Knights of Industry
by Vsevolod Vladimirovitch Krestovski
THE LAST WILL OF THE PRINCESS
CHECHEVINSKI for the last time looked at the home of her
girlhood, over which the St. Petersburg twilight was
descending. Defying the commands of her mother, the
traditions of her family, she had decided to elope with the
man of her choice. With a last word of farewell to her maid,
she wrapped her cloak round her and disappeared into the
The maid's fate had been a strange one. In
one of the districts beyond the Volga lived a noble, a
bachelor, luxuriously, caring only for his own amusement. He
fished, hunted, and petted the pretty little daughter of his
housekeeper, one of his serfs, whom he vaguely intended to
set free. He passed hours playing with the pretty child, and
even had an old French governess come to give her lessons.
She taught little Natasha to dance, to play the piano, to
put on the airs and graces of a little lady. So the years
passed, and the old nobleman obeyed the girl's every whim,
and his serfs bowed before her and kissed her hands.
Gracefully and willfully she queened it over the whole
Then one fine day the old noble took thought
and died. He had forgotten to liberate his housekeeper and
her daughter, and, as he was a bachelor, his estate went to
his next of kin, the elder Princess Chechevinski. Between
the brother and sister a cordial hatred had existed, and
they had not seen one another for years.
Coming to take possession of the estate,
Princess Chechevinski carried things with a high hand. She
ordered the housekeeper to the cow house, and carried off
the girl Natasha, as her daughter's maid, to St. Petersburg,
from the first hour letting her feel the lash of her bitter
tongue and despotic will. Natasha had tried in vain to dry
her mother's tears. With growing anger and sorrow she
watched the old house as they drove away, and looking at the
old princess she said to herself, "I hate her! I hate
her! I will never forgive her!"
Princess Anna, bidding her maid good-by,
disappeared into the night. The next morning the old
princess learned of the flight. Already ill, she fell
fainting to the floor, and for a long time her condition was
critical. She regained consciousness, tried to find words to
express her anger, and again swooned away. Day and night,
three women watched over her, her son's old nurse, her maid,
and Natasha, who took turns in waiting on her. Things
continued thus for forty-eight hours. Finally, on the night
of the third day she came to herself. It was Natasha's
"And you knew? You knew she was
going?" the old princess asked her fiercely.
The girl started, unable at first to collect
her thoughts, and looked up frightened. The dim flicker of
the night light lit her pale face and golden hair, and fell
also on the grim, emaciated face of the old princess, whose
eyes glittered feverishly under her thick brows.
"You knew my daughter was going to run
away?" repeated the old woman, fixing her keen eyes on
Natasha's face, trying to raise herself from among the
"I knew," the girl answered in a
half whisper, towering her eyes in confusion, and trying to
throw off her first impression of terror.
"Why did you not tell me before?"
the old woman continued, even more fiercely.
Natasha had now recovered her composure. and
raising her eyes with an expression of innocent distress,
"Princess Anna hid everything from me
also, until the very last. How dare I tell you? Would you
have believed me? It was not my business, your
The old princess shook her head, smiling
bitterly and incredulously.
"Snake!" she hissed fiercely,
looking at the girl; and then she added quickly:
"Did any of the others know?"
"No one but myself!" answered
"Never dare to speak of her again! Never
dare!" cried the old princess, and once more she sank
back unconscious on the pillows.
About noon the next day she again came to
herself, and ordered her son to be called. He came in
quietly, and affectionately approached his mother.
The princess dismissed her maid, and remained
alone with her son.
"You have no longer a sister!" she
cried, turning to her son, with the nervous spasm which
returned each time she spoke of her daughter. "She is
dead for us! She has disgraced us! I curse her! You, you
alone are my heir!"
At these words the young prince pricked up
his ears and bent even more attentively toward his mother.
The news of his sole heirship was so pleasant and unexpected
that he did not even think of asking how his sister had
disgraced them, and only said with a deep sigh:
"Oh, mamma, she was always opposed to
you. She never loved you!"
"I shall make a will in your
favor," continued the princess, telling him as briefly
as possible of Princess Anna's flight. "Yes, in your
favor--only on one condition: that you will never recognize
your sister. That is my last wish!"
"Your wish is sacred to me,"
murmured her son, tenderly kissing her hand. He had always
been jealous and envious of his sister, and was besides in
immediate need of money.
The princess signed her will that same day,
to the no small satisfaction of her dear son, who, in his
heart, was wondering how soon his beloved parent would pass
away, so that he might get his eyes on her long-hoarded
THE LITHOGRAPHER'S APPRENTICE
LATER on the same day, in a
little narrow chamber of one of the huge, dirty tenements on
Vosnesenski Prospekt, sat a young man of ruddy complexion.
He was sitting at a table, bending toward the one dusty
window, and attentively examining a white twenty-five ruble
The room, dusty and dark, was wretched
enough. Two rickety chairs, a torn haircloth sofa, with a
greasy pillow, and the bare table at the window, were its
entire furniture. Several scattered lithographs, two or
three engravings, two slabs of lithographer's stone on the
table, and engraver's tools sufficiently showed the
occupation of the young man. He was florid, with red hair;
of Polish descent, and his name was Kasimir Bodlevski. On
the wall, over the sofa, between the overcoat and the cloak
hanging on the wall, was a pencil drawing of a young girl.
It was the portrait of Natasha.
The young man was so absorbed in his
examination of the twenty-five ruble note that when a gentle
knock sounded on the door he started nervously, as if coming
back to himself, and even grew pale, and hurriedly crushed
the banknote into his pocket.
The knock was repeated--and this time
Bodlevski's face lit up. It was evidently a well-known and
expected knock, for he sprang up and opened the door with a
Natasha entered the room.
"What were you dreaming about that you
didn't open the door for me?" she asked caressingly,
throwing aside her hat and cloak, and taking a seat on the
tumble-down sofa. "What were you busy at?"
"You know, yourself."
And instead of explaining further, he drew
the banknote from his pocket and showed it to Natasha.
"This morning the master paid me, and I
am keeping the money," he continued in a low voice,
tilting back his chair. "I pay neither for my rooms nor
my shop, but sit here and study all the time."
"It's so well worth while, isn't
it?" smiled Natasha with a contemptuous grimace.
"You don't think it is worth
while?" said the young man. "Wait! I'll learn.
We'll be rich!"
"Yes, if we aren't sent to
Siberia!" the girl laughed. "What kind of wealth
is that?" she went on. "The game is not worth the
candle. I'll be rich before you are."
"All right, go ahead!"
"Go ahead? I didn't come to talk
nonsense, I came on business. You help me, and, on my word
of honor, we'll be in clover!"
Bodlevski looked at his companion in
"I told you my Princess Anna was going
to run away. She's gone! And her mother has cut her off from
the inheritance," Natasha continued with an exultant
smile. "I looked through the scrap basket, and have
brought some papers with me."
"What sort of papers?"
"Oh, letters and notes. They are all in
Princess Anna's handwriting. Shall I give them to you?"
jested Natasha. "Have a good look at them, examine
them, learn her handwriting, so that you can imitate every
letter. That kind of thing is just in your line; you are a
first-class copyist, so this is just the job for you."
The engraver listened, and only shrugged his
"No, joking aside," she continued
seriously, drawing nearer Bodlevski, "I have thought of
something out of the common; you will be grateful. I have no
time to explain it all now. You will know later on. The main
thing is--learn her handwriting."
"But what is it all for?" said
"So that you may be able to write a few
words in the handwriting of Princess Anna; what you have to
write I'll dictate to you."
"Then hurry up and get me a passport in
some one else's name, and have your own ready. But learn her
handwriting. Everything depends on that!"
"It won't be easy. I'll hardly be able
to!" muttered Bodlevski, scratching his head.
Natasha flared up.
"You say you love me?" she cried
energetically, with a glance of anger. "Well, then, do
it. Unless you are telling lies, you can learn to do
The young man strode up and down his den,
"How soon do you want it?" he
asked, after a minute's thought. "In a couple of
"Yes, in about two days, not longer, or
the whole thing is done for!" the girl replied
decisively. "In two days I'll come for the writing, and
be sure my passport is ready!"
"Very well. I'll do it," consented
Bodlevski. And Natasha began to dictate to him the wording
of the letter.
As soon as she was gone the engraver got to
work. All the evening and a great part of the night he bent
over the papers she had brought, examining the handwriting,
studying the letters, and practicing every stroke with the
utmost care, copying and repeating it a hundred times, until
at last he had reached the required clearness. At last he
mastered the writing. It only remained to give it. the
needed lightness and naturalness. His head rang from the
concentration of blood in his temples, but he still worked
Finally, when it was almost morning, the note
was written, and the name of Princess Anna was signed to it.
The work was a masterpiece, and even exceeded Bodlevski's
expectations. Its lightness and clearness were remarkable.
The engraver, examining the writing of Princess Anna,
compared it with his own work, and was astonished, so
perfect was the resemblance.
And long he admired his handiwork, with the
parental pride known to every creator, and as he looked at
this note he for the first time fully realized that he was
"HALF the work is
done!" he cried, jumping from the tumble-down sofa.
"But the passport? There's where the shoe
pinches," continued the engraver, remembering the
second half of Natasha's commission. "The
passport--yes--that's where the shoe pinches!" he
muttered to himself in perplexity, resting his head on his
hands and his elbows on his knees. Thinking over all kinds
of possible and impossible plans, he suddenly remembered a
fellow countryman of his, a shoemaker named Yuzitch, who had
once confessed in a moment of intoxication that "he
would rather hook a watch than patch a shoe." Bodlevski
remembered that three months before he had met Yuzitch in
the street, and they had gone together to a wine shop,
where, over a bottle generously ordered by Yuzitch,
Bodlevski had lamented over the hardships of mankind in
general, and his own in particular. He had not taken
advantage of Yuzitch's offer to introduce him to "the
gang," only because he had already determined to take
up one of the higher branches of the "profession,"
namely, to metamorphose white paper into banknotes. When
they were parting, Yuzitch had warmly wrung his hand,
"Whenever you want anything, dear
friend, or if you just want to see me, come to the Cave;
come to Razyeziy Street and ask for the Cave, and at the
Cave anyone will show you where to find Yuzitch. If the
barkeeper makes difficulties just whisper to him that
'Secret' sent you, and he'll show you at once."
As this memory suddenly flashed into his
mind, Bodlevski caught up his hat and coat and hurried
downstairs into the street. Making his way through the
narrow, dirty streets to the Five Points, he stopped
perplexed. Happily he noticed a sleepy watchman leaning
leisurely against a wall, and going up to him he said:
"Tell me, where is the Cave?"
"The what?" asked the watchman
"The Cave? There is no such place!"
he replied, looking suspiciously at Bodlevski.
Bodlevski put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out some small change: "If you tell me----"
The watchman brightened up. "Why didn't
you say so before?" he asked, grinning. "You see
that house, the second from the corner? The wooden one?
That's the Cave."
Bodlevski crossed the street in the direction
indicated, and looked for the sign over the door. To his
astonishment he did not find it and only later he knew that
the name was strictly "unofficial," only used by
members of "the gang."
Opening the door cautiously, Bodlevski made
his way into the low, dirty barroom. Behind the bar stood a
tall, handsome man with an open countenance and a bald head.
Politely bowing to Bodlevski, with his eyes rather than his
head, he invited him to enter the inner room. But Bodlevski
explained that he wanted, not the inner room, but his friend
"Yuzitch?" said the barkeeper
thoughtfully. "We don't know anyone of that name."
"Why, he's here all the time,"
cried Bodlevski, in astonishment.
"Don't know him," retorted the
"'Secret' sent me!" Bodlevski
suddenly exclaimed, without lowering his voice.
The barkeeper looked at him sharply and
suspiciously, and then asked, with a smile:
"Who did you say?"
"'Secret,'" repeated Bodlevski.
