Part 5 out of 5
of anything I am certain that I saw him die--"
Verisschenzko was greatly startled. What a frightful complication it
would make should John be alive!
"The letter--merely a postcard enclosed in an envelope--came by this
afternoon's post--and as you can understand, it has frightfully upset us
all. It is a sort of thing about which one cannot analyse one's feelings.
John had a right to his life and we ought to be glad--but the idea of
giving up Amaryllis--of having all the suffering and the parting
again--Stépan, it is cruelly hard."
Verisschenzko sat down in one of the big chairs, and Euterpe, the lesser
tawny dog, came and pushed her nose into his hand. He patted her silky
head absently. He was collecting his thoughts; the shock of this news was
considerable and he must steady his judgment.
"John wrote to her himself, you say? It is not a message through a third
"It appears to be in his own writing." Denzil stood leaning on the
mantelpiece, and his face seemed to grow more haggard with each word.
"Merely saying that he was taken prisoner by the enemy when they made the
counter attack, and that he had been too ill to write or speak until now.
I can't understand it--because they did not make the counter attack until
after I was carried in--and even though I was unconscious then, the
stretcher bearers must have seen John when they lifted me if he had been
there. Nothing was found but his glasses and we concluded another shell
had burst somewhere near his body after I was carried in. Stépan, I swear
to God I saw him die."
"It sounds extraordinary. Try to tell me every detail, Denzil."
So the story of John's last moments was gone over again, and all the most
minute events which had occurred. And at the end of it the two solid
facts stood out incontrovertibly--John's body was never found, but Denzil
had seen him die.
"How long will it take to communicate with him, I wonder? We can through
the American Ambassador, I suppose, because he gives no address. It must
be awful for him lying there wounded with no news. I say this because I
suppose I must accept his own writing, but I, cannot yet bring myself to
believe that he can be alive."
Verisschenzko was silent for a moment, then he asked:
"May I see my Lady Amaryllis?"
"Yes, she told me to bring you to her as soon as I should have explained
to you the whole affair. Come now."
They went up the stairs together, and they hardly spoke a word. And
when they reached the cedar parlour Denzil let Verisschenzko go in in
front of him.
"I have brought Stépan to you," he told Amaryllis. "I am going to leave
you to talk now."
Amaryllis was white as milk and her grey eyes were disturbed and very
troubled. She held out her two hands to Verisschenzko and he kissed them
with affectionate worship.
"Lady of my Soul!"
"Oh! Stépan,--comfort me--give me counsel. It is such a terrible moment
in my life. What am I to do?"
"It is indeed difficult for you--we must think it all out--"
"Poor John--I ought to be glad that he is alive, and I am--really--only,
oh! Stépan, I love Denzil so dearly. It is all too awfully complicated.
What so greatly astonishes me about it is that John has not written
deliriously, or as though he has lost his memory, and yet if we had
carried out his instructions and wishes we should be married now, Denzil
and I,--and he never alludes to the possibility of this! It is written as
though no complications could enter into the case--"
"It sounds strange--may I see the letter?"
She got up and went over to the writing table and returned with a packet
and the envelope which contained the card. It was not one which prisoners
use as a rule; it had the picture of a German town on it and the
postmark on the envelope was of a place in Holland. Verisschenzko read it
"I have been too ill to write before--I was taken prisoner in the counter
attack and was unconscious. I am sending this by the kindness of a nurse
through Holland. Everyone must have believed that I was dead. I am
longing for news of you, dearest. I shall soon be well. Do not worry. I
am going to be moved and will write again with address.
The writing was rather feeble as a very ill person's would naturally be,
but the name "John" was firm and very legible.
"You are certain that it is his writing?"
"Yes"--and then she handed him another letter from the packet--John's
last one to her. "You can see for yourself--it is the same hand."
Stépan took both over to the lamp, and was bending to examine them when
he gave a little cry:
"Sapristi!"--and instead of looking at the writings he sniffed strongly
at the card, and then again. Amaryllis watched him amazedly.
"The same! By the Lord, it is the work of Ferdinand. No one could mistake
his scent who had once smelt it. The muskrat, the scorpion! But he has
Amaryllis grew paler as she came close beside him.
"Stépan, oh, tell me! What do you mean?"
"I believe this to be a forgery--the scent is a clue to me. Smell
it--there is a lingering sickly aroma round it. It came in an envelope,
you see,--that would preserve it. It is an Eastern perfume, very
heavy,--what do you say?"
She wrinkled her delicate nose:
"Yes, there is some scent from it. One perceives it at first and then it
goes off. Oh, Stépan, please do not torture me. Can you be quite sure?"
"I am absolutely certain that whether it is in John's writing or not,
Ferdinand, or some one who uses his unique scent, has touched that card.
Now we must investigate everything."
He walked up and down the room in agitation for a few moments; talking
rapidly to himself--half in Russian--Amaryllis caught bits.
