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Harietta Boleski was growing dissatisfied with her life. England was of
no amusement to her, and yet Hans insisted upon her staying on. She
wanted to go to Paris. The war altogether was a supreme bore and upset
She had been so successful in her obvious stupid way that Hans had been
enabled to transmit the most useful information to his country, which had
assisted to foil more than one Allied plan. Harietta saw numbers of old
gentlemen who pulled strings in that time, and although they wearied her,
she found them easier to extract news from than the younger men. Her
method was so irresistible: a direct appeal to the senses, and it hardly
ever failed. If only Hans would consent to her returning to Paris, with
the help of Ferdinand Ardayre, who was now her slave, she promised
Hans, as a Swedish philanthropic gentleman, had been over to give her
instructions once or twice, and at last had agreed to her crossing
She told this good news to Ferdinand one afternoon just before Christmas,
when he came in to see her in London.
"I'm going to Paris, Ferdie, and you must come too. There's no use in
your pretending that England matters to you, and you are of such use to
us with your branch business in Holland like that. If I'd thought in the
beginning that there was a chance to knock out Germany, I would have been
right on this side, because there's no two ways about it, England's the
place to have a good time in, but I've information which makes it certain
that we shall take Calais in the Spring, and so I guess it's safer to
cling to Kaiser Bill--and get it all done soon, then we can enjoy
ourselves again. I do pine for a tango! My! I'm just through with this
Ferdinand was a rest to her, almost as good as Hans. She had not to be
over-refined--she knew that he was on the same level as herself. He
amused her too in several ways.
He looked sulky now. It did not suit his plans to go to Paris yet. He was
trying to collect information for a game of his own. But where Harietta
went he must go, he was besotted about her, and knew that he could not
trust her a yard.
He protested a little that they were very well where they were, but as
she never allowed any one's wishes to interfere with her plans she
"I'm going on Saturday. We have secured a suite at the Universal this
time, now that the Rhin is shut up, and it is such a large hotel, you can
quite well stay there; Stanislass won't notice you among the crowd."
Ferdinand agreed unwillingly--and just then Verisschenzko came in. He had
not seen Madame Boleski since the night at the Carlton, having taken care
not to let her know of his further visits to England since.
He looked at Ferdinand Ardayre as though he had been some bit of
furniture, and he took up Fou-Chow who was cowering beneath a chair. He
did not speak a word.
Harietta talked for every one for a little while, and then she began to
Verisschenzko smiled lazily--he was trying an experiment. The interview
could not go on like this; Ferdinand Ardayre would certainly have to go.
Now that Verisschenzko had come, Harietta ardently wished that he would.
The most venomous hate was arising in Ferdinand's resentful soul. He felt
that here was a rival to be dreaded indeed. He saw that Harietta was
nervous; he had never seen her so before. He shut his teeth and
determined to stay on.
Verisschenzko continued his disconcerting silence. Harietta felt that
she should presently scream! She took Fou-Chow from St�pan and pinched
him cruelly in her exasperation. He gave a feeble squeak and she pushed
him roughly down. Animals to her were a nuisance. She disliked them if
she had any feeling at all. But Fou-Chow was an adjunct to her toilet
sometimes, and was a coveted possession, envied by her many female
friends. His tiny, cringing body irritated her though extremely when
she was not using him for effect, and he was often kicked and cuffed
out of her way.
He showed evident fear of her and ran from her always, so that when
she wanted to make a picture with him, she was obliged to carry him
in her arms.
Verisschenzko raised one bushy eyebrow, and a sardonic smile came
into his eyes.
Madame Boleski saw that she had made a mistake in showing her temper to
the dog; it would have given her pleasure then to wring its neck!
The two men sat on. She began to grow so uncomfortable that she could
endure it no more.
"You are coming back to dinner, Mr. Ardayre," she remarked at length,
"and I want you to get me gardenias to wear, if you will be so kind, and
I am afraid you will have to hurry as the shops close soon."