After a while the barkeeper said, "And
did your--friend make an appointment?"
"Yes, an appointment!" Bodlevski
replied, beginning to lose patience.
"Well, take a seat in the inner
room," again said the barkeeper slyly. "Perhaps
your friend will come in, or perhaps he is there
Bodlevski made his way into a roomy saloon,
with five windows with faded red curtains. The ceiling was
black from the smoke of hanging lamps; little square tables
were dotted about the floor; their covers were coarse and
not above reproach on the score of cleanliness. The air was
pungent with the odor of cheap tobacco and cheaper cigars.
On the walls were faded oleographs of generals and
archbishops, flyblown and stained.
Bodlevski, little as he was used to refined
surroundings, found his gorge rising. At some of the little
tables furtive, impudent, tattered, sleek men were drinking.
Presently Yuzitch made his appearance from a
low door at the other end of the room. The meeting of the
two friends was cordial, especially on Bodlevski's side.
Presently they were seated at a table, with a flask of wine
between them, and Bodlevski began to explain what he wanted
to his friend.
As soon as he heard what was wanted, Yuzitch
took on an air of importance, knit his brows, hemmed, and
"I can manage it," he said finally.
"Yes, we can manage it. I must see one of my friends
about it. But it's difficult. It will cost money."
Bodlevski immediately assented. Yuzitch at
once rose and went over to a red-nosed individual in undress
uniform, who was poring over the Police News.
"Friend Borisovitch," said Yuzitch,
holding out his hand to him, "something doing!"
"Fair or foul?" asked the man with
the red nose.
"Hang your cheek!" laughed Yuzitch;
"if I say it, of course it's fair." After a
whispered conference, Yuzitch returned to Bodlevski and told
him that it was all right; that the passport for Natasha
would be ready by the next evening. Bodlevski paid him
something in advance and went home triumphantly.
At eleven o'clock the next evening Bodlevski
once more entered the large room at the Cave, now all lit up
and full of an animated crowd of men and women, all with the
same furtive, predatory faces. Bodlevski felt nervous. He
had no fears while turning white paper into banknotes in the
seclusion of his own workshop, but he was full of
apprehensions concerning his present guest, because several
people had to be let into the secret.
Yuzitch presently appeared through the same
low door and, coming up to Bodlevski, explained that the
passport would cost twenty rubles. Bodlevski paid the money
over in advance, and Yuzitch led him into a back room. On
the table burned a tallow candle, which hardly lit up the
faces of seven people who were grouped round it, one of them
being the red-nosed man who was reading the Police
News. The seven men were all from the districts of
Vilna and Vitebsk, and were specialists in the art of
The red-nosed man approached Bodlevski:
"We must get acquainted with each other," he said
amiably. "I have the honor to present myself!" and
he bowed low; "Former District Secretary Pacomius
Borisovitch Prakkin. Let me request you first of all to
order some vodka; my hand shakes, you know," he added
apologetically. "I don't want it so much for myself as
for my hand--to steady it."
Bodlevski gave him some change, which the
red-nosed man put in his pocket and at once went to the
sideboard for a flask of vodka which he had already bought.
"Let us give thanks! And now to business!" he
said, smacking his lips after a glass of vodka.
A big, red-haired man, one of the group of
seven, drew from his pocket two vials. In one was a sticky
black fluid; in the other, something as clear as water.
"We are chemists, you see," the
red-nosed man explained to Bodlevski with a grin, and then
"Finch! on guard!"
A young man, who had been lolling on a couch
in the corner, rose and took up a position outside the door.
"Now, brothers, close up!" cried
the red-nosed man, and all stood in close order, elbow to
elbow, round the table. "And now we take a newspaper
and have it handy on the table! That is in case," he
explained to Bodlevski, "any outsider happened in on
us--which Heaven prevent! We aren't up to anything at all;
simply reading the political news! You catch on?"
"How could I help catching on?"
"Very well. And now let us make
everything as clear as in a looking-glass. What class do you
wish to make the person belong to? The commercial or the
"I think the nobility would be
best," said Bodlevski.
"Certainly! At least that will give the
right of free passage through all the towns and districts of
the Russian Empire. Let us see. Have we not something that
And Pacomius Borisovitch, opening his
portfolio, filled with all kinds of passports, certificates,
and papers of identification, began to turn them over, but
without taking any out of the portfolio. All with the same
thought--that some stranger might come in.
"Ha! here's a new one! Where did it come
from?" he cried.
"I got it out of a new arrival,"
muttered the red-headed man.
"Well done! Just what we want! And a
noble's passport, too! It is evident that Heaven is helping
us. See what a blessing brings!
"'This passport is issued by the
District of Yaroslav,'" he continued reading, "'to
the college assessor's widow, Maria Solontseva, with
permission to travel,'" and so on in due form.
"Did you get it here?" he added, turning to the
"Came from Moscow!"
"Knocked on the head!" briefly
replied the red-headed man.
"Knocked on the head?" repeated
Pacomius Borisovitch. "Serious business. Comes under
sections 332 and 727 of the Penal Code."
"Driveling again!" cried the
red-headed man. "I'll teach you to talk about the Penal
Code!" and rising deliberately, he dealt Pacomius
Borisovitch a well-directed blow on the head, which sent him
rolling into the corner. Pacomius picked himself up,
blinking with indignation.
"What is the meaning of such
conduct?" he asked loftily.
"It means," said the red-headed
man, "that if you mention the Penal Code again I'll
knock your head off!"
"Brothers, brothers!" cried Yuzitch
in a good-humored tone; "we are losing precious time!
Forgive him!" he added, turning to Pacomius. "You
must forgive him!"
"I--forgive him," answered
Pacomius, but the light in his eye showed that he was deeply
"Well," he went on, addressing
Bodlevski, "will it suit you to have the person pass as
Maria Solontseva, widow of a college assessor?"
THE CAPTAIN OF THE GOLDEN BAND
BODLEVSKI had not time
to nod his head in assent, when suddenly the outer door was
pushed quickly open and a tall man, well built and
fair-haired, stepped swiftly into the room. He wore a
military uniform and gold-rimmed eyeglasses.
The company turned their faces toward him in
startled surprise, but no one moved. All continued to stand
in close order round the table.
"Health to you, eaglets! honorable men
of Vilna! What are you up to? What are you busy at?"
cried the newcomer, swiftly approaching the table and taking
the chair that Pacomius Borisovitch had just been knocked
"What is all this?" he continued,
with one hand seizing the vial of colorless liquid and with
the other the photograph of the college assessor's widow.
"So this is hydrochloric acid for erasing ink? Very
good! And this is a photo! So we are fabricating passports?
Very fine! Business is business! Hey! Witnesses!"
And the fair-haired man whistled sharply.
From the outer door appeared two faces, set on shoulders of
formidable proportions. The red-headed man silently went up
to the newcomer and fiercely seized him by the collar. At
the same moment the rest seized chairs or logs or bars to
defend themselves. The fair-haired man meanwhile, not in the
least changing his expression of cool self-confidence,
quickly slipped his hands into his pockets and pulled out a
pair of small double-barreled pistols. In the profound
silence in which this scene took place they could distinctly
hear the click of the hammers as he cocked them. He raised
his right hand and pointed the muzzle at the breast of his
The red-headed man let go his collar, and
glancing contemptuously at him, with an expression of hate
and wrath, silently stepped aside.
"How much must we pay?" he asked
"Oho! that's better. You should have
begun by asking that!" answered the newcomer, settling
himself comfortably on his chair and toying with his
pistols. "How much do you earn?"
"We get little enough! Just five
rubles," answered the red-headed man.
"That's too little. I need a great deal
more. But you are lying, brother! You would not stir for
less than twenty rubles!"
"Thanks for the compliment!"
interrupted Pacomius Borisovitch.
The fair-haired man nodded to him
satirically. "I need a lot more," he repeated
firmly and impressively; "and if you don't give me at
least twenty-five rubles I'll denounce you this very minute
to the police--and you see I have my witnesses ready."
"Sergei Antonitch! Mr. Kovroff! Have
mercy on us! Where can we get so much from? I tell you as in
the presence of the Creator! There are ten of us, as you
see. And there are three of you. And I, Yuzitch, and Gretcka
deserve double shares!" added Pacomius Borisovitch
"Gretcka deserves nothing at all for
catching me by the throat," decided Sergei Antonitch
"Mr. Kovroff!" began Pacomius
again. "You and I are gentlemen----"
"What! What did you say?" Kovroff
contemptuously interrupted him. "You put yourself on my
level? Ha! ha! ha! No, brother; I am still in the Czar's
service and wear my honor with my uniform! I, brother, have
never stained myself with theft or crime, Heaven be praised.
But what are you?"
"Hm! And the Golden Band? Who is its
captain?" muttered Gretcka angrily, half to himself.
"Who is its captain? I am--I, Lieutenant
Sergei Antonitch Kovroff, of the Chernovarski Dragoons! Do
you hear? I am captain of the Golden Band," he said
proudly and haughtily, scrutinizing the company with his
confident gaze. "And you haven't yet got as far as the
Golden Band, because you are cowards!
Chuproff," he cried to one of his men, "go and
take the mask off Finch, or the poor boy will suffocate, and
untie his arms--and give him a good crack on the head to
teach him to keep watch better."
The "mask" that Kovroff employed on
such occasions was nothing but a piece of oilcloth cut the
size of a person's face, and smeared on one side with a
thick paste. Kovroff's "boys" employed this
"instrument" with wonderful dexterity; one of them
generally stole up behind the unconscious victim and
skillfully slapped the mask in his face; the victim at once
became dumb and blind, and panted from lack of breath; at
the same time, if necessary, his hands were tied behind him
and he was leisurely robbed, or held, as the case might be.
The Golden Band was formed in the middle of
the thirties, when the first Nicholas had been about ten
years on the throne. Its first founders were three Polish
nobles. It was never distinguished by the number of its
members, but everyone of them could honestly call himself an
accomplished knave, never stopping at anything that stood in
the way of a "job." The present head of the band
was Lieutenant Kovroff, who was a thorough-paced rascal, in
the full sense of the word. Daring, brave, self-confident,
he also possessed a handsome presence, good manners, and the
worldly finish known as education. Before the members of the
Golden Band, and especially before Kovroff, the small
rascals stood in fear and trembling. He had his secret
agents everywhere, following every move of the crooks
quietly but pertinaciously. At the moment when some big job
was being pulled off, Kovroff suddenly appeared
unexpectedly, with some of his "boys," and
demanded a contribution, threatening instantly to inform the
police if he did not get it--and the rogues, in order to
"keep him quiet," had to give him whatever share
of their plunder he graciously deigned to indicate. Acting
with extraordinary skill and acumen in all his undertakings
he always managed so that not a shadow of suspicion could
fall on himself and so he got a double share of the plunder:
robbing the honest folk and the rogues at the same time.
Kovroff escaped the contempt of the crooks because he did
things on such a big scale and embarked with his Golden Band
on the most desperate and dangerous enterprises that the
rest of roguedom did not even dare to consider.
The rogues, whatever their rank, have a great
respect for daring, skill, and force--and therefore they
respected Kovroff, at the same time fearing and detesting
"Who are you getting that passport
for?" he asked, calmly taking the paper from the table
and slipping it into his pocket. Gretcka nodded toward
"Aha! for you, is it? Very glad to hear
it!" said Kovroff, measuring him with his eyes.
"And so, gentlemen, twenty-five rubles, or good-by--to
our happy meeting in the police court!"
"Mr. Kovroff! Allow me to speak to you
as a man of honor!" Pacomius Borisovitch again
interrupted. "We are only getting twenty rubles for the
job. The whole gang will pledge their words of honor to
that. Do you think we would lie to you and stain the honor
of the gang for twenty measly rubles?"
"That is business. That was well said. I
love a good speech, and am always ready to respect it,"
remarked Sergei Antonitch approvingly.