"Ferdinand--how to his advantage? None. What then? Harietta?
Harietta--but why for her?"
Then he sat down and stared into the fire, his yellow-green eyes blazing
with intelligence, his clear brain balancing up things. But now he did
not speak his thoughts aloud.
"She is jealous. I remember--she imagined that it is my child. She
believes I may marry Amaryllis. It is as plain as day!"
He jumped up and excitedly held out his hands.
"Let us fetch Denzil," he cried joyously. "I can explain everything."
Amaryllis left the room swiftly and called when she got outside his door:
He joined them in a second or two--there as he was, in a blue silk
dressing gown, as he had just been going to dress for dinner.
He looked from one face to the other anxiously and Stépan
"I think that the card is a forgery, Denzil. I believe it to have been
written by Ferdinand Ardayre--at the instigation of Harietta Boleski.
She would have means to obtain the postcard, and have it sent through
"But why--why should she?" Amaryllis exclaimed in wonderment. "What
possible reason could she have for wishing to be so cruel to us. We were
always very nice to her, as you know."
Verisschenzko laughed cynically.
"She was jealous of you all the same. But Denzil, I track it by the
scent. I know Ferdinand uses that scent," he held out the card. "Smell."
Denzil sniffed as Amaryllis had done.
"It is so faint I should not have remarked it unless you had told me--but
I daresay if it was a scent one had smelt before, one would be struck by
it! But how are you going to prove it, Stépan? We shall have to have
convincing proof--because I am the only witness of poor John's death, and
it could easily be said that I am too deeply interested to be reliable.
For God's sake, old friend, think of some way of making a certainty."
"I have a way which I can enforce as soon as I reach Paris. Meanwhile say
nothing to any one and put the thought of it out of your heads. The
evidence of your own eyes convinced you that John is dead; you found it
difficult to accept that he was alive even when seeing what appeared to
be his own writing, but if I assure you that this is forged you can be at
peace. Is it not so?"
Amaryllis' lips were trembling; the shock and then this counter
shock were unhinging her. She was horrified at herself that she
should not catch at every straw to prove John was alive, instead of
feeling some sense of relief when Verisschenzko protested that the
postcard was a forgery.
Poor John! Good, and kind, and unselfish. It was all too agitating. But
was just life such a very great thing? She knew that had she the choice
she would rather be dead than separated now from Denzil. And if John were
really to be alive--what misery he would be obliged to suffer, knowing
"Quite apart from what to me is a convincing proof, the scent,"
Verisschenzko went on, "the card must be a forgery because of John's
seeming oblivion of the possibility that you two might have already
carried out his wishes. All this would have been very unlike him. But if
it is, as I think, Ferdinand's and Harietta Boleski's work, they would
not be likely to know that John had desired that Denzil should marry you,
Amaryllis, and so would have thought a short card with longings to see
you would be a natural thing to write. Indeed you can be at rest. And now
I will go and dress for dinner, and we will forget disturbing thoughts."
Amaryllis and Denzil will always remember Stépan's wonderful tact and
goodness to them that evening; he kept everything calm and thrilled them
all with his stories and his conversation and his own wonderfully
magnetic personality. And after dinner he played to them in the green
drawing room and, as Mrs. Ardayre said, seemed to bring peace and healing
to all their troubled souls.
But when he was alone with Denzil late, after the two women had retired
to bed, he sunk into a deep chair in the smoking room and suddenly burst
into a peal of cynical laughter.
"What the devil's up?" demanded Denzil, astonished.
"I am thinking of Harietta's exquisite mistake. She believes the baby is
mine! She is mad with a goat's jealousy; she supposes it is I who will
marry Amaryllis--hence her plot! Does it not show how the good are
protected and the evil fall into their own traps!"
"Of course! She was in love with you!"
"In love! Mon Dieu! you call that love! I mastered her body and was
unobtainable. She was never able to draw me more than a person could to
whom I should pay two hundred francs. She knew that perfectly--it enraged
her always. The threads are now completely in my hands. Conceive of it,
Denzil! The man at the Ardayre ball was her first husband for whom she
always retained some kind of animal affection--because he used to beat
her. They married her to Stanislass just to obtain the secrets of Poland,
and any other thing which she could pick' up. Her marvellous stupidity
and incredible want of all moral restraint has made her the most
brilliant spy. No principles to hamper her--nothing. She has only tripped
up through jealousy now. When she felt that she had lost me she grew to
desire me with the only part of her nature with which she desires
anything, her flesh--then she became unbalanced, and in September before
I left, gave the clue into my hands. I shall not bore you with all the
details, but I have them both--she and Ferdinand Ardayre. The first
husband has gone back to Germany from Sweden, but we shall secure him,
too, presently. Meanwhile I shall hand Harietta to the French
authorities--her last exploits are against France. She has enabled the
Germans to shoot six or seven brave fellows, besides giving information
of the most important kind wormed from foolish elderly adorers and above
all from Stanislass himself."
