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The Secret of the Night by Gaston Leroux

Part 4 out of 6

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In the front line of the crowd that waited to see Annouchka come
out he recognized Natacha, with her head enveloped in the black
mantle so that none should see her face. Besides, this corner of
the garden was in a half-gloom. The police barred the way; he could
not approach as near Natacha as he wished. He set himself to slip
like a serpent through the crowd. He was not separated from Natacha
by more than four or five persons when a great jostling commenced.
Annouchka was coming out. Cries rose: "Annouchka! Annouchka!"
Rouletabille threw himself on his knees and on all-fours succeeded
in sticking his head through into the way kept by the police for
Annouchka's passage. There, wrapped in a great red mantle, his hat
on his arm, was a man Rouletabille immediately recognized. It was
Prince Galitch. They were hurrying to escape the impending pressure
of the crowd. But Annouchka as she passed near Natacha stopped just
a second - a movement that did not escape Rouletabille - and,
turning toward her said just the one word, "Caracho." Then she
passed on. Rouletabille got up and forced his way back, having
once more lost Natacha. He searched for her. He ran to the
carriage-way and arrived just in time to see her seated in a
carriage with the Mourazoff family. The carriage started at once
in the direction of the datcha des Iles. The young man remained
standing there, thinking. He made a gesture as though he were
ready now to let luck take its course. "In the end," said he, "it
will be better so, perhaps," and then, to himself, "Now to supper,
my boy."

He turned in his tracks and soon was established in the glaring
light of the restaurant. Officers standing, glass in hand, were
saluting from table to table and waving a thousand compliments with
grace that was almost feminine.

He heard his name called joyously, and recognized the voice of Ivan
Petrovitch. The three boon companions were seated over a bottle of
champagne resting in its ice-bath and were being served with tiny
pates while they waited for the supper-hour, which was now near.

Rouletabille yielded to their invitation readily enough, and
accompanied them when the head-waiter informed Thaddeus that the
gentlemen were desired in a private room. They went to the first
floor and were ushered into a large apartment whose balcony opened
on the hall of the winter-theater, empty now. But the apartment
was already occupied. Before a table covered with a shining service
Gounsovski did the honors.

He received them like a servant, with his head down, an obsequious
smile, and his back bent, bowing several times as each of the guests
were presented to him. Athanase had described him accurately
enough, a mannikin in fat. Under the vast bent brow one could
hardly see his eyes, behind the blue glasses that seemed always
ready to fall as he inclined too far his fat head with its timid
and yet all-powerful glance. When he spoke in his falsetto voice,
his chin dropped in a fold over his collar, and he had a steady
gesture with the thumb and index finger of his right hand to retain
the glasses from sliding down his short, thick nose.

Behind him there was the fine, haughty silhouette of Prince Galitch.
He had been invited by Annouchka, for she had consented to risk this
supper only in company with three or four of her friends, officers
who could not be further compromised by this affair, as they were
already under the eye of the Okrana (Secret Police) despite their
high birth. Gounsovski had seen them come with a sinister chuckle
and had lavished upon them his marks of devotion.

He loved Annouchka. It would have sufficed to have surprised just
once the jealous glance he sent from beneath his great blue glasses
when he gazed at the singer to have understood the sentiments that
actuated him in the presence of the beautiful daughter of the Black

Annouchka was seated, or, rather, she lounged, Oriental fashion,
on the sofa which ran along the wall behind the table. She paid
attention to no one. Her attitude was forbidding, even hostile.
She indifferently allowed her marvelous black hair that fell in two
tresses over her shoulder to be caressed by the perfumed hands of
the beautiful Onoto, who had heard her this evening for the first
time and had thrown herself with enthusiasm into her arms after the
last number. Onoto was an artist too, and the pique she felt at
first over Annouchka's success could not last after the emotion
aroused by the evening prayer before the hut. "Come to supper,"
Annouchka had said to her.

"With whom?" inquired the Spanish artist.

"With Gounsovski."


"Do come. You will help me pay my debt and perhaps he will be
useful to you as well. He is useful to everybody."

Decidedly Onoto did not understand this country, where the worst
enemies supped together.

Rouletabille had been monopolized at once by Prince Galitch, who
took him into a corner and said:

"What are you doing here?"

"Do I inconvenience you?" asked the boy.

The other assumed the amused smile of the great lord.

"While there is still time," he said, "believe me, you ought to
start, to quit this country. Haven't you had sufficient notice?"

"Yes," replied the reporter. "And you can dispense with any further
notice from this time on."

He turned his back.

"Why, it is the little Frenchman from the Trebassof villa," commenced
the falsetto voice of Gounsovski as he pushed a seat towards the
young man and begged him to sit between him and Athanase Georgevitch,
who was already busy with the hors-doeuvres.

"How do you do, monsieur?" said the beautiful, grave voice of Annouchka.

Rouletabille saluted.

"I see that I am in a country of acquaintances," he said, without
appearing disturbed.

He addressed a lively compliment to Annouchka, who threw him a kiss.

"Rouletabille!" cried la belle Onoto. "Why, then, he is the little
fellow who solved the mystery of the Yellow Room."


"What are you doing here?"

"He came to save the life of General Trebassof," sniggered
Gounsovski. "He is certainly a brave little young man."

"The police know everything," said Rouletabille coldly. And he
asked for champagne, which he never drank.

The champagne commenced its work. While Thaddeus and the officers
told each other stories of Bakou or paid compliments to the women,
Gounsovski, who was through with raillery, leaned toward Rouletabille
and gave that young man fatherly counsel with great unction.

"You have undertaken, young man, a noble task and one all the more
difficult because General Trebassof is condemned not only by his
enemies but still more by the ignorance of Koupriane. Understand
me thoroughly: Koupriane is my friend and a man whom I esteem very
highly. He is good, brave as a warrior, but I wouldn't give a
kopeck for his police. He has mixed in our affairs lately by
creating his own secret police, but I don't wish to meddle with that.
It amuses us. It's the new style, anyway; everybody wants his secret
police nowadays. And yourself, young man, what, after all, are you
doing here? Reporting? No. Police work? That is our business
and your business. I wish you good luck, but I don't expect it.
Remember that if you need any help I will give it you willingly. I
love to be of service. And I don't wish any harm to befall you."

"You are very kind, monsieur," was all Rouletabille replied, and
he called again for champagne.

Several times Gounsovski addressed remarks to Annouchka, who
concerned herself with her meal and had little answer for him.

"Do you know who applauded you the most this evening?"

"No," said Annouchka indifferently.

"The daughter of General Trebassof."

"Yes, that is true, on my word," cried Ivan Petrovitch.

"Yes, yes, Natacba was there," joined in the other friends from the
datcha des Iles.

"For me, I saw her weep," said Rouletabille, looking at Annouchka

But Annouchka replied in an icy tone:

"I do not know her."

"She is unlucky in having a father..." Prince Galitch commenced.

"Prince, no politics, or let me take my leave," clucked Gounsovski.
"Your health, dear Annouchka."

"Your health, Gounsovski. But you have no worry about that."

"Why?" demanded Thaddeus Tchitcbnikoff in equivocal fashion.

"Because he is too useful to the government," cried Ivan Petrovitch.

"No," replied Annouchka; "to the revolutionaries."

All broke out laughing. Gounsovski recovered his slipping glasses
by his usual quick movement and sniggered softly, insinuatingly,
like fat boiling in the pot:

"So they say. And it is my strength."

"His system is excellent," said the prince. "As he is in with
everybody, everybody is in with the police, without knowing it."

"They say ... ah, ah ... they say ..." (Athanase was choking over a
little piece of toast that he had soaked in his soup) "they say that
he has driven away all the hooligans and even all the beggars of the
church of Kasan."

Thereupon they commenced to tell stories of the hooligans,
street-thieves who since the recent political troubles had infested
St. Petersburg and whom nobody, could get rid of without paying
for it.

Athanase Georgevitch said:

"There are hooligans that ought to have existed even if they never
have. One of them stopped a young girl before Varsovie station.
The girl, frightened, immediately held out her purse to him, with
two roubles and fifty kopecks in it. The hooligan took it all.
'Goodness,' cried she, 'I have nothing now to take my train with.'
'How much is it?' asked the hooligan. 'Sixty kopecks.' 'Sixty
kopecks! Why didn't you say so?' And the bandit, hanging onto the
two roules, returned the fifty-kopeck piece to the trembling child
and added a ten-kopeck piece out of his own pocket."

"Something quite as funny happened to me two winters ago, at Moscow,"
said la belle Onoto. "I had just stepped out of the door when I was
stopped by a hooligan. 'Give me twenty kopecks,' said the hooligan.
I was so frightened that I couldn't get my purse open. 'Quicker,'
said he. Finally I gave him twenty kopecks. 'Now,' said he then,
'kiss my hand.' And I had to kiss it, because he held his knife in
the other."

"Oh, they are quick with their knives," said Thaddeus. "As I was
leaving Gastinidvor once I was stopped by a hooligan who stuck a
huge carving-knife under my nose. 'You can have it for a rouble
and a half,' he said. You can believe that I bought it without any
haggling. And it was a very good bargain. It was worth at least
three roubles. Your health, belle Onoto."

"I always take my revolver when I go out," said Athanase. "It is
more prudent. I say this before the police. But I would rather be
arrested by the police than stabbed by the hooligans."

"There's no place any more to buy revolvers," dedared Ivan
Petrovitch. "All such places are closed."

