round this most important industry with all kinds of difficulties, and
practically prohibiting the free production of the precious metals by
laying on it a dead weight of costly formalities.
"I have facts ready to hand," he went on, summing up his argument. "I
have an acquaintance here, an employee of one of the best-known men in
the gold-mining industry." Here Kovroff mentioned a well-known name.
"He is now in St. Petersburg. Well, a few days ago he suddenly came to
me as if he had something weighing on his mind. And I have had
business relations with him in times past. Well, what do you think? He
suddenly made me a proposal, secretly of course; would I not take some
gold dust off his hands? You must know that these trusted employees
every year bring several hundred pounds of gold from Asia, and of
course it stands to reason that they cannot get rid of it in the
ordinary way, but smuggle it through private individuals. It is
uncommonly profitable for the purchasers, because they buy far below
the market rates. So there are plenty of purchasers. Several of the
leading jewelers" (and here he named three or four of the best-known
firms) "never refuse such a deal, and last year a banking house in
Berlin bought a hundred pounds' weight of gold through agents here.
Well, this same employee, my acquaintance, is looking for an
opportunity to get rid of his wares. And he tells me he managed to
bring in about forty pounds of gold, if not more. I introduce this
fact to illustrate the difficulties put in the way of enterprise by
our intelligent government."
Shadursky did not greatly occupy himself with serious questions and he
was totally ignorant of all details of financial undertakings. It was,
therefore, perfectly easy for Sergei Antonovitch to assume a tone of
solid, practical sense, which imposed completely on the young prince.
Young Shadursky, from politeness, and to prove his worldly wisdom,
assented to Kovroff's statements with equal decision. All the same,
from this conversation, he quite clearly seized on the idea that under
certain circumstances it would be possible to buy gold at a much lower
price than that demanded by the Imperial Bank. And this was just the
thought which Kallash and Kovroff wished to sow in the young prince's
"Of course, I myself do not go in for that kind of business," went on
Kovroff carelessly, "and so I could not give my friend any help. But
if some one were going abroad, for instance, he might well risk such
an operation, which would pay him a very handsome profit."
"How so? In what way?" asked Shadursky.
"Very simply. You buy the goods here, as I already said, much below
the government price. So that to begin with you make a very profitable
bargain. Then you go abroad with your wares and there, as soon as the
exchange value of gold goes up, you can sell it at the nearest bank. I
know, for instance, that the agent of the ---- Bank" (and he mentioned
a name well known in St. Petersburg) "made many a pretty penny for
himself by just such a deal. This is how it was: He bought gold dust
for forty thousand rubles, and six weeks later got rid of it in
Hamburg for sixty thousand. Whatever you may say, fifty per cent on
your capital in a month and a half is pretty good business."
"Deuce take it! A pretty profitable bargain, without a doubt!" cried
Shadursky, jumping from his chair. "It would just suit me! I could get
rid of it in Geneva or Paris," he went on in a jesting tone.
"What do you think? Of course!" Sergei Antonovitch took him up, but in
a serious tone. "You or some one else--in any case it would be a good
bargain. For my acquaintance has to go back to Asia, and has only a
few days to spare. He doesn't know where to turn and rather than take
his gold back with him, he would willingly let it go at an even lower
rate than the smugglers generally ask. If I had enough free cash I
would go in for it myself."
"It looks a good proposition," commented Count Kallash.
"It is certainly very enticing; what do you think?" said Prince
Shadursky interrogatively, folding his arms.
"Hm--yes! very enticing," answered Kovroff. "A fine chance for anyone
who has the money."
"I would not object! I would not object!" protested Shadursky.
"Suppose you let me become acquainted with your friend."
"You? Well--" And Kovroff considered; "if you wish. Why not? Only I
warn you, first, if you are going to buy, buy quickly, for my friend
can't wait; and secondly, keep the matter a complete secret, for very
unpleasant results might follow."
"That goes without saying. That stands to reason," assented Shadursky.
"I can get the money at once and I am just going abroad, in a day or
two at the latest. So it would be foolish to miss such a chance. So it
is a bargain?" And he held out his hand to Kovroff.
"How a bargain?" objected the cautious Sergei Antonovitch. "I am not
personally concerned in the matter, and you must admit, my dear
prince, that I can make no promises for my acquaintance."
"I don't mean that!" cried Shadursky. "I only ask you to arrange for
me to meet him. Bring us together--and drop him a hint that I do not
object to buying his wares. You will confer a great obligation on me."
"Oh, that is quite a different matter. That I can always do; the more
so, because we are such good friends. Why should I not do you such a
trifling service? As far as an introduction is concerned, you may
count on it." And they cordially shook each other by the hand.
Both Kallash and Kovroff were too cautious to take an immediate,
personal part in the gold-dust sale. There was a certain underling,
Mr. Escrocevitch by name, at Sergei Kovroff's beck and call--a shady
person, rather dirty in aspect, and who was, therefore, only admitted
to Sergei's presence by the back door and through the kitchen, and
even then only at times when there were no outsiders present.
Mr. Escrocevitch was a person of general utility and was especially
good at all kinds of conjuring tricks. Watches, snuff-boxes,
cigar-cases, silver spoons, and even heavy bronze paper-weights
acquired the property of suddenly vanishing from under his hands, and
of suddenly reappearing in a quite unexpected quarter. This valuable
gift had been acquired by Mr. Escrocevitch in his early years, when he
used to wander among the Polish fairs, swallowing burning flax for the
delectation of the public and disgorging endless yards of ribbon and
Mr. Escrocevitch was a precious and invaluable person also owing to
his capacity of assuming any _role_, turning himself into any given
character, and taking on the corresponding tone, manners, and
appearance, and he was, further, a pretty fair actor.
He it was who was chosen to play the part of the Siberian employee.
Not more than forty-eight hours had passed since the previous
conversation. Prince Shadursky was just up, when his footman announced
to him that a Mr. Valyajnikoff wished to see him.
The prince put on his dressing gown and went into the drawing-room,
where the tolerably presentable but strangely dressed person of Mr.
Escrocevitch presented itself to him.
"Permit me to have the honor of introducing myself," he began, bowing
to Prince Shadursky; "I am Ivanovitch Valyajnikoff. Mr. Sergei
Antonovitch Kovroff was so good as to inform me of a certain intention
of yours about the dust. So, if your excellency has not changed your
mind, I am ready to sell it to you with pleasure."
"Very good of you," answered Prince Shadursky, smiling gayly, and
giving him a chair.
"To lose no time over trifles," continued Mr. Escrocevitch, "let me
invite you to my quarters. I am staying at a hotel; you can see the
goods there; you can make tests, and, if you are satisfied, I shall be
very happy to oblige your excellency."
Prince Shadursky immediately finished dressing, ordered his carriage,
and went out with the supposititious Valyajnikoff. They drove to a
shabby hotel and went to a dingy room.
"This is my poor abode. I am only here on the wing, so to speak. I
humbly request you to be seated," Mr. Escrocevitch said obsequiously.
"Not to lose precious time, perhaps your excellency would like to look
at my wares? Here they are--and I am most willing to show them."
And he dragged from under the bed a big trunk, in which were five
canvas bags of various sizes, packed full and tied tightly.
"Here, here it is! This is our Siberian dust," he said, smiling and
bowing, indicating the trunk with a wave of his hand, as if
introducing it to Prince Shadursky.
"Would not your excellency be so good as to choose one of these bags
to make a test? It will be much better if you see yourself that the
business is above board, with no swindle about it. Choose whichever
Shadursky lifted one of the bags from the trunk, and when Mr.