Ferdinand Ardayre rose, rage showing in his mean face, but as he had no
choice he said good-bye. Harietta accompanied him to the door, pressing
his hand stealthily, then she returned to the Russian with flaming eyes.
He had not uttered a word.
"How dare you make me so nervous, sitting there like a log! I won't stand
for such treatment--you Bear!"
"Then sit down. Why do you have that Turk with you at all?"
"He is not a Turk; he's an Englishman and a friend of mine. Why, he is
the brother of your precious John Ardayre--and they have behaved
shamefully to him, poor dear boy."
She was still enraged.
"He is not even a pure Turk--some of them are gentlemen. He is just the
scum of the earth, and no blood relation to John Ardayre."
"He will let them know whether he is or not some day! I hear that your
bit of bread and butter is going to have a child, and as Ferdie says it
can't be John's, I suppose it is yours!"
Verisschenzko's face looked dangerous.
"You would do well to guard your words, Harietta. I do not permit you to
make such remarks to me--and it would be more prudent if you warned your
friend that he had better not make such assertions either--do you
Harietta felt some twinge of fear at the strange tone in the Russian's
voice, but she was too out of temper to be cowed now.
"Puh!" and she tossed her head. "If the child is a boy Ferdie will have
something to say--and as for Amaryllis--I hate her! I'd like to kill her
with my own hands."
Verisschenzko rose and stood before her--and there was a look in his eyes
which made her suddenly grow cold.
"Listen," he said icily. "I have warned you once and you know me well
enough to decide whether I ever speak lightly. I warn you again to be
careful of your words and your deeds. I shall warn you no more--if you
transgress a third time--then I will strike."
Harietta grew pale to her painted lips.
How would he strike? Not with a stick as Hans would have done, but
in some much more deadly way. She changed her manner instantly and
began to laugh.
Verisschenzko knew that he had alarmed her sufficiently, so he sat down
in his chair again and lit a cigarette calmly--then he sniffed the air.
"Your mongrel friend uses the same perfume as Stanislass' mistress!"
"Stanislass' mistress?" she had forgotten for the moment.
"Yes--don't you remember we burnt his scented handkerchief the last time
we met, because we did not like her taste in perfumes?"
Harietta's ill humour rose again; she was annoyed that she had forgotten
this incident. Her instinct of self-preservation usually preserved her
from committing any such mistakes. She felt that it was now advisable to
become cajoling; also there was something in the face of Verisschenzko
and his fierceness which aroused renewed passion in her--it was absurd
to waste time in quarrelling with him when in an hour Stanislass might be
coming in, so she went over behind his chair and smoothed back his thick
"You know that I adore you, darling Brute!"
"Of course--" he did not even turn his head towards her. "Have you had
your heart's desire here in England?"
"Before this stupid war came--yes--now I'm through with it. I'm for
"I suppose I must have been mistaken, but I thought I caught sight of
your handsome German friend in the hall just now?"
"Your _danseur_ at the Ardayre ball. I have forgotten his name."
"And so have I."
At that instant Marie appeared at the door and Fou-Chow came from under
the chair where he was sheltering and pattered towards her with a glad
tiny whine. The maid's eyes rounded with dislike as she looked at her
mistress; she realised that the little creature had been roughly treated
again. She picked him up and could hardly control her voice into a tone
of respectfulness as she spoke:
"Monsieur Insborg demands if he can see Madame in half an hour. He
telephoned to Madame but received no reply."
For a second Harietta's eyes betrayed her; they narrowed with alarm, and
then she said suavely: "I suppose the receiver was off. No, say I am
dining early for the theatre--but to-morrow at five."
The maid inclined her head and left the room silently, carrying
Fou-Chow, but as she did so her eyes met Verisschenzko's and their
expression suggested to him several things:
"Marie loves the dog--so she hates Harietta. Good--we shall see."
Thus his thoughts ran, but aloud he asked what Harietta meant to do with
her life in Paris, and who had been her lovers here?
