Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Secret of the Night by Gaston Leroux

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

From the corner that she kept to, through the doors left open,
Matrena could follow all the movements of the reporter and watch
Natacha's chamber at the same time. The attitude of Rouletabille
continued to confuse her beyond all expression. She watched what
he did as if she thought him besotted. The dyernick on guard out
in the roadway also watched the young man through the bars of the
gate in consternation, as though he thought him a fool. Along the
paths of beaten earth or cement which offered no chance for
footprints Rouletabille hurried silently. Around him he noted that
the grass of the lawn had not been trodden. And then he paid no
more attention to his steps. He seemed to study attentively the
rosy color in the east, breathing the delicacy of dawning morning
in the Isles, amid the silence of the earth, which still slumbered.

Bare-headed, face thrown back, hands behind his back, eyes raised
and fixed, he made a few steps, then suddenly stopped as if he had
been given an electric shock. As soon as he seemed to have
recovered from that shock he turned around and went a few steps
back to another path, into which he advanced, straight ahead, his
face high, with the same fixed look that he had had up to the time
he so suddenly stopped, as if something or someone advised or warned
him not to go further. He continually worked back toward the house,
and thus he traversed all the paths that led from the villa, but in
all these excursions he took pains not to place himself in the field
of vision from Natacha's window, a restricted field because of its
location just around an abutment of the building. To ascertain
about this window he crept on all-fours up to the garden-edge that
ran along the foot of the wall and had sufficient proof that no one
had jumped out that way. Then he went to rejoin Matrena in the

"No one has come into the garden this morning," said he, "and no
one has gone out of the villa into the garden. Now I am going to
look outside the grounds. Wait here; I'll be back in five minutes."

He went away, knocked discreetly on the window of the lodge and
waited some seconds. Ermolai came out and opened the gate for him.
Matrena moved to the threshold of the little sitting-room and
watched Natacha's door with horror. She felt her legs give under
her, she could not stand up under the diabolic thought of such a
crime. Ah, that arm, that arm! reaching out, making its way, with
a little shining phial in its hand. Pains of Christ! What could
there be in the damnable books over which Natacha and her companions
pored that could make such abominable crimes possible? Ah, Natacha,
Natacha! it was from her that she would have desired the answer,
straining her almost to stifling on her rough bosom and strangling
her with her own strong hand that she might not hear the response.
Ah, Natacha, Natacha, whom she had loved so much! She sank to the
floor, crept across the carpet to the door, and lay there, stretched
like a beast, and buried her head in her arms while she wept over
her daughter. Natacha, Natacha, whom she had cherished as her own
child, and who did not hear her. Ah, what use that the little
fellow had gone to search outside when the whole truth lay behind
this door? Thinking of him, she was embarrassed lest he should
find her in that animalistic posture, and she rose to her knees and
worked her way over to the window that looked out upon the Neva.
The angle of the slanting blinds let her see well enough what
passed. outside, and what she saw made her spring to her feet.
Below her the reporter was going through the same incomprehensible
maneuvers that she had seen him do in the garden. Three pathways
led to the little road that ran along the wall of the villa by the
bank of the Neva. The young man, still with his hands behind his
back and with his face up, took them one after the other. In the
first he stopped at the first step. He didn't take more than two
steps in the second. In the third, which cut obliquely toward the
right and seemed to run to the bank nearest Krestowsky Ostrow, she
saw him advance slowly at first, then more quickly among the small
trees and hedges. Once only he stopped and looked closely at the
trunk of a tree against which he seemed to pick out something
invisible, and then he continued to the bank. There he sat down
on a stone and appeared to reflect, and then suddenly he cast off
his jacket and trousers, picked out a certain place on the bank
across from him, finished undressing and plunged into the stream.
She saw at once that he swam like a porpoise, keeping beneath and
showing his head from time to time, breathing, then diving below
the surface again. He reached Krestowsky Ostrow in a clump of reeds.
Then he disappeared. Below him, surrounded by trees, could be seen
the red tiles of the villa which sheltered Boris and Michael. From
that villa a person could see the window of the sitting-room in
General Trebassof's residence, but not what might occur along the
bank of the river just below its walls. An isvotchick drove along
the distant route of Krestowsky, conveying in his carriage a company
of young officers and young women who had been feasting and who sang
as they rode; then deep silence ensued. Matrena's eyes searched for
Rouletabille, but could not find him. How long was he going to stay
hidden like that? She pressed her face against the chill window.
What was she waiting for? She waited perhaps for someone to make a
move on this side, for the door near her to open and the traitorous
figure of The Other to appear.

A hand touched her carefully. She turned.

Rouletabille was there, his face all scarred by red scratches,
without collar or neck-tie, having hastily resumed his clothes. He
appeared furious as he surprised her in his disarray. She let him
lead her as though she were a child. He drew her to his room and
closed the door.

"Madame," he commenced, "it is impossible to work with you. Why
in the world have you wept not two feet from your step-daughter's
door? You and your Koupriane, you commence to make me regret the
Faubourg Poissoniere, you know. Your step-daughter has certainly
heard you. It is lucky that she attaches no importance at all to
your nocturnal phantasmagorias, and that she has been used to them
a long time. She has more sense than you, Mademoiselle Natacha has.
She sleeps, or at least she pretends to sleep, which leaves
everybody in peace. What reply will you give her if it happens
that she asks you the reason to-day for your marching and
counter-marching up and down the sitting-room and complains that
you kept her from sleeping?"

Matrena only shook her old, old head.

"No, no, she has not heard me. I was there like a shadow, like a
shadow of myself. She will never hear me. No one hears a shadow."

Rouletabille felt returning pity for her and spoke more gently.

"In any case, it is necessary, you must understand, that she
should attach no more importance to what you have done to-night
than to the things she knows of your doing other nights. It is not
the first time, is it, that you have wandered in the sitting-room?
You understand me? And to-morrow, madame, embrace her as you
always have."

"No, not that," she moaned. "Never that. I could not."

"Why not?"

Matrena did not reply. She wept. He took her in his arms like a
child consoling its mother.

"Don't cry. Don't cry. All is not lost. Someone did leave the
villa this morning."

"Oh, little domovoi! How is that? How is that? How did you find
that out?"

"Since we didn't find anything inside, it was certainly necessary to
find something outside."

"And you have found it?"


"The Virgin protect you!"

"SHE is with us. She will not desert us. I will even say that I
believe she has a special guardianship over the Isles. She watches
over them from evening to morning."

"What are you saying?"

"Certainly. You don't know what we call in France 'the watchers of
the Virgin'?"

"Oh, yes, they are the webs that the dear little beasts of the good
God spin between the trees and that..."

"Exactly. You understand me and you will understand further when
you know that in the garden the first thing that struck me across
the face as I went into it was these watchers of the Virgin spun by
the dear little spiders of the good God. At first when I felt them
on my face I said to myself, 'Hold on, no one has passed this way,'
and so I went to search other places. The webs stopped me
everywhere in the garden. But, outside the garden, they kept out
of the way and let me pass undisturbed down a pathway which led to
the Neva. So then I said to myself, 'Now, has the Virgin by accident
overlooked her work in this pathway? Surely not. Someone has
ruined it.' I found the shreds of them hanging to the bushes, and
so I reached the river."

"And you threw yourself into the river, my dear angel. You swim
like a little god."

"And I landed where the other landed. Yes, there were the reeds all
freshly broken. And I slipped in among the bushes."

"Where to?"

"Up to the Villa Krestowsky, madame - where they both live."

"Ah, it was from there someone came?"

There was a silence between them.

She questioned:


"Someone who came from the villa and who returned there. Boris or
Michael, or another. They went and returned through the reeds.
But in coming they used a boat; they returned by swimming."

Her customary agitation reasserted itself.

She demanded ardently:

"And you are sure that he came here and that he left here?"

"Yes, I am sure of it."


"By the sitting-room window."

"It is impossible, for we found it locked."

"It is possible, if someone closed it behind him."


She commenced to tremble again, and, falling back into her
nightmarish horror, she no longer wasted fond expletives on her
domovoi as on a dear little angel who had just rendered a service
ten times more precious to her than life. While he listened
patiently, she said brutally:

"Why did you keep me from throwing myself on him, from rushing upon
him as he opened the door? Ah, I would have, I would have ... we
would know."

"No. At the least noise he would have closed the door. A turn of
the key and he would have escaped forever. And he would have been

"Careless boy! Why then, if you knew he was going to come, didn't
you leave me in the bedroom and you watch below yourself?"

"Because so long as I was below he would not have come. He only
comes when there is no one downstairs."

"Ah, Saints Peter and Paul pity a poor woman. Who do you think it
is, then? Who do you think it is? I can't think any more. Tell
me, tell me that. You ought to know - you know everything. Come
- who? I demand the truth. Who? Still some agent of the Committee,
of the Central Committee? Still the Nihilists?"

"If it was only that!" said Rouletabille quietly.

"You have sworn to drive me mad! What do you mean by your 'if it
was only that'?"

Rouletabille, imperturbable, did not reply.

"What have you done with the potion?" said he.

"The potion? The glass of the crime! I have locked it in my room,
in the cupboard - safe, safe!"

"Ah, but, madame, it is necessary to replace it where you took
it from."


"Yes, after having poured the poison into a phial, to wash the glass
and fill it with another potion."

"You are right. You think of everything. If the general wakes and
wants his potion, he must not be suspicious of anything, and he must
be able to have his drink."

"It is not necessary that he should drink."

"Well, then, why have the drink there?"

"So that the person can be sure, madame, that if he has not drunk
it is simply because he has not wished to. A pure chance, madame,
that he is not poisoned. You understand me this time?"

"Yes, yes. O Christ! But how now, if the general wakes and wishes
to drink his narcotic?"