"Very well, then, see for
yourself," went on the red-nosed Pacomius, "see
for yourself. If we give you everything, we are doing our
work and not getting a kopeck!"
"Let him pay," answered Kovroff,
turning his eyes toward Bodlevski.
Bodlevski took out his gold watch, his only
inheritance from his father, and laid it down on the table
before Kovroff, with the five rubles that remained.
Kovroff again measured him with his eyes and
"You are a worthy young man!" he
said. "Give me your hand! I see that you will go
And he warmly pressed the engraver's hand.
"But you must know for the future," he added in a
friendly but impressive way, "that I never take
anything but money when I am dealing with these fellows. Ho,
you!" he went on, turning to the company, "some
one go to uncle's and get cash for this watch; tell him to
pay conscientiously at least two thirds of what it is worth;
it is a good watch. It would cost sixty rubles to buy. And
have a bottle of champagne got ready for me at the bar,
quick! And if you don't, it will be the worse for you!"
he called after the departing Yuzitch, who came back a few
minutes later, and gave Kovroff forty rubles. Kovroff
counted them, and put twenty in his pocket, returning the
remainder in silence, but with a gentlemanly smile, to
"Fair exchange is no robbery," he
said, giving Bodlevski the passport of the college
assessor's widow. "Now that old rascal Pacomius may get
"What is there to do?" laughed
Pacomius; "the passport will do very well. So let us
have a little glass, and then a little game of cards."
"We are going to know each other better;
I like your face, so I hope we shall make friends,"
said Kovroff, again shaking hands with Bodlevski. "Now
let us go and have some wine. You will tell me over our
glasses what you want the passport for, and on account of
your frankness about the watch, I am well disposed to you.
Lieutenant Sergei Kovroff gives you his word of honor on
that. I also can be magnanimous," he concluded, and the
new friends accompanied by the whole gang went out to the
There began a scene of revelry that lasted
till long after midnight. Bodlevski, feeling his side pocket
to see if the passport was still there, at last left the
hall, bewildered, as though under a spell. He felt a kind of
gloomy satisfaction; he was possessed by this satisfaction,
by the uncertainty of what Natasha could have thought out,
by the question how it would all turn out, and by the
conviction that his first crime had already been committed.
All these feelings lay like lead on his heart, while in his
ears resounded the wild songs of the Cave.
THE KEYS OF THE OLD PRINCESS
IT was nine o'clock in
the evening. Natasha lit the night lamp in the bedroom of
the old Princess Chechevinski, and went silently into the
dressing room to prepare the soothing powders which the
doctors had prescribed for her, before going to sleep.
The old princess was still very weak.
Although her periods of unconsciousness had not returned,
she was still subject to paroxysms of hysteria. At times she
sank into forgetfulness, then started nervously, sometimes
trembling in every limb. The thought of the blow of her
daughter's flight never left her for a moment.
Natasha had just taken the place of the day
nurse. It was her turn to wait on the patient until
midnight. Silence always reigned in the house of the
princess, and now that she was ill the silence was
intensified tenfold. Everyone walked on tiptoe, and spoke in
whispers, afraid even of coughing or of clinking a teaspoon
on the sideboard. The doorbells were tied in towels, and the
whole street in front of the house was thickly strewn with
straw. At ten the household was already dispersed, and
preparing for sleep. Only the nurse sat silently at the head
of the old lady's bed.
Pouring out half a glass of water, Natasha
sprinkled the powder in it, and took from the medicine chest
a phial with a yellowish liquid. It was chloral. Looking
carefully round, she slowly brought the lip of the phial
down to the edge of the glass and let ten drops fall into
it. "That will be enough," she said to herself,
and smiled. Her face, as always, was coldly quiet, and not
the slightest shade of any feeling was visible on it at that
Natasha propped the old lady up with her arm
She drank the medicine given to her and lay down again, and
in a few minutes the chloral began to have its effect. With
an occasional convulsive movement of her lower lip, she sank
into a deep and heavy sleep. Natasha watched her face
following the symptoms of unconsciousness, and when she was
convinced that sleep had finally taken complete possession
of her, and that for several hours the old woman was
deprived of the power to hear anything or to wake up she
slowly moved her chair nearer the bedstead, and without
taking her quietly observant eyes from the old woman's face,
softly slipped her hand under the lower pillow. Moving
forward with the utmost care, not more than an inch or so at
a time, her hand stopped instantly, as soon as there was the
slightest nervous movement of the old woman's face, on which
Natasha's eyes were fixed immovably. But the old woman slept
profoundly, and the hand again moved forward half an inch or
so under the pillow. About half an hour passed, and the
girl's eyes were still fastened on the sleeping face, and
her hand was still slipping forward under the pillow, moving
occasionally a little to one side, and feeling about for
something. Natasha's expression was in the highest degree
quiet and concentrated, but under this quietness was at the
same time concealed something else, which gave the
impression that if--which Heaven forbid!--the old woman
should at that moment awake, the other free hand would
instantly seize her by the throat.
At last the finger-ends felt something hard.
"That is it! " thought Natasha, and she held her
breath. In a moment, seizing its treasure, her hand began
quietly to withdraw. Ten minutes more passed, and Natasha
finally drew out a little bag of various colored silks, in
which the old princess always kept her keys, and from which
she never parted, carrying it by day in her pocket, and by
night keeping it under her pillow. One of the keys was an
ordinary one, that of her wardrobe. The other was smaller
and finely made; it was the key of her strong box.
About an hour later, the same keys, in the
same order, and with the same precautions, found their way
back to their accustomed place under the old lady's pillow.
Natasha carefully wiped the glass with her
handkerchief, in order that not the least odor of chloral
might remain in it, and with her usual stillness sat out the
remaining hours of her watch.
THE old princess awoke
at one o'clock the next day. The doctor was very pleased at
her long and sound sleep, the like of which the old lady had
not enjoyed since her first collapse, and which, in his
view, was certain to presage a turn for the better.
The princess had long ago formed a habit of
looking over her financial documents, and verifying the
accounts of income and expenditure. This deep-seated habit,
which had become a second nature, did not leave her, now she
was ill; at any rate, every morning, as soon as
consciousness and tranquillity returned to her, she took out
the key of her wardrobe, ordered the strong box to be
brought to her, and, sending the day nurse out of the room,
gave herself up in solitude to her beloved occupation, which
had by this time become something like a childish amusement.
She drew out her bank securities, signed and unsigned, now
admiring the colored engravings on them, now sorting and
rearranging them, fingering the packets to feel their
thickness, counting them over, and several thousands in
banknotes, kept in the house in case of need, and finally
carefully replaced them in the strong box. The girl,
recalled to the bedroom by the sound of the bell, restored
the strong box to its former place, and the old princess,
after this amusement, felt herself for some time quiet and
The nurses had had the opportunity to get
pretty well used to this foible; so that the daily
examination of the strong box seemed to them a part of the
order of things, something consecrated by custom.
After taking her medicine, and having her
hands and face wiped with a towel moistened with toilet
water, the princess ordered certain prayers to be read out
to her or the chapter of the Gospel appointed for the day,
and then received her son. From the time of her
illness--that is, from the day when she signed the will
making him her sole heir--he had laid it on himself as a not
altogether pleasant duty to put in an appearance for five
minutes in his mother's room, where he showed himself a
dutiful son by never mentioning his sister, but asking
tenderly after his mother's health, and finally, with a deep
sigh, gently kissing her hand, taking his departure
forthwith, to sup with some actress or to meet his
companions in a wine shop.
When he soon went away, the old lady, as was
her habit, ordered her strong box to be brought, and sent
the nurse out of the room. It was a very handsome box of
ebony with beautiful inlaid work.
The key clicked in the lock, the spring lid
sprang up, and the eyes of the old princess became set in
their sockets full of bewilderment and terror. Twenty-four
thousand rubles in bills, which she herself with her own
hands had yesterday laid on the top of the other securities,
were no longer in the strong box. All the unsigned bank
securities were also gone. The securities in the name of her
daughter Anna had likewise disappeared. There remained only
the signed securities in the name of the old princess and
her son, and a few shares of stock. In the place of all that
was gone, there lay a note directed "to Princess
The old lady's fingers trembled so that for a
long time she could not unfold this paper. Her staring eyes
wandered hither and thither as if she had lost her senses.
At last she managed somehow to unfold the note, and began to
"You cursed me,
forced me to flee, and unjustly deprived me of my
inheritance. I am taking my money by force. You may inform
the police, but when you read this note, I myself and he who
carried out this act by my directions, will have left St.
PRINCESS ANNA CHECHEVINSKI.
The old lady's hands did not fall at her
sides, but shifted about on her lap as if they did not
belong to her. Her wandering, senseless eyes stopped their
movements, and in them suddenly appeared an expression of
deep meaning. The old princess made a terrible, superhuman
effort to recover her presence of mind and regain command
over herself. A single faint groan broke from her breast,
and her teeth chattered. She began to look about the room
for a light, but the lamp had been extinguished; the dull
gray daylight filtering through the Venetian blinds
sufficiently lit the room. Then the old lady, with a
strange, irregular movement, crushed the note together in
her hand, placed it in her mouth, and with a convulsive
movement of her jaws chewed it, trying to swallow it as
quickly as possible.
A minute passed, and the note had
disappeared. The old princess closed the strong box and rang
for the day nurse. Giving her the usual order in a quiet
voice, she had still strength enough to support herself on
her elbow and watch the nurse closing the wardrobe, and then
to put the little bag with the keys back under her pillow,
in its accustomed place. Then she again ordered the nurse to
When, two hours later, the doctor, coming for
the third time, wished to see his patient and entered her
bedroom, he found only the old woman's lifeless body. The
blow had been too much--the daughter of the ancient and ever
honorable line of Chechevinski a fugitive and a thief!
Natasha had had her revenge.
BEYOND THE FRONTIER
ON the morning of that
same day, at nine o'clock, a well-dressed lady presented at
the Bank of Commerce a number of unsigned bank shares. At
the same time a young man, also elegantly dressed, presented
a scries of signed shares, made out in the name of
"Princess Anna Chechevinski." They were properly
indorsed, the signature corresponding to that in the bank
After a short interval the cashier of the
bank paid over to the well-dressed lady a hundred and fifty
thousand rubles in bills, and to the elegantly dressed young
man seventy thousand rubles. The lady signed her receipt in
French, Teresa Doré; the young man signed his name,
Ivan Afonasieff, son of a merchant of Kostroma.
A little later on the same day--namely, about
two o'clock--a light carriage carried two passengers along
the Pargoloff road: a quietly dressed young woman and a
quietly dressed young man. Toward evening these same young
people were traveling in a Finnish coach by the stony
mountain road in the direction of Abo.
Four days later the old Princess Chechevinski
was buried in the Nevski monastery.
On his return from the monastery, young
Prince Chechevinski went straight for the strong box, which
he had hitherto seen only at a distance, and even then only
rarely. He expected to find a great deal more money in it
than he found--some hundred and fifty thousand rubles; a
hundred thousand in his late mother's name, and fifty
thousand in his own. This was the personal property of the
old princess, a part of her dowry. The young prince made a
wry face--the money might last him two or three years, not
more. During the lifetime of the old princess no one had
known accurately how much she possessed, so that it never
even entered the young prince's head to ask whether she had
not had more. He was so unmethodical that he never even
looked into her account book, deciding that it was
uninteresting and not worth while.
That same day the janitor of one of the huge,
dirty tenements in Vosnesenski Prospekt brought to the
police office notice of the fact that the Pole, Kasimir
Bodlevski, had left the city; and the housekeeper of the
late Princess Chechevinski informed the police that the serf
girl Natalia Pavlovna (Natasha) had disappeared without
leaving a trace, which the housekeeper now announced, as the
three days' limit had elapsed.