"She will be shot, I suppose."
"Probably. But first she shall confess about the postcard from the
prison camp. I shall go to Paris immediately, Denzil; there must be
"You will not feel the slightest twinge because she was your mistress, if
she is shot, Stépan? I ask because the combination of possible emotions
is interesting and unusual."
"Not for an instant--" and suddenly Verisschenzko's yellow-green eyes
flashed fire and his face grew transfigured with fierce hate. "You do not
know the affection I had for Stanislass from my boyhood--he was my
leader, my ideal. No paltry aims--a great pioneer of freedom on the
sanest lines. He might have altered the history of our two countries--he
was the light we need, and this foul, loathsome creature has destroyed
not only his soul and his body, but the protector and defender of a
conception of freedom which might have been realised. I would strangle
her with my own hands."
"Stanislass must have been a weakling, Stépan, to have let her destroy
him. He could never have ruled. It strikes me that this is the proof of
another of your theories. It must be some debt of his previous life that
he is paying to this woman. He was given his chance to use strength
against her and failed."
The hate died out of Verisschenzko's face--and the look of calm
"Yes, you are right, Denzil. You are wiser than I. So I shall not give
her up, for punishment of her crimes. I shall only give her up because of
justice--she must not be at large. You see, even in my case,--I who pride
myself on being balanced, can have my true point of view obsessed by
hate. It is an ignoble passion, my son!"
"You will catch Ferdinand too?"
"Undoubtedly--he is just a rotten little snipe, but he does mischief as
Harietta's tool--and through his business in Holland."
"He loathes the English--that is his reason, but Madame Boleski has no
incentive like that."
"Harietta has no country--she would be willing to betray any one of them
to gratify any personal desire. If she had been a patriot exclusively
working for Germany, one could have respected her, but she has often
betrayed their secrets to me--for jewels--and other things she required
at the moment. No mercy can be shown at all."
"In these days there is no use in having sentiment just because a spy is
a woman--but I am glad it is not my duty to deliver her up."
"I cannot help my nature, Denzil,--or rather the attributes of the nation
into which in this life I am born. I shall hand Harietta over to justice
without a regret."
Then they parted for the night with much of the disturbance and the
complex emotions removed from Denzil's heart.
When Verisschenzko reached Paris and discovered the desecration of the
Ikon, an icy rage came over him. He knew, even before questioning his old
servant, that it could only be the work of Harietta. Jealousy alone would
be the cause of such a wanton act. It revealed to him the certainty of
his theory that she had imagined the little Benedict to be his child. No
further proof that the postcard was a forgery was really needed, but he
would see her once more and obtain extra confirmation.
His yellow-green eyes gleamed in a curious way as he stood looking at the
That her ridiculous and accursed hatpin should have dared to touch the
eyes of his soul's lady, and scratch out the face of the child!
But he must not let this emotion of personal anger affect what he
intended in any case to do from motives of justice. In the morning he
would give all his proofs of her guilt to the French authorities, and let
the law take its course--but to-night he would make her come there to his
apartment and hear from him an indictment of her crimes.
He sat down in the comfortable chair in his own sitting room and
began to think.
His face was ominous; all the fierce passions of his nation and of his
nature held him for a while.
His dog, an intelligent terrier whom he loved, sat there before the fire
and watched him, wagging his stump of a tail now and then nervously, but
not daring to approach. Then, after half an hour had gone by, he rose and
went to the telephone. He called up the Universal and asked to be put
through to the apartment of Madame Boleski, and soon heard Harietta's
voice. It was a little anxious--and yet insolent too.
"Yes? Is that you Stépan! Darling Brute! What do you want?"
"You--cannot you come and dine with me to-night--alone?"
His voice was honey sweet, with a spontaneous, frank ring in it, only his
face still looked as a fiend's.
"You have just arrived? How divine!"
"This instant, so I rushed at once to the telephone. I long for
He allowed passion to quiver in the last notes--he must be sure that she
would be drawn.
"He cannot have opened the doors of the Ikon," Harietta thought. "I will
go--to see him again will be worth it anyway!"
"All right!--in half an hour!"
"_Soit_,"--and he put the receiver down.
Then he went again to the Ikon and examined the doors; by slamming them
very hard and readjusting one small golden nail, he could give the
fastening the appearance of its having been jammed and impossible to
open. He ordered a wonderful dinner and some Château Ykem of 1900.
Harietta, he remembered, liked it better than Champagne. Its sweetness
and its strength appealed to her taste. The room was warm and
delightful with its blazing wood fire. He looked round before he went
to dress, and then he laughed softly, and again Fin nervously wagged
his stump of a tail.
Harietta arrived punctually. She had made herself extremely beautiful.
Her overmastering desire to see Verisschenzko had allowed her usually
keen sense of self-preservation partially to sleep. But even so,
underneath there was some undefined sense of uneasiness.
