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Chapter 9

IX

ANNOUCHKA

"And now it's between us two, Natacha," murmured Rouletabille as
soon as he was outside. He hailed the first carriage that passed
and gave the address of the datcha des Iles. When he got in he
held his head between his hands; his face burned, his jaws were set.
But by a prodigious effort of his will he resumed almost instantly
his calm, his self-control. As he went back across the Neva, across
the bridge where he had felt so elated a little while before, and
saw the isles again he sighed heavily. "I thought I had got it all
over with, so far as I was concerned, and now I don't know where it
will stop." His eyes grew dark for a moment with somber thoughts
and the vision of the Lady in Black rose before him; then he shook
his head, filled his pipe, lighted it, dried a tear that had been
caused doubtless by a little smoke in his eye, and stopped
sentimentalizing. A quarter of an hour later he gave a true Russian
nobleman's fist-blow in the back to the coachman as an intimation
that they had reached the Trebassof villa. A charming picture was
before him. They were all lunching gayly in the garden, around the
table in the summer-house. He was astonished, however, at not
seeing Natacha with them. Boris Mourazoff and Michael Korsakoff
were there. Rouletabille did not wish to be seen. He made a sign
to Ermolai, who was passing through the garden and who hurried to
meet him at the gate.

"The Barinia," said the reporter, in a low voice and with his finger
to his lips to warn the faithful attendant to caution.

In two minutes Matrena Petrovna joined Rouletabille in the lodge.

"Well, where is Natacha?" he demanded hurriedly as she kissed his
hands quite as though she had made an idol of him.

"She has gone away. Yes, out. Oh, I did not keep her. I did not
try to hold her back. Her expression frightened me, you can
understand, my little angel. My, you are impatient! What is it
about? How do we stand? What have you decided? I am your slave.
Command me. Command me. The keys of the villa?"

"Yes, give me a key to the veranda; you must have several. I must
be able to get into the house to-night if it becomes necessary."

She drew a key from her gown, gave it to the young man and said a
few words in Russian to Ermolai, to enforce upon him that he must
obey the little domovoi-doukh in anything, day or night.

"Now tell me where Natacha has gone."

"Boris's parents came to see us a little while ago, to inquire after
the general. They have taken Natacha away with them, as they often
have done. Natacha went with them readily enough. Little domovoi,
listen to me, listen to Matrena Petrovna - Anyone would have said
she was expecting it!"

"Then she has gone to lunch at their house?"

"Doubtless, unless they have gone to a cafe. I don't know. Boris's
father likes to have the family lunch at the Barque when it is fine.
Calm yourself, little domovoi. What ails you? Bad news, eh? Any
bad news?"

"No, no; everything is all right. Quick, the address of Boris's
family."

"The house at the corner of La Place St. Isaac and la rue de la
Poste."

"Good. Thank you. Adieu."

He started for the Place St. Isaac, and picked up an interpreter at
the Grand Morskaia Hotel on the way. It might be useful to have him.
At the Place St. Isaac he learned the Morazoffs and Natacha Trebassof
had gone by train for luncheon at Bergalowe, one of the nearby
stations in Finland.

"That is all," said he, and added apart to himself, "And perhaps that
is not true."

He paid the coachman and the interpreter, and lunched at the
Brasserie de Vienne nearby. He left there a half-hour later, much
calmer. He took his way to the Grand Morskaia Hotel, went inside
and asked the schwitzar:

"Can you give me the address of Mademoiselle Annouchka?"

"The singer of the Krestowsky?"

"That is who I mean."

"She had luncheon here. She has just gone away with the prince."

Without any curiosity as to which prince, Rouletabille cursed his
luck and again asked for her address.

"Why, she lives in an apartment just across the way."

Rouletabille, feeling better, crossed the street, followed by the
interpreter that he had engaged. Across the way he learned on the
landing of the first floor that Mademoiselle Annouchka was away for
the day. He descended, still followed by his interpreter, and
recalling how someone had told him that in Russia it was always
profitable to be generous, he gave five roubles to the interpreter
and asked him for some information about Mademoiselle Annouchka's
life in St. Petersburg. The interpreter whispered:

"She arrived a week ago, but has not spent a single night in her
apartment over there.

He pointed to the house they had just left, and added:

"Merely her address for the police."

"Yes, yes," said Rouletabille, "I understand. She sings this
evening, doesn't she?"

"Monsieur, it will be a wonderful debut."

"Yes, yes, I know. Thanks."

All these frustrations in the things he had undertaken that day
instead of disheartening him plunged him deep into hard thinking.
He returned, his hands in his pockets, whistling softly, to the
Place St. Isaac, walked around the church, keeping an eye on the
house at the corner, investigated the monument, went inside,
examined all its details, came out marveling, and finally went once
again to the residence of the Mourazoffs, was told that they had
not yet returned from the Finland town, then went and shut himself
in his room at the hotel, where he smoked a dozen pipes of tobacco.
He emerged from his cloud of smoke at dinner-time.

At ten that evening he stepped out of his carriage before the
Krestowsky. The establishment of Krestowsky, which looms among the
Isles much as the Aquarium does, is neither a theater, nor a
music-hall, nor a cafe-concert, nor a restaurant, nor a public
garden; it is all of these and some other things besides. Summer
theater, winter theater, open-air theater, hall for spectacles,
scenic mountain, exercise-ground, diversions of all sorts, garden
promenades, cafes, restaurants, private dining-rooms, everything is
combined here that can amuse, charm, lead to the wildest orgies, or
provide those who never think of sleep till toward three or four
o'clock of a morning the means to await the dawn with patience. The
most celebrated companies of the old and the new world play there
amid an enthusiasm that is steadily maintained by the foresight of
the managers: Russian and foreign dancers, and above all the French
chanteuses, the little dolls of the cafes-concerts, so long as they
are young, bright, and elegantly dressed, may meet their fortune
there. If there is no such luck, they are sure at least to find
every evening some old beau, and often some officer, who willingly
pays twenty-five roubles for the sole pleasure of having a demoiselle
born on the banks of the Seine for his companion at the supper-table.
After their turn at the singing, these women display their graces and
their eager smiles in the promenades of the garden or among the
tables where the champagne-drinkers sit. The head-liners, naturally,
are not driven to this wearying perambulation, but can go away to
their rest if they are so inclined. However, the management is
appreciative if they accept the invitation of some dignitary of the
army, of administration, or of finance, who seeks the honor of
hearing from the chanteuse, in a private room and with a company of
friends not disposed to melancholy, the Bohemian songs of the Vieux
Derevnia. They sing, they loll, they talk of Paris, and above all
they drink. If sometimes the little fete ends rather roughly, it
is the friendly and affectionate champagne that is to blame, but
usually the orgies remain quite innocent, of a character that
certainly might trouble the temperance societies but need not make
M. le Senateur Berenger feel involved.

