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Full text of "Miss Amerikanka; a story"

MISS 

AMERIKANKA 



OLIVE GILBREATH 



3 






MISS AMERIKANKA 




'How lovely you are in that white 
frock, Amerikanka" 



MISS 
AMERIKANKA 

A Story 

BY 
OLIVE GILBREATH 



ILLUSTRATED BY 

SIGISMUND de IVANOWSKI 




HARPER y BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 



Miss AMERIKANKA 



Copyright, 1918, by Harper & Brothers 

Printed in the United States of America 

Published March, 1918 

C-9 



CONTENTS 

PART I 

CHAP. PAGB 

I. THE CHINESE EXPRESS 3 

II. A WAR SPECIAL 20 

III. BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 30 

IV. CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 43 

V. CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 53 

PART II 

VI. PETER'S CAPITAL 71 

VII. IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 84 

VIII. THE LEE OF THE WAR 98 

IX. A RUSSIAN LYRIC 118 

X. RUSSIAN TREACHERY 133 

XI. THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 146 

XII. A FACE AT THE BALLET 157 

XIII. Miss AMERIKANKA KNOWS 171 

XIV. A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 179 

XV. MOTHER VOLGA 193 

PART III 

XVI. BEHIND M. NOVINSKY'S EYES 217 

XVII. AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 224 

XVIII. NEWS FROM THE FRONT 233 

XIX. "SOMETHING POIGNANT" 249 

XX. FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 254 

XXI. THE SCORPION'S STING . . . 272 

XXII. "THE BARIN RETURNS" 279 

XXIII. REALITIES .... - v";~ 287 

XXIV. Miss AMERIKANKA CHOOSES 292 



2135668 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

"How LOVELY You ARE IN THAT WHITE FROCK, 

AMERIKANKA" Frontispiece 

"WHY AM I A ROAMER IN THESE WHITE WASTES?" Facing P. 4 

LIFE WELLING UP FROM DEPTHS PASSIONATE, 

BARBARIC " 114 

EVERYTHING THAT HE LOVED WAS SINGING ITS 

SWAN-SONG THROUGH His FINGERS .... " 144 



PART I 



MISS AMERIKANKA 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

IF the angel Uriel were casting an all-seeing 
eye on the Manchurian plain to-night he 
might observe a feeble fly crawling across its 
great white coverlet. If he were omniscient 
as well, he might answer the riddle that re- 
volves in my mind why this vast whiteness 
does not rush in and blot out the one thing 
that dares move and have being in the face 
of its immensity and what madness it is 
that sets a woman wandering a night like 
this. Twenty-four hours ago I sat content 
behind the walls of Peking. Why to-night 
am I a roamer in these white wastes? From 
my window in the Chinese express, steadily 
scurrying northward, I watch the moon 
climb up out of those lonely borders of China 

3 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

we are just leaving. Is she saying us farewell, 
or does she, looking down on a land too wise 
to be restless, only smile at the folly of wan- 
dering? And there in Peking the kites hang 
over the courts and the sound of the wind is 
in the sycamores. One moment more behind 
the walls of the old gray city and I had been 
deaf to the call of the great world outside so 
faintly it falls there in the gardens of Asia. 

Across the aisle the General dozes in his 
great red-lined cape-coat, his piratical mus- 
tache doing solitary duty in his military face; 
over the top of my seat a tall astrakhan cap 
blots the dim window space like an adver- 
tisement of "Popoff's Popular Tea"; the 
cap signifies Dmitri Nikolai vitch Novinsky, 
attache of the legation in Peking. Could 
une jeune Americaine possess two stranger 
guardians? The whole affair is incredible. 
It is necessary to record it carefully, me- 
thinks, to make sure I am not a little mad. 

In the first place, am I the person who voy- 
aged across the Pacific for a wedding in the 
Orient Lise's wedding little Lise, that pi- 
quant figure whom Chance threw across my 
path in Egypt, grown since a permanent 
figure in my world ; little Lise reared in every 

4 




"Why am I a roamer in these 
white wastes?" 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

unknown corner of diplomacy in the East; 
little Lise, a woman choosing now a mate, set- 
ting out on the long, long trail passed on 
into an unfamiliar land into which I can no 
longer follow her? The images make it seem 
more than half a dream: the lights gleaming 
across the spaces of cool dark floors, yellow 
figures in brocades, flaming Oriental charac- 
ters of joy on all the windows, the color of 
diplomatic uniforms, Lise's father silent and 
dark, Lise herself in her film of white, and 
that strange, strange expression. 

Granted this, am I, further, the person who 
three months ago was caravaning in Mongolia? 
Can it be that for any one the world, three 
months ago, was wool-caravans emerging 
through the morning mists; horsemen mys- 
teriously silhouetted against the horizon; 
shimmering gold of rape-fields and deep in- 
digo distances? It is strange to enter the 
desert, but stranger still to come out to a 
world disrupting. Plunge a man into chaos 
out of a solitude starred with gentian, larkspur, 
and a tiny creeping moonflower, if you would 
break his rhythm of joy. 

"What has happened down there since we 
have been up here in eternity?" I remember 

5 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

it was Lise's philosophical French friend who 
pondered, as the slow cart-wheels bore us 
along the great road which for ages has poured 
the caravans into China. 

1 ' Nothing !" I replied, dogmatically. ' ' Noth- 
ing ever happens down there in the world." 

It was one night while the caravaners sat 
on the k'ang of a mud-walled inn, beyond the 
Great Wall, that the news of the war came, 
creeping in there on the fringe of things, like 
rumors of the Judgment Day; a messenger 
splashing the white dust of the road, de- 
spatches in his bag for the living Buddha in 
Urga, but no idea in his flat Mongol head of 
who was friend and who was foe. All along 
the road the next day it was the same tale: 
we questioned the Chinese hawkers with 
cages swung on poles across their shoulders, 
but they had no news beyond the price of 
thrushes; the Russian tea-merchant, too, was 
uninformed but the canny merchant was 
folding his blue summer tent and stealing 
away to the north! In the sun-baked border 
city Kalgan, the tobacco men young Brit- 
ishers and Americans announced " Der Tag." 
Adventist missionaries prophesied the coming 
of Christ and prepared to ascend in chariots 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

of fire, while we scurried for the first train to 
Peking. 

Far and swift a man may travel alone, but 
when danger threatens the call of the pack. 
The fierce hunger of kind for kind which ran 
through my blood, as we struck through the 
Great Wall and raced by train down that 
narrow pass for Peking, shot a light on some of 
Old Nature's secrets. Every moment the air 
thickened with the sense of something sinister 
like a dust-storm from the Gobi. Something 
was happening over there the world was 
breaking up not this barbarism, but civiliza- 
tion our world and we were barred out- 
side! In Peking the storm broke; Peking 
seething with chaos such as dazed us, children 
of the desert. The banks, the legation, the 
Wagon Lit s swarmed angrily knots of French, 
German, British, Austrians gathered on the 
corners. Over there, across Asia, the world 
was breaking up. Legation Street, where 
rickshas passed to afternoon tea, clattered 
with the horses of the French guard in red 
and blue capes off to Europe; Sikhs at the 
gates of the British legation tightened their 
red turbans and caressed their carbines with 
lustrous eyes; and the industrious little 

7 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

browns, under cover of a legation guard, 
poured in sufficient troops to take the Chinese 
capital. Peking is a mountain-top; but the 
old gray city has seen few finer spectacles in 
the valleys below than the first records of the 
cosmic earthquake all under the apricot- 
tiled and tilted roofs in the sunny August 
weather! 

Et moil I, too, wished to stream toward 
Europe. And why not? Russia has always 
been my desire, since I could remember my 
godmother's first reading to me Russian 
poetry. 

Shall I ever forget the smell of that Chinese 
rain swirling down Legation Street as I 
picked my way across to the double-eagle 
bronze gates behind which the Russians had 
handsomely consoled themselves after the 
Boxer indiscretion? Even before the trek 
into Mongolia, and before the war-lords had 
frowned, I had paid my gold for a ticket across 
Siberia. Why should one's Government send 
ministers abroad so firmly and paternally to 
forbid one's heart's desire? The Russians 
would be more kind. I passed the wildish 
dun-colored Cossack guard at the double- 
eagle gates. In ante-bellum days I had dined 

8 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

with Lise's friends behind these same bronze 
gates, but the great white houses, barren as 
bird-cages, seemed to have increased in num- 
ber and imposingness. The blond First Sec- 
retary, who maintains Russia's reputation for 
diplomacy in the East, was far less fearsome 
than the Cossack guard, his eyes a Botticelli 
blue even against the blue walls of his study; 
the hands, which toyed with a bronze paper- 
weight, white and powerful, with fine golden 
hair at the wrists. 

"To cross Siberia! Ny, Mademoiselle!" 
He shrugged his shoulders and threw out his 
hands in a Slavic gesture. "The road is 
crowded, jammed with men and horses and 
guns. Who knows? You might be left for 
weeks in a Siberian village." 

"Shto dyelatch, Monsieur? I have long ago 
given my heart to Russia. I have all but put 
my eyes out over your queer diddling alpha- 
bet, and now that it is really fascinating, you 
forbid it. Shto dyelatch?" 

'"Shto dyelatch!' Ah, Mademoiselle." He 
put down the paper-weight; he smiled; his 
eyes searched me acutely for symptoms of a 
spy, and he smiled again the smile of a big 
country. " Nu vot! the road may clear. I 

9 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

will send you across, but it may be months. 
Have you Russian patience?" 

Patience! I could give points to Job in 
several languages. Three months I have sat 
behind the walls of the old gray city. I am so 
disorganized with patience that the sight of a 
chit, delivered this morning by a coolie from 
the Russian legation, sucked at my breath 
like "the sight of a tiger's tail in the spring." 
Had any one supposed that I really wished 
to cross to Russia, to leave this apricot-tiled 
city, the "last rampart of romance"? 

"MADEMOISELLE [the note ran in Russian 
an inconvenient compliment], The trans- 
Siberian is still crowded with troops. It is 
no time for a traveler least of all a woman 
to be abroad. [I could see the giant First 
Secretary driving the words along under the 
signed portrait of Nicholas II.] "One of our 
Generals leaves to-morrow, however, with 
an attache. The General will be pleased to 
look after your safeguard. If you must go 
bon voyage!" 

Bon voyage into these desolate wastes! 

Before the steppe completely annihilates 
us, I wish to record one fact ! It is not I who 
wills this journey. It is something quite im- 

IO 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

personal within me, that something which per- 
mits me no word as to the size, shape, or color 
of my destiny; that uncaring something 
packed my luggage, bought a Mongolian dog- 
skin for bitter nights and pitched me into 
this! If it is gipsy blood, bad 'cess to it. 
If it is career worse 'cess to it! The only 
concession to me was of the finest silk in Silk 
Street, turquoise blue, and neat about the 
ankles! I shiver over my dogskin rug at this 
level wildness. "Only fools enter Siberia in 
mid-winter," I can hear Peking warn I know 
she speaks truth as the train pulls out and 
she slams the shadows of the Ch'e-men against 
us, and then, to give point to her wisdom, 
slowly, one by one, drops her four massive 
walls barricading us outside in snow-dunes, 
which threaten to rush in and blot us out, 
who dare move in the face of their infinity. 

The sun was tumbling out of a Chinese-blue 
sky when I awoke this morning. Since the 
General has looked in to inquire after the 
health of I'Americaine, I feel less certain of 
extinction. Very distingue the General, with 
his lean body, his Hindenburg mustache and 
his eagle look, hurrying to join the staff at the 
front. He wears fatigue dress blue trousers 

ii 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

with a red stripe at the side, a khaki-colored 
coat and a cross of St. George where the col- 
lar closes. I had not met him until I became 
his protegee, but I have a vivid image of 
this military figure clattering down Morrison 
Street with outriders. M. Novinsky, the 
attache, is a slim, exquisite Russian with 
long eyes and a serene smile, as immaculate 
as if he had just stepped from Piccadilly; a 
type of Russian incredible to Americans bred 
on lithographs of stout gentlemen in Cossack 
beards and flannel shirts. We sat opposite 
at dinner once in the great white glavnaya 
missiya and have bowed since from our 
passing rickshas. Curiously enough, I re- 
member him from among the other attaches 
and secretaries. 

It was while I was standing at the window 
this afternoon, watching the purple hills of 
Shan-hai-kwan blocking themselves ruggedly 
in the sunset and wishing that I might see the 
Great Wall, after fourteen hundred miles of 
mountain- tops, take its leap into the sea, 
when this finished product of civilization 
joined me. 

"You are sad to leave the East, Mademoi- 
selle?" he asked, with a quaint precision of 

12 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

enunciation and a timbre of voice distinctly 
un-English. 

"Yes," I admitted, a bit disconsolately, 
lifting my gaze to an immaculate collar. "Is 
it not absurd? With every moment the old 
gray walls unroll, I realize that I am leav- 
ing what are no longer symbols of a strange 
civilization, but signs of a land dearly be- 
loved." 

" No, it is not absurd," he returned, gravely, 
with his eyes on the liquid amethyst of the 
mountains, while the train rushed on into the 
hollow North. "It depends upon what you 
ask of a land. If it is to forget days that are 
'sullen and gray and bereft,' China, more 
than any other land, except Egypt, can gild 
life with romance." 

I glanced at the neatly knit figure, the 
beautifully cut mouth and melancholy eyes 
turned on the steppe. A figure I could have 
imagined in Japan, but in great, dirty, pictu- 
resque China never. 

"Is it that one may not ask for romance?" 
I inquired. "What will your Great Russia 
give?" 

"Russia?" he repeated slowly, as the tem- 
ple roofs of a walled city emerged from the 

13 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

dusk, "Russia something far more poignant 
and homely than this!" 

Nu, each to his own East. The Slav to his, 
whatever it may be, and I to mine the junks, 
and the pagodas among the azaleas, and the 
sound of the wind in the bamboo groves. 

Twenty-four hours to the north as the 
geese fly! Twenty-four hours of blue figures 
bending rhythmically in fields and of quaint 
roofs angling the sky! Twenty-four hours I 
had been lost in the dream that the Chinese 
themselves dreamed for thousands of honorable 
years, that never could one pass the boun- 
daries of the Middle Kingdom when some- 
thing new shot out of the day's end the 
gas-lights of a modern station, trains shrieking, 
porters hurrying luggage. 

"Mukden!" The General's red-lined cape 
gleamed in the dusky car at the door of my 
compartment. "Civilization and soap. Made- 
moiselle!" 

Civilization and soap! It was like being 
rolled from a silken scroll into a twentieth- 
century serial. 

"Civilization and soap," I shuddered. Over 
there in the dark, somewhere, there were an- 

14 






THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

cient Manchu palaces. I peered into the 
darkness pendent with silver mists. 

"Yes." His excellency tightened his belt. 
"There is just time for dinner. You will find 
Japanese creditable cooks." 

When the two had departed to consult the 
little brown Swiss of the East I voyaged about 
the station sniffing the variegated potpourri of 
the Orient. The station was unpromisingly 
modern, but its occupants were drawn from 
the oldest reservoirs of life in the world. 
Chinese and Japanese sprawled in sundry 
attitudes and varied garments; a Korean sat 
in the corner, in his bird-cage hat; on the 
floor lay bundles of fur. Bundles of fur! 
After these, nothing held me. Sleeping Rus- 
sians they were, in from the Far North, that 
mysterious terra incognita into which within an 
hour we ourselves should be whirling. 

The terror of that first plunge into the bit- 
ter shadowy night of the Farther North! 
Peking had been but a prelude; this was the 
precipice. Mukden itself is wind-swept enough 
Heaven knows ! huddling there in the pale 
of the Arctic storms; but, at least, it has 
lights, humanity, and roofs. Its soft-winking 
beacons called across the snow like lorelei 

15 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

lorelei of fires and hearth. I confess that I 
watched them dim and vanish across the 
widening white with no slight misgiving and 
a frenzied desire to rush back and claim sanc- 
tuary before it was too late. But there was 
no turning back. The mists had begun to 
shroud us in their phantom pall. We were 
already committed to the steppe. 

They are wonderfully sympathetic, these 
Russians, and deeply and properly impressed 
with the responsibility of VAmericaine. The 
General says that I am not American, but 
north Italian in type; M. Novinsky does not 
comment upon my type. They were stand- 
ing guard over my place when I turned from 
my vigil at the window, and then I discovered 
the reason. The world was present but not 
his wife. With the exception of the feminine, 
it was a miniature cosmos. Seven fat Chinese 
disposed their fur-lined brocades and settled 
their embonpoint comfortably on the seats; 
nine Japanese tucked their feet under cumu- 
lative kimonos; the Standard Oil men, trim- 
mers of the "lamp of Asia," the Swedish 
minister, the General, and M. Novinsky 
settled in their greatcoats. Each traveler 
drew about him whatever mantle race had 

16 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

provided him. The car stared internationally 
and then fell into slumber. That is, all but 
M. Novinsky, whom I could see from the 
corner of one sleepy eye, proud as Lucifer, 
immobile as the Buddha of Kamakura, while 
opposite him a wadded Chinese slept the 
unconcerned sleep of the East. The aris- 
tocratic tradition is, I have observed, some- 
times inconvenient. 

Mukden had been cold, but this place where 
I awoke surely went below thermometer 
range. The British- American Tobacco man 
and the Standard Oil men had vanished in the 
night the last symbol erased from my fa- 
miliar world. Frost eliminated the land- 
scape. From a hollow drumlike distance 
came the sound of bells, deep-toned Buddhists 
and momentary ecstatics punctuating the 
boom of the great ones. The General had 
disappeared, but M. Novinsky stood at my 
elbow, pale as Hamlet, but glossily booted 
and shining as to hair. It seemed an uncon- 
ventional morning encounter with an im- 
maculate attache of the Russian legation! 

"What is it, a Charpentier opera?" I de- 
manded, trying to make a clearing in the 
white rime of my window. 

17 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

"No Charpentier, but Changchun," said 
M. Novinsky, rescuing my Mongolian rug 
from the claws of a rapacious coolie. "For 
us it is breakfast." 

"Changchun?" I had a painfully con- 
fused sense of Beveridge and Putnam Weale. 
"I know!" I cried, with sudden enlighten- 
ment. "The far shore line of Great Russia 
where the 'gray stream of men carrying ikons, 
children and wives crawls down upon Man- 
churia never to retreat.' ' 

"Totchno" agreed M. Novinsky. "You 
speak in the language of an Imperial ukase. 
At least, Mademoiselle, if your feet never 
stray to the Back of the Beyond at least 
you have stood where the East and the North 
tryst." 

The hotel is only a stone's throw from the 
station, but the General and M. Novinsky 
stowed me in a troika and we dashed up in 
the manner of a De Quincy stage-coach, as 
befitted our rank. It is next to being a cousin 
to royalty to travel with a General. The 
Russian has a taste for the dramatic which he 
seems to gratify. Every one from the man- 
ager to the smallest maltchik draws himself 
up when we appear, while the General sails 

18 



THE CHINESE EXPRESS 

through the line, very fierce, very distingue, 
like the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievitch 
himself. 

And now the escort pay etiquette calls at 
the Russian Consulate while I finish my 
Amur caviare and read the Manchurian wool 
market to the bells of the Near and Far 
Easts. Extraordinary paradoxes, these Rus- 
sians ; the most easy-going people of the globe, 
and the most punctilious. At least, that is 
the General. Monsieur Novinsky, though of 
far older blood, I fancy, seems deeper rooted 
in gentleness. Two Samoyedes steal past me 
in long surtouts and close fur caps. Are they 
also of the same nationality as the General 
and M. Novinsky? Already I sense a nation 
which is "not a nation but a world." 

"I shall burn a candle in that Chinese tem- 
ple to this unco 1 strange journey," I an- 
nounce, as the escort depart. 

"Better a taper for Nicolas, the Wonder- 
worker," the General calls over the top of his 
fur collar. "The Russian gods are jealous 
gods. And these are the skirts of Great 
Russia!" 

3 



II 

A WAR SPECIAL 

A WAR SPECIAL! An edition de luxe 
war special for Russia! Am I dream- 
ing? I rub my finger along the leather seats 
and the mahogany casing. The white per- 
spective of Harbin streets through the win- 
dow vanishes a bit unreally but the izvost- 
chiks are solid enough, and the Cossacks clump- 
ing about with bread, and the shaggy ponies. 
And there through the world, in the direction 
my heels point, prosaic creatures are sitting 
in offices, attending committees and taking the 
elevated ! 

Ivan Caspitch, the General's orderly, a 
taffy-colored Grenadier, has just brought a 
samovar and red-currant jam. Ivan Cas- 
pitch's idea of the world is sorrow, which 
must be drowned in tea and jam. It is the 
Russian post-train that has left me like this, 
a fossil of prehistoric man, caught through the 

20 



A WAR SPECIAL 

ages with my knees under my chin, and the 
object of Ivan Caspitch's pity. 

"Like the Russian Government," M. Nov- 
insky declares the post, "meant to develop 
an eyeless, mindless, collapsible creature." 

For myself I should not have minded, but 
it offended my sense of things as they should 
be to see the General's glory eclipsed in a 
crevice. Deep frost covered the window, 
eliminating the landscape. It was too dark 
to read, and one of the Forbiddens was to 
lower the candle which warred with the Pow- 
ers of Darkness in the upper regions of the 
car. The guard, a surreptitious person in a 
vast beard, hovered about the door, peering 
in at irregular intervals as if to surprise IT 
out of us. 

"Whatever it is, I do not know," I pro- 
tested to the General at the end of a tortuous 
hour, "but for the grace of God and having 
been born in America, I might be in the 
Siberian salt-mines." 

"You should have become accustomed to 
spying in Japan," suggested the General. 

"Japanese spying is something tangible," I 
argued. "If one must have his luggage ran- 
sacked, the Japanese do it deftly and pack 

21 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

things more neatly than they came out. And 
if they poke holes in the shoji after all, they 
are their own shoji. But this this is an 
evil spell." 

"It may be a bad system, but it works. 
Russia needs a strong hand." The General 
pulled his long mustache. 

The train-master had announced that we 
should be in Harbin by eleven, but this 
statement was Oriental tact and not truth. 
It was two before we saw a delicate coronet 
of lights scattering on the shining disk of 
plain. I buried my nose in my dogskin; the 
cold would crumple me up like a mimosa leaf, 
while the Russians would step forth heroically 
into their element, their native North. And 
then I discovered another of Old Nature's 
secrets. The Russians pulled their furs and 
shivered in their greatcoats. Too many cen- 
turies had winds from glaciers blown in their 
faces, and laid deep in their memory a race- 
terror, while I, with a less bitter ancestral 
memory, breathed greedily of freedom and the 
ecstasy of space! Sky, black velvet and 
crystal; stars, pendent points of light, and 
the plain a luminous blue-white reflector; 
horses with high-arched collars; furs shag- 

22 



A WAR SPECIAL 

gily blotching the snow. A magnificent fan- 
tasie. It rushed upon me, an engulfing sea. 
It was the North the Siberian North! It 
rocked in my ears like a storm; the brilliant 
savage North! I looked to the horizons; in 
every direction sped these terrible white dis- 
tances. Somewhere there in those prehistoric 
gulfs, Breshkovskaya had kept burning her 
lamp, and Dostoevski, Gorky, and countless 
hundreds of the flaming hearts of Russia. 

The station was dank and dreary after the 
sonorous level of the steppe, dank and dreary 
and futile as are all things human after great 
spaces. I was glad that the General was 
Viking-tall and easy to follow, for the crowd 
moved about with a weary, troubled confusion. 
Everything was written anew in symbols of 
the North. Everybody was fur-clad, cap-d- 
pie even to the newsgirl. I liked the skin- 
side-inside-fur-side-outside coats of the nos- 
iltchiki, perhaps because I liked the nosilt- 
chiki themselves; burly, bearded chaps, with 
the vigor of the North in their sinews and the 
fear of God in their faces. But it was murky 
after the steppe. And the smell! It rose in 
clouds like incense, it descended like London 
fog an intermingling of the odors of horses, 

23 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

sheep, koumiss, and unwashed humanity; the 
smell which the Mongolian tents take on from 
sheltering the little "brothers of the field "- 
calves and new-born lambs; the "distinctive 
but not unpleasant" odor of which the great 
Tolstoi writes. I was tired with the rocking 
of the train, and cumulatively sleepy, and I 
had grave doubts whether Tolstoi were not, 
after all, a barbarian. 

The man whose lantern has two sides 
East and West soon becomes an epicure of 
contrasts. The delight I take in nights spent 
in a mud-walled Mongolian inn among the 
wool-carts, set over against the memory of the 
Savoy in season, is more thrilling than any a 
collector of Whistler wrests from his treasure. 
And I hug now the joy I shall take in a bill for 
nine cents night's lodging for seven people, 
three horses and a donkey against my next 
squandering of gold in the tents of the West. 

I was lost in my musing when the General 
and M. Novinsky plucked me from contem- 
plation of the skin coats. 

"No train to-night!" The General drew 
his great red-lined cape about him and led 
the way outside to the hotel sleighs. What 
would the Savoy or the Plaza say to such a 

24 



A WAR SPECIAL 

trio at such an hour? Doubtless a superb 
contrast to the comment of the bearded genii 
who presides here on the edge of things where 
the Ten Commandments are not, character- 
ized by curiosity but no phrases. 

"One piecee A-number-one laidee," he said 
to the Chinese boy in blue. "One piecee A- 
number-one room." 

" How,'" acquiesced the Celestial, and with 
a simple how I was committed to a room, sealed 
but for one hinged pane; there I slept the 
sleep of the East under a goatskin rug. I 
discovered the next morning that the sheets 
were exquisite table linen. I cannot explain 
why, but it is Russian that they should have 
been so, especially Siberian Russian, but it is 
true. Harbin has the atmosphere of a gold 
camp. But the memory of that night the 
mingling of alien voices, Japanese and Rus- 
sian, that rose from that fetid hot-box below 
the howling of the wind and the sharp, cold 
terror of those gulfs of gray mists! 

It is amazing how naturally I have accepted 
M. Novinsky's serene figure in my world. 
Glossily booted and impeccable, he was look- 
ing up at me from the foot of the stairs when 
I appeared this morning. 

25 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

" Nu! AmeHcaine," he said, his long gray 
eyes stirring with a smile, "the road is 
blocked by a tangle of trains. We may miss 
the one express that crawls out to Irkutsk. 
You know Kipling calls us ' the most westernly 
of Easterns." 

I felt a sudden access of enthusiasm. "The 
best drama in the world, I assure you, is a 
Chinese street quarrel. And an actor once 
told me that he liked playing these Russian 
tempers, because they are inexhaustible." 

Did Rachel and Bernhardt, I wonder, learn 
their furies from these boundless, timeless 
Orientals? For an hour strange words hissed 
and scratched expletives purely Slavonic and 
unintelligible burned off over the wires in 
every direction. I have no quarrel with a 
Russian rage; it appeals to me as admirably 
effective. Behold for us, at least, a result 
magnifique! A war special stands on the sid- 
ing being caparisoned for a dash across Si- 
beria. One coach, an 1830 engine piled high 
with wood which is roped on at every 
conceivable angle, the whole looking like one 
of those overburdened donkeys one sees along 
the wall in Peking. 

The vista ahead drops away in a vast white 
it 



A WAR SPECIAL 

fog. Down that phantom-white distance the 
wind is rising, the snow eddies past the win- 
dows in plumy white swirls, and with every 
swirl the unknown there grows fleecier. The 
General strides up and down the platform, a 
gaunt figure, his great red-lined cape unfurling 
behind him like the wings of a monstrous bird, 
while Cossack orderlies provision the car, their 
striped trousers moving briskly over the 
snow. The General brings always the same 
curious vision before my eyes : armies march- 
ing and countermarching, spreading myriad- 
wise over the plain ; the passion of war; mill- 
ions tramping to their death ; the music of the 
battle-hymns. Certainly through the General 
courses little of Pushkin's "dove-blood of the 
Slav"! 

Three young officers have come down from 
the barracks to greet their superior officer 
and stand about in delightful trepidation. 
One little captain's wife, who evidently knows 
her way about the world, arrives armed with 
roasted ryabtchiks and a bottle of Madeira. 
The car is a first-class car filched from the 
Russian express, fitted with mahogany and 
velvet and luxuriously appointed as the Rus- 
sians know how to appoint. The General 

27 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

stalks through the car, followed by the or- 
derly. 

"This half of the car, Mademoiselle Ameri- 
caine," he decrees, with an authoritative wave 
of his hand, "is your domain drawing-room, 
bedroom, room to spare. M. Novinsky and I 
enter only by your permission. Ivan Cas- 
pitch will stow away your bags." And he 
withdraws in form and with distinction a 
masterly retreat. 

Ivan Caspitch appears with the Siberian 
crab-apple maid I have borrowed from the 
hotel for the sake of les convenances until we 
reach Irkutsk, red-aproned and a bundle un- 
der each arm. More officers, more kvass, more 
food, more wood ! Katya eyes both the steppe 
and me with foreboding and crosses herself 
broadly. It would be difficult to say which 
she fears most the steppe or VAmericaine. 

Ahead lies the dim abyss, filled with a 
misty whiteness which showers from the sky 
moment by moment, hour by hour a strange, 
uncharted, soundless sea. Ten thousand 
miles of silence, ten thousand miles of white 
and tideless ocean! Snow flying, drifting, 
swirling snow. The belted krestyanki and 
izvostchiks wave as we leave the siding. 

