The Great Samara
By E. Phillips Oppenheim
CATHERINE paused for a moment in her task, listened, rose to her feet and moved towards the window.
She was in a plain official-looking apartment, separated by a glass partition from many others upon the same floor. She might really have been working in the American office of some great mercantile undertaking. She was, as a matter of fact, on the top story of a building in a square of Moscow, given over to the Foreign Department of the Russian Government, and entitled Government Buildings. It was exactly fourteen months since she had arrived in Moscow from Monte Carlo.
Down in the square a crowd had gathered and through them marched, still in fours, but without attempt at military discipline, a long line of men in ordinary civilian clothes. Here and there, the spectators raised their hats; now and then came a wave of applause. As they passed the house at the corner of the square, which was Samara’s official residence, many of the marchers paused and looked upwards with something that was equivalent to a salute.
Andrew Kroupki, whom she had displaced as Samara’s secretary, on his way to his office, saw Catherine standing by the window, hesitated for a moment, then entered and crossed the room towards her. He had recovered from his illness but he had still the air of an invalid, tall and thin, with sunken cheeks, a mass of black hair—a typical visionary. She greeted him with a nod.
“What does it mean, Andrew?” she asked.
Before he could reply, Bromley Pride of the New York Comet had joined them, his keen, cleanshaven face alight with interest, restless as ever, swinging his tortoise-shell spectacles in his hand, apologizing for his cigar and pointing out of the window in the same moment.
“Pride knows more about it all than I do,” Andrew declared. “At any rate he is more up-to-date. I have been in Warsaw for three weeks —three dreary weeks,” he added, dropping his voice a little and glancing appealingly at Catherine.
“Is it really so long?” she observed, indifferently. “Well, that accounts for my having got a little behind the times. I have had your work to do as well as my own.”
“I know all about these fellows,” Pride declared, moving closer to Catherine’s side and pointing downwards. “They are the least of Russia’s Third Army. Yesterday they came up from barracks, marched over to the other side of the city, left their uniforms, were provided with civilian clothes, and now they are on their way to their jobs, wherever they may be. The last of a million men, Miss Borans! A wonderful piece of administration!”
/CATHERINE, standing between the two men, watched ^ the crowds with interest. There was a brief silence while they listened to the tumult of mingled shouting and cheering.
“It’s a fine view, this,” Pride continued. “It works in with the stuff I am writing. Do you know, Miss Borans, they sent me over here to see whether Samara could put this thing through—and he’s done it! There isn’t a statesman in our country or in Europe either who could have tackled the proposition. It isn’t much more than a year since he issued the first notice and came over to New York to borrow the money. Since, he’s just taken a million men from shiftless and unproductive idleness and got ’em all working like bees in a hive. If that isn’t a triumph, I’d like to meet one. I’m going to shake hands with President Samara to-night and tell him what I think of it.”
“Are you going to the banquet?” Catherine asked.
“I should say so!” was the emphatic reply. “I wouldn’t
miss it for anything. I’ve heard most of our own great speakers and a good many of the Englishmen, but Samara has them beat to a frazzle. I guess he’ll tell us to-night a few things that all Europe’s waiting to hear.” “And perhaps he will not,” Andrew Kroupki observed drily. “My master tells the world too much. He lays the cards too easily upon the table. It is magnificent but sometimes it is not diplomacy.”
“Please go, both of you,” Catherine enjoined, turning reluctantly from the window, and moving towards her desk. “I have the French President’s speech in the Chamber last night to translate for Mr. Samara and he wants it before this evening.”
“Make me a copy,” Pride begged. “I’ve only seen extracts and my French is ghastly.”
“You journalists are much too lazy,” she declared. “You’ll get it all in English to-morrow.”
“To-morrow’s no good to me,” Pride persisted. “Slip another carbon in your machine, Miss Borans. It won’t take you any longer. I’ll wait till you’ve finished and we’ll have a little dinner at the Savoy.”
Catherine shook her head.
“Impossible,” she regretted. “You forget that I am now officially recognized as Andrew’s assistant and in the position of private secretary to Mr. Samara. I couldn’t possibly be seen dining with an American journalist who is reputed to give pearl necklaces, motor cars or millions for news.”
“Bunkum,” he scoffed. “You’ve got another date.” “That may be,” Catherine sighed gently. “I am much
sought after. I’ll make you a copy of the speech Mr. Pride, but you mustn't take it. as a precedent. Andrew, please come in and see me before you go. 1 shall want you to take these notes to Mr. Samara.”
ANDREW made no direct reply beyond a little bow. The two men left the room together and paused for a moment in the main avenue of the floor. The journalist gazed around with an exclamation of admiration.
“Say, this is a live place,” he pronounced. “Might be a stock operator’s paradise in Chicago. What’s the kiosk at the far end with the open roof and the funnel?”
“Office to receive and decode private wireless,” Andrew explained.” They are in direct communication with the Intelligence Department on the floor below.” Pride gripped his companion by the arm tightly.
“Look here, young man,” he said, “I expect you’re wise to what I want to know. I’ve got to get my cable off in half-an-hour. Those Englishmen aren’t over here again for nothing. I want to give them an idea on the other side as to whether the President is going to speak about the Second Army to-night.”
“You should have asked Miss Borans,” Andrew replied. “She is preparing his notes.”
“I might as well have asked the Sphinx,” the other retorted impatiently. “That’s the worst of a woman. She doesn’t think— she obeys. It can’t matter a cent to any one whether I am in a position to say that the President is going to talk about it, or that he isn’t—but you can’t get that young lady to understand.” “You’ve tried her, then?” Pride shrugged his shoulders. “I did just mention it this afternoon,” he admitted. “Nothing doing.”
' I 'HERE was a sudden flash in his eyes and he remained where he was, looking through the glass partition into Catherine’s office. He saw her answer the telephone, replace the instrument, pick up a note-book, and move towards the door. He watched her pass along the passage until she reached the door of the room which Samara had entered. Ivan who was standing outside on guard, admitted her without question. All the time the American was studying his companion.
“Nor with me,” Andrew observed, shortly. “The Chief,” he exclaimed, in an altered tone. “If he speaks to you, you can ask him for yourself.”
The main door of the hall had been suddenly thrown open by Ivan Rortz, admitting Samara. Pride stood at attention respectfully, hoping for a salutation, but Samara passed every one with absolutely unseeing eyes. At the far end of the broad passage was a heavy oaken door. This, too, Ivan hurrying by his master, opened, and Samara disappeared into his private room. The American looked a little disconcerted.
“No luck!” he grumbled. “I’ll have to wait until tonight. For the greatest democrat in the world,” he went on, ruefully, “Samara is a perfect wonder at keeping us all just where he wants us.”
“The Chief does everything his own way and it is a good way,” Andrew declared. “He would never be able to stir a yard if he allowed every one to speak to him whenever they choose. Any one from any country in the world may obtain an audience with him in due course, but no one may speak to him or even recognize him without permission. That is the only way he is able to move about among us without trouble or hindrance. You’ll excuse me, Mr. Pride. I’ve some work which I must hurry on. I didn’t know that the Chief was expected to-day.”
“Say, Mr. Kroupki,” he observed, “I sometimes wonder whether you ever regret that month’s illness of yours in New York.”
It was a purposeful stroke, designed to bring about trouble of a certain sort. The young man’s dark eyes were black pools of anger now, his lips quivered. Nevertheless he spoke in a subdued tone.
“It had to happen,” he muttered. “It will not last.”
Without farewell Andrew Kroupki swung abruptly round and disappeared into his office. Pride stood for a moment looking after him. Then he, too, turned away and opened a door, over which was printed in white letters:—
SALON NO. II.
FOR ACCREDITED REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FOREIGN PRESS
“A tough job to get a pull here,” he soliloquized,throwing himself into a comfortable chair and lighting a cigar. “I’ve offered to immortalize Samara or marry the girl. There seems to be only Andrew left. What about Andrew, I wonder?”
Pride smoked steadily on, his eyes fixed upon the ceiling. He was face to face with the eternal problem of his profession. His own instinct had scented trouble and brought him to Moscow. He was perfectly convinced that there would be news enough and to spare before many months had passed, but news which was shared with rivals was to Bromley Pride no news at all. Catherine was hopeless, and Samara divulged only what he wished known. Complete failure was a condition, the possibility of which he never admitted. There was still Andrew— Andrew, impervious to bribes, impeccable at heart, but plunged suddenly into a maelstrom of passion!
“Crazy about the girl and madly jealous of her at the same time,” he reflected. “Something should come of the combination.”
Samara, that afternoon, was for some reason excited. He showed it in the manner peculiar to him, his cheeks were a little paler, his eyes seemed clearer and filled with sombre fire. He sat upright in his high-backed chair, his fingers drumming upon the table in front of him. He did not even light a cigarette, generally his first action when he called at Government Buildings after leaving the Duma. The box stood by his side unnoticed. All the time his fingers tapped, with an insistent sound, upon the table and his eyes asked Catherine questions.
SHE paused upon the threshold after Ivan had closed the door behind her.
Then she advanced a little further into the room. Finally she stood almost by his side, her hand resting upon the back of a chair.
“You sent for me,” she reminded him.
“Yes,” he answered. “Sit down.”
She resented his tone, as she frequently did, but in his present mood, obedience from others seemed to become automatic and inevitable. She sat down and, after a moment or two spent in turning over the pages of her note-book, looked enquiringly.
“Tell me about your people over here?” he demanded.
“My people,” she murmured.
“Yes,” he went on, impatiently. “The Grand Duchess Alexandrina Sophia of Kossas your much-to-beesteemed aunt, and Kirdorff the Mocovite, the selfelected champion of the young man who has left off selling bonds in New York and General Orenburg, the patriarch, and those two others—the young man who was trying to make an honest living selling automobiles, and his sister. They are all here, aren’t they?” “They are all here, now,” she admitted. “You, yourself, gave them permission to return. Nicholas came first and the others have followed him in relays.”
“Where did they get the money from?”
“Count Sabaroff—I might well, perhaps, call him Cyril, as he is my cousin—is doing exceedingly well selling Ford cars,” she announced. “His sister has started a milliner’s shop.”
Samara laughed shortly—not altogether pleasantly. “A touch of western democracy come to my capital,” he
observed, with an edge on his voice. “And the others?” “Well,” she hesitated, “I am not quite sure that I feel free to discuss their financial position with you, even.” “Don’t be foolish,” he protested. “They have become citizens of my Republic. I have the right to know all I choose about them—I and my ministers. There is curiosity in certain quarters as to their means of livelihood.” Catherine smiled at him. She was silent for a moment, thinking that she rather liked his appearance when he was inclined to be angry: his mouth, hard and dominant, his eyes with all .their kindness veiled, keen and insistent, his tone, the tone of a ruler.