A war whose powder fumes reeked still, a revolution whose last
defeated growls had not died away at the period of these events,
had not at all diminished the nightly gayeties of Kretowsky. Many
of the young men who displayed their uniforms that evening and
called their "Nichevo" along the brilliantly lighted paths of the
public gardens, or filled the open-air tables, or drank vodka at
the buffets, or admired the figures of the wandering soubrettes,
had come here on the eve of their departure for the war and had
returned with the same child-like, enchanted smile, the same ideal
of futile joy, and kissed their passing comrades as gayly as ever.
Some of them had a sleeve lying limp now, or walked with a crutch,
or even on a wooden leg, but it was, all the same, "Nichevo!"

The crowd this evening was denser than ordinarily, because there
was the chance to hear Annouchka again for the first time since the
somber days of Moscow. The students were ready to give her an
ovation, and no one opposed it, because, after all, if she sang now
it was because the police were willing at last. If the Tsar's
government had granted her her life, it was not in order to compel
her to die of hunger. Each earned a livelihood as was possible.
Annouchka only knew how to sing and dance, and so she must sing
and dance!

When Rouletabille entered the Krestowsky Gardens, Annouchka had
commenced her number, which ended with a tremendous "Roussalka."
Surrounded by a chorus of male and female dancers in the national
dress and with red boots, striking tambourines with their fingers,
then suddenly taking a rigid pose to let the young woman's voice,
which was of rather ordinary register, come out, Annouchka had
centered the attention of the immense audience upon herself. All
the other parts of the establishment were deserted, the tables had
been removed, and a panting crowd pressed about the open-air theater.
Rouletabille stood up on his chair at the moment tumultuous "Bravos"
sounded from a group of students. Annouchka bowed toward them,
seeming to ignore the rest of the audience, which had not dared
declare itself yet. She sang the old peasant songs arranged to
present-day taste, and interspersed them with dances. They had an
enormous success, because she gave her whole soul to them and sang
with her voice sometimes caressing, sometimes menacing, and
sometimes magnificently desperate, giving much significance to
words which on paper had not aroused the suspicions of the censor.
The taste of the day was obviously still a taste for the revolution,
which retained its influence on the banks of the Neva. What she
was doing was certainly very bold, and apparently she realized how
audacious she was, because, with great adroitness, she would bring
out immediately after some dangerous phrase a patriotic couplet
which everybody was anxious to applaud. She succeeded by such means
in appealing to all the divergent groups of her audience and secured
a complete triumph for herself. The students, the revolutionaries,
the radicals and the cadets acclaimed the singer, glorifying not
only her art but also and beyond everything else the sister of the
engineer Volkousky, who had been doomed to perish with her brother
by the bullets of the Semenovsky regiment. The friends of the
Court on their side could not forget that it was she who, in front
of the Kremlin, had struck aside the arm of Constantin Kochkarof,
ordered by the Central Revolutionary Committee to assassinate the
Grand Duke Peter Alexandrovitch as he drove up to the governor's
house in his sleigh. The bomb burst ten feet away, killing
Constantin Kochkarof himself. It may be that before death came he
had time to hear Annouchka cry to him, "Wretch! You were told to
kill the prince, not to assassinate his children." As it happened,
Peter Alexandrovitch held on his knees the two little princesses,
seven and eight years old. The Court had wished to recompense her
for that heroic act. Annouchka had spit at the envoy of the Chief
of Police who called to speak to her of money. At the Hermitage in
Moscow, where she sang then, some of her admirers had warned her of
possible reprisals on the part of the revolutionaries. But the
revolutionaries gave her assurance at once that she had nothing to
fear. They approved her act and let her know that they now counted
on her to kill the Grand Duke some time when he was alone; which
had made Annouchka laugh. She was an enfant terrible, whose friends
no one knew, who passed for very wise, and whose lines of intrigue
were inscrutable. She enjoyed making her hosts in the private
supper-rooms quake over their meal. One day she had said bluntly
to one of the most powerful tchinovnicks of Moscow: "You, my old
friend, you are president of the Black Hundred. Your fate is sealed.
Yesterday you were condemned to death by the delegates of the Central
Committee at Presnia. Say your prayers." The man reached for
champagne. He never finished his glass. The dvornicks carried him
out stricken with apoplexy. Since the time she saved the little
grand-duchesses the police had orders to allow her to act and talk
as she pleased. She had been mixed up in the deepest plots against
the government. Those who lent the slightest countenance to such
plottings and were not of the police simply disappeared. Their
friends dared not even ask for news of them. The only thing not in
doubt about them was that they were at hard labor somewhere in the
mines of the Ural Mountains. At the moment of the revolution
Annouchka had a brother who was an engineer on the Kasan-Moscow line.
This Volkousky was one of the leaders on the Strike Committee. The
authorities had an eye on him. The revolution started. He, with
the help of his sister, accomplished one of those formidable acts
which will carry their memory as heroes to the farthest posterity.
Their work accomplished, they were taken by Trebassof's soldiers.
Both were condemned to death. Volkousky was executed first, and
the sister was taking her turn when an officer of the government
arrived on horseback to stop the firing. The Tsar, informed of her
intended fate, had sent a pardon by telegraph. After that she
disappeared. She was supposed to have gone on some tour across
Europe, as was her habit, for she spoke all the languages, like a
true Bohemian. Now she had reappeared in all her joyous glory at
Krestowsky. It was certain, however, that she had not forgotten her
brother. Gossips said that if the government and the police showed
themselves so long-enduring they found it to their interest to do
so. The open, apparent life Annouclika led was less troublesome to
them than her hidden activities would be. The lesser police who
surrounded the Chief of the St. retersburg Secret Service, the
famous Gounsovski, had meaning smiles when the matter was discussed.
Among them Annouchka had the ignoble nickname, "Stool-pigeon."

Rouletabille must have been well aware of all these particulars
concerning Annoucbka, for he betrayed no astonishment at the great
interest and the strong emotion she aroused. From the corner
where he was he could see only a bit of the stage, and he was
standing on tiptoes to see the singer when he felt his coat pulled.
He turned. It was the jolly advocate, well known for his gastronomic
feats, Athanase Georgevitch, along with the jolly Imperial councilor,
Ivan Petrovitch, who motioned him to climb down.

"Come with us; we have a box."