At that same hour the little ship of a
certain Finnish captain was gliding down the Gulf of
Bothnia. The Finn stood at the helm and his young son
handled the sails. On the deck sat a young man and a young
woman. The young woman carried, in a little bag hung round
her neck, two hundred and forty-four thousand rubles in
bills, and she and her companion carried pistols in their
pockets for use in case of need. Their passports declared
that the young woman belonged to the noble class, and was
the widow of a college assessor, her name being Maria
Solontseva, while the young man was a Pole, Kasimir
The little ship was crossing the Gulf of
Bothnia toward the coast of Sweden.
BACK TO RUSSIA
IN the year 1858, in the
month of September, the "Report of the St. Petersburg
City Police" among the names of "Arrivals"
included the following:
Baroness von Döring, Hanoverian subject.
Ian Vladistav Karozitch, Austrian subject.
The persons above described might have been
recognized among the fashionable crowds which thronged the
St. Petersburg terminus of the Warsaw railway a few days
before: A lady who looked not more than thirty, though she
was really thirty-eight, dressed with simple elegance tall
and slender, admirably developed, with beautifully clear
complexion, piercing, intelligent gray eyes, under finely
outlined brows, thick chestnut hair, and a firm
mouth--almost a beauty, and with an expression of power,
subtlety and decision. "She is either a queen or a
criminal," a physiognomist would have said after
observing her face. A gentleman with a red beard, whom the
lady addressed as "brother," not less elegantly
dressed, and with the same expression of subtlety and
decision. They left the station in a hired carriage, and
drove to Demuth's Hotel.
Before narrating the adventures of these
distinguished persons, let us go back twenty years, and ask
what became of Natasha and Bodlevski. When last we saw them
the ship that carried them away from Russia was gliding
across the Gulf of Bothnia toward the Swedish coast. Late in
the evening it slipped into the port of Stockholm, and the
worthy Finn, winding in and out among the heavy hulls in the
harbor--he was well used to the job--landed his passengers
on the wharf at a lonely spot near a lonely inn, where the
customs officers rarely showed their noses. Bodlevski, who
had beforehand got ready the very modest sum to pay for
their passage, with pitiable looks and gestures and the few
Russian phrases the good Finn could understand, assured him
that he was a very poor man, and could not even pay the sum
agreed on in full. The deficit was inconsiderable, some two
rubles in all, and the good Finn was magnanimous; he slapped
his passenger on the shoulder, called him a "good
comrade," declared that he would not press a poor man,
and would always be ready to do him a service. He even found
quarters for Bodlevski and Natasha in the inn, under his
protection. The Finn was indeed a very honest smuggler. On
the next morning, bidding a final farewell to their nautical
friend, our couple made their way to the office of the
British Consul, and asked for an opportunity to speak with
him. At this point Natasha played the principal role.
"My husband is a Pole," said the
handsome girl, taking a seat opposite the consul in his
private office, "and I myself am Russian on the
father's side, but my mother was English. My husband is
involved in a political enterprise; he was liable to
transportation to Siberia, but a chance made it possible for
us to escape while the police were on their way to arrest
him. We are now political fugitives, and we intrust our
lives to the protection of English law. Be generous, protect
us, and send us to England!"
The ruse, skillfully planned and admirably
presented, was completely successful, and two or three days
later the first passenger ship under the English flag
carried the happy couple to London.
Bodlevski destroyed his own passport and that
of the college assessor's widow, Maria Solontseva, which
Natasha had needed as a precaution while still on Russian
soil. When they got to England, it would be much handier to
take new names. But with their new position and these new
names a great difficulty presented itself: they could find
no suitable outlet for their capital without arousing very
dangerous suspicions. The many-sided art of the London
rogues is known to all the world; in their club, Bodlevski,
who had lost no time in making certain pleasant and
indispensable acquaintances there, soon succeeded in getting
for himself and Natasha admirably counterfeited new
passports, once more with new names and occupations. With
these, in a short time, they found their way to the
Continent. They both felt the full force of youth and a
passionate desire to live and enjoy life; in their hot heads
hummed many a golden hope and plan; they wished, to begin
with, to invest their main capital somewhere, and then to
travel over Europe, and to choose a quiet corner somewhere
where they could settle down to a happy life.
Perhaps all this might have happened if it
had not been for cards and roulette and the perpetual desire
of increasing their capital--for the worthy couple fell into
the hands of a talented company, whose agents robbed them at
Frascati's in Paris, and again in Hamburg and various health
resorts, so that hardly a year had passed when Bodlevski one
fine night woke up to the fact that they no longer possessed
a ruble. But they had passed a brilliant year, their arrival
in the great cities had had its effect, and especially since
Natasha had become a person of title; in the course of the
year she succeeded in purchasing an Austrian barony at a
very reasonable figure--a barony which, of course, only
existed on paper. When all his money was gone, there was
nothing left for Bodlevski but to enroll himself a member of
the company which had so successfully accomplished the
transfer of his funds to their own pockets. Natasha's beauty
and Bodlevski's brains were such strong arguments that the
company willingly accepted them as new recruits. The two
paid dear for their knowledge, it is true, but their
knowledge presently began to bear fruit in considerable
abundance. Day followed day, and year succeeded year, a long
series of horribly anxious nights, violent feelings, mental
perturbations, crafty and subtle schemes, a complete cycle
of rascalities, an entire science of covering up tracks, and
the perpetual shadow of justice, prison, and perhaps the
scaffold. Bodlevski, with his obstinate, persistent, and
concentrated character, reached the highest skill in
card-sharping and the allied wiles. All games of
"chance" were for him games of skill. At thirty he
looked at least ten years older. The life he led, with its
ceaseless effort, endless mental work, perpetual anxiety,
had made of him a fanatical worshiper at the shrine of
trickery. He dried up visibly in body and grew old in mind,
mastering all the difficult arts of his profession, and only
gained confidence and serenity when he had reached the
highest possible skill in every branch of his
"work." From that moment he took a new lease of
life; he grew younger, he became gay and self-confident, his
health even visibly improved, and he assumed the air and
manner of a perfect gentleman.
As for Natasha, her life and efforts in
concert with Bodlevski by no means had the same wearing
effect on her as on him. Her proud, decided nature received
all these impressions quite differently. She continued to
blossom out, to grow handsomer, to enjoy life, to take
hearts captive. All the events which aroused so keen a
mental struggle in her companion she met with entire
equanimity. The reason was this: When she made up her mind
to anything, she always decided at once and with unusual
completeness; a very short time given to keen and accurate
consideration, a rapid weighing of the gains and losses of
the matter in hand, and then she went forward coldly and
unswervingly on her chosen path. Her first aim in life had
been revenge, then a brilliant and luxurious life--and she
knew that they would cost dear. Therefore, once embarked on
her undertaking, Natasha remained calm and indifferent,
brilliantly distinguished, and ensnaring the just and the
unjust alike. Her intellect, education, skill, resource, and
innate tact made it possible for her everywhere to gain a
footing in select aristocratic society, and to play by no
means the least role there. Many beauties envied her,
detested her, spoke evil of her, and yet sought her
friendship, because she almost always queened it in society.
Her friendship and sympathy always seemed so cordial, so
sincere and tender, and her epigrams were so pointed and
poisonous, that every hostile criticism seemed to shrivel up
in that glittering fire, and there seemed to be nothing left
but to seek her friendship and good will. For instance, if
things went well in Baden, one could confidently foretell
that at the end of the summer season Natasha would be found
in Nice or Geneva, queen of the winter season, the lioness
of the day, and the arbiter of fashion. She and Bodlevski
always behaved with such propriety and watchful care that
not a shadow ever fell on Natasha's fame. It is true that
Bodlevski had to change his name once or twice and to seek a
new field for his talents, and to make sudden excursions to
distant corners of Europe--sometimes in pursuit of a
promising "job," sometimes to evade the too
persistent attentions of the police. So far everything had
turned out favorably, and his name "had remained
unstained," when suddenly a slight mishap befell. The
matter was a trifling one, but the misfortune was that it
happened in Paris. There was a chance that it might find
issue in the courts and the hulks, so that there ensued a
more than ordinarily rapid change of passports and a new
excursion--this time to Russia, back to their native land
again, after an absence of twenty years. Thus it happened
that the papers announced the arrival in St. Petersburg of
Baroness von Döring and Ian Vladislav Karozitch.
THE CONCERT OF THE POWERS
A FEW days after there
was a brilliant reunion at Princess Shadursky's. All the
beauty and fashion of St. Petersburg were invited, and few
who were invited failed to come. It happened that Prince
Shadursky was an admirer of the fair sex, and also that he
had had the pleasure of meeting the brilliant Baroness von
Döring at Hamburg, and again in Paris. It was,
therefore, to be expected that Baroness von Döring
should be found in the midst of an admiring throng at
Princess Shadursky's reception. Her brother Ian Karozitch,
was also there, suave, alert, dignified, losing no
opportunity to make friends with the distinguished company
that thronged he prince's rooms.
Late in the evening the baroness and her
brother might have been seen engaged in a
tête-à-tête, seated in two
comfortable armchairs, and anyone who was near enough might
have heard the following conversation:
"How goes it?" Karozitch asked in a
"As you see, I am making a hit,"
answered the baroness in the same quiet tone. But her manner
was so detached and indifferent that no one could have
guessed her remark was of the least significance. It should
be noted that this was her first official presentation to
St. Petersburg society. And in truth her beauty, united with
her lively intellect, her amiability, and her perfect taste
in dress, had produced a general and even remarkable effect.
People talked about her and became interested in her, and
her first evening won her several admirers among those well
placed in society.
"I have been paying attention to the
solid capitalists," replied Karozitch; "we have
made our début in the rôle of
practical actors. Well, what about him?" he continued,
indicating Prince Shadursky with his eyes.
"In the web," she replied, with a
"Then we can soon suck his brains?"
"Soon--but he must be tied tighter
first. But we must not talk here." A moment later
Karozitch and the baroness were in the midst of the
brilliant groups of guests.
A few late comers were still arriving.
"Count Kallash!" announced the footman, who stood
at the chief entrance to the large hall.
At this new and almost unknown but
high-sounding name, many eyes were turned toward the door
through which the newcomer must enter. A hum of talk spread
among the guests:
"Who is he----?"
"It is a Hungarian name--I think I heard
of him somewhere."
"Is this his first appearance?"
"Who is this Kallash? Oh, yes, one of
the old Hungarian families----"
Such questions and answers crossed each other
in a running fire among the various groups of guests who
filled the hall, when a young man appeared in the doorway.
He lingered a moment to glance round the
rooms and the company; then, as if conscious of the remarks
and glances directed toward him, but completely
"ignoring" them, and without the least shyness or
awkwardness, he walked quietly through the hall to the host
and hostess of the evening.
People of experience, accustomed to society
and the ways of the great world, can often decide from the
first minute the rôle which anyone is likely to
play among them. People of experience, at the first view of
this young man, at his first entrance, merely by the way he
hall, decided that his rôle in society would be
brilliant--that more than one feminine heart would beat
faster for his presence, that more than one dandy's wrath
would be kindled by his successes.
"How handsome he is!" a whisper
went round among the ladies. The men for the most part
remained silent. A few twisted the ends of their mustache
and made as though they had not noticed him. This was
already enough to foreshadow a brilliant career.
And indeed Count Kallash could not have
passed unnoticed, even among a thousand young men of his
class. Tall and vigorous, wonderfully well proportioned, he
challenged comparison with Antinoüs. His pale face,
tanned by the sun, had an expression almost of weariness.
His high forehead, with clustering black hair and sharply
marked brows, bore the impress of passionate feeling and
turbulent thought strongly repressed. It was difficult to
define the color of his deep-set, somewhat sunken eyes,
which now flashed with southern fire, and were now veiled,
so that one seemed to be looking into an abyss. A slight
mustache and pointed beard partly concealed the ironical
smile that played on his passionate lips. The natural grace
of good manners and quiet but admirably cut clothes
completed the young man's exterior, behind which, in spite
of all his reticence, could be divined a haughty and
exceptional nature. A more profound psychologist would have
seen in him an obstinately passionate, ungrateful nature
which takes from others everything it desires, demanding it
from them as a right and without even a nod of
acknowledgment. Such was Count Nicholas Kallash.