Stépan met her in the hall, and greeted her in his usual abrupt way
"You will leave your cloak in my room," he suggested, wishing to give her
the chance to look at the Ikon's jammed doors and so put her at her ease.
The moment she found herself alone, she went swiftly to the shrine. She
examined it closely--no the bolt had not been mended. She pulled at the
doors but she could not open them, and she remembered with relief that
she had slammed them hard. That would account for things. He certainly
could not yet know of her action. The evening would be one of pleasure
after all! And there was never any use in speculating about to-morrows!
Verisschenzko was waiting for her in the sitting-room, and they went
straight in to dinner. A little table was drawn up to the fire; all
appeared deliciously intimate, and Harietta's spirits rose.
To her Verisschenzko appeared the most attractive creature on earth.
Indeed, he had a wonderful magnetism which had intoxicated many women
before her day. He was looking at her now with eyes unclouded by glamour.
He saw that she was painted and obvious, and without real charm. She
could no longer even affect his senses. He saw nothing but the reality,
the animal, blatant reality, and in his memory there remained the pierced
out orbs of the Virgin and the scratched face of the Christ child.
Everything fierce and cunning in his nature was in action--he was
glorying in the torture he meant to inflict, the torture of jealousy and
He talked subtly, deliberately stirring her curiosity and arousing her
apprehension. He had not mentioned Amaryllis, and yet he had conveyed to
her, as though it were an unconscious admission, that he had been in
England with her, and that she reigned in his soul. Then he used every
one of his arts of fascination so that all Harietta's desires were
inflamed once more, and by the time she had eaten of the rich Russian
dishes and drank of the Château Ykem she was experiencing the strongest
emotion she had ever known in her life, while a sense of impotence to
move him augmented her other feelings.
Her eyes swam with passion, as she leaned over the table whispering words
of the most violent love in his ears.
Verisschenzko remained absolutely unstirred.
"How silly you were to send that postcard to Lady Ardayre," he remarked
contemplatively in the middle of one of her burning sentences. "It was
not worthy of your usual methods--a child could see that it was a
forgery. If you had not done that I might have made you very happy
to-night--for the last time--my little goat!"
"Stépan--what card? But you are going to make me happy anyway, darling
Brute; that is what I have come for, and you know it!"
Her eyes were not so successfully innocent as usual when she lied. She
was uneasy at his stolidity, some fear stayed with her that perhaps he
meant not to gratify her desires just to be provoking. He had teased her
more than once before.
Verisschenzko went on, lighting his cigarette calmly:
"It was a silly plot--Ferdinand Ardayre wrote it and you dictated it; I
perceived the whole thing at once. You did it because you were jealous of
Lady Ardayre--you believe that I love her--"
"I do not know anything about a card, but I _am_ jealous about that
hateful bit of bread and butter," and her eyes flashed. "It is so unlike
you to worry over such a creature--I'm what you like!"
He laughed softly. "A man has many sides--you appeal to his lowest.
Fortunately it is not in command of him all the time--but let me tell you
more about the forgery. You over-reached yourselves--you made John ignore
something which would have been his first thought, thus the fraud was
exposed at once."
Her jealousy blazed up, so that she forgot herself and prudence.
"You mean about the child--your child--"
The ominous gleam came into Verisschenzko's eyes.
"My child--you spoke of it once before and I warned you--I never
She got up from the table and came and flung her arms round his neck.
"Stépan, I love you--I love you! I would like to kill Amaryllis and the
child--I want you--why are you so changed?"
He only laughed scornfully again, while he disengaged her arms.
"Do you know how I found out? By the perfume--the same as you told me
must be that of Stanislass' mistress--on the handkerchief marked 'F.A.'
The whole thing was dramatically childish. You thought to prove her
husband was still alive, would stop my marriage with Amaryllis Ardayre!"
"Then you are going to marry her!"
Harietta's hazel eyes flashed fire, her face had grown distorted with
passion and her cheeks burned beyond the rouge.
She appeared a most revolting sight to Stépan. He watched her with cold,
critical eyes. As she put out her hands he noticed how the thumbs turned
right back. How had he ever been able to touch her in the past! He
shivered with disgust and degradation at the thought.
She saw his movement of repulsion, and completely lost her head.
She flung herself into his arms and almost strangled him in her furious
embrace, while she threw all restraint to the winds and poured out a
torrent of passion, intermingled with curses for one who had dared to try
and rob her of this adored mate.
It was a wonderful and very sickening exhibition, Verisschenzko thought.
He remained as a statue of ice. Then when she had exhausted herself a
little, he spoke with withering calm.