“I think I shall tell you,” she decided. “It may put you in a better humor. They are being financed, by Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington.”
“What the devil do you mean?” he demanded.
“Well, it does sound rather extraordinary, doesn’t it?” she continued. “Almost like the plot of a musical comedy. There was a wonderful Englishman who lived about a hundred years ago-—Gilbert his name was—who would certainly have jumped at the idea. Nevertheless, it is true. Mrs. Bossington is one of those Western Americans, rapidly becoming extinct, to whom a title is as the hallmark of divinity. She advanced the money for every one to come back to Moscow, and settle down here.”
“On the chance, I suppose,” he suggested, swiftly, “that some day or other they might, under more beneficent legislation, regain their estates and be in a position to reward in courtly fashion their generous benefactor.” “Rather high-flown,” Catherine remarked, with a smile, “but still I have no doubt that it is a very fair analysis of what is in the back of Mrs. Bossington’s mind. So far as I am concerned I am glad that Andrew Kroupki’s illness gave me an opportunity of getting here without such aid. I strongly disapprove of the manner in which some of them—Nicholas Imanoff in particular—draw upon the Bossington exchequer.”
CAMARA stretched out his hand, took a cigarette from ^ the box and lit it. It was, for him, á good sign.
“Listen,” he said. “I am one of those men who like to move down the highway of life alone, but I am always open to advice of my counsellors, who speak to me freely whensoever they choose. Only this afternoon one of my ministers, just as I was leaving the Duma, called me into his room. He wished to consult me upon no less a matter than you.”
“That meddlesome policeman, I am sure,” Catherine sighed. “He dislikes me immensely. I had to take him over some reports for you only last week, and he seemed shocked to think that I should have been trusted to type them.”
“General Trotsk is no fool,” Samara pronounced. “He pointed out to me that having succeeded in crushing
Communism, there was yet one other danger—less a danger of to-day, I believe, than a danger in years to come—of which we must take account. There is no recognized imperialistic party at present but I’ve a shrewd idea that there’s one in embryo. Trotsk goes further than that. He believes that the party is already in existence, working chiefly in the great cities and in the Army, and assisted by German officers. Incidentally, he asked me, frankly, whether I thought I was wise in having for my trusted secretary a young woman who was in close association with the Imperial family of Russia.”
“I think I do the work very well,” she said. “Did you explain that you took me from the Weltmore Typewriting Bureau.”
“I did. Trotsk suspects that there was a design in your being sent to me.”
“Then Ivor Trotsk is wrong,” Catherine declared, firmly. “I was chosen entirely by accident, and, to be quite candid, I at first refused to come. If you think,” she went on, “that my family associations, of which you know more than any one, render me unfit, to be your secretary, send me away. Andrew Kroupki would be very glad so far as the work is concerned.”
“What do you mean by ‘so far as the work is concerned’?” Samara demanded.
She deliberated for a moment.
“I begin to think,” she confessed, “that notwithstanding your stony attitude towards me, I must be quite attractive to a number of male human beings. Andrew is very badly in love with me. I foresee that I shall have great difficulty with him.”
“Better tell him the truth about your identity,” Samara advised drily. “That will cure him.”
She shook her head.
“I am not at all sure that I wish him to be cured,” she observed. “Every well-brought-up girl expects to have at least one man in love with her. Did you send for me, Mr. Samara, merely to tell me of Ivor Trotsk’s suspicions, or is there any work I can do for you.”
“I wish to call upon your aunt,” Samara announced. “My car is at the door. Show me the way, if you please, to -where she is living.”
Catherine was a little startled.
“My aunt will be honored,” she said. “Do I understand that you expect me to accompany you?”
“Yes,” was the curt reply.
“While I put my hat on,” she suggested. “I wonder whether you would care to see Bromley Pride for a moment. He is aching for a word with you.”
“He can come in for three minutes,” Samara assented. “Do not keep me longer. Tell Ivan as you go out that he can be admitted.”
Catherine left the room a little thoughtfully. She knocked at the glass panelling of the office where Pride was sitting. He came out at once his cigar in his hand.
“I’ve earned that pearl necklace or whatever it was you hinted at,” she told him. “The chief will see you for exactlythree minutes. Don’t keep him any longer. We’re going out motoring together.”
Pride laid down his cigar and moved eagerly away.
“Say, I’m awfully obliged to you, Miss Borans,” he declared. “See you later.” He hurried off to the audience chamber as Catherine moved towards the telephone.
WHAT do you want, Pride?” Samara asked as the journalist entered. “Sit down unless you can talk quicker standing. You can stay for exactly three minutes.”
“Standing please,” was the prompt reply. “I’ve been looking into the streets. I saw the last of a million soldiers go their way. What about the others?”
“Read the report of the Peace Conference Wednesday week,” Samara suggested. “I am going to London to attend it.”
“I want to know beforehand,” the journalist rejoined eagerly. “My paper likes definite forecasts. I see those two Englishmen are over here again—Lord Edward Fields and Edgar Hammond. It’s their third visit. I guess
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there’s something doing this time. Can’t you put me wise, Samara, just a few hours before the others? We w'ant to be in the know—not to make absolute statements, but to prophesy—and then be right.”
‘‘Excellent from the point of your paper,” Samara observed drily. “It doesn’t happen to suit me. I can tell you nothing.”
“Not a hint?” Pride persisted.
“Not a hint. Understand from me now, please, that I have come to the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the Russian Republic for word of our projected plans to become public property until I give the signal. That’s final.”
“Nothing else for me?” he asked, a little wistfully.
“My God, man, what do you want!” Samara demanded. “Here you are, most favored of any correspondent in the world. You have seen to-day the passing of that first million. Can’t you write about that? Isn’t that dramatic enough for you? A million fire-eating monsters dissolved into thin air, a million sturdy self-respecting Russian peasants bending over their toil, earning food and dwellling and clothes and savings for their womenkind' and children? Feet on the earth, head to the skies, men, not puppets any longer! Go and write about it. Finished! Please tell Miss Borans, to wait in her office until I fetch her.”
Samara waved his visitor away. He never shook hands, seldom indulged in the ordinary amenities which passed between men. He spoke for a moment on the telephone, frowmed and laid down the instrument. Then he took up his hat and gloves, left his office and followed by Ivan, walked rapidly down the broad central passage. Catherine was waiting for him on the threshold of her own apartment. He motioned her impatiently to step back, entered and closed the door behind him.
“To whom have you been telephoning?” he demanded.
She looked at him for a moment with immovable face. Then she smiled faintly.
“To my aunt,” she replied.
“To tell her to be sure and see that there were hot cakes for tea,” she confided.
“You think that I believe that?” he exclaimed.
“Why not? It happens to be the truth,” she assured him.
CAMARA’S manner to older women possessed a charm ^ of which he seldom, in his general intercourse with the other sex, gave any indication. His bow to the Grand Duchess was the bow of a courtier; his few words of welcome were admirably spoken. For the first ten minutes no serious subject was mooted. It was Alexandrina herself who introduced another note. She was suddenly, deeply and intensely in earnest.
“Mr. Samara,” she said, “I should like you to know that in making possible this return to my own country, you have given an elderly woman the greatest happiness life could offer. I recognize the generosity of it. I wish to pay my tribute to it. It is not an easy thing for me to say to you, but I do say it—I thank you.”
Samara bowed gravely.
“Duchess,” he pronounced. “It is one of the theories of my life that every man and every woman, too, lives more naturally and to the best account in their native land.”
He paused for a moment but was obviously about to continue, when Colonel Kirdorff was announced, and immediately afterwards General Orenburg. They both welcomed Samara respectfully but perhaps with some measure of constraint. A few minutes later the latter rose to take his leave.
“My visit,” he explained, turning a little towards the newcomers, “was intended to be one of courtesy to her Highness. Since I have been fortunate enough to find you, Colonel Kirdorff, and you, General Orenburg, here together, let me make this further use of it. I want to say that I am happy to welcome you back to Russia. I am glad if I have been able to make your coming possible. So long as you all pursue the lives of Russian citizens—you General, and you Colonel, the army, and Your Highness as a Russian lady of society, you will, I am sure, find no one venture to interfere with you.
“But I rule not for myself but for my people, and I tell you frankly that my espionage system is good. If I wished I could not exclude you from its activities. I desire, therefore, to give you this warning. If by any chance any one of you should be discovered plotting against the State, the fact that I brought you here would count for nothing. If you enter into any conspiracy of any sort you will be discovered, and no representations to me would be of the slightest avail. I did not put you on parole when I asked you back. I did not do so purposely. I ask you even now for no promises. Live as you like and think well and shape your futures as you choose, but even though mine has the name of being a humane government, it has no mercy upon those who plot against it.”
There was a moment’s silence. No one seemed anxious to reply; Samara, looking round at their expressionless
faces found his mind wandering off to trifles. He realized that the room was small and over-heated and the atmosphere heavy with the perfume of musk. Alexandrina was wearing an unbecoming gown but some wonderful old jewellery. The two men had changed since the New York days. Kirdorff stood differently upon his feet, looked differently out of his eyes. The General seemed years younger. As Samara watched them, he was conscious that there was a mutual and silent understanding betweem all from which he was excluded. He glanced swiftly at Catherine. She, too, was in it. She was of them—belonged to them. He was a fool to hope even for her fidelity! In the end it was Alexandrina who spoke. There was a slight stiffness m her manner.
“Cne might conspire in New York,” she remarked. “In the salon of Mrs. Bossington perhaps,” he scoffed. “Your conspiracies there would very surely end in dreams, but to-day listen—there is a line which reaches even from this room, Madame la Duchesse, to the Headquarters of the Second Army at Odensk. I think if I were you I would snap the line.”
Again there was a tense silence in the little room. The two men stood like graven images. Alexandrina had picked up a paper fan, wielding it mechanically. Even Catherine seemed for a moment to have lost her savoir faire. With a curt little gesture of farewell, Samara took his leave.