Escrocevitch untied it before the young prince's eyes appeared a mass
of metallic grains, at which he gazed not without inward pleasure.
"How are you going to make a test?" he asked. "We have no blow-pipes
nor test-tubes here?"
"Make your mind easy, your excellency! We shall find everything we
require--blow-pipes and test-tubes and nitric acid, and even a decimal
weighing machine. In our business we arrange matters in such a way
that we need not disturb outsiders. Only charcoal we haven't got, but
we can easily send for some."
And going to the door, he gave the servant in the passage an order,
and a few minutes later the latter returned with a dish of charcoal.
"First class! Now everything is ready," cried Mr. Escrocevitch,
rubbing his hands; and for greater security he turned the key in the
"Take whichever piece of charcoal you please, your excellency; but,
not to soil your hands, you had better let me take it myself, and you
sprinkle some of the dust on it," and he humbled himself before the
prince. "Forgive me for asking you to do it all yourself, since it is
not from any lack of politeness on my part, but simply in order that
your excellency should be fully convinced that there is no deception."
Saying this, he got his implements ready and lit the lamp.
The blow-pipe came into action. Valyajnikoff made the experiment, and
Shadursky attentively followed every movement. The charcoal glowed
white hot, the dust ran together and disappeared, and in its place,
when the charcoal had cooled a little, and the amateur chemist
presented it to Prince Shadursky, the prince saw a little ball of gold
lying in a crevice of the charcoal, such as might easily have formed
under the heat of the blow-pipe.
"Take the globule, your excellency, and place it, for greater
security, in your pocketbook," said Escrocevitch; "you may even wrap
it up in a bit of paper; and keep the sack of gold dust yourself, so
that there can be no mistake."
Shadursky gladly followed this last piece of advice.
"And now, your excellency, I should like you kindly to select another
bag; we shall make two or three more tests in the same way."
The prince consented to this also.
Escrocevitch handed him a new piece of charcoal to sprinkle dust on,
and once more brought the blow-pipe into operation. And again the
brass filings disappeared and in the crevice appeared a new globule of
"Well, perhaps these two tests will be sufficient. What is your
excellency good enough to think on that score?" asked the supposed
"What is the need of further tests? The matter is clear enough,"
assented the prince.
"If it is satisfactory, we shall proceed to make it even more
satisfactory. Here we have a touch-stone, and here we have some nitric
acid. Try the globules on the touch-stone physically, and, so to
speak, with the nitric acid chemically. And if you wish to make even
more certain, this is what we shall do. What quantity of gold does
your excellency wish to take?"
"The more the better. I am ready to buy all these bags."
"_Very_ much obliged to your excellency, as this will suit me
admirably," said Escrocevitch, bowing low. "And so, if your excellency
is ready, then I humbly beg you to take each bag, examine it, and seal
it with your excellency's own seal. Then let us take one of the
globules and go to one of the best jewelers in St. Petersburg. Let him
tell us the value of the gold and in this way the business will be
exact; there will be no room for complaint on either side, since
everything will be fair and above board."
The prince was charmed with the honesty and frankness of Mr.
They went together to one of the best-known jewelers, who, in their
presence, made a test and announced that the gold was chemically pure,
without any alloy, and therefore of the highest value.
On their return to the hotel, Mr. Escrocevitch weighed the bags, which
turned out to weigh forty-eight pounds. Allowing three pounds for the
weight of the bags, this left forty-five pounds of pure gold.
"How much a pound do you want?" Shadursky asked him.
"A pretty low price, your excellency," answered the Siberian, with a
shrug of his shoulders, "as I am selling from extreme necessity,
because I have to leave for Siberia; I've spent too much time and
money in St. Petersburg already; and if I cannot sell my wares, I
shall not be able to go at all. I assume that the government price is
known to your excellency?"
"But I am willing to take two hundred rubles a pound."
I can't take a kopeck less, and even so I am making a reduction of
nearly a hundred rubles the pound."
"All right!" assented Shadursky. "That will amount to--" he went on,
knitting his brows, "forty-five pounds at two hundred rubles a
"It will make exactly nine thousand, your excellency. Just exactly
nine," Escrocevitch obsequiously helped him out. The prince, cutting
the matter short, immediately gave him a check, and taking the trunk
with the coveted bags, drove with the Siberian employee to his
father's house, where the elder Prince Shadursky, at his son's
pressing demand, though very unwillingly, exchanged the check for nine
thousand rubles in bills, for which Ivan Ivanovitch Valyajnikoff
forthwith gave a receipt. The prince was delighted with his purchase,
and he did not utter a syllable about it to anyone except Kovroff.
Sergei Antonovitch gave him a friendly counsel not to waste any time,
but to go abroad at once, as, according to the _Exchange Gazette_,
gold was at that moment very high, so that he had an admirable
opportunity to get rid of his wares on very favorable terms.
The prince, in fact, without wasting time got his traveling passport,
concealed his purchase with the utmost care, and set out for the
frontier, announcing that he was on his way to his mother, whose
health imperatively demanded his presence.
The success of the whole business depended on the fact that brass
filings, which bear a strong external resemblance to gold dust, are
dissipated in the strong heat of the blow-pipe. The charcoal was
prepared beforehand, a slight hollow being cut in it with a penknife,
in the bottom of which is placed a globule of pure gold, the top of
which is just below the level of the charcoal, and the hollow is
filled up with powdered charcoal mixed with a little bees-wax. The
"chemist" who makes the experiments must make himself familiar with
the distinctive appearance of the charcoal, so as to pick it out from
among several pieces, and must remember exactly where the crevice is.
On this first occasion, Escrocevitch had prepared all four pieces of
charcoal, which were brought by the servant in the passage. He chose
as his temporary abode a hotel whose proprietor was an old ally of
his, and the servant was also a confederate.
Thus was founded the famous "Gold Products Company," which is still in
very successful operation, and is constantly widening its sphere of
Count Kallash finally decided on his course of action. It was too late
to seek justice for his sister, but not too late for a tardy
reparation. The gang had prospered greatly, and the share of Baroness
von Doering and Bodlevski already amounted to a very large figure.
Count Kallash determined to demand for his sister a sum equal to that
of the securities in her name which Natasha had stolen, calculating
that this would be enough to maintain his sister in peace and comfort
to the end of her days. His own life was too stormy, too full of risks
for him to allow his sister's fate to depend on his, so he had decided
to settle her in some quiet nook where, free from danger, she might
dream away her few remaining years.
To his surprise Baroness von Doering flatly refused to be put under
"Your demand is outrageous," she said. "I am not going to be the
victim of any such plot!"
"Very well, I will compel you to unmask?"
"To unmask? What do you mean, count? You forget yourself!"
"Well, then, I shall try to make you remember me!" And Kallash turned
his back on her and strode from the room. A moment later, and she
heard the door close loudly behind him.
The baroness had already told Bodlevski of her meeting with Princess
Anna, and she now hurried to him for counsel. They agreed that their
present position, with Kallash's threats hanging over their heads, was
intolerable. But what was to be done?
Bodlevski paced up and down the room, biting his lips, and seeking
some decisive plan.
"We must act in such a way," he said, coming to a stand before the
baroness, "as to get rid of this fellow once for all. I think he is
dangerous, and it never does any harm to take proper precautions. Get
the money ready, Natasha; we must give it to him."
"What! give him the money!" and the baroness threw up her hands. "Will
that get us out of his power? Can we feel secure? It will only last
till something new happens. At the first occasion----"
"Which will also be the last!" interrupted Bodlevski. "Suppose we do
give him the money to-day; does that mean that we give it for good?
