Part 5 out of 8
As for Natasha, her life and efforts in concert with Bodlevski by
no means had the same wearing effect on her as on him. Her proud,
decided nature received all these impressions quite differently.
She continued to blossom out, to grow handsomer, to enjoy life, to
take hearts captive. All the events which aroused so keen a mental
struggle in her companion she met with entire equanimity. The
reason was this: When she made up her mind to anything, she always
decided at once and with unusual completeness; a very short time
given to keen and accurate consideration, a rapid weighing of the
gains and losses of the matter in hand, and then she went forward
coldly and unswervingly on her chosen path. Her first aim in life
had been revenge, then a brilliant and luxurious life--and she knew
that they would cost dear. Therefore, once embarked on her
undertaking, Natasha remained calm and indifferent, brilliantly
distinguished, and ensnaring the just and the unjust alike. Her
intellect, education, skill, resource, and innate tact made it
possible for her everywhere to gain a footing in select
aristocratic society, and to play by no means the least role there.
Many beauties envied her, detested her, spoke evil of her, and yet
sought her friendship, because she almost always queened it in
society. Her friendship and sympathy always seemed so cordial, so
sincere and tender, and her epigrams were so pointed and poisonous,
that every hostile criticism seemed to shrivel up in that
glittering fire, and there seemed to be nothing left but to seek
her friendship and good will. For instance, if things went well in
Baden, one could confidently foretell that at the end of the summer
season Natasha would be found in Nice or Geneva, queen of the
winter season, the lioness of the day, and the arbiter of fashion.
She and Bodlevski always behaved with such propriety and watchful
care that not a shadow ever fell on Natasha's fame. It is true
that Bodlevski had to change his name once or twice and to seek a
new field for his talents, and to make sudden excursions to distant
corners of Europe--sometimes in pursuit of a promising "job,"
sometimes to evade the too persistent attentions of the police. So
far everything had turned out favorably, and his name "had remained
unstained," when suddenly a slight mishap befell. The matter was a
trifling one, but the misfortune was that it happened in Paris.
There was a chance that it might find issue in the courts and the
hulks, so that there ensued a more than ordinarily rapid change of
passports and a new excursion--this time to Russia, back to their
native land again, after an absence of twenty years. Thus it
happened that the papers announced the arrival in St. Petersburg of
Baroness von Doring and Ian Vladislav Karozitch.
THE CONCERT OF THE POWERS
A few days after there was a brilliant reunion at Princess
Shadursky's. All the beauty and fashion of St. Petersburg were
invited, and few who were invited failed to come. It happened that
Prince Shadursky was an admirer of the fair sex, and also that he
had had the pleasure of meeting the brilliant Baroness von Doring
at Hamburg, and again in Paris. It was, therefore, to be expected
that Baroness von Doring should be found in the midst of an
admiring throng at Princess Shadursky's reception. Her brother,
Ian Karozitch, was also there, suave, alert, dignified, losing no
opportunity to make friends with the distinguished company that
thronged he prince's rooms.
Late in the evening the baroness and her brother might have been
seen engaged in a tete-a-tete, seated in two comfortable armchairs,
and anyone who was near enough might have heard the following
"How goes it?" Karozitch asked in a low tone.
"As you see, I am making a bit," answered the baroness in the same
quiet tone. But her manner was so detached and indifferent that no
one could have guessed her remark was of the least significance.
It should be noted that this was her first official presentation to
St. Petersburg society. And in truth her beauty, united with her
lively intellect, her amiability, and her perfect taste in dress,
had produced a general and even remarkable effect. People talked
about her and became interested in her, and her first evening won
her several admirers among those well placed in society.
"I have been paying attention to the solid capitalists," replied
Karozitch; "we have made our debut in the role of practical actors.
Well, what about him?" he continued, indicating Prince Shadursky
with his eyes.
"In the web," she replied, with a subtle smile.
"Then we can soon suck his brains?"
"Soon--but he must be tied tighter first. But we must not talk
here." A moment later Karozitch and the baroness were in the midst
of the brilliant groups of guests.
A few late corners were still arriving. "Count Kallash!" announced
the footman, who stood at the chief entrance to the large hall.
At this new and almost unknown but high-sounding name, many eyes
were turned toward the door through which the newcomer must enter.
A hum of talk spread among the guests:
"Who is he--?"
"It is a Hungarian name--I think I heard of him somewhere."
"Is this his first appearance?"
"Who is this Kallash? Oh, yes, one of the old Hungarian families--"
Such questions and answers crossed each other in a running fire
among the various groups of guests who filled the hall, when a
young man appeared in the doorway.
He lingered a moment to glance round the rooms and the company;
then, as if conscious of the remarks and glances directed toward
him, but completely "ignoring" them, and without the least shyness
or awkwardness, he walked quietly through the hall to the host and
hostess of the evening.
People of experience, accustomed to society and the ways of the
great world, can often decide from the first minute the role which
anyone is likely to play among them. People of experience, at the
first view of this young man, at his first entrance, merely by the
way he entered the hall, decided that his role in society would be
brilliant--that more than one feminine heart would beat faster for
his presence, that more than one dandy's wrath would be kindled by
"How handsome he is!" a whisper went round among the ladies. The
men for the most part remained silent. A few twisted the ends of
their mustache and made as though they had not noticed him. This
was already enough to foreshadow a brilliant career.