DROMLEY PRIDE and Andrew Kroupki dined -*-* together that evening in the Savoy Grill Room— not the Savoy of the Strand but the Savoy of a certain street leading off one of the newly-developed boulevards in Moscow. It was a meal which distinctly lacked all the characteristics of a festival. No two personalities in all the city could have been so ill-attuned. Andrew was neurotic, almost neurasthenic, distracted at the same time by his passion for Catherine and his insane jealousy of her. Bromley Pride full of vigorous common sense, sane, healthy and indefatigable in his profession, saw life as a confirmed materialist, desired only the possible things and had scant sympathy with the emotional wear and tear to which his companion continually subjected himself. Nevertheless they ate and drank together and made conversation up to a certain point, like any other two men brought together in the daily affairs of life.
“One of the by-laws for which I suppose your President is responsible,” Pride remarked, tapping the menu which was printed in Russian.
“Why not? We are’ in Moscow. We like French food, we like French wines, but we want to take them as Russians, not as French people. A nation may be adaptive and appreciative, but must not be coalescent.” “I guess you’re right,” Pride admitted. “Russia’s a well-governed country to-day—a country with a definite identity. During the last ten years you have broken loose from the greatest danger any nation ever experienced. You have shaken off German thraldom and German influence.”
“Without warfare, too,” Andrew added eagerly. “By just discriminating legislation. The man who makes money in Russia out of Russian industries or Russian mineral wealth must spend his money here or face a different scale of taxation. We have had enough of foreigners tapping our supplies of wealth drawing off the profits and flitting to some other country.” “Does it ever occur to you,” Pride remarked “that you are gradually making an enemy of Germany?” “Better that,” his companion retorted, hotly, “than to be her tame monkey, ready to pull the chestnuts out of the fire when she gave the word. That is what we were under the Communists. Five years more of their Government and the Germans would have marched our armies from Russia to the French frontier and not a soul could have stopped them.”
“And now,” Pride observed, “it seems that you will soon have no armies to march anywhere.”
“Why should we need armies?” Andrew demanded. “Invasion of our country is no longer to be feared. The Peace Conference has tied most of the nations of the world hand and foot. Germany, through her own cunning, remains outside, but what would it profit her to cross our frontiers? Where would she strike, at what and with what object? The frontiers of France have been a brazen defiance to Germany for fifty years. All her coal fields, her manufacturing towns, her winegrowing districts, are there, like Naboth’s vineyard— a stone’s throw across the frontier for jealous eyes to gaze upon. We have nothing like that to offer the invader. A military establishment for us is a farce.”
“I heard Samara speak at Geneva,” Pride remarked drily.
His companion was unmoved.
“I plagiarize I know,” he admitted. “Why not? Who can repeat the words of a greater man?”
The restaurant was crowded; noisy with a babel of talk, blue-hung with cigarette smoke. In the distance a small orchestra was drowned by the volume of conversation. Most of the people were Russian, here and
there a few Germans, an occasional Englishman, a few Americans. Newcomers were still arriving. Pride was immensely interested in the passing of two distinguishedlooking young people, a short, dark young man and a young woman, a little taller, dressed in black, with a black picture hat and ermine wrap, a very graceful carriage, blue eyes with a roving tendency, and beautifully marked eyebrows.
“Amazing!” the journalist murmured. “I knew that young man in New York—he was trying to sell Ford motor cars. And the girl—why, she was in a Fifth Avenue milliner’s! What on earth has brought them to Moscow?” Andrew smiled.
“They are part of the great comedy,” he declared. “They own names as long as this menu. They are aristocrats of the Russia which has passed away. Yet you are quite right. The young man learned the automobile trade in New York and the girl, as you say, was a milliner’s assistant. One must live!—even the children of those who escaped from Russia with nothing but their lives.”
“What I can’t catch on to,” Pride confessed, “is what has brought them back to Russia? How do they live?” “They are back here at Samara’s invitation,” Andrew explained. “A whole nest of monarchists! The President has revoked all edicts of banishment except against anarchists. He maintains that every Russian is entitled to live in his own country and air his own opinions.”
“I guess he’s right,” the other acknowledged. “They’ll do no harm and there are not madmen enough left in the world to preach Czardom here.”
Andrew Kroupki shrugged his shoulders. He drained half the contents of his glass before he answered.
“How can one reckon on anything?” he demanded. “Two generations of education have scarcely altered the Russian peasant. He is still the same simple, faithful human being; seeking for something in the world or heaven to lean against—a Czar or a God or anything he can believe in. He isn’t dangerous like the German mob because you can’t appeal to his intellect. You can appeal only to his instinct and I am not so sure, as I should like to be, that his instinct for Czardom is dead. There are many people, even members of the Cabinet, who think that Samara is doing a rash thing in interfering with the Armies.”
“Precisely why?” Pride asked.
“For fear he should disturb some smouldering bonfires of royalist sentiment,” Andrew answered.
Pride was inclined to disputations.
“A cause,” he declared, “needs sinews; money, brains, enthusiasm. Who is there in the world who possesses these things likely to devote them to the overthrow of such a man as Samara or to placing the country once more under its old yoke? There’s no real danger?” Andrew threw some money on the table and rose abruptly.
“Let us go to the club, or a music hall, or somewhere,” he proposed. “The atmosphere of this place is stifling.”
' ■ 'HEY left the restaurant and passed along the broad thoroughfare thronged with human beings, hung with sky signs, a marvel of pulsating life. It was a warm evening and the open-air cafes were crowded. From the wide-flung doors, as the two men sauntered along, they heard the sound of music, occasionally the sharp pattering of feet of the professional dancers. Music halls and cinemas invited patronage. In the more dignified streets, through which they presently made their way, most of the larger theatres were situated, every one of which seemed able to display the warning notice—“House full.” Pride paused at the corner and looked back. A new sky sign, which was one of the wonders of the world, was flashing hieroglyphics upon the clouds.
“I have just finished reading a book on Moscow during the third year of the Communist rule,” he confided. “What a transformation! Your Samara is a great man, Andrew Kroupki.”
“He is one of the world’s greatest rulers,” was the reverent reply. “No one else could have drained the poison out of the country as he has done and then filled her with new and vigorous life.”
They stopped in front of the facade of a theatre. Automobiles were still setting down late arrivals. Pride glanced at the play-bill.
“A French comedy,” he remarked, “of the type of Edmond About. They sent me a box this morning. Shall we see it?”
Andrew Kroupki had been seeking for an excuse to break away from his companion, but before he could find one, Pride had led the way in. A young man dressed with such precision as to amount almost to foppishness was finishing a cigarette in the vestibule. He touched Andrew on the arm as he passed.
“I am forgotten, then?” he asked. “We were at college together, Andrew Kroupki.”
“Ivor Molsky,” the latter exclaimed. “I remember you well. But I heard—”
He stopped short. The young man smiled. He was
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rather a saturnine-looking person with an uncertain gleam in his eyes, and a restlessness of manner at variance with his immaculate appearance.
“Well, well,” he interrupted, “never mind what you heard. I am not so bad, Andrew. I have often thought about you and our talks. You serve a great master.” “None greater on earth,” was the fervent response. His friend smiled with
an air of tolerance. _
“Gabriel Samara is a genius,” he acknowledged,
“but he is like the others.
He is bound hand and foot, and the handkerchief is across his eyes. He has the will to go forward but the way into the light has not been shown him.”
AN ATTENDANT broke - in upon their conversation and ushered Andrew and his companion to a small box in the second tier, next to the one presently occupied by Molsky.
The theatre was unusually full and the performance was just commencing. Andrew drew his chair behind the curtains and sat a little gloomily in the background. Pride, on the other hand, leaned over the ledge and surveyed the house with interest. Nearly every one was in evening dress. It was an audience distinguished not only for its apparent opulence but for other and more pleasing qualities. Men and women were the study of Pride’s life. He realised without effort to what class of the community these people belonged.
“My God!” exclaimed he, in an undertone to Andrew.
“Your Russia is incredible.
Marvelous! All over the world, even in Spain, today, the money seems to have got into the wrong hands. You find the wrong people spending it. This is the only country which seems to be holding the balance and to be holding it without a court or aristocracy. These women with their pearls, and these men in their very correct evening clothes, they are not of the bourgeoise as we used to understand the word.
They are intellectuals.”
Andrew showed a momentary flicker of interest.
“It is the Chief,” he said. “Our tabulated taxes are a model for the world.
Inherited wealth is taxed first, commercial next, brains last of all. That accounts for what you see.
Even in England forty years ago they made ghastly blunders, taxed the
brain worker and the artist _
equally with the war profiteer. Nothing of that
here. Hence this audience of which you approve.” The play proceeded; clever and well received. During the interval Andrew touched his companion on the arm.
“My prince of journalists,” he murmured, a little satirically, “you have studied this audience so carefully and yet you have failed to notice the most interesting people here—the most interesting to you at any rate, with your journalistic instinct.”
“I confess it,” Pride acknowledged it. “I don’t recognize a soul.”
“In the box exactly opposite,” his companion pointed out. “The man with the grey moustache and the clean-shaven man. It is—don’t you recognize them? You must. One is Lord Edward Fields and the other is Edgar Hammond, the man who they say, will be the next British Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are members of the English Commission over to settle
finally the terms of this second British loan—if it comes off.”
Pride scrutinized the two men closely through the opera glasses, which he procured from an attendant. He sighed as he laid them down.
“If they had belonged to any other nationality in the world,” he said, “I’d have gone across to them and trusted my luck to get a word with them. A Britisher
on official business I simply daren’t face. Have they seen Samara yet?”
“Only unofficially,” Andrew r.eplied. “They meet the Cabinet to-morrow, and the Council in the afternoon.”
“The Council is Samara,” Pride remarked, drily.
“And why not?” was the prompt retort. “There is no brain in the world like Samara’s; no ruler like him. What does he want with a dozen inferiors, putting in their spoke? The best thing you can say of the Russian Cabinet is that it recognizes a pedagogue.”
THE curtain went up once more and the play was resumed to the interest and amusement of its audience, all unconscious of the drama to come. It was towards the end of the second act, in the middle of a tense scene between the principal actor and actress that the amazing thing happened. From the very next box
to that occupied by Pride and his companion, a man suddenly leaned out. His knee seemed to be upon the ledge of the box, his arm thrown almost, as Pride said afterwards, with the action of an American baseball pitcher. His shrill cry rang through the house.
“To hell with the foreign capitalist!”
Something black, about the size of an orange, travelled in an arc across the auditorium. The two men watched it with fascinated eyes. It seemed to them that the Englishmen had plenty of time to spring from their places. They remained seated, however, utterly unconscious of their peril. A shout rang through the building.