"Tell him I forbid it. And here is another thing you must do.
When - Someone - comes into the general's chamber, in the morning,
you must quite openly and naturally throw out the potion, useless
and vapid, you see, and so Someone will have no right to be
astonished that the general continues to enjoy excellent health."

"Yes, yes, little one; you are wiser than King Solomon. And what
will I do with the phial of poison?"

"Bring it to me."

"Right away."

She went for it and returned five minutes later.

"He is still asleep. I have put the glass on the table, out of his
reach. He will have to call me."

"Very good. Then push the door to, close it; we have to talk
things over."

"But if someone goes back up the servants' staircase?"

"Be easy about that. They think the general is poisoned already.
It is the first care-free moment I have been able to enjoy in this

"When will you stop making me shake with horror, little demon! You
keep your secret well, I must say. The general is sleeping better
than if he really were poisoned. But what shall we do about Natacha?
I dare ask you that - you and you alone."

"Nothing at all."

"How - nothing?"

"We will watch her..."

"Ah, yes, yes."

"Still, Matrena, you let me watch her by myself."

"Yes, yes, I promise you. I will not pay any attention to her.
That is promised. That is promised. Do as you please. Why, just
now, when I spoke of the Nihilists to you, did you say, 'If it were
only that!'? You believe, then, that she is not a Nihilist? She
reads such things - things like on the barricades..."

"Madame, madame, you think of nothing but Natacha. You have
promised me not to watch her; promise me not to think about her."

"Why, why did you say, 'If it was only that!'?"

"Because, if there were only Nihilists in your affair, dear madame,
it would be too simple, or, rather, it would have been more simple.
Can you possibly believe, madame, that simply a Nihilist, a Nihilist
who was only a Nihilist, would take pains that his bomb exploded
from a vase of flowers? - that it would have mattered where, so
long as it overwhelmed the general? Do you imagine that the bomb
would have had less effect behind the door than in front of it? And
the little cavity under the floor, do you believe that a genuine
revolutionary, such as you have here in Russia, would amuse himself
by penetrating to the villa only to draw out two nails from a board,
when one happens to give him time between two visits to the
dining-room? Do you suppose that a revolutionary who wished to
avenge the dead of Moscow and who could succeed in getting so far
as the door behind which General Trebassof slept would amuse himself
by making a little hole with a pin in order to draw back the bolt
and amuse himself by pouring poison into a glass? Why, in such a
case, he would have thrown his bomb outright, whether it blew him
up along with the villa, or he was arrested on the spot, or had to
submit to the martyrdom of the dungeons in the Fortress of SS. Peter
and Paul, or be hung at Schlusselburg. Isn't that what always
happens? That is the way he would have done, and not have acted
like a hotel-rat! Now, there is someone in your home (or who comes
to your home) who acts like a hotel-rat because he does not wish to
be seen, because he does not wish to be discovered, because he does
not wish to be taken in the act. Now, the moment that he fears
nothing so much as to be taken in the act, so that he plays all
these tricks of legerdemain, it is certain that his object lies
beyond the act itself, beyond the bomb, beyond the poison. Why all
this necessity for bombs of deferred explosion, for clockwork placed
where it will be confused with other things, and not on a bare
staircase forbidden to everbody, though you visit it twenty times
a day?"

"But this man comes in as he pleases by day and by night? You don't
answer. You know who he is, perhaps?"

"I know him, perhaps, but I am not sure who it is yet."

"You are not curious, little domovoi doukh! A friend of the house,
certainly, and who enters the house as he wishes, by night, because
someone opens the window for him. And who comes from the Krestowsky
Villa! Boris or Michael! Ah, poor miserable Matrena! Why don't
they kill poor Matrena? Their general! Their general! And they
are soldiers - soldiers who come at night to kill their general.
Aided by - by whom? Do you believe that? You? Light of my eyes!
you believe that! No, no, that is not possible! I want you to
understand, monsieur le domovoi, that I am not able to believe
anything so horrible. No, no, by Jesus Christ Who died on the
Cross, and Who searches our hearts, I do not believe that Boris
- who, however, has very advanced ideas, I admit - it is necessary
not to forget that; very advanced; and who composes very advanced
verses also, as I have always told him - I will not believe that
Boris is capable of such a fearful crime. As to Michael, he is an
honest man, and my daughter, my Natacha, is an honest girl.
Everything looks very bad, truly, but I do not suspect either Michael
or Boris or my pure and beloved Natacha (even though she has made
a translation into French of very advanced verses, certainly most
improper for the daughter of a general). That is what lies at the
bottom of my mind, the bottom of my heart - you have understood me
perfectly, little angel of paradise? Ah, it is you the general owes
his life to, that Matrena owes her life. Without you this house
would already be a coffin. How shall I ever reward you? You wish
for nothing! I annoy you! You don't even listen to me! A coffin
- we would all be in our coffins! Tell me what you desire. All
that I have belongs to you!"

"I desire to smoke a pipe.

"Ah, a pipe! Do you want some yellow perfumed tobacco that I
receive every month from Constantinople, a treat right from the
harem? I will get enough for you, if you like it, to smoke ten
thousand pipes full."

"I prefer caporal," replied Rouletabille. "But you are right. It
is not wise to suspect anybody. See, watch, wait. There is always
time, once the game is caught, to say whether it is a hare or a
wild boar. Listen to me, then, my good mamma. We must know first
what is in the phial. Where is it?"

"Here it is."

She drew it from her sleeve. He stowed it in his pocket.

"You wish the general a good appetite, for me. I am going out.
I will be back in two hours at the latest. And, above all, don't
let the general know anything. I am going to see one of my friends
who lives in the Aptiekarski pereolek."*

* The little street of the apothecaries.

"Depend on me, and get back quickly for love of me. My blood clogs
in my heart when you are not here, dear servant of God."

She mounted to the general's room and came down at least ten times
to see if Rouletabille had not returned. Two hours later he was
around the villa, as he had promised. She could not keep herself
from running to meet him, for which she was scolded.

"Be calm. Be calm. Do you know what was in the phial?"


"Arsenate of soda, enough to kill ten people."

"Holy Mary!"

"Be quiet. Go upstairs to the general."

Feodor Feodorovitch was in charming humor. It was his first good
night since the death of the youth of Moscow. He attributed it to
his not having touched the narcotic and resolved, once more, to
give up the narcotic, a resolve Rouletabille and Matrena encouraged.
During the conversation there was a knock at the door of Matrena's
chamber. She ran to see who was there, and returned with Natacha,
who wished to embrace her father. Her face showed traces of
fatigue. Certainly she had not passed as good a night as her
father, and the general reproached her for looking so downcast.

"It is true. I had dreadful dreams. But you, papa, did you sleep
well? Did you take your narcotic?"

"No, no, I have not touched a drop of my potion."

"Yes, I see. Oh, well, that is all right; that is very good.
Natural sleep must be coming back..."

Matrena, as though hypnotized by Rouletabille, had taken the glass
from the table and ostentatiously carried it to the dressing-room
to throw it out, and she delayed there to recover her

Natacha continued:

"You will see, papa, that you will be able to live just like
everyone else finally. The great thing was to clear away the
police, the atrocious police; wasn't it, Monsieur Rouletabille?"

"I have always said, for myself, that I am entirely of Mademoiselle
Natacha's mind. You can be entirely reassured now, and I shall
leave you feeling reassured. Yes, I must think of getting my
interviews done quickly, and departing. Ah well, I can only say
what I think. Run things yourselves and you will not run any
danger. Besides, the general gets much better, and soon I shall
see you all in France, I hope. I must thank you now for your
friendly hospitality."

"Ah, but you are not going? You are not going!" Matrena had
already set herself to protest with all the strenuous torrent of
words in her poor desolated heart, when a glance from the reporter
cut short her despairing utterances.

"I shall have to remain a week still in the city. I have engaged a
chamber at the Hotel de France. It is necessary. I have so many
people to see and to receive. I will come to make you a little
visit from time to time."

"You are then quite easy," demanded the general gravely, "at leaving
me all alone?"

"Entirely easy. And, besides, I don't leave you all alone. I leave
you with Madame Trebassof and Mademoiselle. I repeat: All three of
you stay as I see you now. No more police, or, in any case, the
fewest possible."

"He is right, he is right," repeated Natacha again.

At this moment there were fresh knocks at the door of Matrena's
chamber. It was Ermolai, who announced that his Excellency the
Marshal of the Court, Count Keltzof, wished to see the general,
acting for His Majesty.

"Go and receive the Count, Natacha, and tell him that your father
will be downstairs in a moment."

Natacha and Rouletabille went down and found the Count in the
drawing-room. He was a magnificent specimen, handsome and big as
one of the Swiss papal guard. He seemed watchful in all directions
and all among the furniture, and was quite evidently disquieted.
He advanced immediately to meet the young lady, inquiring the news.

"It is all good news," replied Natacha. "Everybody here is splendid.
The general is quite gay. But what news have you, monsieur le
marechal? You appear preoccupied."

The marshal had pressed Rouletabille's hand.

"And my grapes?" he demanded of Natacha.

"How, your grapes? What grapes?"

"If you have not touched them, so much the better. I arrived here
very anxious. I brought you yesterday, from Krasnoie-Coelo, some
of the Emperor's grapes that Feodor Feodorovitch enjoyed so much.
Now this morning I learned that the eldest son of Doucet, the French
head-gardener of the Imperial conservatories at Krasnoie, had died
from eating those grapes, which he had taken from those gathered
for me to bring here. Imagine my dismay. I knew, however, that at
the general's table, grapes would not be eaten without having been
washed, but I reproached myself for not having taken the precaution
of leaving word that Doucet recommend that they be washed thoroughly.
Still, I don't suppose it would matter. I couldn't see how my gift
could be dangerous, but when I learned of little Doucet's death
this morning, I jumped into the first train and came straight here."