Not at all! It will be back in my pocket to-morrow! Let us think it
out properly!" and he gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder, and sat
down in an easy chair in front of her.
The result of their deliberations was a little note addressed to Count
"DEAR COUNT," it ran, "I was guilty of an act of folly toward you
to-day. I am ashamed of it, and wish to make amends as soon as
possible. We have always been good friends, so let us forget our
little difference, the more so that an alliance is much more
advantageous to us both than a quarrel. Come this evening to receive
the money you spoke of, and to clasp in amity the hand of your devoted
friend, VON D."
Kallash came about ten o'clock in the evening, and received from
Bodlevski the sum of fifty thousand rubles in notes. The baroness was
very amiable, and persuaded him to have some tea. There was not a
suggestion of future difficulties, and everything seemed to promise
perfect harmony for the future. Bodlevski talked over plans of future
undertakings, and told him, with evident satisfaction, that they had
just heard of the arrest of the younger Prince Shadursky, in Paris,
for attempting to defraud a bank by a pretended sale of gold dust.
Count Kallash was also gay, and a certain satisfaction filled his mind
at the thought of his sister's security, as he felt the heavy packet
of notes in his pocket. He smoked his cigar with evident satisfaction,
sipping the fragrant tea from time to time. The conversation was gay
and animated, and for some reason or other turned to the subject of
"Ah, yes," interposed Bodlevski, "_a propos_! I expect to be a member
of the Yacht Club this summer. Let me recommend to you a new field of
action. They will disport themselves on the green water, and we on the
green cloth! By the way, I forgot to speak of it--I bought a boat the
other day, a mere rowboat. It is on the Fontauka Canal, at the
Simeonovski bridge. We must come for a row some day."
"Delightful," exclaimed the baroness. "But why some day? Why not
to-night? The moon is beautiful, and, indeed, it is hardly dark at
midnight. Your speaking of boats has filled me with a sudden desire to
go rowing. What do you say, dear count?" and she turned amiably to
Count Kallash at once consented, considering the baroness's idea an
admirable one, and they were soon on their way toward the Simeonovski
"How delightful it is!" cried the baroness, some half hour later, as
they were gliding over the quiet water. "Count, do you like strong
sensations?" she asked suddenly.
"I am fond of strong sensations of every kind," he replied, taking up
"Well, I am going to offer you a little sensation, though it always
greatly affects me. Everything is just right for it, and I am in the
"What is it to be?" asked Count Kallash indifferently.
"You will see in a moment. Do you know that there are underground
canals in St. Petersburg?"
"In St. Petersburg?" asked Kallash in astonishment.
"Yes, in St. Petersburg! A whole series of underground rivers, wide
enough for a boat to pass through. I have rowed along them several
times. Does not that offer a new sensation, something quite unlike St.
"Yes, it is certainly novel," answered Count Kallash, now interested.
"Where are they? Pray show them to me."
"There is one a few yards off. Shall we enter? You are not afraid?"
she said with a smile of challenge.
"By no means--unless you command me to be afraid," Kallash replied in
the same tone. "Let us enter at once!"
"Kasimir, turn under the arch!" and the boat cut across the canal
toward a half circle of darkness. A moment more and the darkness
engulfed them completely. They were somewhere under the Admiralty, not
far from St. Isaac's Cathedral. Away ahead of them was a tiny half
circle of light, where the canal joined the swiftly flowing Neva.
Carriages rumbled like distant thunder above their heads.
"Deuce take it! it is really rather fine!" cried the count, with
evident pleasure. "A meeting of pirates is all we need to make it
perfect. It is a pity that we cannot see where we are!"
"Light a match. Have you any?" said the baroness.
"I have, and wax matches, too." The count took out a match and lit it,
and the underground stream was lit by a faint ruddy glow. The channel,
covered by a semi-circular arch, was just wide enough for one boat to
pass through, with oars out. The black water flowed silently by in a
sluggish, Stygian stream. Bats, startled by the light, fluttered in
their faces, and then disappeared in the darkness.
As the boat glided on, the match burned out in Count Kallash's
fingers. He threw it into the water, and opened his matchbox to take
At the same moment he felt a sharp blow on the head, followed by a
second, and he sank senseless in the bottom of the boat.
"Where is the money?" cried Bodlevski, who had struck him with the
handle of the oar. "Get his coat open!" and the baroness deftly drew
the thick packet from the breast pocket of his coat. "Here it is! I
have it!" she replied quickly.
"Now, overboard with him! Keep the body steady!" A dull splash, and
then silence. "To-night we shall sleep secure!"
They counted without their host. Princess Anna had also her scheme of
vengeance, and had worked it out, without a word to her brother. When
Natasha and Bodlevski entered their apartment, they found the police
in possession, and a few minutes later both were under arrest.
Abundant evidence of fraud and forgery was found in their dwelling,
and the vast Siberian solitudes avenged the death of their last
JOeRGEN WILHELM BERGSOeE
_THE AMPUTATED ARMS_
It happened when I was about eighteen or nineteen years old (began Dr.
Simsen). I was studying at the University, and being coached in
anatomy by my old friend Soelling. He was an amusing fellow, this
Solling. Full of jokes and whimsical ideas, and equally merry, whether
he was working at the dissecting table or brewing a punch for a jovial
He had but one fault--if one might call it so--and that was his
exaggerated idea of punctuality. He grumbled if you were late two
minutes; any longer delay would spoil the entire evening for him. He
himself was never known to be late. At least not during the entire
years of my studying.
One Wednesday evening our little circle of friends met as usual in my
room at seven o'clock. I had made the customary preparations for the
meeting, had borrowed three chairs--I had but one myself--had cleaned
all my pipes, and had persuaded Hans to take the breakfast dishes from
the sofa and carry them downstairs. One by one my friends arrived, the
clock struck seven, and to our great astonishment, Solling had not yet
appeared. One, two, even five minutes passed before we heard him run
upstairs and knock at the door with his characteristic short blows.
When he entered the room he looked so angry and at the same time so
upset that I cried out: "What's the matter, Solling? You look as if
you had been robbed."
"That's exactly what has happened," replied Solling angrily. "But it
was no ordinary sneak thief," he added, hanging his overcoat behind
"What have you lost?" asked my neighbor Nansen.
"Both arms from the new skeleton I've just recently received from the
hospital," said Soelling with an expression as if his last cent had
been taken from him. "It's vandalism!"
We burst out into loud laughter at this remarkable answer, but Soelling
continued: "Can you imagine it? Both arms are gone, cut off at the
shoulder joint;--and the strangest part of it is that the same thing
has been done to my shabby old skeleton which stands in my bedroom,
There wasn't an arm on either of them."
"That's too bad," I remarked. "For we were just going to study the
_anatomy_ of the arm to-night."
"Osteology," corrected Soelling gravely. "Get out your skeleton, little
Simsen. It isn't as good as mine, but it will do for this
I went to the corner where my anatomical treasures were hidden behind
a green curtain--"the Museum," was what Soelling called it--but my
astonishment was great when I found my skeleton in its accustomed
place and wearing as usual my student's uniform--but without arms.
"The devil!" cried Soelling. "That was done by the same person who
robbed me; the arms are taken off at the shoulder joint in exactly the
same manner. You did it, Simsen!"
I declared my innocence, very angry at the abuse of my fine skeleton,
while Nansen cried: "Wait a moment, I'll bring in mine. There hasn't
been a soul in my room since this morning, I can swear to that. I'll
be back in an instant."
He hurried into his room, but returned in a few moments greatly
depressed and somewhat ashamed. The skeleton was in its usual place,
but the arms were gone, cut off at the shoulder in exactly the same
manner as mine.