Gounsovski settled his glasses, rubbed his fat hands and said:

"There are some still at my locksmith's place. The proof is that
to-day in the little Kaniouche my locksmith, whose name is Smith,
when into the house of the grocer at the corner and wished to sell
him a revolver. It was a Browning. 'An arm of the greatest
reliability,' he said to him, 'which never misses fire and which
works very easily.' Having pronounced these words, the locksmith
tried his revolver and lodged a ball in the grocer's lung. The
grocer is dead, but before he died he bought the revolver. 'You
are right,' he said to the locksmith; 'it is a terrible weapon.'
And then he died."

The others laughed heartily. They thought it very funny. Decidedly
this great Gounsovski always had a funny story. Who would not like
to be his friend? Annouchka had deigned to smile. Gounsovski, in
recognition, extended his hand to her like a mendicant. The young
woman touched it with the end of her fingers, as if she were placing
a twenty-kopeck piece in the hand of a hooligan, and withdrew from
it with disgust. Then the doors opened for the Bohemians. Their
swarthy troupe soon filled the room. Every evening men and women
in their native costumes came from old Derevnia, where they lived
all together in a sort of ancient patriarchal community, with customs
that had not changed for centuries; they scattered about in the
places of pleasure, in the fashionable restaurants, where they
gathered large sums, for it was a fashionable luxury to have them
sing at the end of suppers, and everyone showered money on them in
order not to be behind the others. They accompanied on guzlas, on
castanets, on tambourines, and sang the old airs, doleful and
languorous, or excitable and breathiess as the flight of the
earliest nomads in the beginnings of the world.

When they had entered, those present made place for them, and
Rouletabille, who for some moments had been showing marks of fatigue
and of a giddiness natural enough in a young man who isn't in the
habit of drinking the finest champagnes, profited by the diversion
to get a corner of the sofa not far from Prince Galitch, who
occupied the place at Annouchka's right.

"Look, Rouletabaille is asleep," remarked la belle Onoto.

"Poor boy!" said Annouchka.

And, turning toward Gounsovski:

"Aren't you soon going to get him out of our way? I heard some of
our brethren the other day speaking in a way that would cause pain
to those who care about his health."

"Oh, that," said Gounsovski, shaking his head, "is an affair I have
nothing to do with. Apply to Koupriane. Your health, belle

But the Bohemians swept some opening chords for their songs, and
the singers took everybody's attention, everybody excepting Prince
Galitch and Annouchka, who, half turned toward one another,
exchanged some words on the edge of all this musical uproar. As
for Rouletabille, he certainly must have been sleeping soundly not
to have been waked by all that noise, melodious as it was. It is
true that he had - apparently - drunk a good deal and, as everyone
knows, in Russia drink lays out those who can't stand it. When
the Bohemians had sung three times Gounsovski made a sign that they
might go to charm other ears, and slipped into the hands of the
chief of the band a twenty-five rouble note. But Onoto wished to
give her mite, and a regular collection commenced. Each one threw
roubles into the plate held out by a little swarthy Bohemian girl
with crow-black hair, carelessly combed, falling over her forehead,
her eyes and her face, in so droll a fashion that one would have
said the little thing was a weeping-willow soaked in ink. The
plate reached Prince Galitch, who futilely searched his pockets.

"Bah!" said he, with a lordly air, "I have no money. But here is
my pocket-book; I will give it to you for a souvenir of me,

Thaddeus and Athanase exclaimed at the generosity of the prince,
but Annouchka said:

"The prince does as he should, for my friends can never sufficiently
repay the hospitality that that little thing gave me in her dirty
hut when I was in hiding, while your famous department was deciding
what to do about me, my dear Gounsovski."

"Eh," replied Gounsovski, "I let you know that all you had to do
was to take a fine apartment in the city."

Annouchka spat on the ground like a teamster, and Gounsovski from
yellow turned green.

"But why did you hide yourself that way, Annouchka?" asked Onoto as
she caressed the beautiful tresses of the singer.

"You know I had been condemned to death, and then pardoned. I had
been able to leave Moscow, and I hadn't any desire to be re-taken
here and sent to taste the joys of Siberia."

"But why were you condemned to death?"

"Why, she doesn't know anything!" exclaimed the others.

"Good Lord, I'm just back from London and Paris - how should I know
anything! But to have been condemned to death! That must have
been amusing."

"Very amusing," said Annouchka icily. "And if you have a brother
whom you love, Onoto, think how much more amusing it must be to
have him shot before you."

"Oh, my love, forgive me!"

"So you may know and not give any pain to your Annouchka in the
future, I will tell you, madame, what happened to our dear friend,"
said Prince Galitch.

"We would do better to drive away such terrible memories," ventured
Gounsovski, lifting his eyelashes behind his glasses, but he bent
his head as Annouchka sent him a blazing glance.

"Speak, Galitch."

The Prince did as she said.

"Annouchka had a brother, Vlassof, an engineer on the Kasan line,
whom the Strike Committee had ordered to take out a train as the
only means of escape for the leaders of the revolutionary troops
when Trebassof's soldiers, aided by the Semenowsky regiment, had
become masters of the city. The last resistance took place at the
station. It was necessary to get started. All the ways were
guarded by the military. There were soldiers everywhere! Vlassof
said to his comrades, 'I will save you;' and his comrades saw him
mount the engine with a woman. That woman was - well, there she
sits. Vlassof's fireman had been killed the evening before, on a
barricade; it was Annouchka who took his place. They busied
themselves and the train started like a shot. On that curved line,
discovered at once, easy to attack, under a shower of bullets,
Vlassof developed a speed of ninety versts an hour. He ran the
indicator up to the explosion point. The lady over there continued
to pile coal into the furnace. The danger came to be less from the
military and more from an explosion at any moment. In the midst of
the balls Vlassof kept his usual coolness. He sped not only with
the firebox open but with the forced draught. It was a miracle
that the engine was not smashed against the curve of the embankment.
But they got past. Not a man was hurt. Only a woman was wounded.
She got a ball in the chest."

"There!" cried Annouchka.

With a magnificent gesture she flung open her white and heaving
chest, and put her finger on a scar that Gounsovski, whose fat began
to melt in heavy drops of sweat about his temples, dared not look at.

"Fifteen days later," continued the prince, "Vlassof entered an inn
at Lubetszy. He didn't know it was full of soldiers. His face
never altered. They searched him. They found a revolver and papers
on him. They knew whom they had to do with. He was a good prize.
Vlassof was taken to Moscow and condemned to be shot. His sister,
wounded as she was, learned of his arrest and joined him. 'I do
not wish,' she said to him, 'to leave you to die alone.' She also
was condemned. Before the execution the soldiers offered to bandage
their eyes, but both refused, saying they preferred to meet death
face to face. The orders were to shoot all the other condemned
revolutionaries first, then Vlassof, then his sister. It was in
vain that Vlassof asked to die last. Their comrades in execution
sank to their knees, bleeding from their death wounds. Vlassof
embraced his sister and walked to the place of death. There he
addressed the soldiers: 'Now you have to carry out your duty
according to the oath you have taken. Fulfill it honestly as I
have fulfilled mine. Captain, give the order.' The volley
sounded. Vlassof remained erect, his arms crossed on his breast,
safe and sound. Not a ball had touched him. The soldiers did not
wish to fire at him. He had to summon them again to fulfill their
duty, and obey their chief. Then they fired again, and he fell.
He looked at his sister with his eyes full of horrible suffering.
Seeing that he lived, and wishing to appear charitable, the captain,
upon Annouchka's prayers, approached and cut short his sufferings
by firing a revolver into his ear. Now it was Annouchka's turn.
She knelt by the body of her brother, kissed his bloody lips, rose
and said, 'I am ready.' As the guns were raised, an officer came
running, bearing the pardon of the Tsar. She did not wish it, and
she whom they had not bound when she was to die had to be restrained
when she learned she was to live."

Prince Galitch, amid the anguished silence of all there, started to
add some words of comment to his sinister recital, but Annouchka

"The story is ended," said she. "Not a word, Prince. If I asked
you to tell it in all its horror, if I wished you to bring back to
us the atrocious moment of my brother's death, it is so that
monsieur" (her fingers pointed to Gounsovski) "shall know well,
once for all, that if I have submitted for some hours now to this
promiscuous company that has been imposed upon me, now that I have
paid the debt by accepting this abominable supper, I have nothing
more to do with this purveyor of bagnios and of hangman's ropes who
is here."

"She is mad," he muttered. "She is mad. What has come over her?
What has happened? Only to-day she was so, so amiable."

And he stuttered, desolately, with an embarrassed laugh:

"Ah, the women, the women! Now what have I done to her?"

"What have you done to me, wretch? Where are Belachof, Bartowsky
and Strassof? And Pierre Slutch? All the comrades who swore with
me to revenge my brother? Where are they? On what gallows did you
have them hung? What mine have you buried them in? And still you
follow your slavish task. And my friends, my other friends, the
poor comrades of my artist life, the inoffensive young men who have
not committed any other crime than to come to see me too often when
I was lively, and who believed they could talk freely in my
dressing-room - where are they? Why have they left me, one by one?
Why have they disappeared? It is you, wretch, who watched them,
who spied on them, making me, I haven't any doubt, your horrible
accomplice, mixing me up in your beastly work, you dog! You knew
what they call me. You have known it for a long time, and you may
well laugh over it. But I, I never knew until this evening; I
never learned until this evening all I owe to you. 'Stool pigeon!
Stool pigeon!' I! Horror! Ah, you dog, you dog! Your mother,
when you were brought into the world, your mother ..." Here she
hurled at him the most offensive insult that a Russian can offer a
man of that race.