"But, your Excellency," interrupted Natacha, "we have not seen your

"Ah, they have not been served yet? All the better. Thank

"The Emperor's grapes are diseased, then?" interrogated Rouletabille.
"Phylloxera pest has got into the conservatories?"

"Nothing can stop it, Doucet told me. So he didn't want me to leave
last evening until he had washed the grapes. Unfortunately, I was
pressed for time and I took them as they were, without any idea that
the mixture they spray on the grapes to protect them was so deadly.
It appears that in the vineyard country they have such accidents
every year. They call it, I think, the ... the mixture ... "

"The Bordeaux mixture," was heard in Rouletabille's trembling voice
"And do you know what it is, Your Excellency, this Bordeaux mixture?"

"Why, no."

At this moment the general came down the stairs, clinging to the
banister and supported by Matrena Petrovna.

"Well," continued Rouletabille, watching Natacha, "the Bordeaux
mixture which covered the grapes you brought the general yesterday
was nothing more nor less than arsenate of soda."

"Ah, God!" cried Natacha.

As for Matrena Petrovna, she uttered a low exclamation and let go
the general, who almost fell down the staircase. Everybody rushed.
The general laughed. Matrena, under the stringent look of
Rouletabille, stammered that she had suddenly felt faint. At last
they were all together in the veranda. The general settled back on
his sofa and inquired:

"Well, now, were you just saying something, my dear marshal, about
some grapes you have brought me?"

"Yes, indeed," said Natacha, quite frightened, "and what he said
isn't pleasant at all. The son of Doucet, the court gardener, has
just been poisoned by the same grapes that monsieur le marschal,
it appears, brought you."

"Where was this? Grapes? What grapes? I haven't seen any grapes!"
exclaimed Matrena. "I noticed you, yesterday, marshal, out in the
garden, but you went away almost immediately, and I certainly was
surprised that you did not come in. What is this story?"

"Well, we must clear this matter up. It is absolutely necessary
that we know what happened to those grapes."

"Certainly," said Rouletabille, "they could cause a catastrophe."

"If it has not happened already," fretted the marshal.

"But how? Where are they? Whom did you give them to?"

"I carried them in a white cardboard box, the first one that came
to hand in Doucet's place. I came here the first time and didn't
find you. I returned again with the box, and the general was just
lying down. I was pressed for my train and Michael Nikolaievitch
and Boris Alexandrovitch were in the garden, so I asked them to
execute my commission, and I laid the box down near them on the
little garden table, telling them not to forget to tell you it was
necessary to wash the grapes as Doucet expressly recommended."

"But it is unbelievable! It is terrible!" quavered Matrena. "Where
can the grapes be? We must know."

"Absolutely," approved Rouletabille.

"We must ask Boris and Michael," said Natacha. "Good God! surely
they have not eaten them! Perhaps they are sick."

"Here they are," said the general. All turned. Michael and Boris
were coming up the steps. Rouletabille, who was in a shadowed
corner under the main staircase, did not lose a single play of
muscle on the two faces which for him were two problems to solve.
Both faces were smiling; too smiling, perhaps.

"Michael! Boris! Come here," cried Feodor Feodorovitch. "What
have you done with the grapes from monsieur le marechal?"

They both looked at him upon this brusque interrogation, seemed not
to understand, and then, suddenly recalling, they declared very
naturally that they had left them on the garden table and had not
thought about them.

"You forgot my caution, then?" said Count Kaltzof severely.

"What caution?" said Boris. "Oh, yes, the washing of the grapes.
Doucet's caution."

"Do you know what has happened to Doucet with those grapes? His
eldest son is dead, poisoned. Do you understand now why we are
anxious to know what has become of my grapes?"

"But they ought to be out there on the table," said Michael.

"No one can find them anywhere," declared Matrena, who, no less than
Rouletabille, watched every change in the countenances of the two
officers. "How did it happen that you went away yesterday evening
without saying good-bye, without seeing us, without troubling
yourselves whether or not the general might need you?"

"Madame," said Michael, coldly, in military fashion, as though he
replied to his superior officer himself, "we have ample excuse to
offer you and the general. It is necessary that we make an
admission, and the general will pardon us, I am sure. Boris and I,
daring the promenade, happened to quarrel. That quarrel was in full
swing when we reached here and we were discussing the way to end it
most promptly when monsieur le marechal entered the garden. We must
make that our excuse for giving divided attention to what he had to
say. As soon as he was gone we had only one thought, to get away
from here to settle our difference with arms in our hands."

"Without speaking to me about it!" interrupted Trehassof. "I never
will pardon that."

"You fight at such a time, when the general is threatened! It is
as though you fought between yourselves in the face of the enemy.
It is treason!" added Matrena.

"Madame," said Boris, "we did not fight. Someone pointed out our
fault, and I offered my excuses to Michael Nikolaievitch, who
generously accepted them. Is that not so, Michael Nikolaievitch?"

"And who is this that pointed out your fault?" demanded the marshal.


"Bravo, Natacha. Come, embrace me, my daughter."

The general pressed his daughter effusively to his broad chest.

"And I hope you will not have further disputing," he cried, looking
over Natacha's shoulder.

"We promise you that, General," declared Boris. "Our lives belong
to you."

"You did well, my love. Let us all do as well. I have passed an
excellent night, messieurs. Real sleep! I have had just one long

"That is so," said Matrena slowly. "The general had no need of
narcotic. He slept like a child and did not touch his potion."

"And my leg is almost well."

"All the same, it is singular that those grapes should have
disappeared," insisted the marshal, following his fixed idea.

"Ermolai," called Matrena.

The old servant appeared.

"Yesterday evening, after these gentlemen had left the house, did
you notice a small white box on the garden table?"

"No, Barinia."

"And the servants? Have any of them been sick? The dvornicks?
The schwitzar? In the kitchens? No one sick? No? Go and see; then
come and tell me."

He returned, saying, "No one sick."

Like the marshal, Matrena Petrovna and Feodor Feodorovitch looked
at one another, repeating in French, "No one sick! That is strange!"

Rouletabille came forward and gave the only explanation that was
plausible - for the others.

"But, General, that is not strange at all. The grapes have been
stolen and eaten by some domestic, and if the servant has not been
sick it is simply that the grapes monsieur le marechal brought
escaped the spraying of the Bordeaux mixture. That is the whole

"The little fellow must be right," cried the delighted marshal.

"He is always right, this little fellow," beamed Matrena, as proudly
as though she had brought him into the world.

But "the little fellow," taking advantage of the greetings as
Athanase Georgevitch and Ivan Petrovitch arrived, left the villa,
gripping in his pocket the phial which held what is required to make
grapes flourish or to kill a general who is in excellent health.
When he had gone a few hundred steps toward the bridges one must
cross to go into the city, he was overtaken by a panting dvornick,
who brought him a letter that had just come by courier. The writing
on the envelope was entirely unknown to him. He tore it open and
read, in excellent French:

"Request to M. Joseph Rouletabille not to mix in matters that do
not concern him. The second warning will be the last." It was
signed: "The Central Revolutionary Committee."

"So, ho!" said Rouletabille, slipping the paper into his pocket,
"that's the line it takes, is it! Happily I have nothing more to
occupy myself with at all. It is Koupriane's turn now! Now to go
to Koupriane's!"

On this date, Rouletabille's note-book: "Natacha to her father:
'But you, papa, have you had a good night? Did you take your

"Fearful, and (lest I confuse heaven and hell) I have no right to
take any further notes."*
*As a matter of fact, after this day no more notes are found in
Rouletabille's memorandum-book. The last one is that above, bizarre
and romantic, and necessary, as Sainclair, the Paris advocate and
friend of Rouletabille, indicates opposite it in the papers from
which we have taken all the details of this story.



Rouletabille took a long walk which led him to the Troitsky Bridge,
then, re-descending the Naberjnaia, he reached the Winter Palace.
He seemed to have chased away all preoccupation, and took a child's
pleasure in the different aspects of the life that characterizes
the city of the Great Peter. He stopped before the Winter Palace,
walked slowly across the square where the prodigious monolith of
the Alexander Column rises from its bronze socket, strolled between
the palace and the colonnades, passed under an immense arch:
everything seemed Cyclopean to him, and he never had felt so tiny,
so insignificant. None the less he was happy in his insignificance,
he was satisfied with himself in the presence of these colossal
things; everything pleased him this morning. The speed of the
isvos, the bickering humor of the osvotchicks, the elegance of the
women, the fine presences of the officers and their easy naturalness
under their uniforms, so opposed to the wooden posturing of the
Berlin military men whom he had noticed at the "Tilleuls" and in
the Friederichstrasse between two trains. Everything enchanted him
- the costume even of the moujiks, vivid blouses, the red shirts
over the trousers, the full legs and the boots up to the knees,
even the unfortunates who, in spite of the soft atmosphere, were
muffled up in sheepskin coats, all impressed him favorably,
everything appeared to him original and congenial.