Rouletabille did not need urging, and he was soon installed in the
front of a box where he could see the stage and the public both.
Just then the curtain fell on the first part of Annouchka's
performance. The friends were soon rejoined by Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff, the great timber-merchant, who came from behind the
scenes.

"I have been to see the beautiful Onoto," announced the Lithuanian
with a great satisfied laugh. "Tell me the news. All the girls
are sulking over Annouchka's success."

"Who dragged you into the Onoto's dressing-room then? demanded
Athanase.

"Oh, Gounsovski himself, my dear. He is very amateurish, you know."

"What! do you knock around with Gounsovski?"

"On my word, I tell you, dear friends, he isn't a bad acquaintance.
He did me a little service at Bakou last year. A good acquaintance
in these times of public trouble."

"You are in the oil business now, are you?"

"Oh, yes, a little of everything for a livelihood. I have a little
well down Bakou way, nothing big; and a little house, a very small
one for my small business."

"What a monopolist Thaddeus is," declared Athanase Georgevitch,
hitting him a formidable slap on the thigh with his enormous hand.
"Gounsovski has come himself to keep an eye on Annouchka's debut,
eh? Only he goes into Onoto's dressing-room, the rogue."

"Oh, he doesn't trouble himself. Do you know who he is to have
supper with? With Annouchka, my dears, and we are invited."

"How's that?" inquired the jovial councilor.

"It seems Gounsovski influenced the minister to permit Annouchka's
performance by declaring he would be responsible for it all. He
required from Annouchka solely that she have supper with him on the
evening of her debut."

"And Annouchka consented?"

"That was the condition, it seems. For that matter, they say that
Annouchka and Gounsovski don't. get along so badly together.
Gounsovski has done Annouchka many a good turn. They say he is in
love with her."

"He has the air of an umbrella merchant," snorted Athanase
Georgevitch.

"Have you seen him at close range?" inquired Ivan.

"I have dined at his house, though it is nothing to boast of, on
my word."

"That is what he said," replied Thaddeus. "When he knew we were
here together, he said to me: 'Bring him, he is a charming fellow
who plies a great fork; and bring that dear man Ivan Petrovitch,
and all your friends.'"

"Oh, I only dined at his house," grumbled Athanase, "because there
was a favor he was going to do me."

"He does services for everybody, that man," observed Ivan Petrovitch.

"Of course, of course; he ought to," retorted Athanase. "What is
a chief of Secret Service for if not to do things for everybody?
For everybody, my dear friends, and a little for himself besides.
A chief of Secret Service has to be in with everybody, with
everybody and his father, as La Fontaine says (if you know that
author), if he wants to hold his place. You know what I mean."

Athanase laughed loudly, glad of the chance to show how French he
could be in his allusions, and looked at Rouletabille to see if he
had been able to catch the tone of the conversation; but Rouletabille
was too much occupied in watching a profile wrapped in a mantilla
of black lace, in the Spanish fashion, to repay Athanase's
performance with a knowing smile.

"You certainly have naive notions. You think a chief of Secret
Police should be an ogre," replied the advocate as he nodded here
and there to his friends.

"Why, certainly not. He needs to be a sheep in a place like that,
a thorough sheep. Gounsovski is soft as a sheep. The time I dined
with him he had mutton streaked with fat. He is just like that. I
am sure he is mainly layers of fat. When you shake hands you feel
as though you had grabbed a piece of fat. My word! And when he
eats he wags his jaw fattishly. His head is like that, too; bald,
you know, with a cranium like fresh lard. He speaks softly and looks
at you like a kid looking to its mother for a juicy meal."

"But - why - it is Natacha!" murmured the lips of the young man.

"Certainly it is Natacha, Natacha herself," exclaimed Ivan
Petrovitch, who had used his glasses the better to see whom the
young French journalist was looking at. "Ah, the dear child!
she has wanted to see Annouchka for a long time."

"What, Natacha! So it is. So it is. Natacha! Natacha!" said the
others. "And with Boris Mourazoff's parents."

"But Boris is not there," sniggered Thaddeus Tehitchnikoff.

"Oh, he can't be far away. If he was there we would see Michael
Korsakoff too. They keep close on each other's heels."

"How has she happened to leave the general? She said she couldn't
bear to be away from him."

"Except to see Annouchka," replied Ivan. "She wanted to see her,
and talked so about it when I was there that even Feodor Feodorovitch
was rather scandalized at her and Matrena Petrovna reproved her
downright rudely. But what a girl wishes the gods bring about.
That's the way."

"That's so, I know," put in Athanase. "Ivan Petrovitch is right.
Natacha hasn't been able to hold herself in since she read that
Annouchka was going to make her debut at Krestowsky. She said
she wasn't going to die without having seen the great artist."

"Her father had almost drawn her away from that crowd," affirmed
Ivan, "and that was as it should be. She must have fixed up this
affair with Boris and his parents."

"Yes, Feodor certainly isn't aware that his daughter's idea was to
applaud the heroine of Kasan station. She is certainly made of
stern stuff, my word," said Athanase.

"Natacha, you must remember, is a student," said Thaddeus, shaking
his head; "a true student. They have misfortunes like that now in
so many families. I recall, apropos of what Ivan said just now,
how today she asked Michael Korsakoff, before me, to let her know
where Annouchka would sing. More yet, she said she wished to speak
to that artist if it were possible. Michael frowned on that idea,
even before me. But Michael couldn't refuse her, any more than the
others. He can reach Annouchka easier than anyone else. You
remember it was he who rode hard and arrived in time with the pardon
for that beautiful witch; she ought not to forget him if she cared
for her life."

"Anyone who knows Michael Nikolaievitch knows that he did his duty
promptly," announced Athanase Georgevitch crisply. "But he would
not have gone a step further to save Annouchka. Even now he won't
compromise his career by being seen at the home of a woman who is
never from under the eyes of Gounsovski's agents and who hasn't been
nicknamed 'Stool-pigeon' for nothing."

"Then why do we go to supper tonight with Annouchka?" asked Ivan.

"That's not the same thing. We are invited by Gounsovski himself.
Don't forget that, if stories concerning it drift about some day,
my friends," said Thaddeus.

"For that matter, Thaddeus, I accept the invitation of the honorable
chief of our admirable Secret Service because I don't wish to slight
him. I have dined at his house already. By sitting opposite him at
a public table here I feel that I return that politeness. What do
you say to that?"

"Since you have dined with him, tell us what kind of a man he is
aside from his fattish qualities," said the curious councilor.
"So many things are said about him. He certainly seems to be a man
it is better to stand in with than to fall out with, so I accept
his invitation. How could you manage to refuse it, anyway?"