"You do say such frightful things to me, St�pan," and she tossed her
head. "You think that because I took you, I take others! Pah!--and if I
do--these Englishmen are peaches, just like little school boys--they'd
not harm a fly. But I only love you, Darling Brute--even though we have
had a row."
"I know that, of course. I am not jealous, only you have not given me any
proofs lately, so I am going to retire from the field. I came to say
He looked adorably attractive, Harietta thought--he made her blood run.
Ferdinand Ardayre was but an instructed weakling, when one had come
through his intricacies there was nothing in him. As a lover he was not
worth the Russian's little finger, and the more Verisschenzko eluded
her, the higher her passion for him grew; and here he was after months
of absence and suggesting that he would leave her for ever! This was not
to be borne!
The enraging part was that she would not dare to try to keep him with
Hans again upon the scene. She hated Hans once more as she had hated him
at the Ardayre ball!
Verisschenzko did not attempt to caress her; he sat perfectly still, nor
did he speak.
Harietta could not think how to cope with this new mood; her weariness
with the gloom of England and the absence of amusement seemed to render
St�pan more than ever desirable. He represented the wild, the strong, the
primitive, the only thing she felt that she desired at that moment--and
if she let him go to-day he was capable of never coming back to her
again. It was worth using any means to keep him on. She knew that she
could obtain some show of love from him if she bribed him with bits of
news. It would serve Hans right too for daring to turn up so
So she came from behind his chair and sat down on Verisschenzko's knee
and commenced to whisper in his ear.
"Now I am beginning to think that you love me again," he announced
presently,--"and of course I must always pay for love!"
* * * * *
They were seated by the fire in two armchairs when Stanislass came in
from the Club before dinner at eight. Harietta had not even remembered
that she must dress, so intoxicated with re-awakened passion for
Verisschenzko had she become. A man for her must be in the room; her
affection could not keep alight in absence. She had revelled in the joy
of finding again a complete physical master. She loved him as a tigress
may love her tamer, the man with the whip; and the knowledge that she was
deceiving Hans and her husband and Ferdinand added a fillip to her
satisfaction. But how was she going to be sure to see St�pan again--that
was the question which still agitated her. Verisschenzko wished to
further examine Ferdinand Ardayre, and so decided to make every one
uncomfortable once more by staying on. Stanislass, very nervous with him
now, talked fast and foolishly. Harietta fidgeted, and in a moment or two
Ferdinand Ardayre was announced.
He reddened with annoyance to see the Russian had not gone; the flowers
which he had brought were in a parcel in his hand.
Harietta took them disdainfully without a word of thanks. What a nuisance
the creature was after all!--and Stanislass was--and everything and
anything was which kept her from being alone with Verisschenzko!
"When are you coming to see me again, St�pan?" she asked, determined not
to let him part without some definite future meeting settled.
"I will come back and take coffee with you to-night," he answered
Harietta was enchanted, she had not hoped for this.
"No one bothers so much about dressing now, stay and dine as you are."
"Yes, do," chimed in Stanislass timidly in Russian, "we should be
"Very well--I will dine--but I must change. I shall not be long though.
Begin dinner without me, I will join you before the fish." And with no
further waste of words he left them.
Harietta pushed Stanislass gently from the room with an injunction to be
quick--and then she returned and held out her arms to Ferdinand Ardayre.
"Now you must not be jealous, Ferdie pet, about Verisschenzko," and she
patted him. "It is business--I must talk to him to-night; he has an idea
that you and I are not favourable to the Allies," and she laughed
delightedly, "and I must get him off this notion!"
Ferdinand Ardayre looked sullen; he was burning with jealousy.
"Will you make it up to me afterwards?"
"But, of course, in the usual way!" and with one of her wonderful kisses
Harietta went laughing from the room.
Left alone, the young man gave himself a morphine _piq�re_, and then sat
down and held his head in his hands.
