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BELLA-DEMONIA.

A STORY OF THE FRANCO PRUSSIAN WAR.

[By Selina Dolaro.]

BOOK I—VIENNA.

CHAPTER 111. THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE,

The polico system of Russia is divided into three sections; the First Section consisting of the ordinary patrol of gendarmerie ; the Second Section consisting of what are called tho Political Police, originally instituted by the Tzar Nicholas to control corruption among officials, but now, and at the time of which I write, a vast organisation having its representatives in almost every city of the world; and the hated and dreaded Third Section, of Secret Police, having its spies in every house, in every restaurant, in every public place, almost in every family. The three are united under one head, and during the crisis of 1876-77 that head had, as meiy be supposed, more than enough to occupy it. One of the largest suites in the Public Offices of Petersburg is devoted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Adjoining it is the Ministry of the Interior. Connecting the two are two small rooms, one an inner room opening upon the vestibule, the other looking outupon theNewskiProspect. These two rooms are devoted to the use of the Chief of Police—" The White Terror," as he is called—and his personal staff, consisting of a private and two ministerial secretaries.

In the outer room sat Prince Schouloff, the Chief of Police, and tho position he occupied between the two principal ministries indicated his importance in the affairs of the Empire. No one who saw him seated in his great leather-covered chair before his table could fail to be impressed with the personality of the man. Though he sits huddled up, as it were, there can be no mistaking the massive proportions of the man: his hand alone, as it lies on the table hefore him, gives overwhelming evidence of his tremendous physical strength. He is a comparatively young man—not more than forty years old —despite the face that his closely-cut hair ia almost snow-white, and that the clearlytraced lines round his eyes and mouth give evidence of years of anxiety, if not of physical suffering. In startling contrast to his white hair are his thiok eyebrows and elaborately-pointed moustache, which are of the intensest black. At this moment his keen grey eyes look straight before him beneath the heavy brows, and his face wears the expression habitual to it in repose—one of concentrated watchfulness. Before him—it is morning—lies a heap of letters, which for the past half-hour has been slowly diminishing as he opens one after another, and, after making a note upon each in pencil for the direction of the secretaries, lays them in two heaps, one to the right of the pile for the political secretaries, the other to the left for future private reference. At this moment the morning task of looking through the mail has been arrested—arreßted by the paper that he holds in the hand that lies on the desk before him. He is not looking at it. It would be useless, for it is not of an ordinary kind. It is written on a large square sheet of thin blue paper; in the upper left-hand corner, arranged within a diamond, appears the following design in Greek oapitpls :

Incomprehensible to the uninitiated, Prince Schouloff reads within the lozenge the word " Bella-Demonia, A.H.2.R.," and, having progressed thus far, he has laid down the paper and is plunged in thought. The letter is in cipher, and is sealed to him until the arrival of his private secretary, who has the custody of the key to »he enigma. He has not long to wait. A slight noise behind him causes him to turn his head. A young man has entered the room, and has silently taken his Beat at a smaller desk in the corner. " Ah, Dmitri Dmitrievitch, is that you ? I am waiting for you." "A despatch from 'Bella-Demonia'?" " Yes. Have you your dial ?" " Here it is, Excellency !" " Set it: A.H.2.R." "It is done." "Read me this." And the Chief of Police hands the document to his privato jsecretary, and turns once more to the unopened letters before him. For half-au-faour no sound breaks the silence, savo the alight squeak of the cipher dial, as, letter by letter, the young man interprets the despatch. At the end of that time the secretary rises and lays before his chief a paper on which appears the following in French :

Vienna, 25th August, 1876. Captain the Honorable Aubyn Goddard, Twentieth Hussars, especiilly detailed Queen's Messenger for Oriental affairs. Age about 34. Single. English (gentleman in every sense of the word. Unapproachable by ordinary means. Passed through Vienna August 15 and 16, bearing despatches for Foreign Office. In the tvent of Conference, England will maintain armed neutrality. In the event of Russia taking meditated action, will occupy the Bosphorus. Integrity of Ottoman Empire will be supported: particular attention to Batoum and Trebizonde. No further details. lieave for Petersburg to-night. Bklla-Demonm.