28 



A WAR SPECIAL 

"Gospode tebye! Gospode tebye!" shout the 
hairy giants as we pull slowly out. 

"It might be Peary's dash for the Pole or 
Shackleton's relief," I murmur, as the strange 
trio of us stand at the window, off for Europe. 

"It might be anything thrilling and ro- 
mantic if it were not for that absurd engine," 
grants M. Novinsky. "It so resembles a 
donkey that I cannot believe but that at the 
last moment it will have to be led into the 
mystery." 



Ill 

BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

WHAT a strange fabric of impressions 
this journey across Siberia leaves in 
one's hands! A naked level flowing to the 
far horizon, white above and gray below, and 
in that rim between earth and sky something 
dark that flies and flies before the wind. It 
is the mystery of all great spaces of Mon- 
golia of Egypt. But there is no touch of 
gold here, no sun, no heat, no shimmering 
sand, no intense physical mystery. All is 
dead, misty white; the mystery of tundra, of 
forests and night and death; the mystery 
which the Russian has written into his litera- 
ture of Raskolnikoff, of Orloff and Anna and 
Vronsky. Silence, space, death and furious 
movement. I never shall and never wish to 
lose the memory of these snow-dunes. For 
me there is healing in these spaces, release for 
the fretted prisoner of self, and escape from 

30 



BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

the emphatically individual. It is one with 
the assurance that the Orient had given me 
the peace of the knowledge that life is but 
episodic, a fragment of cloud scudding across 
a night sky and soon to be merged with the 
whole. 

The General pores all day over maps and 
war manuals while M. Novinsky and I ex- 
plore the world like a pair of Robinson Crusoes. 
In spite of our importance, we are on a 
military schedule, and sometimes we sit on 
the steppe for hours while the Cossacks 
stretch their legs and walk the sturdy Siberian 
ponies about in the snow. They are not hand- 
some, these trans-Baikal troops with whom 
we fraternize while the trains tangle. Sun 
and wind and rain have reduced them to the 
monochrome of the steppe until they might 
almost be said to have protective coloring. 
They are gaited, too, like Mongols; the gait 
of men bred to ride, not to walk, and un- 
familiar with their legs. 

"They do not look particularly fierce," I 
observed to M. Novinsky, as we clambered off 
the train yesterday to cross the tracks. 

"No man can look fierce with a loaf of 
bread under one arm and a pan of milk under 

31 



the other," answered M. Novinsky. "The 
Czar's special fighting men, nevertheless; they 
wear the Cossack stripe from cradle to grave 
and like their fighting well enough. Of all 
the troops, they alone can never understand 
why they should make prisoners. If a man 
is dead, you can take his boots." 

The General strides about like a giant sand- 
piper, pulling his military mustache. "The 
hardest troops in Europe," he vows. "Black 
bread and a bit of straw; it is sufficient. But 
fools!" 

For myself I must confess to a certain 
strangeness about, that makes our ultilitarian 
civilization pale visibly. 

How swiftly Mongolia unrolls at the sight 
and smell of the ponies! The same wiry 
beasts I have ridden with a llama for riding 
master in purple and orange and a silver- 
pommeled saddle. They are bound around 
with memories, memories of grazing antelope, 
of wool-carts high against the sky in a notch 
of the pass, of wheeling eagles and brown- 
skinned shepherd boys piping their lays on the 
hillside. 

"A chap like this nearly cost me my life once 
in Turkestan," M. Novinsky said yesterday, 

3 2 



BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

looking oddly incongruous against the shag- 
giness of the ponies, rubbing a little palmetto's 
nose with a neat dogskin glove. "I had been 
sent on a mission to Kashgar; seven days over 
granite mountains, and then the plateau. I 
got some devil's sort of fever that made it 
necessary to get to the doctor. One of the 
Cossack ponies fell sick, too. 'Find another 
horse and we will push on,' I ordered the next 
morning. Do you think that beggar Cossack 
would leave his horse? Not he. He ex- 
pected a flogging, that is certain. He was 
exactly like the quaking lad in Kuprin's story 
do you remember? 'At your service, your 
High Excellency,' he would say, touching his 
cap a hundred times a day. But would he 
leave that beast? He would not. And 
well I couldn't order him flogged! And so 
his Majesty, the Czar of all the Russias, in 
the person of me, waited three days in a 
Kirghiz tent, with mosquitoes and flies hold- 
ing festa. There were compensations, I ad- 
mit. The whole village turned out to amuse 
me dancing and theatricals every night be- 
fore my tent. I might have been the Pasha 
himself. But that's another story." 
"And your fever?" 

33 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

"My fever? The pony entirely recovered 
and I, too, in the end," he added with a 
smile. " Shto dyelatch? Loyalty is the first 
principle of life. A Chinese to his ancestors; 
a woman to her heart ; a Cossack to his horse. 
I liked the rascal for it, and when I came back 
to Peking I brought him with me. He was 
the most faithful servant I ever had." 

Sometimes we explore the stations for food. 
If I did not know by a hundred other proofs, 
I should be convinced now that M. Novinsky 
is a gentleman from the cheerfulness with 
which he blots the future ambassadorial 
escutcheon by eating shchee, greasy cabbage 
soup, at long tables in company with peasants 
and izvostchiks, to humor my whim. 

"You see," I explained to-day, looking 
about the murky station dining-room for a 
means to vindicate my taste, and wondering 
what Russian etiquette demanded one should 
do with a slice of meat and an egg which my 
spoon had fished from the bottom of my 
soup, "you see, they are all old friends of 
mine, from Gorky and Tolstoi and Dostoevski 
and all the rest. Ten years I have known 
them, but I never had a samovar with them 
or swelled them before. You know, that one 

34 



BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

over there at the end of the table is Turgenev's 
Ermolai you remember, with the dogs. And 
that lazy one is Vankya on Levin's estate 
he went to sleep in the hay. Don't you 
recognize him? Look at the way they fall 
upon their food and devour it. I have seen 
boatmen on a Chinese junk eat like that when 
they have been poling for days against the 
wind until they snarled and screamed like 
beasts with the effort. It's not our way 
it's hunger " 

"Yes, it's hunger red hunger," rejoined 
M. Novinsky, "but, Mademoiselle Americaine, 
don't imagine they are not old friends to me!" 
he added, earnestly. ' ' My grandfather owned 
several thousand of them and my mother still 
holds a sort of matriarchy down on her estate 
in Tver. They come to her for everything 
food, medicine, justice. It's rather nice to 
see her holding court among them. . . . Old 
friends ! Nu, they are such old friends as you 
in your shifting America cannot comprehend. 
My boyhood memories are all bound up with 
them; fishing with Petya, dragging out in the 
early morning and walking off my legs in the 
marshes for grouse, fighting forest fires with 
the foresters until I was blacked and blistered, 
4 35 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

without eyelashes, and ordered off to the 
great house. And lazy summer days, lying 
on my back under the limes, while old Agatha, 
the housekeeper, jingled her keys among the 
storehouses and smuggled me gooseberry 
tarts, which I, being delicate, was forbidden. 
Nu, they are friends of generations. It was 
one thing that made the old landlord decent 
the responsibility of them. What to do with 
them now, there's the rub. They are farther 
down the scale than the Chinese peasant, of 
an ignorance that you cannot imagine; un- 
couth, canny, but superstitious and filled with 
dark mystical and political passions. The 
intelligentsia have fought back and forth 
across them until now the whole land is sullen 
and distrustful. And why not? To move 
them, that is not impossible. But to deter- 
mine their direction and momentum ah! 
With the first touch of freedom they are 
dangerous and impractical the malaise of 
too long thwarting." 

"There is something here that I never felt 
even in the far regions of China," I ventured, 
after a pause. "It is to descend into the 
earth as it was in the beginning." 

"That is Russia," said M. Novinsky, with 
36 






BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

his eyes on the melancholy horizon. "The 
earth as it was in the beginning." 

The mates of these men we often see selling 
milk and game at the stations, the wind whip- 
ping their skirts, broad-hipped, broad-cheeked 
creatures, eyes shadowed with an indefatig- 
able sadness. I watch them for hours and 
M. Novinsky often joins me. Yesterday the 
three of us stood at the window looking at two 
huge artichokes of shawls supported by felt 
boots, coquetting with the izvostchiks after 
the manner of young bears. Between these 
uncouth figures and M. Novinsky I feel a 
certain something in common, but the General 
is different. 

"Bah!" he scowled. "The most wrinkled 
old crone in China tosses off a street scene with 
more relish than these peasants. An Italian, 
a Burmese, a Chinese yes, but these Rus- 
sians have no zest for life." 

"Plain, endless winter, gray sky, does not 
make for esprit" commented M. Novinsky, 
calmly, without lifting his eyes to the General. 
"No mountains, no sea; the rivers are the 
only romance they have except such as they 
find in their own souls. To understand the 
Russian is to remember that the Russian 

37 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

word for beauty is red. Read the Russian 
geographically; and that means to see him 
against the background of an endless gray 
monotony. My conviction is that he drinks 
and kills only because he is bored." 

"But these are the brawny figures that pour 
tides of men toward Europe," I ventured, 
looking up at the autocratic face of the 
General. 

"Da Slavu Bogu! They breed as fecundly 
as Mother Earth herself. Their raison d'etre. 
And now that the men are gone, they must 
bring forth bread as they have brought forth 



men." 



"Men and bread bread and men." The 
words wearied my imagination. I felt myself 
sinking slowly to the earth under some mon- 
strous burden. 

"Don't trouble yourself, Mademoiselle. It's 
their lot. A muzhik who needs a baba for 
harvest, I assure you, loses little time in 
courting. They are used to it." And the 
General turned away from the window. 

I regard the General and M. Novinsky and 
then I look at these babas outside in the snow. 
Again I am struck with incredulity. Are they 
gf the sajne race? M. Novinsky is finely rno4- 



BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

eled; face narrow, ey$s with more than a 
tinge of Eastern inscrutability, skin fine in 
texture, ringers nervously intelligent. In the 
canine world he would be a borzoi. The 
cigarette-case he has just laid down is shagreen 
because he likes the feel, and stamped with a 
tiny monogram in gold. A piece of peach- 
blow or sang de bceuf he handles as if he were 
worshiping. He has a passion for French 
novels. The story he told me yesterday of a 
Japanese girl near whom he stood for morning 
ablutions at an inn in Tokio was related with 
the subtlety of a Frenchman and the naivete 
of an Italian, and probably no one but a Rus- 
sian could have given it point in so many 
different languages. The flower of an ex- 
tremely sophisticated civilization, superfici- 
ally everything that the peasant is not, he is. 
Russia with all her sullen monotonies offers 
the most brutal of contrasts. And yet, be- 
tween M. Novinsky and the muzhiks I feel an 
indefinable something in common; perhaps 
only a simplicity. 

The General is more baffling. Dinner we 
always have at night in his compartment. 
There are cavaire and soup, with fish and olives 
and Siberian game. Ivan Caspitch places 

39 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

two bundles on the table, between which the 
decorations of the General's uniform gleam 
like the jewels of the Mother of God. The 
effect is somber but rich and Russian. I like 
to watch the shadows play across the Gener- 
al's face, his eyes darkening, his gaunt body 
relaxed against the cushions, his fingers dex- 
terously rolling a cigarette, speaking English 
rapidly, brilliantly and with more distinction 
than an Englishman. One forgets the indif- 
ference of the steppe, the darkness closing 
down like a cowl. He is interested in Amer- 
ican women he says they sip the honey from 
the flowers of the world a man for whom, I 
am certain, life has run swift and deep. 
Twice when I have discussed a man, he has 
dismissed him with a shrug and the final 
damnation, "He knows nothing of life." 
Always he seems quaffing greedily at life 
before some cold finality overwhelms him. I 
wonder sometimes if he fears to meet his 
death. Yesterday, when he had been mood- 
ily watching the steppe, he turned away. 
"The dark door," he said, and to-day again 
almost with superstition. What life means 
for him I do not know ; not what it means to 
me nor, perhaps, to M. Novinsky, smoking 

40 



BLOTTING THE ESCUTCHEON 

quietly in the corner, and watching him with 
enigmatic eyes. 

M. Novinsky, I am beginning to suspect, 
holds the General in distrust. He is of too 
excellent technique to disclose it, and perhaps 
it would never have penetrated my conscious- 
ness had it not been for a sudden flaring-up 
to-day, after a discussion with the General. 

" Half-breed !" M. Novinsky exclaimed, con- 
temptuously, picking up a volume of Ferrier, 
when the General had retired to smoke. 

As a matter of fact, the General does con- 
fess to Teutonic blood; he has told me him- 
self, with a certain arrogant pride, that he 
came from Riga. Perhaps this explains much 
that has been puzzling me: a ruthless indif- 
ference to the peasants, and an autocracy, cer- 
tainly not of the Russians Russian. The 
strands of the Russian loom are beginning to 
separate. Is the General that type of Ger- 
man bureaucrat who has denied freedom to 
the most innately democratic people in the 
world? 

"And are these Baltic-Germans to officer the 
war?" I murmur, half to myself, looking at 
M. Novinsky, who continues to gaze at the 
far gray horizon. 

41 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

M. Novinsky is recovering from a long ill- 
ness and is disqualified for military service, 
but I hazard that something other than a 
fling at the capital hurries this slim, keen 
Slavophil toward Europe. 



IV 

CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 

CHRISTMAS in Siberia! That is, of 
course, for a vagabond American. Rus- 
sian Christmas lies thirteen days ahead. It 
is a Christmas which, I dare say, when I am 
old I shall count an illusion. Even now it 
seems a flying chimera. At least we are on 
what one without a yellow - journalist con- 
science might term a dash. The demand for 
the General at the front has cleared the 
tangle, and all the trains of horses and am- 
munition, sections of gray-coated Cossacks 
and of Austrian prisoners bound for the 
Siberian salt-mines, have been drawn up on 
sidings, while our little special rushes past 
like Thompson's Hound of Heaven. All day 
yesterday the track lay along Lake Baikal, 
that fragment of sea imprisoned here by some 
strange chance in centuries past, tossing 
yesterday in a black rage. Even the General, 

43 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

who pores all day over maps, laid down his 
papers, and the strange three of us with 
Ivan Caspitch and Katya at the other win- 
dow stood watching the weird scene. M. 
Novinsky, sensitive to all beauty, I could feel 
ravaged by its splendor. 

"It is a Tarn o'Shanter race," I ventured. 

"For which Beardsley drew the setting." 
M. Novinsky completed the fancy. 

The wind crumpling and crashing down 
from the Arctic was so high that one could 
scarcely stand between the cars, and the lake 
roared like a beast. But beyond the black 
waters the sun touched the mountains with 
a dazzling whiteness. 

"A new vision vouchsafed by the prophets, a 
city celestial let down into the world!" M. 
Novinsky murmured, watching the glory with 
mystic eyes. 

As night fell the mystery of the lake deep- 
ened. Lighted headlands jutted out into the 
waters and the whole took on a new profun- 
dity, surcharged with the savagery of night 
and the North. I fell asleep at the window, 
still watching while darkness covered the face 
of the waters. When I awoke it was two 
o'clock, Christmas morning in the West. 

44 



CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 

The General stood in my doorway looking, to 
my sleepy gaze, like a fur-clad angel ; outside 
lights were foregathering. 

"Irkutsk, Mademoiselle. The express 
waits!" 

I shall always treasure that sally. It was 
the General's one bit of humor. 

The thrilling delicacy of that early morning 
in the North! I looked up at my tall Rus- 
sians. M. Novinsky was breathing the air 
of home; his long gray-blue eyes shone with 
a nervous excitement. The General showed 
less emotion. Through a silvery snow tissue 
the lights of the big white station gleamed 
with the festive air of an enchanted castle. 
With its silvery blues and grays, its ethereal 
other- worldliness, it might have been a scene 
from Maeterlinck, incredibly lovely. 

The General and M. Novinsky saw to a 
ticket and a place in the post-train toward 
Harbin for Katya, a little dazed but mainly 
stolid, whose going wrung a tear from a Cos- 
sack's eye, and then we wandered inside the 
station. M. Novinsky and I sat down under 
the dusty artificial palms to drink black cof- 
fee from tall glasses, while the General found 
acquaintance among the sworded and booted 

45 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

officers with whose greens, blues and crimsons 
the crowd was irradiated. A strange Christ- 
mas! 

After the wintry solitudes of the plain the 
interior of the station seemed almost gay, 
but it was a delusive gaiety, which be- 
tokened the infection of humanity. Plainly 
we had left the steppe. For some reason, dif- 
ficult to define, it was less Siberian and more 
Russian. The General and M. Novinsky, too, 
seemed more Russian than in Peking, as if in 
mingling with their own race they had ac- 
quired a new access of nationality. On the 
whole, the officers were well-set-up looking 
men and somehow one felt one's self nearing a 
mighty vortex. The hosts were gathering; 
strange ethnological types such as I had never 
seen before; foreshortened faces with copper 
skins; tall hawk-nosed men, long-skirted and 
green-girdled; sleeping muzhik faces under 
close caps all sucked and dragged by cosmic 
forces there beyond their world, neither of 
their willing nor their ken. It is interesting 
to watch one's imagination struggle upward. 
I can almost put my finger on the moment 
when the realization of Great Russia moved 
into a large upper chamber of my imagination. 

4 6 



CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 

It was there in the station at Irkutsk, and it 
came in one clear moment like a vision, as if 
I had really sat on the rim of the sun with 
Uriel from^the beginning of the world. I saw 
a white level sweeping from the Pacific to the 
Urals and rushing then from the Urals to 
Western Europe, spreading north to the Arctic 
Circle and melting to the south under the 
blue skies of Crimea cool crystal spaces 
greater than the surfaces of the moon which 
watched over our voyagings. Across the wan 
surfaces drifted saffron horsemen out of the 
East, yellow clouds crossing the face of the 
earth a tide that ebbed and flowed, advanced 
and retreated receded to the East and there 
for centuries rested. And now again the 
cycle begins again a yellow tide flows toward 
Europe ; variegated races, aliens among them- 
selves, eying one another strangely, forsaking 
their tents, their izbas, the dreams of their 
youth, the work of their hands, now ten 
centuries later to gather under one stand- 
ard, to fight under one command of the 
Great White Czar. "Not a nation, but a 
world." I dimly comprehended. I went to 
sleep dreaming of chill surfaces of the moon 
Across which rayed shadowy variegated figures, 

4? 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

streaming in a mighty flood toward a giant 
mill-race somewhere there beyond. 

A grotesque Christmas! I awoke in the 
express, the sun shining and the whole land- 
scape looking like a monster Christmas card, 
silvered and frosted and ready to mail. 
There through the world, in London and New 
York, Christmas chimes were ringing. Pack- 
ages were being untied and gay little notes 
opened, and children were pulling toys out of 
their stockings. I looked out at the monotony 
of the steppe, at a row of birches fluttering 
and dancing in the breeze. 

But there was one bit of holiday. A plum- 
pudding had been thrust into the car by a 
kind English friend the last moment in 
Peking. From Chinese train to Japanese, 
from the Japanese train to the post bad 'cess 
to it from the post to the special, from the 
special to the express, we attended that pud- 
ding his" Excellency the General, M. Novin- 
sky and I. The Russians had never tasted 
English plum-pudding and I was eager that 
this should be irresistible. My first mission 
this morning was to consult the chef. "Like 
so many other things Russian," the General 

48 



CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 

assured me, "he will not be Russian at all, but 
French." And French he was, smilingly, 
piquantly French, as incongruous as a Paris 
hat in the Siberian steppe. With a flashing 
smile, which had lost none of its French 
savoire faire in the wilderness, he promised me 
that his sauce would make other puddings 
taste like brown paper. It did. I knew that 
it was a triumph the minute I saw the Gen- 
eral's face. Under the new law there was no 
champagne, but the Russians ate to Christ- 
mas liberally. 

"To America!" The General commanded 
the table like a swarthy ikon. 

"To Russia!" offered M. Novinsky, cos- 
mopolitan, elegant. 

"To the Entente!" I proposed, clutching at 
the side of the rocking train. 

"To an English plum-pudding made by a 
Chinese cook, sauced by a French chef, 
served by a Tartar on a rocking trans-Siberian 
train," M. Novinsky rose again to the delight 
of all the enormously dining guests, smiling 
at us across the red table-cloths in the murky 
little car, ' ' and British to the end !" What an 
infinitesimal point of gaiety we were in that 
somber brooding! 

49 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

The Russian express is not so luxuriously 
appointed as the Wagon Lits, but I should not 
hesitate to commend it to a traveler. In fact, 
to me it is depressingly comfortable but my 
standards are a vagabond's. No more scurry- 
ing off the train; no more soup from which 
one may fish a whole course dinner, sans sweets 
and cigarettes, eaten with red-bearded giants 
who might pray to their own images for those 
of the saints; no more candle-lighted dinners 
a trois, with the darkness tipped over one 
like a bowl. No more ministrations of Ivan 
Caspitch. The salt would have lost its savor 
indeed did not a new interest appear over the 
horizon, numerous troop-trains carrying Aus- 
trian and German prisoners. 

Our train halts frequently and we cross the 
tracks to talk to these "tattered creatures 
who were once men." The rank and file of 
them are different from our friends, the Cos- 
sacks; a trifle more sophisticated, a little less 
aloof, more quickly given to an intimate 
a too intimate smile than the Cossacks. 
Their clothing is thin for Siberian winds. I 
saw one man yesterday leaning out of a box- 
car window with only a vest and no shirt, but 
he looked so cheerful that I wondered if it 

so 



CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPPE 

were from choice and not compulsion. They 
swarm to the windows and doors of the box- 
cars where they are packed like traditional 
herrings, with as keen interest in what may 
be forthcoming from our side as we have in 
theirs. They even board our train and strag- 
gle through the cars unkempt gray men with 
gold-exploring eyes, begging always the same 
thing, always and without variation, ciga- 
rettes. Papirossi will be as thoroughly em- 
bedded in the vocabulary of the German as 
coffee was rooted in the palate of the Viennese 
after the Napoleonic wars. It is only the 
men who thus fraternize. The officers are a 
handsome, scowling lot, who seem always to 
look beyond, into the heart of the Tyrol. 

"Where were they taken?" I asked the 
General yesterday, of an uncouth band who 
were fighting to get within the range of my 
camera. 

"I never ask," the General answered, with 
pointed brevity. I had blundered in the sol- 
diers' world, indelicately. 

"There are no guides in evidence. They 
wander about at will?" 

"The steppe itself is a guide that never 
sleeps," stated the General. And I knew 
5 51 



MISS AMER1KANKA 

that he spoke grimly true. Any invasion of 
that white sanctity spells swift and inexorable 
death. 

Sometimes the wind moans across the 
waste until I cannot sleep, but high above the 
wind and the rush of the train come the 
fragments of a song in a flash our express has 
passed and gone but the memory lingers. 
Whatever else slips through memory's net, 
never will it be those snatches of song heard 
on the steppe in the watches of the night 
the melody of men crossing the void to keep 
their tryst with death. 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

EVEN a fine style may grow monotonous, 
and the steppe is akin to le grand style. 
For days, more than ten now, my eyes have 
implored the plain for an elevation, even the 
slightest aspiring point in the level, but the 
only answer has been more level. This 
morning Ivan Caspitch awoke me at five to be- 
hold the Urals, the caesura between Europe and 
Asia. If seas flow between the Wests, what 
a mighty break should yawn here between the 
West and the East! Together we stood at 
the window, scanning the hollow gray light, 
Ivan Caspitch stolid and bulky in the half- 
light and I shivering in my shuba, straining 
my eyes for the pause between two con- 
tinents. 

"Where are they, Ivan?" I demanded. "I 
cannot see them." My acquaintance with 
the Urals had been mainly with lapis lazuli 

53 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

in the jewelers' windows, but I should have 
been content with the earthiest earth had it 
been mountains. But for all my vigilance, 
there was only a placid flowing. 

"There, barishnya" Ivan Caspitch pointed 
to a darker scattering of forest swelling slight- 
ly to the left and right. "There, we are 
crossing them now. Bozhe moil bolshoi 
vyeter!" 

"Bolshoi vyeter!" Indeed it was, a great 
wind. To that I agreed. It shrieked like 
fiends from the Deserts of Nowhere, though 
I had not known how to say it in Russian. 
But mountains ! No mountains, only a barely 
perceptible flaring up ancj. then quickly dying 
down into lethargy. How like life is the 
steppe, without plan, prologue, chapters, or 
theme ! 

"The Urals," Ivan Caspitch affirmed, 
briefly. 

I looked at Ivan Caspitch as he stood in 
the early morning darkness, broadly blocked, 
neutral in color, without a single incisive 
feature; the product and the symbol of that 
somber, implacable, infinite heath. 

"Ivan," I cried, "it is terrible! Do you 
never fear and hate it the steppe?" 

54 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

" Nu, barishnya, we are used to it." Ivan 
Caspitch shrugged his shoulders stolidly. 

The background is always the same, but 
against its white monotone is imprinted a 
various design. The last few days the pat- 
tern has changed noticeably from the new of 
Siberia to the old of Russia. We have left the 
pencil sketches of the birches and now we are 
among the somber oils of the deep forest. 
There are more villages now and more fre- 
quently the spires and domes of Russian 
churches seen dimly through the flying snow. 
More often little log huts, izbas, edge their 
way out of the forest and blink at the world 
like curious owls; and the peasant himself 
comes out also to blink at the world or moves 
along the clearing but another fruit of 
the forest, like mushrooms and the lichens 
among which he grows. Assuredly this is 
different. Siberia I felt young, vigorous, the 
pioneer. But Russia I feel old and weary, 
the melancholy and mellow. Russia, the 
mother. 

What people emerge so simply from the 
black earth and ascend so simply to God? 
Few comprehend these children of the forest 
as does Stephen Graham. Read the chapter 

55 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

on the "Age of Wood" in his Undiscovered 
Russia. 

The muzhik's cradle is a pine hole, scooped out like 
an ancient boat. It hangs with hempen ropes from a 
springy sapling in his mother's cottage. His coffin is 
but a larger cradle, a larger, longer pine scooped out, 
with an ax-hewn plank to cover it, and wooden pegs 
to nail it down ; and between the cradle and the coffin he 
lives, surrounded by wood. A robust baby, he clambers 
out of his cradle onto a pine floor, also of grand ax- 
hewn planks, too solid to wear into holes like other 
men's poor floors. He crawls about until he learns 
to run from one hand-carved chair to another, and at 
last takes his seat at the table his father made a month 
before the wedding. He crosses himself to the sacred 
symbols made on birch bark. He eats all his meals 
with a wooden spoon; forks and knives are almost 
unknown in the forest. He eats off wooden plates or 
out of wooden Russian basins. Even the salt-cellar 
is from the forest and was plaited by his sister from reeds 
last year. He gets big enough to go out to the forest 
with his brothers and sisters, and they take birch- 
bark baskets and gather mushrooms or yagodi all 
forest fruits are called yagodi, berries. Vania they 
call him little Vania Vaska when he looks like a 
dirty little urchin. See him every day in muddy little 
bare legs, hunting in the forest for berries or chasing the 
cows who have gone astray there. He learns to walk 
nimbly on the uneven, moss-covered ground, and can 
even run among the broken branches and thorns and 
leap from one dead tree to another or swarm up the 
straight gray-green trunks. He learns to trap rabbits 

56 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

and to catch young woodcocks, knows the wolf paw, 
the fox paw, the bear paw, in the soft soil. The 
priest teaches him a little in the school about God and 
the Czar and observances of the Church, and such 
education suffices for Varna. He is becoming a woods- 
man. The forest is the best school, but he never re- 
members how it was he learned there. He came to 
know that when the sun set it was evening, and when it 
rose it was morning. He learned that the foliage of a 
tree takes shape according to the sunshine it gets and 
the time of day the sunshine reaches it, and when he 
is in the dark forest he knows by the shape of a trunk 
the way out. Every tree is a compass in itself. But 
so deep and subconscious is his knowledge that he does 
not look at the tree at all. He does not know how he 
knows. Ask him the way out of a wood and he will 
point in this direction or that, as the case may be. 
But he will not be able to tell you how he knew. 

As I said, the forests are behind his eyes as well as in 
front of them. The forests look into the simple soul, 
placid as a lake, and draw their own pictures there. 

The time comes for Vania to marry, and he had 
better build himself an izba. It is of pine, and three 
friends help him to build it, while his father stands by 
and directs. They have no planes and chisels, saws, 
squares, joiner's tables, and the like. All is wrought 
by ax and every joint is ax-cut and every smooth 
surface is ax-hewn. The walls of the house and of the 
great stove are paneled. Vania hews out a sleeping- 
shelf for himself and his wife above the oven. He 
makes unbreakable chairs to sit on and make merry, 
and a table, and finally, without other tool than his ax, 
builds a cart to take himself and his bride from the 

57 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

church, and he builds the shafts and the Russian collar 
arch to which the horse is yoked all of wood; even 
the wheels are not faced with iron, and the harness is 
made of wood and leather. 

