[By Selina Dolaro.]
CHAPTER IV, bella-demonia. Prince Schouloff rose, and, walking to the window, looked out over the Prospect of A'exander Newski, seeking a momentary relief from tho cramped position to which hs had been constrained by his work during t e hours of toils. For a few minutes ho stood idly watching tho droschkies and troltas that crossed and reorosaed one another, listening to the jangle of their bells a id to tho vague murmur of the isvoshtshiks' voices as they apostrophized and harangued their ponies, alter the manner of their class. Then he drew down the blinds to out the remainder of the already dying daylight, and seated himself once more at his bureau. From a carefully-locked drawer ho took a small bundle of folded blue sheets, and placed at the bottom thereof BellaDomonia’a despatch of the morning, and was about to replace the bundle, when a second thought struck him, and he unfolded them all in turn, running his eyes rapidly over the contents as he did so. All the originals were in cipher, but the translation was attached to each in his secretary’s handwriting. “This is a most marvellous woman, soliloquised he, as he concluded his cursory examination of the bundle, “I wonder how she is to be accounted for. Among MI the political agents of the Russian Administration, of her alone nothing is known. As a rule, the Holy Empire is well informed as to the antecedents of its—spies; but in tho case of this woman it is different. V\ ho is she ?—or, rather, who was she ? Who is or was—the Baron Altdorff? I have sent Dmitri Kcratieff in turn to London, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, in search of information r..'carding her. I have Inquired Into all her a'fases in vain ; everywhere we are met and assisted bv her work, but by the woman herself—never. Well, well, notwithstanding the mystery, I would trust her where I would not trust Dmitri Keratieff himself. The Treasury of the Department has been at her service for five years. A mere adventuress —my English agent Emily Dashton, for instance—in her position would long ago have realized a million or so of roubles and disappeared. But Bella-Demonia is true to her trust under all circumstances: her motive, whatever it be, must be a_ strong one, and in due time no doubt she will elect to present Viersell. SKe says in this last despatch that she is coming here. When will she arrive ? By St. Nicholas ! I—l, Schouloff, confess that I am curious—nay, anxious—to see her. What is it?” The concluding words of his soliloquy were addressed to the dvornik of the office, -. who had entered the room after a premonitory knock. ...... “A lady,” replied the dvormk, “desires to speak with your Excellency.” And ho handed to the prince a card on which was engraved “ The Countess Laroche, Avenue de Jena, Paris,” and in pencil had been added, in Russian, “Hotel d’Europe— Eoropeiskaya Gosstinnitza.” “You told her that the office was closed?” “ Yes, Excellency, but she insisted that I should inquire if you were still here.” “ Did she state her business ?” “ No, Excellency ; she said only that she had just arrived from Vienna.” ** From Vienna ? Ah ! Admit her, and order two of the guard to station in the secretaries’ office, before she comes through Prince Schouloff had twice narrowly escaped assassination in this very room, and was prepared for emergencies. Two minutes later a woman entered the room. She stood for a moment at the door, and said, interrogatively : “ Prince Schouloff?” “I am he,” returned Schouloff, scrutinizing her narrowly. 1 ‘ Be seated, sodaini. ” Ha spoke in Russian, and his visitor answered in the same language : “ I see you have placed your Cossacks in the anteroom. I should have saved yon the trouble by announcing myself as the Bironess Altdorff. It suits me, however, to be the Countess Laroche, travelling fr r her health ; so I gave to the dvornik the name by which I am to be known so long as I remain in Petersburg.” There was a simple, commanding dignity in her words as she spoke, seating herself the while in tho o l iair indicated, opposite the Chief Prince Schouloff had remained standing. “Bella-Demonia !” he said, simply.
; “I am she.” Without an another word, he\vent to the door, and called out: “ ChorosJcho! Ogon! (“All right! Go away!”) and the footsteps of the two soldiers were heard retiring down the corridor. Schouloff retuined, and seating himself in the great leathercovered chair, remarked: # “I will not waste time in trivial compliments. I can only say that it affords me a profound satisfaction to meet Bella-Demonia face to face, Yon will explain the object of this visit in yonr own words and at your own time.” “It was time for ub to meet. i.ne negotiations at Vienna are practically closed. You will find that Bismarck and Andrassy are acting together, have done so from the first, and will do so to the end. The policy of Great Britain is cut and dried. Their plans are formed. It is time to form ours. “Ours?” “Yes—yours and mine.” Schouloff thought for a moment. Then he said: , , , , “ Madame von Altdorff, let us understand each other from the commencement ” “ Countess Laroche, if you please,” corrected she. “Very good Countess Laroche. You are staying at the Hotel d’Europe, Have you a passport?—but of course you have.” J “ I have five,” returned she, simply. “ I beg your pardon !” “Here they are,” said she, taking a thin packet from the bosom of her dress. “Two of them are, as you see, countersigned by yourself. Here is that cf the Countess Laroche, dated, issued,and visa-edini Pans; these are respectively those of Mrs Damian, issued and visa-ed in London; of the Baroness Altdorff, signed by yourself in Berlin • of the Baroness Altdorff, similarly signed, in Vienna; and of Madame Raoze?v?tz, issued and bo forth in Constantinople, The Chief of Police seemed thunderstruck. “Madame,” said he, “in two minutes you have impressed me as X have never been impressed before. May I ask your nationality ? Your Russian is perfect, hut foreign; your French is the same. _ “I am cosmopolitan. lam in turn English, French, German, Russian, and, what is most to our present purpose, Roumehote; hut always and everywhere Bella-Demonla. Do I make myself clear?” “ To me— perfectly. Your identity established, pray consider the Department of Police at your service. And now, what fiave you to say?” “ More than can be said now. One question however, before we terminate ( this interview. When do we declare war ? Schouloff started, despite his training, despite himself. “ War !” he echoed. “ Yes—with Turkey.” For reply the Chief leaned forward and raised the shade from the lamp, flooding the room with light. He fixed his eyes on BellaDemonia’s face. She returned his gaze unflinchingly. She was dressed from head to foot in some black-beaded material, with here and there a flash of crimson, in a lining, a ribbon, or a feather. The Chief was apparently satisfied with his scrutiny. “ When the Ports shall have rejected the conditions presented by the Conference. “ They will not be of a nature that the Porte can accept ?” , . A moment’s pause, and then ocnouioti answered shortly;
“ No 1” “ Good! That is enough for to day. Tomorrow I will lay my plans before you. Is it agreed’” "Perfectly.” Ten minutes later Prince Scbouloff sat alone in his sanctum, buried in his complicated reflections. ( To be continued.)
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BELLA-DEMONIA., Evening Star, Issue 7957, 12 July 1889, Supplement
BELLA-DEMONIA. Evening Star, Issue 7957, 12 July 1889, Supplement
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