"Control yourself, Harietta; such emotion will leave ugly lines, and you
cannot afford to spoil the one good you possess. I have not the least
desire for you--I find that you look plain and only bore me. But now
listen to me for a little--I have something to say!" His voice changed
from the cynical callousness to a deep note of gravity: "You need not
even tell me in words that you sent the forgery--you have given me ample
proof. That subject is finished--but I will make you listen to the
recital of some of your vile deeds." The note grew sterner and his eyes
held her cowed. "Ah! what instruments of the devil are such women as
you--possessing the greatest of all power over men you have used it only
for ill--wherever you have passed there is a trail of degradation and
slime. Think of Stanislass! A man of fine purpose and lofty ideals. What
is he now? A poor lifeless semblance of a man with neither brain nor
will. You have used him--not even to gratify your own low lust, but to
betray countries--and one of them your husband's country, which ought to
have been your own."
She sank to her knees at his side; he went on mercilessly. He spoke of
many names which she knew, and then he came to Ferdinand Ardayre.
"They tell me he is drinking and sodden with morphine, and raves wildly
of you. Think of them all--where are they now? Dead many of them--and you
have survived and prospered like a vampire, sucking their blood. Do you
ever think of a human being but your own degraded self? You would
sacrifice your nearest and dearest for a moment's personal gain. You are
not caught and strangled because the outside good natures come easily to
you. It makes things smooth to smile and commit little acts of showy
kindness which cost you nothing. You live and breathe and have your being
like a great maggot fattening on a putrid corpse. I blush to think that I
have ever used your body for my own ends, loathing you all the time. I
have watched you cynically when I should have wrung your neck."
She sobbed hoarsely and held out her hands.
"For all these things you might still have gone free, Harietta--and fate
would punish you in time, but you have committed that great crime for
which there can be no mercy. You have acted the part of a spy. A wretched
spy, not for patriotism but for your own ends--you have not been faithful
to either side. Have you not often given me the secrets of your late
husband Hans? Do you care one atom which country wins? Not you. The
whole sordid business has had only one aim--some personal gratification."
He paused--and she began to speak, now choking with rage, but he motioned
her to be silent.
"Do you think so lightly of the great issues which are shaking the world
that you imagine that you can do these things with impunity? I tell you
that soon you must pay the price. I am not the only one who knows of
She got up from the floor now and tossed her head. Important things had
never been to her realities--her fear left her. What agitated her now was
that Stépan, whom she adored, should speak to her in such a tone. She
threw herself into his arms once more, passionately proclaiming her love.
He thrust her from him in shrinking disgust, and the cruel vein in his
character was aroused.
"Love!--do not dare to desecrate the name of love. You do not know what
it means. I do--and this shall always remain with you as a remembrance. I
love Amaryllis Ardayre. She is my ideal of a woman--tender and restrained
and true--I shall always lay my life at her feet. I love her with a love
such beings as you cannot dream of, knowing only the senses and playing
only to them. That will be your knowledge always, that I worship and
reverence this woman, and hold you in supreme contempt."
Harietta writhed and whined on the sofa where she had fallen.
"Go," he went on icily. "I have no further use for you, and my car is
waiting below. You may as well avail yourself of it and return to your
hotel. In the morning the last proof of the interest I have taken in you
may be given, but to-night you can sleep."
Harietta cried aloud--she was frightened at last. What did he mean? But
even fear was swallowed up in the frantic thought that he had done with
her, that he would never any more hold her in his arms. Her world lay in
ruins, he seemed the one and only good. She grovelled on the floor and
kissed his feet.
"Master, Master! Keep me near you--I will be your slave--"
But Verisschenzko pushed her gently aside with his foot and going to a
table near took up a cigarette. He lighted it serenely, glancing
indifferently at the dishevelled heap of a woman still crouching on
"Enough of this dramatic nonsense," and he blew a ring of smoke. "I
advise you to go quietly to bed--you may not sleep so softly on
Fear overcame her again--what could he mean? She got up and held on to
the table, searching his face with burning eyes.
"Why should I not sleep so softly always?" and her voice was thick.
He laughed hoarsely.
"Who knows? Life is a gamble in these days. You must ask your interesting
She became ghastly white--that there was real danger was beginning
to dawn upon her. The rouge stood out like that on the painted face
of a clown.
Verisschenzko remained completely unmoved. He pressed the bell, and his
Russian servant, warned beforehand, brought him in his fur coat and hat,
and assisted him to put them on.
"I will take Madame to get her cloak," he announced calmly. "Wait here
to show us out."
There was nothing for Harietta to do but follow him, as he went towards
the bedroom door. She was stunned.
He walked over to the Ikon, and slipping a paper knife under them opened
wide the doors; then he turned to her, and the very life melted within
her when she saw his face.
"This is your work," and he pointed to the mutilations, "and for that and
many other things, Harietta, you shall at last pay the price. Now come, I
will take you back to your lover, and your husband--both will be waiting
and longing for your return. Come!"
She dropped on the floor and refused to move so that he was obliged to
call in the servant, and together they lifted her, the one holding her
up, while the other wrapped her in her cloak. Then, each supporting her,
they made their way down the stairs, and placed her in the waiting motor,
Verisschenzko taking the seat at her side--and so they drove to the
Universal. She should sleep to-night in peace and have time to think over
the events of the evening. But to-morrow he must no longer delay about
giving information to the authorities.