“A bomb! Beware!” The missile appeared to pass a little above the box at which it was aimed. As it struck the wainscotting there was a flash which seemed to shoot from the floor to the ceiling of the theatre, a roar and trembling of earth, the hiss of splintering wood, the dull crash of chairs and woodwork scattered in every direction. Pride sprang to his feet. Both men realised at the same moment that the bomb had been thrown from the next box. They dashed out. The box itself was empty, but, coming towards them, evidently headed in his flight, was Molsky, the man who had been its occupant and their neighbor. The change in his appearance was astonishing.
The sallowness of his face had turned to a distinct shade of yellow, his abundant black hair was no longer smooth, but seemed to have been caught by a tornado, his cynical mouth had parted, nothing remained of the almost meticulous precision of his toilet. As he came towardsthem, running with long, uneven footsteps, they could catch the glint of his yellow teeth, almost like fangs, the wild, destroying lust of his expression, filled, too, with a certain joy of the turmoil and roar of his work of destruction. On their right was an open window from which there was only a short drop on to the leads. It was obvious that he was making for it. Pride stood directly in his way. The man screamed something, lowered his head a little but too late. The American in his younger days had played half-back for Harvard. He was not a man to be passed. The fugitive seemed to realize the fact. He steadied himself.
“Let me go!” he shrieked. “This is not for you.” Then he met the impact of Pride’s fist and went down like a log. In a moment they were all upon him—attendants, police, and even members of the audience. It was simply a heap of passionate furious humanity, with little to be seen of the man underneath but a thin stream of blood across the corridor. In the box opposite one Englishman lay dead and another apparently dying.
“It is a pity,” Andrew Kroupki confessed, as the two men left the theatre half-an-hour later. “An event like this is nothing more nor less than a hideous anachronism. It will put us back among the nations a score of years.” “I shouldn’t say that,” Pride remonstrated. “The man was a fanatic. They exist in every community.” The younger man shook his head faintly.
“We were students together.” he declared. “Afterwards Molsky became a professor at our premier
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The Great Samara
Continued from page 30
university. No one could ever fathom what his political principles were. He hated all forms, of what he called ‘unauthorized rule,’ and he wrote some clever criticism of Samara and his attitude towards Communism. Yet the Chief would never have him touched. He called him his most intelligent critic —read everything he wrote, would have argued with him if he could.”
“A man of education,” Pride murmured. “It seems incredible!”
“There is no man in the world,” Andrew Kroupki pronounced deliberately, “so brilliant in his way, so well-read and so amazingly subtle as the modern anarchist. He derived his first nourishment from the brutalism of Lenin and Trotsky, was suckled on Marx and completed his education—God knows where!” “What will be his end?”
“Simple enough,” was the somewhat terrible reply. “The Chief has an enactment that any man found even handling a bomb is hung after a drumhead trial. If there is anything left of Molsky, he will be hung before eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”
ANDREW KROUPKI’S words were ■ in a sense prophetic. Molsky was hung, at dawn, on the following morning, and a few days later a hundred thousand Russians watched with bared heads the passing of the English statesman’s funeral. Edgar Hammond was in the hospital and some hopes of his recovery, had been held out. The echoes of Samara’s^ passionate denunciation, both of the crime and of the hideous code of thought from which it sprang, had reverberated not only through the country, but through Europe. The simple end of his peroration was always remembered:
“If you wish to kill senselessly,” he cried, “kill me. I walk the streets of Moscow day by day unprotected and unarmed. I stand for the things of which the men you have slain was only one link in the chain—I stand for the things themselves. Kill me and do not shame the oldest of the Russian virtues— hospitality.”
That night Samara walked unattended, save by Ivan, from the Duma to Government Buildings, and from Government Buildings to the presidential abode at the corner of the square. If any would-be avenger of Molsky’s shameful death had sought for his opportunity it was certainly freely offered to him. Samara, however, was unmolested. Nevertheless, Ivan groaned as the postern gate leading into the courtyard of his master’s home swung to after them. They had walked in leisurely fashion but the sweat stood out in dark beads upon his forehead.
“It is folly, master,” he exclaimed. “On an ordinary day, yes, but to-day with Molsky’s body still dangling from the gibbet there might be madmen abroad.”
Samara paused to light one of his cigarettes.
“I expected it, Ivan,” he acknowledged,
simply. “Yet what can one do? When strangers are slain by our people, one must face what may come. Bring me a brandy and mineral water into the library. I am beginning to be a coward.”
His old housekeeper, imported from the south of Russia a quaint survival of mediaevalism, in her black woollen gown, strange head-dress and dialectic speech, met him in the hall.
“There is a / woman, Master, who waits for you.”
Samara’s language, for a moment, though incomprehensible, was violent. The woman listened without change of countenance.”
“This woman would not be denied',” she continued. “The Master will understand when he sees her. I tried to send her away but it was not possible.”
Samara handed his coat and hat to Ivan, and walked with slow footsteps , across the marble hallway into the great library which was his official audience chamber. As he recognized the woman who rose to meet him he gave a little exclamation of surprise. There were , others who might have been there; he had never dreamed of this visit from C_atherine.
“I was at the Duma,” she announced, brusquely. “I heard your speech. There was something which I felt I must say to you.”
“Pray be seated,” he begged. “This is the first time you have honored my humble abode. Y ou must drink from my . samovar and smoke one of rny cigarettes.”
She was still in her working clothes, a little tired, apparently a little dispirited.
She accepted the easy-chair he wheeled up for her, drank tea and lit a cigarette.
“I should not be here without orders, of course,” she admitted, a little abruptly. “It’s a terrible breach of etiquette, I know, but sometimes I have no chance of speaking to you for days together, and they tell me you are going to London.”
“London!” he repeated bitterly. “London will probably have nothing to do with me after last night. They will say, what is the good of trying to help a country who cannot deal with her own - madmen?”
“England is not like that,” she answered gently. “She certainly is not to be intimidated. They will grant the loan.”
“What brought you here?” he demanded. “You must have had a reason for coming. You must have had something definite to say.” _
“Naturally,” she assented. “I had a definite object in coming to you. ‘I wish to give up my work.”
“To leave me?”
CATHERINE BORANS waited for Gabriel Samara to make some breach in the thick silence between them.
More than a year had passed since she, the monarchist, the princess of the old royal blood of Russia, the fiancee of the
last Imanoff, pretender to the old Czarist
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The G r e ; it Samara
Continued from page 63
throne, had come to Samara, democratic dictator of the new and rising Russia that he had built up after his conquest of Bolshevism, as secretary. Between them .strange things had been. His arms had been about her, his lips had been pressed to hers. Yet they were not, they could not, be lovers.
She admired him-, she conceded Ms greatness. Yet she was still a monarchist, her bethrothal to Nicholas, her. cousin, stood. Nicholas and others of the old regime had returned to Russia, with Samara’s amnesty as their protection. They had plotted; Nicholas, commissioned in the army, fought his benefactor. And now Catherine faced Samara, she had just told him she wished to give her work with him up.
“It was to be expected,” Samara said at last, slowly. “Your interests lie elsewhere. You wish to leave at once?”
“I draw my weekly pay,” she said. “You are entitled to a week’s notice. Accept it, if you please.”
“That is one,” he assented.
“I will now tell you,” she went on, “why I choose to go. You have apparently lost your faith in me. You have •conceived suspicions of my friends. It is possible that these are justified. I am •only partially in their confidence.”
She paused. He watched her steadily. “Finish,” he insisted. “There is more, I suppose.”
“To-morrow,” she continued, “you have ordered Andrew to come here for the day and send his machine. He is a bad typist, a worse stenographer and he hates all form of dictation. His work has lain along different lines.”
“Proceed, please,” Samara invited. “Andrew’s duties,” she pointed out, “have always been to act as your representative at committee meetings of the Duma. He is a sort of go-between with you and your ministers. He is the one person who enjoys your complete confidence. I do not complain, but when I came with you from New York it was as your confidential secretary. I have become your typist. Now that there is important work to be done even that is taken from me. I resign.”
“You will throw in your lot with your family?” he asked with a sneer. “You will exist on the bounty of Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington?”
Her eyes flashed angrily.
“That is ungenerous,” she exclaimed. “I consider the position of my aunt and some of her entourage as undignified in the extreme. It is ungenerous of you, however, to remind me of it.”
“Perhaps so,” he admitted. “As a matter of fact, I am angry. I do not wish to lose you.”
“You are very gracious,” she murmured.
Ivan entered, after ponderous knocking and asked his master a question. Samara nodded.
“I dine here,” he declared. ' “Have dinner served for two, in an hour’s time.” “For two?” she repeated, questioningly. “You will dine with me,” he said, curtly. “It shall be either our farewell— or a celebration.”
“A celebration of what?”
“Of a better understanding,” he answered, with a faint softening of those lines at the corners of his mouth.
She lazily removed her hat and smoothed out her hair.
“I shall dine with you as I am,” she announced. “I am untidy and my head aches. This mechanical work depresses and fatigues me. I should like to go home and put on a pretty frock, but I have not the energy.”
He seemed suddenly changed, infinitely more human, responsive to her altered attitude.
“As you sit there, or should I s*ay, recline?—it seems to me that no change in your appearance could be for the better,” he assured her.
She glanced at him in half-pleased surprise.
“A compliment?” she exclaimed.
He shook his head.
“A compliment implies a certain deviation from the truth,” he observed. “I meant what I said. Now I will deal with your compliment and offer you an explanation. I have an important document to draw up to-morrow. I was proposing to take only Andrew into my confidence for one reason, and one
reason only. Trotsk and some others suspect you of Imperialistic sympathies. I, alone, know the truth about you. You are day by day subject to the influence and persuasions of your family. I do not consider it fair to you, yourself, that you should be in possession of information which they would give their souls to acquire, especially—”
She took advantage of his pause.
“It is for what comes after _ that ‘especially’ that I wait,” she told him.
“Especially,” he concluded, “as you have not yet declared yourself as between me and Nicholas Imanoff.”
“I realize your problem,” she admitted. “I am glad that you have been frank about it.
“Perhaps you have a pronouncement to make,” he suggested.
“I wish I had,” she replied. “I can at least be truthful. All my life I have prayed for the return of Czardom to this ■ country. That, I suppose, is in my blood.
. I have looked upon you with respect because you delivered Russia from the yoke of the Bolshevists, because you : have evolved at least a sane form of ; republicanism, but I have looked upon * you at the same time as a stumbling , block in our way.”
“Your candor,” he declared, “is most attractive. Pray continue.”