She trembled and sobbed with rage, spat in fury, and stood up ready
to go, wrapped in her mantle like a great red flag. She was the
statue of hate and vengeance. She was horrible and terrible. She
was beautiful. At the final supreme insult, Gounsovski started
and rose to his feet as though he had received an actual blow in
the face. He did not look at Annouchka, but fixed his eyes on
Prince Galitch. His finger pointed him out:

"There is the man," he hissed, "who has told you all these fine

"Yes, it is I," said the Prince, tranquilly.

"Caracho!" barked Gounsovski, instantaneously regaining his coolness.

"Ah, yes, but you'll not touch him," clamored the spirited girl of
the Black Land; "you are not strong enough for that."

"I know that monsieur has many friends at court," agreed the chief
of the Secret Service with an ominous calm. "I 'don't wish ill to
monsieur. You speak, madame, of the way some of your friends have
had to be sacrificed. I hope that some day you will be better
informed, and that you will understand I saved all of them I could."

"Let us go," muttered Annouchka. "I shall spit in his face."

"Yes, all I could," replied the other, with his habitual gesture of
hanging on to his glasses. "And I shall continue to do so. I
promise you not to say anything more disagreeable to the prince
than as regards his little friend the Bohemian Katharina, whom he
has treated so generously just now, doubtless because Boris
Mourazoff pays her too little for the errands she runs each morning
to the villa of Krestowsky Ostrow."

At these words the Prince and Annouchka both changed countenance.
Their anger rose. Annouchka turned her head as though to arrange
the folds of her cloak. Galitch contented himself with shrugging
his shoulders impatiently and murmuring:

"Still some other abomination that you are concocting, monsieur,
and that we don't know how to reply to."

After which he bowed to the supper-party, took Annouchka's arm and
had her move before him. Gounsovski bowed, almost bent in two.
When he rose he saw before him the three astounded and horrified
figures of Thaddeus Tchitchnikoff, Ivan Petrovitch and Athanase

"Messieurs," he said to them, in a colorless voice which seemed not
to belong to him, "the time has come for us to part. I need not
say that we have supped as friends and that, if you wish it to be
so, we can forget everything that has been said here."

The three others, frightened, at once protested their discretion.
He added, roughly this time, "Service of the Tsar," and the three
stammered, "God save the Tsar!" After which he saw them to the
door. When the door had closed after them, he said, "My little
Annouchka, you mustn't reckon without me." He hurried toward the
sofa, where Rouletabille was lying forgotten, and gave him a tap
on the shoulder.

"Come, get up. Don't act as though you were asleep. Not an instant
to lose. They are going to carry through the Trebassof affair this

Rouletabille was already on his legs.

"Oh, monsieur," said he, "I didn't want you to tell me that. Thanks
all the same, and good evening."

He went out.

Gounsovski rang. A servant appeared.

"Tell them they may now open all the rooms on this corridor; I'll
not hold them any longer." Thus had Gounsovski kept himself

Left alone, the head of the Secret Service wiped his brow and drank
a great glass of iced water which he emptied at a draught. Then he

"Koupriane will have his work cut out for him this evening; I wish
him good luck. As to them, whatever happens, I wash my hands of

And he rubbed his hands.



At the door of the Krestowsky Rouletabille, who was in a hurry for
a conveyance, jumped into an open carriage where la belle Onoto was
already seated. The dancer caught him on her knees.

"To Eliaguine, fast as you can," cried the reporter for all

"Scan! Scan! (Quickly, quickly)" repeated Onoto.

She was accompanied by a vague sort of person to whom neither of
them paid the least attention.

"What a supper! You waked up at last, did you?" quizzed the actress.
But Rouletabille, standing up behind the enormous coachman, urged
the horses and directed the route of the carriage. They bolted
along through the night at a dizzy pace. At the corner of a bridge
he ordered the horses stopped, thanked his companions and

"What a country! What a country! Caramba!" said the Spanish artist.

The carriage waited a few minutes, then turned back toward the city.

Rouletabille got down the embankment and slowly, taking infinite
precautions not to reveal his presence by making the least noise,
made his way to where the river is widest. Seen through the
blackness of the night the blacker mass of the Trebassof villa
loomed like an enormous blot, he stopped. Then he glided like a
snake through the reeds, the grass, the ferns. He was at the back
of the villa, near the river, not far from the little path where
he had discovered the passage of the assassin, thanks to the broken
cobwebs. At that moment the moon rose and the birch-trees, which
just before had been like great black staffs, now became white
tapers which seemed to brighten that sinister solitude.

The reporter wished to profit at once by the sudden luminance to
learn if his movements had been noticed and if the approaches to
the villa on that side were guarded. He picked up a small pebble
and threw it some distance from him along the path. At the
unexpected noise three or four shadowy heads were outlined suddenly
in the white light of the moon, but disappeared at once, lost again
in the dark tufts of grass.

He had gained his information.

The reporter's acute ear caught a gliding in his direction, a slight
swish of twigs; then all at once a shadow grew by his side and he
felt the cold of a revolver barrel on his temple. He said
"Koupriane," and at once a hand seized his and pressed it.

The night had become black again. He murmured: "How is it you are
here in person?"

The Prefect of Police whispered in his ear:

"I have been informed that something will happen to-night. Natacha
went to Krestowsky and exchanged some words with Annouchka there.
Prince Galitch is involved, and it is an affair of State."

"Natacha has returned?" inquired Rouletabille.

"Yes, a long time ago. She ought to be in bed. In any case she is
pretending to be abed. The light from her chamber, in the window
over the garden, has been put out."

"Have you warned Matrena Petrovna?"

"Yes, I have let her know that she must keep on the sharp look-out

"That's a mistake. I shouldn't have told her anything. She will
take such extra precautions that the others will be instantly

"I have told her she should not go to the ground-floor at all this
night, and that she must not leave the general's chamber."

"That is perfect, if she will obey you."

"You see I have profited by all your information. I have followed
your instructions. The road from the Krestowsky is under

"Perhaps too much. How are you planning?"

"We will let them enter. I don't know whom I have to deal with.
I want to strike a sure blow. I shall take him in the act. No more
doubt after this, you trust me."


"Where are you going?"

"To bed. I have paid my debt to my host. I have the right to some
repose now. Good luck!"

But Koupriane had seized his hand.


With a little attention they detected a light stroke on the water.
If a boat was moving at this time for this bank of the Neva and
wished to remain hidden, the right moment had certainly been chosen.
A great black cloud covered the moon; the wind was light. The boat
would have time to get from one bank to the other without being
discovered. Rouletabille waited no longer. On all-fours he ran
like a beast, rapidly and silently, and rose behind the wall of the
villa, where he made a turn, reached the gate, aroused the dvornicks
and demanded Ermolai, who opened the gate for him.

"The Barinia?" he said.

Ermolai pointed his finger to the bedroom floor.


Rouletabille was already across the garden and had hoisted himself
by his fingers to the window of Natacha's chamber, where he listened.
He plainly heard Natacha walking about in the dark chamber. He fell
back lightly onto his feet, mounted the veranda steps and opened the
door, then closed it so lightly that Ermolai, who watched him from
outside not two feet away, did not hear the slightest grinding of
the hinges. Inside the villa Rouletabille advanced on tiptoe. He
found the door of the drawing-room open. The door of the
sitting-room had not been closed, or else had been reopened. He
turned in his tracks, felt in the dark for a chair and sat down,
with his hand on his revolver in his pocket, waiting for the events
that would not delay long now. Above he heard distinctly from time
to time the movements of Matrena Petrovna. And this would evidently
give a sense of security to those who needed to have the ground-floor
free this night. Rouletabille imagined that the doors of the rooms
on the ground-floor had been left open so that it would be easier
for those who would be below to hear what was happening upstairs.
And perhaps he was not wrong.

Suddenly there was a vertical bar of pale light from the sitting-room
that overlooked the Neva. He deduced two things: first, that the
window was already slightly open, then that the moon was out from
the clouds again. The bar of light died almost instantly, but
Rouletabille's eyes, now used to the obscurity, still distinguished
the open line of the window. There the shade was less deep.
Suddenly he felt the blood pound at his temples, for the line of the
open window grew larger, increased, and the shadow of a man gradually
rose on the balcony. Rouletabille drew his revolver.

The man stood up immediately behind one of the shutters and struck
a light blow on the glass. Placed as he was now he could be seen
no more. His shadow mixed with the shadow of the shutter. At the
noise on the glass Natacha's door had opened cautiously, and she
entered the sitting-room. On tiptoe she went quickly to the window
and opened it. The man entered. The little light that by now was
commencing to dawn was enough to show Rouletabille that Natacha
still wore the toilette in which he had seen her that same evening
at Krestowsky. As for the man, he tried in vain to identify him;
he was only a dark mass wrapped in a mantle. He leaned over and
kissed Natacha's hand. She said only one word: "Scan!" (Quickly).

But she had no more than said it before, under a vigorous attack,
the shutters and the two halves of the window were thrown wide, and
silent shadows jumped rapidly onto the balcony and sprang into the
villa. Natacha uttered a shrill cry in which Rouletabille believed
still he heard more of despair than terror, and the shadows threw
themselves on the man; but he, at the first alarm, had thrown
himself upon the carpet and had slipped from them between their
legs. He regained the balcony and jumped from it as the others
turned toward him. At least, it was so that Rouletabille believed
he saw the mysterious struggle go in the half-light, amid most
impressive silence, after that frightened cry of Natacha's. The
whole affair had lasted only a few seconds, and the man was still
hanging over the balcony, when from the bottom of the hall a new
person sprang. It was Matrena Petrovna.

Warned by Koupriane that something would happen that night, and
foreseeing that it would happen on the ground-floor where she was
forbidden to be, she had found nothing better to do than to make
her faithful maid go secretly to the bedroom floor, with orders to
walk about there all night, to make all think she herself was near
the general, while she remained below, hidden in the dining-room.