" H'm!" ejaculated tha Chief of Police, as he carefully folded the cipher message and its translation and placed them in his pocket book. " This is important. 'English gentleman. Unapproachable by ordinary means. No farther details.' I don't like that. Bella-Demonia does not usually stop half-way in her inquiries. She is coming here. That is well, and I shall meet this marvellous woman at last!" And, the current of his thoughts evidently changed by the reseipt of the despatch, he altered some of the notes on the letters before him, and as one of the secretaries took •way the bundle for distribution he said to him: " Inform the secretary of His Excellency the Minister of War that Prince Schouloff will wait upon his Chief in an hour's time." When this letter had left the room, the prince turned to Dmitri Dmitrievitch Keratieff, his private secretary, and re- " You are sure that you never heard your father, Dmitri Keratieff, refer by name to this Baroness Altdorff—' Bella Demonia,' as they call her?" " Never, Excellency. After the attempt upon the life of His Majesty in which my father received his death-wound, he spoke,to me of a woman who possessed his cipher dial, but never mentioned her name. I was vary young then." A*At the private secretary's words Prince SchoulofFs face clouded. The attempted aisaslnfttion of the Tzar in which the late Chief of Police lost his life was a subject which the present Chief—for state reasons, he said—never allowed to be mentioned in his presence. However, his private aecretary, as son of his predecessor, and Prince SchoulofFs especial protege, considered himself a privileged person. At the time of his father's death Dmitri Dmitrieyitoh Keratieff had been one of the junior clerks in the Department of Police, and when his father met his death in the abortive attempt of the followers of Alexis Dorski, Prince SciioHloff, who came to Petersburg to take the direottop of the Police, sought out his predecessor's sou and appointed him his confidential secretary. Dorski had disappeared—he was reported killed at Odessa Soon after—and his society had been broken up. From that moment his .conspiracy had been a forbidden subject, like many .others, in the Department of Police. Now, however, the Chief did not silence his *9er«tary, but remarked, with the air of man who dimly recalls a haHiforgo.tten incident— ' «' How did he refor to her.' " Though it was .eight years ago, ,1 reuienv Ut his words as if they hai heen spoken

yesterday. ' Dmitri,' he said, ' yon are too young now to understand the workings of the aeotion in which you are a subordinate ; but some day you may be called to a position of trust therein. There exists a duplicate of the cipher-dial with which I construct my political correspondence. Should ever a woman communicate with you by its means, lay the matter at once before your Chief, and tell him that I, Dmitri Keratieff, left for him the injunction that she was to be considered. Trust her utterly : the welfare of the Holy Russian Empire is in her heart, and may be in her hands, I believe this Bella-Demonia to be the woman, Excellency, for my father would never have entrusted his cipher-dial to anyone who would either duplicate or misnte it." " I think you are right," returned Schouloff, as he reconcentrated his attention upon the papers before him. That day he devoted to important interviews with the Ministers of War and of Foreign Affairs, and at the closing of the office at four o'clock another step, and an important one, had been taken in the policy that was to eventuate in the war of 1577.

The office was closed. The secretaries had gone, a servant had placed a readinglamp upon his table, and Prince Schouloff was alone.

He stretched his arms above his head in the manner of a man concluding his work or turning to some lighter employment, No one looking at him as he sat, idly for the moment looking out over the Prospect that teemed with life below him, would have dreamed that the bard, ascetic-looking man, with "diplomacy" written on every line of his face, the man whose word could at any moment send families to Siberia with a " wolf's-passport," or plunge the Cabinet in international complications, had been, eight years before we see him in the office of the Police-Alexis Dorski, the Nihilist! It was he. But of this circumstance ouly two living souls were aware, and those were Prince Schouloff himself—and, in after years, people who know have said One other.

(To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890706.2.30.8

Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement

Word Count
1,589

BELLA-DEMONIA. Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement

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