“I am trying to let you into the back of my mind,” she went on, thoughtfully. “I am a daughter of Czardom and a belief in monarchial government is in my blood but I am also a daughter of Russia. Every spare minute since I returned I have devoted to studying your system of government, seeking justification for it. I am not clever; I often wish I were. I have not even a knowledge of history to guide me. Of one thing, however, I am still convinced, that there is exceedingly little difference between a beneficent Czardom and the Government of to-day.” “Absurd!” he scoffed. “The present government of Russia is the most democratic in the world.”
“And the most autocratic,” she retorted coolly: “It is you who rule Russia.”
“By the mandate of the people,” he reminded her.
“Nothing of the sort,”'she objected. “The people elected a republican government. You traveled according to your decree. What has your cabinet or even your inner council to do with the government of Russia? Nothing! You are an autocrat more supreme than any Czar who ever lived.”
“I make no comment on what you say. Whither does it lead?”
“To this,” she replied. “If Russia is to be ruled by one man, why not a Czar? The Royalists have learnt their lesson. An Imanoff has more right' upon the throne than you.”
“Nicholas Imanoff,” he jeered. “You would put him in my place?”
She was a little disconcerted, laut she did her best to conceal the fact.
“Nicholas would never assume such powers as you have done,” she replied. “He would govern through his ministers. If you remained a patriotic Russian you would probably be one of them.”
“I am cheaper than a czar,” he pointed out. “I do not cost the state even a modest million a year, nor do I—”
He broke off in his speech. His housekeeper was standing upon the threshold gazing expectantly towards Catherine.
“My housekeeper will show you where to rearrange your hair, if you really think that it needs it?” he said, courteously. “With your permission, I will not change my clothes. Shall we meet here in twenty minutés? You shall tell me, then, whether I can qualify as a bartender when the Royalists have driven me out of Russia.”
She made a little grimace over her shoulder as she left the room; a quaintly human touch which seemed to lessen at once the strain of their relations. He stood with his fingers upon the bell, listening to her departing footsteps.
THE simplicity of Samara’s life was typified in the dinner which was presently served. The house itself was an old palace of the Grand Duke Nicholas, sacked by the Bolshevists in nineteen seventeen, occupied by Lenin for some time during his stay in Moscow, and finally transformed into the official dwelling house of the chairman of the
council, sometimes called President of the Russian Republic. Little remained of its former splendor, except its architectural proportions and the tapestryladen walls of the room in which they sat. Dinner was served at one end of a long, mahogany table, the greater part of which remained uncovered. The only illumination in the room was that afforded by wax candles. Ivan waited behind his master’s chair, and a single man-servant was the other attendant. The dinner itself was plain but excellent, the champagne exceptional in age and quality.
“I am free to confess that I am no longer tired,” Catherine observed as she sipped her wine. “It was wonderful that you should have been alone. One fancies you always doing something official at night.”
“There was a banquet to the Englishman,” he told her. “That had to be cancelled of course.”
He turned and gave Ivan a few rapid orders. The cloth disappeared as though by magic. Coffee, fruit and liqueurs alone were left upon the table. Even Ivan presently withdrew. Catherine was conscious of a little thrill—she scarcely knew whether of excitement or apprehension when she realized, not only that they were alone, but that they were alone with certain things yet to be said.
“So you want to leave me, Catherine Borans?” he remarked.
He had pushed his chair around, and crossed his legs, so that they were almost side by side. The chairs themselves were relics of ancient magnificence, with huge black oak backs and upholstered in worn rose-colored damask. Looking at him as he went forward to light his cigarette Catherine felt herself compelled to halfreluctant admiration. The wine which he had drunk freely had brought little more than a faint flush of color to his cheeks, his eyes were bright and full of clean fire, his mouth, as usual, incomprehensible. She found herself wondering what it would look like if ever he should by chance speak tenderly.
“It is better that I leave you,” she said, “since I no longer possess your full confidence.”
“Are you worthy of my full confidence?” he asked.
“So far I have never abused it,” she answered.
“For that very reason,” he admitted, “I owe you frankness. You shall continue to have it. If you had studied the history and philosophy of government you would understand the truth of what I am going to tell you. All the beneficent legislation of the world is effected by moderate government, but a government, even though it brings a country from the slough of despond to the fields of paradise cannot exist forever. The desire in an electorate is an inevitable and ineradicable instinct. Before many years are gone, I and my government will disappear. To which extreme will Russia swing? Back to communism-cumanarchy, or in the other direction towards monarchy?
“There is a fear of both. That is why, I, who theoretically hate all such things keep up a wonderful secret service. I watch the anarchists and I watch your friends. Your friends, here at my invitation, are already conspiring. Both of the men to whom I gave posts in the army are already at work with royalist propaganda. Both of these are your relatives. For whom are you, Catherine Borans, for them or for me?”
“I am a monarchist,” she said proudly, “but it does not follow that I should betray your trust.”
“The work which I have summoned Andrew Kroupki to do with me to-morrow,” he went on, “concerns the future of Russia’s two remaining armies, deals with the matter of the new conscription, and would be full of the most amazing interest to your relatives. They would read my proclamations before they were issued and be prepared with contrapropaganda. They would also learn the means I am taking to prevent serious trouble. You still wish to do work?”
“If I am to remain your secretary,” she answered with a certain, unaccustomed doggedness.
“You will be here at nine o’clock tomorrow morning, then,” he directed. “You will take a taxi-cab first to Government Buildings and collect your machine, both code books, and instruct Peter Tranchard, the head of the private printing department, to be prepared for important work during the afternoon.
You will be engaged here for the whole of the day. May I take it now that your notice is withdrawn?”
“If you wish,” she answered, a little wistfully. “But are you sure you still desire to keep me? Other people, if they knew who I was, would feel the same as General Trotsk. You would be considered very indiscreet to have a secretary with such connections.”
He poured himself out some liqueur brandy and held the glass between his hands for a moment.
“Indiscreet,” he repeated. “Yes, there is indiscretion, in keeping you near me, Catherine Borans, but indiscretion of another sort.”
She gave a little sigh of content. Her eyes challenged him.
“This sounds more interesting,” she murmured. “Please go on.”
“There is nothing further to tell you except this,” he replied coldly, “the indiscretion consists in the fact that you áre the only woman whom I have ever met who could keep my thoughts turned away for a moment from the things that count. A coward would send you way. You see I have faith in myself.”
“More interesting than I had ever dared to hope,” she exclaimed. “Have you never really cared seriously for any woman, then?”
“Never,” he assured her fervently. “You are the only one against whom I have ever had to steel myself. The only one who has ever made me feel that there are lonely hours in a man’s life.”
“You were feeling like that, I suppose,” she observed quite calmly but with the ghost of a tremulous little smile at the corners of her lips, “the night you kissed me on the steamer.”
FOR a moment she was afraid. She called back the challenge from her eyes, but it was too late. She lost all her senses in a wave of turmoil, of impotent resistance to the torrent of passion which surged about her. The perfume of the roses which decorated the table remained
in her thoughts for years afterwards.....
Just as she felt his arm around her absolutely without warning, so, in the same fashion, she saw him a moment or two later leaning back in his high-backed chair, gazing at her with steady but burning eyes.
“As your host I have transgressed,” he admitted, “but I have the great excuse. If you had been any other woman and I had been any other man, I should have been your lover.”
He lit a cigarette and smoked furiously. Twice she opened her lips and said nothing. The third time she spoke.
“But you are Samara,” she murmured, her eyes swimming in the softness of incredible things, “and I am Princess Catherine of Imanoff. Well?”
He rose to his feet, almost with a bound, passed behind her chair and before she could imagine what he meant to do, was standing on the hearthrug, his finger pressed to the bell. It was answered almost immediately by Ivan.
“An automobile for Miss Borans,” Samara ordered.
The man bowed low and departed closing the door behind him. Catherine looked across at her host, still standing upon the hearthrug, and laughed softly. “Dismissed,” she sighed.
“Would you be willing to pay the price of staying?” he asked bluntly.
The laughter passed from her face. Some part of the wave of emotion which had driven him from her side, suddenly surged up in her. Whether it was love or hate she scarcely knew. For the first time in her life she felt herself dominated.
“The President of the Russian Republic,” he began, hoarsely, “even though it were his desire could never—”
“Is it his desire?” she interrupted, with a sudden wild hatred of those heavy footsteps in the hall.
The door was thrown open. Ivan, tall and massive, stood to attention.
“The automobile awaits,” he announced.
“Not later than nine o’clock in the morning, if you please, Miss Borans,” Samara said, bowing his farewell.
She left the room slowly, the room which seemed strewn with fragments of a dream. She followed Ivan down the hall and nodded good-night to him carelessly, as she stepped into the automobile. As she drove across the square and came within hearing of the night-hum of Moscow—a medley, it sounded to her, of strange music and hurrying footsteps
she found herself suddenly thinking of Sadie Loyes, and the Hotel Weltmore Typewriting Bureau. It was like an anti-climax to her emotions. She began to laugh softly.
ALEXANDRINA breathed a sigh of ■relief. She was entertaining an unexpected visitor whom she had found a little difficult.
“At last,” she exclaimed, as Catherine entered. “My dear child, what extraordinary accident has detained you. We have telephoned to Government Buildings and every place we could think of. You have met General von Hartsen, I believe.”
The General bowed low and raised Catherine’s fingers to his lips.
“In Monte Carlo,” he murmured. “It gives me the greatest pleasure, Princess, to renew our acquaintance.”
Catherine glanced around the room, conscious of an acute sense of mental fatigue, a desire for an impossible seclusion. Kirdorff was there and Cyril Sabaroff, the former in uniform, but if there had been other guests, they had all departed. She sank a little wearily into an easy-chair. She was the only one in morning dress and she was sensible somehow of a complete lack of sympathy with the little coterie gathered around her aunt’s table.
“I was working late,” she explained, with perverse candor, “and I stayed to dine at Government House.”
General von Hartsen was interested. “Does your work, Princess,” he enquired, “still lead you into direct association with Gabriel Samara?”
“At times,” Catherine admitted. “I dined with him to-night. I am working with him at Government House, tomorrow.”
There was a moment’s silence.
“At Government House,” Kirdorff repeated, thoughtfully.
Catherine nodded. Her questioner moved a little nearer towards her.
“Have you any idea as to the nature of the work?” he ventured. “I ask, because we have information.”
Alexandrina intervened, with a wave of the hand.