A few days after the reception at Prince
Shadursky's Baroness von Döring was installed in a
handsome apartment on Mokhovoi Street, at which her
"brother," Ian Karozitch, or, to give him his
former name, Bodlevski, was a frequent visitor. By a
"lucky accident" he had met on the day following
the reception our old friend Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff, the
"captain of the Golden Band." Their recognition
was mutual, and, after a more or less faithful recital of
the events of the intervening years, they had entered into
an offensive and defensive alliance.
When Baroness von Döring was comfortably
settled in her new quarters, Sergei Antonovitch brought a
visitor to Bodlevski: none other than the Hungarian
nobleman, Count Nicholas Kallash.
"Gentlemen, you are strangers; let me
introduce you to each other," said Kovroff, presenting
Count Kallash to Bodlevski.
"Very glad to know you," answered
the Hungarian count, to Bodlevski's astonishment in Russian;
"very glad, indeed! I have several times had the honor
of hearing of you. Was it not you who had some trouble about
forged notes in Paris?"
"Oh, no! You are mistaken, dear
count!" answered Bodlevski, with a pleasant smile.
"The matter was not of the slightest importance. The
amount was a trifle and I was unwilling even to appear in
"You preferred a little journey to
Russia, didn't you?" Kovroff remarked with a smile.
"Little vexations of that kind may
happen to anyone," said Bodlevski, ignoring Kovroff's
interruption. "You yourself, dear count, had some
trouble about some bonds, if I am not mistaken?"
"You are mistaken," the count
interrupted him sharply. "I have had various troubles,
but I prefer not to talk about them."
"Gentlemen," interrupted Kovroff,
"we did not come here to quarrel, but to talk business.
Our good friend, Count Kallash," he went on, turning to
Bodlevski, "wishes to have the pleasure of
coöperating in our common undertaking, and--I can
recommend him very highly."
"Ah!" said Bodlevski, after a
searching study of the count's face. "I understand! the
baroness will return in a few minutes and then we can
discuss matters at our leisure."
But in spite of this understanding it was
evident that Bodlevski and Count Kallash had not impressed
each other very favorably. This, however, did not prevent
the concert of the powers from working vigorously together.
AN UNEXPECTED REUNION
ON the wharf of the
Fontauka, not far from Simeonovski Bridge, a crowd was
gathered. In the midst of the crowd a dispute raged between
an old woman, tattered disheveled, miserable, and an
impudent-looking youth. The old woman was evidently stupid
from misery and destitution.
While the quarrel raged a new observer
approached the crowd. He was walking leisurely, evidently
without an aim and merely to pass the time, so it is not to
be wondered at that the loud dispute arrested his attention.
"Who are you, anyway, you old hag? What
is your name?" cried the impudent youth.
"My name? My name?" muttered the
old woman in confusion. "I am a--I am a princess,"
and she blinked at the crowd.
Everyone burst out laughing. "Her
Excellency, the Princess! Make way for the Princess!"
cried the youth.
The old woman burst into sudden anger.
"Yes, I tell you, I am a princess by
birth!" and her eyes flashed as she tried to draw
herself up and impose on the bantering crowd.
"Princess What? Princess Which? Princess
How?" cried the impudent youth, and all laughed loudly.
"No! Not Princess How!" answered
the old woman, losing the last shred of self-restraint;
"but Princess Che-che-vin-ski! Princess Anna
When he heard this name Count Kallash started
and his whole expression changed. He grew suddenly pale, and
with a vigorous effort pushed his way through the crowd to
the miserable old woman's side.
"Come!" he said, taking her by the
arm. "Come with me! I have something for you!"
"Something for me?" answered the
old woman, looking up with stupid inquiry and already
forgetting the existence of the impudent youth. "Yes,
I'll come! What have you got for me?"
Count Kallash led her by the arm out of the
crowd, which began to disperse, abashed by his appearance
and air of determination. Presently he hailed a carriage,
and putting the old woman in, ordered the coachman to drive
to his rooms.
There he did his best to make the miserable
old woman comfortable, and his housekeeper presently saw
that she was washed and fed, and soon the old woman was
sleeping in the housekeeper's room.
To explain this extraordinary event we must
go back twenty years.
In 1838 Princess Anna Chechevinski, then in
her twenty-sixth year, had defied her parents, thrown to the
winds the traditions of her princely race, and fled with the
man of her choice, followed by her mother's curses and the
ironical congratulations of her brother, who thus became
After a year or two she was left alone by the
death of her companion, and step by step she learned all the
lessons of sorrow. From one stage of misfortune to another
she gradually fell into the deepest misery, and had become a
poor old beggar in the streets when Count Kallash came so
unexpectedly to her rescue.
It will be remembered that, as a result of
Natasha's act of vengeance, the elder Princess Chechevinski
left behind her only a fraction of the money her son
expected to inherit. And this fraction he by no means
hoarded, but with cynical disregard of the future he poured
money out like water, gambling, drinking, plunging into
every form of dissipation. Within a few months his entire
inheritance was squandered.
Several years earlier Prince Chechevinski had
taken a deep interest in conjuring and had devoted time and
care to the study of various forms of parlor magic. He had
even paid considerable sums to traveling conjurers in
exchange for their secrets. Naturally gifted, he had
mastered some of the most difficult tricks, and his skill in
card conjuring would not have done discredit even to a
The evening when his capital had almost
melted away and the shadow of ruin lay heavy upon him, he
happened to be present at a reception where card play was
going on and considerable sums were staked.
A vacancy at one of the tables could not be
filled, and in spite of his weak protest of unwillingness,
Prince Chechevinski was pressed into service. He won for the
first few rounds, and then began to lose, till the amount of
his losses far exceeded the slender remainder of his
capital. A chance occurred where, by the simple expedient
of neutralizing the cut, mere child's play for one so
skilled in conjuring, he was able to turn the scale in his
favor, winning back in a single game all that he had already
lost. He had hesitated for a moment, feeling the abyss
yawning beneath him; then he had falsed, made the pass, and
won the game. That night he swore to himself that he would
never cheat again never again be tempted to dishonor his
birth; and he kept his oath till his next run of bad luck,
when he once more neutralized the cut and turned the
"luck" in his direction.
The result was almost a certainty from the
outset, Prince Chechevinski became a habitual card sharper.
For a long time fortune favored him. His
mother's reputation for wealth, the knowledge that he was
her sole heir, the high position of the family, shielded him
from suspicion. Then came the thunderclap. He was caught in
the act of "dealing a second" in the English Club,
and driven from the club as a blackleg. Other reverses
followed: a public refusal on the part of an officer to play
cards with him, followed by a like refusal to give him
satisfaction in a duel; a second occasion in which he was
caught red-handed; a criminal trial; six years in Siberia.
After two years he escaped by way of the Chinese frontier,
and months after returned to Europe. For two years he
practiced his skill at Constantinople. Then he made his way
to Buda-Pesth, then to Vienna. While in the dual monarchy,
he had come across a poverty-stricken Magyar noble, named
Kallash, whom he had sheltered in a fit of generous pity,
and who had died in his room at the Golden Eagle Inn. Prince
Chechevinski, who had already borne many aliases, showed his
grief at the old Magyar's death by adopting his name and
title; hence it was that he presented himself in St.
Petersburg in the season of 1858 under the high-sounding
title of Count Kallash.
An extraordinary coincidence, already
described, had brought him face to face with his sister
Anna, whom he had never even heard of in all the years since
her flight. He found her now, poverty-stricken, prematurely
old, almost demented, and, though he had hated her cordially
in days gone by, his pity was aroused by her wretchedness,
and he took her to his home, clothed and fed her, and
surrounded her with such comforts as his bachelor apartment
In the days that followed, every doubt he
might have had as to her identity was dispelled. She talked
freely of their early childhood, of their father's death, of
their mother; she even spoke of her brother's coldness and
hostility in terms which drove away the last shadow of doubt
whether she was really his sister. But at first he made no
corresponding revelations, remaining for her only Count
THE PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM
LITTLE by little,
however, as the poor old woman recovered something of health
and strength, his heart went out toward her. Telling her
only certain incidents of his life he gradually brought the
narrative back to the period twenty years before,
immediately after their mother's death, and at last revealed
himself to his sister, after making her promise secrecy as
to his true name. Thus matters went on for nearly two years.
The broken-down old woman lived in his rooms
in something like comfort, and took pleasure in dusting and
arranging his things. One day, when she was tidying the
sitting room, her brother was startled by a sudden
exclamation almost a cry, which broke from his sister's
"Oh, heaven, it is she!" she cried,
her eyes fixed on a page of the photograph album she had
been dusting. "Brother, come here; for heaven's sake,
who is this?"
"Baroness von Döring," curtly
answered Kallash, glancing quickly at the photograph.
"What do you find interesting in her?"
"It is either she or her double! Do you
know who she looks like?"
"Lord only knows! Herself,
"No, she has a double! I am sure of it!
Do you remember, at mother's, my maid Natasha?"
"Natasha?" the count considered,
knitting his brows in the effort to recollect.
"Yes, Natasha, my maid. A tall, fair
girl. A thick tress of chestnut hair. She had such beautiful
hair! And her lips had just the same proud expression. Her
eyes were piercing and intelligent, her brows were clearly
marked and joined together--in a word, the very original of
"Ah," slowly and quietly commented
the count, pressing his hand to his brow. "Exactly. Now
I remember! Yes, it is a striking likeness."
"But look closely," cried the old
woman excitedly; "it is the living image of Natasha! Of
course she is more matured, completely developed. How old is
"She must be approaching forty. But she
doesn't look her age; you would imagine her to be about
thirty-two from her appearance."
"There! And Natasha would be just forty
"The ages correspond," answered her
"Yes." Princess Anna sighed sadly.
"Twenty-two years have passed since then. But if I met
her face to face I think I would recognize her at once. Tell
me, who is she?"
"The baroness? How shall I tell you? She
has been abroad for twenty years, and for the last two years
she has lived here. In society she says she is a foreigner,
but with me she is franker, and I know that she speaks
Russian perfectly. She declares that her husband is
somewhere in Germany, and that she lives here with her
"Who is the 'brother'?" asked the
old princess curiously.
"The deuce knows! He is also a bit
shady. Oh, yes! Sergei Kovroff knows him; he told me
something about their history; he came here with a forged
passport, under the name of Vladislav Karozitch, but his
real name is Kasimir Bodlevski."
"Kasimir Bodlevski," muttered the
old woman, knitting her brows. "Was he not once a
lithographer or an engraver, or something of the sort?"
"I think he was. I think Kovroff said
something about it. He is a fine engraver still."
"He was? Well, there you are!" and
Princess Anna rose quickly from her seat. "It is
she--it is Natasha! She used to tell me she had a
sweetheart, a Polish hero, Bodlevski. And I think his name
was Kasimir. She often got my permission to slip out to
visit him; she said he worked for a lithographer, and always
begged me to persuade mother to liberate her from serfdom,
so that she could marry him."