And indeed Count Kallash could not have passed unnoticed, even
among a thousand young men of his class. Tall and vigorous,
wonderfully well proportioned, he challenged comparison with
Antinous. His pale face, tanned by the sun, had an expression
almost of weariness. His high forehead, with clustering black hair
and sharply marked brows, bore the impress of passionate feeling
and turbulent thought strongly repressed. It was difficult to
define the color of his deep-set, somewhat sunken eyes, which now
flashed with southern fire, and were now veiled, so that one seemed
to be looking into an abyss. A slight mustache and pointed beard
partly concealed the ironical smile that played on his passionate
lips. The natural grace of good manners and quiet but admirably
cut clothes completed the young man's exterior, behind which, in
spite of all his reticence, could be divined a haughty and
exceptional nature. A more profound psychologist would have seen
in him an obstinately passionate, ungrateful nature, which takes
from others everything it desires, demanding it from them as a
right and without even a nod of acknowledgment. Such was Count
A few days after the reception at Prince Shadursky's Baroness von
Doring was installed in a handsome apartment on Mokhovoi Street, at
which her "brother," Ian Karozitch, or, to give him his former
name, Bodlevski, was a frequent visitor. By a "lucky accident" he
had met on the day following the reception our old friend Sergei
Antonovitch Kovroff, the "captain of the Golden Band." Their
recognition was mutual, and, after a more or less faithful recital
of the events of the intervening years, they had entered into an
offensive and defensive alliance.
When Baroness von Doring was comfortably settled in her new
quarters, Sergei Antonovitch brought a visitor to Bodlevski: none
other than the Hungarian nobleman, Count Nicholas Kallash.
"Gentlemen, you are strangers; let me introduce you to each other,"
said Kovroff, presenting Count Kallash to Bodlevski.
"Very glad to know you," answered the Hungarian count, to
Bodlevski's astonishment in Russian; "very glad, indeed! I have
several times had the honor of hearing of you. Was it not you who
had some trouble about forged notes in Paris?"
"Oh, no! You are mistaken, dear count!" answered Bodlevski, with a
pleasant smile. "The matter was not of the slightest importance.
The amount was a trifle and I was unwilling even to appear in
"You preferred a little journey to Russia, didn't you?" Kovroff
remarked with a smile.
"Little vexations of that kind may happen to anyone," said
Bodlevski, ignoring Kovroff's interruption. "You yourself, dear
count, had some trouble about some bonds, if I am not mistaken?"
"You are mistaken," the count interrupted him sharply. "I have had
various troubles, but I prefer not to talk about them."
"Gentlemen," interrupted Kovroff, "we did not come here to quarrel,
but to talk business. Our good friend Count Kallash," he went on,
turning to Bodlevski, "wishes to have the pleasure of cooperating
in our common undertaking, and--I can recommend him very highly."
"Ah!" said Bodlevski, after a searching study of the count's face.
"I understand! the baroness will return in a few minutes and then
we can discuss matters at our leisure."
But in spite of this understanding it was evident that Bodlevski
and Count Kallash had not impressed each other very favorably.
This, however, did not prevent the concert of the powers from
working vigorously together.
AN UNEXPECTED REUNION
On the wharf of the Fontauka, not far from Simeonovski Bridge, a
crowd was gathered. In the midst of the crowd a dispute raged
between an old woman, tattered, disheveled, miserable, and an
impudent-looking youth. The old woman was evidently stupid from
misery and destitution.
While the quarrel raged a new observer approached the crowd. He
was walking leisurely, evidently without an aim and merely to pass
the time, so it is not to be wondered at that the loud dispute
arrested his attention.
"Who are you, anyway, you old hag? What is your name?" cried the
"My name? My name?" muttered the old woman in confusion. "I am a--
I am a princess," and she blinked at the crowd.
Everyone burst out laughing. "Her Excellency, the Princess! Make
way for the Princess!" cried the youth.
The old woman burst into sudden anger.
"Yes, I tell you, I am a princess by birth!" and her eyes flashed
as she tried to draw herself up and impose on the bantering crowd.
"Princess What? Princess Which? Princess How?" cried the impudent
youth, and all laughed loudly.
"No! Not Princess How!" answered the old woman, losing the last
shred of self-restraint; but Princess Che-che-vin-ski! Princess
When he heard this name Count Kallash started and his whole
expression changed. He grew suddenly pale, and with a vigorous
effort pushed his way through the crowd to the miserable old
"Come!" he said, taking her by the arm. "Come with me! I have
something for you!"
"Something for me?" answered the old woman, looking up with stupid
inquiry and already forgetting the existence of the impudent youth.
"Yes, I'll come! What have you got for me?"
Count Kallash led her by the arm out of the crowd, which began to
disperse, abashed by his appearance and air of determination.
Presently he hailed a carriage, and putting the old woman in,
ordered the coachman to drive to his rooms.