She cowered in the motor until they had almost reached the door, when she
flung her arms round his neck and kissed him wildly again, sobbing with
rage and terror:
"You shall not marry Amaryllis; I will kill you both first."
He smiled in the darkness, and she felt that he was mocking her, and
suddenly turned and bit his arm, her teeth meeting in the cloth of his
He shook her off as he would have done a rat:
"Never quite apropos, Harietta! Always a little late! But here we have
arrived, and you will not care for your admirers, the concierge, and the
lift men, to see you in such a state. Put your veil over your face and go
quietly to your rooms. I will wish you a very good-night--and farewell!"
He got out and stood with mock respect uncovered to assist her, and she
was obliged to follow him. The hall porter and the numerous personnel of
the hotel were looking on.
He bowed once more and appeared to kiss her hand:
"Good-bye, Harietta! Sleep well."
Then he re-entered the car and was whirled away.
She staggered for a second and then moved forward to the lift. But as she
went in, two tall men who had been waiting stepped forward and joined
her, and all three were carried aloft, and as she walked to her salon she
saw that they were following her.
"There will be no more kicks for thee, my Angel!" the maid, peeping
from a door, whispered exultingly to Fou-Chow! "Thy Marie has saved
thee at last!"
* * * * *
When Verisschenzko again reached his own sitting room he paced up and
down for half an hour. He was horribly agitated, and angry with himself
for being so.
Denzil had been right; when it came to the point, it was a ghastly thing
to have to do, to give a woman up to death--even though her crimes amply
justified such action.
And what was death?
To such a one as Harietta what would death mean?
A sinking into oblivion for a period, and then a rebirth in some sphere
of suffering where the first lessons of the meanings of things might be
learned? That would seem to be the probable working of the law--so that
she might eventually obtain a soul.
He must not speculate further about her though, he must keep his nerve.
And his own life--what would it now become? Would the spirit of freedom,
stirring in his beloved country, arrive at any good? Or would the red
current of revolution, once let loose, swamp all reason and flow in
rivers of blood?
He would be powerless to help if he let weakness overmaster him now.
The immediate picture looked black and hopeless to his far-seeing eyes.
But his place must be in Petrograd now, until the end. His activities,
which had obliged him to be away from Russia, were finished, and new ones
had begun which he must direct, there in the heart of things.
"The world is aching for freedom, God," his stormy thoughts ran, "but we
cannot hope to receive it until we have paid the price of the æons of
greed and self-seeking which have held us, the ignorance, the low
material gain. We must now reap that sowing. The divine Christ--one
man--was enough as a sacrifice in that old period of the world's day--but
now there must be a holocaust of the bravest and best for our
He threw himself into his chair and gazed into the glowing embers. What
pictures were forming themselves there? Nations arising glorified by a
new religion of common sense, education universally enjoyed, the great
forces studied, and Nature's fundamental principles reckoned with and
To hunt his food.
To recreate his species.
_And to kill his enemy._
A bright blade sheathed but ready, a clear judgment trained and used,
ideals nobly striven for, and Wisdom the High Priest of God.
These were the visions he saw in the fire, and he started to his feet and
stretched out his arms.
"Strength, God! Strength!" that was his prayer.
"That we may go--
Armoured and militant,
New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
To those great altitudes whereat the weak
Live not, but only the strong
Have leave to strive, and suffer, and achieve."
Then he sat down and wrote to Denzil.
"I have all the needed proofs, my friend. Marry my soul's lady in peace
and make her happy. There come some phases in a man's life which require
all his will to face. I hope I am no weakling. I return to Russia
immediately. Events there will enable me to blot out some disturbing
"The end is not yet. Indeed, I feel that my real life is only just
"Ferdinand Ardayre is deeply incriminated with Harietta; it is only a
question of a little time and he will be taken too. Then, Denzil, you, in
the natural course of events, would have been the Head of the Family. You
will need all your philosophy never to feel any jar in the situation with
your son as the years go on. You will have to look at it squarely, dear
old friend, and know that it is impossible to have interfered with
destiny and to have gone scott free. Then you will be able to accept
title affair with common sense and prize what you have obtained, without
spoiling it with futile regrets. You have paid most of your score with
wounds and suffering, and now can expect what happiness the agony of the
world can let a man enjoy.
"My blessings to you both and to the Ardayre son.
"And now adieu for a long time."
He had hardly written the last line when the telephone rang, and the
frantic voice of Stanislass, his ancient friend, called to him!
Harietta had been taken away to St. Lazare--her maid had denounced her.
What could be done?
A great wave of relief swept over Stépan. So he was not to be the
instrument of justice after all!
How profoundly he thanked God!
But the irony of the thing shook him.
Harietta would pay with her life for having maltreated a dog!
Truly the workings of fate were marvellous.