This unexpected discovery meant much to
Kallash. Circumstances, hitherto slight and isolated,
suddenly gained a new meaning, and were lit up in a way that
made him almost certain of the truth. He now remembered that
Kovroff had once told him of his first acquaintance with
Bodlevski, when he came on the Pole at the Cave, arranging
for a false passport; he remembered that Natasha had
disappeared immediately before the death of the elder
Princess Chechevinski, and he also remembered how, returning
from the cemetery, he had been cruelly disappointed in his
expectations when he had found in the strong box a sum very
much smaller than he had always counted on, and with some
foundation; and before him, with almost complete certainty,
appeared the conclusion that the maid's disappearance was
connected with the theft of his mother's money, and
especially of the securities in his sister's name and that
all this was nothing but the doing of Natasha and her
"Very good! Perhaps this information
will come in handy!" he said to himself, thinking over
his future measures and plans. "Let us see--let us feel
our way--perhaps it is really so! But I must go carefully
and keep on my guard, and the whole thing is in my hands,
dear baroness! We will spin a thread from you before all is
THE BARONESS AT HOME
EVERY Wednesday Baroness
von Döring received her intimate friends. She did not
care for rivals, and therefore ladies were not invited to
these evenings. The intimate circle of the baroness
consisted of our Knights of Industry and the
"pigeons" of the bureaucracy, the world of finance
the aristocracy, which were the objects of the knights'
desires. It often happened, however, that the number of
guests at these intimate evenings went as high as fifty, and
sometimes even more.
The baroness was passionately fond of games
of chance, and always sat down to the card table with
enthusiasm. But as this was done conspicuously, in sight of
all her guests, the latter could not fail to note that
fortune obstinately turned away from the baroness. She
almost never won on the green cloth; sometimes Kovroff won,
sometimes Kallash, sometimes Karozitch, but with the slight
difference that the last won more seldom and less than the
Thus every Wednesday a considerable sum found
its way from the pocketbook of the baroness into that of one
of her colleagues, to find its way back again the next
morning. The purpose of this clever scheme was that the
"pigeons" who visited the luxurious salons of the
baroness, and whose money paid the expenses of these salons,
should not have the smallest grounds for suspicion that the
dear baroness's apartment was nothing but a den of sharpers.
Her guests all considered her charming, to begin with, and
also rich and independent and passionate by nature. This
explained her love of play and the excitement it brought,
and which she would not give up, in spite of her repeated
Her colleagues, the Knights of Industry,
acted on a carefully devised and rigidly followed plan. They
were far from putting their uncanny skill in motion every
Wednesday. So long as they had no big game in sight, the
game remained clean and honest. In this way the band might
lose two or three thousand rubles, but such a loss had no
great importance, and was soon made up when some fat
It sometimes happened that this wily scheme
of honest play went on for five or six weeks in succession,
so that the small fry, winning the band's money, remained
entirely convinced that it was playing in an honorable and
respectable private house, and very naturally spread abroad
the fame of it throughout the whole city. But when the fat
pigeon at last appeared, the band put forth all its forces,
all the wiles of the black art, and in a few hours made up
for the generous losses of a month of honorable and
irreproachable play on the green cloth.
Midnight was approaching.
The baroness's rooms were brilliantly lit up,
but, thanks to the thick curtains which covered the windows,
the lights could not be seen from the street, though several
carriages were drawn up along the sidewalk.
Opening into the elegant drawing-room was a
not less elegant card room, appreciatively nicknamed the
Inferno by the band. In it stood a large table with a green
cloth, on which lay a heap of bank notes and two little
piles of gold, before which sat Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff,
presiding over the bank with the composure of a true
What Homeric, Jovine calm rested on every
feature of his face! What charming, fearless self-assurance,
what noble self-confidence in his smile, in his glance! What
grace, what distinction in his pose, and especially in the
hand which dealt the cards! Sergei Kovroff's hands were
decidedly worthy of attention. They were almost always clad
in new gloves, which he only took off on special occasions,
at dinner, or when he had some writing to do, or when he sat
down to a game of cards. As a result, his hands were almost
feminine in their delicacy, the sensibility of the finger
tips had reached an extraordinary degree of development,
equal to that of one born blind. And those fingers were
skillful, adroit, alert, their every movement carried out
with that smooth, indefinable grace which is almost always
possessed by the really high-class card sharper. His fingers
were adorned with numerous rings, in which sparkled diamonds
and other precious stones. And it was not for nothing that
Sergei Kovroff took pride in them! This glitter of diamonds,
scattering rainbow rays, dazzled the eyes of his fellow
players. When Sergei Kovroff sat down to preside over the
bank, the sparkling of the diamonds admirably masked those
motions of his fingers which needed to be masked; they
almost insensibly drew away the eyes of the players from his
fingers, and this was most of all what Sergei Kovroff
Round the table about thirty guests were
gathered. Some of them sat, but most of them played
standing, with anxious faces, feverishly sparkling eyes, and
breathing heavily and unevenly. Some were pale, some
flushed, and all watched with passionate eagerness the fall
of the cards. There were also some who had perfect command
of themselves, distinguished by extraordinary coolness, and
jesting lightly whether they lost or won. But such happily
constituted natures are always a minority when high play is
Silence reigned in the Inferno. There was
almost no conversation; only once in a while was heard a
remark, in a whisper or an undertone, addressed by a player
to is neighbor; the only sound was that short, dry rustle of
the cards and the crackling of new bank notes, or the tinkle
of gold coins making their way round the table from the bank
to the players, and from the players back to the bank.
The two Princes Shadursky, father and son,
both lost heavily They sat opposite Sergei Kovroff, and
between them sat Baroness von Döring, who played in
alliance with them The clever Natasha egged them on,
kindling their excitement with all the skill and calculation
possible to one whose blood was as cold as the blood of a
fish, and both the Shadurskys had lost their heads, no
longer knowing how much they were losing.
COUNT KALLASH and his
sister had just breakfasted when the count's French footman
entered the study.
"Madame la baronne von
Döring!" he announced obsequiously.
Brother and sister exchanged a rapid glance.
"Now is our opportunity to make
sure," said Kallash, with a smile.
"If it is she, I shall recognize her by
her voice," whispered Princess Anna. "Shall I
remain here or go?"
"Remain in the meantime; it will be a
curious experience. Faites entrer!" he added to
A moment later light, rapid footsteps were
heard in the entrance hall, and the rustling of a silk
"How do you do, count! I have come to
see you for a moment. I came in all haste, on purpose. I
have come in person, you must be duly appreciative!
Vladislav is too busy, and the matter is an important one. I
wanted to see you at the earliest opportunity. Well, we may
all congratulate ourselves. Fate and fortune are decidedly
on our side!" said the baroness, speaking rapidly, as
she entered the count's study.
"What has happened? What is the
news?" asked the count, going forward to meet her.
"We have learned that the Shadurskys
have just received a large sum of money; they have sold an
estate, and the purchaser has paid them in cash. Our
opportunity has come. Heaven forbid that we should lose it!
We must devise a plan to make the most of it."
The baroness suddenly stopped short in the
middle of the sentence, and became greatly confused,
noticing that there was a third person present.
"Forgive me! I did not give you
warning," said the count, shrugging his shoulders and
smiling; "permit me! Princess Anna
Chechevinski!" he continued with emphasis,
indicating his poor, decrepit sister. "Of course you
would not have recognized her, baroness."
"But I recognized Natasha
immediately," said the old woman quietly, her eyes
still fixed on Natasha's face.
The baroness suddenly turned as white as a
sheet, and with trembling hands caught the back of a heavy
Kallash with extreme politeness assisted her
to a seat.
"You didn't expect to meet me,
Natasha?" said the old woman gently and almost
caressingly, approaching her.
"I do not know you. Who are you?"
the baroness managed to whisper, by a supreme effort.
"No wonder; I am so changed,"
replied Princess Anna. "But you are just the
same. There is hardly any change at all."
Natasha began to recover her composure.
"I don't understand you," she said
coldly, contracting her brows.
"But I understand you
"Allow me, princess," Kallash
interrupted her, "permit me to have an explanation with
the baroness; she and I know each other well. And if you
will pardon me, I shall ask you in the meantime to
And he courteously conducted his sister to
the massive oak doors, which closed solidly after her.
"What does this mean?" said the
baroness, rising angrily, her gray eyes flashing at the
count from under her broad brows.
"A coincidence," answered Kallash,
shrugging his shoulders with an ironical smile.
"How a coincidence? Speak clearly!"
"The former mistress has recognized her
former maid--that is all."
"How does this woman come to be here?
Who is she?"
"I have told you already; Princess Anna
Chechevinski And as to how she came here, that was also a
coincidence, and a strange one."
"Impossible!" exclaimed the
"Why impossible? They say the dead
sometimes return from the tomb, and the princess is still
alive. And why should the matter not have happened thus, for
instance? Princess Anna Chechevinski's maid Natasha took
advantage of the confidence and illness of the elder
princess to steal from her strong box, with the aid of her
sweetheart, Kasimir Bodlevski, money and securities--mark
this, baroness--securities in the name of Princess Anna. And
might it not happen that this same lithographer Bodlevski
should get false passports at the Cave, for himself and his
sweetheart, and flee with her across the frontier, and might
not this same maid, twenty years later, return to Russia
under the name of Baroness von Döring? You must admit
that there is nothing fantastic in all this! What is the use
of concealing? You see I know everything!"
"And what follows from all this?"
replied the baroness with a forced smile of contempt.
"Much may follow from it,"
significantly but quietly replied Kallash. "But at
present the only important matter is, that I know all. I
"Where are your facts?" asked the
"Facts? Hm!" laughed Kallash.
"If facts are needed, they will be forthcoming Believe
me, dear baroness, that if I had not legally sufficient
facts in my hands, I would not have spoken to you of
Kallash lied, but lied with the most complete
appearance of probability.
The baroness again grew confused and turned
"Where are your facts? Put them in my
hands!" she said at last, after a prolonged silence
"Oh, this is too much! Get hold of them
yourself!" the count replied, with the same smile.
"The facts are generally set forth to the prisoner by
the court; but it is enough for you in the meantime to know
that the facts exist, and that they are in my possession.
Believe. if you wish. If you do not wish, do not believe. I
will neither persuade you nor dissuade you."
"And this means that I am in your
power?" she said slowly, raising her piercing glance to
"Yes; it means that you are in my
power," quietly and confidently answered Count Kallash.
"But you forget that you and I are in
the same boat."
"You mean that I am a sharper, like you
and Bodlevski? Well, you are right. We are all berries of
the same bunch--except her" (and he indicated
the folding doors). "She, thanks to many things, has
tasted misery, but she is honest. But we are all rascals,
and I first of all. You are perfectly right in that. If you
wish to get me in your power--try to find some facts against
me. Then we shall be quits!"
"And what is it you wish?"
"It is too late for justice, at least so
far as she is concerned," replied the count, with a
touch of sadness; "but it is not too late for a measure
of reparation. But we can discuss that later," he went
on more lightly, as if throwing aside the heavy impression
produced by the thought of Princess Anna's misery. "And
now, dear baroness, let us return to business, the business
of Prince Shadursky! I will think the matter over, and see
whether anything suggests itself."
He courteously conducted the baroness to the
carriage, and they parted, to all appearance, friends. But
there were dangerous elements for both in that seeming
A WONDERFUL scheme was
hatched in Count Kallash's fertile brain. Inspired by the
thought of Prince Shadursky's newly replenished millions, he
devised a plan for the gang which promised brilliant
results, and only needed the aid of a discreet and skillful
confederate. And what confederate could be more trustworthy
than Sergei Antonovitch Kovroff? So the two friends were
presently to be found in secret consultation in the count's
handsome study, with a bottle of good Rhine wine before
them, fine cigars between their lips, and the memory of a
well-served breakfast lingering pleasantly in their minds.
They were talking about the new resources of the Shadurskys.
"To take their money at cards--what a
wretched business--and so infernally commonplace," said
Count Kallash. "To tell you the truth, I have for a
long time been sick of cards! And, besides, time is money!
Why should we waste several weeks, or even months, over
something that could be done in a few days?"
Kovroff agreed completely, but at the same
time put the question, if not cards, what plan was
"That is it exactly!" cried
Kallash, warming up. "I have thought it all over. The
problem is this: we must think up something that would
surprise Satan himself, something that would make all Hades
smile and blow us hot kisses. But what of Hades?--that's all
nonsense. We must do something that will make the whole
Golden Band throw up their caps. That is what we have to
"Quite a problem," lazily answered
Kovroff, chewing the end of his cigar. "But you are
asking too much."
"But that is not all," the count
interrupted him; "listen! This is what my problem
demands. We must think of some project that unites two
precious qualities: first, a rapid and huge profit; second,
entire absence of risk."
"Conditions not altogether easy to
fulfill," remarked Kovroff doubtfully.
"So it seems. And daring plans are not
to be picked up in the street, but are the result of
inspiration. It is what is called a 'heavenly gift,' my dear
"And you have had an inspiration?"
smiled Sergei Antonovitch, with a slightly ironical shade of
"I have had an inspiration,"
replied the supposititious Hungarian nobleman, falling into
the other's tone.
"And your muse is----?"
"The tenth of the muses," the count
interrupted him: "another name is Industry."
"She is the muse of all of us."
"And mine in particular. But we are not
concerned with her, but with her prophetic
"Oh, dear count! Circumlocutions apart!
This Rhine wine evidently carries you to misty Germany. Tell
me simply what the matter is."
"The matter is simply this: we must
institute a society of 'gold miners,' and we must find gold
in places where the geological indications are dead against
it. That is the problem. The Russian laws, under threat of
arrest and punishment, sternly forbid the citizens of the
Russian Empire, and likewise the citizens of other lands
within the empire, to buy or sell the noble metals in their
crude form, that is, in nuggets, ore, or dust. For example,
if you bought gold in the rough from me--gold dust, for
example--we should both, according to law, have to take a
pleasant little trip beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia,
and there we should have to engage in mining the precious
metal ourselves. A worthy occupation, no doubt, but not a
very profitable one for us."
"Our luxuries would be strictly
limited," jested Kovroff, with a wry smile.
"There it is! You won't find many
volunteers for that occupation, and that is the fulcrum of
my whole plan. You must understand that gold dust in the
mass is practically indistinguishable in appearance from
brass filings. Let us suppose that we secretly sell some
perfectly pure brass filings for gold dust, and that they
are readily bought of us, because we sell considerably below
the market rate. It goes without saying that the purchaser
will presently discover that we have done him brown. But, I
ask you, will he go and accuse us knowing that, as the
penalty for his purchase, he will have to accompany us along
the Siberian road?"
"No man is his own enemy,"
sententiously replied Kovroff, beginning to take a vivid
interest in what his companion was saying. "But how are
you going to work it?"
"You will know at the proper time. The
chief thing is, that our problem is solved in the most
decisive manner. You and I are pretty fair judges of human
nature, so we may be pretty sure that we shall always find
purchasers, and I suggest that we make a beginning on young
Prince Shadursky. How we shall get him into it is my
business. I'll tell you later on. But how do you like the
general idea of my plan?"
"It's clever enough!" cried
Kovroff, pressing his hand with the gay enthusiasm of
"For this truth much thanks!" cried
Kallash, clinking glasses with him. "It is clever--that
is the best praise I could receive from you. Let us drink to
the success of my scheme!"
THE FISH BITES
THREE days after this
conversation the younger prince Shadursky dined with Sergei
That morning he received a note from Kovroff,
in which the worthy Sergei complained of ill health and
begged the prince to come and dine with him and cheer him
The prince complied with his request, and
appearing at the appointed time found Count Kallash alone
with his host.
Among other gossip, the prince announced that
he expected shortly to go to Switzerland, as he had bad
reports of the health of his mother, who was in Geneva.
At this news Kallash glanced significantly
Passing from topic to topic, the conversation
finally turned to the financial position of Russia. Sergei
Antonovitch, according to his expression, "went to the
root of the matter," and indicated the "source of
the evil," very frankly attacking the policy of the
government, which did everything to discourage gold mining,
hedging round this most important industry with all kinds of
difficulties, and practically prohibiting the free
production of the precious metals by laying on it a dead
weight of costly formalities.
"I have facts ready to hand," he
went on, summing up his argument. "I have an
acquaintance here, an employee of one of the best-known men
in the gold-mining industry." Here Kovroff mentioned a
well-known name. "He is now in St. Petersburg. Well, a
few days ago he suddenly came to me as if he had something
weighing on his mind. And I have had business relations with
him in times past. Well, what do you think? He suddenly made
me a proposal, secretly of course; would I not take some
gold dust off his hands? You must know that these trusted
employees every year bring several hundred pounds of gold
from Asia, and of course it stands to reason that they
cannot get rid of it in the ordinary way, but smuggle it
through private individuals. It is uncommonly profitable for
the purchasers, because they buy far below the market rates.
So there are plenty of purchasers. Several of the leading
jewelers" (and here he named three or four of the
best-known firms) "never refuse such a deal, and last
year a banking house in Berlin bought a hundred pounds'
weight of gold through agents here. Well, this same
employee, my acquaintance, is looking for an opportunity to
get rid of his wares. And he tells me he managed to bring in
about forty pounds of gold, if not more. I introduce this
fact to illustrate the difficulties put in the way of
enterprise by our intelligent government."
Shadursky did not greatly occupy himself with
serious questions and he was totally ignorant of all details
of financial undertakings. It was, therefore, perfectly easy
for Sergei Antonovitch to assume a tone of solid, practical
sense, which imposed completely on the young prince. Young
Shadursky, from politeness, and to prove his worldly wisdom,
assented to Kovroff's statements with equal decision. All
the same, from this conversation, he quite clearly seized on
the idea that under certain circumstances it would be
possible to buy gold at a much lower price than that
demanded by the Imperial Bank. And this was just the thought
which Kallash and Kovroff wished to sow in the young
"Of course, I myself do not go in for
that kind of business," went on Kovroff carelessly,
"and so I could not give my friend any help. But if
some one were going abroad, for instance, he might well risk
such an operation, which would pay him a very handsome
"How so? In what way?" asked
"Very simply. You buy the goods here, as
I already said, much below the government price. So that to
begin with you make a very profitable bargain. Then you go
abroad with your wares and there, as soon as the exchange
value of gold goes up, you can sell it at the nearest bank.
I know, for instance, that the agent of the ---- Bank"
(and he mentioned a name well known in St. Petersburg)
"made many a pretty penny for himself by just such a
deal. This is how it was: He bought gold dust for forty
thousand rubles, and six weeks later got rid of it in
Hamburg for sixty thousand. Whatever you may say, fifty per
cent on your capital in a month and a half is pretty good
"Deuce take it! A pretty profitable
bargain, without a doubt!" cried Shadursky, jumping
from his chair. "It would just suit me! I could get rid
of it in Geneva or Paris," he went on in a jesting
"What do you think? Of course!"
Sergei Antonovitch took him up, but in a serious tone.
"You or some one else--in any case it would be a good
bargain. For my acquaintance has to go back to Asia, and has
only a few days to spare. He doesn't know where to turn and
rather than take his gold back with him, he would willingly
let it go at an even lower rate than the smugglers generally
ask. If I had enough free cash I would go in for it
"It looks a good proposition,"
commented Count Kallash.
"It is certainly very enticing, what do
you think?" said Prince Shadursky interrogatively,
folding his arms.
"Hm--yes! very enticing," answered
Kovroff. "A fine chance for anyone who has the
"I would not object! I would not
object!" protested Shadursky. "Suppose you let me
become acquainted with your friend."
"You? Well----" And Kovroff
considered; "if you wish. Why not? Only I warn you,
first, if you are going to buy, buy quickly, for my friend
can't wait; and secondly, keep the matter a complete secret,
for very unpleasant results might follow."
"That goes without saying. That stands
to reason," assented Shadursky. "I can get the
money at once and I am just going abroad, in a day or two at
the latest. So it would be foolish to miss such a chance. So
it is a bargain?" And he held out his hand to Kovroff.
"How a bargain?" objected the
cautious Sergei Antonovitch. "I am not personally
concerned in the matter, and you must admit, my dear prince,
that I can make no promises for my acquaintance."
"I don't mean that!" cried
Shadursky. "I only ask you to arrange for me to meet
him. Bring us together--and drop him a hint that I do not
object to buying his wares. You will confer a great
obligation on me."
"Oh, that is quite a different matter.
That I can always do; the more so, because we are such good
friends. Why should I not do you such a trifling service? As
far as an introduction is concerned, you may count on
And they cordially shook each other by the
BOTH Kallash and Kovroff
were too cautious to take an immediate, personal part in the
gold-dust sale. There was a certain underling, Mr.
Escrocevitch by name, at Sergei Kovroff's beck and call--a
shady person, rather dirty in aspect, and who was,
therefore, only admitted to Sergei's presence by the back
door and through the kitchen, and even then only at times
when there were no outsiders present.
Mr. Escrocevitch was a person of general
utility and was especially good at all kinds of conjuring
tricks. Watches, snuff-boxes, cigar-cases, silver spoons,
and even heavy bronze paper-weights acquired the property of
suddenly vanishing from under his hands, and of suddenly
reappearing in a quite unexpected quarter. This valuable
gift had been acquired by Mr. Escrocevitch in his early
years, when he used to wander among the Polish fairs,
swallowing burning flax for the delectation of the public
and disgorging endless yards of ribbon and paper.
Mr. Escrocevitch was a precious and
invaluable person also owing to his capacity of assuming any
rôle, turning himself into any given character,
and taking on the corresponding tone, manners, and
appearance, and he was, further, a pretty fair actor.
He it was who was chosen to play the part of
the Siberian employee.
Not more than forty-eight hours had passed
since the previous conversation. Prince Shadursky was just
up, when his footman announced to him that a Mr.
Valyajnikoff wished to see him.
The prince put on his dressing gown and went
into the drawing-room, where the tolerably presentable but
strangely dressed person of Mr. Escrocevitch presented
itself to him.
"Permit me to have the honor of
introducing myself," he began, bowing to Prince
Shadursky; "I am Ivanovitch Valyajnikoff. Mr. Sergei
Antonovitch Kovroff was so good as to inform me of a certain
intention of yours about the dust. So, if your excellency
has not changed your mind, I am ready to sell it to you with
"Very good of you," answered Prince
Shadursky, smiling gayly, and giving him a chair.
"To lose no time over trifles,"
continued Mr. Escrocevitch, "let me invite you to my
quarters. I am staying at a hotel; you can see the goods
there; you can make tests, and, if you are satisfied, I
shall be very happy to oblige your excellency."
Prince Shadursky immediately finished
dressing, ordered his carriage, and went out with the
supposititious Valyajnikoff. They drove to a shabby hotel
and went to a dingy room.
"This is my poor abode. I am only here
on the wing, so to speak. I humbly request you to be
seated," Mr. Escrocevitch said obsequiously. "Not
to lose precious time, perhaps your excellency would like to
look at my wares? Here they are--and I am most willing to
And he dragged from under the bed a big
trunk, in which were five canvas bags of various sizes,
packed full and tied tightly.
"Here, here it is! This is our Siberian
dust," he said, smiling and bowing, indicating the
trunk with a wave of his hand, as if introducing it to
"Would not your excellency be so good as
to choose one of these bags to make a test? It will be much
better if you see yourself that the business is above board,
with no swindle about it. Choose whichever you wish!"
Shadursky lifted one of the bags from the
trunk, and when Mr. Escrocevitch untied it, before the young
prince's eyes appeared a mass of metallic grains, at which
he gazed not without inward pleasure.
"How are you going to make a test?"
he asked. "We have no blow-pipes nor test-tubes
"Make your mind easy, your excellency!
We shall find everything we require--blow-pipes and
test-tubes and nitric acid, and even a decimal weighing
machine. In our business we arrange matters in such a way
that we need not disturb outsiders. Only charcoal we haven't
got, but we can easily send for some."
And going to the door, he gave the servant in
the passage an order, and a few minutes later the latter
returned with a dish of charcoal.
"First class! Now everything is
ready," cried Mr. Escrocevitch, rubbing his hands; and
for greater security he turned the key in the door.
"Take whichever piece of charcoal you
please, your excellency; but, not to soil your hands, you
had better let me take it myself, and you sprinkle some of
the dust on it," and he humbled himself before the
prince. "Forgive me for asking you to do it all
yourself, since it is not from any lack of politeness on my
part, but simply in order that your excellency should be
fully convinced that there is no deception." Saying
this, he got his implements ready and lit the lamp.
The blow-pipe came into action. Valyajnikoff
made the experiment, and Shadursky attentively followed
every movement. The charcoal glowed white hot, the dust ran
together and disappeared, and in its place, when the
charcoal had cooled a little, and the amateur chemist
presented it to Prince Shadursky, the prince saw a little
ball of gold lying in a crevice of the charcoaL such as
might easily have formed under the heat of the blow-pipe.
"Take the globule, your excellency, and
place it, for greater security, in your pocketbook,"
said Escrocevitch; "you may even wrap it up in a bit of
paper; and keep the sack of gold dust yourself, so that
there can be no mistake."
Shadursky gladly followed this last piece of
"And now, your excellency, I should like
you kindly to select another bag; we shall make two or three
more tests in the same way."
The prince consented to this also.
Escrocevitch handed him a new piece of
charcoal to sprinkle dust on, and once more brought the
blow-pipe into operation. And again the brass filings
disappeared and in the crevice appeared a new globule of
"Well, perhaps these two tests will be
sufficient. What is your excellency good enough to think on
that score?" asked the supposed Valyajnikoff.
"What is the need of further tests? The
matter is clear enough," assented the prince.
"If it is satisfactory, we shall proceed
to make it even more satisfactory. Here we have a
touch-stone, and here we have some nitric acid. Try the
globules on the touchstone physically, and, so to speak,
with the nitric acid chemically. And if you wish to make
even more certain, this is what we shall do. What quantity
of gold does your excellency wish to take?"
"The more the better. I am ready to buy
all these bags."
"Very much obliged to your
excellency, as this will suit me admirably," said
Escrocevitch, bowing low. "And so, if your excellency
is ready, then I humbly beg you to take each bag, examine
it, and seal it with your excellency's own seal. Then let us
take one of the globules and go to one of the best jewelers
in St. Petersburg. Let him tell us the value of the gold and
in this way the business will be exact; there will be no
room for complaint on either side, since everything will be
fair and above board."
The prince was charmed with the honesty and
frankness of Mr. Valyajnikoff.
They went together to one of the best-known
jewelers, who, in their presence, made a test and announced
that the gold was chemically pure, without any alloy, and
therefore of the highest value.
On their return to the hotel, Mr.
Escrocevitch weighed the bags, which turned out to weigh
forty-eight pounds. Allowing three pounds for the weight of
the bags, this left forty-five pounds of pure gold.
"How much a pound do you want?"
Shadursky asked him.
"A pretty low price, your
excellency," answered the Siberian, with a shrug of his
shoulders, "as I am selling from extreme necessity,
because I have to leave for Siberia; I've spent too much
time and money in St. Petersburg already; and if I cannot
sell my wares, I shall not be able to go at all. I assume
that the government price is known to your excellency?"
"But I am willing to take two hundred
rubles a pound. I can't take a kopeck less, and even so I am
making a reduction of nearly a hundred rubles the
"All right!" assented Shadursky.
"That will amount to--" he went on, knitting his
brows, "forty-five pounds at two hundred rubles a
"It will make exactly nine thousand,
your excellency. Just exactly nine," Escrocevitch
obsequiously helped him out. The prince, cutting the matter
short, immediately gave him a check, and taking the trunk
with the coveted bags, drove with the Siberian employee to
his father's house, where the elder Prince Shadursky, at his
son's pressing demand, though very unwillingly, exchanged
the check for nine thousand rubles in bills, for which Ivan
Ivanovitch Valyajnikoff forthwith gave a receipt. The prince
was delighted with his purchase, and he did not utter a
syllable about it to anyone except Kovroff.
Sergei Antonovitch gave him a friendly
counsel not to waste any time, but to go abroad at once, as,
according to the Exchange Gazette, gold was at
that moment very high, so that he had an admirable
opportunity to get rid of his wares on very favorable terms.
The prince, in fact, without wasting time got
his traveling passport, concealed his purchase with the
utmost care, and set out for the frontier, announcing that
he was on his way to his mother, whose health imperatively
demanded his presence.
The success of the whole business depended on
the fact that brass filings, which bear a strong external
resemblance to gold dust, are dissipated in the strong heat
of the blowpipe. The charcoal was prepared beforehand, a
slight hollow being cut in it with a penknife, in the bottom
of which is placed a globule of pure gold, the top of which
is just below the level of the charcoal, and the hollow is
filled up with powdered charcoal mixed with a little
beeswax. The "chemist" who makes the experiments
must make himself familiar with the distinctive appearance
of the charcoal, so as to pick it out from among several
pieces, and must remember exactly where the crevice is.
On this first occasion, Escrocevitch had
prepared all four pieces of charcoal, which were brought by
the servant in the passage. He chose as his temporary abode
a hotel whose proprietor was an old ally of his, and the
servant was also a confederate.
Thus was founded the famous "Gold
Products Company," which is still in very successful
operation, and is constantly widening its sphere of
COUNT KALLASH finally
decided on his course of action. It was too late to seek
justice for his sister, but not too late for a tardy
reparation. The gang had prospered greatly, and the share of
Baroness von Döring and Bodlevski already amounted to a
very large figure. Count Kallash determined to demand for
his sister a sum equal to that of the securities in her name
which Natasha had stolen, calculating that this would be
enough to maintain his sister in peace and comfort to the
end of her days. His own life was too stormy, too full of
risks for him to allow his sister's fate to depend on his,
so he had decided to settle her in some quiet nook where,
free from danger, she might dream away her few remaining
To his surprise Baroness von Döring
flatly refused to be put under contribution.
"Your demand is outrageous," she
said. "I am not going to be the victim of any such
"Very well, I will compel you to
"To unmask? What do you mean, count? You
"Well, then, I shall try to make you
remember me!" And Kallash turned his back on her and
strode from the room. A moment later, and she heard the door
close loudly behind him.
The baroness had already told Bodlevski of
her meeting with Princess Anna, and she now hurried to him
for counsel. They agreed that their present position, with
Kallash's threats hanging over their heads, was intolerable.
But what was to be done?
Bodlevski paced up and down the room, biting
his lips, and seeking some decisive plan.
"We must act in such a way," he
said, coming to a stand before the baroness, "as to get
rid of this fellow once for all. I think he is dangerous,
and it never does any harm to take proper precautions. Get
the money ready, Natasha; we must give it to him."
"What! give him the money!" and the
baroness threw up her hands. "Will that get us out of
his power? Can we feel secure? It will only last till
something new happens. At the first occasion----"
"Which will also be the last!"
interrupted Bodlevski. "Suppose we do give him the
money to-day; does that mean that we give it for good? Not
at all! It will be back in my pocket to-morrow! Let us think
it out properly!" and he gave her a friendly pat on the
shoulder, and sat down in an easy chair in front of her.
The result of their deliberations was a
little note addressed to Count Kallash:
"DEAR COUNT," it ran, "I was guilty of an
act of folly toward you to-day. I am ashamed of it, and wish
to make amends as soon as possible. We have always been good
friends, so let us forget our little difference, the more so
that an alliance is much more advantageous to us both than a
quarrel. Come this evening to receive the money you spoke
of, and to clasp in amity the hand of your devoted friend,
Kallash came about ten o'clock in the
evening, and received from Bodlevski the sum of fifty
thousand rubles in notes. The baroness was very amiable, and
persuaded him to have some tea. There was not a suggestion
of future difficulties, and everything seemed to promise
perfect harmony for the future. Bodlevski talked over plans
of future undertakings, and told him, with evident
satisfaction, that they had just heard of the arrest of the
younger Prince Shadursky, in Paris, for attempting to
defraud a bank by a pretended sale of gold dust. Count
Kallash was also gay, and a certain satisfaction filled his
mind at the thought of his sister's security, as he felt the
heavy packet of notes in his pocket. He smoked his cigar
with evident satisfaction, sipping the fragrant tea from
time to time. The conversation was gay and animated, and for
some reason or other turned to the subject of clubs.
"Ah, yes," interposed Bodlevski,
"à propos! I expect to be a member of the
Yacht Club this summer. Let me recommend to you a new field
of action. They will disport themselves on the green water,
and we on the green cloth! By the way, I forgot to speak of
it--I bought a boat the other day, a mere rowboat. It is on
the Fontauka Canal, at the Simeonovski bridge. We must come
for a row some day."
"Delightful," exclaimed the
baroness. "But why some day? Why not to-night? The moon
is beautiful, and, indeed, it is hardly dark at midnight.
Your speaking of boats has filled me with a sudden desire to
go rowing. What do you say, dear count?" and she turned
amiably to Kallash.
Count Kallash at once consented, considering
the baroness's idea an admirable one, and they were soon on
their way toward the Simeonovski bridge.
"How delightful it is!" cried the
baroness, some half hour later, as they were gliding over
the quiet water. "Count, do you like strong
sensations?" she asked suddenly,
"I am fond of strong sensations of every
kind," he replied, taking up her challenge.
"Well, I am going to offer you a little
sensation, though it always greatly affects me. Everything
is just right for it, and I am in the humor, too."
"What is it to be? " asked Count
"You will see in a moment. Do you know
that there are underground canals in St. Petersburg?"
"In St. Petersburg?" asked Kallash
"Yes, in St. Petersburg! A whole series
of underground rivers, wide enough for a boat to pass
through. I have rowed along them several times. Does not
that offer a new sensation, something quite unlike St.
"Yes, it is certainly novel,"
answered Count Kallash, now interested. "Where are
they? Pray show them to me."
"There is one a few yards off. Shall we
enter? You are not afraid?" she said with a smile of
"By no means--unless you command me to
be afraid," Kallash replied in the same tone. "Let
us enter at once!"
"Kasimir, turn under the arch!" and
the boat cut across the canal toward a half circle of
darkness. A moment more and the darkness engulfed them
completely. They were somewhere under the Admiralty, not far
from St. Isaac's Cathedral. Away ahead of them was a tiny
half circle of light, where the canal joined the swiftly
flowing Neva. Carriages rumbled like distant thunder above
"Deuce take it! it is really rather
fine!" cried the count, with evident pleasure. "A
meeting of pirates is all we need to make it perfect. It is
a pity that we cannot see where we are!"
"Light a match. Have you any?" said
"I have, and wax matches, too." The
count took out a match and lit it, and the underground
stream was lit by a faint ruddy glow. The channel, covered
by a semi-circular arch, was just wide enough for one boat
to pass through, with oars out. The black water flowed
silently by in a sluggish, Stygian stream. Bats, startled by
the light, fluttered in their faces, and then disappeared in
As the boat glided on, the match burned out
in Count Kallash's fingers. He threw it into the water, and
opened his matchbox to take another.
At the same moment he felt a sharp blow on
the head, followed by a second, and he sank senseless in the
bottom of the boat.
"Where is the money?" cried
Bodlevski, who had struck him with the handle of the oar.
"Get his coat open!" and the baroness deftly drew
the thick packet from the breast pocket of his coat.
"Here it is! I have it!" she replied quickly.
"Now, overboard with him! Keep the body
steady!" A dull splash, and then silence.
"To-night we shall sleep secure!"
They counted without their host. Princess
Anna had also her scheme of vengeance, and had worked it
out, without a word to her brother. When Natasha and
Bodlevski entered their apartment, they found the police in
possession, and a few minutes later both were under arrest.
Abundant evidence of fraud and forgery was found in their
dwelling, and the vast Siberian solitudes avenged the death
of their last victim.