One night great-grandfather Vania that is, the 
father of Vania's father comes into the new house 
and prays to God. Then he tells them that his time 
is passing. He is an old man. To-morrow he will 
take a new log and build a coffin for himself, and he 
will cut a wooden cross to put over his grave. Grand- 
father Vania makes his coffin and puts it away until 
it may be necessary. Meanwhile it may hold rye meal, 
or, if there is little space in the old home, he can make 
a bed in it and sleep in it o' nights. The time will come 
when he will rest there all night and not rise the next 
morning. Old Grandfather Vania will be dead. 
Vania's father and Vania and other villagers will carry 
the coffin out to the grave, and the old man's body 
will be committed to the ancient pine mold. 

Then Vania's father, himself a grandfather, follows 
in the steps of man down to the grave, and Vania 
ripens to his prime and little Vania grows up and 
marries. All among the standing trees. Little Vania 
has a child and the whole of human life turns round a 
quarter-circle. So on, da capo. 

There were ten of us when the express left 
Irkutsk: a Siberian mine-owner and his wife, 
so rich that one talked about them in whispers; 
a bearded engineer from the Amur; the 
Spanish-eyed, little Russian wife of an officer; 
a baby who wailed with true Russian pessi- 

58 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

mism; an old nyanya, voluminously clothed in 
a white apron and coif, and equally enveloped 
in folk-lore and superstition; and a cafe 
chantant singer from Vladivostok, black-eyed, 
crisply curled, and swathed in velvet and 
furs after the manner of the divine Sarah. 
But Russia has been populating her plains 
longer than Siberia, and we are picking up 
travelers. At Cheliabinsk there were several 
passengers for the second-class and a Polish 
woman appeared in the first-class, with whom 
I must share my luxurious compartment. 
And to-day Gogol's Taras Bulba himself 
came aboard! 

Most of the jollity of the car is shut up 
in the compartment of the Siberian mine- 
owner a thick-bodied, red-lipped man whom 
I do not like and his wife, with both of whom 
the General has made friends. M. Novinsky 
knits his eyebrows and evidently he thinks 
his own thoughts. Nevertheless, we both 
sometimes join the group. It is difficult to 
resist Madame at tea-time, when the samovar 
is set. And perhaps now I have peeped 
through another window into the General's 
soul. Cherchez la femme, always, with a 
Russian. Madame is a startling, fascinating 

59 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

woman even among Russians, where one 
finds color and fire. She is a type of the 
south, from the vineyards and sunny hills of 
Little Russia. Wide plains and the gray 
skies could never have bred her so warm 
and lazy and luxuriant, hair so auburn, eyes 
a sapphire blue that bring constantly to mind 
Crimean seascapes, and her laugh deep- 
throated and rich. 

If I were a man I should pray to be de- 
livered from temptation and take the next 
train! 

Russian women are a bit unconventional 
shall I say? in their dress. Both Madame 
and the cafe chantant singer wear dressing- 
gowns all day long. Both dine in their com- 
partments, served by a battalion of waiters 
and small boys, carrying all the dishes of a 
course dinner through three cars. Madame's 
robe is a zebra stripe such as Bakst would 
hang on an Egyptian dancer, though Ma- 
dame's figure is not that of an Egyptian; it is 
in this robe that she dispenses a lavish tea 
every afternoon. Heaven and the chef only 
know where the dainties come from; it is 
tea here on the plain as if we were in the 
Plaza: Russian sweetmeats, caviare, nuts and 

60 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

jam, pate de fois gras, and hothouse grapes. 
One is expected not to eat and drink, but to 
eat and drink more. If the Indian's accusa- 
tion against the white man, that he plays with 
his mouth, be true, the Russian is the arch- 
criminal. 

Every one speaks Russian, of course, hissing, 
purling Russian, Madame's voice dominating, 
as does her personality. I cannot under- 
stand always, but I know that her language, 
usually cultured, sometimes slips into the 
voice and accent of a country baba. Yester- 
day M. Novinsky glanced at me quickly to 
see if I had understood. Madame followed 
his glance. 

"Monsieur Galahad!" she smiled, mock- 
ingly. 

If one crossed her! But then one does not! 
Man is her game and him she hunts with a 
splendid savagery that makes an English- 
woman seem a cold, neuter creature beside this 
Malva of Gorky. 

The r61e of the cafe chantant singer is deep 
seclusion. The Little Russian coquettes, but 
even her Spanish eyes are ineffectual, pitted 
against la belle sauvage. It is the bridge- 
builder who most torments me with the re- 

61 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

minder of scenes his eyes have traveled over 
and mine can never behold. But I can never 
talk with him; he is dedicated to la belle 
sauvage. Curiously enough, the most per- 
sistent face is the servant of the Siberian 
mine-owner whom I see walking outside in 
the snow, a bearded man with smoky-blue 
eyes and a peculiarly well co-ordinated car- 
riage. 

"Extraordinary type for a servant," I re- 
marked to the General yesterday, watching 
the fine stride, certainly not that of the class 
to which he belongs. 

"A lumpish fellow when one speaks to 
him," returned the General, glaring moodily 
out of the window. 

Has my reading of human nature gone so 
far awry, or is he other than he seems? But 
why should the General ? It is puzzling. 

Yesterday I stumbled on a treasure. It 
came through the cracked piano which makes 
the journey to and fro across Siberia in the 
dining-car. I was improvising accompani- 
ments to negro melodies, which M. Novinsky 
had found charming, one gray day when the 
darkness closed down early. Suddenly I felt 
another presence and I turned around to see a 

62 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

crooked, stocky figure at the other end of the 
car, our waiter, his eyes blue, his face shining 
with joy. 

"Barina, Tartar ski ya," he said, proudly, 
approaching with a napkin on his arm. "I 
am Tartar! Yalublumysiky. Yatantzyu. I 
love music. I dance." He threw out his 
arms with an indescribable gesture of for- 
gotten freedom. 

Shades of Genghis Khan! The son and 
heir of those vigorous hordes that overran 
the world from Peking to Budapest, and from 
the northern steppe to India this mild-eyed 
creature, with shoulders bent, respectfully 
waiting, a napkin on his arm! But if there 
be any Tartar blood in his veins, it leaps up 
with the music. I never play but that he 
tells me that he is not Russki, but Tartarski. 
Then he squares his shoulders, clears the 
table, and marshals the crumbs off with the 
air of the conqueror. 

This is the sixteenth day since we went out 
from the walls and towers of Peking. Every 
one agrees that the journey is skuchno. The 
train rocks abominably. I think I shall 
never get it out of my brain. La Polskaya 
lessened the space in my compartment, 
63 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

but also my ennui! She is excellent for my 
Russian, too, since she speaks no English. 
And for me, there is the joy of pursuing strange 
impressions and penetrating farther into 
strange lands. 

La Polskaya is not a beauty. I should say 
that nature is decidedly in arrears with her. 
In fact, she represents about every feature of 
Slavic plainness dingy skin, broad figure and 
face, and apathetic expression. If it were 
not for her eyes but she has kind, redeeming 
Russian eyes. By day she reads Maeter- 
linck's Death and smokes. By night she 
wears gloves and continues to smoke. And 
that reminds me that, in spite of her declara- 
tion that nothing matters after forty, La 
Polskaya has a weakness. Yesterday she 
gravely produced two bottles of hair tonic 
for my opinion. She had spent thirty dol- 
lars in Harbin, she told me, for cosmetics and 
lotions, and felt grieved that I could not 
guarantee results. I consoled her by promis- 
ing her my cold-cream from America, out of 
gratitude for which she has given me a box 
of French powder. Now that we have ex- 
changed feminine civilities, she says that she 
was born and bred in Warsaw, though I 

6 4 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

should have guessed her a product of an out- 
post of civilization. 

My disrobing at night receives an embar- 
rassing concentration of interest, but her 
curiosity is so naive and her enjoyment so 
sincere that I cannot show annoyance. Every 
detail of dress, every movement of my toilet, 
is honored with an individual attention which 
in no whit diminishes with repetition. In 
fact, La Polskaya quite settles down to the 
half-hour. Only once, in the Rockies, have 
I come upon anything like this, when a wee 
girl, deserted by her mother in a cattle-camp, 
used to ride her pony up our trail with the 
sunrise, tuck herself away in a corner of the 
cabin, and sit silent as the Sphinx the whole 
golden day, fathoms deep in content at the 
mere sight of a woman. We laugh a good 
deal, and then when I am safely tucked away 
La Polskaya lights a cigarette, with a sigh of 
satisfaction, declares I am a child what is 
in her mind I don't know puts on her 
gloves, and lights another cigarette. The last 
thing at night I am aware of is the aroma of 
her cigarette, and it is my alarm in the 
morning. 

Yesterday I dressed and went into the din- 
65 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

ing-car early, and there, with a samovar be- 
fore him, I found Taras Bulba. He must 
have walked in from the steppe in seven- 
league boots. I had been counting some of 
the other belted men we saw as giants, but 
he dwarfed them all a stature possible to be 
conceived, it would seem, only at some earlier, 
lustier period. His head was a viking's head 
and crowned with heavy hair, which, I fancy, 
could rumple mightily in his berserker rages. 
As I entered he lifted his eyes in one power- 
ful glance, and then apparently consigned me 
to oblivion while he pursued his cakes and tea. 
It was distressingly incongruous to see him 
eat cakes and tea ; it ought to have been meat 
torn in shreds and wassail out of one of those 
up-curving Russian beakers. I wanted to call 
to him to stand up and swing a battle-ax in- 
stead of a teaspoon, but it was only a teaspoon. 
When he rolled his way into the car, I followed 
timidly after. Verily, the lion and the mouse. 
I know no nation in which I feel a giant's power 
physically and mentally as I do in the 
Russian. 

There is a stronger feel of civilization in the 
air now, and more spurred and booted officers 
are joining the train. To-morrow, if all goes 

66 



CHILDREN OF THE FOREST 

well, the train-master announces that we 
shall be in Petrograd; all the home-going 
Russians have been telegraphing the news of 
their imminent arrival. It wraps me with a 
realization of how far there through the earth 
lies America. We must always fly thus, it 
seems perhaps into eternity so many days 
have we fled in this narrow space between 
earth and sky. Perhaps I should be content 
if it were so, for I am "used to it." And to- 
day I feel a waif standing before strange gates. 
Here are friends. There who can say? 

Who ever enters an unknown land without 
a sense of mystery both alluring and repelling? 
There on the plain, somewhere in the dimness, 
lies a city whose existence has drawn me 
seventeen days across this desert whiteness 
a city I have not seen, whose streets I shall 
wander, roofs that will lodge me, sky and 
snow and river that will be mine, friends and 
tides of influence a whole new world of 
thought and feeling perhaps change which 
in my natural world would never have been. 
How dare we boldly evoke these unfamiliar 
worlds for ourselves out of the void, forsaking 
our own paths to explore their mysterious 
ways! 

6 67 



PART II 



VI 

I 

PETER'S CAPITAL 

pETROGRAD! No land "east of the 
1 sun and west of the moon," as I had 
feared, but true ! That is, I feel a city there, 
though my eyes are still baffled by the curtain 
of darkness which has not as yet lifted. It is 
morning, eight by the French clock on the 
wall, but there is not the least rift in the 
gloom, only a sense of something strange out- 
lying there a trampling of boots, men pouring 
endlessly through the streets, and a rumbling 
of guns. They are shifting troops. I hear 
a hoarse song and a sharp ura. How different, 
how exceedingly different this turbulence from 
the peace of the East, the solitary heart of the 
whiteness from which we have come! 

We were nearly the whole of the night finding 
this miracle of the marshes. Eleven came, 
twelve, one. The gaiety that had sprung up 
like a breeze at the announcement of our ar- 

71* 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

rival died down. The General was wrapped 
in his own thoughts and M. Novinsky smoked, 
moodily silent, and I felt a strange home- 
sickness, not for place, but for spiritual kin- 
dred. The General is still an enigma, but 
M. Novinsky has become a charming friend 
and companion. Yesterday he was not; to- 
day he is; to-morrow he will cease to be. 
How strange it all is ! 

Clouds were crossing the face of the moon, 
shaping, reshaping, merging again. The wings 
of the Angel of Wrath beat past us as we 
fled down the Valleys of Time, a,nd only a 
miracle, it seemed, could save us or discover 
a city, other than mirage, in that wild in- 
candescence. But at three the sky was il- 
lumined in the west as if by a huge candle, 
as the train flew on and the flare brightened 
and resolved itself into myriads of points 
scattering on the flame. They were the first 
lights of "Peter's window toward Europe." 
The trans-steppe journey was finished. At 
four the train discharged its burden of Asio- 
European travelers into the echoing Alex- 
ander III. station. It seemed the porten- 
tous arrival of ocean travelers rather than 
that of a train. Every one met welcoming 

72 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

faces, which, translated into Russian, means 
arms. 

That is, every one met welcome except one 
Americaine, and I took refuge among the lug- 
gage and stared at the feather-bed izvostchiks 
tied about the middle with rainbow sashes. 
The General was engulfed in the embrace of 
two tall sons, and M. Novinsky had vanished 
behind an astrakhan coat and cap. The 
sight of women embracing publicly always em- 
barrasses me a trifle, and as for men, I have 
considered it a good reason for not being 
Continental. Perhaps, to speak the truth, 
I had a touch of three-in-the-morning forlorn- 
ity. But the absence of welcome meant no 
lack of warm farewell. La Polskaya wept 
Slavonically on my shoulder. " Moya milaya" 
she wailed. For the moment she was parting 
with a friend of a lifetime. The General 
clicked his heels together in military fashion 
and waived my expressions of gratitude with 
a French compliment. 

"Shall we meet again, Mademoiselle? Ah, 
it is on the laps of the gods. Proshchaiete. For- 
give my sins. I leave to-morrow for the 
front." He kissed my hand; I wished it had 
been a white, perfumed hand, such as I am 

73 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

certain the General loves. A stiff bow to 
M. Novinsky and then, the luggage having 
been collected and laded on the leather- 
aproned saints, M. Novinsky and his brother 
led the way through the echoing station to the 
dark bundles of fur outside, stowed me in a 
swaying shell, and we clattered off down the 
"main street of All the Russias." 

How Russian M. Novinsky and his brother 
looked in their Russian setting, pouring forth 
a stream of language on each other; this 
brother who comes for one day's leave from 
the Grand Duke's staff and returns imme- 
diately to the front. Most of the talk was 
French, but the ejaculations were Russian. 
I was too occupied with the square velvet sofa- 
cushion hat of the izvostchik, too agitated with 
the street, which I found to be the Nevsky, 
and the signs, which I discovered I could 
read, to heed the conversation. A river of 
street here, a continent of square there, bulky 
geologic strata of houses. 

"And how do you feel it?" M. Novinsky's 
brother asked, with a smile like Dmitri Nikola- 
ivitch's, as we turned into the shadow of an im- 
mense cathedral that somehow wafted back the 
memory of Egypt and the temples on the Nile. 

74 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

"If Japan is a miniature, Russia was done 
by a scene-painter," I hazarded. 

11 Quite true," he laughed, showing his white 
teeth. "Nothing is small in Russia, not even 
the virtues or the vices." 

"And least of all the cobblestones and the 
darkness," I could have added. "Or the 
loneliness." I could have wept on M. Novin- 
sky's elegant and unaware shoulder. 

M. Novinsky and the General had debated 
all the way across the steppe as to which hotel 
to commit me to, and the decision had finally 
fallen on the Angleterre as the dullest hotel in 
Petrograd. I understood when I saw it. 
But for the boy with peacock feathers in his 
cap and a red rubashka, the general assur- 
ance of Russian literature, I should have re- 
signed myself to an English Sunday pall. A 
whiskered portier has assigned me to this 
room, and here I have been deposited by a 
green-baize apron and sit in the glow of a 
porcelain stove. 

Black-earth Russia, armed Russia, Holy 
Russia, potential Russia, Russia the bread- 
giver of nations all lie out there in the void. 
I wish the bread-giver would vouchsafe me a 
morsel. There is not even a crumb, and I 

75 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

am famished. The darkness is Stygian; one 
might loop it up, but it would always tumble 
down, immense and suffocating. The last 
familiar letter of my alphabet has vanished; 
everything is written in Cyrillic letters and 
punctuated with bearded Scythians. I won- 
der could even the angel Uriel say why I 
rocked seventeen days across Siberia ! 

The curtain has lifted! But not on the 
"gayest capital in Europe," not while there is 
still a trail to Vienna and Budapest, and even 
blithe old London in May ! Oh, for the purple 
skies of Egypt, or the black and gold of 
Nikko, or the cherry blossoms of Myanoshita, 
to waft away the memory of this dun city on a 
swamp! Monotony on the steppe is accept- 
able; it comes to have the assurance of a 
great, buoyant friendship, but by what right 
has a capital to be written in gray? Twilight 
skies, trailing mists, a melancholy folk emerg- 
ing oddly as in a dream, muffled silence. 
Small wonder that Peter must needs flog his 
subjects into leaving belfried Moscow for this! 

The braziers blaze up, giant tiger-lilies 
against the snow. The blue poison mists, 
which the swamp exhales to veil the banalities 
of the street, offer their own peculiar welcome 

76 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

to foreigners, and I am the victim of one of 
the newly-arrived-in-Russia influenzas. It 
leaves me of a mind with the American 
attache who despatched a fierce diatribe to 
the State Department, to the effect that 
children could not live in Petrograd he him- 
self being fifty and a bachelor and took the 
first boat for America. For myself, I could 
happily yield up my ghost at the foot of an 
ikon and leave my aching bones under a 
broad Russian cross in a quiet old nunnery 
yard. And this is the land that brings the 
devotional look to M. Novinsky's eyes, eyes 
that still remember sunny Vevey, Florence, 
and the Seine ! ' ' Something poignant ' ' yes, 
perhaps. I can dimly sense it. The Slav 
to his East, but I will have mine, junk sails and 
pagodas. 

The portier and the peacock boy and my 
waiter are kind, and I am not the object of 
more staring than a woman not yet decrepit 
may expect if she travels alone on the Con- 
tinent. I have always given the palm for real 
annoyance to a Frenchman, but yesterday I 
was ready to yield it to the Slav. But for 
M. Novinsky, I should believe half of what I 
read of these veneered Tartars. It was in the 

77 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

reading-room that the staring began, quiet 
and unobtrusive. I retreated to the drawing- 
room, again to be stared at politely but inter- 
mittently until I fled. By a quick detour I 
reached the door, but there I was a prisoner 
while for two hours a steady tramping con- 
tinued before my door. To-day, again, the 
assiduous stare. I fled this time to the 
manager. 

"Forgive him," said the manager, "he is an 
ill-mannered person." Forgive him! Kak 
Rysski that manager! 

Already I ache with the violence of Rus- 
sian contrasts. Is not this the land whose 
women Tolstoi and Turgenev portray? Are 
not these Russian women vigorous, emanci- 
pated, comrades to man in every national and 
progressive movement? Has the sex-ridden 
world ever seen such camaraderie? And yet 
this Russian treats me like a Turk. 

As soon as Russian holidays are over I 
shall cease to be merely a hotel denizen and 
go just across the Moika to live with Olga 
Stepanovna, my godmother's friend; per- 
haps Russia then will give up her secret. Olga 
Stepanovna called to-day, archly pretty in 
her furs, wistful brown eyes, cheeks pink from 

78 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

the cold and that intangible fineness that satis- 
fies in friendship. She is private secretary 
at one of the embassies where she and her 
husband often danced at the embassy balls. 
Some story, I am certain, lies back of that 
chiseled face, struck off so incisively with 
Slavic gaiety and finished so softly with 
Slavic gentleness. 

M. Novinsky came, too. I discovered my 
voice making off into forbidden side-streets of 
delight as we whisked away in a breathless 
sleigh to collect our luggage from the Customs. 
It is delicious to see a face which does not 
press in the fact of one's alienage. Russia is 
stranger even than China; the very extrava- 
gance of China sets it apart, but Russia one 
expects to penetrate, and does not. 

The Customs were a FingaTs cave. Each 
bearded giant arriving bowed to the room, 
kissed the hands of the women clerks, and 
crossed himself to the ikons in the corner. 
Over all hovered an ancient, musty mystery. 

" I wish I might see it with American eyes," 
said M. Novinsky. 

"They have all been clipped from the 
Civil War," I ventured. "I have seen them 
all on my grandfather's wall," 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

"That is Russia," answered M. Novinsky, 
himself a particularly modern and immaculate 
note in this ancient, ikoned murkiness, "the 
oldest of Old World settings, and the newest of 
ideas." I wondered what it meant to him, 
returned from "beyond the borders," all this 
shagginess, this superstition, this unventilated 
North. 

M. Novinsky 's card accelerated the pace 
and augmented the bowing. He is bringing 
magnificent brocades and Han bronzes. The 
official passed our trunks perfunctorily after 
he had tried to open a cake of my soap. I 
was closing my luggage when my glance fell 
upon a trunk at the other end of a room from 
which the examiners were lifting guns! Be- 
side it stood a man with particularly well- 
poised shoulders and blue eyes. 

"Look!" I whispered to M. Novinsky. 
"That man the mine-owner's servant." 

The sharp glance which M. Novinsky 
turned upon him had little of the exquisite 
dreamer. 

"Cest vrai," he answered, speaking per- 
emptorily to the boy who was folding the 
brocades. "Let us go." He put me quickly 
into a sleigh. 

80 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

My interpreter was silent and abstracted 
as we flew back to my respectable hotel 
through the pastel streets, clinging limpet- 
wise to that elusive sleigh which threatened 
to leave us at every corner. As for me, my 
color sense was becoming acclimatized. There 
was a miraculous flying beauty this afternoon, 
I admit, in the spires and domes, seen dimly 
through a vaporous gray, the pale gold of the 
monastery crosses rising amid the black filigree 
of the trees, and the whiteness of the canals 
broken into linear patterns by the barges. It 
is the vanishing and unreal beauty of the 
north, a bit low-keyed and evanescent for 
eyes accustomed to the peacock Orient. 

But the Customs incident. I have heard 
that rifles have been imported from Tsingtau 
which certain treacherous Russian factories 
have used as models for accumulating stores 
of ammunition fitting German not Russian 
guns. Have I seen the first undercurrent in 
"superb, mysterious Russia"? 

To-morrow is Russian Christmas. M. No- 
vinsky despatched a hasty note by messenger, 
and then we sat at the window, drinking tea 
and watching the sleighs dash up and bear 
off the trees from the great square in front of 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

St. Isaac's Cathedral. There had been a 
massed formation of stiff firs pointing greenly 
and blithely the chill Petrograd skies, when I 
awoke, but the ranks were now plainly deci- 
mated. The Nevsky Prospekt might almost 
be Chicago or New York, except that it is 
more snowy, more furry, and there are more 
galoshes, more horses, and fewer motors. 
Benevolent old gentlemen poke eleventh-hour 
turkeys in the ribs; the small boy is lost 
among the black-booted officers and baggy- 
trousered, short-haired students ; the crowd is 
beparceled with packages from the sweet- 
shops and jostles no, the crowd does not 
jostle as in America. Russia is of the East. 

"Christmas is not the festa in Russia that 
it is in England and America," I observe. 

"No, with us the occasion magnificent is 
Easter. Then the angels on the top of the 
cathedrals trail flaming torches against the 
sky and all the dusky interiors shower candles 
from the highest vaulting. And it is con- 
gruous that it should be so. Christmas, the 
birth, for the Anglo-Saxon with his roots in 
family and home. Easter, the resurrection, 
for the Slav, always in quest of God!" 

A certain passion kindled in M. Novinsky's 
82 



PETER'S CAPITAL 

face as we stood at the window silently watch- 
ing the mammoth square enveloped in the 
oncoming dusk and the great cathedral, ever 
remote in its majesty, now still farther within 
its shadows; the granite columns gleaming 
solemnly as gleam their kinsmen on the Nile, 
the great dome loSt in the chiaroscuro of 
night. The Russians have a charming word, 
which you understand only in Russia 
sympateechnie, a word that grows tenderer 
in Russian than its counterpart in French. 
Do Russians love Russia? Not perhaps as 
the Britisher loves the bonny isle, its sticks 
and stones and every inch of the hawthorn 
hedges no, not thus. The immensity of 
steppe and tundra cannot thus be gathered 
into an intimate personal love. Rather as 
the tragic mother is Russia loved as one 
loves the sorrowing Mother of God. I had 
thought of Russia as fatal, mysterious, medie- 
val, but to-night as I watch the moon rise 
over St. Isaac's she seems, rather, gentle, 
melancholy, brooding. 



VII 

IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

IT seems unco' strange to be part of a 
Russian household, perched on a white 
canal flowing under a red bridge, a magnified 
winter Japan. Opposite, the new hotel As- 
toria strikes the one American note in Petro- 
grad; on the other side stands the Russian 
House of Lords. From my window I can see 
the graceful Italian Embassy and what re- 
mains of the German Embassy after the 
populace had effaced the nude figures which 
had always offended their taste. Farther 
down, where the Moika wanders out to the 
Neva, the yellow stucco palace of Prince 
Yusuppoff stirs one's sense of romance. 
Othello himself might emerge from the iron 
gates. A place marked surely for Shake- 
spearian tragedy! I am as puffed up as a 
pouter pigeon after this Russian fashion of 
welcoming a new householder! Bowls of 

8 4 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

acacia from M. Novinsky fill the room with 
fragrance ; and from the General came a cake 
of parts, iced and garlanded like a German 
denkmal, borne in by a retinue, the dvornik 
and two little peasant maids. 

A Russian house is designed for nothing so 
prosaic as living, but for the magnificence of 
entertaining. Our rooms open in a row; the 
ceilings are high, the windows French, the 
floors are the beautiful polished floors that 
one associates with Russia after one 'has lived 
in this land of wood. My room is long and 
narrow and white, like a prioress's chamber. 
At night I put a red cushion on the floor and 
sit in the glow of my stove in the wall. Olga 
Stepanovna, finding me thus, named me 
Tziganka. Tziganka the blithe Russian word 
for gipsy. It does bring back the feel of 
junk and caravan days. Broad-waisted Sasha 
supplies the stove with tindery birch bark, 
the ruddy glow splashing her arms, white like 
the birches themselves. 

Olga Stepanovna says that when spring 
opens I may have my petit dejeuner on the 
balcony under the white umbrella, while the 
barges trail past. It sounds Italian and 
tempting, ri 'est-ce-pas? But the snow drifts 

85 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

like the setting for Snyeguritchka (The Snow 
Maiden), and in the mean time I am content 
with the fire gleaming across the spaces of the 
polished floor and on the dull gold of old bind- 
ings in the drawing-room and a cantankerous 
general who hangs opposite the windows. 
The samovar is always set, and Sasha or 
Dasha near to give me tea. Russian tea we 
have at nine at night on the gay blue-and-red 
peasant cloth. 

This Russian drawing-room interests me 
immensely; full of luxurious trifles, bearing 
an air of French sophistication, but wrapped 
indisputably in the atmosphere of a country 
larger than France; reminiscent of the day 
when the Russian noble sought everything 
French and despised everything Russian, but 
wearing its French taste as a decoration, not 
the measure nor the mold of its spirit. From 
the massiveness of the furniture and a general 
lavishness, it seems to a French drawing- 
room as a man's apartment to a woman's. 
There is more than a suggestion of the sensuous 
Orient a case of damascened daggers and 
some Persian pottery. One need not scratch 
this drawing-room deep to find the Tartar! 
And I know nothing more Slavic than this 

86 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

acme of elegance underlaid with the bar- 
baric. 

We are a quiet household ; Olga Stepanovna, 
my godmother's friend from her St. Peters- 
burg days, and now my hostess; Agasha 
Feodorovna, a gray old Russian governess of 
Olga Stepanovna (Olga Stepanovna shelters all 
strays, witness Agasha Feodorovna and me) ; 
Sasha and Dasha, peasant maids; and Dolly, 
a white doggie asleep on a blue velvet chair. 
Little Dasha wakes me with peasant rounde- 
lays in the firm and shining-eyed convic- 
tion that she serves a princess and old 
Agasha tells fairy-tales around the samovar at 
night. After this enveloping mantle of Rus- 
sian kindness, all other is a thin, worn little 
shawl. 

It was sitting in this drawing-room last 
night that Olga Stepanovna told me some- 
thing of the history of the Novinskys. 

"One of the most interesting families in 
Russia," she said, watching the fire, "and in 
Russia, you know, it is far less a matter of 
title than it is of great families. I knew 
Madame Novinska when she was a girl, the 
young Princess Korovotskaya. Originally, I 
believe, they were French barons who had fled 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

to Russia at the time of the Huguenot mas- 
sacre; another branch went to England, and 
another to Italy. The members of this branch 
have intermarried with Russians until they 
are pure Russian; no entangling German al- 
liances. The great-great-grandmother of this 
family was a woman of great spirit, whom the 
Empress Elizabeth admired to the extent of 
granting her immense estates in Crimea. It 
was in the days when largesse from the crown 
was on a colossal scale, not only lands, but 
revenue, and these land-barons were poten- 
tates in their own right, not unlike the lesser 
Indian rajahs. There is a spicy diary, I 
believe, in the Novinsky family, describing 
this family traveling to and from the Crimea 
carriages, outriders, postilions, children, tu- 
tors, governesses, servants by the score in 
the style of le grand baron. The Novinsky 
collection of miniatures is one of the best in 
Russia, and one of the family married an 
Italian from whom she inherited a gallery of 
Italian portraits. You will see this great gal- 
lery at the Novinsky s'. Madame Novinska 
herself much resembles her French ancestress. 
Dmitri Nikolai vitch's father was her cousin, a 
gallant man who lost his life in the Crimea. 