The affair, mysterious in itself, had now come to be a serious matter.
We lost ourselves in suggestions and explanations, none of which
seemed to throw any light on the subject. Finally we sent a messenger
to the other side of the house where, as I happened to know, was a new
skeleton which the young student Ravn had recently received from the
janitor of the hospital.
Ravn had gone out and taken the key with him. The messenger whom we
had sent to the rooms of the Iceland students returned with the
information that one of them had used the only skeleton they possessed
to pummel the other with, and that consequently only the thigh bones
were left unbroken.
What were we to do? We couldn't understand the matter at all. Soelling
scolded and cursed and the company was about to break up when we heard
some one coming noisily upstairs. The door was thrown open and a tall,
thin figure appeared on the threshold--our good friend Niels Daae.
He was a strange chap, this Niels Daae, the true type of a species
seldom found nowadays. He was no longer young, and by reason of a
queer chain of circumstances, as he expressed it, he had been through
nearly all the professions and could produce papers proving that he
had been on the point of passing not one but three examinations.
He had begun with theology; but the story of the quarrel between Jacob
and Esau had led him to take up the study of law. As a law student he
had come across an interesting poisoning case, which had proved to him
that a study of medicine was extremely necessary for lawyers; and he
had taken up the study of medicine with such energy that he had
forgotten all his law and was about to take his last examinations at
the age of forty.
Niels Daae took the story of our troubles very seriously. "Every pot
has two handles," he began. "Every sausage two ends, every question
two sides, except this one--this has three." (Applause.) "When we look
at it from the legal point of view there can be no doubt that it
belongs in the category of ordinary theft. But from the fact that the
thief took only the arms when he might have taken the entire skeleton,
we must conclude that he is not in a responsible condition of mind,
which therefore introduces a medical side to the affair. From a legal
point of view, the thief must be convicted for robbery, or at least
for the illegal appropriation of the property of others; but from the
medical point of view, we must acquit him, because he is not
responsible for his acts. Here we have two professions quarreling with
one another, and who shall say which is right? But now I will
introduce the theological point of view, and raise the entire affair
up to a higher plane. Providence, in the material shape of a patron of
mine in the country, whose children I have inoculated with the juice
of wisdom, has sent me two fat geese and two first-class ducks. These
animals are to be cooked and eaten this evening in Mathiesen's
establishment, and I invite this honored company to join me there.
Personally I look upon the disappearance of these arms as an all-wise
intervention of Providence, which sets its own inscrutable wisdom up
against the wisdom which we would otherwise have heard from the lips
of my venerable friend Soelling."
Daae's confused speech was received with laughter and applause, and
Soelling's weak protests were lost in the general delight at the
invitation. I have often noticed that such improvised festivities are
usually the most enjoyable, and so it was for us that evening. Niels
Daae treated us to his ducks and to his most amusing jokes, Soelling
sang his best songs, our jovial host Mathiesen told his wittiest
stories, and the merriment was in full swing when we heard cries in
the street, and then a rush of confused noises broken by screams of
"There's been an accident," cried Soelling, running out to the door.
We all followed him and discovered that a pair of run-away horses had
thrown a carriage against a tree, hurling the driver from his box,
under the wheels. His right arm had been broken near the shoulder. In
the twinkling of an eye the hall of festivities was transformed into
an emergency hospital. Soelling shook his head as he examined the
injury, and ordered the transport of the patient to the city hospital.
It was his belief that the arm would have to be amputated, cut off at
the shoulder joint, just as had been the case with our skeleton.
"Damned odd coincidence, isn't it?" he remarked to me.
Our merry mood had vanished and we took our way, quiet and depressed,
through the old avenues toward our home. For the first time in its
existence possibly, our venerable "barracks," as we called the
dormitory, saw its occupants returning home from an evening's bout
just as the night watchman intoned his eleven o'clock verse.
"Just eleven," exclaimed Soelling. "It's too early to go to bed, and
too late to go anywhere else. We'll go up to your room, little Simsen,
and see if we can't have some sort of a lesson this evening. You have
your colored plates and we'll try to get along with them. It's a
nuisance that we should have lost those arms just this evening."
"The Doctor can have all the arms and legs he wants," grinned Hans,
who came out of the doorway just in time to hear Soelling's last word.
"What do you mean, Hans?" asked Soelling in astonishment.
"It'll be easy enough to get them," said Hans. "They've torn down the
planking around the Holy Trinity churchyard, and dug up the earth to
build a new wall. I saw it myself, as I came past the church. Lord,
what a lot of bones they've dug out there! There's arms and legs and
heads, many more than the Doctor could possibly need."
"Much good that does us," answered Soelling. "They shut the gates at
seven o'clock and it's after eleven already."
"Oh, yes, they shut them," grinned Hans again. "But there's another
way to get in. If you go through the gate of the porcelain factory and
over the courtyard, and through the mill in the fourth courtyard that
leads out into Spring Street, there you will see where the planking is
torn down and you can get into the churchyard easily."
"Hans, you're a genius!" exclaimed Soelling in delight. "Here, Simsen,
you know that factory inside and out, you're so friendly with that
fellow Outzen who lives there. Run along to him and let him give you
the key of the mill. It will be easy to find an arm that isn't too
much decayed. Hurry along, now; the rest of us will wait for you
To be quite candid I must confess that I was not particularly eager to
fulfill Soelling's command. I was at an age to have still a sufficient
amount of reverence for death and the grave, and the mysterious
occurrence of the stolen arms still ran through my mind. But I was
still more afraid of Soelling's irony and of the laughter of my
comrades, so I trotted off as carelessly as if I had been sent to buy
a package of cigarettes.
It was some time before I could arouse the old janitor of the factory
from his peaceful slumbers. I told him that I had an important message
from Outzen, and hurried upstairs to the latter's room. Outzen was a
strictly moral character; knowing this, I was prepared to have him
refuse me the key which would let me into the fourth courtyard and
from there into the cemetery. As I expected, Outzen took the matter
very seriously. He closed the Hebrew Bible which he had been studying
as I entered, turned up his lamp and looked at me in astonishment as I
made my request.
"Why, my dear Simsen, it is a most sinful deed that you are about to
do," he said gravely. "Take my advice and desist. You will get no key
from me for any such cause. The peace of the grave is sacred. No man
dare disturb it."
"And how about the gravedigger? He puts the newly dead down beside the
old corpses, and lives as peacefully as anyone else."
"He is doing his duty," answered Outzen calmly. "But to disturb the
peace of the grave from sheer daring, with the fumes of the punch
still in your head,--that is a different matter,--that will surely be
His words irritated me. It is not very flattering, particularly if one
is not yet twenty, to be told that you are about to perform a daring
deed simply because you are drunk. Without any further reply to his
protests I took the key from its place on the wall and ran downstairs
two steps at a time, vowing to myself that I would take home an arm
let cost what it would. I would show Outzen, and Soelling, and all the
rest, what a devil of a fellow I was.
My heart beat rapidly as I stole through the long dark corridor, past
the ruins of the old convent of St. Clara, into the so-called third
courtyard. Here I took a lantern from the hall, lit it and crossed to
the mill where the clay was prepared for the factory. The tall wheels
and cylinders, with their straps and bolts, looked like weird
creatures of the night in the dim light of my tallow candle. I felt my
courage sinking even here, but I pulled myself together, opened the
last door with my key and stepped out into the fourth courtyard. A
moment later I stood on the dividing line between the cemetery and the
The entire length of the tall blackened planking had been torn down.