He had heard, as he had told Harietta earlier in the afternoon, that his
brother's wife was going to have a child, and he could find no way of
proving legally that it could not be John's, so his venom had grown with
His mother had said to him once:
"The accursed English will always beat us, my son. Thy real father would
have put poison in their coffee. We can only hope for revenge some day. I
fear we shall never gain our desires. The old fool whom thou callest
father must be sucked dry of everything while he lives, because no
quarter will be given us once the breath is out of his body."
Was this true? Must the English always beat him? He remembered his hatred
of Denzil while at Eton, and the dog's life he had often led there. Well,
he would hit back with an adder's sting when the chance came to him. He
would like to see both Ardayres ruined and England herself in the dust,
numbed and conquered. All his English life and education had never made
him anything but an alien in thought and appearance.
It was his powerlessness which enraged him, but surely the day must come
when he could make some of them suffer.
Harietta had not appeared in the hall when Verisschenzko returned
dressed, and she even kept all three men waiting for about ten minutes,
and then swept in resplendent in yellow brocade and the gardenias, when
the clock had struck nine and most of the other diners were having
The atmosphere of restraint and depression was a constant source of
resentment to her. It was all very well to be dignified and refined for
some definite end, like securing an unquestioned position, but it was a
weariness of the flesh to have to keep up this r�le month after month
with no excitement or reward, and every now and then she felt that she
must break out even in small ways by wearing too gorgeous and unsuitable
raiment. She wished that Germany would be quick about winning, then
things could settle down and she could begin her social career again.
"It don't amount to a row of pins to the people who want to enjoy
themselves, as I do, if their country is beaten or not; it'll all be the
same six months after peace is declared, so I'm all for knocking
whichever seems feeblest out quickly," she had said to Ferdinand, "and
Paris will always be top of the world for clothes and things that one
wants, so what do old politics matter?"
She derived some pleasure out of the sensation she created when she went
into a restaurant, and she really looked extraordinarily handsome.
The dinner amused her, too; it was entertaining to make Ferdinand
jealous. The emotions of Stanislass had ceased to count to her in any way
Verisschenzko had discovered what he required in regard to Ferdinand
Ardayre before they went into the hall for coffee--there was nothing
further to be gained by having another t�te-�-t�te with Harietta, so he
sat down by Stanislass and suggested that the other two should go on to
the Coliseum without them, and Harietta was obliged to depart reluctantly
with Ferdinand, having arranged that St�pan should let her know, directly
he arrived in Paris, whither he was going in a day or two also.
When she had left them Stanislass Boleski turned melancholy eyes to his
old friend, but remained silent.
"Has it been worth it?" Verisschenzko asked, with certain feeling--they
had relapsed into Russian.
Stanislass sighed deeply.
"No--far from it--I am broken and finished, St�pan, she has devoured
"Why don't you kill her! I should."
The Pole clenched one of his transparent looking hands:
"I cannot--I desire her so--she is an obsession. I cannot work--she
leaves me neither time nor brain. But I want her always, she is a burning
torment, and a blast, and a sin. I see visions of the chance that I have
missed, and then all is obliterated by her voluptuous kisses. I die each
day with jealousy and shame. She withholds herself, and I would pay with
the blood from my veins to possess her again!"
"You have no longer any delusions about her--you see her as a curse and
"I see everything, but I know only desire. St�pan, she has dragged me
through every degradation. I am a witness of her unfaithfulness. She
gives herself to this Turk with hardly a pretence of concealment--I know
it--I burn with rage, and I can do nothing. She returns to my arms and I
forget everything. I am a most unhappy man and only death can release me,
and yet I wish to live because I love her. Each day is fierce longing for
her--each night away from her hell--" Tears sprang to his hopeless black
eyes and his voice broke with emotion.
Verisschenzko looked at him and a rough pity tempered his contempt.
Here was a case where an indulgence having become master was exacting a
hideous toll. But the net was drawing closer and when all the strands
were in his hands he would act without mercy.
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