“My dear Kirdorff,” she complained, “you think of one thing, and one thing only. We admit your zeal, and we quite understand that Catherine’s intimate association with Government work just now may prove of great benefit to our cause. At the same time we would ask you to remember that General von Hartsen’s mission is of the first importance with us at the present moment.” “Has General von Hartsen a mission?” Catherine enquired, a little flippantly. ‘‘Tell me, General,” she went on, “how is that very hot-headed young charge of yours who followed me to London? You will have trouble with that young man when he grows up.”
The General stiffened.
“Princess,” he begged, “may I ask for your serious attention to what I have to say?”
“Frankly, I could not promise it,” was the unexpected reply. “I am sleepy and my nerves are all tangled. What about to-morrow, General? I feel, somehow, or other, that to-morrow I shall be a different person. You are not hurrying away from Moscow, I hope.”
“That depends upon you, Princess,” he answered, gravely. “My mission here, is to lay a certain proposal before you.” “Not the same proposal as before, I trust!” Catherine exclaimed.
The General frowned.
“Princess,” he said, “the circumstances and conditions under which I now approach you are entirely different. I asked you then to accept in marriage the suit of a German nobleman of royal descent, whose future was of no great account in the world. To-day I am here to beg for your hand in marriage to Prince Frederick of Wehrenzollern, who,
I pledge you my word, before twelve months have passed will be crowned Emperor of Germany.”
“Matrimonially,” Catherine murmured, “my destiny seems to lead me to high places. Have you not been informed, General, that I am already as good as betrothed to Prince Nicholas of Imanoff, the future Czar of all the Russias?”
“It is_ upon that point that I desire to speak with you, Princess,” was the earnest reply. “We Germans, if I may say so, are in the last lap of our struggle towards monarchy. The people are only waiting for a word and they will lift the roof off
the Reichstag with their cheering. The present parliament is due to be dissolved in two months’ time. The Government will then resign and not a single other statesman will attempt to form a fresh one. The President who is also resigning will send for Prince Frederick. He will make an announcement. You may hear the roar of German voices even to your frontier.”
“Very interesting,” Catherine admitted, “but do I understand that the object of your mission here is seriously to revert to the subject of a marriage between myself and Prince Frederick.”
“Dear and gracious young lady,” Von Hartsen continued, “the matter now rests upon the entirely different basis. The road to monarchy in Russia will be a long and arduous one in any case. The aid of Germany is the only thing which may shorten it by a span of years. As Kaiserin of Germany you will be able to do more for the cause of monarchy in this country than if you remain the betrothed of Prince Nicholas of Imanoff.” “Plausible,” Catherine agreed, “but scarcely convincing. What has Nicholas to say to this?”
“Prince Nicholas,” Kirdorff intervened, stepping forward, “was consulted before General von Hartsen left Berlin. He is deeply sensible of the potency of the General’s arguments. The royalist cause will gain nothing outside Russia by the inter-marriage of yourself and Prince Nicholas. You will, indeed, be looked upon doubtfully. Marriage between first cousins here is not too popular—especially after a decade of Soviet rule. Your marriage with Prince Frederick on the other hand, would enable you to ensure the return of the monarchy to this country. Prince Frederick has pledged his word to make this a charge upon his conscience if you should accept his offer.”
ALEXANDRINA, who had been
watching her niece a little anxiously, motioned her to her side.
“My dear,” she said, “I am aware that this suggestion must have taken you completely by surprise. I quite appreciate the fact that you have not had time to think seriously about Frederick as a possible husband. You would furthermore consider yourself bound in honor to conclude your alliance with Nicholas. Nicholas, however, has had a very plain hint dropped to him. He has signified his intention to listen to reason.”
“In other words, Nicholas is agreeable to the transfer,” Catherine remarked.
“It is for the good of his country,” Kirdorff reminded her. “Nicholas is above all things a patriot.”
“At the same time,” Catherine pointed out, “this trafficking in my affections seems a little sordid. Nicholas, it appears, is content to do without me. I have, in other words, regained my liberty. I insist upon spending the night in that state. To-morrow, I shall interview General von Hartsen at the earliest possible moment.”
Alexandrina turned towards the frowning ambassador with an ingratiating smile.
“My niece’s attitude appears to be correct, General,” she said. “You must not be over-zealous on account of your young master. Lunch with us here tomorrow.”
“Dine,” Catherine put in softly. “I shall be away all day.”
“Dine with us here to-morrow night, then,” the Grand Duchess invited, “and my niece shall be prepared.”
Von Hartsen rose a little unwillingly to his feet.
“I should have preferred to have telephoned favorable news at once to my august young friend,” he confessed. “You will forgive my pointing out once more that the position he is able to offer his wife is absolutely and entirely unique. However, I am at her Highness’s disposition.”
“I shall -have made up my mind by dinner-time,” Catherine promised. “It really is quite an important matter to me, you know.”
“It is of vast importance to all Europe,” the General sighed. “On the other hand, I cannot imagine where hesitation could arise.”
Catherine smiled cryptically.
“Perhaps not,” she admitted, “but then you see you have to do with a woman. I am not sure that I should not find the Court life at Berlin a little irksome.”
“You, Princess,” the General declared, “would be the Court. It would be for you to set its tone. It is not for me to remind you that the lives of people even in the highest places have their relaxations at which even the historian can only guess.”
He made his ceremonious farewells. They all waited until the door had closed behind him. Then a buzz of conversation started.
“My dear,” her aunt told Catherine, confidentially, “Nicholas has gone further in self-denial than we permitted General von Hartsen to know. He abnegates his wishes with joy. A friendly monarchy established at Berlin would assure our own triumph.”
“There is not the slightest doubt that the German people are aching for their Kaiser,” Cyril Sabaroff observed. “Frederick can scarcely walk the streets in comfort nowadays.”
“Every illustrated paper has his picture,” the Grand Duchess added. “You can read of his doings every day.”
“And every newspaper has anecdotes about him,” Kirdorff concluded. “He is easily the most popular young man in Europe, to-day.”
“I am very much flattered,” Catherine pronounced, “and very sleepy. Tomorrow I will make up my mind whether I shall be Kaiserin of Germany or Czarina of Russia or—”
There was a long pause. Rose Sabaroff at last interposed:
“Or what, Catherine?”
Catherine looked back from the door towards which she had made her way-.
“Or return to the Weltmore Typewriting Bureau and my American independence.”
CATHERINE came face to face with Andrew Kroupki as she was leaving her office in Government Buildings at an early hour on the following morning. He stood in the door way, blocking her exit and his expression was menacing. She realized at once that there was to be trouble.
“One word with you, if you please, Miss Borans,” he insisted.
She gave way and he closed the door behind him, confronting her with a spot of angry color burning in his cheeks, wild-eyed and almost inarticulate.
“It is unbelievable,” he exclaimed. “You must not go to the Chief to-day. Stay here, and I will make your excuses.” “What do you mean, Andrew?” she asked, coldly. “I am directed to report myself at Government House before nine o’clock. Of course I must go.” “You must have begged for the work,” he continued, his tone trembling with agitation. “It is not right that you should have it. It is not safe. It is a wicked thing.”
“A.ndrew, you are not yourself,” she said gently, almost kindly. “Surely you know that I must obey orders.”
“Orders! The Chief must be mad,” he cried. “A. moment’s indiscretion with regard to to-day’s work and a terrible situation might arise. You are not of us. You are not for the people of Russia. You are for those who are already beginning to plot against us.”
“That is absurd,” she told him. “You must not talk to me so, A.ndrew. I have never yet failed in my trust, wherever my sympathies may lie. Besides, it is not for you to interfere. It is your master who speaks the word.”
He shook for a moment, as though seized with an ague.
“You dined with him alone, last night,” he cried hysterically. “What was the argument you used to bring him to folly?”
“I have been very patient with you, A.ndrew,” she said, with a warning flash in her eyes. “But I am. reaching my limits. Perhaps if you desire to preserve my esteem you had better stand on one side.”
“I think,” he sobbed, “that I would rather dig my fingers into your white throat and wring the life out of you than let you go to Samara to-day.”
Sympathy once more chased the anger from her mind. It was obvious that he was unstrung, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
“You are very foolish, A.ndrew,” she declared. “The work of to-day is better done by me. You are a very bad typist and you are very slow with the new code. It is natural that the Chief should send for me. There are many matters of
graver importance, I am sure, that hewould leave in your hands.”
Her kindness seemed only to throw fresh fuel on the fire of his anger. Shesuddenly realized 'that she was in actual physical danger. They were alone on the floor of the great building. No onearrived at their offices until nine o’clock and the cleaners had departed. She moved a little towards the telephone, but he seemed to apprehend her purpose and blocked her passage.
“It is false,” he almost shouted. “He has lost his head. There is nothing more vital to the State than the scheme which he is to confide to you, to-day. He has lost his head. You have bewitched him as you have done me—Samara to whom women have been but playthings—the idlest of all his diversions!”
“You are becoming absurd,” she said quietly. “Be so kind as to let me pass.”' He shook his clenched fists in the air. His appearance was veritably tragic. Every moment he was more completely losing control of himself.
“You must answer my question or I think that I shall kill you,” he gasped. “You know very well what it is. You could have saved me this torture. Is Samara your lover?”
CATHERINE looked at him steadfastly for a moment, looked at his longnarrow face with its high cheek bones, his lips trembling like a woman’s, at his eyes from which all the kindly dreaminess had gone. It seemed to take her a few seconds to realize the actual meaning of his words, but when she did, the strain of inherited savagery which had made for purity amongst the women of her race and bravery amongst the men, leaped into fire in her veins. Her physical strength itself seemed to swell.
With her outstretched hand, she struck Andrew Kroupki a blow on the side of the face with such unexpected force that he staggered back half-dazed, blood already commencing to flow from the place where her ring had bitten into his flesh. Before he could recover himself she had gone. To his reeling senses the slam of the door, the click of her heels upon the polished floor, were full of evil portent.
She made no excuses when she arrived at her destination, though Samara was manifestly impatient. Their meeting of the night before seemed to belong to another world. Never, for a single moment did he depart from the role of exacting and conscientious employer. He did not even trouble to present to her Adolph Weirtz, the Semitic brilliant Minister of Finance, who was present, but plunged at once into their work. At eleven o’clock Weirtz left. At one o’clock her fingers began to stumble. He looked at her sharply.
“What is the matter?” he asked curtly. “Do you need luncheon?”
“I do not think that I need it any more than any one else would,” she replied. “Something of the sort is usual. Probably you would have noticed, yourself, that it is past one o’clock if you had breakfasted at seven and if you had not had the resources of your sideboard.”
He suddenly and unexpectedly smiled. “Touche,” he confessed. “I am a selfish brute.”