Matrena Petrovna now threw herself out onto the balcony, crying in
Russian, "Shoot! Shoot!" In just that moment the man was hesitating
whether to risk the jump and perhaps break his neck, or descend less
rapidly by the gutter-pipe. A policeman fired and missed him, and
the man, after firing back and wounding the policeman, disappeared.
It was still too far from dawn for them to see clearly what happened
below, where the barking of Brownings alone was heard. And there
could be nothing more sinister than the revolver-shots unaccompanied
by cries in the mists of the morning. The man, before he
disappeared, had had only time by a quick kick to throw down one of
the two ladders which had been used by the police in climbing; down
the other one all the police in a bunch, even to the wounded one,
went sliding, falling, rising, running after the shadow which fled
still, discharging the Browning steadily; other shadows rose from
the river-bank, hovering in the mist. Suddenly Koupniane's voice
was heard shouting orders, calling upon his agents to take the
quarry alive or dead. From the balcony Matrena Petrovna cried out
also, like a savage, and Rouletabille tried in vain to keep her
quiet. She was delirious at the thought "The Other" might escape
yet. She fired a revolver, she also, into the group, not knowing
whom she might wound. Rouletabille grabbed her arm and as she
turned on him angrily she observed Natacha, who, leaning until she
almost fell over the balcony, her lips trembling with delirious
utterance, followed as well as she could the progress of the
struggle, trying to understand what happened below, under the trees,
near the Neva, where the tumult by now extended. Matrena Petrovna
pulled her back by the arms. Then she took her by the neck and
threw her into the drawing-room in a heap. When she had almost
strangled her step-daughter, Matrena Petrovna saw that the general
was there. He appeared in the pale glimmerings of dawn like a
specter. By what miracle had Feodor Feodorovitch been able to
descend the stairs and reach there? How had it been brought about?
She saw him tremble with anger or with wretchedness under the folds
of the soldier's cape that floated about him. He demanded in a
hoarse voice, "What is it?"

Matrena Petrovna threw herself at his feet, made the orthodox sign
of the Cross, as if she wished to summon God to witness, and then,
pointing to Natacha, she denounced his daughter to her husband as
she would have pointed her out to a judge.

"The one, Feodor Feodorovitch, who has wished more than once to
assassinate you, and who this night has opened the datcha to your
assassin is your daughter."

The general held himself up by his two hands against the wall, and,
looking at Matrena and Natacha, who now were both upon the floor
before him like suppliants, he said to Matrena:

"It is you who assassinate me."

"Me! By the living God!" babbled Matrena Petrovna desperately.
"If I had been able to keep this from you, Jesus would have been
good! But I say no more to crucify you. Feodor Feodorovitch,
question your daughter, and if what I have said is not true, kill
me, kill me as a lying, evil beast. I will say thank you, thank
you, and I will die happier than if what I have said was true. Ah,
I long to be dead! Kill me!"

Feodor Feodorovitch pushed her back with his stick as one would
push a worm in his path. Without saying anything further, she rose
from her knees and looked with her haggard eyes, with her crazed
face, at Rouletabille, who grasped her arm. If she had had her
hands still free she would not have hesitated a second in wreaking
justice upon herself under this bitter fate of alienating Feodor.
And it seemed frightful to Rouletabille that he should be present
at one of those horrible family dramas the issue of which in the
wild times of Peter the Great would have sent the general to the
hangman either as a father or as a husband.

The general did not deign even to consider for any length of time
Matrena's delirium. He said to his daughter, who shook with sobs
on the floor, "Rise, Natacha Feodorovna." And Feodor's daughter
understood that her father never would believe in her guilt. She
drew herself up towards him and kissed his hands like a happy slave.

At this moment repeated blows shook the veranda door. Matrena, the
watch-dog, anxious to die after Feodor's reproach, but still at her
post, ran toward what she believed to be a new danger. But she
recognized Koupriane's voice, which called on her to open. She let
him in herself.

"What is it?" she implored.

"Well, he is dead."

A cry answered him. Natacha had heard.

"But who - who - who?" questioned Matrena breathlessly.

Koupriane went over to Feodor and grasped his hands.

"General," he said, "there was a man who had sworn your ruin and
who was made an instrument by your enemies. We have just killed
that man."

"Do I know him?" demanded Feodor.

"He is one of your friends, you have treated him like a son."

"His name?"

"Ask your daughter, General."

Feodor turned toward Natacha, who burned Koupriane with her gaze,
trying to learn what this news was he brought - the truth or a ruse.

"You know the man who wished to kill me, Natacha?"

"No," she replied to her father, in accents of perfect fury. "No,
I don't know any such man."

"Mademoiselle," said Koupriane, in a firm, terribly hostile voice,
"you have yourself, with your own hands, opened that window to-night;
and you have opened it to him many other times besides. While
everyone else here does his duty and watches that no person shall be
able to enter at night the house where sleeps General Trebassof,
governor of Moscow, condemned to death by the Central Revolutionary
Committee now reunited at Presnia, this is what you do; it is you
who introduce the enemy into this place."

"Answer, Natacha; tell me, yes or no, whether you have let anybody
into this house by night."

"Father, it is true."

Feodor roared like a lion:

"His name!"

"Monsieur will tell you himself," said Natacha, in a voice thick
with terror, and she pointed to Koupriane. "Why does he not tell
you himself the name of that person? He must know it, if the man
is dead."

"And if the man is not dead," replied Feodor, who visibly held onto
himself, "if that man, whom you helped to enter my house this night,
has succeeded in escaping, as you seem to hope, will you tell us his

"I could not tell it, Father."

"And if I prayed you to do so?"

Natacha desperately shook her head.

"And if I order you?"

"You can kill me, Father, but I will not pronounce that name."


He raised his stick toward her. Thus Ivan the Terrible had killed
his son with a blow of his boar-spear.

But Natacha, instead of bowing her head beneath the blow that
menaced her, turned toward Koupriane and threw at him in accents of

"He is not dead. If you bad succeeded in taking him, dead or alive,
you would already have his name."

Koupriane took two steps toward her, put his hand on her shoulder
and said:

"Michael Nikolajevitch."

"Michael Korsakoff!" cried the general.

Matrena Petrovna, as if revolted by that suggestion, stood upright
to repeat:

"Michael Korsakoff!"

The general could not believe his ears, and was about to protest
when he noticed that his daughter had turned away and was trying to
flee to her room. He stopped her with a terrible gesture.

"Natacha, you are going to tell us what Michael Korsakoff came here
to do to-night."

"Feodor Feodorovitch, he came to poison you."

It was Matrena who spoke now and whom nothing could have kept silent,
for she saw in Natacha's attempt at flight the most sinister
confession. Like a vengeful fury she told over with cries and
terrible gestures what she had experienced, as if once more stretched
before her the hand armed with the poison, the mysterious hand above
the pillow of her poor invalid, her dear, rigorous tyrant; she told
them about the preceding night and all her terrors, and from her
lips, by her voluble staccato utterance that ominous recital had
grotesque emphasis. Finally she told all that she had done, she
and the little Frenchman, in order not to betray their suspicions
to The Other, in order to take finally in their own trap all those
who for so many days and nights schemed for the death of Feodor
Feodorovitch. As she ended she pointed out Rouletabille to Feodor
and cried, "There is the one who has saved you."

Natacha, as she listened to this tragic recital, restrained herself
several times in order not to interrupt, and Rouletabille, who was
watching her closely, saw that she had to use almost superhuman
efforts in order to achieve that. All the horror of what seemed to
be to her as well as to Feodor a revelation of Michael's crime did
not subdue her, but seemed, on the contrary, to restore to her in
full force all the life that a few seconds earlier had fled from her.
Matrena had hardly finished her cry, "There is the one who has
saved you," before Natacha cried in her turn, facing the reporter
with a look full of the most frightful hate, "There is the one who
has been the death of an innocent man!" She turned to her father.
"Ah, papa, let me, let me say that Michael Nikolaievitch, who came
here this evening, I admit, and whom, it is true, I let into the
house, that Michael Nikolaievitch did not come here yesterday, and
that the man who has tried to poison you is certainly someone else."

At these words Rouletabille turned pale, but he did not let himself
lose self-control. He replied simply:

"No, mademoiselle, it was the same man."

And Koupriane felt compelled to add:

"Anyway, we have found the proof of Michael Nikolaievitch's relations
with the revolutionaries."

"Where have you found that?" questioned the young girl, turning
toward the Chief of Police a face ravished with anguish.

"At Krestowsky, mademoiselle."

She looked a long time at him as though she would penetrate to the
bottom of his thoughts.

"What proofs?" she implored.

"A correspondence which we have placed under seal."

"Was it addressed to him? What kind of correspondence?"

"If it interests you, we will open it before you."

"My God! My God!" she gasped. "Where have you found this
correspondence? Where? Tell me where!"

"I will tell you. `At the villa, in his chamber. We forced the
lock of his bureau."

She seemed to breathe again, but her father took her brutally by
the arm.

"Come, Natacha, you are going to tell us what that man was doing
here to-night."

"In her chamber!" cried Matrena Petrovna.

Natacha turned toward Matrena:

"What do you believe, then? Tell me now."

"And I, what ought I to believe?" muttered Feodor. "You have not
told me yet. You did not know that man had relations with my
enemies. You are innocent of that, perhaps. I wish to think so.
I wish it, in the name of Heaven I wish it. But why did you
receive him? Why? Why did you bring him in here, as a robber
or as a..."

"Oh, papa, you know that I love Boris, that I love him with all my
heart, and that I would never belong to anyone but him."