Order reigned in the city. The guards were polite, decorative and
superb in bearing. The passers-by in that quarter talked gayly
among themselves, often in French, and had manners as civilized as
anywhere in the world. Where, then, was the Bear of the North? He
never had seen bears so well licked. Was it this very city that
only yesterday was in revolution? This was certainly the Alexander
Park where troops a few weeks before had fired on children who had
sought refuge in the trees, like sparrows. Was this the very
pavement where the Cossacks had left so many bodies? Finally he
saw before him the Nevsky Prospect, where the bullets rained like
hail not long since upon a people dressed for festivities and very
joyous. Nichevo! Nichevo! All that was so soon forgotten. They
forgot yesterday as they forget to-morrow. The Nihilists? Poets,
who imagined that a bomb could accomplish anything in that Babylon
of the North more important than the noise of its explosion! Look
at these people who pass. They have no more thought for the old
attack than for those now preparing in the shadow of the "tracktirs."
Happy men, full of serenity in this bright quarter, who move about
their affairs and their pleasures in the purest air, the lightest,
the most transparent on earth. No, no; no one knows the joy of
mere breathing if he has not breathed the air there, the finest in
the north of the world, which gives food and drink of beautiful
white eau-de-vie and yellow pivo, and strikes the blood and makes
one a beast vigorous and joyful and fatalistic, and mocks at the
Nihilists and, as well, at the ten thousand eyes of the police
staring from under the porches of houses, from under the skulls of
dvornicks - all police, the dvornicks; all police, also the joyous
concierges with extended hands. Ah, ah, one mocks at it all in
such air, provided one has roubles in one's pockets, plenty of
roubles, and that one is not besotted by reading those extraordinary
books that preach the happiness of all humanity to students and to
poor girl-students too. Ah, ah, seed of the Nihilists, all that!
These poor little fellows and poor little girls who have their heads
turned by lectures that they cannot digest! That is all the trouble,
the digestion. The digestion is needed. Messieurs the commercial
travelers for champagne, who talk together importantly in the
lobbies of the Grand Morskaia Hotel and who have studied the Russian
people even in the most distant cities where champagne is sold, will
tell you that over any table of hors-d'oeuvres, and will regulate
the whole question of the Revolution between two little glasses of
vodka, swallowed properly, quickly, elbow up, at a single draught,
in the Russian manner. Simply an affair of digestion, they tell
you. Who is the fool that would dare compare a young gentleman who
has well digested a bottle of champagne or two, and another young
man who has poorly digested the lucubrations of, who shall we say?
- the lucubrations of the economists? The economists? The
economists! Fools who compete which can make the most violent
statements! Those who read them and don't understand them go off
like a bomb! Your health! Nichevo! The world goes round still,
doesn't it?

Discussion political, economic, revolutionary, and other in the
room where they munch hors-d'oeuvres! You will hear it all as you
pass through the hotel to your chamber, young Rouletabille. Get
quickly now to the home of Koupriane, if you don't wish to arrive
there at luncheon-time; then you would have to put off these serious
affairs until evening.

The Department of Police. Massive entrance, heavily guarded, a
great lobby, halls with swinging doors, many obsequious schwitzars
on the lookout for tips, many poor creatures sitting against the
walls on dirty benches, desks and clerks, brilliant boots and
epaulets of gay young officers who are telling tales of the Aquarium
with great relish.

"Monsieur Rouletabille! Ah, yes. Please be seated. Delighted,
M. Koupriane will be very happy to receive you, but just at this
moment he is at inspection. Yes, the inspection of the police
dormitories in the barracks. We will take you there. His own idea!
He doesn't neglect anything, does he? A great Chief. Have you seen
the police-guards' dormitory? Admirable! The first dormitories of
the world. We say that without wishing to offend France. We love
France. A great nation! I will take you immediately to M.
Koupriane. I shall be delighted."

"I also," said Rouletabille, who put a rouble into the honorable
functionary's hand.

"Permit me to precede you."

Bows and salutes. For two roubles he would have walked obsequiously
before him to the end of the world.

"These functionaries are admirable," thought Rouletabille as he was
led to the barracks. He felt he had not paid too much for the
services of a personage whose uniform was completely covered with
lace. They tramped, they climbed, they descended. Stairways,
corridors. Ah, the barracks at last. He seemed to have entered a
convent. Beds very white, very narrow, and images of the Virgin
and saints everywhere, monastic neatness and the most absolute
silence. Suddenly an order sounded in the corridor outside, and
the police-guard, who sprang from no one could tell where, stood
to attention at the head of their beds. Koupriane and his aide
appeared. Koupriane looked at everything closely, spoke to each
man in turn, called them by their names, inquired about their
needs, and the men stammered replies, not knowing what to answer,
reddening like children. Koupriane observed Rouletabille. He
dismissed his aide with a gesture. The inspection was over. He
drew the young man into a little room just off the dormitory.
Rouletabille, frightened, looked about him. He found himself in a
chapel. This little chapel completed the effect of the guards'
dormitory. It was all gilded, decorated in marvelous colors,
thronged with little ikons that bring happiness, and, naturally,
with the portrait of the Tsar, the dear Little Father.

"You see," said Koupriane, smiling at Rouletabille's amazement,
"we deny them nothing. We give them their saints right here in
their quarters." Closing the door, he drew a chair toward
Rouletabille and motioned him to sit down. They sat before the
little altar loaded with flowers, with colored paper and winged

"We can talk here without being disturbed," he said. "Yonder there
is such a crowd of people waiting for me. I'm ready to listen."

"Monsieur," said Rouletabille, "I have come to give you the report
of my mission here, and to terminate my connection with it. All
that is left for clearing this obscure affair is to arrest the
guilty person, with which I have nothing to do. That concerns you.
I simply inform you that someone tried to poison the general last
night by pouring arsenate of soda into his sleeping-potion, which
I bring you in this phial, arsenate which was secured most probably
by washing it from grapes brought to General Trebassof by the
marshal of the court, and which disappeared without anyone being
able to say how."

"Ah, ah, a family affair, a plot within the family. I told you
so," murmured Koupriane.

"The affair at least has happened within the family, as you think,
although the assassin came from outside. Contrary to what you may
be able to believe, he does not live in the house."

"Then how does he get there?" demanded Koupriane.

"By the window of the room overlooking the Neva. He has often come
that way. And that is the way he returns also, I am sure. It is
there you can take him if you act with prudence."

"How do you know he often comes that way?"

"You know the height of the window above the little roadway. To
reach it he uses a water-trough, whose iron rings are bent, and
also the marks of a grappling-iron that he carries with him and
uses to hoist himself to the window are distinctly visible on the
ironwork of the little balcony outside. The marks are quite
obviously of different dates"

"But that window is closed."

"Someone opens it for him."

"Who, if you please?"

"I have no desire to know."

"Eh, yes. It necessarily is Natacha. I was sure that the Villa
des Iles had its viper. I tell you she doesn't dare leave her nest
because she knows she is watched. Not one of her movements outside
escapes us! She knows it. She has been warned. The last time she
ventured outside alone was to go into the old quarters of Derewnia.
What has she to do in such a rotten quarter? I ask you that. And
she turned in her tracks without seeing anyone, without knocking
at a single door, because she saw that she was followed. She isn't
able to get to see them outside, therefore she has to see them

"They are only one, and always the same one."

"Are you sure?"

"An examination of the marks on the wall and on the pipe doesn't
leave any doubt of it, and it is always the same grappling-iron
that is used for the window."

"The viper!"

"Monsieur Koupriane, Mademoiselle Natacha seems to preoccupy you
exceedingly. I did not come here to talk about Mademoiselle
Natacha. I came to point out to you the route used by the man who
comes to do the murder."

"Eh, yes, it is she who opens the way."

"I can't deny that."

"The little demon! Why does she take him into her room at night?
Do you think perhaps there is some love-affair...?"

"I am sure of quite the opposite."

"I too. Natacha is not a wanton. Natacha has no heart. She has
only a brain. And it doesn't take long for a brain touched by
Nihilism to get so it won't hesitate at anything."

Koupriane reflected a minute, while Rouletabille watched him in

"Have we solely to do with Nihilism?" resumed Koupriane.
"Everything you tell me inclines me more and more to my idea: a
family affair, purely in the family. You know, don't you, that
upon the general's death Natacha will be immensely rich?"

"Yes, I know it," replied Rouletabille, in a voice that sounded
singular to the ear of the Chief of Police and which made him raise
his head.

"What do you know?"

"I? Nothing," replied the reporter, this time in a firmer tone.
"I ought, however, to say this to you: I am sure that we are dealing
with Nihilism..."

"What makes you believe it?"


And Rouletabille handed Koupriane the message he had received that
same morning.

"Oh, oh," cried Koupriane. "You are under watch! Look out."

"I have nothing to fear; I'm not bothering myself about anything
further. Yes, we have an affair of the revolutionaries, but not of
the usual kind. The way they are going about it isn't like one of
their young men that the Central Committee arms with a bomb and who
is sacrificed in advance."

"Where are the tracks that you have traced?"

"Right up to the little Krestowsky Villa."

Koupriane bounded from his chair.

"Occupied by Boris. Parbleu! Now we have them. I see it all now.
Boris, another cracked brain! And he is engaged. If he plays the
part of the Revolutionaries, the affair would work out big for him."

"That villa," said Rouletabille quietly, "is also occupied by Michael

"He is the most loyal, the most reliable soldier of the Tsar."

"No one is ever sure of anything, my dear Monsieur Koupriane."

"Oh, I am sure of a man like that."

"No man is ever sure of any man, my dear Monsieur Koupriane."

"I am, in every case, for those I employ."

"You are wrong."

"What do you say?"

"Something that can serve you in the enterprise you are going to
undertake, because I trust you can catch the murderer right in his
nest. To do that, I'll not conceal from you that I think your
agents will have to be enormously clever. They will have to watch
the datcha des Iles at night, without anyone possibly suspecting it.
No more maroon coats with false astrakhan trimmings, eh? But
Apaches, Apaches on the wartrail, who blend themselves with the
ground, with the trees, with the stones in the roadway. But among
those Apaches don't send that agent of your Secret Service who
watched the window while the assassin climbed to it."