The days in prison for Harietta, before and after her trial, were days of
frenzied terror, alternating with incredulity. She would not believe that
she was to die.
Stanislass and Ferdinand, and even Verisschenzko, would save her!
She loathed the hard bed at St. Lazare, and the discomfort, and the
ugliness, and the Sister of Charity!
She spent hours tramping her cell like a wild beast in a cage. She would
roar with inarticulate fury, and cry aloud to her husband, and her
lovers, one after another, and then she would cower in a corner, shaking
The greatest pain of all was the thought that Stépan and Amaryllis would
marry and be happy. Once or twice foam gathered at the corners of her
lips when she thought of this.
If she could have reached Marie, that would have given her some
satisfaction--to tear out her eyes! For Ferdinand Ardayre had told her
how Marie had given her up, working quietly until she had all necessary
proofs, and then denouncing her.
When Stanislass had returned from the Club, whither she had despatched
him for the evening, so that she might be free to dine with
Verisschenzko, he found that she had already been taken away.
The shock, when he discovered that nothing could be done, had nearly
killed him--he now lay dangerously ill in a Maison de Santé, happily
unconscious of events.
For Ferdinand Ardayre the blow had fallen with crushing force. The one
strong thing in his weak nature was his passion for Harietta--and to be
robbed of her in such a way!
He battled impotently against fate, unable even to try to use any means
in his possession to get the death sentence commuted, because he was too
deeply implicated himself to make any stir.
He saw her in the prison after the trial, with the bars between and the
warders near. And the awful change in Tier paralysed him with grief. On
the morrow she was to die--the usual death of a spy.
Her hair was wild and her face without rouge was haggard and wan.
She implored him to save her.
The frightful pain of knowing that he could do nothing made Ferdinand
desperate, and then suddenly he became inspired with an idea.
He could at all events remove some of the agony of terror from her, and
enable her to go to her death without a hideous scene. He remembered "La
Tosca"--the same method might serve again!
He managed to whisper to her in broken sentences that she would certainly
be saved. The plan was all prepared, he assured her. The rifles would
contain blank cartridges, and she must pretend to fall--and afterwards he
would come, having bribed every one and made the path smooth.
He lied so fervently that Harietta was convinced, her material brain
catching at any straw. She must dress herself and look her best, he told
her, so as to make an impression upon all the men concerned; and then,
when he had to leave her, he arranged with the prison doctor that she
might receive a strong _piqûre_ of morphine, so that she would be
serene. She spent the night dreaming quite happily and at four o'clock
was awakened and began to dress.
The drug had calmed all her terrors and her dramatic instinct held
She arranged her toilet with the utmost care, using all her arts to
beautify herself. In her ears were Stanislass' ruby earrings and she wore
Stépan's ring and brooch.
Death to her was an impossibility--she had never seen any one die.
It was a wonderfully fine part she would have to play, with Ferdinand
there really going to save her! That was all! She must even be sweet at
last to the poor sister, whom she had snarled at hitherto.
If she could only have seen Stépan once more! Stanislass and his broken
life and fond devotion never gave her a thought or troubled her at all.
After she was free, she would find some means to pay out Hans! She hated
him. If it had not been for Hans and his tiresome old higher command
with their stupid intrigues, she would still be free. That she had
betrayed countries--that she was guilty in any way never presented
itself to her mind.
All Verisschenzko's passionate indictment had fallen upon unheeding ears.
The morphine now left her only sufficiently conscious for fundamental
instincts to act.
She felt that she was a beautiful woman going to be the chief figure in a
wonderfully dramatic scene. Nothing solemn had touched her. Her brain was
light and now only filled with cunning and _coqueterie_; she meant to
charm her guards and executioners to the last man! And ready at length,
she walked nonchalantly out of the prison and into the waiting car which
was to carry her to Vincennes.
Now the end of all this is best told in the words of a young French
soldier who was an eye witness and wrote the whole thing down. To pen the
hideous horror I find too difficult a task.
"Sunday--11 in the evening.
"We had only returned at that moment from our day's leave, when the
Lieutenant came to us to announce that we should be of the _piquet_
to-morrow morning for the execution of Madame Boleski, the spy.
"He said this to us in his monotonous voice as though he had been saying
'To-morrow--_Revue d'Armes_'--but for us, after a whole day passed far
from barracks, it was a rather brusque return to military realities!
"At once it became necessary that we look through our accountrements for
the show. No small affair! and for more than an hour there was brushing
and polishing of straps and buckles. It was nearly two o'clock in the
morning before we could turn in.
"Many of us could not sleep--we are all between eighteen and nineteen
years old, and the idea to see a woman killed agitated us. But little by
little the whole band dozed."
"At four o'clock--reveille. We dress in haste in the dark. Ten minutes
later we all find ourselves in the courtyard.
"'_A droit alignement couvres sur deux_.'
"The Lieutenant made the call."