There he did his best to make the miserable old woman comfortable,
and his housekeeper presently saw that she was washed and fed, and
soon the old woman was sleeping in the housekeeper's room.
To explain this extraordinary event we must go back twenty years.
In 1838 Princess Anna Chechevinski, then in her twenty-sixth year,
had defied her parents, thrown to the winds the traditions of her
princely race, and fled with the man of her choice, followed by her
mother's curses and the ironical congratulations of her brother,
who thus became sole heir.
After a year or two she was left alone by the death of her
companion, and step by step she learned all the lessons of sorrow.
From one stage of misfortune to another she gradually fell into the
deepest misery, and had become a poor old beggar in the streets
when Count Kallash came so unexpectedly to her rescue.
It will be remembered that, as a result of Natasha's act of
vengeance, the elder Princess Chechevinski left behind her only a
fraction of the money her son expected to inherit. And this
fraction he by no means hoarded, but with cynical disregard of the
future he poured money out like water, gambling, drinking, plunging
into every form of dissipation. Within a few months his entire
inheritance was squandered.
Several years earlier Prince Chechevinski had taken a deep interest
in conjuring and had devoted time and care to the study of various
forms of parlor magic. He had even paid considerable sums to
traveling conjurers in exchange for their secrets. Naturally
gifted, he had mastered some of the most difficult tricks, and his
skill in card conjuring would not have done discredit even to a
The evening when his capital had almost melted away and the shadow
of ruin lay heavy upon him, he happened to be present at a
reception where card play was going on and considerable sums were
A vacancy at one of the tables could not be filled, and, in spite
of his weak protest of unwillingness, Prince Chechevinski was
pressed into service. He won for the first few rounds, and then
began to lose, till the amount of his losses far exceeded the
slender remainder of his capital. A chance occurred where, by the
simple expedient of neutralizing the cut, mere child's play for one
so skilled in conjuring, he was able to turn the scale in his
favor, winning back in a single game all that he had already lost.
He had hesitated for a moment, feeling the abyss yawning beneath
him; then he had falsed, made the pass, and won the game. That
night he swore to himself that he would never cheat again, never
again be tempted to dishonor his 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
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
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
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 lips.
"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 Doring," 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
"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
"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
"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
"I think he was. I think Kovroff said something about it. He is a
fine engraver still."
"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
"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 Doring 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' desires. 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
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
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 cloth.
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
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
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 two Princes Shadursky, father and son, both lost heavily. They
sat opposite Sergei Kovroff, and between them sat Baroness von
Doring, 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 losing.
Count Kallash and his sister had just breakfasted when the count's
French footman entered the study.
"Madame la baronne von Doring!" 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,
"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
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
Doring? You must admit that there is nothing fantastic in all
this! What is the use of concealing? You see I know everything!"
"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
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
"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
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 Shadurskys.
"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
"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
"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 plan?"
"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
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 mind.
"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
"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
"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
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 paper.
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 you wish!"
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
"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
"First class! Now everything is ready," cried Mr. Escrocevitch,
rubbing his hands; and for greater security he turned the key in
"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 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
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 gold.
"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 touchstone 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
"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
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 blowpipe. 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
beeswax. 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
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 Doring 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
To his surprise Baroness von Doring 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
"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
"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,
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 clubs.
"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
"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 Kallash.
Count Kallash at once consented, considering the baroness's idea an
admirable one, and they were soon on their way toward the
"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 her challenge.
"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 humor, too."
"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. Petersburg?"
"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 semicircular 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
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 victim.
Jorgen Wilhelm Bergsoe
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 Solling. 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 crowd.
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 the door.
"What have you lost?" asked my neighbor Nansen.
"Both arms from the new skeleton I've just recently received from
the hospital," said Solling 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
Solling 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 Solling 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 Solling 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
"The devil!" cried Solling. "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.
Solling 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
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 Solling."
Daae's confused speech was received with laughter and applause, and
Solling'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,
Solling 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 pain.
"There's been an accident," cried Solling, running out to the door.
We all followed him and discovered that a pair of runaway 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. Solling 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
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
"Just eleven," exclaimed Solling. "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 Solling's last
"What do you mean, Hans?" asked Solling 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
"Much good that does us," answered Solling. "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
"Hans, you're a genius!" exclaimed Solling 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 upstairs."
To be quite candid I must confess that I was not particularly eager
to fulfill Solling'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 Solling'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 for 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 punished!"
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
Solling, 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 factory.
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
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 the earth.
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 protest.
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 Solling 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
Without a word I drew back my overcoat and laid my booty on the
"By all the devils," exclaimed Solling 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
"I must have that arm," exclaimed Solling, when the first burst of
admiration had passed. "When I bleach it and touch it up with
varnish, it wild 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 place."
"Well, will you listen to that?" cried Solling, 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, everyone of us has some share in it," said some one else.
"But what are you going to do about it?" remarked Solling. "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 Solling mockingly.
"Two," cried somebody else.
"Four," exclaimed Solling. "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 Solling raised me a thaler. There were no
more bids, the hammer fell, and the arm belonged to Solling.
"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 Solling 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
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
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 companion, trembling.
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 my room.
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 dead."
"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
"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