"Why, these climbs that you can read the proofs of on the wall and
on the iron forgings of the balcony went on while your agents, night
and day, were watching the villa. Have you noticed, monsieur, that
it was always the same agent who took the post at night, behind the
villa, under the window? General Trebassof's book in which he kept
a statement of the exact disposal of each of your men during the
period of siege was most instructive on that point. The other posts
changed in turn, but the same agent, when he was among the guard,
demanded always that same post, which was not disputed by anybody,
since it is no fun to pass the hours of the night behind a wall, in
an empty field. The others much preferred to roll away the time
watching in the villa or in front of the lodge, where vodka and
Crimean wine, kwass and pivo, kirsch and tchi, never ran short.
That agent's name is Touman."

"Touman! Impossible! He is one of the best agents from Kiew. He
was recommended by Gounsovski."

Rouletabille chuckled.

"Yes, yes, yes," grumbled the Chief of Police. "Someone always
laughs when his name is mentioned."

Koupriane had turned red. He rose, opened the door, gave a long
direction in Russian, and returned to his chair.

"Now," said he, "go ahead and tell me all the details of the poison
and the grapes the marshal of the court brought. I'm listening."

Rouletabille told him very briefly and without drawing any deductions
all that we already know. He ended his account as a man dressed in
a maroon coat with false astrakhan was introduced. It was the same
man Rouletabille had met in General Trebassof's drawing-room and who
spoke French. Two gendarmes were behind him. The door had been
closed. Koupriane turned toward the man in the coat.

"Touman," he said, "I want to talk to you. You are a traitor, and
I have proof. You can confess to me, and I will give you a thousand
roubles and you can take yourself off to be hanged somewhere else."

The man's eyes shrank, but he recovered himself quickly. He replied
in Russian.

"Speak French. I order it," commanded Koupriane.

"I answer, Your Excellency," said Touman firmly, "that I don't
know what Your Excellency means."

"I mean that you have helped a man get into the Trebassof villa by
night when you were on guard under the window of the little
sitting-room. You see that there is no use deceiving us any longer.
I play with you frankly, good play, good money. The name of that
man, and you have a thousand roubles."

"I am ready to swear on the ikon of..."

"Don't perjure yourself."

"I have always loyally served..."

"The name of that man."

"I still don't know yet what Your Excellency means."

"Oh, you understand me," replied Koupriane, who visibly held in an
anger that threatened to break forth any moment. "A man got into
the house while you were watching..."

"I never saw anything. After all, it is possible. There were some
very dark nights. I went back and forth."

"You are not a fool. The name of that man."

"I assure you, Excellency..."

"Strip him."

"What are you going to do?" cried Rouletabille.

But already the two guards had thrown themselves on Touman and had
drawn off his coat and shirt. The man was bare to the waist.

"What are you going to do? What are you going to do?"

"Leave them alone," said Koupriane, roughly pushing Rouletabille

Seizing a whip which hung at the waist of the guards he struck
Touman a blow across the shoulders that drew blood. Touman, mad
with the outrage and the pain, shouted, "Yes, it is true! I brag
of it!"

Koupriane did not restrain his rage. He showered the unhappy man
with blows, having thrown Rouletabille to the end of the room when
he tried to interfere. And while he proceeded with the punishment
the Chief of Police hurled at the agent who had betrayed him an
accompaniment of fearful threats, promising him that before he was
hanged he should rot in the bottom-most dungeon of Peter and Paul,
in the slimy pits lying under the Neva. Touman, between the two
guards who held him, and who sometimes received blows on the rebound
that were not intended for them, never uttered a complaint. Outside
the invectives of Koupriane there was heard only the swish of the
cords and the cries of Rouletabille, who continued to protest that
it was abominable, and called the Chief of Police a savage. Finally
the savage stopped. Gouts of blood had spattered all about.

"Monsieur," said Rouletabille, who supported himself against the
wall. "I shall complain to the Tsar."

"You are right," Koupriane replied, "but I feel relieved now. You
can't imagine the harm this man can have done to us in the weeks
he has been here."

Touman, across whose shoulders they had thrown his coat and who
lay now across a chair, found strength to look up and say:

"It is true. You can't do me as much harm as I have done you,
whether you think so or not. All the harm that can be done me
by you and yours is already accomplished. My name is not Touman,
but Matiev. Listen. I had a son that was the light of my eyes.
Neither my son nor I had ever been concerned with politics. I was
employed in Moscow. My son was a student. During the Red Week we
went out, my son and I, to see a little of what was happening over
in the Presnia quarter. They said everybody had been killed over
there! We passed before the Presnia gate. Soldiers called to us
to stop because they wished to search us. We opened our coats.
The soldiers saw my son's student waistcoat and set up a cry. They
unbuttoned the vest, drew a note-book out of his pocket and they
found a workman's song in it that had been published in the Signal.
The soldiers didn't know how to read. They believed the paper was
a proclamation, and they arrested my son. I demanded to be arrested
with him. They pushed me away. I ran to the governor's house.
Trebassof had me thrust away from his door with blows from the
butt-ends of his Cossacks' guns. And, as I persisted, they kept me
locked up all that night and the morning of the next day. At noon
I was set free. I demanded my son and they replied they didn't know
what I was talking about. But a soldier that I recognized as having
arrested my son the evening before pointed out a van that was passing,
covered with a tarpaulin and surrounded by Cossacks. 'Your son is
there,' he said; 'they are taking him to the graves.' Mad with
despair, I ran after the van. It went to the outskirts of
Golountrine cemetery. There I saw in the white snow a huge grave,
wide, deep. I shall see it to my last minute. Two vans had already
stopped near the hole. Each van held thirteen corpses. The vans
were dumped into the trench and the soldiers commenced to sort the
bodies into rows of six. I watched for my son. At last I recognized
him in a body that half hung over the edge of the trench. Horrors
of suffering were stamped in the expression of his face. I threw
myself beside him. I said that I was his father. They let me
embrace him a last time and count his wounds. He had fourteen.
Someone had stolen the gold chain that had hung about his neck and
held the picture of his mother, who died the year before. I
whispered into his ear, I swore to avenge him. Forty-eight hours
later I had placed myself at the disposition of the Revolutionary
Committee. A week had not passed before Touman, whom, it seems,
I resemble and who was one of the Secret Service agents in Kiew,
was assassinated in the train that was taking him to St. Petersburg.
The assassination was kept a secret. I received all his papers and
I took his place with you. I was doomed beforehand and I asked
nothing better, so long as I might last until after the execution
of Trebassof. Ah, how I longed to kill him with my own hands! But
another had already been assigned the duty and my role was to help
him. And do you suppose I am going to tell you the name of that
other? Never! And if you discover that other, as you have
discovered me, another will come, and another, and another, until
Trebassof has paid for his crimes. That is all I have to say to
you, Koupriane. As for you, my little fellow," added he, turning
to Rouletabille, "I wouldn't give much for your bones. Neither of
you will last long. That is my consolation."

Koupriane had not interrupted the man. He looked at him in silence,

"You know, my poor man, you will be hanged now?" he said.

"No," growled Rouletabille. "Monsieur Koupriane, I'll bet you my
purse that he will not be hanged."

"And why not?" demanded the Chief of rolice, while, upon a sign
from him, they took away the false Touman.

"Because it is I who denounced him."

"What a reason! And what would you like me to do?"

"Guard him for me; for me alone, do you understand?"

"In exchange for what?"

"In exchange for the life of General Trebassof, if I must put it
that way."

"Eh? The life of General Trebassof! You speak as if it belonged
to you, as if you could dispose of it."

Rouletabille laid his hand on Koupriane's arm.

"Perhaps that's so," said he.

"Would you like me to tell you one thing, Monsieur Rouletabille?
It is that General Trebassof's life, after what has just escaped
the lips of this Touman, who is not Touman, isn't worth any more
than - than yours if you remain here. Since you are disposed not
to do anything more in this affair, take the train, monsieur, take
the train, and go."

Rouletabille walked back and forth, very much worked up; then
suddenly he stopped short.

"Impossible," he said. "It is impossible. I cannot; I am not able
to go yet."


"Good God, Monsieur Koupriane, because I have to interview the
President of the Duma yet, and complete my little inquiry into the
politics of the cadets."

"Oh, indeed!"

Koupriane looked at him with a sour grin.

"What are you going to do with that man?" demanded Rouletabille.

"Have him fixed up first."

"And then?"

"Then take him before the judges."

"That is to say, to the gallows?"


"Monsieur Koupriane, I offer it to you again. Life for life. Give
me the life of that poor devil and I promise you General Trebassof's."

"Explain yourself."

"Not at all. Do you promise me that you will maintain silence
about the case of that man and that you will not touch a hair of
his head?"

Koupriane looked at Rouletabille as he had looked at him during the
altercation they had on the edge of the Gulf. He decided the same
way this time.

"Very well," said he. "You have my word. The poor devil!"

"You are a brave man, Monsieur Koupriane, but a little quick with
the whip..."

"What would you expect? One's work teaches that."

"Good morning. No, don't trouble to show me out. I am compromised
enough already," said Rouletabille, laughing.

"Au revoir, and good luck! Get to work interviewing the President
of the Duma," added Koupriane knowingly, with a great laugh.

But Rouletabille was already gone.

"That lad," said the Chief of Police aloud to himself, "hasn't told
me a bit of what he knows."



"And now it's between us two, Natacha," murmured Rouletabille as
soon as he was outside. He hailed the first carriage that passed
and gave the address of the datcha des Iles. When he got in he
held his head between his hands; his face burned, his jaws were set.
But by a prodigious effort of his will he resumed almost instantly
his calm, his self-control. As he went back across the Neva, across
the bridge where he had felt so elated a little while before, and
saw the isles again he sighed heavily. "I thought I had got it all
over with, so far as I was concerned, and now I don't know where it
will stop." His eyes grew dark for a moment with somber thoughts
and the vision of the Lady in Black rose before him; then he shook
his head, filled his pipe, lighted it, dried a tear that had been
caused doubtless by a little smoke in his eye, and stopped
sentimentalizing. A quarter of an hour later he gave a true Russian
nobleman's fist-blow in the back to the coachman as an intimation
that they had reached the Trebassof villa. A charming picture was
before him. They were all lunching gayly in the garden, around the
table in the summer-house. He was astonished, however, at not
seeing Natacha with them. Boris Mourazoff and Michael Korsakoff
were there. Rouletabille did not wish to be seen. He made a sign
to Ermolai, who was passing through the garden and who hurried to
meet him at the gate.