"Then, then, then. - speak!"

The young girl had reached the crisis.

"Ah, Father, Father, do not question me! You, you above all, do
not question me now. I can say nothing! There is nothing I can
tell you. Excepting that I am sure - sure, you understand - that
Michael Nikolaievitch did not come here last night."

"He did come," insisted Rouletabille in a slightly troubled voice.

"He came here with poison. He came here to poison your father,
Natacha," moaned Matrena Petrovna, who twined her hands in gestures
of sincere and naive tragedy.

"And I," replied the daughter of Feodor ardently, with an accent of
conviction which made everyone there vibrate, and particularly
Rouletabille, "and I, I tell you it was not he, that it was not he,
that it could not possibly be he. I swear to you it was another,

"But then, this other, did you let him in as well?" said Koupriane.

"Ah, yes, yes. It was I. It was I. It was I who left the window
and blinds open. Yes, it is I who did that. But I did not wait for
the other, the other who came to assassinate. As to Michael
Nikolaievitch, I swear to you, my father, by all that is most sacred
in heaven and on earth, that he could not have committed the crime
that you say. And now - kill me, for there is nothing more I can

"The poison," replied Koupriane coldly, "the poison that he poured
into the general's potion was that arsenate of soda which was on
the grapes the Marshal of the Court brought here. Those grapes
were left by the Marshal, who warned Michael Nikolaievitch and
Boris Alexandrovitch to wash them. The grapes disappeared. If
Michael is innocent, do you accuse Boris?"

Natacha, who seemed to have suddenly lost all power for defending
herself, moaned, begged, railed, seemed dying.

"No, no. Don't accuse Boris. He has nothing to do with it. Don't
accuse Michael. Don't accuse anyone so long as you don't know. But
these two are innocent. Believe me. Believe me. Ah, how shall I
say it, how shall I persuade you! I am not able to say anything to
you. And you have killed Michael. Ah, what have you done, what
have you done!"

"We have suppressed a man," said the icy voice of Koupriane, "who
was merely the agent for the base deeds of Nihilism."

She succeeded in recovering a new energy that in her depths of
despair they would have supposed impossible. She shook her fists
at Koupriane:

"It is not true, it is not true. These are slanders, infamies! The
inventions of the police! Papers devised to incriminate him. There
is nothing at all of what you said you found at his house. It is
not possible. It is not true."

"Where are those papers?" demanded the curt voice of Feodor. "Bring
them here at once, Koupriane; I wish to see them."

Koupriane was slightly troubled, and this did not escape Natacha,
who cried:

"Yes, yes, let him give us them, let him bring them if he has them.
But he hasn't," she clamored with a savage joy. "He has nothing.
You can see, papa, that he has nothing. He would already have
brought them out. He has nothing. I tell you he has nothing. Ah,
he has nothing! He has nothing!"

And she threw herself on the floor, weeping, sobbing, "He has
nothing, he has nothing!" She seemed to weep for joy.

"Is that true?" demanded Feodor Feodorovitch, with his most somber
manner. "Is it true, Koupriane, that you have nothing?"

"It is true, General, that we have found nothing. Everything had
already been carried away."

But Natacha uttered a veritable torrent of glee:

"He has found nothing! Yet he accuses him of being allied with the
revolutionaries. Why? Why? Because I let him in? But I, am I a
revolutionary? Tell me. Have I sworn to kill papa? I? I? Ah, he
doesn't know what to say. You see for yourself, papa, he is silent.
He has lied. He has lied."

"Why have you made this false statement, Koupriane?"

"Oh, we have suspected Michael for some time, and truly, after what
has just happened, we cannot have any doubt."

"Yes, but you declared you had papers, and you have not. That is
abominable procedure, Koupriane," replied Feodor sternly. "I have
heard you condemn such expedients many times."

"General! We are sure, you hear, we are absolutely sure that the
man who tried to poison you yesterday and the man to-day who is
dead are one and the same."

"And what reason have you for being so sure? It is necessary to
tell it," insisted the general, who trembled with distress and

"Yes, let him tell now."

"Ask monsieur," said Koupriane.

They all turned to Rouletabille.

The reporter replied, affecting a coolness that perhaps he did not
entirely feel:

"I am able to state to you, as I already have before Monsieur the
Prefect of Police, that one, and only one, person has left the
traces of his various climbings on the wall and on the balcony."

"Idiot!" interrupted Natacha, with a passionate disdain for the
young man. "And that satisfies you?"

The general roughly seized the reporter's wrist:

"Listen to me, monsieur. A man came here this night. That concerns
only me. No one has any right to be astonished excepting myself. I
make it my own affair, an affair between my daughter and me. But
you, you have just told us that you are sure that man is an assassin.
Then, you see, that calls for something else. Proofs are necessary,
and I want the proofs at once. You speak of traces; very well, we
will go and examine those traces together. And I wish for your sake,
monsieur, that I shall be as convinced by them as you are."

Rouletabille quietly disengaged his wrist and replied with perfect

"Now, monsieur, I am no longer able to prove anything to you."


"Because the ladders of the police agents have wiped out all my
proofs, monsieur.

"So now there remains for us only your word, only your belief in
yourself. And if you are mistaken?"

"He would never admit it, papa," cried Natacha. "Ah, it is he who
deserves the fate Michael Nikolaievitch has met just now. Isn't it
so? Don't you know it? And that will be your eternal remorse! Isn't
there something that always keeps you from admitting that you are
mistaken? You have had an innocent man killed. Now, you know well
enough, you know well that I would not have admitted Michael
Nikolaievitch here if I had believed he was capable of wishing to
poison my father."

"Mademoiselle," replied Rouletabille, not lowering his eyes under
Natacha's thunderous regard, "I am sure of that."

He said it in such a tone that Natacha continued to look at him
with incomprehensible anguish in her eyes. Ah, the baffling of
those two regards, the mute scene between those two young people,
one of whom wished to make himself understood and the other afraid
beyond all other things of being thoroughly understood. Natacha

"How he looks at me! See, he is the demon; yes, yes, the little
domovoi, the little domovoi. But look out, poor wretch; you don't
know what you have done."

She turned brusquely toward Koupriane:

"Where is the body of Michael Nikolaievitch?" said she. "I wish to
see it. I must see it."

Feodor Feodorovitch had fallen, as though asleep, upon a chair.
Matrena Petrovna dared not approach him. The giant appeared hurt
to the death, disheartened forever. What neither bombs, nor bullets,
nor poison had been able to do, the single idea of his daughter's
co-operation in the work of horror plotted about him - or rather
the impossibility he faced of understanding Natacha's attitude, her
mysterious conduct, the chaos of her explanations, her insensate
cries, her protestations of innocence, her accusations, her menaces,
her prayers and all her disorder, the avowed fact of her share in
that tragic nocturnal adventure where Michael Nikolaievitch found
his death, had knocked over Feodor Feodorovitch like a straw. One
instant he sought refuge in some vague hope that Koupriane was less
assured than he pretended of the orderly's guilt. But that, after
all, was only a detail of no importance in his eyes. What alone
mattered was the significance of Natacha's act, and the unhappy
girl seemed not to be concerned over what he would think of it.
She was there to fight against Koupriane, Rouletabille and Matrena
Petrovna, defending her Michael Nikolajevitch, while he, the father,
after having failed to overawe her just now, was there in a corner
suffering agonizedly.

Koupriane walked over to him and said:

"Listen to me carefully, Feodor Feodorovitch. He who speaks to you
is Head of the Police by the will of the Tsar, and your friend by
the grace of God. If you do not demand before us, who are acquainted
with all that has happened and who know how to keep any necessary
secret, if you do not demand of your daughter the reason for her
conduct with Michael Nikolaievitch, and if she does not tell you
in all sincerity, there is nothing more for me to do here. My men
have already been ordered away from this house as unworthy to guard
the most loyal subject of His Majesty; I have not protested, but
now I in my turn ask you to prove to me that the most dangerous
enemy you have had in your house is not your daughter."

These words, which summed up the horrible situation, came as a
relief for Feodor. Yes, they must know. Koupriane was right. She
must speak. He ordered his daughter to tell everything, everything.

Natacha fixed Koupriane again with her look of hatred to the death,
turned from him and repeated in a firm voice:

"I have nothing to say."

"There is the accomplice of your assassins," growled Koupriane then,
his arm extended.

Natacha uttered a cry like a wounded beast and fell at her father's
feet. She gathered them within her supplicating arms. She pressed
them to her breasts. She sobbed from the bottom of her heart. And
he, not comprehending, let her lie there, distant, hostile, somber.
Then she moaned, distractedly, and wept bitterly, and the dramatic
atmosphere in which she thus suddenly enveloped Feodor made it all
sound like those cries of an earlier time when the all-powerful,
punishing father appeared in the women's apartments to punish the
culpable ones.

"My father! Dear Father! Look at me! Look at me! Have pity on
me, and do not require me to speak when I must be silent forever.
And believe me! Do not believe these men! Do not believe Matrena
Petrovna. And am I not your daughter? Your very own daughter! Your
Natacha Feodorovna! I cannot make things dear to you. No, no, by
the Holy Virgin Mother of Jesus I cannot explain. By the holy ikons,
it is because I must not. By my mother, whom I have not known and
whose place you have taken, oh, my father, ask me nothing more!
Ask me nothing more! But take me in your arms as you did when I
was little; embrace me, dear father; love me. I never have had such
need to be loved. Love me! I am miserable. Unfortunate me, who
cannot even kill myself before your eyes to prove my innocence and
my love. Papa, Papa! What will your arms be for in the days left
you to live, if you no longer wish to press me to your heart? Papa!