* * * * *
"The detachment moves off in the night, marching in slow cadence--that
step which so peculiarly gives the impression of restrained force and
"We leave the fort and gain the artillery butts--true landscape of the
front! Trenches, stripped trees, abandoned wagons!
"And in the middle of all that--our silhouettes of carbines,
casques and sacs.
"We stop--we advance--and suddenly in the dawn which has begun, we arrive
at our destination--the execution ground.
"'_Cannoniers--halte! Couvres sur deux. A droite alignement_.'"
"A rattle of arms. And there in front of us, at hardly fifteen yards, we
catch sight of the post.
"Up till now we had scarcely felt anything--just startled impressions,
almost of curiosity, but now I begin to experience the first strong
"The post! Symbol of all this sinister ceremony. A short post--not higher
than one's shoulder! There it stands in front of the shooting butts. And
to think that nearly every Monday--"
* * * * *
"Now the troops from the Square, which is in reality rectangular, the
shooting butt constituting one of its sides. Then in the grim dawn we
wait quietly for what is to come. One after another, we see several
automobiles approach, and each time we ask ourselves, 'Is not this the
"No--they are journalists--officers--_avocats_--and presently a hearse,
out of which is lifted the coffin.
"The undertakers' men, who presently will proceed to the business of
placing the body there, laugh and talk together as they sit and smoke.
They are old _habitués!_"
"One was cold standing still! It begins to be quite light. The condemned
one may arrive at any moment, because the execution has been fixed for
exactly at the rising of the sun.
"The men of the platoon load their rifles. The number of them is
twelve--four sergeants, four corporals, four soldiers.
"And then there are the _Chasseurs à pied_."
"All of a sudden, two more cars appear, escorted by a company of
"This time it is She.
"They stop--out of the first one, officers descend. The Commissaire of
the Government who has, condemned Madame Boleski to death and who had
gone a little more than an hour ago to awake her in her cell. The
Captain, reporter, and two other Captains. The door of the second auto
opens, two gendarmes get out--a Sister of St. Lazare (what a terrible
_métier_ for her!)--and then Harietta Boleski!
"And at once, accompanied by the nun and followed by the gendarmes, she
penetrates into the square of men.
"Until now we have been enduring a period of waiting, we have been asking
ourselves if it will have an effect upon us--but now we have no more
doubt. The effect has begun!
"All together we render honour to the dead woman--for one considers a
person condemned as already dead. And the bugles begin to play the
March--_Do sol do do Sol do do, Mi mi mi_--
"They play slowly--very softly and in the minor key.
"Harietta Boleski walks quickly, the sister can hardly keep by her side.
She is tall, beautiful, very elegant. A large hat with floating lace veil
thrown back and splendid earrings. A dark dress--pretty shoes.
"She looks at the troops and the _piquet d'exécution_ a little
disdainfully, and then she smiles gaily--it is almost a titter. The
sister taps her gently on the shoulder, as if to recall her to a sense of
order, but she makes one careless gesture and walks up to the post.
"The bugles are sounding plaintively, slowly and more slowly all the
"She pauses in front of us--and with us it is now, 'Does this make us
feel something?' We must hold ourselves not to grow faint.
"To see this woman go by with the trumpets sounding ever. To say to
ourselves that in sixty seconds she will be no more. There will be no
life in that beautiful body. Ah! that is an emotion, believe me!
"Never has the great problem been brought more forcibly before my spirit.
"It is during the second when she passes before me that I receive
the most profound impression, more even than at the actual moment of
* * * * *
"Harietta Boleski is beside the post. The bugles stop their mournful
sound. They tie her to it, but not tightly, only so that her fall may not
be too hard. A gendarme presents her with a bandeau for her eyes, which
she pushes aside with scorn.
"And when an officer reads the sentence, Harietta Boleski smiles."
* * * * *
"At twelve yards the platoon is lined up. The sentence has been read.
"Madame Boleski embraces the Sister of Charity, who is very overcome.
She even whispers a few words to comfort her. They stand back from the
post. The adjutant who commands the platoon raises his sword--the rifles
come in into position--two seconds--and the sword falls!"
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Harietta Boleski is no more.
"The fair body drops to earth and immediately an Adjutant of
Dragoons goes swiftly to the post, revolver pointed, and gives the
_coup de grace_.
"_'Arme sur l'épaule--Droit. A droit. En avant. Marche!'_
"And we file past the corpse while the trumpets recommence to sound.
"Harietta Boleski is lying down. She seems to be only reposing, so
beautiful she looks.
"The ball had entered her heart (we knew this later) so that her death
has been instantaneous.
"All the troops have defiled before her now.
"We regain our quarters.
"But as we file into the courtyard the sun gilds the highest window of
the fortress. The day has begun."
* * * * *
Thus perished Harietta Boleski in the thirty-seventh year of her age--in
the midst of the zest of life. The times are to strenuous for sentiment.
So perish all spies!