"The Barinia," said the reporter, in a low voice and with his finger
to his lips to warn the faithful attendant to caution.

In two minutes Matrena Petrovna joined Rouletabille in the lodge.

"Well, where is Natacha?" he demanded hurriedly as she kissed his
hands quite as though she had made an idol of him.

"She has gone away. Yes, out. Oh, I did not keep her. I did not
try to hold her back. Her expression frightened me, you can
understand, my little angel. My, you are impatient! What is it
about? How do we stand? What have you decided? I am your slave.
Command me. Command me. The keys of the villa?"

"Yes, give me a key to the veranda; you must have several. I must
be able to get into the house to-night if it becomes necessary."

She drew a key from her gown, gave it to the young man and said a
few words in Russian to Ermolai, to enforce upon him that he must
obey the little domovoi-doukh in anything, day or night.

"Now tell me where Natacha has gone."

"Boris's parents came to see us a little while ago, to inquire after
the general. They have taken Natacha away with them, as they often
have done. Natacha went with them readily enough. Little domovoi,
listen to me, listen to Matrena Petrovna - Anyone would have said
she was expecting it!"

"Then she has gone to lunch at their house?"

"Doubtless, unless they have gone to a cafe. I don't know. Boris's
father likes to have the family lunch at the Barque when it is fine.
Calm yourself, little domovoi. What ails you? Bad news, eh? Any
bad news?"

"No, no; everything is all right. Quick, the address of Boris's

"The house at the corner of La Place St. Isaac and la rue de la

"Good. Thank you. Adieu."

He started for the Place St. Isaac, and picked up an interpreter at
the Grand Morskaia Hotel on the way. It might be useful to have him.
At the Place St. Isaac he learned the Morazoffs and Natacha Trebassof
had gone by train for luncheon at Bergalowe, one of the nearby
stations in Finland.

"That is all," said he, and added apart to himself, "And perhaps that
is not true."

He paid the coachman and the interpreter, and lunched at the
Brasserie de Vienne nearby. He left there a half-hour later, much
calmer. He took his way to the Grand Morskaia Hotel, went inside
and asked the schwitzar:

"Can you give me the address of Mademoiselle Annouchka?"

"The singer of the Krestowsky?"

"That is who I mean."

"She had luncheon here. She has just gone away with the prince."

Without any curiosity as to which prince, Rouletabille cursed his
luck and again asked for her address.

"Why, she lives in an apartment just across the way."

Rouletabille, feeling better, crossed the street, followed by the
interpreter that he had engaged. Across the way he learned on the
landing of the first floor that Mademoiselle Annouchka was away for
the day. He descended, still followed by his interpreter, and
recalling how someone had told him that in Russia it was always
profitable to be generous, he gave five roubles to the interpreter
and asked him for some information about Mademoiselle Annouchka's
life in St. Petersburg. The interpreter whispered:

"She arrived a week ago, but has not spent a single night in her
apartment over there."

He pointed to the house they had just left, and added:

"Merely her address for the police."

"Yes, yes," said Rouletabille, "I understand. She sings this
evening, doesn't she?"

"Monsieur, it will be a wonderful debut."

"Yes, yes, I know. Thanks."

All these frustrations in the things he had undertaken that day
instead of disheartening him plunged him deep into hard thinking.
He returned, his hands in his pockets, whistling softly, to the
Place St. Isaac, walked around the church, keeping an eye on the
house at the corner, investigated the monument, went inside,
examined all its details, came out marveling, and finally went once
again to the residence of the Mourazoffs, was told that they had
not yet returned from the Finland town, then went and shut himself
in his room at the hotel, where he smoked a dozen pipes of tobacco.
He emerged from his cloud of smoke at dinner-time.

At ten that evening he stepped out of his carriage before the
Krestowsky. The establishment of Krestowsky, which looms among the
Isles much as the Aquarium does, is neither a theater, nor a
music-hall, nor a cafe-concert, nor a restaurant, nor a public
garden; it is all of these and some other things besides. Summer
theater, winter theater, open-air theater, hall for spectacles,
scenic mountain, exercise-ground, diversions of all sorts, garden
promenades, cafes, restaurants, private dining-rooms, everything is
combined here that can amuse, charm, lead to the wildest orgies, or
provide those who never think of sleep till toward three or four
o'clock of a morning the means to await the dawn with patience. The
most celebrated companies of the old and the new world play there
amid an enthusiasm that is steadily maintained by the foresight of
the managers: Russian and foreign dancers, and above all the French
chanteuses, the little dolls of the cafes-concerts, so long as they
are young, bright, and elegantly dressed, may meet their fortune
there. If there is no such luck, they are sure at least to find
every evening some old beau, and often some officer, who willingly
pays twenty-five roubles for the sole pleasure of having a demoiselle
born on the banks of the Seine for his companion at the supper-table.
After their turn at the singing, these women display their graces and
their eager smiles in the promenades of the garden or among the
tables where the champagne-drinkers sit. The head-liners, naturally,
are not driven to this wearying perambulation, but can go away to
their rest if they are so inclined. However, the management is
appreciative if they accept the invitation of some dignitary of the
army, of administration, or of finance, who seeks the honor of
hearing from the chanteuse, in a private room and with a company of
friends not disposed to melancholy, the Bohemian songs of the Vieux
Derevnia. They sing, they loll, they talk of Paris, and above all
they drink. If sometimes the little fete ends rather roughly, it
is the friendly and affectionate champagne that is to blame, but
usually the orgies remain quite innocent, of a character that
certainly might trouble the temperance societies but need not make
M. le Senateur Berenger feel involved.

A war whose powder fumes reeked still, a revolution whose last
defeated growls had not died away at the period of these events,
had not at all diminished the nightly gayeties of Kretowsky. Many
of the young men who displayed their uniforms that evening and
called their "Nichevo" along the brilliantly lighted paths of the
public gardens, or filled the open-air tables, or drank vodka at
the buffets, or admired the figures of the wandering soubrettes,
had come here on the eve of their departure for the war and had
returned with the same child-like, enchanted smile, the same ideal
of futile joy, and kissed their passing comrades as gayly as ever.
Some of them had a sleeve lying limp now, or walked with a crutch,
or even on a wooden leg, but it was, all the same, "Nichevo!"

The crowd this evening was denser than ordinarily, because there
was the chance to hear Annouchka again for the first time since the
somber days of Moscow. The students were ready to give her an
ovation, and no one opposed it, because, after all, if she sang now
it was because the police were willing at last. If the Tsar's
government had granted her her life, it was not in order to compel
her to die of hunger. Each earned a livelihood as was possible.
Annouchka only knew how to sing and dance, and so she must sing
and dance!

When Rouletabille entered the Krestowsky Gardens, Annouchka had
commenced her number, which ended with a tremendous "Roussalka."
Surrounded by a chorus of male and female dancers in the national
dress and with red boots, striking tambourines with their fingers,
then suddenly taking a rigid pose to let the young woman's voice,
which was of rather ordinary register, come out, Annouchka had
centered the attention of the immense audience upon herself. All
the other parts of the establishment were deserted, the tables had
been removed, and a panting crowd pressed about the open-air theater.
Rouletabille stood up on his chair at the moment tumultuous "Bravos"
sounded from a group of students. Annouchka bowed toward them,
seeming to ignore the rest of the audience, which had not dared
declare itself yet. She sang the old peasant songs arranged to
present-day taste, and interspersed them with dances. They had an
enormous success, because she gave her whole soul to them and sang
with her voice sometimes caressing, sometimes menacing, and
sometimes magnificently desperate, giving much significance to
words which on paper had not aroused the suspicions of the censor.
The taste of the day was obviously still a taste for the revolution,
which retained its influence on the banks of the Neva. What she
was doing was certainly very bold, and apparently she realized how
audacious she was, because, with great adroitness, she would bring
out immediately after some dangerous phrase a patriotic couplet
which everybody was anxious to applaud. She succeeded by such means
in appealing to all the divergent groups of her audience and secured
a complete triumph for herself. The students, the revolutionaries,
the radicals and the cadets acclaimed the singer, glorifying not
only her art but also and beyond everything else the sister of the
engineer Volkousky, who had been doomed to perish with her brother
by the bullets of the Semenovsky regiment. The friends of the
Court on their side could not forget that it was she who, in front
of the Kremlin, had struck aside the arm of Constantin Kochkarof,
ordered by the Central Revolutionary Committee to assassinate the
Grand Duke Peter Alexandrovitch as he drove up to the governor's
house in his sleigh. The bomb burst ten feet away, killing
Constantin Kochkarof himself. It may be that before death came he
had time to hear Annouchka cry to him, "Wretch! You were told to
kill the prince, not to assassinate his children." As it happened,
Peter Alexandrovitch held on his knees the two little princesses,
seven and eight years old. The Court had wished to recompense her
for that heroic act. Annouchka had spit at the envoy of the Chief
of Police who called to speak to her of money. At the Hermitage in
Moscow, where she sang then, some of her admirers had warned her of
possible reprisals on the part of the revolutionaries. But the
revolutionaries gave her assurance at once that she had nothing to
fear. They approved her act and let her know that they now counted
on her to kill the Grand Duke some time when he was alone; which
had made Annouchka laugh. She was an enfant terrible, whose friends
no one knew, who passed for very wise, and whose lines of intrigue
were inscrutable. She enjoyed making her hosts in the private
supper-rooms quake over their meal. One day she had said bluntly
to one of the most powerful tchinovnicks of Moscow: "You, my old
friend, you are president of the Black Hundred. Your fate is sealed.
Yesterday you were condemned to death by the delegates of the Central
Committee at Presnia. Say your prayers." The man reached for
champagne. He never finished his glass. The dvornicks carried him
out stricken with apoplexy. Since the time she saved the little
grand-duchesses the police had orders to allow her to act and talk
as she pleased. She had been mixed up in the deepest plots against
the government. Those who lent the slightest countenance to such
plottings and were not of the police simply disappeared. Their
friends dared not even ask for news of them. The only thing not in
doubt about them was that they were at hard labor somewhere in the
mines of the Ural Mountains. At the moment of the revolution
Annouchka had a brother who was an engineer on the Kasan-Moscow line.
This Volkousky was one of the leaders on the Strike Committee. The
authorities had an eye on him. The revolution started. He, with
the help of his sister, accomplished one of those formidable acts
which will carry their memory as heroes to the farthest posterity.
Their work accomplished, they were taken by Trebassof's soldiers.
Both were condemned to death. Volkousky was executed first, and
the sister was taking her turn when an officer of the government
arrived on horseback to stop the firing. The Tsar, informed of her
intended fate, had sent a pardon by telegraph. After that she
disappeared. She was supposed to have gone on some tour across
Europe, as was her habit, for she spoke all the languages, like a
true Bohemian. Now she had reappeared in all her joyous glory at
Krestowsky. It was certain, however, that she had not forgotten her
brother. Gossips said that if the government and the police showed
themselves so long-enduring they found it to their interest to do
so. The open, apparent life Annouchka led was less troublesome to
them than her hidden activities would be. The lesser police who
surrounded the Chief of the St. Petersburg Secret Service, the
famous Gounsovski, had meaning smiles when the matter was discussed.
Among them Annouchka had the ignoble nickname, "Stool-pigeon."