The pieces of it lay about, and the earth had been dug up to
considerable depth, to make a foundation for a new wall between Life
and Death. The uncanny emptiness of the place seized upon me. I halted
involuntarily as if to harden myself against it. It was a raw, cold,
stormy evening. The clouds flew past the moon in jagged fragments, so
that the churchyard, with its white crosses and stones, lay now in
full light, now in dim shadow. Now and then a rush of wind rattled
over the graves, roared through the leafless trees, bent the
complaining bushes, and caught itself in the little eddy at the corner
of the church, only to escape again over the roofs, turning the old
weather vane with a sharp scream of the rusty iron.
I looked toward the left--there I saw several weird white shapes
moving gently in the moonlight. "White sheets," I said to myself,
"it's nothing but white sheets! This drying of linen in the churchyard
ought to be stopped."
I turned in the opposite direction and saw a heap of bones scarce two
paces distant from me. Holding my lantern lower, I approached them and
stretched out my hand--there was a rattling in the heap; something
warm and soft touched my fingers.
I started and shivered. Then I exclaimed: "The rats! nothing but the
rats in the churchyard! I must not get frightened. It will be so
foolish--they would laugh at me. Where the devil is that arm? I can't
find one that isn't broken!"
With trembling knees and in feverish haste I examined one heap after
another. The light in my lantern flickered in the wind and suddenly
went out. The foul smell of the smoking wick rose to my face and I
felt as if I were about to faint. It took all my energy to recover my
control. I walked two or three steps ahead, and saw at a little
distance a coffin which had been still in good shape when taken out of
I approached it and saw that it was of old-fashioned shape, made of
heavy oaken boards that were already rotting. On its cover was a metal
plate with an illegible inscription. The old wood was so brittle that
it would have been very easy for me to open the coffin with any sort
of a tool. I looked about me and saw a hatchet and a couple of spades
lying near the fence. I took one of the latter, put its flat end
between the boards--the old coffin fell apart with a dull crackling
I turned my head aside, put my hand in through the opening, felt
about, and taking a firm hold on one arm of the skeleton, I loosened
it from the body with a quick jerk. The movement loosened the head as
well, and it rolled out through the opening right to my very feet. I
took up the skull to lay it in the coffin again--and then I saw a
greenish phosphorescent glimmer in its empty eye sockets, a glimmer
which came and went. Mad terror shook me at the sight. I looked up at
the houses in the distance, then back again to the skull; the empty
sockets shone more brightly than before. I felt that I must have some
natural explanation for this appearance or I would go mad. I took up
the head again--and never in my life have I had so overpowering an
impression of the might of death and decay than in this moment.
Myriads of disgusting clammy insects poured out of every opening of
the skull, and a couple of shining, wormlike centipedes--_Geophiles_,
the scientists call them--crawled about in the eye sockets. I threw
the skull back into the coffin, sprang over the heaps of bones without
even taking time to pick up my lantern, and ran like a hunted thing
through the dark mill, over the factory courtyards, until I reached
the outer gate. Here I washed the arm at the fountain, and smoothed my
disarranged clothing. I hid my booty under my overcoat, nodded to the
sleepy old janitor as he opened the door to me, and a few moments
later I entered my own room with an expression which I had attempted
to make quite calm and careless.
"What the devil is the matter with you, Simsen?" cried Soelling as he
saw me. "Have you seen a ghost? Or is the punch wearing off already?
We thought you'd never come; why, it's nearly twelve o'clock!"
Without a word I drew back my overcoat and laid my booty on the table.
"By all the devils," exclaimed Soelling in anatomical enthusiasm,
"where did you find that superb arm? Simsen knows what he's about all
right. It's a girl's arm; isn't it beautiful? Just look at the
hand--how fine and delicate it is! Must have worn a No. 6 glove.
There's a pretty hand to caress and kiss!"
The arm passed from one to the other amid general admiration. Every
word that was said increased my disgust for myself and for what I had
done. It was a woman's arm, then--what sort of a woman might she have
been? Young and beautiful possibly--her brothers' pride, her parents'
joy. She had faded away in her youth, cared for by loving hands and
tender thoughts. She had fallen asleep gently, and those who loved her
had desired to give her in death the peace she had enjoyed throughout
her lifetime. For this they had made her coffin of thick, heavy oaken
boards. And this hand, loved and missed by so many--it lay there now
on an anatomical table, encircled by clouds of tobacco smoke, stared
at by curious glances, and made the object of coarse jokes. O God! how
terrible it was!
"I must have that arm," exclaimed Soelling, when the first burst of
admiration had passed. "When I bleach it and touch it up with varnish,
it will be a superb specimen. I'll take it home with me."
"No," I exclaimed, "I can't permit it. It was wrong of me to bring it
away from the churchyard. I'm going right back to put the arm in its
"Well, will you listen to that?" cried Soelling, amid the hearty
laughter of the others. "Simsen's so lyric, he certainly must be
drunk. I must have that arm at any cost."
"Not much," cut in Niels Daae; "you have no right to it. It was buried
in the earth and dug out again; it is a find, and all the rest of us
have just as much right to it as you have."
"Yes, every one of us has some share in it," said some one else.
"But what are you going to do about it?" remarked Soelling. "It would
be vandalism to break up that arm. What God has joined together let no
man put asunder," he concluded with pathos.
"Let's auction it off," exclaimed Daae. "I will be the auctioneer, and
this key to the graveyard will serve me for a hammer."
The laughter broke out anew as Daae took his place solemnly at the
head of the table and began to whine out the following announcement:
"I hereby notify all present that on the 25th of November, at twelve
o'clock at midnight, in corridor No. 5 of the student barracks, a
lady's arm in excellent condition, with all its appurtenances of wrist
bones, joints, and finger tips, is to be offered at public auction.
The buyer can have possession of his purchase immediately after the
auction, and a credit of six weeks will be given to any reliable
customer. I bid a Danish shilling."
"One mark," cried Soelling mockingly.
"Two," cried somebody else.
"Four," exclaimed Soelling. "It's worth it. Why don't you join in,
Simsen? You look as if you were sitting in a hornet's nest."
I bid one mark more, and Soelling raised me a thaler. There were no
more bids, the hammer fell, and the arm belonged to Soelling.
"Here, take this," he said, handing me a mark piece; "it's part of
your commission as grave robber. You shall have the rest later, unless
you prefer that I should turn it over to the drinking fund." With
these words Soelling wrapped the arm in a newspaper, and the gay crowd
ran noisily down the stairs and through the streets, until their
singing and laughter were lost in the distance.
I stood alone, still dazed and bewildered, staring at the piece of
money in my hand. My thoughts were far too much excited that I should
hope to sleep. I turned up my lamp and took out one of my books to try
and study myself into a quieter mood. But without success.
Suddenly I heard a sound like that of a swinging pendulum. I raised my
head and listened attentively. There was no clock either in my room or
in the neighboring ones--but I could still hear the sound. At the same
moment my lamp began to flicker. The oil was apparently exhausted. I
was about to rise to fill it again, when my eyes fell upon the door,
and I saw the graveyard key, which I had hung there, moving slowly
back and forth with a rhythmic swing. Just as its motion seemed about
to die away, it would receive a gentle push as from an unseen hand,
and would swing back and forth more than ever. I stood there with open
mouth and staring eyes, ice-cold chills ran down my back, and drops of
perspiration stood out on my forehead. Finally, I could endure it no
longer. I sprang to the door, seized the key with both hands and put
it on my desk under a pile of heavy books. Then I breathed a sigh of
My lamp was about to go out and I discovered that I had no more oil.
With feverish haste I threw my clothes off, blew out the light and
sprang into bed as if to smother my fears.
But once alone in the darkness the fears grew worse than ever. They
grew into dreams and visions. It seemed to me as if I were out in the
graveyard again, and heard the screaming of the rusty weather vane as
the wind turned it. Then I was in the mill again; the wheels were
turning and stretching out ghostly hands to draw me into the yawning
maw of the machine. Then again, I found myself in a long, low,
pitch-black corridor, followed by Something I could not see--Something
that drove me to the mouth of a bottomless abyss. I would start up out
of my half sleep, listen and look about me, then fall back again into
an uneasy slumber.
Suddenly something fell from the ceiling onto the bed, and
"buzz--buzz--buzz" sounded about my head. It was a huge fly which had
been sleeping in a corner of my room and had been roused by the heat
of the stove. It flew about in great circles, now around the bed, now
in all four corners of the chamber--"buzz--buzz--buzz"--it was
unendurable! At last I heard it creep into a bag of sugar which had
been left on the window sill. I sprang up and closed the bag tight.
The fly buzzed worse than ever, but I went back to bed and attempted
to sleep again, feeling that I had conquered the enemy.
I began to count: I counted slowly to one hundred, two hundred,
finally up to one thousand, and then at last I experienced that
pleasant weakness which is the forerunner of true sleep. I seemed to
be in a beautiful garden, bright with many flowers and odorous with
all the perfumes of spring. At my side walked a beautiful young girl.
I seemed to know her well, and yet it was not possible for me to
remember her name, or even to know how we came to be wandering there
together. As we walked slowly through the paths she would stop to pick
a flower or to admire a brilliant butterfly swaying in the air.
Suddenly a cold wind blew through the garden. The young girl trembled
and her cheeks grew pale. "I am cold," she said to me, "do you not
see? It is Death who is approaching us."
I would have answered, but in the same moment another stronger and
still more icy gust roared through the garden. The leaves turned pale
on the trees, the flowerets bent their heads, and the bees and
butterflies fell lifeless to the earth. "That is Death," whispered my
A third icy gust blew the last leaves from the bushes, white crosses
and gravestones appeared between the bare twigs--and I was in the
churchyard again and heard the screaming of the rusty weather vane.
Beside me stood a heavy brass-bound coffin with a metal plate on the
cover. I bent down to read the inscription, the cover rolled off
suddenly, and from out the coffin rose the form of the young girl who
had been with me in the garden. I stretched out my arms to clasp her
to my breast--then, oh horror! I saw the greenish-gleaming, empty eye
sockets of the skull. I felt bony arms around me, dragging me back
into the coffin. I screamed aloud for help and woke up.
My room seemed unusually light; but I remembered that it was a
moonlight night and thought no more of it. I tried to explain the
visions of my dream with various natural noises about me. The
imprisoned fly buzzed as loudly as a whole swarm of bees; one half of
my window had blown open, and the cold night air rushed in gusts into
I sprang up to close the window, and then I saw that the strong white
light that filled my room did not come from the moon, but seemed to
shine out from the church opposite. I heard the chiming of the bells,
soft at first, as if in far distance, then stronger and stronger
until, mingled with the rolling notes of the organ, a mighty rush of
sound struck against my windows. I stared out into the street and
could scarcely believe my eyes. The houses in the market place just
beyond were all little one-story buildings with bow windows and wooden
eave troughs ending in carved dragon heads. Most of them had balconies
of carved woodwork, and high stone stoops with gleaming brass rails.
But it was the church most of all that aroused my astonishment. Its
position was completely changed. Its front turned toward our house
where usually the side had stood. The church was brilliantly lighted,
and now I perceived that it was this light which filled my room. I
stood speechless amid the chiming of the bells and the roaring of the
organ, and I saw a long wedding procession moving slowly up the center
aisle of the church toward the altar. The light was so brilliant that
I could distinguish each one of the figures. They were all in strange
old-time costumes; the ladies in brocades and satins with strings of
pearls in their powdered hair, the gentlemen in uniform with knee
breeches, swords, and cocked hats held under their arms. But it was
the bride who drew my attention most strongly. She was clothed in
white satin, and a faded myrtle wreath was twisted through the
powdered locks beneath her sweeping veil. The bridegroom at her side
wore a red uniform and many decorations. Slowly they approached the
altar, where an old man in black vestments and a heavy white wig was
awaiting them. They stood before him, and I could see that he was
reading the ritual from a gold-lettered book.
One of the train stepped forward and unbuckled the bridegroom's sword,
that his right hand might be free to take that of the bride. She
seemed about to raise her own hand to his, when she suddenly sank
fainting at his feet. The guests hurried toward the altar, the lights
went out, the music stopped, and the figures floated together like
pale white mists.
But outside in the square it was still brighter than before, and I
suddenly saw the side portal of the church burst open and the wedding
procession move out across the market place.
I turned as if to flee, but could not move a muscle. Quiet, as if
turned to stone, I stood and watched the ghostly figures that came
nearer and nearer. The clergyman led the train, then came the
bridegroom and the bride, and as the latter raised her eyes to me I
saw that it was the young girl of the garden. Her eyes were so full of
pain, so full of sad entreaty that I could scarce endure them; but how
shall I explain the feeling that shot through me as I suddenly
discovered that the right sleeve of her white satin gown hung empty at
her side? The train disappeared, and the tone of the church bells
changed to a strange, dry, creaking sound, and the gate below me
complained as it turned on its rusty hinges. I faced toward my own
door. I knew that it was shut and locked, but I knew that the ghostly
procession were coming to call me to account, and I felt that no walls
could keep them out. My door flew open, there was a rustling as of
silken gowns, but the figures seemed to float in in the changing forms
of swaying white mists. Closer and closer they gathered around me,
robbing me of breath, robbing me of the power to move. There was a
silence as of the grave--and then I saw before me the old priest with
his gold-lettered book. He raised his hand and spoke with a soft, deep
voice: "The grave is sacred! Let no one dare to disturb the peace of
"The grave is sacred!" an echo rolled through the room as the swaying
figures moved like reeds in the wind.
"What do you want? What do you demand?" I gasped in the grip of a
"Give back to the grave that which belongs to it," said the deep voice
"Give back to the grave that which belongs to it," repeated the echo
as the swaying forms pressed closer to me.
"But it's impossible--I can't--I have sold it--sold it at auction!" I
screamed in despair. "It was buried and found in the earth--and sold
for five marks eight shillings----"
A hideous scream came from the ghostly ranks. They threw themselves
upon me as the white fog rolls in from the sea, they pressed upon me
until I could no longer breathe. Beside myself, I threw open the window
and attempted to spring out, screaming aloud: "Help! help! murder!
they are murdering me!"
The sound of my own voice awoke me. I found myself in my night clothes
on the window sill, one leg already out of the window and both hands
clutching at the center post. On the street below me stood the night
watchman, staring up at me in astonishment, while faint white clouds
of mist rolled out of my window like smoke. All around outside lay the
November fog, gray and moist, and as the fresh air of the early dawn
blew cool on my face I felt my senses returning to me. I looked down
at the night watchman--God bless him! He was a big, strong,
comfortably fat fellow made of real flesh and blood, and no ghost
shape of the night. I looked at the round tower of the church--how
massive and venerable it stood there, gray in the gray of the morning
mists. I looked over at the market place. There was a light in the
baker shop and a farmer stood before it, tying his horse to a post.
Back in my own room everything was in its usual place. Even the little
paper bag with the sugar lay there on the window sill, and the
imprisoned fly buzzed louder than ever. I knew that I was really awake
and that the day was coming. I sprang back hastily from the window and
was about to jump into bed, when my foot touched something hard and
I stooped to see what it was, felt about on the floor in the half
light, and touched a long, dry, skeleton arm which held a tiny roll of
paper in its bony fingers. I felt about again, and found still another
arm, also holding a roll of paper. Then I began to think that my
reason must be going. What I had seen thus far was only an unusually
vivid dream--a vision of my heated imagination. But I knew that I was
awake now, and yet here lay two--no, three (for there was still
another arm)--hard, undeniable, material proofs that what I had
thought was hallucination, might have been reality. Trembling in the
thought that madness was threatening me, I tore open the first roll of
paper. On it was written the name: "Soelling." I caught at the second
and opened it. There stood the word: "Nansen."
I had just strength enough left to catch the third paper and open
it--there was my own name: "Simsen."
Then I sank fainting to the floor.
When I came to myself again, Niels Daae stood beside me with an empty
water bottle, the contents of which were dripping off my person and
off the sofa upon which I was lying. "Here, drink this," he said in a
soothing tone. "It will make you feel better."
I looked about me wildly, as I sipped at the glass of brandy which put
new life into me once more. "What has happened?" I asked weakly.
"Oh, nothing of importance," answered Niels. "You were just about to
commit suicide by means of charcoal gas. Those are mighty bad
ventilators on your old stove there. The wind must have blown them
shut, unless you were fool enough to close them yourself before you
went to bed. If you had not opened the window, you would have already
been too far along the path to Paradise to be called back by a glass
of brandy. Take another."
"How did you get up here?" I asked, sitting upright on the sofa.
"Through the door in the usual simple manner," answered Niels Daae. "I
was on watch last night in the hospital; but Mathiesen's punch is
heavy and my watching was more like sleeping, so I thought it better
to come away in the early morning. As I passed your barracks here, I
saw you sitting in the window in your nightshirt and calling down to
the night watchman that some one was murdering you. I managed to wake
up Jansen down below you, and got into the house through his window.
Do you usually sleep on the bare floor?"
"But where did the arms come from?" I asked, still half bewildered.
"Oh, the devil take those arms," cried Niels. "Just see if you can
stand up all right now. Oh, those arms there? Why, those are the arms
I cut off your skeletons. Clever idea, wasn't it? You know how grumpy
Soelling gets if anything interferes with his tutoring. You see, I'd
had the geese sent me, and I wanted you to all come with me to
Mathiesen's place. I knew you were going to read the osteology of the
arm, so I went up into Soelling's room, opened it with his own keys and
took the arms from his skeleton. I did the same here while you were
downstairs in the reading room. Have you been stupid enough to take
them down off their frames, and take away their tickets? I had marked
them so carefully, that each man should get his own again."
I dressed hastily and went out with Niels into the fresh, cool morning
air. A few minutes later we separated, and I turned toward the street
where Soelling lived. Without heeding the protest of his old landlady,
I entered the room where he still slept the sleep of the just. The
arm, still wrapped in newspaper, lay on his desk. I took it up, put
the mark piece in its place and hastened with all speed to the
How different it looked in the early dawn! The fog had risen and
shining frost pearls hung in the bare twigs of the tall trees where
the sparrows were already twittering their morning song. There was no
one to be seen. The churchyard lay quiet and peaceful. I stepped over
the heaps of bones to where the heavy oaken coffin lay under a tree.
Cautiously I pushed the arm back into its interior, and hammered the
rusty nails into their places again, just as the first rays of the
pale November sun touched a gleam of light from the metal plate on the
cover.--Then the weight was lifted from my soul.
Two gentlemen sat chatting together one evening.
Their daily business was to occupy themselves with literature. At the
present moment they were engaged in drinking whisky,--an occupation
both agreeable and useful,--and in chatting about books, the theater,
women and many other things. Finally they came around to that
inexhaustible subject for conversation, the mysterious life of the
soul, the hidden things, the Unknown, that theme for which Shakespeare
has given us an oft-quoted and oft-abused device, which one of them,
Mr. X., now used to point his remarks. Raising his glass, he looked at
himself meditatively in a mirror opposite, and, in a good imitation of
the manner of his favourite actor, he quoted:
"There are more things in heaven and earth than are
dreamt of in thy philosophy, Horatio."
Mr. Y. arranged a fresh glass for himself, and answered:
"I believe it. I believe also that it is given but to a few chosen
ones to see these things. It never fell to my lot, I know. Fortunately
for me, perhaps. For,--at least so it appears to me,--these chosen
ones appear on closer investigation to be individuals of an abnormal
condition of brain. As far as I personally am concerned, I know of
nothing more strange than the usual logical and natural sequence of
events on our globe. I confess things do sometimes happen outside of
this orderly sequence; but for the cold-blooded and thoughtful person
the Strange, the apparently Inexplicable, usually turns out to be a
sum of Chance, that Chance we will never be quite clever enough to
fully take into our calculations.
"As an instance I would like to tell you the story of what happened
several years back to a friend of mine, a young French writer. He had
a good, sincere mind, but he had also a strong leaning toward
mysticism,--something which was just then in danger of becoming as
much of a fashion in France as it is here now. The event of which I am
about to tell you threw him into what was almost a delirium, which
came near to robbing him of his normal intelligence, and therefore
came near to robbing French readers of a few excellent books.
"This was the way it happened:
"It was about ten years back, and I was spending the spring and summer
in Paris. I had a room with the family of a _concierge_ on the left
bank, rue de Vaugirard, near the Luxembourg Gardens.
"A few steps from my modest domicile lived my friend Lucien F. We had
become acquainted through a chain of circumstances which do not belong
to this story, but these circumstances had made firm friends of us, a
friendship which was a source of great pleasure and also of assistance
to me in my study of Paris conditions. This friendship also enabled me
to enjoy better and cheaper whisky than one can usually meet with in
the city by the Seine, a real good 'Jameson Highland.'
"Lucien F. had already published several books which had aroused
attention through the oddity of their themes, and their gratifying
success had made it possible for him to establish himself in a
comfortably furnished bachelor apartment on the corner of the rue de
Vaugirard and the rue de Conde.
"The apartment had a corridor and three rooms; a dining room, a
bedroom, and a charming study with an inclosed balcony, the three
windows of which,--a large one in the center and two smaller ones at
the side,--sent a flood of light in over the great writing table which
filled nearly the entire balcony. Inside the room, near the balcony,
stood a divan covered with a bearskin rug. Upon this divan I spent
many of my hours in Paris, occupied in the smoking of my friend's
excellent cigars, and the sampling of his superlatively good whisky.
At the same time I could lie staring up at the tops of the trees in
the Luxembourg Gardens, while Lucien worked at his desk. For, unlike
most writers, he could work best when he was not alone.
"If I remained away several days, he would invariably ring my bell
early some morning, and drag me out of bed with the remark: 'The
whisky is ready. I can't write if you are not there.'
"During the particular days of which I shall tell you, he was engaged
in the writing of a fantastic novelette, 'The Force of the Wind,' a
work which interested him greatly, and which he would interrupt
unwillingly at intervals to furnish copy for the well-known newspaper
that numbered him among the members of its staff. His books were
printed by the same house that did the printing for the paper.
"Often, as I lay in my favorite position on the divan, the bell would
ring and we would be honored by a visit from the printer's boy
Adolphe, a little fellow in a blue blouse, the true type of Paris
gamin. Adolphe rejoiced in a broken nose, a pair of crafty eyes, and
had his fists always full of manuscripts which he treated with a
carelessness that would have driven a literary novice to despair. The
long rolls of yellow paper would hang out of his trousers pockets as
if ready to fall apart at his next movement. And the disrespectful
manner in which he crammed my friend Lucien's scarcely dried essay
into the breast of his blouse would have certainly called forth
remarks from a journalist of more self-conceit.
"But his eyes were so full of sly cunning, and there was such an
atmosphere of Paris about the stocky little fourteen-year-old chap,
that we would often keep him longer with us, and treat him to a glass
of anisette to hear his opinion of the writers whose work he handled.
He was an amusing cross between a tricky little Paris gamin and a real
child, and he hit off the characteristics of the various writers with
as keen a touch of actuality as he could put into his stories of how
many centimes he had won that morning at 'craps' from his friend
Pierre. Pierre was another employee of the printing house, Adolphe's
comrade in his study of the mysteries of Paris streets, and now his
rival. They were both in love with the same girl, the fifteen-year-old
daughter of the keeper of 'La Prunelle' Cafe, and her favor was often
the prize of the morning's game.
"Now and then this rivalry between the two young Parisians would drop
into a hand-to-hand fight. I myself was witness to such a skirmish one
day, in front of 'La Prunelle.' The rivals pulled each other's hair
mightily while the manuscripts flew about over the pavement, and
Virginie, in her short skirts, stood at the door of the cafe and
laughed until she seemed about to shake to pieces.
"Pierre was the strongest, and Adolphe came off with a bloody nose. He
gathered up his manuscripts in grim silence and left the battlefield
and the still laughing Virginie with an expression of deep anger on
his wounded face.
"The following day, when I teased him a little because of his defeat,
he smiled a sly smile and remarked:
"'Yes, but I won a franc from him, the big stupid animal. And so it
was I, after all, who took Virginie out that evening. We went to the
Cafe "Neant," where I let them put me in the coffin and pretend to be
decaying, to amuse her. She thought it was lots of fun.'
"One morning Lucien had come for me as usual, put me on the divan, and
seated himself at his writing table. He was just putting the last
words to his novel, and the table was entirely covered with the
scattered leaves, closely written. I could just see his neck as he sat
there, a thin-sinewed, expressive neck. He bent over his work, blind
and deaf for anything else. I lay there and gazed out over the tops of
the trees in the park up into the blue summer sky. The window on the
left side of the desk stood wide open, for it was a warm and sultry
day. I sipped my whisky slowly. The air was heavy, and thunder
threatened in the distance. After a little while the clouds gathered
together, heavy, low-hanging, copper-hued, real thunder clouds, and
the trees in the park rustled softly. The air was stifling, and lay
heavy as lead on my breast.
"Lucien did not hear or see anything, his pen flew over the paper.
"I fell back lazily on my divan.
"Then suddenly, there was a mighty tumult. A strong gust of wind swept
through the street, bending the trees in the gardens quite out of my
horizon. With a crash the right-hand window in the balcony flew wide
open, and like a cyclone, the wind swept through, clearing the table
in an instant of all the loose sheets of paper that had lain scattered
"'The devil! Why don't you shut the window!' I cried, springing up
from the sofa.
"'Spare your energy, it's too late,' said Lucien with a gentle mockery
in his soft voice. 'Look there!'--he pointed out into the street,
where his sheets of paper went swirling about in the heavy air like
"A second later came the rain, a veritable cloud-burst. We shut the
windows and gave ourselves up to melancholy thoughts about the lost
manuscript, the recovery of which now seemed utterly hopeless.
"'That's one thousand francs, at least, that the wind has robbed me
of,' sighed Lucien. 'Well, _elfin_, that doesn't matter so much. But
do you know anything more tiresome than to work over the same subject
a second time? I can't think of doing it. It would fairly make me sick
to try it.'
"We were in a sad mood that morning. When we went out to breakfast at
about two o'clock, we looked about for some traces of the lost
"There was nothing to be seen. It had vanished completely, whirled off
to all four corners of the earth probably, this manuscript from which
Lucien had expected so much. Truly it was 'The Force of the Wind.'"
* * * * *
"Now comes the strange part of the story. One morning, two weeks
later, Lucien stood in the door of my little room, pale as a ghost. He
had a bundle of printer's proofs in his hand, and held them out to me
without a word.
"I looked at it and read:
"'"The Force of the Wind," by Lucien F.'
"It was a good bundle of proofs, the entire first proofs of Lucien's
novel, that novel the manuscript of which we had seen blown out of the
balcony window and whirled away by the winds.
"'My dear man,' I exclaimed, as I handed him back the proofs. 'You
_have_ been industrious indeed, to write your entire novel over again
in so short a time--and to have proofs already----'
"Lucien did not answer. He stood silent, staring at me with a weird
look in his otherwise so sensible eyes. After a moment he stammered:
"'I did not write the novel over again. I have not touched a pen since
the day the manuscript blew out of the window.'
"'Are you a sleep-walker, Lucien?'
"'Why do you ask?'
"'Why, that would be the only natural explanation. They say we can do
a great many things in sleep, of which we know nothing when we wake.
I've heard queer stories of that. Men have committed murders in their
sleep. It happens quite often that sleep-walkers write letters in a
handwriting they do not recognize when awake.'
"'I have never been a sleep-walker,' answered Lucien.
"'Oh, you never can tell,' I remarked. 'Would you rather explain it as
magic? Or as the work of fairies? Or do you believe in ghosts? Your
muse has fascinated you, you mystic!' And I laughed and trilled a line
from 'The Mascot,' which we had seen the evening before at the Lyric.
"But my merriment did not seem to strike an answering note in Lucien.
He turned from me in silence, and with an offended expression took his
hat and his proofs, and--humorist and skeptic as he was ordinarily, he
parted from me with the words, uttered in a theatrical tone:
"'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in thy
"He turned on his heel and left the room.
"To be candid, I was unpleasantly affected by the little scene. I
could not for an instant doubt Lucien's honesty,--he was so pale, so
frightened almost--so touching in the alarm and excitement of his
soul. Of course the only explanation that I could see was that he had
written his novel in a sleep-walking state.
"For certainly no printer could set up type from a manuscript that did
not exist,--to say nothing of printing it and sending out proofs.
"Several days passed, but Lucien did not come near me. I went to his
place once or twice, but the door was locked. Had the devil carried
him off bodily? Or had this strange and inexplicable occurrence robbed
him of his sanity, and robbed me of his friendship and his excellent
"After three useless attempts to find him at home, and after writing
him a letter which he did not answer, I gave up Lucien without any
further attempt to understand his enigmatical behavior. A short time
after, I left for my home without having seen or heard anything more
"Months passed. I remained at home, and one evening when, during the
course of a gay party, the conversation came around to the subject of
mysticism and occult occurrences, I dished up my story of the
enigmatical manuscript. The Unknown, the Occult, was the rage just
then, and my story was received with great applause and called forth
numerous quotations as to 'more things in heaven and earth.' I came to
think so much of it myself that I wrote it out and sent it to
Professor Flammarion, who was just then making a study of the Unknown,
which he preserved in his later book 'L'Inconnu.'
"The occupying myself with the story brought my mind around again to
memories of Lucien. One day, I saw a notice in _Le Figaro_ to the
effect that his book, 'The Force of the Wind,' had appeared in a
second large edition, and had aroused much attention, particularly in
spiritualistic circles. I seemed to see him again before me, with his
long nervous neck, which was so expressive. The vision of this neck
rose up before me whenever I drank the same sort of whisky that I had
drunk so often with him, and the longing to hear something more of my
lost friend came over me. I sat down one evening when in a sentimental
mood, and wrote to him, asking him to tell me something of himself and
to send me his book.
"A week later I received the little book and the following letter