He rang the bell and gave Ivan a brief order. Then he crossed to the sideboard, concocted a strange ambercolored drink which he forced upon her and pushed cigarettes to her side. He himself had been smoking a huge pipe most of the morning.
“At four o’clock,” he confided, “the other two members of the Council will be here to approve. So much for my autocracy which you were talking about.” “And if they disapprove?” she asked. “The proclamation will be issued just the same,” he declared, with a sudden note of belligerency in his tone.
She laughed quietly, a relaxation which a moment or two later he found himself sharing. Afterwards he became almost apologetic.
“The principle is already decided upon by the Cabinet,” he explained. “There can be no objection to anything except detail, and so far as that is concerned. I am more likely to be right than any of them. You gathered that Weirtz was against the whole thing.”
“I tried not to listen,” she replied. “I gathered that he was disapproving.” “He looks upon the army as our sole refuge against two smouldering factions of the community—the Royalists and the
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Anarchists,” Samara expounded. “He agrees that the anarchist influence to-day is negligible but he has an absurdly exaggerated idea of the significance of the royalist movement.”
“So you admit that there is a royalist movement?” she asked him, curiously.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh, I suppose so,” he assented.“They’re making noise enough, at any rate. To return to Weirtz. He thinks that the period of interregnum between the disbanding of the armies and the establishing of a citizen force will be a period of danger. I disagree with him. The idleness of a standing army makes it a constant menace; usually a hotbed for intrigue and conspiracy. They’re hard at it now down there. They think I don’t know, but I do. Your friend Kirdorff, a cold-blooded, brainy schemer; Orenburg—less brains but more courage. They took their commands willingly enough and drew their pay, and began to plot the next day. I’ve no great fancy for your friends, Catherine Borans.”
“Why should you have? They look at life differently. They follow other gods.”
“Eat your luncheon,” he invited, as soon as Ivan had finished setting the table. “We must start work again directly. You must have some of this goulash. I never imagined I was hungry. Ivan, some Rhine wine, and tumblers. Have you seen Andrew to-day?”
“I saw him at Government Buildings,” she replied. “He was very angry and very rude.”
“He doubts my wisdom in giving you this work,” Samara confided. “He is quite right from his standpoint of view. No one would do it unless it were someone like myself whose life was governed by instinct and not reason.”
“Andrew would never understand that.”
“I am sorry for him,” Samara declared, abruptly. “He is jealous of you and at the same time he is in love with you— a painful condition of mind for a highly strung and extraordinarily susceptible young man.”
“Were you insensible to all human weaknesses when you were young?” she asked.
“I? No!” he answered. “I had my fits of weakness and I yielded to them, when I chose, but they never formed part of my life. They were the rest hours in the night. They helped one to draw breath for the morrow. It is these romantic youngsters who seek to weave their follies into the web of durable things who are to be deplored. Ivan, some coffee,” he ordered. “A cigarette, Catherine Borans. Now let us start. I have a new vision.”
AT FOUR o’clock Samara read the - result of his day’s work to Weirtz, his Minister of Finance, Argoff, the Minister of Home Affairs, and General Trotsk, the Chief of the Police. In an inner room Catherine sipped Samovar and listened. From the beginning she was conscious of the attitude of deferential opposition existing amongst Samara’s colleagues. Argoff was the first spokesman.
“Sir,” he said to Samara, “you have faithfully embodied in these proclamations and directions, the decision of the Cabinet as arrived at last Thursday. We three were in a hopeless minority then; we are in a hopeless minority now. I personally look upon the action you propose to take as fraught with the greatest danger to the future of the Republic.”
“And you, Weirtz?” Samara asked.
“I agree with Argoff,” was the unhesitating reply. “The disbanding of the Third Army was sound and brilliant legislation. To go further in the same direction would, I think, expose the country to unnecessary dangers.”
“What have you to say, my General?” Samara concluded.
General Trotsk, a thin, grey man, with face of a sphinx, was in reality the most discomposed of the three, although he did not betray it.
“Gabriel Samara,” he said, “before you came into power there were those who called you a visionary. You have silenced your critics in the establishment of what might well become the greatest Republic in the world’s history. I beg you to beware lest one single mistake
should bring to naught all that you have done.”
“Aye, and more than that,” Weirtz put in, “plunge this country once more
into the throes of rebellion and disorder,
To all appearance,” he went on, “Russia is to-day a contented and happy nation, yet under the surface, as I very well
know, there is discontent and grumbling
because it is human nature that this
should be so amongst the worthless, the quixotes, the criminals. There is always fuel for a burning brand. Frankly, my agent’s report from Odensk is that the
great mass of the Second Army do not
desire demobilization. A civilian life
does not appeal to them. They like their uniform, the routine of their daily life, the freedom from all personal anxieties
and responsibilities. They do not doubt your beneficent schemes for their welfare,
but they prefer to remain soldiers. It is
this feeling which is making them ready
listeners to the propaganda which is
going on amongst them.” »y--,;
“The love of the military life,” Sámara pronounced, “is an unnatural affection.' The sooner it is stamped out the better.” “Theoretically very right,” Weirtz
agreed, “but practically there are diffi-
culties. Can even you, Gabriel Samara,
force a million men out of a life which is
dear to them, into a new and untried
“Nonsense,” was the impatient reply,
“Half of them were peasant agriculturists
in their youth, with land to till and a homestead to look after. They will soon find themselves. Besides, you and I, General, should know that the Russian
soldier is never insubordinate. He will
obey orders. There will be nothing else
left for him to do. On the day these
proclamations are posted every ammunition dump in the camp will be blown up, and their bayonets withdrawn. It will be simply a million unarmed men, ■ pouring through the great clearing house which will be ready for them next month
at the rate of thirty thousand a day.”
“It is to my mind,” General Trotsk declared, “a most rash and hazardous experiment.”
“Where is the hazard?” Samara de-
manded. “The First Army is within a
day’s march of the city, fully equipped, and fully armed. Far be it from me to suggest such a thing as a conflict. That
army’s mere existence would prevent it.”
“There is yet another danger,” General
Trotsk pointed out. “Supposing word of this projected destruction of their ammunition were to reach the Army, it would
be easy enough for them to guard against
it-” . .
“Such a supposition infers the presence of a traitor amongst us,” Samara argued. “Not another breathing soul knows my plans. Peter Tranchard, who controls the
private printing press of the Home Office,
you yourself would vouch for, Argoff.
Not one of his compositors can read, but, as in the case of the proclamation addressed to the Poles, two years ago, these men are locked up in quarters for a week after them work is done.”
“There is your secretary,” Weirtz
“I _ will answer for her,” Samara promised with a flash in his eyes. “I admit the need for secrecy. It is because
of it that I dealt with this measure before
the Cabinet instead of the General
Assembly. You have no reason to doubt the loyalty of the First Army, General?”
“There is some disquiet,” Trotsk
admitted. “I have only this morning
caused seventy of my men to be enrolled
in the ranks.”
“The plot to re-establish Soviet condirions,” Weirtz remarked, “was never,
I think, a Serious one. I suspect that the plotting such as it is to-day, emanates from a different source.”
“Royalist?” Samara enquired.
“Royalist, beyond a doubt,” Trotsk
affirmed. “The Russian of to-day hates
the very sound of the word ‘Bolshevist’ or _ ‘Anarchist.’ It is the reactionary swing of the pendulum which is to be feared. It is my firm belief that there are a million more Royalists in the country
to-day than any one imagines.”
Samara laughed confidently. _
“There may be amazing surprises in
store for us in this world,” he said, “but
I do not think that Nicholas Imanoff,
bond seller of New York, will ever be
crowned Czar of Russia. You have read
the proclamations, my friends. Apart
from the fact that you are not in entire
sympathy with me and with the majority
of the Cabinet as to the policy of which
they are the outcome, you have no criticism to make?”
“I have none except those I made before the Cabinet,” Adolph Weirtz de-
dared. “I maintain that as it seems to
be the wish of the Cabinet that the Second Army should be disbanded, it should be done gradually,. a hundred
thousand a year, the men to be selected
“Too slow,” Samara observed brusquely. “Anything else?” “I propose,” Trotsk said, “that you, sir, visit the district personally, address
the soldiers, and study their disposition,
I have reports from my subordinates
every day which I find disquieting.” “That I have decided to do,” Samara assented. “And you, Argoff?”
“I have' but one suggestion to make,” was the prompt reply. “Burn your
morning’s work, Mr. President, and
expunge the decree from the archives of
the Cabinet. You are trifling with
“Every reformer the world has ever known,” Samara answered, deliberately, “has sat at the table of chance—■”
CAMARA drew back the curtains of
^ the inner room as soon as he was
alone. Catherine came quietly forward
to meet him.
“Well?” he asked. “You heard every-
“And what is your opinion?” She shrugged her shoulders, “I am twenty-five years old,” she said. “Twenty-three years of my life have
been spent in New York. I am a Russian
only by instinct. I have yet to learn
the temper of my people.”
“Never mind your lack of experience, Answer me from that instinct.” She acquiesced unwillingly, “You have made Russia a great and prosperous country,” she said. “You have succeeded in reducing her army
by a million men. I do not see why you
take this further risk.«” “Sophist,” he growled. “Instinct only, I insist.”
She shrugged her shoulders,
“Yesterday,” she confided, “I looked
upon the royalist cause in Russia as a forlorn thing. To-morrow, if you persist, I shall begin to wonder what it would
feel like to marry Nicholas and be
Czarina of all the Russias.”
Samara seemed afflicted by a curious fit of lethargy after Catherine’s departure, He sat in his great bare room till the
twilight filled it with shadows, until in
fact, he was disturbed by steady footsteps
behind his chair. He turned abruptly, A tall gaunt figure was standing before the safe. Samara, after a second’s scrutiny, withdrew his hand from the
butt of the pistol toward which he had
“Andrew!” he exclaimed, “what the devil are you doing here?” The young man faced him. Even in the gloom of the apartment the wound on his cheek was clearly visible.
“I was restless, master,” he said. “I
entered by the side gate. I have come to
ask a favor.” “What is it, and what has happened to you?” Samara demanded,
“I have met with an accident,” was the
dreary confession. “Something terrible has
happened. I cannot breathe here in Moscow. I must get away.”
“We were to start for London on
Monday. Let me go by the early morning
boat and wait for you there. There are
things to be done before you arrive. I can see to them.”
“What have you been doing to yourself?” Samara asked, looking at the scar upon his face.
“An accident has happened,” Andrew
replied. “A very terrible accident. I
must get away at once. Give me per-
mission to go to England, please.” “Is this because Catherine Borans has been working for me to-day?” Samara enquired bluntly,
ANDREW shivered. He had winced
YJL at the sound of her name as though
some one had struck him with a whip,
“I have no more feeling of that sort,”
he groaned. “It is finished. I simply
want to get away.”
Samara wrote a few lines upon a sheet
of foolscap and passed them over.
“Very well,” he assented. “There is
your order, and the name of the hotel
where you will stay when you reach
London. If all goes well, I shall follow you on Thursday.”
“Aye, onThursday, ’’Andrew muttered.
Samara glanced at him curiously.
“Have you seen your doctor lately, Andrew?” he enquired.
The young man laughed bitterly.
“I am ill,” he acknowledged, “but no doctor can cure me.”
Samara indulged in a moment’s deliberation. Distinctly something had happened.
“Are you sure that you are fit to travel?” he asked.
“If I stay here for another day I shall shoot myself or someone else. Better let me go. I am of no use to anyone just now. I could not work. I could not be trusted. Let me go, please.”
“You are talking foolishly, Andrew,” his master declared. “I have trusted you with the secrets of my life. You could not betray me if you would. There is something beneath all this. Why not give me your confidence?”
“It is too late,” Andrew groaned, shuffling towards the door.
Samara stopped him with an imperative monosyllable.
“Andrew,” he asked, “is it a woman who has done this? Well, I see it is. -I am going to use the surgeon’s knife. Never in this world could Catherine Borans be anything to you.”
The young man’s face for a moment was like the face of a devil.
“Blast you, don’t I know it?” he cried. “Don’t I know whose woman she is? That’s why I’m getting away—why I choose hell rather than stay here.”
For once his master’s call was disobeyed. The slam of the door echoed through the huge half-empty house. Samara’s few seconds of spellbound agitation were all the start he needed. Andrew was gone!
CATHERINE, standing that evening in a corner of her aunt’s little salon, with Nicholas in close attendance, watched, with disquietude which she found it hard to conceal, the continual stream of visitors pouring all the time through the open doors. Alexandrina’s first “At Home” six months ago had resulted in the visit of less than a dozen rather shabby, melancholy men and women, who seemed like the ghosts of their own unhappy pasts. Conversation had been almost pathetic, and consisted usually of reminiscences. They spoke of the great families which formed the connecting links between them, of the branches which had died out, of others whose members were scattered all over the world.
To-day the memory of that first gathering seemed like a dream. There were at least a hundred and fifty visitors in the small suite of rooms, and more arriving all the time. The people, themselves, too, were different. There was an air of subdued interest, almost excitement, in their demeanor, a new spring in their walk, and a note of suppressed jubilance in many fragments of smothered conversation. Kirdorff was there in brilliant regimentals, surrounded by a little group of eager but cautious questioners. The names of the men and women who came and went so freely recalled all the splendors of a St. Petersburg Court of fifty years ago. Nicholas played with the hilt of his sword and stroked his incipient moustache with an almost fatuous air of self-satisfaction. Nearly every newcomer, after paying his or her respects to their hostess, came to address a few words to him. The presence of Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington in a dress of magenta velvet with a hat to match, her neck and arms ablaze with jewels, and a priceless ermine stole about her shoulders, seemed the only discordant feature, and even she, through sheer magnificence, presented a striking appearance.
“I wonder if all this is wise,” Catherine murmured to her cousin.
He smiled condescendingly.
“You are afraid that it might offend your friend, Samara?” he observed with a superior smile.
“Thanks to whom you are no longer selling bonds in New York,” she retorted sharply. “As it happens I was not thinking of Mr. Samara. Is not full-dress uniform now against the laws of the country?”
“It may be,” he admitted. We shall soon make our own laws. Since that man’s name has been mentioned, Catherine,” he went on, “I have a word to say
to you. The time has arrived when you should cease to be his secretary.” “Why?” she enquired.
He stared at her, as though astonished at her lack of comprehension.
“In the beginning,” he explained, “your position was naturally of great benefit to us. Those times are passing. When one thinks of the future, it will not do for people to be able to look back and remember the time when you were his paid assistant.”
“You seem quite sure that I am going to marry you,” she remarked. “Is it because I have sent General von H artsen back to Berlin?”
“Not at all,” he answered confidently. “It is your destiny to be Czarina of all the Russias. The other scheme was absurd.”
“It seems a pity,” she sighed, “that I was brought up in New York.” “Why?” he asked.
“One gets so foolishly democratic,” she replied. “As a royal wooer I think I rather prefer Frederick. He quite lost his head about me.”
Nicholas laughed scornfully. “Frederick was a little premature,” he observed. “Things may not move so quickly in Germany as he imagines.. Tell me about General von Hartsen and his ridiculous mission. How did he take your refusal of his proposal?”
“Badly,” she answered. “He left before dinner was half over to catch the night train to Berlin.”
“The worst of these Germans,” he sneered, in a self-satisfied manner; “as soon as they are thwarted they lose tbei-r tempers.”
Mrs. Bossington sailed up to them and Nicholas promptly made his escape.
.“My dear,” she exclaimed, “it’s real good to see someone who knew me in New York, where we were somebody! I am getting quite confused with all these Princesses and Duchesses and Grand Duchesses and they tell me that after all, even if Saxon does buy the whole of that Ardenburg estate—dozens and dozens of square miles, my dear, he will only be a Count.”
“Well, that should do for a start,” Catherine declared, smiling. “As a matter of fact,” she went on, “if I were you I wouldn’t talk about it, too much. I think my aunt and Nicholas and all of them here have rather lost their heads. To discuss such things openly, to speak of the future as we continually do, is treason to-day.”
“Say, you don’t think there’s any doubt about this thing coming off?” Mrs. Bossington asked, anxiously.
“I prefer not to discuss it,” Catherine replied. “I even go further, I think that it is in bad taste to speak of it as blatantly as my people are doing. After all we are here on sufferance.”
“You came on sufferance, perhaps,” Mrs. Bossington amended, “but you should hear what Colonel Kirdorff has to say about the army. Your friend, Mr. Samara, has been making himself pretty unpopular.”
“The army is still not Russia,” Catherine reminded her.
Mrs. Bossington smiled cryptically.
“I don’t know whether you are aware,” she remarked, dropping her voice a little, “that I was admitted to the last meeting of Colonel Kirdorff’s secret council. There were delegates from the southern provinces, from Petrograd, and I don’t know how many places. They all seemed to agree that the peasants at any rate and the lower bourgeoisie seemed all to want their Czar back again. As for the Army there is scarcely an officer who is not a royalist, since the Germans got the sack, and the soldiers themselves are all furious against Samara because of this talk of disbandment. Saxon’s no slouch, my dear, as you know, and he declares the whole thing’s a cinch as long as it is managed on a business footing. I want him to take an interest in politics. A man with a business head like his would be worth having anywhere. If he were Finance Minister, for instance, he might be made a Prince.”
“I must go and talk to my aunt,” Catherine said abruptly. “I quite realize all that you have done for my family and my friends, Mrs. Bossington, and I hope that some day you may be rewarded for it, but I earnestly advise you not to talk so openly of your hopes.”
SHE crossed the room towards where her aunt was seated, the centre of an animated group. She was on the point
of being surrounded herself when two new guests were announced. As though of a purpose the major-domo who stood at the doors, raised his voice as he spoke the names.
“General Trotsk—Captain Irdron.” '
The babel of conversation ceased as though by magic. It was amidst almost a complete silence that the two men, both clad in the plain, dark uniform of the State Police, approached Alexandrina. The General saluted, as he came to a standstill before the hostess of the little assembly. Everybody seemed to recognize the sombre, almost menacing note which their arrival had introduced.
“Madame,” he said, “I have taken the liberty of paying you a visit. I beg leave to present my aide-de-camp, Captain Irdron.”
Alexandrina acknowledged the salute of her two visitors a little stiffly.
“You are very welcome, General,” she replied. “I do not remember, however, that your name is upon my visiting list.”
“Madame,” was the somewhat curt retort, “by virtue of my office under the Republic, my name is upon any visiting list where I choose to place it. We will, since you prefer it, consider my visit official.”
He saluted again and turned deliberately away, murmuring a word or two to his companion, who appeared to be taking notes of the names of some of those present. He exchanged a few cold words with Catherine.
“You find time occasionally, then, Mademoiselle, to attend social functions,” he remarked.
“One has one’s family duties,” Catherine rejoined with faint irony.
The General turned on his heel. The silence in the room remained unbroken. Every one was curious, a little agitated. The minister of police approached Kirdorff, who was talking to Nicholas. His expression was grim and official. The atmosphere of the salon became tense.
“Sir,” he said, addressing Kirdorff, “I have to inform you that you are wearing a uniform which is contrary to the regulations of the republican government of Russia.”
“In what respect is it at fault?” Kirdorff enquired.
“In every respect, sir,” Trotsk answered, harshly. “The uniforms worn by the officers in the republican army are supplied by Commissariat Department C. You are wearing a full-dress uniform of the monarchical army, abolished by law in nineteen nineteen. Your name, sir?” he asked, turning to Nicholas.
“Nicholas Imanoff,” was the contemptuous reply. “I was not aware that a policeman had anything to do with the uniform of the army.”
The smile of the minister of police was gentle, almost urbane.
“Naturally you are ignorant of Russia and its military regulations,” he murmured. “You have, I think, lived all your life in New York, and been engaged in other pursuits. You will report at the war office, to the chief of the staff witfiin a quarter of an hour. He will give you further instructions.”
Kirdorff laid his hand on Nicholas’s shoulder in time to check an angry retort.
There was a brief pause. Kirdorff turned away, bowed low and raised his hostess’ fingers to his lips.
“Madame,” he whispered, “we do well to bend. Nothing must prevent my being able to rejoin the army.”
“I have confidence in you, Colonel,” she assured him. .
The two men left the room. As soon as he was sure of their absence the chief of police himself saluted Alexandrina.
“Madame,” he said, “I regret to have interrupted your social gathering, and to have deprived you of doubtless honored guests. I shall now take my departure. For the present,” he added, “it is sufficient for me to remind you thafi in this city you are the guests of the Russian Republic.”
“I am a Russian citizen, monsieur le commissionaire,” Alexandrina answered, with a touch of hauteur in her tone. “My opinions and my actions are a matter for my own conscience.”
The Grand Duchess had at least the triumph of the last, for her visitor made no reply. He left the room followed by his attendant.
To be Continued