Rouletabille must have been well aware of all these particulars
concerning Annoucbka, for he betrayed no astonishment at the great
interest and the strong emotion she aroused. From the corner
where he was he could see only a bit of the stage, and he was
standing on tiptoes to see the singer when he felt his coat pulled.
He turned. It was the jolly advocate, well known for his gastronomic
feats, Athanase Georgevitch, along with the jolly Imperial councilor,
Ivan Petrovitch, who motioned him to climb down.

"Come with us; we have a box."

Rouletabille did not need urging, and he was soon installed in the
front of a box where he could see the stage and the public both.
Just then the curtain fell on the first part of Annouchka's
performance. The friends were soon rejoined by Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff, the great timber-merchant, who came from behind the

"I have been to see the beautiful Onoto," announced the Lithuanian
with a great satisfied laugh. "Tell me the news. All the girls
are sulking over Annouchka's success."

"Who dragged you into the Onoto's dressing-room then? demanded

"Oh, Gounsovski himself, my dear. He is very amateurish, you know."

"What! do you knock around with Gounsovski?"

"On my word, I tell you, dear friends, he isn't a bad acquaintance.
He did me a little service at Bakou last year. A good acquaintance
in these times of public trouble."

"You are in the oil business now, are you?"

"Oh, yes, a little of everything for a livelihood. I have a little
well down Bakou way, nothing big; and a little house, a very small
one for my small business."

"What a monopolist Thaddeus is," declared Athanase Georgevitch,
hitting him a formidable slap on the thigh with his enormous hand.
"Gounsovski has come himself to keep an eye on Annouchka's debut,
eh? Only he goes into Onoto's dressing-room, the rogue."

"Oh, he doesn't trouble himself. Do you know who he is to have
supper with? With Annouchka, my dears, and we are invited."

"How's that?" inquired the jovial councilor.

"It seems Gounsovski influenced the minister to permit Annouchka's
performance by declaring he would be responsible for it all. He
required from Annouchka solely that she have supper with him on the
evening of her debut."

"And Annouchka consented?"

"That was the condition, it seems. For that matter, they say that
Annouchka and Gounsovski don't get along so badly together.
Gounsovski has done Annouchka many a good turn. They say he is in
love with her."

"He has the air of an umbrella merchant," snorted Athanase

"Have you seen him at close range?" inquired Ivan.

"I have dined at his house, though it is nothing to boast of, on
my word."

"That is what he said," replied Thaddeus. "When he knew we were
here together, he said to me: 'Bring him, he is a charming fellow
who plies a great fork; and bring that dear man Ivan Petrovitch,
and all your friends.'"

"Oh, I only dined at his house," grumbled Athanase, "because there
was a favor he was going to do me."

"He does services for everybody, that man," observed Ivan Petrovitch.

"Of course, of course; he ought to," retorted Athanase. "What is
a chief of Secret Service for if not to do things for everybody?
For everybody, my dear friends, and a little for himself besides.
A chief of Secret Service has to be in with everybody, with
everybody and his father, as La Fontaine says (if you know that
author), if he wants to hold his place. You know what I mean."

Athanase laughed loudly, glad of the chance to show how French he
could be in his allusions, and looked at Rouletabille to see if he
had been able to catch the tone of the conversation; but Rouletabille
was too much occupied in watching a profile wrapped in a mantilla
of black lace, in the Spanish fashion, to repay Athanase's
performance with a knowing smile.

"You certainly have naive notions. You think a chief of Secret
Police should be an ogre," replied the advocate as he nodded here
and there to his friends.

"Why, certainly not. He needs to be a sheep in a place like that,
a thorough sheep. Gounsovski is soft as a sheep. The time I dined
with him he had mutton streaked with fat. He is just like that. I
am sure he is mainly layers of fat. When you shake hands you feel
as though you had grabbed a piece of fat. My word! And when he
eats he wags his jaw fattishly. His head is like that, too; bald,
you know, with a cranium like fresh lard. He speaks softly and looks
at you like a kid looking to its mother for a juicy meal."

"But - why - it is Natacha!" murmured the lips of the young man.

"Certainly it is Natacha, Natacha herself," exclaimed Ivan
Petrovitch, who had used his glasses the better to see whom the
young French journalist was looking at. "Ah, the dear child!
she has wanted to see Annouchka for a long time."

"What, Natacha! So it is. So it is. Natacha! Natacha!" said the
others. "And with Boris Mourazoff's parents."

"But Boris is not there," sniggered Thaddeus Tehitchnikoff.

"Oh, he can't be far away. If he was there we would see Michael
Korsakoff too. They keep close on each other's heels."

"How has she happened to leave the general? She said she couldn't
bear to be away from him."

"Except to see Annouchka," replied Ivan. "She wanted to see her,
and talked so about it when I was there that even Feodor Feodorovitch
was rather scandalized at her and Matrena Petrovna reproved her
downright rudely. But what a girl wishes the gods bring about.
That's the way."

"That's so, I know," put in Athanase. "Ivan Petrovitch is right.
Natacha hasn't been able to hold herself in since she read that
Annouchka was going to make her debut at Krestowsky. She said
she wasn't going to die without having seen the great artist."

"Her father had almost drawn her away from that crowd," affirmed
Ivan, "and that was as it should be. She must have fixed up this
affair with Boris and his parents."

"Yes, Feodor certainly isn't aware that his daughter's idea was to
applaud the heroine of Kasan station. She is certainly made of
stern stuff, my word," said Athanase.

"Natacha, you must remember, is a student," said Thaddeus, shaking
his head; "a true student. They have misfortunes like that now in
so many families. I recall, apropos of what Ivan said just now,
how today she asked Michael Korsakoff, before me, to let her know
where Annouchka would sing. More yet, she said she wished to speak
to that artist if it were possible. Michael frowned on that idea,
even before me. But Michael couldn't refuse her, any more than the
others. He can reach Annouchka easier than anyone else. You
remember it was he who rode hard and arrived in time with the pardon
for that beautiful witch; she ought not to forget him if she cared
for her life."

"Anyone who knows Michael Nikolaievitch knows that he did his duty
promptly," announced Athanase Georgevitch crisply. "But he would
not have gone a step further to save Annouchka. Even now he won't
compromise his career by being seen at the home of a woman who is
never from under the eyes of Gounsovski's agents and who hasn't been
nicknamed 'Stool-pigeon' for nothing."

"Then why do we go to supper tonight with Annouchka?" asked Ivan.

"That's not the same thing. We are invited by Gounsovski himself.
Don't forget that, if stories concerning it drift about some day,
my friends," said Thaddeus.

"For that matter, Thaddeus, I accept the invitation of the honorable
chief of our admirable Secret Service because I don't wish to slight
him. I have dined at his house already. By sitting opposite him at
a public table here I feel that I return that politeness. What do
you say to that?"

"Since you have dined with him, tell us what kind of a man he is
aside from his fattish qualities," said the curious councilor.
"So many things are said about him. He certainly seems to be a man
it is better to stand in with than to fall out with, so I accept
his invitation. How could you manage to refuse it, anyway?"

"When he first offered me hospitality," explained the advocate, "I
didn't even know him. I never had been near him. One day a police
agent came and invited me to dinner by command - or, at least, I
understood it wasn't wise to refuse the invitation, as you said,
Ivan Petrovitch. When I went to his house I thought I was entering
a fortress, and inside I thought it must be an umbrella shop. There
were umbrellas everywhere, and goloshes. True, it was a day of
pouring rain. I was struck by there being no guard with a big
revolver in the antechamber. He had a little, timid schwitzar
there, who took my umbrella, murmuring 'barine' and bowing over and
over again. He conducted me through very ordinary rooms quite
unguarded to an average sitting-room of a common kind. We dined
with Madame Gounsovski, who appeared fattish like her husband, and
three or four men whom I had never seen anywhere. One servant
waited on us. My word!