"When he first offered me hospitality," explained the advocate, "I
didn't even know him. I never had been near him. One day a police
agent came and invited me to dinner by command - or, at least, I
understood it wasn't wise to refuse the invitation, as you said,
Ivan Petrovitch. When I went to his house I thought I was entering
a fortress, and inside I thought it must be an umbrella shop. There
were umbrellas everywhere, and goloshes. True, it was a day of
pouring rain. I was struck by there being no guard with a big
revolver in the antechamber. He had a little, timid schwitzar
there, who took my umbrella, murmuring 'barine' and bowing over and
over again. He conducted me through very ordinary rooms quite
unguarded to an average sitting-room of a common kind. We dined
with Madame Gounsovski, who appeared fattish like her husband, and
three or four men whom I had never seen anywhere. One servant
waited on us. My word!

"At dessert Gounsovski took me aside and told me I was unwise to
'argue that way.' I asked him what he meant by that. He took my
hands between his fat hands and repeated, 'No, no, it is not wise
to argue like that.' I couldn't draw anything else out of him.
For that matter, I understood him, and, you know, since that day
I have cut out certain side passages unnecessary in my general
law pleadings that had been giving me a reputation for rather too
free opinions in the papers. None of that at my age! Ah, the
great Gounsovski! Over our coffee I asked him if he didn't find
the country in pretty strenuous times. He replied that he looked
forward with impatience to the month of May, when he could go for
a rest to a little property with a small garden that he had bought
at Asnieres, near Paris. When he spoke of their house in the
country Madame Gounsovski heaved a sigh of longing for those simple
country joys. The month of May brought tears to her eyes. Husband
and wife looked at one another with real tenderness. They had not
the air of thinking for one second: to-morrow or the day after,
before our country happiness comes, we may find ourselves stripped
of everything. No! They were sure of their happy vacation and
nothing seemed able to disquiet them under their fat. Gounsovski
has done everybody so many services that no one really wishes him
ill, poor man. Besides, have you noticed, my dear old friends, that
no one ever tries to work harm to chiefs of Secret Police? One goes
after heads of police, prefects of police, ministers, grand-dukes,
and even higher, but the chiefs of Secret Police are never, never
attacked. They can promenade tranquilly in the streets or in the
gardens of Krestowsky or breathe the pure air of the Finland country
or even the country around Paris. They have done so many little
favors for this one and that, here and there, that no one wishes to
do them the least injury. Each person always thinks, too, that
others have been less well served than he. That is the secret of
the thing, my friends, that is the secret. What do you say?"

The others said: "Ah, ah, the good Gounsovski. He knows. He knows.
Certainly, accept his supper. With Annouchka it will be fun."

"Messieurs," asked Rouletabille, who continued to make discoveries
in the audience, "do you know that officer who is seated at the end
of a row down there in the orchestra seats? See, he is getting up."

"He? Why, that is Prince Galitch, who was one of the richest lords
of the North Country. Now he is practically ruined."

"Thanks, gentlemen; certainly it is he. I know him," said
Rouletabille, seating himself and mastering his emotion.

"They say he is a great admirer of Annouchka," hazarded Thaddeus.
Then he walked away from the box.

"The prince has been ruined by women," said Athanase Georgevitch,
who pretended to know the entire chronicle of gallantries in the
empire.

"He also has been on good terms with Gounsovski," continued Thaddeus.

"He passes at court, though, for an unreliable. He once made a
long visit to Tolstoi."

"Bah! Gounsovski must have rendered some signal service to that
imprudent prince," concluded Athanase. "But for yourself, Thaddeus,
you haven't said what you did with Gounsovski at Bakou."

(Rouletabille did not lose a word of what was being said around him,
although he never lost sight of the profile hidden in the black
mantle nor of Prince Galitch, his personal enemy,* who reappeared,
it seemed to him, at a very critical moment.)
____________________________________________________________________

* as told in "The Lady In Black."
____________________________________________________________________

"I was returning from Balakani in a drojki," said Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff, "and I was drawing near Bakou after having seen the
debris of my oil shafts that had been burned by the Tartars, when
I met Gounsovski in the road, who, with two of his friends, found
themselves badly off with one of the wheels of their carriage broken.
I stopped. He explained to me that he had a Tartar coachman, and
that this coachman having seen an Armenian on the road before him,
could find nothing better to do than run full tilt into the
Armenian's equipage. He had reached over and taken the reins from
him, but a wheel of the carriage was broken." (Rouletabille quivered,
because he caught a glance of communication between Prince Galitch
and Natacha, who was leaning over the edge of her box.) "So I
offered to take Gounsovski and his friends into my carriage, and
we rode all together to Bakou after Gounsovski, who always wishes
to do a service, as Athanase Georgevitch says, had warned his Tartar
coachman not to finish the Armenian." (Prince Galitch, at the
moment the orchestra commenced the introductory music for
Annouchka's new number, took advantage of all eyes being turned
toward the rising curtain to pass near Natacha's seat. This time
he did not look at Natacha, but Rouletabille was sure that his lips
had moved as he went by her.)

Thaddeus continued: "It is necessary to explain that at Bakou my
little house is one of the first before you reach the quay. I had
some Armenian employees there. When arrived, what do you suppose
I saw? A file of soldiers with cannon, yes, with a cannon, on my
word, turned against my house and an officer saying quietly, 'there
it is. Fire!'" (Rouletabille made yet another discovery - two,
three discoveries. Near by, standing back of Natacha's seat, was
a figure not unknown to the young reporter, and there, in one of
the orchestra chairs, were two other men whose faces he had seen
that same morning in Koupriane's barracks. Here was where a memory
for faces stood him in good stead. He saw that he was not the only
person keeping close watch on Natacha.) "When I heard what the
officer said," Thaddeus went on, "I nearly dropped out of the
drojki. I hurried to the police commissioner. He explained the
affair promptly, and I was quick to understand. During my absence
one of my Armenian employees had fired at a Tartar who was passing.
For that matter, he had killed him. The governor was informed and
had ordered the house to be bombarded, for an example, as had been
done with several others. I found Gounsovski and told him the
trouble in two words. He said it wasn't necessary for him to
interfere in the affair, that I had only to talk to the officer.
'Give him a good present, a hundred roubles, and he will leave your
house. I went back to the officer and took him aside; he said he
wanted to do anything that he could for me, but that the order was
positive to bombard the house. I reported his answer to Gounsovski,
who told me: 'Tell him then to turn the muzzle of the cannon the
other way and bombard the building of the chemist across the way,
then he can always say that he mistook which house was intended.'
I did that, and he had them turn the cannon. They bombarded the
chemist's place, and I got out of the whole thing for the hundred
roubles. Gounsovski, the good fellow, may be a great lump of fat
and be like an umbrella merchant, but I have always been grateful
to him from the bottom of my heart, you can understand, Athanase
Georgevitch."

"What reputation has Prince Galitch at the court?" inquired
Rouletabille all at once.

"Oh, oh!" laughed the others. "Since he went so openly to visit
Tolstoi he doesn't go to the court any more."

"And - his opinions? What are his opinions?"

"Oh, the opinions of everybody are so mixed nowadays, nobody knows."

Ivan Petrovitch said, "He passes among some people as very advanced
and very much compromised."

"Yet they don't bother him?" inquired Rouletabille.

Pooh, pooh," replied the gay Councilor of Empire, "it is rather he
who tries to mix with them."

Thaddeus stooped down and said, "They say that he can't be reached
because of the hold he has over a certain great personage in the
court, and it would be a scandal - a great scandal."

"Be quiet, Thaddeus," interrupted Athanase Georgevitch, roughly.
"It is easy to see that you are lately from the provinces to speak
so recklessly, but if you go on this way I shall leave."

"Athanase Georgevitch is right; hang onto your mouth, Thaddeus,"
counseled Ivan Petrovitch.

The talkers all grew silent, for the curtain was rising. In the
audience there were mysterious allusions being made to this second
number of Annouchka, but no one seemed able to say what it was to
be, and it was, as a matter of fact, very simple. After the
whirl-wind of dances and choruses and all the splendor with which
she had been accompanied the first time, Annouchka appeared as a
poor Russian peasant in a scene representing the barren steppes,
and very simply she sank to her knees and recited her evening prayers.
Annouchka was singularly beautiful. Her aquiline nose with sensitive
nostrils, the clean-cut outline of her eyebrows, her look that now
was almost tender, now menacing, always unusual, her pale rounded
cheeks and the entire expression of her face showed clearly the
strength of new ideas, spontaneity, deep resolution and, above all,
passion. The prayer was passionate. She had an admirable contralto
voice which affected the audience strangely from its very first
notes. She asked God for daily bread for everyone in the immense
Russian land, daily bread for the flesh and for the spirit, and she
stirred the tears of everyone there, to which-ever party they
belonged. And when, as her last note sped across the desolate
steppe and she rose and walked toward the miserable hut, frantic
bravos from a delirious audience told her the prodigious emotions
she had aroused. Little Rouletabille, who, not understanding the
words, nevertheless caught the spirit of that prayer, wept.
Everybody wept. Ivan Petrovitcb, Atbanase Georgevitch, Thaddeus
Tchitchnikoff were standing up, stamping their feet and clapping
their hands like enthusiastic boys. The students, who could be
easily distinguished by the uniform green edging they wore on their
coats, uttered insensate cries. And suddenly there rose the first
strains of the national hymn. There was hesitation at first, a
wavering. But not for long. Those who had been dreading some
counter-demonstration realized that no objection could possibly
be raised to a prayer for the Tsar. All heads uncovered and the
Bodje Taara Krari mounted, unanimously, toward the stars.

Through his tears the young reporter never gave up his close watch
on Natacha. She had half risen, and, sinking back, leaned on the
edge of the box. She called, time and time again, a name that
Rouletabille could not hear in the uproar, but that he felt sure
was "Annouchka! Annouchka!" "The reckless girl," murmured
Rouletabille, and, profiting by the general excitement, he left the
box without being noticed. He made his way through the crowd toward
Natacha, whom he had sought futilely since morning. The audience,
after clamoring in vain for a repetition of the prayer by Annouchka,
commenced to disperse, and the reporter was swept along with them
for a few moments. When he reached the range of boxes he saw that
Natacha and the family she had been with were gone. He looked on
all sides without seeing the object of his search and like a madman
commenced to run through the passages, when a sudden idea struck his
blood cold. He inquired where the exit for the artists was and as
soon as it was pointed out, he hurried there. He was not mistaken.
In the front line of the crowd that waited to see Annouchka come
out he recognized Natacha, with her head enveloped in the black
mantle so that none should see her face. Besides, this corner of
the garden was in a half-gloom. The police barred the way; he could
not approach as near Natacha as he wished. He set himself to slip
like a serpent through the crowd. He was not separated from Natacha
by more than four or five persons when a great jostling commenced.
Annouchka was coming out. Cries rose: "Annouchka! Annouchka!"
Rouletabille threw himself on his knees and on all-fours succeeded
in sticking his head through into the way kept by the police for
Annouchka's passage. There, wrapped in a great red mantle, his hat
on his arm, was a man Rouletabille immediately recognized. It was
Prince Galitch. They were hurrying to escape the impending pressure
of the crowd. But Annouchka as she passed near Natacha stopped just
a second - a movement that did not escape Rouletabille - and,
turning toward her said just the one word, "Caracho." Then she
passed on. Rouletabille got up and forced his way back, having
once more lost Natacha. He searched for her. He ran to the
carriage-way and arrived just in time to see her seated in a
carriage with the Mourazoff family. The carriage started at once
in the direction of the datcha des Iles. The young man remained
standing there, thinking. He made a gesture as though he were
ready now to let luck take its course. "In the end," said he, "it
will be better so, perhaps," and then, to himself, "Now to supper,
my boy."

He turned in his tracks and soon was established in the glaring
light of the restaurant. Officers standing, glass in hand, were
saluting from table to table and waving a thousand compliments with
grace that was almost feminine.

He heard his name called joyously, and recognized the voice of Ivan
Petrovitch. The three boon companions were seated over a bottle of
champagne resting in its ice-bath and were being served with tiny
pates while they waited for the supper-hour, which was now near.

Rouletabille yielded to their invitation readily enough, and
accompanied them when the head-waiter informed Thaddeus that the
gentlemen were desired in a private room. They went to the first
floor and were ushered into a large apartment whose balcony opened
on the hall of the winter-theater, empty now. But the apartment
was already occupied. Before a table covered with a shining service
Gounsovski did the honors.

He received them like a servant, with his head down, an obsequious
smile, and his back bent, bowing several times as each of the guests
were presented to him. Athanase had described him accurately
enough, a mannikin in fat. Under the vast bent brow one could
hardly see his eyes, behind the blue glasses that seemed always
ready to fall as he inclined too far his fat head with its timid
and yet all-powerful glance. When he spoke in his falsetto voice,
his chin dropped in a fold over his collar, and he had a steady
gesture with the thumb and index finger of his right hand to retain
the glasses from sliding down his short, thick nose.

Behind him there was the fine, haughty silhouette of Prince Galitch.
He had been invited by Annouchka, for she had consented to risk this
supper only in company with three or four of her friends, officers
who could not be further compromised by this affair, as they were
already under the eye of the Okrana (Secret Police) despite their
high birth. Gounsovski had seen them come with a sinister chuckle
and had lavished upon them his marks of devotion.

He loved Annouchka. It would have sufficed to have surprised just
once the jealous glance he sent from beneath his great blue glasses
when he gazed at the singer to have understood the sentiments that
actuated him in the presence of the beautiful daughter of the Black
Land.

Annouchka was seated, or, rather, she lounged, Oriental fashion,
on the sofa which ran along the wall behind the table. She paid
attention to no one. Her attitude was forbidding, even hostile.
She indifferently allowed her marvelous black hair that fell in two
tresses over her shoulder to be caressed by the perfumed hands of
the beautiful Onoto, who had heard her this evening for the first
time and had thrown herself with enthusiasm into her arms after the
last number. Onoto was an artist too, and the pique she felt at
first over Annouchka's success could not last after the emotion
aroused by the evening prayer before the hut. "Come to supper,"
Annouchka had said to her.

"With whom?" inquired the Spanish artist.

"With Gounsovski."

"Never."

"Do come. You will help me pay my debt and perhaps he will be
useful to you as well. He is useful to everybody."

Decidedly Onoto did not understand this country, where the worst
enemies supped together.

Rouletabille had been monopolized at once by Prince Galitch, who
took him into a corner and said:

"What are you doing here?"

"Do I inconvenience you?" asked the boy.

The other assumed the amused smile of the great lord.

"While there is still time," he said, "believe me, you ought to
start, to quit this country. Haven't you had sufficient notice?"

"Yes," replied the reporter. "And you can dispense with any further
notice from this time on."

He turned his back.

"Why, it is the little Frenchman from the Trebassof villa," commenced
the falsetto voice of Gounsovski as he pushed a seat towards the
young man and begged him to sit between him and Athanase Georgevitch,
who was already busy with the hors-doeuvres.

"How do you do, monsieur?" said the beautiful, grave voice of Annouchka.

Rouletabille saluted.

"I see that I am in a country of acquaintances," he said, without
appearing disturbed.

He addressed a lively compliment to Annouchka, who threw him a kiss.

"Rouletabille!" cried la belle Onoto. "Why, then, he is the little
fellow who solved the mystery of the Yellow Room."

"Himself."

"What are you doing here?"

"He came to save the life of General Trebassof," sniggered
Gounsovski. "He is certainly a brave little young man."

"The police know everything," said Rouletabille coldly. And he
asked for champagne, which he never drank.

The champagne commenced its work. While Thaddeus and the officers
told each other stories of Bakou or paid compliments to the women,
Gounsovski, who was through with raillery, leaned toward Rouletabille
and gave that young man fatherly counsel with great unction.

"You have undertaken, young man, a noble task and one all the more
difficult because General Trebassof is condemned not only by his
enemies but still more by the ignorance of Koupriane. Understand
me thoroughly: Koupriane is my friend and a man whom I esteem very
highly. He is good, brave as a warrior, but I wouldn't give a
kopeck for his police. He has mixed in our affairs lately by
creating his own secret police, but I don't wish to meddle with that.
It amuses us. It's the new style, anyway; everybody wants his secret
police nowadays. And yourself, young man, what, after all, are you
doing here? Reporting? No. Police work? That is our business
and your business. I wish you good luck, but I don't expect it.
Remember that if you need any help I will give it you willingly. I
love to be of service. And I don't wish any harm to befall you."

"You are very kind, monsieur," was all Rouletabille replied, and
he called again for champagne.

Several times Gounsovski addressed remarks to Annouchka, who
concerned herself with her meal and had little answer for him.

"Do you know who applauded you the most this evening?"

"No," said Annouchka indifferently.

"The daughter of General Trebassof."

"Yes, that is true, on my word," cried Ivan Petrovitch.

"Yes, yes, Natacba was there," joined in the other friends from the
datcha des Iles.

"For me, I saw her weep," said Rouletabille, looking at Annouchka
fixedly.

But Annouchka replied in an icy tone:

"I do not know her."

"She is unlucky in having a father..." Prince Galitch commenced.

"Prince, no politics, or let me take my leave," clucked Gounsovski.
"Your health, dear Annouchka."

"Your health, Gounsovski. But you have no worry about that."

"Why?" demanded Thaddeus Tchitcbnikoff in equivocal fashion.

"Because he is too useful to the government," cried Ivan Petrovitch.

"No," replied Annouchka; "to the revolutionaries."

All broke out laughing. Gounsovski recovered his slipping glasses
by his usual quick movement and sniggered softly, insinuatingly,
like fat boiling in the pot:

"So they say. And it is my strength."

"His system is excellent," said the prince. "As he is in with
everybody, everybody is in with the police, without knowing it."

"They say ... ah,ah ... they say ..." (Athanase was choking over a
little piece of toast that he had soaked in his soup) "they say that
he has driven away all the hooligans and even all the beggars of the
church of Kasan."

Thereupon they commenced to tell stories of the hooligans,
street-thieves who since the recent political troubles had infested
St. Petersburg and whom nobody, could get rid of without paying
for it.

Athanase Georgevitch said:

"There are hooligans that ought to have existed even if they never
have. One of them stopped a young girl before Varsovie station.
The girl, frightened, immediately held out her purse to him, with
two roubles and fifty kopecks in it. The hooligan took it all.
'Goodness,' cried she, 'I have nothing now to take my train with.'
'How much is it?' asked the hooligan. 'Sixty kopecks.' 'Sixty
kopecks! Why didn't you say so?' And the bandit, hanging onto the
two roules, returned the fifty-kopeck piece to the trembling child
and added a ten-kopeck piece out of his own pocket."

"Something quite as funny happened to me two winters ago, at Moscow,"
said la belle Onoto. "I had just stepped out of the door when I was
stopped by a hooligan. 'Give me twenty kopecks,' said the hooligan.
I was so frightened that I couldn't get my purse open. 'Quicker,'
said he. Finally I gave him twenty kopecks. 'Now,' said he then,
'kiss my hand.' And I had to kiss it, because he held his knife in
the other."

"Oh, they are quick with their knives," said Thaddeus. "As I was
leaving Gastinidvor once I was stopped by a hooligan who stuck a
huge carving-knife under my nose. 'You can have it for a rouble
and a half,' he said. You can believe that I bought it without any
haggling. And it was a very good bargain. It was worth at least
three roubles. Your health, belle Onoto."

"I always take my revolver when I go out," said Athanase. "It is
more prudent. I say this before the police. But I would rather be
arrested by the police than stabbed by the hooligans."

"There's no place any more to buy revolvers," dedared Ivan
Petrovitch. "All such places are closed."

Gounsovski settled his glasses, rubbed his fat hands and said:

"There are some still at my locksmith's place. The proof is that
to-day in the little Kaniouche my locksmith, whose name is Smith,
when into the house of the grocer at the corner and wished to sell
him a revolver. It was a Browning. 'An arm of the greatest
reliability,' he said to him, 'which never misses fire and which
works very easily.' Having pronounced these words, the locksmith
tried his revolver and lodged a ball in the grocer's lung. The
grocer is dead, but before he died he bought the revolver. 'You
are right,' he said to the locksmith; 'it is a terrible weapon.'
And then he died."

The others laughed heartily. They thought it very funny. Decidedly
this great Gounsovski always had a funny story. Who would not like
to be his friend? Annouchka had deigned to smile. Gounsovski, in
recognition, extended his hand to her like a mendicant. The young
woman touched it with the end of her fingers, as if she were placing
a twenty-kopeck piece in the hand of a hooligan, and withdrew from
it with disgust. Then the doors opened for the Bohemians. Their
swarthy troupe soon filled the room. Every evening men and women
in their native costumes came from old Derevnia, where they lived
all together in a sort of ancient patriarchal community, with customs
that had not changed for centuries; they scattered about in the
places of pleasure, in the fashionable restaurants, where they
gathered large sums, for it was a fashionable luxury to have them
sing at the end of suppers, and everyone showered money on them in
order not to be behind the others. They accompanied on guzlas, on
castanets, on tambourines, and sang the old airs, doleful and
languorous, or excitable and breathiess as the flight of the
earliest nomads in the beginnings of the world.

When they had entered, those present made place for them, and
Rouletabille, who for some moments had been showing marks of fatigue
and of a giddiness natural enough in a young man who isn't in the
habit of drinking the finest champagnes, profited by the diversion
to get a corner of the sofa not far from Prince Galitch, who
occupied the place at Annouchka's right.

"Look, Rouletabaille is asleep," remarked la belle Onoto.

"Poor boy!" said Annouchka.

And, turning toward Gounsovski:

"Aren't you soon going to get him out of our way? I heard some of
our brethren the other day speaking in a way that would cause pain
to those who care about his health."

"Oh, that," said Gounsovski, shaking his head, "is an affair I have
nothing to do with. Apply to Koupriane. Your health, belle
Annouchka."

But the Bohemians swept some opening chords for their songs, and
the singers took everybody's attention, everybody excepting Prince
Galitch and Annouchka, who, half turned toward one another,
exchanged some words on the edge of all this musical uproar. As
for Rouletabille, he certainly must have been sleeping soundly not
to have been waked by all that noise, melodious as it was. It is
true that be had - apparently - drunk a good deal and, as everyone
knows, in Russia drink lays out those who can't stand it. When
the Bohemians had sung three times Gounsovski made a sign that they
might go to charm other ears, and slipped into the hands of the
chief of the band a twenty-five rouble note. But Onoto wished to
give her mite, and a regular collection commenced. Each one threw
roubles into the plate held out by a little swarthy Bohemian girl
with crow-black hair, carelessly combed, falling over her forehead,
her eyes and her face, in so droll a fashion that one would have
said the little thing was a weeping-willow soaked in ink. The
plate reached Prince Galitch, who futilely searched his pockets.

"Bah!" said he, with a lordly air, "I have no money. But here is
my pocket-book; I will give it to you for a souvenir of me,
Katharina."

Thaddeus and Athanase exclaimed at the generosity of the prince,
but Annouchka said:

"The prince does as he should, for my friends can never sufficiently
repay the hospitality that that little thing gave me in her dirty
hut when I was in hiding, while your famous department was deciding
what to do about me, my dear Gounsovski."

"Eh," replied Gounsovski, "I let you know that all you had to do
was to take a fine apartment in the city."

Annouchka spat on the ground like a teamster, and Gounsoyski from
yellow turned green.

"But why did you hide yourself that way, Annouchka?" asked Onoto as
she caressed the beautiful tresses of the singer.

"You know I had been condemned to death, and then pardoned. I had
been able to leave Moscow, and I hadn't any desire to be re-taken
here and sent to taste the joys of Siberia."

"But why were you condemned to death?"

"Why, she doesn't know anything! " exclaimed the others.

"Good Lord, I'm just back from London and Paris - how should I know
anything! But to have been condemned to death! That must have
been amusing."

"Very amusing," said Annouchka icily. "And if you have a brother
whom you love, Onoto, think how mnch more amusing it must be to
have him shot before you."

"Oh, my love, forgive me!"

"So you may know and not give any pain to your Annouchka in the
future, I will tell you, madame, what happened to our dear friend,"
said Prince Galitch.

"We would do better to drive away such terrible memories," ventured
Gounsovski, lifting his eyelashes behind his glasses, but he bent
his head as Annouchka sent him a blazing glance.

"Speak, Galitch."

The Prince did as she said.

"Annouchka had a brother, Vlassof, an engineer on the Kasan line,
whom the Strike Committee had ordered to take out a train as the
only means of escape for the leaders of the revolutionary troops
when Trebassof's soldiers, aided by the Semenowsky regiment, had
become masters of the city. The last resistance took place at the
station. It was necessary to get started. All the ways were
guarded by the military. There were soldiers everywhere! Vlassof
said to his comrades, 'I will save you;' and his comrades saw him
mount the engine with a woman. That woman was - well, there she
sits. Viassof's fireman had been killed the evening before, on a
barricade; it was Annouchka who took his place. They busied
themselves and the train started like a shot. On that curved line,
discovered at once, easy to attack, under a shower of bullets,
Vlassof developed a speed of ninety versts an hour. He ran the
indicator up to the explosion point. The lady over there continued
to pile coal into the furnace. The danger came to be less from the
military and more from an explosion at any moment. In the midst of
the balls Vlassof kept his usual coolness. He sped not only with
the firebox open but with the forced draught. It was a miracle
that the engine was not smashed against the curve of the embankment.
But they got past. Not a man was hurt. Only a woman was wounded.
She got a ball in the chest."

"There!" cried Annouchka.

With a magnificent gesture she flung open her white and heaving
chest, and put her finger on a scar that Gounsovski, whose fat began
to melt in heavy drops of sweat about his temples, dared not look at.

"Fifteen days later," continued the prince, "Viassof entered an inn
at Lubetszy. He didn't know it was full of soldiers. His face
never altered. They searched him. They found a revolver and papers
on him. They knew whom they had to do with. He was a good prize.
Viassof was taken to Moscow and condemned to be shot. His sister,
wounded as she was, learned of his arrest and joined him. 'I do
not wish,' she said to him, 'to leave you to die alone.' She also
was condemned. Before the execution the soldiers offered to bandage
their eyes, but both refused, saying they preferred to meet death
face to face. The orders were to shoot all the other condemned
revolutionaries first, then Vlassof, then his sister. It was in
vain that Vlassof asked to die last. Their comrades in execution
sank to their knees, bleeding from their death wounds. Vlassof
embraced his sister and walked to the place of death. There he
addressed the soldiers: 'Now you have to carry out your duty
according to the oath you have taken. Fulfill it honestly as I
have fulfilled mine. Captain, give the order.' The volley
sounded. Vlassof remained erect, his arms crossed on his breast,
safe and sound. Not a ball had touched him. The soldiers did not
wish to fire at him. He had to summon them again to fulfill their
duty, and obey their chief. Then they fired again, and he fell.
He looked at his sister with his eyes full of horrible suffering.
Seeing that he lived, and wishing to appear charitable, the captain,
upon Annouchka's prayers, approached and cut short his sufferings
by firing a revolver into his ear. Now it was Annouchka's turn.
She knelt by the body of her brother, kissed his bloody lips, rose
and said, 'I am ready.' As the guns were raised, an officer came
running, bearing the pardon of the Tsar. She did not wish it, and
she whom they had not bound when she was to die had to be restrained
when she learned she was to live."

Prince Galitch, amid the anguished silence of all there, started to
add some words of comment to his sinister recital, but Annouchka
interrupted:

"The story is ended," said she. "Not a word, Prince. If I asked
you to tell it in all its horror, if I wished you to bring back to
us the atrocious moment of my brother's death, it is so that
monsieur" (her fingers pointed to Gounsovski) "shall know well,
once for all, that if I have submitted for some hours now to this
promiscuous company that has been imposed upon me, now that I have
paid the debt by accepting this abominable supper, I have nothing
more to do with this purveyor of bagnios and of hangman's ropes who
is here."

"She is mad," he muttered. "She is mad. What has come over her?
What has happened? Only to-day she was so, so amiable."

And he stuttered, desolately, with an embarrassed laugh:

"Ah, the women, the women! Now what have I done to her?"

"What have you done to me, wretch? Where are Belachof, Bartowsky
and Strassof? And Pierre Slutch? All the comrades who swore with
me to revenge my brother? Where are they? On what gallows did you
have them hung? What mine have you buried them in? And still you
follow your slavish task. And my friends, my other friends, the
poor comrades of my artist life, the inoffensive young men who have
not committed any other crime than to come to see me too often when
I was lively, and who believed they could talk freely in my
dressing-room - where are they? Why have they left me, one by one?
Why have they disappeared? It is you, wretch, who watched them,
who spied on them, making me, I haven't any doubt, your horrible
accomplice, mixing me up in your beastly work, you dog! You knew
what they call me. You have known it for a long time, and you may
well laugh over it. But I, I never knew until this evening; I
never learned until this evening all I owe to you. 'Stool pigeon!
Stool pigeon!' I! Horror! Ah, you dog, you dog! Your mother,
when you were brought into the world, your mother ..." Here she
hurled at him the most offensive insult that a Russian can offer a
man of that race.

She trembled and sobbed with rage, spat in fury, and stood up ready
to go, wrapped in her mantle like a great red flag. She was the
statue of hate and vengeance. She was horrible and terrible. She
was beautiful. At the final supreme insult, Gounsovski started
and rose to his feet as though he had received an actual blow in
the face. He did not look at Annouchka, but fixed his eyes on
Prince Galitch. His finger pointed him out:

"There is the man," he hissed, "who has told you all these fine
things."

"Yes, it is I," said the Prince, tranquilly.

"Caracho!" barked Gounsovski, instantaneously regaining his coolness.

"Ah, yes, but you'll not touch him," clamored the spirited girl of
the Black Land; "you are not strong enough for that."

"I know that monsieur has many friends at court," agreed the chief
of the Secret Service with an ominous calm. "I 'don't wish ill to
monsieur. You speak, madame, of the way some of your friends have
had to be sacrificed. I hope that some day you will be better
informed, and that you will understand I saved all of them I could."

"Let us go," muttered Annouchka. "I shall spit in his face."

"Yes, all I could," replied the other, with his habitual gesture of
hanging on to his glasses. "And I shall continue to do so. I
promise you not to say anything more disagreeable to the prince
than as regards his little friend the Bohemian Katharina, whom he
has treated so generously just now, doubtless because Boris
Mourazoff pays her too little for the errands she runs each morning
to the villa of Krestowsky Ostrow."

At these words the Prince and Annouchka both changed countenance.
Their anger rose. Annouchka turned her head as though to arrange
the folds of her cloak. Galitch contented himself with shrugging
his shoulders impatiently and murmuring:

"Still some other abomination that you are concocting, monsieur,
and that we don't know how to reply to."

After which he bowed to the supper-party, took Annouchka's arm and
had her move before him. Gounsovski bowed, almost bent in two.
When he rose he saw before him the three astounded and horrified
figures of Thaddeus Tchitchnikoff, Ivan Petrovitch and Athanase
Georgevitch.

"Messieurs," he said to them, in a colorless voice which seemed not
to belong to him, "the time has come for us to part. I need not
say that we have supped as friends and that, if you wish it to be
so, we can forget everything that has been said here.

The three others, frightened, at once protested their discretion.
He added, roughly this time, "Service of the Tsar," and the three
stammered, "God save the Tsar!" After which he saw them to the
door. When the door had closed after them, he said, "My little
Annouchka, you mustn't reckon without me." He hurried toward the
sofa, where Rouletabille was lying forgotten, and gave him a tap
on the shoulder.

"Come, get up. Don't act as though you were asleep. Not an instant
to lose. They are going to carry through the Trebassof affair this
evening.

Rouletabille was already on his legs.

"Oh, monsieur," said he, "I didn't want you to tell me that. Thanks
all the same, and good evening."

He went out.

Gounsovski rang. A servant appeared.

"Tell them they may now open all the rooms on this corridor; I'll
not hold them any longer." Thus had Gounsovski kept himself
protected.

Left alone, the head of the Secret Service wiped his brow and drank
a great glass of iced water which he emptied at a draught. Then he
said:

"Koupriane will have his work cut out for him this evening; I wish
him good luck. As to them, whatever happens, I wash my hands of
them."

And he rubbed his hands.

Gaston Leroux

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