She laid her head on Feodor's knees. Her hair had come down and
hung about her in a magnificent disorderly mass of black.

"Look in my eyes! Look in my eyes! See how they love you,
Batouchka! Batouchka! My dear Batouchka!"

Then Feodor wept. His great tears fell upon Natacha's tears. He
raised her head and demanded simply in a broken voice:

"You can tell me nothing now? But when will you tell me?"

Natacha lifted her eyes to his, then her look went past him toward
heaven, and from her lips came just one word, in a sob:


Matrena Petrovna, Koupriane and the reporter shuddered before the
high and terrible thing that happened then. Feodor had taken his
daughter's face between his hands. He looked long at those eyes
raised toward heaven, the mouth which had just uttered the word
"Never," then, slowly, his rude lips went to the tortured, quivering
lips of the girl. He held her close. She raised her head wildly,
triumphantly, and cried, with arm extended toward Matrena Petrovna:

"He believes me! He believes me! And you would have believed me
also if you had been my real mother."

Her head fell back and she dropped unconscious to the floor. Feodor
fell to his knees, tending her, deploring her, motioning the others
out of the room.

"Go away! All of you, go! All! You, too, Matrena Petrovna. Go

They disappeared, terrified by his savage gesture.

In the little datcha across the river at Krestowsky there was a
body. Secret Service agents guarded it while they waited for their
chief. Michael Nikolaievitch had come there to die, and the police
had reached him just at his last breath. They were behind him as,
with the death-rattle in his throat, he pulled himself into his
chamber and fell in a heap. Katharina the Bohemian was there. She
bent her quick-witted, puzzled head over his death agony. The
police swarmed everywhere, ransacking, forcing locks, pulling
drawers from the bureau and tables, emptying the cupboards. Their
search took in everything, even to ripping the mattresses, and not
respecting the rooms of Boris Mourazoff, who was away this night.
They searched thoroughly, but they found absolutely nothing they
were looking for in Michael's rooms. But they accumulated a
multitude of publications that belonged to Boris: Western books,
essays on political economy, a history of the French Revolution,
and verses that a man ought to hang for. They put them all under
seal. During the search Michael died in Katharina's arms. She
had held him close, after opening his clothes over the chest,
doubtless to make his last breaths easier. The unfortunate officer
had received a bullet at the back of the head just after he had
plunged into the Neva from the rear of the Trebassof datcha and
started to swim across. It was a miracle that he had managed to
keep going. Doubtless he hoped to die in peace if only he could
reach his own house. He apparently had believed he could manage
that once he had broken through his human bloodhounds. He did not
know he was recognized and his place of retreat therefore known.

Now the police had gone from cellar to garret. Koupriane came from
the Trebassof villa and joined them, Rouletabille followed him.
The reporter could not stand the sight of that body, that still had
a lingering warmth, of the great open eyes that seemed to stare at
him, reproaching him for this violent death. He turned away in
distaste, and perhaps a little in fright. Koupriane caught the

"Regrets?" he queried.

"Yes," said Rouletabille. "A death always must be regretted. None
the less, he was a criminal. But I'm sincerely sorry he died before
he had been driven to confess, even though we are sure of it."

"Being in the pay of the Nihilists, you mean? That is still your
opinion?" asked Koupriane.


"You know that nothing has been found here in his rooms. The only
compromising papers that have been found belong to Boris Mourazoff."

"Why do you say that?"

"Oh - nothing."

Koupriane questioned his men further. They replied categorically.
No, nothing had been found that directly incriminated anybody; and
suddenly Rouletabille noted that the conversation of the police and
their chief had grown more animated. Koupriane had become angry
and was violently reproaching them. They excused themselves with
vivid gesture and rapid speech.

Koupriane started away. Rouletabille followed him. What had

As he came up behind Koupriane, he asked the question. In a few
curt words, still hurrying on, Koupriane told the reporter he had
just learned that the police had left the little Bohemian Katharina
alone for a moment with the expiring officer. Katharina acted as
housekeeper for Michael and Boris. She knew the secrets of them
both. The first thing any novice should have known was to keep a
constant eye upon her, and now no one knew where she was. She must
be searched for and found at once, for she had opened Michael's
shirt, and therein probably lay the reason that no papers were found
on the corpse when the police searched it. The absence of papers,
of a portfolio, was not natural.

The chase commenced in the rosy dawn of the isles. Already
blood-like tints were on the horizon. Some of the police cried
that they had the trail. They ran under the trees, because it was
almost certain she had taken the narrow path leading to the bridge
that joins Krestowsky to Kameny-Ostrow. Some indications discovered
by the police who swarmed to right and left of the path confirmed
this hypothesis. And no carriage in sight! They all ran on,
Koupriane among the first. Rouletabille kept at his heels, but he
did not pass him. Suddenly there were cries and calls among the
police. One pointed out something below gliding upon the sloping
descent. It was little Kathanna. She flew like the wind, but in
a distracted course. She had reached Kameny-Ostrow on the west
bank. "Oh, for a carriage, a horse!" clamored Koupriane, who had
left his turn-out at Eliaguine. "The proof is there. It is the
final proof of everything that is escaping us!"

Dawn was enough advanced now to show the ground clearly. Katharina
was easily discernible as she reached the Eliaguine bridge. There
she was in Eliaguine-Ostrow. What was she doing there? Was she
going to the Trebassof villa? What would she have to say to them?
No, she swerved to the right. The police raced behind her. She
was still far ahead, and seemed untiring. Then she disappeared
among the trees, in the thicket, keeping still to the right.
Koupriane gave a cry of joy. Going that way she must be taken. He
gave some breathless orders for the island to be barred. She could
not escape now! She could not escape! But where was she going?
Koupriane knew that island better than anybody. He took a short
cut to reach the other side, toward which Katharina seemed to be
heading, and all at once he nearly fell over the girl, who gave a
squawk of surprise and rushed away, seeming all arms and legs.

"Stop, or I fire!" cried Koupriane, and he drew his revolver. But
a hand grabbed it from him.

"Not that!" said Rouletabille, as be threw the revolver far from
them. Koupriane swore at him and resumed the chase. His fury
multiplied his strength, his agility; he almost reached Katharina,
who was almost out of breath, but Rouletabille threw himself into
the Chief's arms and they rolled together upon the grass. When
Koupriane rose, it was to see Katharina mounting in mad haste the
stairs that led to the Barque, the floating restaurant of the
Strielka. Cursing Rouletabille, but believing his prey easily
captured now, the Chief in his turn hurried to the Barque, into
which Katharina had disappeared. He reached the bottom of the
stairs. On the top step, about to descend from the festive place,
the form of Prince Galltch appeared. Koupriane received the sight
like a blow stopping him short in his ascent. Galitch had an
exultant air which Koupriane did not mistake. Evidently he had
arrived too late. He felt the certainty of it in profound
discouragement. And this appearance of the prince on the Barque
explained convincingly enough the reason for Katharina's flight

If the Bohemian had filched the papers or the portfolio from the
dead, it was the prince now who had them in his pocket.

Koupriane, as he saw the prince about to pass him, trembled. The
prince saluted him and ironically amused himself by inquiring:

"Well, well, how do you do, my dear Monsieur Koupriane. Your
Excellency has risen in good time this morning, it seems to me.
Or else it is I who start for bed too late."

"Prince," said Koupriane, "my men are in pursuit of a little Bohemian
named Katharina, well known in the restaurants where she sings. We
have seen her go into the Barque. Have you met her by any chance?"

"Good Lord, Monsieur Koupriane, I am not the concierge of the Barque,
and I have not noticed anything at all, and nobody. Besides, I am
naturally a little sleepy. Pardon me."

"Prince, it is not possible that you have not seen Katharina."

"Oh, Monsieur the Prefect of Police, if I had seen her I would not
tell you about it, since you are pursuing her. Do you take me for
one of your bloodhounds? They say you have them in all classes,
but I insist that I haven't enlisted yet. You have made a mistake,
Monsieur Koupriane."

The prince saluted again. But Koupriane still stood in his way.

"Prince, consider that this matter is very serious. Michael
Nikolaievitch, General Trebassof's orderly, is dead, and this
little girl has stolen his papers from his body. All persons who
have spoken with Katharina will be under suspicion. This is an
affair of State, monsieur, which may reach very far. Can you
swear to me that you have not seen, that you have not spoken to

The prince looked at Koupriane so insolently that the Prefect turned
pale with rage. Ah, if he were able - if he only dared! - but such
men as this were beyond him. Galitch walked past him without a word
of answer, and ordered the schwitzar to call him a carriage.

"Very well," said Koupriane, "I will make my report to the Tsar."

Galitch turned. He was as pale as Koupriane.

"In that case, monsieur," said he, "don't forget to add that I am
His Majesty's most humble servant."

The carriage drew up. The prince stepped in. Koupriane watched
him roll away, raging at heart and with his fists doubled. Just
then his men came up.

"Go. Search," he said roughiy, pointing into the Barque.

They scattered through the establishment, entering all the rooms.
Cries of irritation and of protest arose. Those lingering after
the latest of late suppers were not pleased at this invasion of the
police. Everybody had to rise while the police looked under the
tables, the benches, the long table-cloths. They went into the
pantries and down into the bold. No sign of Katharina. Suddenly
Koupriane, who leaned against a netting and looked vaguely out upon
the horizon, waiting for the outcome of the search, got a start.
Yonder, far away on the other side of the river, between a little
wood and the Staria Derevnia, a light boat drew to the shore, and a
little black spot jumped from it like a flea. Koupriane recognized
the little black spot as Kathanna. She was safe. Now he could not
reach her. It would be useless to search the maze of the Bohemian
quarter, where her country-people lived in full control, with
customs and privileges that had never been infringed. The entire
Bohemian population of the capital would have risen against him.
It was Prince Galitch who had made him fail. One of his men came
to him:

"No luck," said he. "We have not found Katharina, but she has been
here nevertheless. She met Prince Galitch for just a minute, and
gave him something, then went over the other side into a canoe."

"Very well," and the Prefect shrugged his shoulders. "I was sure of

He felt more and more, exasperated. He went down along the river
edge and the first person he saw was Rouletabille, who waited for
him without any impatience, seated philosophically on a bench.

"I was looking for you," cried the Prefect. "We have failed. By
your fault! If you had not thrown yourself into my arms -"

"I did it on purpose," declared the reporter.

"What! What is that you say? You did it on purpose?"

Koupriane choked with rage.

"Your Excellency," said Rouletabille, taking him by the arm, "calm
yourself. They are watching us. Come along and have a cup of tea
at Cubat's place. Easy now, as though we were out for a walk."

"Will you explain to me?"

"No, no, Your Excellency. Remember that I have promised you General
Trebassof's life in exchange for your prisoner's. Very well; by
throwing myself in your arms and keeping you from reaching Katharina,
I saved the general's life. It is very simple."

"Are you laughing at me? Do you think you can mock me?"

But the prefect saw quickly that Rouletabille was not fooling and
had no mockery in his manner.

"Monsieur," he insisted, "since you speak seriously, I certainly
wish to understand -"

"It is useless," said Rouletabille. "It is very necessary that you
should not understand."

"But at least..."

"No, no, I can't tell you anything."

"When, then, will you tell me something to explain your unbelievable

Rouletabille stopped in his tracks and declared solemnly:

"Monsieur Koupriane, recall what Natacha Feodorovna as she raised her
lovely eyes to heaven, replied to her father, when he, also, wished
to understand: 'Never.'"



At ten o'clock that morning Rouletabille went to the Trebassof
villa, which had its guard of secret agents again, a double guard,
because Koupriane was sure the Nihilists would not delay in avenging
Michael's death. Rouletabille was met by Ermolai, who would not
allow him to enter. The faithful servant uttered some explanation
in Russian, which the young man did not understand, or, rather,
Rouletabille understood perfectly from his manner that henceforth
the door of the villa was closed to him. In vain he insisted on
seeing the general, Matrena Petrovna and Mademoiselle Natacha.
Ermolai made no reply but "Niet, niet, niet." The reporter turned
away without having seen anyone, and walked away deeply depressed.
He went afoot clear into the city, a long promenade, during which
his brain surged with the darkest forebodings. As he passed by the
Department of Police he resolved to see Koupriane again. He went
in, gave his name, and was ushered at once to the Chief of Police,
whom he found bent over a long report that he was reading through
with noticeable agitation.

"Gounsovski has sent me this," he said in a rough voice, pointing
to the report. "Gounsovski, 'to do me a service,' desires me to
know that he is fully aware of all that happened at the Trebassof
datcha last night. He warns me that the revolutionaries have
decided to get through with the general at once, and that two of
them have been given the mission to enter the datcha in any way
possible. They will have bombs upon their bodies and will blow
the bombs and themselves up together as soon as they are beside the
general. Who are the two victims designated for this horrible
vengeance, and who have light-heartedly accepted such a death for
themselves as well as for the general? That is what we don't know.
That is what we would have known, perhaps, if you had not prevented
me from seizing the papers that Prince Galitch has now," Koupriane
finished, turning hostilely toward Rouletabille.

Rouletabille had turned pale.

"Don't regret what happened to the papers," he said. "It is I who
tell you not to. But what you say doesn't surprise me. They must
believe that Natacha has betrayed them."

"Ah, then you admit at last that she really is their accomplice?"

"I haven't said that and I don't admit it. But I know what I mean,
and you, you can't. Only, know this one thing, that at the present
moment I am the only person able to save you in this horrible
situation. To do that I must see Natacha at once. Make her
understand this, while I wait at my hotel for word. I'll not leave

Rouletabille saluted Koupriane and went out.

Two days passed, during which Rouletabille did not receive any word
from either Natacha or Koupriane, and tried in vain to see them.
He made a trip for a few hours to Finland, going as far as Pergalovo,
an isolated town said to be frequented by the revolutionaries, then
returned, much disturbed, to his hotel, after having written a last
letter to Natacha imploring an interview. The minutes passed very
slowly for him in the hotel's vestibule, where he had seemed to have
taken up a definite residence.

Installed on a bench, he seemed to have become part of the hotel
staff, and more than one traveler took him for an interpreter.
Others thought he was an agent of the Secret Police appointed to
study the faces of those arriving and departing. What was he
waiting for, then? Was it for Annouchka to return for a luncheon
or dinner in that place that she sometimes frequented? And did he
at the same time keep watch upon Annouchka's apartments just across
the way? If that was so, he could only bewail his luck, for
Annouchka did not appear either at her apartments or the hotel, or
at the Krestowsky establishment, which had been obliged to suppress
her performance. Rouletabille naturally thought, in the latter
connection, that some vengeance by Gounsovski lay back of this,
since the head of the Secret Service could hardly forget the way he
had been treated. The reporter could see already the poor singer,
in spite of all her safeguards and the favor of the Imperial family,
on the road to the Siberian steppes or the dungeons of Schlusselbourg.

"My, what a country!" he murmured.

But his thoughts soon quit Annouchka and returned to the object of
his main preoccupation. He waited for only one thing, and for that
as soon as possible - to have a private interview with Natacha. He
had written her ten letters in two days, but they all remained
unanswered. It was an answer that he waited for so patiently in
the vestibule of the hotel - so patiently, but so nervously, so

When the postman entered, poor Rouletabille's heart beat rapidly.
On that answer he waited for depended the formidable part he meant
to play before quitting Russia. He had accomplished nothing up to
now, unless he could play his part in this later development.

But the letter did not come. The postman left, and the schwitzar,
after examining all the mail, made him a negative sign. Ah, the
servants who entered, and the errand-boys, how he looked at them!
But they never came for him. Finally, at six o'clock in the evening
of the second day, a man in a frock-coat, with a false astrakhan
collar, came in and handed the concierge a letter for Joseph
Rouletabille. The reporter jumped up. Before the man was out the
door he had torn open the letter and read it. The letter was not
from Natacha. It was from Gounsovski. This is what it said:

"My dear Monsieur Joseph Rouletabille, if it will not inconvenience
you, I wish you would come and dine with me to-day. I will look
for you within two hours. Madame Gounsovski will be pleased to make
your acquaintance. Believe me your devoted Gounsovski."

Rouletabille considered, and decided:

"I will go. He ought to have wind of what is being plotted, and as
for me, I don't know where Annoucbka has gone. I have more to learn
from him than he has from me. Besides, as Athanase Georgevitch said,
one may regret not accepting the Head of the Okrana's pleasant

From six o'clock to seven he still waited vainly for Natacha's
response. At seven o'clock, he decided to dress for the dinner.
Just as he rose, a messenger arrived. There was still another
letter for Joseph Rouletabille. This time it was from Natacha, who
wrote him:

"General Trebassof and my step-mother will be very happy to have
you come to dinner to-day. As for myself, monsieur, you will pardon
me the order which has closed to you for a number of days a dwelling
where you have rendered services which I shall not forget all my

The letter ended with a vague polite formula. With the letter in
his hand the reporter sat in thought. He seemed to be asking
himself, "Is it fish or flesh?" Was it a letter of thanks or of
menace? That was what he could not decide. Well, he would soon
know, for he had decided to accept that invitation. Anything that
brought him and Natacha into communication at the moment was a thing
of capital importance to him. Half-an-hour later he gave the
address of the villa to an isvotchick, and soon he stepped out
before the gate where Ermolai seemed to be waiting for him.

Rouletabille was so occupied by thought of the conversation he was
going to have with Natacha that he had completely forgotten the
excellent Monsieur Gounsovski and his invitation.

The reporter found Koupriane's agents making a close-linked chain
around the grounds and each watching the other. Matrena had not
wished any agent to be in house. He showed Koupriane's pass and

Ermolai ushered Rouletabille in with shining face. He seemed glad
to have him there again. He bowed low before him and uttered many
compliments, of which the reporter did not understand a word.
Rouletablle passed on, entered the garden and saw Matrena Petrovna
there walking with her step-daughter. They seemed on the best of
terms with each other. The grounds wore an air of tranquillity and
the residents seemed to have totally forgotten the somber tragedy
of the other night. Matrena and Natacha came smilingly up to the
young man, who inquired after the general. They both turned and
pointed out Feodor Feodorovitch, who waved to him from the height
of the kiosk, where it seemed the table had been spread. They were
going to dine out of doors this fine night.

"Everything goes very well, very well indeed, dear little domovoi,"
said Matrena. "How glad it is to see you and thank you. If you
only knew how I suffered in your absence, I who know how unjust my
daughter was to you. But dear Natacha knows now what she owes you.
She doesn't doubt your word now, nor your clear intelligence, little
angel. Michael Nikolaievitch was a monster and he was punished as
he deserved. You know the police have proof now that he was one of
the Central Revolutionary Committee's most dangerous agents. And
he an officer! Whom can we trust now!"

"And Monsieur Boris Mourazoff, have you seen him since?" inquired

"Boris called to see us to-day, to say good-by, but we did not
receive him, under the orders of the police. Natacha has written
to tell him of Koupriane's orders. We have received letters from
him; he is quitting St. Petersburg.

"What for?"

"Well, after the frightful bloody scene in his little house, when
he learned how Michael Nikolaievitch had found his death, and after
he himself had undergone a severe grilling from the police, and
when he learned the police had sacked his library and gone through
his papers, he resigned, and has resolved to live from now on out
in the country, without seeing anyone, like the philosopher and
poet he is. So far as I am concerned, I think he is doing absolutely
right. When a young man is a poet, it is useless to live like a
soldier. Someone has said that, I don't know the name now, and
when one has ideas that may upset other people, surely they ought
to live in solitude."

Rouletabille looked at Natacha, who was as pale as her white gown,
and who added no word to her mother's outburst. They had drawn near
the kiosk. Rouletabille saluted the general, who called to him to
come up and, when the young man extended his hand, he drew him
abruptly nearer and embraced him. To show Rouletabille how active
he was getting again, Feodor Feodorovitch marched up and down the
kiosk with only the aid of a stick. He went and came with a sort
of wild, furious gayety.

"They haven't got me yet, the dogs. They haven't got me! And one
(he was thinking of Michael) who saw me every day was here just for
that. Very well. I ask you where he is now. And yet here I am!
An attack! I'm always here! But with a good eye; and I begin to
have a good leg. We shall see. Why, I recollect how, when I was
at Tiflis, there was an insurrection in the Caucasus. We fought.
Several times I could feel the swish of bullets past my hair. My
comrades fell around me like flies. But nothing happened to me,
not a thing. And here now! They will not get me, they will not
get me. You know how they plan now to come to me, as living bombs.
Yes, they have decided on that. I can't press a friend's hand any
more without the fear of seeing him explode. What do you think of
that? But they won't get me. Come, drink my health. A small
glass of vodka for an appetizer. You see, young man, we are going
to have zakouskis here. What a marvelous panorama! You can see
everything from here. If the enemy comes," he added with a singular
loud laugh, "we can't fail to detect him."

Certainly the kiosk did rise high above the garden and was
completely detached, no wall being near. They had a clear view.
No branches of trees hung over the roof and no tree hid the view.
The rustic table of rough wood was covered with a short cloth and
was spread with zakouskis. It was a meal under the open sky, a
seat and a glass in the clear azure. The evening could not have
been softer and clearer. And, as the general felt so gay, the
repast would have promised to be most agreeable, if Rouletabille
had not noticed that Matrena Petrovna and Natacha were uneasy and
downcast. The reporter soon saw, too, that all the general's
joviality was a little excessive. Anyone would have said that
Feodor Feodorovitch spoke to distract himself, to keep himself from
thinking. There was sufficient excuse for him after the outrageous
drama of the other night. Rouletabille noticed further that the
general never looked at his daughter, even when he spoke to her.
There was too formidable a mystery lying between them for restraint
not to increase day by day. Rouletabille involuntarily shook his
head, saddened by all he saw. His movement was surprised by
Matrena Petrovna, who pressed his hand in silence.

"Well, now," said the general, "well, now my children, where is the

Among all the bottles which graced the table the general looked in
vain for his flask of vodka. How in the world could he dine if he
did not prepare for that important act by the rapid absorption of
two or three little glasses of white wine, between two or three
sandwiches of caviare!

"Ermolai must have left it in the wine-chest," said Matrena.

The wine-closet was in the dining-room. She rose to go there, but
Natacha hurried before her down the little flight of steps, crying,
"Stay there, mamma. I will go."

"Don't you bother, either. I know where it is," cried Rouletabille,
and hurried after Natacha.

She did not stop. The two young people arrived in the dining-room at
the same time. They were there alone, as Rouletabille had foreseen.
He stopped Natacha and planted himself in front of her.

"Why, mademoiselle, did you not answer me earlier?"

"Because I don't wish to have any conversation with you."

"If that was so, you would not have come here, where you were sure
I would follow."

She hesitated, with an emotion that would have been incomprehensible
to all others perhaps, but was not to Rouletabille.

"Well, yes, I wished to say this to you: Don't write to me any more.
Don't speak to me. Don't see me. Go away from here, monsieur; go
away. They will have your life. And if you have found out anything,
forget it. Ah, on the head of your mother, forget it, or you are
lost. That is what I wished to tell you. And now, you go."

She grasped his hand in a quick sympathetic movement that she seemed
instantly to regret.

"You go away," she repeated.

Rouletabille still held his place before her. She turned from him;
she did not wish to hear anything further.

"Mademoiselle," said he, "you are watched closer than ever. Who
will take Michael Nikolaievitch's place?"

"Madman, be silent! Hush!"

"I am here."

He said this with such simple bravery that tears sprang to her eyes.

"Dear man! Poor man! Dear brave man!" She did not know what to
say. Her emotion checked all utterance. But it was necessary for
her to enable him to understand that there was nothing he could do
to help her in her sad straits.

"No. If they knew what you have just said, what you have proposed
now, you would be dead to-morrow. Don't let them suspect. And
above all, don't try to see me anywhere. Go back to papa at once.
We have been here too long. What if they learn of it? - and they
learn everything! They are everywhere, and have ears everywhere."

"Mademoiselle, just one word more, a single word. Do you doubt now
that Michael tried to poison your father?"

"Ah, I wish to believe it. I wish to. I wish to believe it for
your sake, my poor boy."

Rouletabille desired something besides "I wish to believe it for
your sake, my poor boy." He was far from being satisfied. She saw
him turn pale. She tried to reassure him while her trembling hands
raised the lid of the wine-chest.

"What makes me think you are right is that I have decided myself
that only one and the same person, as you said, climbed to the
window of the little balcony. Yes, no one can doubt that, and you
have reasoned well."

But he persisted still.

"And yet, in spite of that, you are not entirely sure, since you
say, 'I wish to believe it, my poor boy.'"

"Monsieur Rouletabille, someone might have tried to poison my father,
and not have come by way of the window."

"No, that is impossible."

"Nothing is impossible to them."

And she turned her head away again.

"Why, why," she said, with her voice entirely changed and quite
indifferent, as if she wished to be merely 'the daughter of the
house' in conversation with the young man, "the vodka is not in
the wine chest, after all. What has Ermolai done with it, then?"

She ran over to the buffet and found the flask.

"Oh, here it is. Papa shan't be without it, after all."

Rouletabille was already into the garden again.

"If that is the only doubt she has," he said to himself, "I can
reassure her. No one could come, excepting by the window. And
only one came that way."

The young girl had rejoined him, bringing the flask. They crossed
the garden together to the general, who was whiling away the time
as he waited for his vodka explaining to Matrena Petrovna the nature
of "the constitution." He had spilt a box of matches on the table
and arranged them carefully.

"Here," he cried to Natacha and Rouletabille. "Come here and I will
explain to you as well what this Constitution amounts to."

The young people leaned over his demonstration curiously and all
eyes in the kiosk were intent on the matches.

"You see that match," said Feodor Feodorovitch. "It is the Emperor.
And this other match is the Empress; this one is the Tsarevitch;
and that one is the Grand-duke Alexander; and these are the other
granddukes. Now, here are the ministers and there the principal
governors, and then the generals; these here are the bishops."

The whole box of matches was used up, and each match was in its
place, as is the way in an empire where proper etiquette prevails
in government and the social order.

"Well," continued the general, "do you want to know, Matrena
Petrovna, what a constitution is? There! That is the Constitution."

The general, with a swoop of his hand, mixed all the matches.
Rouletabille laughed, but the good Matrena said:

"I don't understand, Feodor."

"Find the Emperor now."

Then Matrena understood. She laughed heartily, she laughed
violently, and Natacha laughed also. Delighted with his success,
Feodor Feodorovitch took up one of the little glasses that Natacha
had filled with the vodka she brought.

"Listen, my children," said he. "We are going to commence the
zakouskis. Koupriane ought to have been here before this."

Saying this, holding still the little glass in his hand, he felt in
his pocket with the other for his watch, and drew out a magnificent
large watch whose ticking was easily heard.

"Ah, the watch has come back from the repairer," Rouletabille
remarked smilingly to Matrena Petrovna. "It looks like a splendid

"It has very fine works," said the general. "It was bequeathed to
me by my grandfather. It marks the seconds, and the phases of the
moon, and sounds the hours and half-hours."

Rouletabille bent over the watch, admiring it.

"You expect M. Koupriane for dinner?" inquired the young man, still
examining the watch.

"Yes, but since he is so late, we'll not delay any longer. Your
healths, my children," said the general as Rouletabille handed him
back the watch and he put it in his pocket.

"Your health, Feodor Feodorovitch," replied Matrena Petrovna, with
her usual tenderness.

Rouletabille and Natacha only touched their lips to the vodka, but
Feodor Feodorovitch and Matrena drank theirs in the Russian fashion,
head back and all at a draught, draining it to the bottom and
flinging the contents to the back of the throat. They had no more
than performed this gesture when the general uttered an oath and
tried to expel what he had drained so heartily. Matrena Petrovna
spat violently also, looking with horror at her husband.

"What is it? What has someone put in the vodka?" cried Feodor.

"What has someone put in the vodka?" repeated Matrena Petrovna in
a thick voice, her eyes almost starting from her head.

The two young people threw themselves upon the unfortunates.
Feodor's face had an expression of atrocious suffering.

"We are poisoned," cried the general, in the midst of his chokings.
"I am burning inside."

Almost mad, Natacha took her father's head in her hands. She cried
to him:

"Vomit, papa; vomit!"

"We must find an emetic," cried Rauletabille, holding on to the
general, who had almost slipped from his arms.

Matrena Petrovna, whose gagging noises were violent, hurried down
the steps of the kiosk, crossed the garden as though wild-fire were

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