"At dessert Gounsovski took me aside and told me I was unwise to
'argue that way.' I asked him what he meant by that. He took my
hands between his fat hands and repeated, 'No, no, it is not wise
to argue like that.' I couldn't draw anything else out of him.
For that matter, I understood him, and, you know, since that day
I have cut out certain side passages unnecessary in my general
law pleadings that had been giving me a reputation for rather too
free opinions in the papers. None of that at my age! Ah, the
great Gounsovski! Over our coffee I asked him if he didn't find
the country in pretty strenuous times. He replied that he looked
forward with impatience to the month of May, when he could go for
a rest to a little property with a small garden that he had bought
at Asnieres, near Paris. When he spoke of their house in the
country Madame Gounsovski heaved a sigh of longing for those simple
country joys. The month of May brought tears to her eyes. Husband
and wife looked at one another with real tenderness. They had not
the air of thinking for one second: to-morrow or the day after,
before our country happiness comes, we may find ourselves stripped
of everything. No! They were sure of their happy vacation and
nothing seemed able to disquiet them under their fat. Gounsovski
has done everybody so many services that no one really wishes him
ill, poor man. Besides, have you noticed, my dear old friends, that
no one ever tries to work harm to chiefs of Secret Police? One goes
after heads of police, prefects of police, ministers, grand-dukes,
and even higher, but the chiefs of Secret Police are never, never
attacked. They can promenade tranquilly in the streets or in the
gardens of Krestowsky or breathe the pure air of the Finland country
or even the country around Paris. They have done so many little
favors for this one and that, here and there, that no one wishes to
do them the least injury. Each person always thinks, too, that
others have been less well served than he. That is the secret of
the thing, my friends, that is the secret. What do you say?"

The others said: "Ah, ah, the good Gounsovski. He knows. He knows.
Certainly, accept his supper. With Annouchka it will be fun."

"Messieurs," asked Rouletabille, who continued to make discoveries
in the audience, "do you know that officer who is seated at the end
of a row down there in the orchestra seats? See, he is getting up."

"He? Why, that is Prince Galitch, who was one of the richest lords
of the North Country. Now he is practically ruined."

"Thanks, gentlemen; certainly it is he. I know him," said
Rouletabille, seating himself and mastering his emotion.

"They say he is a great admirer of Annouchka," hazarded Thaddeus.
Then he walked away from the box.

"The prince has been ruined by women," said Athanase Georgevitch,
who pretended to know the entire chronicle of gallantries in the

"He also has been on good terms with Gounsovski," continued Thaddeus.

"He passes at court, though, for an unreliable. He once made a
long visit to Tolstoi."

"Bah! Gounsovski must have rendered some signal service to that
imprudent prince," concluded Athanase. "But for yourself, Thaddeus,
you haven't said what you did with Gounsovski at Bakou."

(Rouletabille did not lose a word of what was being said around him,
although he never lost sight of the profile hidden in the black
mantle nor of Prince Galitch, his personal enemy,* who reappeared,
it seemed to him, at a very critical moment.)

* as told in "The Lady In Black."

"I was returning from Balakani in a drojki," said Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff, "and I was drawing near Bakou after having seen the
debris of my oil shafts that had been burned by the Tartars, when
I met Gounsovski in the road, who, with two of his friends, found
themselves badly off with one of the wheels of their carriage broken.
I stopped. He explained to me that he had a Tartar coachman, and
that this coachman having seen an Armenian on the road before him,
could find nothing better to do than run full tilt into the
Armenian's equipage. He had reached over and taken the reins from
him, but a wheel of the carriage was broken." (Rouletabille quivered,
because he caught a glance of communication between Prince Galitch
and Natacha, who was leaning over the edge of her box.) "So I
offered to take Gounsovski and his friends into my carriage, and
we rode all together to Bakou after Gounsovski, who always wishes
to do a service, as Athanase Georgevitch says, had warned his Tartar
coachman not to finish the Armenian." (Prince Galitch, at the
moment the orchestra commenced the introductory music for
Annouchka's new number, took advantage of all eyes being turned
toward the rising curtain to pass near Natacha's seat. This time
he did not look at Natacha, but Rouletabille was sure that his lips
had moved as he went by her.)

Thaddeus continued: "It is necessary to explain that at Bakou my
little house is one of the first before you reach the quay. I had
some Armenian employees there. When arrived, what do you suppose
I saw? A file of soldiers with cannon, yes, with a cannon, on my
word, turned against my house and an officer saying quietly, 'there
it is. Fire!'" (Rouletabille made yet another discovery - two,
three discoveries. Near by, standing back of Natacha's seat, was
a figure not unknown to the young reporter, and there, in one of
the orchestra chairs, were two other men whose faces he had seen
that same morning in Koupriane's barracks. Here was where a memory
for faces stood him in good stead. He saw that he was not the only
person keeping close watch on Natacha.) "When I heard what the
officer said," Thaddeus went on, "I nearly dropped out of the
drojki. I hurried to the police commissioner. He explained the
affair promptly, and I was quick to understand. During my absence
one of my Armenian employees had fired at a Tartar who was passing.
For that matter, he had killed him. The governor was informed and
had ordered the house to be bombarded, for an example, as had been
done with several others. I found Gounsovski and told him the
trouble in two words. He said it wasn't necessary for him to
interfere in the affair, that I had only to talk to the officer.
'Give him a good present, a hundred roubles, and he will leave your
house. I went back to the officer and took him aside; he said he
wanted to do anything that he could for me, but that the order was
positive to bombard the house. I reported his answer to Gounsovski,
who told me: 'Tell him then to turn the muzzle of the cannon the
other way and bombard the building of the chemist across the way,
then he can always say that he mistook which house was intended.'
I did that, and he had them turn the cannon. They bombarded the
chemist's place, and I got out of the whole thing for the hundred
roubles. Gounsovski, the good fellow, may be a great lump of fat
and be like an umbrella merchant, but I have always been grateful
to him from the bottom of my heart, you can understand, Athanase

"What reputation has Prince Galitch at the court?" inquired
Rouletabille all at once.

"Oh, oh!" laughed the others. "Since he went so openly to visit
Tolstoi he doesn't go to the court any more."

"And - his opinions? What are his opinions?"

"Oh, the opinions of everybody are so mixed nowadays, nobody knows."

Ivan Petrovitch said, "He passes among some people as very advanced
and very much compromised."

"Yet they don't bother him?" inquired Rouletabille.

"Pooh, pooh," replied the gay Councilor of Empire, "it is rather he
who tries to mix with them."

Thaddeus stooped down and said, "They say that he can't be reached
because of the hold he has over a certain great personage in the
court, and it would be a scandal - a great scandal."

"Be quiet, Thaddeus," interrupted Athanase Georgevitch, roughly.
"It is easy to see that you are lately from the provinces to speak
so recklessly, but if you go on this way I shall leave."

"Athanase Georgevitch is right; hang onto your mouth, Thaddeus,"
counseled Ivan Petrovitch.

The talkers all grew silent, for the curtain was rising. In the
audience there were mysterious allusions being made to this second
number of Annouchka, but no one seemed able to say what it was to
be, and it was, as a matter of fact, very simple. After the
whirl-wind of dances and choruses and all the splendor with which
she had been accompanied the first time, Annouchka appeared as a
poor Russian peasant in a scene representing the barren steppes,
and very simply she sank to her knees and recited her evening prayers.
Annouchka was singularly beautiful. Her aquiline nose with sensitive
nostrils, the clean-cut outline of her eyebrows, her look that now
was almost tender, now menacing, always unusual, her pale rounded
cheeks and the entire expression of her face showed clearly the
strength of new ideas, spontaneity, deep resolution and, above all,
passion. The prayer was passionate. She had an admirable contralto
voice which affected the audience strangely from its very first
notes. She asked God for daily bread for everyone in the immense
Russian land, daily bread for the flesh and for the spirit, and she
stirred the tears of everyone there, to which-ever party they
belonged. And when, as her last note sped across the desolate
steppe and she rose and walked toward the miserable hut, frantic
bravos from a delirious audience told her the prodigious emotions
she had aroused. Little Rouletabille, who, not understanding the
words, nevertheless caught the spirit of that prayer, wept.
Everybody wept. Ivan Petrovitch, Athanase Georgevitch, Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff were standing up, stamping their feet and clapping
their hands like enthusiastic boys. The students, who could be
easily distinguished by the uniform green edging they wore on their
coats, uttered insensate cries. And suddenly there rose the first
strains of the national hymn. There was hesitation at first, a
wavering. But not for long. Those who had been dreading some
counter-demonstration realized that no objection could possibly
be raised to a prayer for the Tsar. All heads uncovered and the
Bodje Taara Krari mounted, unanimously, toward the stars.

Through his tears the young reporter never gave up his close watch
on Natacha. She had half risen, and, sinking back, leaned on the
edge of the box. She called, time and time again, a name that
Rouletabille could not hear in the uproar, but that he felt sure
was "Annouchka! Annouchka!" "The reckless girl," murmured
Rouletabille, and, profiting by the general excitement, he left the
box without being noticed. He made his way through the crowd toward
Natacha, whom he had sought futilely since morning. The audience,
after clamoring in vain for a repetition of the prayer by Annouchka,
commenced to disperse, and the reporter was swept along with them
for a few moments. When he reached the range of boxes he saw that
Natacha and the family she had been with were gone. He looked on
all sides without seeing the object of his search and like a madman
commenced to run through the passages, when a sudden idea struck his
blood cold. He inquired where the exit for the artists was and as
soon as it was pointed out, he hurried there. He was not mistaken.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest