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BELLA DEMONIA., Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
A STORY OF THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR.
[By Semna Dolaro.]
PROLOGUE.-CHAPTER I. THE HONORABLE JOHN VYVIAN FANE,
" But, indeed, Excellency, the fare is three roubles."
" Away, and quickly." " But, indeed——" " What;! still whining ? Here ! take that!"
The sharp shriek of a man iu pain rang out in the wintry air, and was lost on the snow-clad Prospect. An isvoshsthik (a sleigh driver) had been struck acrosß the face by the passenger, who had jußt descended from his droschky, at the top of the Newski Prospect. The isvoshsthik was a miserable specimen of the Russian moujik, or peasant class, clad in the ragged fur coat and pleated boots of his profession, and, as he cowered against the Bide of his droschky, formed a wonderful contrast to the man who had struck him. The latter stood illumined by the oil lamp that lit the kerb hard by (I am talking of the Petersburg of twenty years ago), a figure of military erectness, clad in a long and tightly - fitting coat of dark cloth, heavily trimmed with Astrachan fur. The cap on his head and the gloves on his hands were of the same material, and his feet were encased in highly-polished leather boots, whose simplicity bespoke their English manufacture. The face illuminated, as the man turned, by the oil lamp was finely cut and of an ivory pallor. What was visible of the closely-cut hair beneath the fur cap was of a jet black, as was also the stiff military moustache which, drawn to fine points on either side, disclosed a thin, pale, cruel mouth. The man looked down at the trembling movjik, one hand upon his hip, the other holding a light rattan which still quivered with the force of the blow which had been laid across the moujik's face. There was nothing very noteworthy—especially at the time of which I write—in a droschky driver being struck by his client, but the stillness of the air in the keen frost of the Russian winter seemed to accentuate the bitterness of the cry that rang out. At any rate, it attracted the notice of a man who, stepping from the shadow of a neighboring gateway, approached the group. " Come, come," said the new arrival, in the tone of one accustomed to command, " men are not flogged in the streets of Petersburg for nothing. What iB the meaning of this ? " The man who had struck the sleigh-driver turned on his heel and confronted his interrogator. The manner of the latter immediately changed, and, straightening his figure as he raised his hand in military salute, he exclaimed, in a tone of surprise : " The Gospodar Vyvian Fane! We are punctual." As he spoke, the moujik, who had fastened his eyes on the new comer's face, sprang •upon the driving-seat of his droachUy, exclaiming under his breath as he did so: " Dmitri Keratieff, of the Secret Police ! Holy St, Katerine, what an escape !" And, before either of the pair could turn, he had started his horse and disappeared down one of the by-streets leading out of the Neweki Prospect.
" Yes," said the man whom Keratieff had addressed as Vyvian Fane, in answer to the police agent's ejaculation, ,c my business is of a kind that demands punctuality on my part, promptitude on yours. No need to trouble about this scoundrel Ah ! he is gone; it is well. He tried to claim a double fare. He mistook his man."
And the Honorable John Vyvian Vane laughed—a little, hard laugh that parted his thin lips over two rows of small, cruel teeth.
" You have brought the papers ?" queried Keratieff.
" Here they are," replied Fane, drawing a letter-ease from his pocket and taking thence a folded sheet. "This one will be more than sufficient. It is a letter from Alexis Dorski, the Terrorist leader, to the Prince 'Ladislas Galitzin. You will see that it proves the intimacy of the two." " That will indeed be sufficient," returned the police agent; and, hastily unbuttoning the cloak which was wrapped about his somewhat stunted form, the light of a small, flat lantern shone out, instantly lit by some chemical process, and illuminating the sheet which Keratieff perused attentively. " It is more than enough," observed he, as ho extinguished tho light and refolded the paper, which he in turn placed in his pocket book. " How does the Prince Ladislas come to let this fall into our hands ?" " He had entrusted it to his sister, the Princess Carita Galitzin, for safe keeping. It is from her that it was—obtained."
Tho Chief of Police glanced quickly and keenly at the impassive face of tho Englishman.
"Ah !" he ejaculated. Then, after an instant's pause, he asked : " When do you desire that this arrest should take place ? " "At once. Within an hour he must be safely lodged in the fortress of St. Jfoter and St. Paul." "So soon."
" Yes. The young fool was so ill-advised as to attempt to make a scene at the club tonight. The matter must not be taken up again to morrow. He must have disappeared. Y"ou understand." "Perfectly." " And mark me, also," continued Fane, lowering his voice, though in the moonlight it was plain that no one was near : " once in the fortress he must not come out. There must be no trial."
The police agent smiled. " Have no fear, Gospodar Fane. Prisoners who take the ground floor apartments of St. Peter and St. Paul seldom come to trial. The place is damp. Life is uncertain. The Prince Ladislas is delicate. By-the-bye, you might like to assist when—when the time comes. A prison funeral is an interesting thing—to a foreigner." " Are you sure that you can lay your hand upon him at once ?" queried Fane, not appearing to notice the other's words. "In an hour he will be safely lodged," answered Keratieff, echoing the Englishman's words. " Where is he now ? He left the club at once." " He is with his wife." " What!"
" With his wife. The Prince has been more than a year married, A mexal'.iance, Excellency." " I did not know of this."
" Nor anyone else, with the exception of Dmitri Keratieff and the Princess Carita, his sister." "The deuce!" " There is yet time in half an hour, Bhould you change your mind." " Change my mind ! Never ! The revenge will be all the finer. What a chance!"
Vyvian Fane was about to leave his companion, when the latter stopped him, laying a hand upon his arm. "This is a terrible revenge, Gospodar Fane," he said. "It strikes his sister and his wife with him." "Well?"
" It will probably kill both these women."
Vyvian Fane had bitten the end from a cigar and had struck a match. As he held the flame close to his face his dark sinister eyes flashed into those of the police agent. The cruel smile disfigured his face again as he threw down the match, and, without a word, he turned on his heel and strode off into the night. "What a devil!" said Keratieff to himself, as he looked after the retreating figure. " But all the same an invaluable member of our Third Section," And then, hailing a droschky, which had been hovering about as if anticipating a fare, he sprang into it and disappeared in the direotion of the police headquarters. As the sound of the sleigh bells died away in the distance the moon shone down on the Newski Prospect and the square of St. Nicholas, which were once more deserted in the frost-bitten sir.
CHAPTER 11. HUSBAND AND WIFE.
Of St. Petersburg, as of every oity of the world, the most magnificent and the most squalid dwelling places abut upon the river, Just aB the late Tuileries and the Louvre, in common with the obscurest tenements of the Quartier Latin, look upon the Seine;
just as the Houses of Parliament and Somerset House, in common with the 'longshore hovels of the city, look upon the Thames; so in St. Petersburg the Winter Palace, in common with the warrens of the movjik population, looks on the Neva. In these warrens live for the most part the students of the city; here it is that the majority of Nihilist intrigues foster and spread, and here it is that the domestic spy, the dvornik, or concierge, is most looked after and beat paid by the secret police. It is here also that tenements can be found whose dvorniks are better paid by the tenants thau by the police, and where individuals who desire to efface themselves conceal their identities behind passports, either fictitious in themselves or issued to worthy citizens who have died or disappeared long ago. In a blind alley leading from the inner court of one of the most intricate blocks of buildings we find with difficulty a low door, announcing a squalid interior, to all appearance a stable or warehouse. We might knock here for an hour without evoking any sign of human habitation, but draw a stick or stone lightly across the door, and we are answered by a single word whispered inside. A couple of these passwords are exchanged, and the door opens noiselessly. Immediately the footfall is muffled by the furs with which the hall is strewn. We pass through heavy curtains and reach the innermost room of this abode, which, lit entirely by skylights and softly burning lamps, is a very jewel-box. The apartment into which we have penetrated is carpeted with Ukraine and Siberian skins; the walls are hunt; with silks from Ispahan and embroideries from Damascus. The furniture is of carved ebony from the banks of the Indus; ancient weapons of Turkish origin are festooned on the silken walls, and on the table are scattered the gold and silver trinkets of Indian and Persian masterworkmen. An inlaid lute of Venetian make lies on a chair; an Angora cat is stretched asleep on another; at opposite ends of the room hang masterpieces of Flemish and French art; in a corner stands a marble statuette from some Florentine atelier ; in a word, all that luxury and taste can conceive is grouped here for the woman who lies on a huge divan, nestling among the piled-up cushions in her garments of soft, clinging silk—waiting. The woman who waits is the Princess Nadine Galitzin, once the handmaiden of the Princess Carita, and now the wife of the young Prince Ladislas. Yes, the Prince Ladislas Galitzin had made what the world would have stigmatised as a misalliance, but no one would doubt for a moment, looking at the woman as she lies on her divan, that some strain of noble blood, a bar sinister if you will, made her worthy to share the title even of the last Prince Galitzin.
As Bhe lies waiting the advent of her husband, her mind wanders back over all the ecstasy of the past two years. She lives over again the happy days in the chateau by Ladoga, where she lived more the companion and sister of the Princess Carita than her handmaid ; the arrival from college of Prince Ladislas; the gradual awakening in her soul of the conviction that thiß waß the Kamar-al-Zaman of her dreams, the King of Time for her. She remembers the steps in their courtship, the first time that their eyes met and rested on each other, and the death thenceforth of the indifference of the maiden to her mistress's brother; their sudden meeting in one of the corridors when the Prince had clasped her in his arms and kissed her for the first time, and then fled without a word; then the progress of their secret betrothal, so sedulously concealed from the old Prince Gilitzin ; the misery with which she learned of his approaching departure to take up his commission in the Tzar's bodyguard, the Regiment of the Transfiguration, and how the Prince persuaded his old tutor to marry them secretly in the chapel of the chateau; their flight to Petersburg; the joys of th» year that had elppsed since then —the greatest of all, perhaps, the day when the Princess Carita had come to her hidingplace to welcome her by the sweet name of sister. The concealment of the marriage had been a matter of vital necessity. The young Prince Galitzin, last of his branch of a family exalted throughout the history of the Empire, had in his wild student days been puspected of Liberal views, and the Tzar had designed for him a brilliant marriage with one of th 9 oldest Conservative families of his realm. Hence his position in the body guard ; hence the necessity for the concealment of his marriage. Only one besides his bister knew of it, and that was Dmitri Keratieff, chief of that Third Section —the secret police that even to-day makes life in Russia a perpetual terror. But Dmitri Keratieff owed much to the Galitzin family, and with him the secret was safe until such time as its keeping would conflict with his devotion to his master.
The Princess Nadine lay anxiously awaiting her husband ; her state was delicately precarious, and the mystery that surrounded her sometimes told hard on her. Suppose anything should happen ? The secret police, she knew too well, acted blindly like the Council of Ten on denunciations made by unknown enemies. If such a fate should br-fall her idol what would be his doom and hers? At the thought, recurring as it did to-night with tenfold persistence, she buried her head in the cushions, and groaned rather than cried " Husband, husband !"
A rattle of the rings of the hangings, a strong step on the piJed-up furs, a»d he is with her.
"Nadia, matiouchha (little mother), beloved, I am here." She is in his arms in an instant; sll her misery, all her apprehension is lost in the ecstasy of his kiss. Yes, he is safe—safe from all harm, for no one can disturb them here. Their secret is too well guarded. She has no fear.
" I have been so frightened, Ladislas. Every hour that you are not with me I torture myself with fears for you. Suppose they Bhould discover me? Perhaps they would look on your disobedience to the Tzar as cause for your arrest—for—for anything. Oh, bo careful, beloved. Should anything befall you, it would kill me—kill us both. Think of that other life that shall be so dear to us, Ladislas."
" Courage, courage, Nadia," he replies; "there is no danger—we cannot be discovered, sweetheart. I know how lonely, how dull you must be. Well, to-night I have a surprise for you. We expect a visitor."
" A visitor !" A look of alarm creeps into the beautiful eyes as she echoes his words. "Yes. You have heard me speak of Alexis Alexandrovitch ?" " Alexis Dorski, the Nihilist ?"
" The same. My old college companion, unknown even to the faction of which he is the leader, comes to Petersburg to-night. I want him to see my wife, my pride. He is coming here." "Oh, Ladißlas, how imprudent you are " "Not at all. I have the fullest knowledge that his presence here is unsuspected. Nothing can ever assail Alexis Dorski, if he so wills it. Have no fear, darling." As he speaks the old servant, who alone waits on the Princess Ladislas Galitzin, outers the room. "What is it?"
" A peddler, an old man armed with the passwords and the countersign, desires to speak with your Excellenoy." "Admit him."
The servitor retires, and a moment later, lifting the hangings, gives entrance to a bent figure carrying a pack. As soon as the servant has left them the peddler rises to his full height. With a gesture he flings off his disguise of hair and beard, and stands before them a young giant. “Alexis Alexandravitch.” “ Ladislas Ladislaievitch.” And the two men are locked in each other’s arms. (Tali continued,)
BELLA DEMONIA., Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
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