88 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

"They have always stood for Russia great 
in the best sense; Monarchists, but liberal. 
Madame Novinska's father freed his serfs vol- 
untarily and established schools for them. 
In spite of the fact that they have all been 
educated abroad in Paris, in Vevey, in 
England they have devoted endless time 
and constructive work to their estates and to 
the agrarian problem ; and it is not always easy 
to work with the peasants, especially in Tver, 
where their land lies. They have always been 
patrons of Russian art, too, even in the dark 
days, when every one was building hideous 
memorials to German art. In the famine of 
1905 Tolstoi counted them among his chief 
support, and Madame Novinska has had a 
school for the revival of the ancient peasant 
weaving and embroideries. A splendid fam- 
ily you will find in the Novinskys, and Dmitri 
Nikolaivitch, a son worthy of this tradition 
and a charming younger Russian. It is the 
hope of Russia's salvation, this type of young 
Russia, and not the fanatic radical with 
neither experience in governing nor tradition, 
with no test of practical action to balance his 
ungovernable theories and no conception of 
the golden mean in his talk-intoxicated brain. 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

The fall of bureaucracy, the establishment of 
constitutional monarchy, backed by such in- 
fluence as that of the Novinskys ah, there is 
the hope of Russia. Would that there were 
a hundred thousand of Dmitri Nikolaivitch 
among the young landed nobility anywhere 
among any class. Yes, a splendid tradition 
the Novinsky tradition." 

I was sitting in front of the fire this after- 
noon, pondering a number of things I am 
still a prisoner of the poison mists when 
little Dasha appeared, with M. Novinsky in 
her train, little Dasha stammering and blush- 
ing as if she had entangled for me a grand 
duke in this black-booted, immaculate figure 
with the smile of a young Beethoven. 

" Nu, Americaine, I have come to carry you 
off to the brilliance of Petrograd," M. Novin- 
sky said, depositing his stick with Dasha, 
who blushed with pleasure as if some one had 
bestowed upon her a coronet. 

"But," I protested, "one does not go to 
ballet at three in the afternoon. And that is 
the brilliance of Petrograd, n'est-ce-pas?" 

"No," he said, with a blithe expression 
such as I had seen but once or twice on the 
steppe. "One does not go to ballet at three 

90 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

in the afternoon. One goes out on to the Mor- 
skaya, where all the Petrograd world assembles 
and the street flows like a river with those 
breathless sleighs, as you call them, and 
officers in red-lined capes and deep, silky furs ; 
all the blues and grays deepen into velvet 
blacks, whites turn to silver and the air is a 
gauzy iridescence. It is the most perfect 
ballet setting in Russia ! And then one drinks 
tea at a little place I know on the Nevsky 
Russian tea, with honey cakes and then one 
goes at five to the cathedral mass for the 
brilliance of Russia is a brilliance of night and 
interiors." 

"In time I shall be counting day but a 
caesura?" 

"And night the consistent interval, as it 
is in Russian winter," smiled M. Novinsky, 
gravely. 

Dasha had been coming and going with the 
tea-things, her nose and chin and eyes shining 
like the seraphim. " Nyet, Dasha. No sa- 
movar to-day. I am carrying the barishnya 
away for tea and for mass. Otchen kraseevi 
it's very beautiful, mass at Isaac's." There 
is something of the Celt in M. Novinsky; 
something of that exquisite sensibility of a race 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

old in living. I had never been more aware 
of it than when he spoke with his amazing 
gentleness to the little peasant. Is this the 
Russian noble, this wearing smooth of the 
grooves, or is this only Dmitri Nikolai vitch? 

Petrograd is brilliant by night and interiors. 
I saw it to-day. And of all the pale back- 
ground the shimmering opulence of the cathe- 
drals is the richest punctuation. Every trav- 
eler finds that the land through which he 
travels is a land of contrasts, and I am no 
exception. Russia is extravagant in her ex- 
tremes. And from the artist's point of view 
there is no more breathless turning of the 
page than that from the wan streets to the 
cathedral interiors, aglow with jewels and 
the sheen of gold and silver, and hung with 
moving veils of incense. 

I have never crossed the square and failed 
to be inexpressibly thrilled. It is a splendid 
medieval pageant: the heavy massing of the 
shadows in the great spaces; the dusky gleam 
of myriad candles high in the vaulting; the 
ancient barbaric mystery of the ikons; the 
fall of light on the iridescent chasubles of 
the priesthood emerging from the gloom of 
the chancel. 

92 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

"It is true," I confessed to M. Novinsky 
as we stood apart in a niche. "There is a 
magnificat of splendor in this shadow-filled, 
incensed, and jeweled dusk, beside which an 
English cathedral seems cold and a Chinese 
temple barren." 

M. Novinsky 's face bore something of the 
rapt look with which he handles an old ivory. 
"Vereschagin painted it in his Japanese in- 
teriors," he said, lifting his eyes to the blue 
light playing about the lapis lazuli columns, 
"this immemorial magnificence, this heaping 
of treasure without ostentation, but with an 
exaltation strange to the intellectualist of the 
West. Once having seen a Russian cathedral, 
one can never doubt that Russia's Christianity 
is of the East, and her spirit of worship is that 
of the oldest of mankind." As he spoke with 
his eyes turned upward to the pillared dusk of 
the cathedral Egyptian in its majesty I 
think something new stirred in my conscious- 
ness of religion. 

M. Novinsky was keeping an appointment, 
but I lingered for hours in the shadow of a 
niche while the stream of humanity ebbed and 
flowed around the feet of the Mother of God; 
and above the worshipers, through the spaces 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

of the cathedral and into the vaulting, poured 
a flood of tender, compassionate Russian sing- 
ing. The French say that a man is his style, 
but the Russian is his religion. And the 
more one stands in the sanctuary the more 
deeply one peers into his soul. Can one ever 
forget how the souls of Gorky's submerged 
ones floated away on a ribbon of sound when 
first one and then another took up the song 
in the damp bakery cellar? I have never 
heard such singing. Waves of religious feel- 
ing "rolled through me, as through a great 
organ." 

I have always resented Life's caricatures 
those faces nearing the journey's end, piti- 
lessly distorted with toil and sorrow! To-day 
I saw a bit of human wreckage kneeling before 
the ikon of the Virgin Mary, touching her head 
reverently to the floor and crossing herself 
with the broad sign of the Russian cross. 
But when she raised her head her eyes fastened 
on the Mother of God with a tenderness for 
one moment of which I would gladly have 
given ten years of my life. Perhaps it is 
superstition unquestionably, the Slav needs 
to associate works with faith but I cannot 
but believe that this annihilation of self and 

94 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

adoration of a God is an excellent thing in 
human experience. 

Next after the mother came a general, 
clanking the gold-tasseled sword of distin- 
guished service. He did not touch the floor 
with hisf orehead, but he crossed himself slowly, 
kissed the ikons, and passed out, his silver spurs 
jingling faintly in an interval of the music. 
A glancing little figure in a red velvet hat 
and ermine tripped up the steps of the ikon, 
saluted the ancient lemon-hued visage with 
fresh lips, and passed on, making way for 
those dusty gray figures we had met in transit 
across Siberia. They are legless and armless 
now, and their stubby hair is hidden under 
white bandages; they are in charge of a Red 
Cross nurse and a sanitar. Evidently from a 
far province these, perhaps even from those 
wild Chinese borders we had passed. All the 
city is strange, the streets and the cathedrals; 
even the language is not theirs. But the 
ikons are their own the Holy Fathers wisely 
saw that it should be thus centuries ago when 
they forbade a change in the sacred images 
and it is the ikons they seek last before 
they go to battle and first if ever they 
return. 

95 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

I walked slowly back, to find Olga Stepa- 
novna deep in the outgoing embassy mail. 

" Nu, Amerikanka," she inquired, looking up 
with her arch, sparkling smile, "do you find 
us idolaters?" 

"No," I answered. "Each nation must 
have its own worship as each nation its own 
idiom of language, and I can understand that 
for the Slavonic soul, passionate and idealis- 
tic, the form must be both glowing and mysti- 
cal. In China and Japan I often felt that the 
temples were deserted because the gods had 
fled the souls of those who prayed, but 
here God is because He is in the souls of the 
worshipers." 

"That is true of the Slav," she said, her 
eyes filling as M. Novinsky's had filled with 
mysticism. "The Russian feels two things 
supremely: the brotherhood of man and the 
adoration of God. Self-annihilation in love 
that's the heart of the Russian. The saving 
of his own individual soul interests him least 
of all. But he can find no comfort or in- 
spiration in abstract logic or reason. He must 
have something at which he may light the 
flame of his spirit something radiant and 
sensuous; legends, symbols; something mys- 

96 



IN A RUSSIAN HOUSEHOLD 

tical by which he may be caught up out of 
his own soul and merged with God trans- 
muted and purified. And do you know, mod- 
ern as I am, I always feel an almost translated 
happiness in confessional and mass." 

"Does that solve the mystery of M. 
Novinsky, I wonder?" I pondered. "In his 
mind he is agnostic, but to-day he was full of 
the worship of the East." 

"Yes, I think that solves it. Dmitri 
Nikolaivitch is modern Russian," said Olga 
Stepanovna, "struggling with new philoso- 
phies, but in his heart the anciently dreaming, 
mystic Slav." 



VIII 

THE LEE OF THE WAR 

HPHE Autocrat of All the Quartiers, the 
1 brush - whiskered old soldier who plays 
at being a dvornik, has just climbed the stairs 
with the post. Perhaps his heart is softened, 
too, by those blue and yellow junks that sail 
in with Chinese cargo. Oh, for one touch of 
Pekinese gold in this twilight North! There, 
in Peking, Lise's letter runs, the apricot roofs 
are piled with snow like monster meringues. 
Strings of camels, shaggily furred by a long 
summer in Mongolia, or bearers of tribute 
from Tibet, tread disdainfully the road be- 
neath the crimson walls of the Forbidden City. 
Kites, yellow and blue and green, hang over 
the courts in a turquoise sky. Small need 
for geographers to explain to me the "drang 
nach Osten." 

But I have found something here in this 
pale North almost as lovely as a bamboo grove 

98 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

my second Russian caller, Mile. Novinska. 
She came to-day in a smart Russian turnout, 
one of those low sleighs filled with furs, a 
dapper groom clinging bat-like in the rear, and 
black horses covered with blue nets. The 
nets are to prevent snow from flying into the 
sleighs, a comment on this Jehu-like Russian 
driving. If Undine had driven, I am sure her 
horses would have been like these. 

Tall, picturesque, le plus pur type aris- 
tocrat, Mile. Novinska. Long gray eyes, 
like Dmitri Nikolaievitch's, but more heavily 
fringed with black, and a curious Syrian qual- 
ity like that of Zuloaga's Countess Matthieu de 
Noailles. She has that suggestion of sleeping 
power which is characteristic of the Russian, 
and an extremely rare simplicity of manner, 
the product of as many centuries of civiliza- 
tion as an English turf. One of her ancestors 
figures in Boris Godunov, which, perhaps, es- 
tablishes her right to the manner. She wore a 
black frock and it sounds melodramatically 
Russian, but it is true a single string of 
extraordinarily beautiful pearls. 

I was seized with a spasm of fright until she 
spoke, and then I breathed easily. It was 
English. The Russian offers this language- 
8 99 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

courtesy, as a matter of course, to more 
nationalities than any one else in the world. 
The Orient interested her, and we talked long 
of China. Curiously enough, the Russian 
travels far oftener in the West than in that 
ancient land, where his ancestry was brewed. 
All the capital is in black these days; hence 
Mile. Novinska's wearing of black had meant 
nothing to me, but I can never forgive myself 
for the pain which a random remark of mine 
brought to her face a look of despair which 
made me know once for all that I had never 
touched even the fringes of sorrow. 

" Perhaps my brother has not told you," 
she said. I do not yet understand her con- 
fidence unless it be that desperate frankness 
that one may feel for a stranger. "I have 
lost my fiance in one of the early battles in 
Galicia." And then she related to me the 
story, quietly, almost objectively. 

He had been a young marechal de noblesse 

in the province of X and he had long 

loved her. "And I," she said, with a wist- 
ful humility, "I loved freedom." And then 
came the call to arms. As she described the 
summons, the crowds marching through the 
streets, singing that wonderful soldiers' chorus, 

IOO 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

kneeling bareheaded before the Winter Palace 
and thronging the cathedrals with streaming 
faces, the sadness vanished and her eyes 
burned with deep Slavonic fire. I could feel 
her own enthusiasm take wing, I could see the 
brilliant man caught up in the exaltation of 
the moment, and I could hear Russia singing 
her high song. 

"I could not refuse him then," she said, 
quietly. 

It was early in September. His regiment 
went almost immediately to the front. At 
first there were letters, hasty scribbles, telling 
of the blue-and-gold autumn hanging over the 
trenches, of the stifling pits, of the will to kill 
and the blackness in the charge. 

Then fell silence. 

October brought no message. November, 
too, limped by without a line, but December 
laid the envelope from the War Office on her 

desk "Lieutenant , shrapnel in his side 

while leading a charge" and that was all. 
The brilliance fled ; not a trace of the man who 
had gone out into the sunshine that September 
day, nor a sword, for remembrance' sake. 

"I am sorry I had not told you," said 

JOI 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

M. Novinsky. "I was not certain of Na- 
talya's wishes. It was difficult for you," he 
added, regarding me intently. 

"Ah, but she is so young!" I cried. "She 
will find the will to live again. Tell me, 
Dmitri Nikolaievitch, that she will find en- 
thusiasm for life!" 

M. Novinsky had come in with a volume of 
Claudel for me and stood, his slim back to the 
fire, looking down with thoughtful eyes at the 
cathedral square and the tiny figures hurrying 
through the dusk under the bronze warrior, 
while the bells chimed from a tower across 
the Neva. 

"I do not know," he said, gravely. "With 
us love is like worship. We fall in love more 
deeply and more seriously, perhaps, than you. 
It is an actual factor in our lives. You re- 
member Sonia and Raskolnikoff. It is like 
that, together a sort of spiritual regenera- 
tion. We put it at the heart of everything. 
We expect more of it and without it we are 
more bereft." 

The realities seem to be freshening and 
deepening these days in Russia, like some 
great tide. Love and religion ! How poignant 
and beautiful life might be! 

202 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

I am all alone in the house, except for Sasha, 
Dasha, and the fire. It is Saturday night, a 
long evening to squander. Below-stairs the 
little girl who studies at the conservatoire is 
playing Tchaikowsky softly, softly. Dasha 
has just brought a big arm-load of birch bark 
for my stove in the wall, with a shy smile for 
the barishnya. 

Dasha is not of that hierarchy of Perfect Ser- 
vants, but she is one of the gems of Petrograd, 
along with St. Isaac's and the Alexander Third 
Museum and the ballet. Olga Stepanovna 
found her with a Russian priest in the coun- 
try, where she performed the duties of a 
slavey at the rate of a dollar a month. The 
frock in which she stood, a shawl, an.d a 
string of beloved beads, together with an 
undersized body, were her earthly possessions; 
but she possessed one thing not earthly, and 
that was her soul. I had been in the house 
some three days before I really was aware of 
Dasha, so obscure, so like dust beneath every- 
body's chariot wheels, so completely merged 
with the background was she, and not un- 
til last week did she become a distinct pat- 
tern. 

I was alone in the house when a strange 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

melody came stealing into my study, a lit- 
tle melody full of minors and unexpected 
intervals and forbidden tuggings at one's 
heart-strings. The source, I discovered, was 
the kitchen, and I stood quite still outside 
the door. A bit of church ritual followed the 
quaint melody, one of those beautiful chants 
sung in every house of God in Russia. I 
gently pushed open the door. There in the 
great Russian kitchen, between the porcelain 
stove and the window, sat Dasha, singing and 
polishing brasses, which shone not more than 
her eyes and her nose and her chin. Blushing 
and wiping her hands on her red-and-blue 
peasant apron at the presence of a barishnya 
in the kitchen, she tumbled off her high stool. 
If you could have seen her so shy and 
awkward, mattering so little to any one in the 
world, spawn cast on the tides of life in 
Russia's careless man-making, just a tiny 
candle in the wind! The fates must have 
lent me a seventh sense for Russian; some- 
how we made friends, and then she sang the 
little folk-song again and again for me, with 
blushes at every stanza. Afterward we talked 
mostly about mothers her mother and my 
mother. It costs three dollars to go from 

104 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

Petrograd to her village, and she had not seen 
her mother for two years. 

Olga Stepanovna she adores as one of the 
saints, and just now she leaned over my table 
to tell me that I am a choroshaya barishnya 
a bonny lady. When I ask her why, she is 
reduced to saying that she is growing used 
to me. Such a Russian answer! When I 
ask the soldiers in the hospital, where I have 
been much of late, if they were frightened on 
the field or are tired in hospital, they in- 
variably answer, as Ivan Caspitch had an- 
swered on the steppe, as Dasha answers, "No, 
barina; we're used to it." 

Absurd little Dasha, running at every one's 
bidding, aslant at an angle of forty-five de- 
grees, which threatens to precipitate her and 
still further tip-tilt her premature nose, keep- 
ing the samovar for us at night after the 
theater, flying to buy the last edition of the 
Vremya, rushing down four flights of stairs 
to give Dolly an airing in the court. Once I 
knew her to surrender her only holiday in two 
weeks lest the doggie be lonely, alone in 
the house. Every morning I hear Agasha's 
querulous, gray voice scolding and calling her 
stupid. Agasha is doubtless right; but in 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

this strange land I would not exchange little 
peasant Dasha for G. B. S. himself! 

Sasha is buxom and different. Her attitude 
is hands on hips and her expression a general, 
"What's to be done?" which usually means 
that something ought to be and nothing will 
be done. No one would charge Sasha with 
running at any angle. 

Sasha has been looking very troubled re- 
cently, and one morning last week, when she 
brought Olga Stepanovna's coffee, Olga Step- 
anovna questioned her. After fidgeting about 
the room, she finally stammered in some em- 
barrassment, "Father's been troubling mother, 
barina." 

"'Father's been troubling mother!'" re- 
peated Olga Stepanovna. "But I thought 
your father was dead, Sasha." 

"Yes, he's dead, but he has been troub- 
ling mother and all the neighbors say 
it isn't right that father should trouble 
mother." 

"But how, milaya? Tell me how your 
father troubles your mother." Olga Step- 
anovna gently questioned her. "How can 
the dead trouble the living?" 

"He follows her, barina, and sometimes he 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

walks opposite in the road when she goes to 
church." 

"Do other people see him?" 

"No, but she always sees him." 

"Does he speak to her?" 

"No, he doesn't speak to her." 

"Is she afraid?" 

" No, of course she isn't afraid. It's father. 
But why does he walk there? What are we 
to do, barina?" 

Olga Stepanovna is a saint, and wise be- 
sides; moreover, it is not the first time she has 
had to deal with a Russian. 

"You know the little Chapel of the Mother 
of God, Sasha?" she asked. 

Sasha knew. 

"Then you must go to buy candles and burn 
them there, and you must ask the priest to 
pray for your father's soul, and every day 
you must go and pray there, too." 

Sasha would. 

"When you have done that, I will write to 
your mother what you have done and that 
you have been a good daughter and that she 
must believe, for that will help the soul to find 
peace." 

Fancy charging a baba with hallucinations 
107 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

and sending her to a nerve specialist! The 
priest is the peasant's nerve specialist, and 
there are many worse. After all, who knows? 
Perhaps it is we whose eyes are holden and 
the peasant mother who sees. 

Now Sasha has been to pray and to burn 
candles and the priest has promised a Mass. 
And yesterday Olga Stepanovna wrote the old 
troubled mother in the country. Now may 
peace be upon the souls of the living and of the 
dead! 

Sasha has just come in to ask if there is a 
post to America. The cook next door says 
there isn't. 

We dwell under the lee of the war these days 
as under the shadow of a mighty Golgotha. 
My first waking consciousness is of soldiers 
marching, sharp hoarse uras and sometimes 
a strain of battle-song the same troubled un- 
ease that I sensed that first morning in the 
darkness. It is not yet light, but the boots are 
trampling and, stirring luxuriously in my warm 
bed, I know that the cold gray squares in front 
of Kazan and the Winter Palace are filling with 
men. They are always in the background of 
one's consciousness, these figures dim in the 

108 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

half-light, their tall Cossack caps drifted with 
white, their coats turned ludicrously back 
like evening dress; simple sunburnt faces 
and muscular bodies, soon to be set against 
German steel. Crunch crunch crunch a 
pause. I know that interval. Twenty yards 
of wriggling on their stomachs through the 
snow. A straw enemy hangs obligingly ahead 
and there is a bayonet charge, bloodless and 
without qualms. The paws of the bear hold a 
bayonet as deftly as a connoisseur would 
handle a bit of peachblow, and plainsmen's 
eyes trained to the steppe pierce easily the 
light mists of a cathedral square 

Yesterday I was walking along the Neva 
when a group of those dusty gray figures 
thronging everywhere emerged suddenly from 
a side-street, their wiry Siberian ponies half 
hidden under their long capes, their bayonets 
upright like a shining bamboo forest, singing 
something short and primitive that breaks 
into strange rhythms, stirs the pulse, and 
grips the throat; gray, almost impalpable 
shapes wrapped in the mists, sitting their 
horses like centaurs. Russian accents are so 
strange to Anglo-Saxon ears that they set one 
wondering whether the whole Russian bio- 

109 



logical and psychological beat is not different. 
The war correspondents declare that war is 
shorn of its picturesqueness ; but how escape a 
flight of blood through the body at the sight 
of these Asiatics flung off when the mold of 
the world was young? There are far more 
here than in the station at Irkutsk ; a sense of 
monstrously primeval life such as one is aware 
of in Tolstoi's Cossacks. How Milton would 
have rolled out their names in sonorous ca- 
dences! Persians, Kirghiz, Sarts, Turkomans, 
Ostraks, Armenians, Lithuanians, Dunkans, 
Afghans, Cherkesses, Zinians, Shamans, Os- 
satines, Lesghians, Kalmuks, Tchudes, Geor- 
gians, Samoyedes, Tchouvachs, Tcheremis- 
sans, Tartars, Little Russians, White Rus- 
sians, Great Russians. A sad loss for the 
great epic-maker! It is not liking I feel for 
Russia, but I am fascinated by her fascinated 
by her potential power, the congress of these 
violent semi-Asiatic tribes; it thrills all the 
nomadic turbulence in me, exceedingly thinly 
veneered by civilization. 

M. Novinsky came with me to-day to the 
American hospital, where I work twice a week, 
and the men talked as one Russian to another. 
In general, the Slav is more aware of the 

no 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

stream of his consciousness and its significance 
than the Anglo-Saxon. Even the peasant, a 
primitive esthete, tastes the flavor of his 
perceptions, expressing them crudely, but 
often with biblical force. Some one has 
imaged these two moods of emotion and ap- 
preciation as "two runners racing abreast, 
one oblivious of all but the motion, the other, 
with eyes not on the goal, riot blind with the 
rush of it, but turned, deeply observant, on the 
face of his companion." That is the Russian; 
the Anglo-Saxon does not run, he plods and 
singly. 

The soldier fresh from the shock of battle- 
field is silent, but as the keen edge of memory 
is turned he grows more communicative. It 
was Sergei Pavlovitch who talked most to-day, 
Sergei Pavlovitch from somewhere deep in 
the Caucasus, eyes tender and blue as a girl's, 
cheeks as pink as a Siberian crab-apple. 

"There were four of them," Sergei Pavlo- 
vitch said, relating an incident in Galicia 
"three men and an officer. We found them 
in an old house. The officer would not sur- 
render. He tried to throw himself down a 
well. We killed them with bayonets. What 
else was to be done?" And the hands that 

in 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

held the bayonet delicately turned the stem 
of a pink tissue Easter rose. 

I looked at Sergei Pavlovitch and I won- 
dered, as I often wonder when I look at more 
weather-beaten faces, if these steppe eagles 
ever pity their foe. To-day I asked a trans- 
Siberian Cossack with a peaked head and a 
face that might have come from Dostoev- 
ski's House of the Dead, not a typical Russian 
face nor one from which you would expect 
quarter. 

"Oh," he said, cheerfully, "when the order 
is passed through the trenches to charge, you 
shout and run. Everything goes black. You 
do not think. You kill." And then a slow 
smile began to overspread his face. 

"How is it possible for the Russian to make 
a good soldier?" I asked M. Novinsky, as we 
turned away from the trans-Siberian Cossack. 
"His nature melts away into kindness like but- 
ter on bleeni, as the plain flattens away from 
the horizon." 

"No Russian positively enjoys fighting 
except the Cossack," answered M. Novinsky 
with an amused smile. "The Russian is as 
unmilitary as the Chinese, but the world does 
not know it. It is the one factor to be con- 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

sidered when the bogy of Pan-Slavism is held 
before Europe. The German? Of course the 
German knows this! and laughs contemptu- 
ously up his sleeve. But it is part of his 
game holding the Slavic peril over Europe. 
The peasant will fight, if he must, stubbornly 
and without squeamishness. It is for the 
Little Father. But his idea is always to be 
killed rather than kill. And zest? He has 
no zest for a fight as a fight. The Russian 
peasant harbors far less animal resentment 
than he is credited with; he is too much a 
'brother' to all the world to hold a grudge; 
he has no logical mental insistence on right. 
The only resistance he shows consistently is a 
fatalistic lethargy. Do you know, if the 
truth were known, what every one of those 
fellows is dreaming of? A little izba under 
the birches. A Cossack Europe, did Na- 
poleon say? Russia might roll over on Europe 
in her sleep, but she would never have the 
desire or the collected energy to step on her." 
There are two new cases this week, sent 
over from the central distributing hospital. 
One is a pink-cheeked boy with exaggeratedly 
solemn blue eyes and an equally exaggerated 
appetite. He is in the hospital for what is 

"3 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

termed a scratch a fissure an inch deep the 
length of his leg and pneumonia which he 
caught in trench water and by which he feels 
himself disgraced. When the men chaff him 
his blue eyes fill with tears and he doubles up 
his fists. He continues to look misused 
through dinner while he speedily stows away 
two plates of soup, two plates of meat and 
vegetables, and two bowls of mannaya kasha. 
The second patient is a beady-eyed little man 
with whom I sometimes play checkers. The 
expression of concentrated cunning on his 
face when he tracks my men has opened a new 
window in the peasant soul and explained 
some of the cruelties against man and beast 
in the uprising of 1905 which I had never 
understood. I can never win at checkers and 
I should not like to match wits with him 
seriously. To-day Gregory stood on his crutch 
behind me and helped the Amerikanotchka 
against the beady-eyed man. 

We were in the midst of it when the Am- 
bassador came with the aide-de-camp of the 
Emperor, sending a wild flutter through the 
hospital. Oddly enough, the aide is a friend 
of M. Novinsky's, a keen, dry military man, 
and we strolled through the hospital with 

114 




Life welling up from depths passionate, 
barbaric 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

him. It was the first time I had seen M. 
Novinsky with a man of his own rank since 
we had come to Petrograd, and his ease and 
knowledge of affairs set me wondering whether 
he was not the cosmopolitan first and Slav 
second. No, he is Slav first. And if I do 
not mistake, something of significance is 
shaping itself behind those steadfast Slavic 
eyes. 

Vereshagin did a mad thing last week. 
Some one had sent a guitar, with a blue bow, 
which every one has had a turn at strum- 
ming. There are two balalaikas also, and 
sometimes the music mounts fast and furious, 
one voice leading and others taking up the 
song at different intervals in Russian fashion. 
Suddenly Vereshagin sprang into the center of 
the room, whirling and leaping in the Russ- 
kaya and then dropping, spinning on his 
haunches, a flying gray ball. It was a reck- 
less thing to do and in a moment he was 
smiling weakly at the nurse who put him back 
in bed. But for the moment he had not been 
Vereshagin wounded, but Vereshagin Russian, 
gloriously alive. 

The saddest figure in the hospital is "the 
man who was." No one knows what has 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

happened, a shell bursting near him or only 
the strain. He is really young, but nature has 
slipped a cog somewhere and left him the 
oldest thing in the world. I never see him 
but that I am reminded of that ancient man 
of Dostoevski's moaning: "How old I am! 
Oh, God, how old I am!" All day long he lies 
on his back and stares at the ceiling, or totters 
weakly about trying to find his cot, with a 
troubled, weary gesture toward the back of 
his head. He is utterly unable to talk, and 
the instinct to feed seems to have fled, too. 
Kasha from a metal spoon meant nothing. 
Luckily some one thought to put a wooden 
spoon in his hand. For a moment he held 
it, while we all watched breathlessly, and then 
the routine laid deep in his nerves itself 
instinct stronger than injury asserted itself. 
His hand slowly began to make the journey 
from bowl to mouth. Opposite him lies Piotr 
Alexandrovitch, above whose cot hangs a copy 
of a German airplane. He had learned the 
lines well enough those tortured days when 
the original hung over the Russian trenches. 
Piotr Alexandrovitch carves realistic Sisters 
of Mercy, too, dragged away by Uhlans. 
They are not from life, thank Heaven, but 

116 



THE LEE OF THE WAR 

from a magazine sent by one of the embassy's 
secretaries. 

Turgenev spoke truly when he said that the 
Russian never fumbles in his pocket for a 
word, but plucks it from underneath his 
heart. Here is a sentence from a letter which 
I have happened to come upon, written by 
Vassili Vassilivitch to one of the "little 
mothers" at the hospital: 

Greetings from Vassili Vassilivitch, dear little 
mother. Slavu Bogu! Glory be to God that you are 
well. God keep you in health, matushka, dear little 
mother. And may God keep in health all the kind 
Americans who have taken our bloody wounds upon 
their hearts, who gathered us into a clean white nest 
as God's little birdie gathers her young under her wing. 
Gospode Tebye. God be with you. 

Imagine this from Tommy Atkins! 



IX 

A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

IN an elbow of the sea, beyond the Neva, lie 
islands where summer Petrogradski sip 
their kvass under a green tracery of trees amid 
the luminous white nights of May ; islands that 
now sleep solitary under the somber shadows 
of Bocklin's Island of the Dead. It was 
there that Dmitri Nikolaievitch and Natalya 
Nikolaievna were giving a skating party last 
night for two officers home from the front- 
on eerie background for an arabesque of 
gaiety, an extravaganza such as I venture 
could occur only in the Russian capital. 

Recklessly mad driving it was, whisking in 
one of those vanishing sleighs, on, on through 
the swift white silence, the horses' hoofs cast- 
ing a shower of sparks in the furtive white 
evanescence. The Russian love of space and 
silence with its motif of furious speed I often 

118 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

wonder if it does not symbolize to the Slav 
the background of eternity, against which 
weaves the swift shuttle of life for its little 
while. 

Last night the quaint little datcha, ablaze 
with lights, beckoned through the falling snow 
like an Enchanted House in the Woods. The 
Petrogradski often take these summer houses, 
sheltered under the pines, for a night or a 
week-end, and send servants ahead to build 
fires and fill the house with flowers. Last 
night there were fragrant magnolia, and 
poinsettia in bronze bowls, and dwarfed 
bushes with clusters of red berries. A band 
of gipsies sat under the stairway, black- 
browed pirates; the firelight splashed the 
polished floor with shadows like pools of 
blood and shone on the medals and uniforms 
of officers, and on gleaming hair and eyes and 
shoulders of women. From a narrow supper- 
table, lighted with candles and rich with old 
silver, the Novinsky servants in livery served 
Russian delicacies. Intoxicating, these gor- 
geous Russian interiors, after the eternal 
snow! And over all and through all stole the 
gipsy music, having in its fire a drop of 
Russian tenderness alluring, ravishing mu- 

119 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

sic, singing of moonlit izbas sleeping under the 
birches, of Marya awaiting her lover by the 
pale deep river, of sweet nights under the 
stars. How fascinatingly alien it was, like a 
scene from Anna Kareninal Without being 
able to define it, one was aware of a dif- 
ferent background, other memories, other 
origins; something enormously natural and 
unconscious, no premature sobering down; 
life welling up from depths passionate, bar- 
baric. 

The men were all officers, mighty-bodied 
men for the most part, in high black boots and 
silver spurs. I liked the guests of honor, a 
bearded Muscovite and a tawny, triangular- 
faced man from Kiev. These are akin to the 
men at Sebastopol who inspired in Tolstoi 
a so cheerful conviction of the invincibleness 
of the Russian people. Inevitably his words 
recur to one's memory: 

What they are doing, they do so simply, with so 
little effort and exertion, that you are convinced that 
they can do a hundred times more that they can do 
anything. 

One looks at these men with their tremen- 
dous elan and one hopes that Tolstoi's tribute 

120 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

to the soldiers of Sebastopol might be repeated 
to-day: 

You understand that the feeling which makes them 
work is not that feeling of pettiness, ambition, forget- 
fulness which you have yourself experienced, but a dif- 
ferent sentiment, one more powerful and this cause is 
the feeling which rarely appears, of which a Russian is 
ashamed, that which lies at the bottom of each man's 
soul love for his country. 

Russian women are not often beautiful, to 
my mind. Their mouths, like Russian land- 
scapes, are too wide and their features are 
not neatly modeled, but there is a fiery lan- 
guor about them which makes them often 
fascinating, as was my Siberian Malva. There 
were two Turkestan princesses to-night, with 
bird-like black eyes, hair like fine spun glass, 
and agile movements, and a fair-haired little 
Polish countess who danced the mazurka, 
stamping her tiny feet with such frenzy that 
she had to be carried fainting to the balcony. 
Mile. Novinska, in her dark furs, looked a 
delicate Circassian gipsy. M. Novinsky, more 
nearly the debonair personality which made 
him the most desired dinner-guest in Peking 
than I had seen him since we had left the 
Chinese capital, was curiously elated, a fact 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

which puzzles me in him whose every move- 
ment and expression is significant. 

Like the table-linen at Harbin, it was in- 
definably Russian the background of white 
silence, the lyric gaiety, the swift, exhilarating 
speed, the skimming over the ice under the 
velvety shadows of the pines, the ring of the 
skates in thin night air, brittle as porcelain 
while there, somewhere in the dimness which 
we touched, lay Kronstadt and Riga and the 
relentless German menace. And then back 
through the pines, across the snow, laced 
delicately and pooled with shadows a plunge 
from the ghostliness into the ruddy firelight, 
to dance again to the gipsy music, music 
which sang not of a pale and frozen north, but 
of the sunny hills and purple skies of Little 
Russia, of sapphire cliffs and warm sweet 
winds, and nights along the Black Sea. 

And good talk exhilaratingly good talk! 
The bearded officer from Moscow was my 
supper partner, and we talked of Russia. 
Every one talked; whatever the assembly, 
the end is always the same in Russia talk. 
It was like a scene from a Russian novel; 
words whirling, turning, thickening like snow; 
talk ranging far in philosophy and religion, 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

with an amazingly keen mental and spiritual 
avidity, a freer camaraderie than ours and a 
different atmosphere. 

"And how do you feel Russia?" asked the 
tall Muscovite, himself a cosmopolitan of a 
long residence in India and two years in an 
Egyptian monastery. 

"How do I feel Russia?" I smiled invol- 
untarily at the bearded man as he put the 
stupendous question. The thing I had been 
trying to formulate ever since I strayed into 
its immensity! "Perhaps I see it as the 
East, coming to it as I do. ' Nu kak more- 
it is as the sea/ as Russians say of the Volga. 
I cannot express it." 

"Certainly, the Eastern gate is the only one 
through which to enter Russia," rejoined the 
Muscovite, a light stirring in the depths of 
his melancholy eyes. "Russia is not a na- 
tion, but a congress of peoples largely East- 
ern. To understand Russia, one must strike 
her at the source and follow her westward in 
space, exploring her various ages the Dark 
Ages, the Middle Ages, the sixteenth century, 
the eighteenth century, the twentieth century, 
and that wonderful era of thought which she 
is projecting, to-morrow's century. No man 

123 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

can comprehend us who backs in on us from 
modern Europe and stares at us like a crab." 

"But further? How do you feel the East 
in us?" urged the little man from Kiev. 

"Curiously enough, my first impression 
came one night at the opera in Paris," I said, 
slowly, recalling with amazing vividness the 
memory. "Ivan the Terrible. Do you re- 
member the serfs crawling on all-fours under 
the knout? It haunted me for weeks, that 
cringing on the ground. In America, it 
dropped out, but it has shot back now, 
in these figures crouching in the cathedrals. 
There is a deep race-memory of fear in their 
nerves; I see it in the gestures of the dancing, 
too." 

"It is a part of the carrying over of the 
East in us," agreed the man from Kiev, who 
himself looked a direct descendant of the 
Golden Horde. "We inherit a drop of fire, 
too, from those Mongolian horsemen, which 
we are all proud to have mixed with our 
somnolent Slav blood. It is an interesting 
sum total, if one cares to take his world 
ethnologically." 

"It is China that I see particularly," I 
continued, a hundred images crowding my 

124 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

memory, as he paused, inquiringly. "Here is 
the same vigorous use of color bespeaking an 
unwearied imagination. In the Forbidden 
City at Peking, as at the ballet, I am aware of 
strange vales of the imagination and peaks 
of fantasie which never, never in my world 
could have been. 

"There is the same lethargy; here, too, as 
in China, the resistance and cohesion of the 
peasantry; the bottomless rage; the 'just 
about' quality of China that can never hang 
a door or run a government with precision; 
the mandarinish wish for seclusion; the sedu- 
lous mystery surrounding the Czar as it al- 
ways enveloped the Son of Heaven and still 
attends the Japanese Emperor; 'squeeze,' 
that peculiar form of graft that is as purely 
of the East as are its fauna and flora, sprung 
largely, I presume, from the form of gov- 
ernment " 

"Yes, that trait which is ruining us in this 
war as it did in the Napoleonic campaigns and 
in the Russo-Japanese war," broke in the man 
from Kiev, passionately. 

"China and Japan at first interested me 
most," I groped my way. "And they must 
always be of enormous interest, all that toiling, 

125 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

sweating humanity welling out of the earth 
to flow a little while above surface and then to 
disappear again in her shadowy caverns 
however cities and civilizations may rise and 
fall, a life that goes on forever. And this 
same vast earth-tide of life, which staggers 
imagination, Russia has; vague, immense 
power, barbaric, potential. To pass from 
Europe into Russia is, as some one has said, 
to pass from something ordered and advanced 
to something unordered and portentous, to be 
engulfed and swept away in the tide. The 
same portentousness that one senses in China 
is here, but here it is something vastly nearer, 
breaking the flood-gates. Russia is more 
overwhelming than the Far East. In China 
and Japan one stands above the stream and 
shares the life vicariously, but in Russia one 
cannot escape. Russia is of one's own color! 
In a word, Russia is to me the most mysterious, 
the most troublous force in the world, freighted 
at present with a conspicuous significance. The 
body of Asia, the thought of Europe, with this 
one enormous advantage over Europe: be- 
cause of her immense naturalness of life, she 
casts up from her depths a product amaz- 
ingly, cellularly fresh. I' think it must thrill 

126 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

one, as if a voice had spoken from the void, 
this volcanic thought, these spiritual concep- 
tions cast up as if by some primeval force, 
de profundis. Only one thing fascinates me 
equally, and that is her convulsive contrasts. 
One can grow dizzy wandering through the 
labyrinths and wondering where one may lay 
down one's questionings and say : ' This is true 
of Russia.' America is a melting-pot, but 
Russia holds her elements unamalgamated. 
Her paradoxes are unresolved; to state a 
truth about her is to be false to her. There 
is no encompassing her; she is not only the 
buffer between East and West, but between 
East and Future. As you say, 'She is as the 



sea: 



The Muscovite, who had been listening with 
serious intent ness, took up the theme where 
I had laid it down. 

"Russia the old and weary, the melan- 
choly; but so young that she seems but half 
shaped from the black earth. Russia baring 
a new world of delicate psychological and 
spiritual truths; but dark medieval and bar- 
baric. Russia innately democratic and in- 
dividualistic; but ruled by despotism. Rus- 
sia without conceit, even to humility; but 

127 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

with a tidal assurance of her own destiny. 
Russia quickly flaming up in her emotions; 
but dying down again to apathy. Russia 
the tender lover of the despised and rejected 
of men; but shot through with Oriental 
cruelty. Russia the religious. Russia the 
unmoral. Russia superb, fatal, mysterious. 
Russia also gentle, monotonous. Russia 
with a bewildering, multitudinous variety; 
but as ununified as the sands of the sea. 

"To my mind, Russia symbolizes the roman- 
tic in art," he continued, enlarging on his 
subject, "as France symbolizes the classic. 
Russia is not to be reasoned about or put into 
bounds. Russian natures are not small na- 
tures, easily labeled, but large natures, un- 
coralled and uncorrelated. Russia of all na- 
tions sings with color, like the walls of some 
old monastery; enormously natural but sel- 
dom vulgar. Of all people, she shows the 
least evidence of growing didactic; of all 
people, the least economical of her medium. 
Russia, multum, but not multum in parvo! 
Russia, the uttermost contradiction of the 
principle, maximum effect with minimum 
means; Russia in her life, as in her art, lavish 
and unrestrained and yet without coarseness 

128 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

living, as she does, with a deep unconscious- 
ness. That fine logic, which is the glory of the 
French, Russia has none of. But her dis- 
order, is it the 'disorder of the forest and the 
stars'? What will be the fate of this inchoate 
thing in the new world which seems immi- 
nent, where nothing will be left to chance? 
Or is there a new order and a new symmetry, 
beyond the order and the symmetry of lesser 
foolish men, that Russia has divined?" 

The tall Muscovite had risen and was stand- 
ing before the fire, his head outlined against the 
paneling like a young Turgenev. 

"What do you see as Russia's greatest gift 
to the world?" I asked, as he stood looking 
at the fire, wrapped in abstraction. 

"Russia offers three great gifts, as I see 
them," he answered, rousing himself. "One 
is pushing out the walls of life, exploring new 
paths of joy and pain, discovering a new, 
intense mental passion; secondly, the delicate 
psychological analysis of the soul voyaging 
about these new paths; most rare of all, the 
acceptance of pain. We are not the only na- 
tion to discover the beauty of pain, but it was 
Dostoevski who caught the great salutary 
value of pain suffering not alone, but suf- 

10 129 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

fering together. Do you realize that Russians 
never write romances? We have proven out- 
worn that theory that it is idealists who, in 
order to escape the sordidness of the world, 
write romances. We Russians are the su- 
preme discontents of the world, but we do not 
write romance; we are the ultimate word in 
realism. And this because we have pierced 
the shell and have discovered the inner, fan- 
tastic romance of reality, the alluring romance 
of the mental and spiritual. It is the romance 
of which Hamlet is a typical hero and Dos- 
toevski's Raskolnikoff another. Raskolnikoff 
committed no crime of the passions, but of 
intellectual curiosity, a passionate mental 
questioning. He wished to discover whether 
he was a super-man with a right to kill the 
old pawnbroker the 'louse' as Napoleon 
murdered his thousands, or whether he was 
only 'vermin/ too. And besides these ro- 
mances of the mental and spiritual, the ro- 
mance of pirates and dungeons even that ac- 
cidental personal adventure which the Anglo- 
Saxon accepts as love is trivial. In these 
features, the Russian must be read geograph- 
ically and historically. With that great out- 
lying monotony of earth, neither sea nor 



A RUSSIAN LYRIC 

mountains, not any chance under a tyrannical 
rule to find his destiny, the Russian has been 
driven in to search his own being. And 
searching the human, he has come upon a 
mystery as disordered and as infinite as the 
sands of the sea. 

"And with what marvelous psychology he 
has added to our knowledge of that restless 
creature, the soul! The delicacy with which 
Tolstoi reads the soul in terms of the body! 
And Dostoevski begins where Tolstoi leaves 
off. After Russian literature, Anglo-Saxon 
novels seem but attenuated creations. Per- 
haps most precious of all he has contributed 
to life is the recognition of pain as a part 
of destiny and that moral fervor to experi- 
ence it. 

"It may be that never, never will Russia 
emerge, not out of the chaos of her institu- 
tions and government, but out of chaotic 
chasms of her own being. But if ever she 
does, she will be the superbly great people of 
the earth! I have a vision of the Slav, when 
lesser peoples, more easily catalogued and 
composed, are ended and their cities dust and 
their kings rest with that other mighty war- 
rior, where 

131 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

The wild ass stamps o'er his grave, but cannot break 
his sleep 

I have a vision of the Slav, with his roots as 
deep as the roots of Isdragil itself, towering 
high against the sky with an incomprehen- 
sibly beautiful spiritual burgeoning. But who 
can say of Russia?" 

The tall Muscovite spoke mystically, like a 
prophet of new Russia, and I looked at this 
superb man, accepting his destiny of pain, and 
as I listened to his rich voice chanting this 
vision of Russia I saw again the steppe, the 
gray gulfs of mists, and I heard the wind moan 
in the forest ; and, again, like an illumination, 
the words of Georg Brandes flowed through 
my memory. 

Black land, fertile land, new land, grain land the 
broadly constituted, rich, warm nature the broad un- 
limited expanse which fills the mind with melancholy 
and hope the incomprehensible darkly mysterious 
the womb of new realities and new mysticism Russia 
and the future. 

The womb of new realities and new mys- 
ticism! 



X 

RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

PHE leaves are turning swiftly these days. 
1 Yesterday, Russia lyric; to-day, Russia 
treacherous and intriguing! A look in at 
the hospital to inquire about Vereshagin and 
to deliver sweets resulted in staying for tea. 
I can never resist the white oil-cloths and the 
brown bath-robes chanting a sonorous grace 
to the decadent little ikon in the corner. 
They say we are breeding revolutionists here. 
I do not know. Fancy what decent food and 
clean beds must mean to these men, accus- 
tomed to cabbage soup and a handful of 
straw! 

And after the hospital, a walk home along 
the Neva. These veiled days in the north 
are beginning to have a wondrous charm for 
me. To-day the Neva stretches far out to 
sea, a white mystery, only the black hulls 
breaking it in impressionistic designs. Peter 

133 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

and Paul, sometimes a golden sword, rises 
to-day but a smoky pencil against the 
sky. 

It was in the station at Irkutsk that I began 
to realize the greatness of Russia, and to-day 
I gave the "green bough of my affection" to 
this pastel of Peter's. It's a Turner, the 
softest in the world; a Japanese sketch, 
quickly done, half effaced. On filmier days, 
but a shadow city washed over with white. 
I have searched my vocabulary through and 
yet I can never express the charm of its 
spectral half-tones, rubbed together with a 
wonderfully soft blue atmosphere, picked 
out with the charcoal of the park trees and 
wanned with a dash of buff in the old Ad- 
miralty. There is something of the phantom 
city about it, after all. On a late winter 
afternoon no other city, not even London nor 
Venice, offers the mystery and beauty of 
Petrograd. I wonder that I ever could have 
missed it, low-keyed though it is. 

I was just turning home along the Admiralty 
gardens when I came suddenly face to face 
with M. Novinsky, his compact figure and 
dreaming eyes pure Celtic that moment in 
the mists. 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

"You!" I cried, with the joy of the un- 
expected. 

"Yes." His eyes, set in Eastern fashion, 
smiled engagingly under his tall sealskin cap. 
"I was just on my way to pay my compli- 
ments. You are looking distractingly mys- 
terious to-day, Amerikanka. You Americans 
are marvelous your variety vsegda inter- 
eosni " 

"This is serious, M. Novinsky," I smiled. 
"Intrigue! My annals are no longer simple." 

"You have been finding Russia a world for 
Stevenson or Sherlock Holmes?" 

"Yes," I nodded, importantly. "I used to 
give the palm to those sumptuous caravan- 
saries of Egypt, or to the dingy corridors of the 
Wagon Lits in Peking, but now I yield both 
to Petrograd." 

M. Novinsky swung his stick at the statue 
of Peter the Great, rearing above the Neva. 

When he was lodged in the blue velvet chair 
before the fire, while Dasha clattered the tea- 
things, shining with joy at the presence of the 
beautiful barin and singing the distracting 
delights of Olya's white feet in the river, I be- 
gan the tale. The incident had really troubled 
me. 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

"It came through one of Olga Stepanovna's 
clients, an American who is here for a gigantic 
order in steel. Olga Stepanovna has trans- 
lated for him and we have seen him often at 
the house. In America he would not stand 
out from the background of a thousand others, 
an honest, self-made business man, but here 
in this old world he looks like an ingenuous 
child. Olga Stepanovna declares 'He never 
could have grown in Europe,' and it is quite 
true. The system of things as they are he has 
absolutely refused to accept. A government 
which pivoted on beautiful ladies he would 
have none of. He had his ideas as to the 
conduct of business in Russia. He would 
invite the Minister to luncheon, sign the con- 
tract with the cigars, and this sleepy old East 
would have learned something." 

"And as usual he found no royal road 
in fact, no road whatever to the Ministers, 
except through the engineers?" M. Novinsky 
lighted a cigarette. 

"Exactly. It would have been an excellent 
international comedy of manners if it had not 
been so tragic, to watch the processional of 
emotions sweep his countenance incredulity, 
irritation, anxiety, subjection. He was weeks 

136 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

by the clock learning even to get a petition 
before the Minister. 

"Steamers have come and steamers have 
gone and still he waits to hear the Govern- 
ment oracle speak. 

"Fortunately he has a fancy for the spots 
where Czars have been murdered, and Petro- 
grad offers numerous such points for his diver- 
tisement. Whatever he had to teach Russia, 
Russia has given him her lesson first pa- 
tience. 

11 Sometimes the engineers come with him to 
Olga Stepanovna's for conferences, and storms 
of language sweep the house! The Yankee 
backs up against the fireplace, watching them 
with shrewd eyes. In sheer brains he is more 
than a match for these wolves in engineer's 
clothing, but in languages as uneducated as a 
savage. Of those soft, hissing sounds on 
which hang his millions he understands not a 
syllable. He does not even know French. 
He must wait for Olga Stepanovna's transla- 
tion. I am sure that his dying word to the 
world will be, 'languages'!" 

"He might not find another translator so 
trustworthy as Olga Stepanovna, though he 
'searched through this great world with a 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

candle by daylight/" suggested M. Novinsky, 
flicking his ash. 

"As a matter of fact, Olga Stepanovna is 
the only soul in Petrograd he trusts," I as- 
sented, as Dasha installed the samovar. "He 
will not stir an inch to the Ministers without 
her, and, of course, his helplessness appeals to 
all the Russian in her. . . . After months of 
quibbling, yesterday was set at the Ministry 
for receiving the estimates from the six com- 
peting firms, the representatives of which to 
make a perfect melodrama all live at the 
Hotel de 1'Europe. At eight last night Sasha 
was bundled into a shawl and despatched to 
the hotel with the American's estimates. 
Olga Stepanovna had dropped into her chair 
when the telephone rang. The American! 
The papers? Had Sasha been waylaid and 
robbed or was she only gossiping with some 
stupid servant? Every quarter-hour from 
then until midnight the American telephoned. 
He was very commendably controlled, but he 
was angry. Olga Stepanovna walked the 
floor and wrung her hands. 

"Nine. Ten. At twelve Sasha arrived, 
hands on hips, the picture of health. 

"' Nu, Sasha, quick, where have you been? 
138 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

The papers?' Olga Stepanovna's impatience 
flared up. 

il Ai, barina, I was so ill,' Sasha related, 
glibly. 

'The papers quick!' Olga Stepanovna's 
eyes flashed. 

1 'At the hotel, as you told me,' Sasha wept, 
stoutly. 

"Little Dasha, the sleepless, was asleep. 
How it happened no one ever knew, but in a 
trice the drowsy mite was bundled into a 
shawl and off through the snow to verify 
Sasha's tale. I should like to have witnessed 
the scene in the lobby of the hotel Sasha, 
buxom and brazen, questioning his Braided 
and Buttoned Magnificence, the portier; and 
little Dasha peering out from her shawl, 
probably too awed by the portier' s splendor to 
hear a word he was saying. The sleeping bell- 
boys were tumbled out and lined up for 
Sasha's inspection. In the end one of them 
remembered. Sasha had delivered the papers. 
She brought Dasha home with an izvostchik 
and, extravagance of extravagances, two 
horses! And to-day she has a new collar and 
a string of beads." 

"And the end, the blunt American?" M. 
139 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

Novinsky was smoking cigarettes silently, 
deftly, his eyes on the fire. 

"Tales do have a way of rounding out to a 
full close in the East and not paling out half- 
. way, as they do at home. But the end of this 
I cannot say. The American came this 
afternoon, taciturn and gloomy. The papers 
had been found at three in the morning in the 
rooms of a pseudo-interpreter. That is all 
we know. Of course the terms had been tam- 
pered with, and of course the offers of the 
firms were not placed before the Ministry to- 
day. The American saw to that! And now 
the six-handed game may be months in nar- 
rowing again to an issue. Nine hundred thou- 
sand dollars the American had offered the engi- 
neers for the order and it was not enough!" 

"And to-day a contract for forty millions 
was signed at the Astoria. It means poods 
of silver to cross the palms of the engineers." 
M. Novinsky had sunk into abstraction. 

I do not know how to explain the subcon- 
scious impulse that prompted my question. 
"What news from the front?" I asked, after 
a pause. "From the General?" I am still 
unable to account for the query. 

M. Novinsky glanced at me quickly, his 
140 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

eyes narrowing to two steel points. "Why 
do you ask?" 

"I don't know," I stammered. "I really 
couldn't say." 

M. Novinsky sat with pale lips, graven like 
a statue. 

"I confess to you," he said, wearily, "that, 
like Turgenev, I should often despair of my 
race were it not for the wonderful Russian 
language. Think me sentimental if you will, 
but it is my one consolation. When I con- 
sider this 'great, mighty, powerful, and free 
Russian language ' I cannot but believe that it 
comes from a great people. Even as a boy 
lying on my back under the limes, making 
friendships with the poets, I felt its wonder. 
A language wrought in little izbas, in forests 
and on the steppe, despised and rejected as 
the language of serfs, even unclothed until 
Pushkin gave it the exquisite symbols of a 
poet, yet fragrant with the deeps of human 
life; the most powerful, the most burning, 
the tenderest language of the human soul. 
Surely such a language could not be conceived 
of but by a people sincere, powerful, and as- 
piring." He spoke so reverently that I hes- 
itated to break his mood. 

141 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

"What will come to pass," I asked, softly, 
"when the peasants know that they were left 
to face German shells with bare hands while 
those who were responsible for them haggled 
across Petrograd counters for the last penny 
of booty?" 

" I do not know I do not know! Three of 
your engineers I am acquainted with. Three 
are Russians three German Russians from 
the province of Riga. Enough of the treach- 
ery is Russian, but you cannot imagine the 
complexity and penetration of German in- 
trigue." He was holding himself in check, 
but his eyes were as intensely blue as the 
minaret of the Mohammedan mosque. ' ' What 
a history Russia's has been! In the old days 
she was forced to rule with a hand of iron all 
those outlying turbulent tribes which meant 
Russia. That day has passed partially. I 
believe Russia still needs something of a strong 
hand. There is a chance now for freedom, too, 
but Russia is caught in a power a thousand 
times more terrible than the knout of Ivan 
Grozni the German bureaucracy. Always it 
has plunged its hands into the coffers of Rus- 
sia, and now it is dribbling the Russian 
people through its hands like water. You 

142 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

cannot conceive what it is to live in a nation 
of peasants a hundred and eighty million 
peasants. What chance has such a people- 
plastic, good-natured, ignorant against Teu- 
ton masters? Treasure for German exploita- 
tion, that is what Germans have considered 
Russians their proper gain 'Russian pigs/ 
Russia herself will never be conquered from 
the outside. To fight her is to fight the ele- 
ments winter the steppe Nature herself. 
Old amorphous Russia can close over her 
enemy as a jungle closes over its slain. Would 
that she could engulf and strangle now every 
German overseer, every German factory agent, 
every German-paid monk ! It is the first step 
in the righting of Russia!" 

M. Novinsky was pacing between the fire 
and the window, his hair slightly disordered 
a feature far more alarming to me than an- 
other man's complete disintegration. The 
tides had loosed. The serene man I had 
known had vanished and another had sprung 
up white, straining, son of an emotional race, 
with a swift tongue and passionate movements. 

"A monstrous net of intrigue a net of 
treachery that must be broken if it takes 
every life in Russia." He stopped with a 

143 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

sudden gesture at control and gazed moodily 
out over the hooded Moika. 

The little French clock ticked steadily 
while I sat in silence. A premonition chilled 
me as I followed him, of origins so different 
from mine, but in a thousand thousand ways, 
that mattered more my nearest of kin, East 
or West in all the world. 

"The sucking and draining her dry from the 
inside, and flinging her up pulpous dead 
flesh Bozhe moi!" 

The twilight deepened over the square 
while the lamp-lighter began his rounds over 
the Red Bridge. And then, as night began to 
weave her shimmering web about the branch- 
ing trees and the dim canal, he sat down at 
the piano and played fragments of things 
Russian a folk-song from Glinka; the mel- 
ody of peasants dancing in the white night; 
a moving harmony of Borodin; a dissonance 
of Scriabine fire and flood and the dissolution 
of the world; a mass of Mussorgsky's; the 
East Indian's song, unearthly sweet, from 
Sadko; fragments from Chopin, a dirge of 
Tchaikowsky, a largo of Rachmaninoff. I 
had never heard him play so stormily or so 
wistfully. The Russian hurricane seemed 

144 




Everything that he loved was singing 
its swan-song through his fingers 



RUSSIAN TREACHERY 

breaking over him, and everything that he 
loved and everything that he hated was sing- 
ing its swan song through his fingers. And, 
as he played, everything that I loved and 
everything that I hated and feared in Russia 
crowded there in the darkness and filled the 
room with ominous shapes. Bozht moil and 
how much there is in Russia to love and hate 
and fear! 



XI 

THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

THE dvornik rushes in; he begs pardon, 
but the house is on fire. It is incon- 
veniently cold and I am thrust deep in an 
arm-chair and Balzac, but I slide out of my 
dressing-gown and dress myself for the street ; 
whereupon in he rushes again, begs pardon, a 
thousand regrets, but the house is not on fire. 
These vacillating Russians! 

It leaves me in somewhat the same state as 
my presentation. For I have been presented. 
No, not to the Czar, but to Madame Novinska. 
How I quaked when the envelope came, de- 
livered by private messenger like a command 
from the Vatican. I felt that I must rush 
away to buy a white veil and souvenirs to be 
blessed. If there had been a choice, I am 
sure I should have chosen the Czar, for they 
say he always looks indifferent, as if he 
wanted to go home and play with his children. 

146 



THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

M. Novinsky came for me, looking immacu- 
late and grave. He is always immaculate 
and usually grave, except when he leans for- 
ward to talk to one quite personally, and then 
his eyes light with an exquisite sort of com- 
prehension, the rarest tribute and the subtlest 
flattery to a woman. I had not seen him 
since we had talked of the intrigue in Russia, 
and there were a thousand things I longed to 
ask. But a pause seemed to have fallen upon 
us, like a pause before a sentence, as we rolled 
past the old coroneted houses on the English 
Quai. It was not a giddy sleigh, but one of 
the Novinsky carriages. I clutched at the 
skirts of my departing French verbs while 
M. Novinsky leaned on his stick, watching 
the Neva. The mother whom he worships 
and the withdrawn life in the old Faubourg 
St.-Germain of the Russian capital I had 
tried to imagine, but in vain. No more could 
I read him to-day no trace of the furious 
Tartar, but an enigma, his eyes dark inter- 
ludes, reflecting some inner drama I knew 
not what. 

The house, which stands on a quiet side 
street, planted with lime-trees, is an old 
wooden Russian house, built around a court 

H7 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

entered through iron gates and one of those 
venturesome vaulted gateways, not magnifi- 
cent, but with the luxury of seclusion. I am 
sure it is charming under the limes in the 
spring. The door was opened by a man- 
servant in livery and an irreproachable air 
of belonging to the best family in Petrograd. 
If I am not mistaken, it was Andrei, who once 
crawled into a bear's den at the command of 
his small autocrat, to find himself confronted 
by two fiery eyes, and who would have lost 
his life but for the presence of a Cossack; 
the same Andrei who threw himself on the 
ground and wept passionately upon his mas- 
ter's return, after the manner of the East. 

The order of the house I can remember only 
dimly. There is a broad stairway, leading out 
of the entrance hall into a larger hall above 
lined with old portraits, a head of Pushkin 
and one of Lermontov and a few ingenuous 
busts done by a dilettante of the family; a 
music-room in green and birch, deliciously 
recalling a birch forest ; a long white-and-gold 
salon with heavy glass chandeliers and yellow 
damask curtains ; glimpses of a smaller draw- 
ing-room with eccentric birds in flight across 
a Chinese screen; and a library of paneled 

148 



THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

Russian oak. The floors everywhere are of 
beautifully polished wood, and quaint wooden 
steps, worn into hollows by generations of 
Novinskys, lead up and down between the 
rooms. Tourists would probably find it lack- 
ing in magnificence, and I would rather be 
drawn and quartered than expose anything so 
dim and tender and fragrant with human asso- 
ciation to a vulgar gaze. It is the house in 
which M. Novinsky was born and I felt new 
doors of personality opening as we passed 
through the mellow rooms, with a garden 
framed through the French windows beyond, 
together with a sudden quick gratitude for 
this new admittance. 

Mile. Novinska came to meet me in her 
manner which resembles floating rather than 
walking, to say that her mother was awaiting 
me in one of the small drawing-rooms. She 
looked paler than the first day I saw her, 
wearing something blue, with a narrow line of 
uncut emeralds about her throat emphasizing 
the whiteness of her skin. I remember that a 
woman, who had been physician to the Em- 
press Dowager of China, once told me that 
she had never once really seen the apartments 
to which she was commanded. Each time 

149 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

she struggled to look at the appointments of 
the palace in the Forbidden City; invariably 
she came away without the image of a single 
detail. Once within the Empress Dowager's 
presence, it was impossible to detach one's 
attention for a moment from the "Old 
Buddha." I recall only some small tapestry 
panels, the high-backed carved chair in which 
Mile. Novinska sat near me for my res- 
cue, if I needed her! and a high, wide fire- 
place. 

Madame Novinska has been an invalid since 
the tragic death of her second son, and she 
was half -reclining as I entered. A portrait of 
her could be painted only in the grand manner 
a face of alabaster, white hair under the 
ivory lace of her cap, and tense, dark eyes, 
thoughtful like M. Novinsky's. My first im- 
pression, among others that crowded forth, 
was of a woman who looked far beyond our 
ken. The hand she held out to me was 
slender and blue- veined, and offered with that 
indescribable mingling of graciousness and im- 
periousness which marks the great lady to 
whom homage is due and rendered. And, 
joy of joys, she expressed her pleasure at see- 
ing me in English! "Ah, that is the expres- 

150 



THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

sion of your eyes!" she said, as she turned me 
to the light. How amazingly simple the real 
people are even in this formal Old World! 
It was the atmosphere of a salon, and the deft- 
ness with which she put the stranger at ease 
was nothing less than magical. Among a 
people old and experienced in living, it is not 
the least beautiful of the arts. 

I find the Russian extremely sensitive to 
foreign culture, and the fact that his own land 
has so long been counted a barbarian camp 
has driven the aristocrat abroad until, as the 
fruits of his exile, he is now the cosmopolite 
of the world. Madame Novinska's knowledge 
of America and her interest in American af- 
fairs were amazing. Helen Keller, the Amer- 
ican war policy, Burbank perhaps a word 
only in passing, but laden with suggestion. 
Under her skilful shifting and sorting of 
topics one talked in spite of one's self, and all 
the time her eyes were registering something 
neither Helen Keller nor Burbank nor the 
American war policy. And yet I did not feel 
disquieted, for she gave that rare and generous 
assurance that the best in one would not be 
ignored. 

"You know our interest in America is of 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

long standing," smiled Mile. Novinska. "Ma 
mere knew Washington as a girl." 

"Yes, my uncle was attached to the em- 
bassy at Washington and I made a visit to 
your capital as a very young girl," reminisced 
Madame Novinska. "But I remember it as 
vividly as if it were yesterday the summer 
nights on the Potomac and the ' darkies ' sing- 
ing below our windows in the dusky night. 
They are exceedingly picturesque, your ne- 
groes; I wonder if Americans know just how 
picturesque. And the tall, clean-shaven of- 
ficers. I remember stealing down the curving 
stairway to watch the dancers in the ball- 
room. Of course, as a jeune file I lived se- 
cluded; Russian girls are younger than your 
young girls. But it was a wonderful memory. 
Can you imagine Turgenev's Liza there? 
What airy delight I took in the barouches 
and perhaps I might have dreamed a longer 
time of officers with Yankee chins had it not 
been for a young cousin in Russia." She 
glanced instinctively above the fireplace to 
the portrait of an officer with a slim, delicately 
poised head and eyes like M. Novinsky's. 

"America has much to teach Russia. In 
spite of a certain youth in our muscles, we are 



THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

old and weary in our consciousness. But 
America America is so healthy, so strong! 
She has never had the ' courage of her destiny 
dwarfed,' as have we of Europe. She has 
no skeletons of human failures to strew the 
path. What colossal naive unawareness, 
what faith, what enthusiasm! All that Eu- 
rope has tried and found impossible she 
achieves before she hears that it is impossible! 
Russia has a few ancient ruins and crumbling 
cities to remind her of man's failure, but she 
has many centuries of remembered chaos 
and insufficiency. For too many generations 
life for Russia has been to sit all day in a 
dressing-gown. The educated man has but 
two openings for his energy to manage his 
estate and to put on the uniform of a tchinovnik 
and become another spider in the web of 
officialdom. There is no normal, unrestricted 
outlet for him, as there is in America, because 
everything is bound about with Government 
influence. And inhibition prolonged breeds 
sleep in the blood, and a certain confused 
futility. The most depressing feature of Rus- 
sian autocracy has not been the visible thwart- 
ing of individual life, but the disintegration of 
a whole national fiber. Through disuse, the 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

Russian has lost his sinew. Turgenev knew. 
See his Nezhdanoff struggling to act, but 
stumbling and falling and shooting himself 
under an apple-tree. All these centuries that 
grooves should have been laid in men's minds, 
there have been none. When the revolution 
comes, then we shall reap the harvest of all 
these trackless brains. Russian women are 
far more practical and stronger than Russian 
men. Ah, it is great good fortune to be born 
an American! I see America in the poise of 
your head and in your eyes. But it must come 
some day, our self-realization. The steppe 
has left us a great heritage a belief in the 
brotherhood of man and the oneness of God, an 
immense social cohesion and a tremendous 
power and simplicity." 

Madame Novinska spoke as one who treas- 
ures her ideals like a dream. I feel it in all 
of them in Dmitri Nikolai vitch, in Mile. 
Novinska, in Olga Stepanovna, in Agasha, 
gray and grumbling though she be the wor- 
ship of the ideal. Can they, will they, I won- 
der, ever embody the ideal in action? 

Tea was served after half an hour by a butler 
descended from one of the house-serfs freed 
by Madame Novinska's father, an ancient 



THE HOUSE UNDER THE LIMES 

servitor whose face, like that of Turgenev's 
Pistchalkin, "has set in a sort of solemn jelly 
of positively blatant virtue." Mile. Novinska 
herself poured from a quaint old silver service 
with a design in bas-relief, copied from an 
ancient Persian tomb, which had been brought 
the tea service, not the tomb by another 
diplomatic ancestor who had seen long service 
in Persia and Turkey. And the firelight 
gleamed on the crested porcelain, on the fine 
damask inset with heavy Russian lace, and on 
Mile. Novinska's thin hands. 

M. Novinsky spoke little, but his eyes rested 
adoringly on his mother. When I said my 
adieus he accompanied me down the winding 
velvet-carpeted stairway, past the Fragonards, 
into the great stone-floored hall below, where 
the carriage waited inside the wrought-iron 
gates. It was indescribably charming, this 
bit of Old World quietude, the gabled roofs 
pointing against the deepening saffron sky, the 
court filling with dusk. The lights were be- 
ginning to come out and their pale light 
struggled feebly with the amethyst shadows, 
splashing the court with pools of black. An 
entirely consistent figure in this mellow back- 
ground, M. Novinsky, slimly silhouetted 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

against the great doors, looking down at 
me. 

"Thank you for coming," he said. 

"Please do not say you thank me." There 
was an inexplicable ache in my throat. "It 
has been a day I shall remember." I dared 
not look up at the face in the dusk, lean and 
delicate with thought and feeling. 

"Pardon, Amerikanka, but you have been 
a deep pleasure to madame, ma mere." His 
voice was low, strongly Slavic in accent. ' ' These 
are darker days in Russia, perhaps, than you 
know. You have been a thread of gold shot 
across our somber background. And there is 
also another reason." The eyes, almost elec- 
tric blue even in the twilight, gazed at me 
with a new, strange earnestness. "I shall be 
leaving Petrograd and I wanted to see you 
here in this old house." 



XII 

A FACE AT THE BALLET* 

I HAVE been sitting by the French window, 
watching the cathedral lose itself in the 
dusk. Twilight is the enchanted hour in any 
land. How many other images surge through 
my mind and struggle for place! It is the 
Japanese Inland Sea; twisted islands sharpen 
from the sea-green mists, beckon and vanish 
again phantoms; from the shore, lights 
twinkle under thatched roofs, and quaint 
silhouettes move against paper screens. In 
Kobe and Nagasaki jagged peaks, patterned 
like a willow-plate, cut sharply against the 
sky; below in the harbor, lateen-sailed junks 
home-bound pole quietly in among freighters 
and steamers and yachts and all the unas- 
sorted craft that make up a harbor in the 
East. There are other images: the bund at 
Shanghai Shanghai, that brilliant hybrid of 
East and West, pouring along its gay ante- 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

dinner throng. Clean, white-flanneled young 
Englishmen; pale, laborious Germans; Sikhs 
with immobile eyes, in red turbans and khaki 
uniforms; natives in delicate blue and laven- 
der silks; rickshas beginning to light their 
long Chinese lanterns ; ladies in carriages with 
tasseled mafus, and runners that scatter the 
crowds all in a sensuous, heated atmosphere 
against the darkening blue of the Hwangho. 
Egypt unrolls like a frieze: black palms fring- 
ing the cooling sands of the Nile; the thin blue 
smoke of the evening meal curling upward from 
a mud-walled Arab village to an orange sky; 
strings of home-coming camels; women with 
water-pots, majestic creatures. Over all the 
tented silky sky and the darkling river weav- 
ing the shifting tints into a rich brocade. . . . 
Memories, too, of Peking: monster gates tow- 
ering above the city, freighted with the 
mystery of North China, dwarfing even the 
camel-caravans that emerge from their shad- 
ows; brocaded gentlemen airing their birds 
on the wall in the cool of the evening; the 
faint, sweet plaint of the samisen from the 
lantern-lighted city below. . . . Memories all 
of shimmering sand and heat and tumultuous 
life. How incredibly different those other 

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A. FACE AT THE BALLET 

twilights from this spacious gray light of the 
North ! Is this happiness, I wonder, that one 
feels in Russia? It is not a land to which one 
turns with song and laughter, Russia. It is 
like the face of Dus6 a thing of shadows, 
weary, wistful, poignant. But I would not 
surrender it, though it is pain and struggle; 
there is something more mysterious seeking to 
break through here than anywhere else in the 
world. In Russia I have ceased to be what I 
fear I have been a person with an interest 
in the graceful beauty of life and I am de- 
veloping I hope! a soul. But it has been 
M. Novinsky's Russia, seen through his inter- 
pretation, through the medium of his per- 
sonality. What will it be without my ex- 
quisite ambassador my friend? 

MADEMOISELLE, Lend us your West-world eyes to- 
morrow night for the ballet. It may be my last this 
season and I want to see it with the old illusion. 

Yours faithfully, 

DMITRI NOVINSKY. 

"Olga Stepanovna," I cried, when my host- 
ess had joined the samovar, singing its little 
folk-song, "I shall a-balleting go!" 

"Ballet!" Olga Stepanovna pronounced 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

the word Russian fashion with a "t," while 
the samovar burbled with excitement. "Bal- 
let nu, golubtchik, as I have explained to you, 
ballet is subsidized by the Crown, tickets are 
sold by abonnement and boxes are inherited with 
the estate and family jewels. It 13 difficult." 

I put the note written in M. Novinsky's 
neat script into her hands. 

"Ah, with the Novinskys! Mozhno. The 
Novinsky box has been in the family three 
generations; Madame Novinska had it from 
her father, old Prince Korovotsky. There is 
no difficulty. It is the fashion now to send 
one's box to the officers on leave and there 
will be a gay show of color. And Sunday 
night wear your prettiest frock, dushenka." 

"Cricket for the Britisher and ballet for 
the Russian," I heard Olga Stepanovna's 
voice rippling on. While my eyes followed the 
last phrase again, "my last this season," Olga 
Stepanovna chattered on, volubly, screening 
me gratefully. "I had an aunt in Little Rus- 
sia who had never seen ballet until she came 
to Petrograd last winter. If you could have 
beheld her radiance! Sixty, the mother of 
many sons and the child of many sorrows, but 
ah, the taste was in her! I heard strange 

160 



A FACE AT THE BALLET 

sounds in her rooms at two in the morning, 
after the ballet; I pulled on a dressing-gown 
and slipped down the corridor. And there 
stood my venerable aunt before a mirror, gray 
and ponderous so, Amerikanka! arrayed in 
a short petticoat, rising on her toes, pirouet- 
ting, chasseing and trying all the floatings of 
the gauzy ballerinas. She blushed a little 
when I came in. 'Don't take me for a fool, 
little Olga,' she sighed. 'It was so beauti- 
ful!' And do you know, milaya, I did not 
take her for a fool." 

I slipped the note into its sheath. I knew 
that I had not yet pressed against the coldest 
terror of pain, and I longed desperately for 
something warm and human. 

"Ah, milaya, you can never comprehend 
the ballet." My godmother more than half 
guessed, I think, as she ran on: "In your 
happy America, to dance is merely to seek 
pleasure and, therefore, it means nothing. 
But in Russia, to dance is to rebel to rebel 
against tyranny, against the futility of life. 
Do you not hear it in our music, the moaning of 
the wind in the forest, the lonely gray of the 
steppe, the terror of night, the despair? Ah, 
me! you do not know the steppe nor the mad 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

carousals and debauch with which those 
shaggy giants there seek to shake it off. 
Wait until you hear the songs on the Volga! 
How they sound across the water from the 
rafts at night! They know and they are 
seeking to forget, those river boatmen " 

Little Dasha had donned a new collar and 
a string of red beads, and her cheeks and eyes 
shone as if the pumpkin coach and the mice 
footmen stood outside the door. No dreary 
hours for little Dasha these days, with Prince 
Charming at the door, nor for Agasha Feo- 
dorovna. Agasha summoned me a score of 
times to see my frock and herself set my fur 
galoshes before the fire. This Russian kind- 
ness it wraps one like a Scotch plaidie in a 
cauld, cauld blast. 

Perhaps to American eyes the Maryinsky 
Theater might be a bit lack-luster, but I like 
the sleighs fleeing past us in the white dis- 
tance of the Moika, to appear again over the 
arched bridges of the river; the purple dome 
of sky, threaded with iridescent mists, bulging 
izvostchiks, dashing across the mammoth 
square, discharging rainbow cargoes from 
furry depths and making way sharply for the 
next bearded Jehu. 



"It isn't as brilliant as London or Paris 
theater-going," said M. Novinsky, gazing out 
of the carriage window at the white ribbon of 
avenue. 

"But I like it the northness and scintilla- 
tion. It's more hand-made. It's Russian!" 

"You are beginning to feel the charm of 
Russia?" M. Novinsky 's eyes turned on me 
with serious intentness. 

I catch the slantwise line of his profile, 
nervously incisive under the flickering lights 
of the carriage, his expressive smile, medita- 
tive eyes, eyes that can narrow and burn. 
A mondain, yes but sincere, objective; a 
beautiful, natural human being. The carriage 
is pervaded with the faint fragrance of Rus- 
sian cigarettes, so entangled for me with 
other memories memories of Peking, of black 
nights on the steppe and filmy days along the 
Neva so much of joy and pain and struggle 
and so much of exquisite content. We are 
passing the Yusuppoff Palace. I turn my 
eyes away for refuge in the mystery of the 
great iron gates. Suddenly I realize this is 
what Life, with all her shifting and selecting 
and wearing-down process, ought to produce. 
Never before had I so felt the appeal of beauty 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

in a human being. And now all this fineness 
to be lost in the gaping void of Russia's 
destiny? One topic lies, a dead thing, veiled, 
between us to-night when we are seeing ballet 
with the old illusion. 

"Russia, like China, is a bit shabby, but 
she has the air of the grand dame." That is 
all I find courage to say. 

Below the box bloomed a painter's riot of 
color: silver-daggered Circassians, like kings 
incognito; handsome young Hussars in blue 
or crimson trousers; Robin Hood colonels in 
green. Diaghileff may bring ballet to Amer- 
ica, but not even he can carry all this con- 
tingent color. Surely, ballet blossoms its su- 
premely bizarre and beautiful flower only here 
on Russian soil. 

It was not a large party; two fair-haired 
young officers home from the trenches, a 
lovely Titian-haired friend of Natalya Niko- 
laievna's, and a miniature aunt of the Novin- 
skys in black velvet and diamonds. 

"Nu, Amerikanka," said Mile. Novinska, 
mistily pale in her black tulle, the row of un- 
cut emeralds emphasizing the pallor of her skin 
and the lurking shadow of her eyes, as she held 
out her hand with a smile always a little dis- 

164 



A FACE AT THE BALLET 

trait. " It is good to have you here. This is 
a quaint old Russian folk- tale that Dmitri and 
I used to watch as children from this very box 
with our grandmother, and we have always 
loved the little awkward tow-headed prince, 
fumbling his cap before the court beauties he 
had evoked, and then setting off with the 
little Humpbacked Horse, for the One Most 
Beautiful of All." Her eyes lingered for a 
moment on the brother whom she resembles 
as one thoroughbred borzoi resembles another. 

"And why do they all stand?" I begged, 
gazing at the spectrum of color below. When 
one is American one is expected to be wide- 
eyed and breathless; it is one of the privileges. 
"Why do all those officers magnifique stand?" 

"Since the Czar's box is here, they may be 
in the presence of his Majesty," explained the 
young officer. "And he is present sometimes 
with the little grand duchesses and the Em- 
press Dowager. The Empress never comes; 
she is melancholy." He added the latter under 
his breath with an enigmatic glance at me. 

"And those lovely Andalusians with the 
mobile eyes and sloping shoulders?" I breathed 
from the edge of the box. 

"Armenians from Baku; after the Circas- 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

sians, the most beautiful women in Europe," 
M. Novinsky answered, his eyes following the 
two I had indicated, with the same connois- 
seur's air he would have shown examining 
a jade or Meissen. 

They were constantly dropping into the box, 
between acts, these men from the front. One 
could almost smell the fresh hardness of the 
camp about them. And the lusty delight of 
them to be again in the capital, and the pot- 
pourri of tongues! French, English, Russian 
one never knew which the arrival would 
speak. The last news from the front, the 
freshest bit of court gossip, and the newest 
military scandal. Bagdad and Babel in one; 
life vast, quivering, momentous, with always 
the sense of the snows beyond there some- 
where the sound of the guns and the fate of 
the world hanging in the uncleared smoke 
brilliant, dangerous, terrible. 

It would have been intoxicating if for one 
moment one could have forgotten. I glanced 
at Mile. Novinska. I wondered if she knew. 

"Do you feel a peculiar intensity here?" a 
young captain of the Pavolski regiment the 
regiment that four times has gone out and four 
times has not come back asked me. "It is 

166 



A FACE AT THE BALLET 

not simply the joy of returning. That is enough 
for your Englishman, but for the Russian 
there is another appeal the contrast of the 
snowy dugouts, the terrible and violent, with 
this heaped and perfumed luxury; it is that 
the Russian loves. It stirs in him a sense of 
the lyric, the extraordinaire" And looking 
into his susceptible Slavic eyes, I knew that it 
was true. And I remembered nights on the 
steppe and skating under the pines. 

It was the dowager who really informed me 
as to the ballet. What stores of knowledge 
I should have had, could I have listened to her ! 
To her lively questions I answered that I 
spoke Russian little and badly. 

"Neetchevo," she returned, briskly. "Keep 
trying! English and American speak every- 
thing badly. Do you like the ballet? Yes? 
Ah, but you cannot understand it! No one 
can comprehend who is not Russian. It is 
racial, this passion for the acme of the sophis- 
ticated, combined with barbaric strength. 
Cest absolument Slave. And do you realize, 
mademoiselle, the Russian, fickle to his other 
mundane loves, is amazingly faithful to his 
ballet favorites? That is because we worship 
art and not personalities. Have you seen 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

Karsavina, the beautiful, the prima ballerina 
of Petrograd as Gelza is of Moscow? But 
you should see the house when tiny Prebyshen- 
skaya, the grandmother of the ballet, flits 
across the stage. Pavlova? Konyechno. But 
we seldom see her. She returns only to put 
an edge to her dancing and keep her place on 
the pension-roll. Here she is but one and 
interests us largely because of her vogue with 
you. It is Kseshenska, the court favorite of 
twenty years ago, now the wife of a grand duke 
and mother of a tall son, who is the one great 
ballerina of all Russia. It is Kseshenska who 
sets all the ballet standards. It is Kseshenska 
who has the most beautiful jewels in Russia. 
Elle est merveilleuse! And she has cost the 
peasant more than one battle-ship!" 

It was pleasant in the shadows of the ca- 
pacious box, Mile. Novinska's profile gleaming 
palely in the half-light and the two young 
officers lost in the flying harmonies. If I 
could have but forgotten! With most of the 
officers I feel that the ballet is caviare for 
capricious appetites, but in M. Novinsky it 
appeals to deeper and more subtle sensibilities. 
I could not see him, but I was aware of him 
with his arms folded, lost in the poesy of the 

168 



A FACE AT THE BALLET 

rich ensemble, sunk deep in the melancholy of 
the Slav, which is not a trivial melancholy of 
the despair, but of man's whole impotence 
and impermanence. How pleasant it was, 
how sweet there in the dim box like a hanging 
balcony above the garden of color! And 
over it all hovered the Rimsky-Korsakov 
music, an accompaniment to one's dream, 
languidly rising, touching everything mysteri- 
ous and sacred, loosing everything barbaric 
in one. 

"Do you like it?" M. Novinsky leaned 
forward with his head on his hand. 

"Yes," I confessed. "But I feel like a 
heathen at prayers, when to you each flying 
posture of the dancer is as distinctive as the 
tone of Elman or Kubelik." 

"It brings a thousand other images of liquid 
movement. I see again horsemen silhouetted 
against the horizon the bronze bodies of 
Chinese coolies boats clustering down the 
Nile. Russian literature, I confess, depresses 
me sometimes; Russian dancing and music, 
never! They have caught all the color of the 
Slav and shot a new pattern through the old 
web of life." 

I was about to reply to this sensitive Slav, 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

who runs swiftly before me in every appercep- 
tion of beauty, when my eye fell upon two 
figures who had come in and were standing in 
one of the boxes opposite, a general with a 
sharp mustache and many decorations, and a 
junior staff-officer, noticeable for his carriage. 
The words ebbed away from me. Could it be? 
I stared again. And the younger officer, he 
of the smoky-blue eyes! The younger man 
was clean-shaven now, but the peculiar car- 
riage! 

"Dmitri Nikolaievitch" one instinctively 
lowers one's voice in Russia "in the opposite 
box the general and the other the young 
officer" 

I had expected to see M. Novinsky startled, 
but he continued to follow his program. 
"Yes," he assented, without lifting his eyes 
in the direction in which I was staring. "It 
is his Excellency." His voice had a curi- 
ously hard edge which I had never heard be- 
fore. "And the other 'the servant.' It is 
impossible to explain now, mademoiselle, but 
if I may ask you to trust me I beg a thousand 
pardons you will not address the General?" 



XIII 

MISS AMERIKANKA KNOWS 

I WAS just entering Kazan Cathedral this 
afternoon, to burn a taper against these 
troublous times, when I met M. Novinsky 
emerging abstractedly like a figure in a 
dream. I could feel my face flush with joy, 
and then an icy gray flood poured through 
me. I had seen that look in men's faces and 
I knew. I knew. I knew. 

"I have been burning a candle to my patron 
saint," M. Novinsky said, his smile stealing 
through me like healing. " Shall we turn back 
into the cathedral for a moment? I was just 
on my way to you." 

I glanced again at his pale, grave face as we 
entered the shadowy jeweled dusk and found 
a niche away from the throng that ebbed and 
flowed through the cathedral. / knew. There 
was no need for him to speak, for his words 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

could contain little that I had not already 
divined. 

"It is true as you have surmised," he said, 
as calmly as if he discussed a dinner invitation. 
"I am going to the front, not in the usual way, 
but on a special mission. It is of the utmost 
importance. The nature of it must remain un- 
known even to my sister and I am sorry to 
you, Amerikanka. I wanted to tell you be- 
cause there are not many chances that I shall 
return. Neetchevo. That is of trifling impor- 
tance. If I accomplish my end, it will be an 
immense coup d'etat for Russia. But I could not 
go without thanking you for an experience 
completely satisfying such as comes to but few 
men and never . . . twice in a lifetime." 

He spoke slightly formally, as if he had 
thought it all out carefully, controlled. His 
voice, strongly Slavic, died away as the music 
poured about us in a whirling flood. It was 
Rachmaninoff's Mass for the Dead. ... I 
leaned against the foot of an ikon, struggling 
with the desolate gray sea which threatened 
to engulf me, while the music languished and 
moaned among the somber spaces. 

"Shto dyelatch?" M. Novinsky asked, in his 
quiet, un-English voice, looking down at me 

172 



MISS AMERIKANKA KNOWS 

while the light from silver candelabra fell on 
his smooth, dark head and the music ebbed 
about the shadowy pillars. "It is the com- 
mon fate and the common sacrifice. But it is 
not pain. I had feared to lose my chance, and 
now it has come the opportunity to serve 
Russia. Except for my mother, I am in- 
describably happy. It is magnificent har- 
mony to be caught up in the whole, thrown 
into the current, living not one, but a hun- 
dred million lives. This is what life ought 
to mean concerted effort." His eyes bore 
the same quiet mysticism they had shown 
that night as we watched the cathedral in 
the oncoming dusk, and a certain luminous 
release with which sacrifice sets her men 
apart. 

I found my voice coming as from a dim dis- 
tance. "I know I can guess." I faltered. 
"But not our" I could not bring myself to 
frame the General's name. 

"I did not know you were aware." M. 
Novinsky turned a penetrating glance on me. 
"Yes" he dropped down on a stone bench 
in the niche, resting his head on his hands 
"he, too. It is all part of an enormous plot. 
I have known ever since I came to Petrograd. 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

Three factories have gone over into German 
hands and without ammunition it means 
slaughter for the men at the front. Yes, he, 
too. That is why I asked you not to see him 
last night at the opera. I wanted to spare you 
that memory. * I could not bear in after 
years " The plastic figure with his back 
bowed in the half-light did not finish, but I 
knew. 

The chant had ebbed and died and the glory 
of the priestly vestments had passed into 
the tenebrous chancel. An old peasant bun- 
dle of rags lay at the foot of an ikon, clasp- 
ing the feet of the Christ. We came slowly 
out and stood for a moment together in the 
shadows, M. Novinsky with his arms folded, 
I struggling with my loneliness, like figures in 
some ancient Greek drama looking up at the 
giant pillars dwarfing our two pigmy figures 
with pity and fear. Above shone the stars as 
they had shone in Siberia as they shone on 
my West there across the sea as they shone 
now on those snow-dunes there in the fantastic 
white night. 

Olga Stepanovna has taken me with her 
many times these days, silently protecting, as 



MISS AMERIKANKA KNOWS 

best she may, this godchild whose feet are 
set in paths of pain. 

One of Olga Stepanovna's friends is a queen 
and we have been shopping to-day for church 
brocades with which to bind a volume of 
poems for her Royal Highness. The bro- 
cades are rarely beautiful, richer than the 
brocades of China or Japan, but difficult to 
buy. The Japanese has no hesitation in selling 
his sacramental robes, but the Russian neither 
wears the cross as a decoration nor traffics in 
his priestly vestments. Perhaps we search 
for laces among the peasant craft-shops while 
the old woman runs on about the famine of 
1905 and the great Tolstoi's aiding the peas- 
ants, helping them to pick up again the old 
folk-patterns and to improve their work. Or 
perhaps we take a swift sleigh to the islands 
beyond the Neva, where at a little cafe Olga 
Stepanovna orders a luncheon for me, purely 
Russian. There are little meat pies and a soup 
in each plate of which floats a hard-boiled 
egg whether for refreshment or divertise- 
ment I never discovered. But it is of no use. 
It is as Dmitri Nikolaivitch's city I have seen 
Petrograd and it will always be his city. Yes- 
terday he was; to-day he is not; to-morrow ? 
13 175 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

It's snowing in Petrograd to-day. A Rus- 
sian snow. There has been a victory, too. 
One sentence by wireless, and the city is flung 
into pseans of rejoicing. If you wish Russian 
opera, here it is the opening chorus. The 
streets are thronged with multitudes tramping 
bareheaded through the snow, the ikons borne 
aloft on their shoulders, Slavic fire kindling 
through Slavic languor; and as they tramp 
they sing strange Slavic rhythms. Tramp, 
tramp the cathedral squares are filling, and 
the place before the Winter Palace is lit with 
impassioned faces. The Slavic melody breaks 
into wilder, stronger rhythms, and above all 
float the Double Eagles of Russia in the 
whirling, whitening snow. How quickly they 
flare up, these children of Russia, and as 
swiftly die down. You ask whether Russians 
love Russia. The reverential babas and iz- 
vostchiks answer to-day. It is the soul of 
Russia singing her high song. 

I had stood silent while the soldiers' chorus 
passed. As the song died away in the muffled 
distance toward the Winter Palace, came an- 
other sound of slow drums and the Chopin 
Marche Funebre. Out of the white distance 
down the Litenyie slowly wound a cortege, a 

176 



MISS AMERIKANKA KNOWS 

gun-carriage stripped and drawn by artillery 
horses ridden by war-worn soldiers; a rider- 
less horse following the still figure, pricking his 
ears at the empty, useless stirrups ; then three 
officers in long belted coats; a white carriage 
filled with flowers; and other veiled and 
shrouded women's figures walking slowly. 
That weary, weary walking through the snow 
that intimate last camaraderie which the 
Russian rich and poor alike pay their dead! 
A somber pageant under the pall of that 
Marche played with the curious Russian 
rhythm, sadder than any other rhythm in the 
world. 

" Matushka, an officer do you know 
who?" I touched a shawled baba who stood 
near me while the crowd watched silently with 
bared heads. A sudden breathless pain rushed 
through me at that moment when her wrinkled 
lips framed the name. How silently, unan- 
nounced, tragedy stands at the door! 

His image was still before me as he stood 
before the fire and talked of Russia that 
night on the islands under the pine, his mag- 
nificent Turgenev head and shoulders out- 
lined against the paneling. He had come to 
say farewell before he went to the front, the 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

tall Muscovite, Dmitri Nikolaivitch's com- 
rade, who had not feared to meet his destiny 
of pain. And now his viking length of limb 
had passed on the gun-carriage. I crossed 
myself with the broad Russian cross as the 
cortege wound into the mists. So falls the 
curtain of life or does it open there some- 
where in a dazzling radiance? I wondered, 
as I had wondered a thousand times since I 
stood with M. Novinsky that night amid the 
shadows of the cathedral. 

"Was he one of yours, milaya?" The old 
woman turned to me with patiently dumb 
eyes. 

"Yes, matushka" I faltered. 

From the further whiteness the dirge drifted 
back slow and sad with indefatigable Slavic 
sadness. 

"Gospode tebye, milaya" The old mother 
laid a shawled arm about me while I sobbed 
quietly with the incomprehensibility of it all. 
"I have lost five sons in the war. It is too 
much sorrow even for women." 



XIV 

A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

1AM too restless to read, these days. To 
walk endlessly in the snow it is the only 
way to forget the obscurity out there into 
which men drop. 

To-day I found myself in Vassily Ostrov. 
It was not without trepidation that I passed 
a sleepy dvornik and through an arched door- 
way into the courtyard of what seemed a colos- 
sal apartment-house. I entered such a court- 
yard last week. It was the right number, but 
when I adventurously opened one of the doors 
on a chance, the room was filled with startled 
dark-looking men, one of whom came quickly 
forward to meet the intruder. 

The snow was melting in puddles and the 
eaves pelted me with drops as I picked my 
way through the slush. It recalled the court 
in Gorky's Twenty-six Men and a Girl and I 
half expected to see the girl crossing the court, 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

her skirts held neatly above trim ankles, to 
meet the baker with fine golden hair on his 
forearm. I steered my way between puddles 
to the only door visible, an unlikely-looking 
one opposite the entrance. A mutely humble 
woman opened the door, removed my fur 
galoshes and hung up my shiiba in a row of 
other fur coats with a manner that could not 
exist with us any more than could an English 
butler's face. It was the women's university. 

I don't know what I expected to see a 
short-haired committee discussing bombs, per- 
haps. At any rate, the atmosphere was very 
different. Not for an instant could one have 
held the illusion that one had dropped into 
an American university. As I wandered up 
the stairway I began to be inundated by 
crowds of Russian university girls, and to 
breathe more deeply that atmosphere so 
amazingly different. Arnold Bennett called 
our education a pageant, and he might have 
added, "through which the youth of America 
walk like young gods." If Arnold Bennett 
were in Russia he would call education a 
bread-line. 

My guide was a junior from Rostov who had 
been twice in England and who spoke a su- 

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A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

perior English. She was not one of your pink- 
and-white English beauties, but she was 
amazingly magnetic, her face typically Rus- 
sian, broad like a Tartar's across the cheek- 
bone, and without definitive line or color. 
Her hair, tawny as a Cossack's, but fine and 
thick, she wore cut short like an early Italian 
or a child, and continually tossed it out of her 
eyes with what seemed to me an infinity of 
patience. In Solomon's time her throat 
would have been celebrated in song, so like a 
tower of ivory, so firm, so clearly marked with 
the necklace of beauty that it tempted the 
fingers like a piece of sculpture. 

We sat down in the assembly-room while 
the girls promenaded by twos around the 
room, and she talked in a low voice that came 
well from the ivory throat. The more she 
talked the more I found myself liking to look 
at her; I kept recalling, too, Henry James's 
description of Turgenev in Daudet's salon in 
Paris. As the confreres of Turgenev in the 
exploit e atmosphere of Paris saw beyond him 
the gray horizon of Russia, so beyond my 
friend from Rostov I saw the mysterious 
steppe. She was carrying a beautifully bound 
Petrarch and she told me that she read Italian, 

1*1 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

Perhaps it was to the collector's joy in me she 
contributed, since I had found in her, it seemed 
to me, that blend of culture with Titan 
strength that has so bound me to the Russian 
people. 

The other girls were different. They come 
from the four corners of Great Russia, my 
guide told me from the Caucasus and the 
Urals and from those stretches trans-Baikal. 
The university, not in the least paternal or 
patriarchal, makes no provision for their hous- 
ing, and the result is a f our-in-a-room, cooking- 
over-a-gas-jet arrangement, which tells its own 
haphazard tale in anemic faces and old bodies. 
It is Latin Quartier life, but a la Russe, which 
means, perhaps, less light-heartedness than in 
Paris, to pass it off under gray Russian skies, 
and fewer mustard-cafes where a gay meal and 
red wine may be had for a franc. Humanity 
en masse, especially strange humanity, is not 
beautiful, and I found myself hunting almost 
distractedly among the dull-haired, dingily fair 
girls for even one fresh-faced, clear-eyed figure. 
There was only one, and when I found her she 
stood out like a poster. 

But the hunger and thirst of those faces! 
Whatever else slips through memory's fingers, 



A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

it will not be that. I will not say that the 
American student is not eager;" he may be, but 
he is not starving intellectually, and such ap- 
petite as he has he takes philosophically. One 
can, if his appetite does not gnaw and if he 
knows that nine-tenths of those who come will 
not find a closed door and an empty bowl. 
But I agree to what a Russian Jewish tailor 
in America once said to me, that a Russian 
boy at sixteen has more intellectual curiosity 
than an American college graduate. My 
friend from Rostov tells me, however, that 
their system follows too much of the Oriental 
system of rote and leads to suicide rather than 
to success. She would have more of applied 
science and more technical schools. And 
doubtless she is right. 

There was no sign of revolutionists, al- 
though the university is a notorious hotbed 
and often closed for months at a time by order 
of the Government. But once I glimpsed 
something of the hidden fire that must kindle 
at the bottom of all revolutionary movements. 
At the end of the second lecture a wisp of a 
girl came forward to beg hospital funds. She 
was a revolutionary type, with burning, dark 
eyes and a voice with a thrilling undercurrent 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

of appeal. The effect was instantaneous! 
The margin of these students is for the most 
part the kopeck, hardly more than the marginal 
tenth of a cash in China, but there was no 
question of means, only the profound Russian 
response to need the Russian always, as 
Merezhkovski points out, flying where we 
walk, mad where we are sane, seeking not to 
save, but always to lose himself! And this is 
the stuff of which revolutions in Russia, of 
which Russia herself, are made! 

It is Easter the Easter that M. Novinsky 
told me of, that night, watching the cathedral. 
Last year it fell in Japan where the shadows of 
the cryptomeria brighten with the yellow of 
the pilgrims' garbs and the temple bells call 
tranquilly across the little valleys; and once 
in Rome I watched the devout on their knees 
ascend the weary Via Dolorosa. But this 
Easter promises to linger longest of all; at 
least it is the only Easter memory I have 
of returning in a ball-gown at four in the 
morning! 

Not a theater nor an opera open; even the 
play-bills are torn down, as reminiscent of the 
devils of the world ; the sweets are made with 
honey, "God's sugar," but for the last three 

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A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

days only crusts of bread and water have 
passed our lips. And how the women wailed 
when the body of the Christ was borne into 
the center of the cathedral! I confess to 
thinking that the pagan in me likes the 
pageantry of priesthood in black velvet and 
silver and all the splendid ecclesiastical pano- 
ply of grief. But to-day the pall has lifted, 
the shadows fled. To-day is Easter! The 
priests have burst from their black-and-silver 
chrysalides into full iridescent glory. " Chris- 
tos Voskresen!" and the bells from all the 
golden cupolas are ringing, not as Japanese 
temple bells across a quiet valley, but with 
Slavic ecstasy. 

Last night was a night to be remembered. 
How I wished for M. Novinsky, to see the 
loveliest sight in all Russia! I was just 
crossing the snowy square in front of St. 
Isaac's, returning from the last Mass before 
the midnight Easter service, when suddenly 
were the gates of fairyland flung open. Down 
the aisle of columns, out from among the 
dusky pillars of the great cathedral, in twos 
and threes or sometimes alone, a voluminous 
shawled and aproned nyanya in the background 
came figures, gravely intent little figures, 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

each carefully shielding his candle with tiny 
cupped hands or twists of white paper, the 
yellow candle-light flaring up into faces as 
cherubic as Reynolds's "Age of Innocence," 
but weighted with all the sweet solemnity of 
Miltonic angels : children bearing home sacred 
candles lighted at the altar for their own 
Lares and Penates. Out from among the in- 
scrutable shadows and down the steps of the 
vast cathedral they nickered and floated in 
twos and threes, and still farther down the 
canons of the dark streets, the spirit lights 
wavering and gleaming like myriad will-o'-the- 
wisps, phantom ships floating on a phantom 
tide. It reminded me of nothing so much as 
of that night of ancestor worship in the East, 
when lotus lanterns burning for the dead 
are set afloat on river and bay and far out 
to sea. 

The streets were ablaze with illuminations, 
the hotels in red and blue, the embassies 
great galleries of light, the coronets of the old 
aristocratic houses along the Neva glowing 
above the gateways, and the torches of the 
cathedral angels streaming triumphantly 
against the midnight sky. The cathedral 
square was packed with humanity, but the 

186 



A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

cathedral itself lay, as always, inaccessible 
among its shadows. 

Suddenly the giant doors were flung open as 
if by some supernal impulse, and a mighty 
flood of light and music poured out into the 
night; from the heart of the radiant flood 
emerged a processional of gold-and-silvery- 
raimented priests, with tapers aloft, crosses 
agleam with jewels, the light falling superbly 
on miter and crown, on cross and diadem. 
Slow- wandering through the snowy night, 
solemn, stately, flowed the iridescent stream 
under the Northern velvet sky, banners and 
crosses borne high, tapers gleaming in the 
darkness a fantastic arabesque searching 
the night for the Christ. I looked and lin- 
gered, and still I lingered while the chants 
searched among the night winds. 

Inside the multitudes waited with the 
silence of death, every face turned toward the 
portal with intense expectation. And again 
the great doors flung open for the proces- 
sional returning. Now the strain rose tri- 
umphant, " Christos Voskresen! Christos 
Voskresen!" ("Christ is Risen! Christ is 
Risen!") as down the aisle swept the 
radiant, silvery stream of figures while from 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

the hosts there rose the mighty incense of 
adoration. 

We had seats near the altar in the gold- 
laced diplomatic section, but I was more con- 
tent to stand in the great nave. The woman 
next me was in a ball-gown; on the other 
side of the ikon knelt a shawled figure, but 
every face was alike exalted. And then oc- 
curred that wonderful moment in the Russian 
service when the Metropolitan advances to a 
dais in the center of the nave and proclaims 
to the waiting hosts that "Christ is risen." 
Instantly and joyously the people turn to one 
another, falling upon one another's shoulders, 
peasant and noble alike exchanging the holy 
kiss of brotherhood. For one moment the 
flood-gates of heaven are opened and a new 
joy is let down into the world. A moment 
exquisitely Russian! 

I had not felt sure that my brotherly love 
would stand the crisis of a bearded salutation, 
but the old baba on the other side of the ikon 
had evidently been regarding with pity my 
unkissed state, and I suddenly felt myself in a 
shawled embrace. Mile. Novinska kissed me 
on the other cheek and I, too, emerged a 
brother to all mankind! 

1 88 



A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

I glanced at Natalya Nikolaievna as we 
turned to leave. Her eyes were soft and 
bright and as if by one impulse we bought 
candles at the door and lighted them in the 
great ^silver candelabra for Dmitri Nikolai- 
vitch. Perhaps I am a ritualist. How else 
explain the inexpressible comfort of remember- 
ing that little taper burning there among the 
shadows of the Old World cathedral? 

And then we went away to break our fast 
on pasha, a sweet, delicious cheese, kuleetch, 
hard-boiled eggs and ham, and strange recher- 
che delicacies. The Novinskys were enter- 
taining a brilliant supper-party, the men in 
uniform and the women in evening dress, the 
whole animated and Russian. 

When we passed home the angels on the 
cathedrals had extinguished their torches and 
the streets were hollow and dark. But the 
archangels themselves could never dim for me 
the wonderful memory. I sat meditating 
long on brotherly love and the many things 
that Russia has laid deep in my spirit. 

The days are lengthening up here in the 
North at the top of the world; the light grows 
warmer and longer. Children are beginning 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

to shout at play in the sunny courtyards and 
the boy who skates over our floors to polish 
them came to-day in a Cossack blouse with- 
out a shuba. My pastel streets look as if they 
had been dropped into the Mississippi or the 
Yangtse, all the evanescent grays and whites 
vanished in a night. Alas and alack! for the 
fleetingness of beauty! Alas and alack! for 
the fleetingness of life, too! No message out 
of the emptiness, and Natalya Nikolaievna 
lives in an abstraction from which it is dif- 
ficult to withdraw her. 

I sometimes wonder why the fates wove 
Dmitri Nikolaievitch into the pattern of my 
days. There is in me that utterly-vanished- 
from-the-earth sense, such as hangs over the 
great Mongolian plain. 

For me the first breath of spring, that pecu- 
liar smell of black earth, which Turgenev sings 
so triumphantly, has brought a sadness that 
I never felt in the crispy winter days at 
least not at all in the sparkling winter nights. 
Now I feel Russia not ancient, but old, melan- 
choly. Nowhere in the world does the pulse 
beat so high or the tides of life ebb so low as 
here; nowhere an equal abandon, nowhere 
that deadliest ennui, skuchno. As I wander 

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A MENTAL BREAD-LINE 

aimlessly under the gnarled lime-trees along 
the canals, in front of the yellow stucco houses 
that have lined these canals for two hun- 
dred years aristocratic old houses, some of 
them, softly Italian in coloring, but staring 
pathetically in their dotage and haunted by 
centuries of ghosts all life seems inexplicably 
suffused with pathos. I have lost all the 
major notes and I hear only the minors. It 
is the reverse of the shield, this mild melan- 
choly the sad twin of Slavic abandon. 

In the Neva alone I feel joy and adventure. 
It is still frozen, but every day I can feel it 
tugging at its bonds. Some day, they tell 
me, the ice will break with a crash and a boom 
and the river will rush away to her lover, the 
sea, leaving a wake of open waters, while the 
banks line themselves with humanity to cheer 
her en voyage. There is a chord in these morbid 
giants that responds to this torrential power. 
I remember old Gordyeev in Gorky's novel, 
watching the ice crush his steamers on the 
Volga and roaring with a sort of Titanic delight : 

Give it to her now again squeeze crush! 
Come once more now r-r-rui! See how the Volga is 
working! It's robust hey? Mother Volga can rend 
the whole world apart as one cuts curds with a knife! 
14 iQi 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

As I lean over the Troitski bridge I can see 
far down the river the black hulks of boats 
that checker the white spaces of the Neva, 
feeling the stir of life like great birds eager to 
lift their wings and put out to the open sea. 

I must go down to the seas again, for 

The call of the running tide 
Is a wild call and a clear call that 

May not be denied; 

I must go down to the seas again, to 

The vagrant gipsy life, 
To the gull's way and the whale's way,. where 

The wind's like a whetted knife. 

I have said farewell to Olga Stepanovna 
and Agasha Feodorovna, to Dasha and Sasha 
and Dolly, and brought the script and bowl 
of my soul to the Volga. The Novinskys I 
shall see again at their summer place in Tver. 
Perhaps it was the boats in the Neva, per- 
haps it was "time to make a pilgrimage," 
perhaps it was who knows? There was a 
softness of spring in the air in Petrograd and 
the promise of open canals, but I beat my 
wings against the bars for open spaces. With- 
out my exquisite ambassador I had lost the 
key to Russia in Petrograd; perhaps I shall 
find it here again with brawny, wide-skied 
Mother Volga. 

192 



XV 

MOTHER VOLGA 

TO make the whole journey on this ancient 
Russian whale path, still the highway of 
romance through the plain, one should float 
from Rybnisk far to the south, to Astrakhan, 
where the faces that line the sun-baked earth 
broaden into the Tartar, and the river, spread- 
ing over the pale sand, merges with the sea. 
Below Nizhni and Kazan, however, the Rus- 
sians tell me there is but a variety of monot- 
onies. These are the names with which to 
conjure, these of the middle Volga, and the 
sound is like their own cathedral bells 
Yaroslov, Kostroma, Nizhni Novgorod, Kazan. 
This is Holy Russia, black-earth Russia; the 
Russia that Turgenev and Tolstoi and Tche- 
kov and Pushkin and Lermontov and Gogol 
loved. "Nizhni Novgorod, Kostroma, the 
Volga! Ah, there is the heart of Russia!" 
your Slav will murmur, looking beyond you 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

with a mystical smile. Red-shirted giants 
were loading black barges this morning when 
I left Rybinsk. I am bound for Nizhni 
Novgorod, but I should be content to drift 
south with the rafts to Astrakhan, dolce far 
niente. 

Agasha has so filled my imagination with 
epic tales of the whale path that it is a painful 
anachronism to take other than a sail in the 
silver wake of the heroes ! But a steamer it is 
there are few sails on the Volga and that 
not differing greatly from a Mississippi boat 
other than by an adventurous run of bizarre 
and delicious food. I curl up in the bow, con- 
tent to watch the broad, pale stream moving 
majestically out to sea. The human element 
is picturesque enough ; not the first deck that 
is as sparsely inhabited as the shores we pass 
but the steerage, which shows fine patriarchal 
beards blowing in the winds, caftaned backs 
and crude faces, half mechant, half submissive. 
Great Russians stolidly view the mystery of 
this northland; gay Little Russians coquette, 
the memory of sunny hills and vineyards in 
their faces; there are two Kalmyks "infra- 
human in their ugliness," a group of Tartars 
in fur caps and khalatis, each carrying a strip 

194 



MOTHER VOLGA 

for prayers and furnishing an animated half- 
hour at sunset. An agitated business, being a 
Mohammedan on so winding a stream as 
the Volga! The only really outstanding fea- 
ture is the smell of disinfectants, the after- 
math of the typhus which a few weeks ago 
scourged the river with a fierceness that should 
suggest to a cautious traveler the wisdom of 
weighing the Volga against a trip with Charon! 
The gulls sweep and flash about the steamer, 
the silver path beckons mysteriously on; in 
the west the sun is shining. It is a scene from 
a shield ! And then one by one the gulls drop 
back, white flecks in the blue; the barges and 
the red-shirted giants fade in the perspective. 
A day of steppe and the feel of Siberia is sub- 
merging me. Monotony but is not monot- 
ony the test of one's response, not only to this 
river of the steppe, but to Russia? In the 
Russian plain there lies a beauty of great 
spaces, but little of dramatic quality, neither 
that of Mongolia rushing swiftly to the north 
nor Siberia, epic in its waste. When the world 
was young, one might have looked to the 
horizon for mysterious figures of horsemen 
fleetly appearing and disappearing, but these 
swift horsemen lie now with Kublai Khan. 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

The Russian plain is the level of life itself, 
that level portrayed by Tchekov in the Three 
Sisters and sung in every mourning peasant 
cadence, without plan, prologue, epilogue, or 
climax to the Anglo-Saxon, with little zest 
for the inner adventure, the cruelest enigma in 
life. 

This is not to record that the fabric of the 
plain is wholly without design, but the design 
is repeated end on end, like the chorus of a 
peasant melody. Pines point a sky wide and 
compassionate, or little maiden birches 
courtesy in the breeze. A peasant plows the 
black earth, his caftan streaming behind him 
like the beard of a prophet, Riepin's Tolstoi. 
A turn in the highway, the green roofs and 
golden domes of a monastery thrust their 
aerial arabesque above the dark band of the 
trees. The Volga is essentially Holy Russia 
and these quaint symbols frequently repeated 
become the Volga motif. Like Tibetan lamas- 
series, they shelter hundreds of monks. We 
have pilgrim seekers of their shrines on our 
boat ragged anchoritish figures, feet bound 
in lapti, staff in hand; less picturesque than 
the Chinese pilgrims in yellow brightening 
the approaches to the Buddhistic shrines, but 

196 



MOTHER VOLGA 

gray, with the charm of things of eld. They 
have heard of a holy man to the north and 
they have come from beyond the Caspian to 
seek him. And thus is perpetuated the mys- 
tic Slavic quest for God! 

I have been exploring the lower deck and 
making friends among the fish-casks. In the 
gloom of the sleeping shelves it is difficult to 
differentiate between bundled goods and bun- 
dled babas in felt boots and rags, but in the 
sunshine of the decks the springs of life bubble 
up not yet dry, and wrinkled faces peer up, 
canny but friendly, from the layers of shawls. 
It is night that evokes the Slavonic soul. 
When dusk has drawn her gray curtains and 
lighted the low-hanging stars on the plain, 
mystery burns up from the Russian like in- 
cense. The peasant girls who stand about in 
the day, arms intertwined, dance as Russians 
dance, with head, shoulders, eyes, trailing 
their kerchiefs, striking the decks with their 
hands, stamping with bare feet. Coquetry 
never learned under a roof, a primitive gambol 
far removed from the artificial elegancies of 
the ballet, and yet, root and branch, Russian 
dancing. Last night an old crone, who 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

squatted at the side, threw off her ragged 
shawls, a Salome unveiling, and cleared the 
floor. A worthless generation of dancers! 
She herself showed me the polka, flinging her 
gaunt arms, stamping her heavy boots, tossing 
her toothless head. Zest? How I longed to 
confound the General with her! It is only 
when I depart, however, and leave them to 
the bundles and fish-casks, that they pour 
out their whole hearts in brooding songs 
songs sometimes answered from the rafts. 
An abandon of grief that delights a Slav! 

Sometimes I make my way up the broad, 
cobbled streets to the dusky monastery in- 
teriors. The Russian service is hauntingly 
beautiful. I could return again and again to 
its strange hieratic splendor with a sense of 
something far deeper than liturgical satisfac- 
tion if it were not for other memories! But 
those other memories of Russian priests! 
Within a side-chapel a group of pilgrims are 
touching their foreheads to the floor and weep- 
ing in an ecstasy of adoration before the 
Mother of God. I stand silent, a trifle awed. 
But the priest is victim of no such sentimen- 
tality; the adoration of peasants is a too 
familiar phenomenon. Authoritatively he en- 

198 



MOTHER VOLGA 

ters in his heavy black garments and evicts 
the weeping but unprotesting body en masse 
from the sanctuary; and then turning gra- 
ciously, he invites a heterodox Amerikanka to 
rest her eyes on the bones of the saints 
worldly eyes, far more concerned with the 
wondrousness of wrought-silver casket than 
had been the peasants who now weep outside. 
Sometimes I reach only the monastery gates 
under the silvery birches, where holy men sit 
as inevitably as crows perch on the golden 
crosses above. I usually lighten my purse, 
but the Russian beggar shares the languor 
of his race and, competing with an Italian or 
Chinese, would bear an empty bowl. 

I am the only foreigner on the boat. Yes- 
terday I discovered my social status and it 
is not a matter to boast of! The discovery 
came through a country landowner and his 
wife. The barin is a melancholy-faced giant 
dressed in tall black boots, bloomers of gray 
alpaca, a smock, also of gray alpaca, which 
breaks into a full skirt at the back, giving him 
an appearance of a* sulky but unrepentant 
child. With the barina nature had been de- 
cidedly slack; Tartar in type, but hastily done 

199 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

with broad strokes and illy defined as to line 
and color. She wears a white blouse the 
buttons of which gaily shirk their duty at the 
back. Food comes and goes with them like 
ammunition for a machine-gun: soup soly- 
anka, ryabtchiks, caviare, mushrooms. And 
still they eat stolidly, imperturbably, occa- 
sionally eying me with the perplexed sorrow 
of the Slav. Yesterday, suddenly, with a 
tingling shock, it came to me they had mis- 
taken me for a German ! After a hasty recon- 
naissance I made a friendly onslaught upon 
the steward in Russian. The landowners 
pushed back their chairs. They left their 
mushrooms. Proshchaiete! A thousand par- 
dons and a glass of kvass! And would I do 
them the imperishable honor to visit them on 
their estate in Tambov? An anarchistic 
young man who had eyed me violently begged 
a passionate pardon, and a waiter wiped his 
eyes contritely in a corner. The sensitive 
heart of Russia! 

Now that the barina and I have exchanged 
civilities we sometimes explore the booths 
together. Unpicturesque as she is on the 
steamer patterned after Mother Volga her- 
self, subject for Bogdanov-Belsky or Zorn 

200 



MOTHER VOLGA 

she is not unpleasing against the background 
of the bazars. Yesterday was a purely secu- 
lar day; no monasteries, but we found a 
turquoise-studded belt of ancient workman- 
ship and a beaten-silver bowl, set with the 
coin of Catherine the Great. Troikas seldom 
come into the squares, the war having taken 
toll of the smart third horse that gallops at 
the side. The peasant of the river town, 
where the echoes of the world are heard, has 
laid aside his beautiful peasant embroideries, 
too, and wears products of the loom that 
justify a protest against the commercializa- 
tion of Russia. And yet the scene may not 
be mistaken for other than Slavic lounging 
haphazard figures with smoldering or dazed 
or dreamy eyes all moving over broad flags 
under wide arcades so like an opera chorus, 
that I am only amazed that the director 
does not order my Anglo-Saxon figure off 
stage! 

It was in the great square of Yurievets yes- 
terday that one of those tragic fragments of 
life, sometimes cast up like driftwood, was 
flung at my feet. Why the memory should 
persist I know no reason except, perhaps, a 
sensitized moment of insight into reality or 

2OI 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

that strange chance that fixes forever a face 
seen in the parting of a crowd. A Cossack's 
leave-taking it was, a million times repeated 
this spring. That was all. But it was more 
symbol of woman's ancient and inarticulate 
grief. The soldier himself, a mighty-bodied 
young fellow, was visibly moved; he openly 
wiped his eyes on his coarse brown sleeve, 
while under both arms he clutched absurdly 
at two enormous loaves of black bread; a 
child in the mother's arms fluttered small, in- 
effectual hands in the direction of the steamer. 
But the silence of that Tartar-cheeked woman 
of the North! She wept neither "ai, ai" nor 
"oi, oi" \ neither touched her man in farewell 
nor seemed to know any of those small caresses 
by which we seek to mitigate our grief. The 
sullen monotony of the North had laid its 
finger on her; only her eyes showed her ter- 
ror, following her mate with the unreasoning 
grief of the jungle-sprung. As the steamer 
moved slowly out into the gray dusk of the 
evening I fancied I could see her face strain- 
ing through the mists like an archaic mask 
of despair. 

These sturdy, patient women unconscious 
vessels of that black-earth force which is 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

Russia! The steamer calls at only the larger 
towns, but we often pass the villages edging 
out of the forest or lodged between the folds 
of green, wide-streeted, wide-timbered, sprung 
from the earth like mushrooms or lichens. In 
the fields women are plowing, uncouth figures 
from whose broad loins have emerged those 
multitudinous armies which swarm myriad- 
wise across the plain. And still they bring 
them forth. Men and bread! Bread and 
men! It is well that mother earth teaches 
patience. 

The river is an endless rosary, strung with 
days as alike as the white towns and all laden 
with a sense of life, sluggish and primal. The 
scent of pines, of new-mown hay, of drying 
nets, and the fragrance of lilacs. Brawny 
sailors in red and blue shirts shout and splash 
one another with water as they scrub the 
decks; grain-steamers whistle; hammers sound 
from barges building along the shore; anchor 
chains rattle as we drop into the wharf where 
fishermen are unloading their shining catch. 
A robust river life, not unfamiliar in essentials, 
but transposed into strange keys and staged 
on a magnificent scale. Near Astrakhan the 

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river teems with life as at Canton, but here 
all is of the sky and the plain. 

The rafts are the most Russian craft we 
meet, piles of yellow logs as delicious-looking 
as taffy, bound together with withy young 
saplings, each raft bearing its tiny hut for 
the families who make the journey with the 
rafts, weeks and even months en voyage to the 
sea; people with rollicking figures balancing 
themselves with long poles and laughing and 
shouting unintelligible cries to us as the 
steamer surge threatens their footholds. The 
trackers we never see, burlaki, muscles knot- 
ting in their hairy throats, thews straining 
like the haunches of horses against the dead 
weight of the barges, men of herculean strength 
as Ryepin has painted them leashed to the 
river under the lash of the burlaki driver. They 
have passed with the passing of the sails on 
the Volga; only occasionally a boat must be 
towed up-river. But the other figures on 
the rafts, in the fishing-boats, driving along 
the edge of the forest are their brothers. 
One hundred and eighty million of these faces 
crude and filmed with ignorance, freshly 
emerged from the black mold! Can these be 
the units of a republic? Again that varie- 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

gated tide streaming westward in Siberia en- 
gulfs me. "Russia needs something of a 
strong hand but there is a chance for free- 
dom, too." 

Kostroma at sunset an ancient Stamboul, 
lying high above the river! Russia by day, 
but by night Haroun-al-Raschid's own city. 
With the passing of day all the cities along 
the Volga become less Russian and more 
Oriental, darkness eliminating the detail and 
leaving them to cut the sky like giant card- 
board silhouettes. It is past sunset when we 
sight the domes and minarets of Kostroma, 
but a tent of orange and purple hangs in the 
sky. Below the great ramparts the river 
flows, a nocturnal mystery. On our mon- 
strous steamer pushes, past caravans of barges 
and lighted steamers, under an arched and 
jeweled bridge, which casts its reflection on the 
tugs and sets myriad-million balloons of light 
afloat on the murky water below. The anchor 
chains rattle, the bearded saints shout and 
bawl; but I am little conscious of the flare of 
light and of noise in the ship only of the 
cascade of minarets above us, a giant-starred 
citadel, climbing up, up into the sky! What 

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Oriental whimsicalities of outline lying there 
above the mighty river! It is to wish not for 
the artists who line the salons with harsh 
wintry sketches, but for Vereschagin, with the 
magic caught in Japanese temple interiors and 
the courts of Indian rajahs, to paint night in 
this Oriental Russia. 

Our mission at Kostroma, however, is not 
Oriental, but purely Russian. We are landing 
one of the great bells for which the city is 
famous. From the pier, under the streaming 
torches, a hushed medley of faces gazes up at 
us reverently. We might, indeed, be the 
Lohengrin ship. There are a few caftaned 
passengers to depart with their bundled goods, 
and then a gangway is cleared across the pier 
and through the cavernous shadows of the 
warehouse. Around the bell are cast cables, 
slipping far down on its sides bronze under the 
torches, and around its graven base. And 
then forty men, twenty on a side, throw 
themselves at the ropes with rhythmical cries 
and a sort of religious ecstasy. Perhaps it is 
an act of devotion to land so monstrous a bell ! 
And, trampling and straining, they chant a 
broken rhythm that catches at one's pulses, 
and draw the bell from the deck and across the 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

landing, their voices returning faintly from the 
warehouse like the voices of a retreating opera 
chorus. There is a vigorous harmony in its 
concerted human effort, like that of the 
rhythmically reaching arms and backs of "The 
Gleaners." The apotheosis of labor! And 
for a moment I caught the vision of Russia 
united in a mighty brotherhood. 

For all the robust daylight life, the memory 
of night on the Volga lingers most Russian 
and ineffaceable. There is none of the re- 
hearsed picturesqueness of the Nile, dayabeahs 
clustering like giant butterflies nor lateen sails 
hastening down the dusky river, but night 
unique, to be remembered when more theatri- 
cal memories have passed. Sunset is splendid, 
the sky hung with shifting tints as if all the 
bazars of the East were tenting there. Nor 
does the glory leap up for a moment and then 
pale into a fleeting and evanescent aftermath, 
as on the Nile, but deepens and darkles 
steadily, magnificently, into the velvety black- 
ness of night. The shore merges with the 
plain and the whole takes on the immensity of 
the sea. The water, thick, black, and buoy- 
ant, reflects the stars like fringed daisies. 
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The sky is withdrawn to greater depth, and 
across sky and river and steppe is written a 
new and poignant mystery. A steamer swings 
out from a bend in the river like "a lighted 
basilica" and blazes its way down the trail, its 
funnels staring back like eyes from the dark- 
ness; barges emerge, slow-sailed and ponder- 
ous, their bulky shapes blocked heavily against 
the curtain of night, spars rocking softly under 
the starlit heavens a silent nocturnal pag- 
eant. There are other shapes imminent there 
in the darkness gray forms, dim and indis- 
tinct, barely discernible among the uncouth 
shadows of the river rafts floating, drifting 
there in the unknown, riding the swell of the 
steamer, jostling one another in the eddying 
current infinitesimal points of life pitted 
against the menace of night and the river. It 
is not difficult to project oneself there, to see 
the mists from the steppe inclosing them like 
walls reaching to the sky, and eyes that 
"slumber not nor sleep" peering through the 
fog the fog soundless except for the lapping of 
the water. Muscles are taut to pole the un- 
wieldy masses from the jutting banks or to 
turn them from sudden death in the path of the 
towering steamers. From across the water, 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

at the edge of the rafts, tiny brushwood fires 
are twinkling like autumn fires, calling to us 
that there are brothers there in the void. 
Sometimes sounds of a carousal float on the 
night wind, a debauch of hairy giants rebel- 
ling against the level of life and the steppe. 
Again silence. A single voice threads out of 
the darkness, wails out a despairing lament to 
the stars, and sinks back into the void. Si- 
lence! I know of nothing by which the sense 
of the whole submerged and despairing life of 
Russia so passes into the soul as by these 
cries from the heart of the river. 

Nizhni Novgorod. Even here in the Near 
East the name bears an aromatic flavor. A 
Slavic Scheherazade, teasing away time for an 
ennuied knyaz, must have told him tales of 
this city whose gates so often heard the 
battering-rams of the rival khans of Kazan, 
and I dare say the potentate was vastly en- 
tertained. The great fair does not open until 
August, but even now there is an odor and 
feel, an inexplicable suggestion of the bazars. 
The streets lie in the morning sunshine like a 
huge deserted stage, ready to quicken into 
life. Whimsical golden domes, fantastic open 
booths, official white houses square and bare 

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as bird-cages, twisted and curling spires of 
milk-white, apple-green, and sky-blue a gro- 
tesquerie of color, a motley of East and 
West such as one sees nowhere outside of 
Russia. For ten months Nizhni is a desert 
city; for two, a European capital. A month 
more, the wide-girthed hotel-keeper tells me, 
and preparations will begin. Beggars will be 
evicted from their winter quarters; booths 
and awnings will spring up overnight like 
yagodi; by every train wares will pour in from 
Moscow and Petrograd, Paris and Vienna. 
Barges will anchor at the wharves, laden with 
wood, tallow, and skins, while from the East 
will loom the caravans bearing apricots and 
oils, skins, furs, and wools; hircine Kirghiz, 
Kalmuks, Georgians, turbaned Persians all 
to barter in the tongues of Babel. 

The boat, being Russian, deposited us on 
the wrong shore of the river, but, approaching 
the ferry, I could see banks rising dark and ram- 
partwise, and crowned with gleaming apoca- 
lyptic domes and spires. Below on the plain 
the Volga stretched, a gigantic blue " Y," the 
two prongs pointing to the Arctic Sea, and the 
main river leading sluggishly southward to the 
Caspian. With this sight of the Volga, 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

Turgenev's tribute to the Russian language 
ran through my memory: "Oh, thou great, 
mighty, powerful and free !" A fit apos- 
trophe, too, for this great Russian river. Both 
sides of the river below the crotch of the Y 
were stippled with golden spires and domes 
and the west bank was dotted with river 
craft, hulking black barges, mammoth white 
lumber-steamers, and strings of yellow rafts, 
not a fleet shape among them, but all broad 
and robust, like Mother Volga herself. 

The ferry was almost equally divided be- 
tween mujiks and little brown calves, the latter 
not less quiet than the peasants who stood 
bareheaded in the morning sun, silently cross- 
ing themselves with the broad Russian cross. 

It is a mid-Russian morning, somnolent and 
blue; the Volga, deep-breasted, mirrors a sky 
not luminous as the Japanese heavens nor 
inscrutable as the intense blue of Egypt, but 
near, kind, and compassionate. Whether it is 
the tranquillity of the morning or the peasants 
crossing themselves, I do not know; I feel 
myself laved and sunk in peace. A person- 
ality, many personalities before this one, 
steals back from the past. I seem to feel 
white curtains blow across me, I wander in a 

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garden. The wind is in the trees. And then 
with a flash it all comes to me. Those spires 
and domes are the heaven of my childhood! 
I see it all again, the castellated walls and 
pinnacles and the golden streets and the jew- 
eled gates. An aunt in my childhood always 
wore on her forefinger an oblong amethyst 
stone basis of my early anticipation in the 
joys of Paradise. There among the dark 
trees must be flashing the amethyst gate, and 
the jasper and the chrysoprase and the "sar- 
dine stone" whatever that was! And I 
think it must have had something of this 
meaning to the muzhiks. 

Since it is not yet time for the train, I have 
strolled up to the terrace above the river to 
drink tea amber tea which halves every 
grief and doubles every joy in Russia! Below 
me walls of a thousand years keep guard 
toward Asia. And here it is, on this free 
sweep of terrace hanging above the crumbling 
walls, with the wind blowing from the eastern 
steppe, that the most powerful impression of 
the Volga is laid deep in my consciousness. 
On all sides the plain spreads toward the 
horizon with the continuity of the sea, a wild, 
illimitable level. But it is the river that holds 

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MOTHER VOLGA 

me fascinated. One of the lumber-steamers 
anchored above the caravan pushes off with 
rings of smoke and swings out into the river 
past the thick-bodied, flat-bottomed boats, 
the waves foaming white with the paddles; 
the main current is laden with a caravan of 
river rafts which the water bears as cockle- 
shells. It could crush them, too, as cockles. 
It pours itself along now a molten, deceptive 
blue, but I remember that at the spring thaw 
warnings must be flashed ahead to dwellers 
on even the tributary banks that the river has 
broken bounds, is splintering the black hulks 
frozen in its surface, and crashing its thunder- 
ous gray-grained way to the sea. I know that 
old Ignaat Gordyeev spoke true, old Ignaat 
watching his handsome new grain-steamers 
crushed against the banks. "Mother Volga 
can rend the whole world apart as one cuts 
curds with a knife." And so it can, "as one 
cuts curds with a knife," and pass on, vast, un- 
hurrying, uncaring, a huge force "not having 
as yet created for itself clear aims and de- 
sires"; like Russia, unconscious, inconquer- 
able; a ruthless protean power as yet escaped 
the subduing which has come to man through 
toil and anguish, this vast old whale path! 

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PART III 



XVI 

3 9' 
BEHIND M. NOVINSKY'S EYES 

A WHITE barrage moves across Moscow, 
1\ but, in spite of the phantom bombard- 
ment, I have been sitting on the Kremlin wall, 
watching the city like a dim old enamel below. 
I understand now the glow in M. Novinsky's 
face. This is the Russia that lay back of his 
eyes, this quaint tapestry woven and dyed 
with centuries of Russian dreams and prayers, 
this splendid old Bagdad. This and the 
Volga! Dmitri Nikolaivitch's Russia and 
mine. The manager of the hotel has given 
me a room overlooking a court where pigeons 
are fluttering and feeding in the sunshine as 
if at St. Mark's. I sit for hours, a balconied 
princess looking beyond to roofs patterned 
like a caliph's dream. It is not sad to be 
alone here. Strangely enough, I feel com- 
panioned. It is the illusion of place. I must 
meet M. Novinsky here, it seems to me, in 

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these devious old streets, this ancient brocade, 
overlaid with medievalism, mellow with all the 
accumulated richness of the Slavic race. 

Moscow it is the flower of Russia ! Petro- 
grad is a bureaucrat's town, transplanted and 
artificial, but Moscow is the sum of the natural 
processes of centuries of a race-soul. One 
need not be told ; it is in the churches and the 
streets, in the aura of the people. Here are 
still the houses of the boyars. Here rose the 
stronghold of consolidated Muscovite power; 
here in the sacred Uspe-nsky cathedral the 
Czars are christened, wed, and crowned. 
Above the city reigns the Kremlin, not the 
Kremlin of the Middle Ages, but a phoenix 
rising each century resplendent from its ashes, 
more sheerly dominating the city than any 
other city in the world is dominated, than 
Peking by the Great Gates or Rome by St. 
Peter's. 

Of course I can never comprehend Moscow ; 
without Dmitri Nikolaievitch I am bewildered. 
No Westerner, born and bred to miles of gray 
stones, could be other than astonished and 
subdued at the sight of the Kremlin, a con- 
gress of starry palaces and cathedrals, rising 
mystical and barbaric above the pink em- 

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BEHIND M. NOVINSKY'S EYES 

battled walls with which the Tartars encom- 
passed their city; "the two extremes of Asia 
joined together and enshrined in the heart of 
Slavism the marauding spirit of the Mongol 
conquerors mixed with the sensuality of By- 
zantine Orientalism the God of Battles and 
the God of Prayer explained as one and the 
same conception of God, worshiped on a half- 
overturned altar of Moloch." 

It is for me a never fully explored dream, the 
Kremlin. Perhaps it is the marauding Mon- 
gol in me that turns my steps thither, stopping 
sometimes at the shrine of the Iberian Virgin, 
a street chapel so sacred that even the Czar 
must pray there before he enters the Kremlin, 
through the red Spasskaya gate where every 
man from izvostchik to Emperor must remove 
his hat in order to be prepared for the glories 
within; past the "Czar Poushka," the king 
of cannon captured from Napoleon's broken 
army; and leads my way among palaces and 
cathedrals into the dimmest and richest of 
recessed interiors. 

The spacing is not magnificent as it is at 
St. Isaac's; the cathedrals are all built on a 
closer scale, like the boyars' houses, but so 
rich in jeweled mosaics that for a moment one 

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fancies the Peacock Throne of the Great 
Moguls translated into a room. The gorgeous 
beauty hangs about one like incense, the spirit 
of Slavic adoration made tangible, exultation 
made manifest. I am all alone here except 
for peasant women, but I am never without 
the sense of the shadowy hosts. There hang 
the banners of Pultova and Plevna, and by 
the altar is the sacred ikon that went before 
the armies of Kulikovo. Here is a scimitar 
of Suleiman the Magnificent, and the floor is 
a jasper gift from the Shah of Persia. This 
candelabrum of solid silver, from the Russian 
soldiers themselves, commemorates Napo- 
leon's broken army; and in that ikon is an 
emerald that might flank the Kohinoor. To 
pray in this niche is to shudder, for here Ivan 
the Terrible used to hear Mass ; there lies his 
body at rest freed at last from its murderous 
rages. Under a silken canopy sleeps Boris 
Godunov and the little prince he slew. The 
peasant women kiss the mask of the mur- 
dered malenki, the little one. It was in 
Uspensky, most sacred of cathedrals, that 
Napoleon stabled his horses, and sometimes 
in the silence of the praying peasant women I 
fancy I can hear the drums fore and aft. 

220 



BEHIND M. NOVINSKY'S EYES 

Sometimes I climb to the aery of "Kolokol, 
the Big Bell," and there from the Ivan Bell- 
tower, hung and strung with bells, I can look 
far down the river and across to the old green 
monastery roofs. There is a beautiful paint- 
ing in one of the Petrograd galleries of the 
Russian bell-ringers in the towers and I have 
promised myself to haunt Kolokol until some 
saint's day sees him rung, the picturesque 
ringers pulling mightily at the ropes! 

There in the upper air, too, I feel nearer 
the abyss out there. 

The Russia that I hear in Rachmaninoff, 
in Rimsky-Korsakov, in Tchaikowsky, is here 
the Russia that I see in the ballet, that I 
felt most powerfully on the Volga, that I 
sensed but never found in the capital, that I 
am aware of deep in M. Novinsky. A nation 
growing widely, thrusting its roots deep, living 
with a deep unawareness; a nation for whom 
life is "not performance, but adventure"; a 
nation too great to be labeled and catalogued, 
colossal enough to topple over and crush any 
system, menacing but fascinating; a nation 
exploding so powerfully from within that its 
destiny can neither be predicted nor deter- 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

mined by any man nor any group of men, 
evolving strange symmetries and casting up 
from its depth its own new orders and new 
laws which form only to break and form 
again. Is it only the pagan in me that 
shrinks from having Russia learn the super- 
ficial advancedness, the sophisticated tech- 
nique, the thin knowingness of the West? 
Is it only the barbarian that hopes out of this 
unordered portentousness, these bizarre sym- 
metries, to catch new meanings, new elan of 
life, new mystic sources of power? 

M. Novinsky is the cosmopolitan, more 
neatly finished than anything purely Russian, 
but for all his polished perfection and mon- 
daine quality it is the Russia of his back- 
ground, and I think his charm is this same 
immense naturalness. I remember seeing the 
passion for it in his eyes once when we were 
watching the Tartar scene in "Kitish," and 
his expression as he exclaimed, "God forbid 
that that scene should ever sober down!" 
There is a nostalgia perhaps in each of us for 
the earth as it was in the beginning. 

This to me, a cellular sensitiveness of life, 
must be always the miracle of Russia. Not 
happiness no, it is not happiness, for happi- 

222 



BEHIND M. NOVINSKY'S EYES 

ness is built on peace, but something more 
turbulent, more poignant, but more profound. 
However crusted over by institutions and 
tradition, life here is a stream swiftly chang- 
ing, complex; organic rather than inorganic; 
cells dividing from within, newly combining; 
ceaseless processes of mental and spiritual par- 
turition. However ringed about by the steel 
ring of bureaucracy, Russia has never died at 
the heart; she grows from within as sturdily 
as a young bamboo. 

As I sit on the Kremlin wall, gazing down 
on the city below, I ponder many things. 
America is like a design leading out from the 
center and leaving one restless and dissatis- 
fied. But Russia, thrown constantly back 
upon herself, has built up a soul to pit against 
the world. Is not this the reason why, a 
hundred years after she had a literary lan- 
guage, she produced the one notable literature 
of this century? A tongue newly articulate, 
but a life old in wisdom. The West has laid 
ingenious hands upon the trappings, the sub- 
stitutes and imitations, all the anodynes of 
life, but I cannot but feel that Russia has the 
quivering reality. 

16 



XVII 

AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 

DAY after day the gods are pouring sun- 
shine steadily down on this old citadel of 
the North, picking out the colors like the stones 
in a Florentine mosaic. What a wonderful old 
city for happiness! I feel a powerful rhythm 
in this old city, not yet disrupted by the war, 
although I have lost my own beat and I sit 
in the sunshine, waiting, waiting for Some- 
thing that never happens, for Somebody who 
never comes. Can it be that all that subtle 
sense of significance, all that responsiveness, 
all that remembered tenderness, have perished 
out there in the dark? "It is the common 
fate." But even to have been his friend for 
a day is to feel life mellow, full of nuance, 
overhung with a soft wonder. 

Moscow does what she may to warm the 
cockles of the heart. She might be Italian 
were she not so Russian; and I did discover a 

224 



AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 

bit of Venice yesterday, an old woman feeding 
pigeons in the piazza, of the cathedral near 
the Spasskaya gate, a pleasant bit of grotes- 
querie against the apple-green, milk-white, 
sky-blue spires of the cathedral which soared 
to the heavens in strange flutings and con- 
volutions. I longed to hear her tell tales of 
the Tartar Khans of Kazan, as Sasha told 
me tales of little devils sitting on a rooftree 
and the sprites that filled their pitchers at 
the spring. I would be troubadour for a 
day, for only a troubadour could faintly 
express the fragrance of this "many-towered 
Camelot." 

After all, personality is the great adventure, 
and I have come upon a rare one in Madame 
Novinska's greatest friend in Moscow, Ma- 
dame Berentskaya. Moscow w Russian tra- 
dition. Many noble houses here are more 
ancient than the reigning house of Romanoff, 
and Madame Berentskaya has opened the door 
of some of these houses before which one 
might sit a lifetime in vain, doors through 
which I have caught glimpses of old Russian 
life, as one sometimes glimpses courts and 
flowers and moon-doors through the great 
gates of the East. No longer magnificent in 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

estate, Madame Berentskaya, but none the less 
the unmistakable patrician of intelligence and 
heart, with an atmosphere much the same as 
that of Madame Novinska. The fine fiber 
was always there, I am certain, but perhaps 
her association with Tolstoi has left its stamp 
of moral earnestness. Many guests have 
come and gone at Yasnaya Polyana, but few 
have stood so near the prophet as Madame 
Berentskaya, a co-worker in the famine re- 
lief of 1905 and a translator of Tolstoi's works. 
Her reminiscences of those famous after- 
dinner moonlit causeries, when the master 
himself set the key for discussion, should be 
chapters in Russian literature. 

Being of a scribe's tendency myself, I find 
as inexhaustible interest in the habits of the 
writing genus homo as Fabre found in his bee 
world. Tolstoi's daily life at Yasnaya Polyana 
Madame Berentskaya has often discussed with 
me. His habit was to have tea alone in his 
study and to work through the morning; to 
lunch with his family and guests, and to ride 
or walk through the estate in the afternoon, 
alone or with a companion of his choosing; 
to dine again at night at the long family 
table. It was he who usually started the 

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AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 

brilliant talk after dinner which pointed up 
the thought of the day. 

"And by what standard shall we judge the 
artist?" began the gaunt figure, pacing up 
and down under the trees, one white night at 
Yasnaya Polyana. 

"By three things, I say: by invention, by 
sincerity, by form." 

"And what would you say of Russian 
writers measured by these standards?" ven- 
tured somebody among the respectful group 
who listened in the shadows. 

"Gogol first in every respect," he answered, 
after a pause. "Dostoevski, no. Invention, 
marvelous; sincerity, undoubted; form, none." 

"And Tolstoi, what of him?" 

"Tolstoi," mused the figure in the peasant's 
smock. ' ' Tolstoi invention, yes, to some de- 
gree; form, chaotic; sincerity, absolute!" 

Sincerity was, to Madame Berentskaya, 
Tolstoi's passion, and not the least part of his 
genius. 

When I voiced the world's question as to 
the reason for Tolstoi's flight just before his 
death from everything that was personally 
human and dear, Madame Berentskaya named 

Tolstoi's secretary. 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

"A man of inflexible purpose," she said, 
"the preservation of Tolstoi's spiritual legacy 
unspotted to the world. If Tolstoi would 
leave his ideal pure, resurgent, it was as 
necessary in the eyes of this man that he 
should die one of the despised and rejected 
as it had been that Christ should be crucified. 
It has been an ever-present question in my 
mind whether Leov, left alone in those feeble 
last days, would not have sought the sacra- 
ment of the Church. The two did stop at a 
monastery this secretary and he you re- 
member, but they went on. I have so often 
wondered what Leov would have done had he 
been alone. He died at the railway station 
soon after, with poor Countess Tolstoi begging 
outside for permission to say farewell. You 
remember her cry, 'The friend of a lifetime, 
and I am not even permitted to hear his last 
words.' Ah, milaya, there it is again the 
incompatibility of the actual and the ideal! 
It is to make one despair." 

"And is there no reconciliation?" I begged. 

Madame Berentskaya shook her head. "I 
do not know," she answered, sadly. 

The sincerity of Tolstoi I have often heard 
questioned in Russia. He is not in his own 

228 



AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 

land the mountain -peak as is Dostoevski, 
with his boundlessly suggestive philosophy, 
and knowing the Russian, I find it not dif- 
ficult to understand the reason. But to ques- 
tion his sincerity, it is inconceivable! 

Once, after he had been dangerously ill, 
Madame Berentskaya was invited to Yasnaya 
Polyana. Tolstoi was still in bed and weak. 

"And now, Leov, tell me," said Madame 
Berentskaya as she sat down by his bedside, 
"since you have been so near death, tell me 
what you think of the beyond." 

A strong emotion passed over Tolstoi's face 
and for some minutes he did not answer. 
And then turning his shaggy gaze upon her, 
he replied, "Elena Ivanovna, I assure you, so 
great is my sense of sin that if I believed that 
I must carry it with me beyond this life, I 
could not be responsible." And he fell back 
trembling. 

"Is it true, then," I begged of Madame 
Berentskaya, "that Tolstoi did not believe in 
the continuity of identity after death, in a 
personal immortality?" 

And again Madame Berentskaya answered 
sadly and slowly, "I do not know." 

Yesterday I came to Madame Berentskaya 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

looking a bit fagged. Turning me to the 
light, she scrutinized me closely. 

"You have been overworking again, golubt- 
chik," she warned. 

"Yes, madame," I smiled, hopelessly. "I 
am trying to paint a Russian man." 

"Ah, milaya," Madame Berentskaya shrug- 
ged her shoulders with a gesture of despair. 
"Who can paint a Russian man?" 

Last night I dined in an ancient house, built 
around a court, as is the Novinskys', a house 
in which one of the scenes from War and 
Peace is laid, and quite the same as in the 
old days when the brilliantly uniformed young 
officers swaggered through its high-ceilinged 
rooms at balls or enormous suppers, home 
from conquering Napoleon! 

It is all so strange. Am I really walking 
through War and Peace? The same names 
recur, the same figures with which Tolstoi's 
gigantic canvas is crowded. These men with 
whom I dine, they are Rostovs and Volkon- 
skys; I recognize them. I even know the 
bear-like Pierre BezukhofT. The Russians 
themselves say that it is a re-turning of the 
pages of history, even to the hesitations, de- 
lays, shifting of responsibility that character- 

230 



AN ADVENTURE IN PERSONALITY 

ized the Napoleonic campaigns the national 
characteristics endlessly repeated. Some- 
times when I have come from the Tolstoi 
Museum, where I have pored over photo- 
graphs of Yasnaya Polyana, of the shaggy 
peasant figure in the fields, on horseback, in 
his study, with wife, with daughter or guests, 
alone under the limes, gnarled, weighted with 
the sense of sin and moral responsibility, 
agonizingly isolated in his spiritual anguish, I 
feel that in a parting of the throng I must 
come upon the Terrible Seeker. One need 
never in Moscow be lonely for the dead. 

Often, too, on the street I feel that I must 
meet Tchekov, who loved Moscow tenderly. 
I have heard Madame Berentskaya reminisce 
of him, too, a whimsically sad, keen, but with- 
drawn man. And often I remember that 
great wind of which he speaks which is to 
clear Russian life. And it is here in Moscow, 
Tchekov's own city, where the hospitals are 
overflowing and every house has lost a son, 
that one feels Holy Mother Russia. 

No, one need not in Moscow feel lonely 
for the dead. Of late M. Novinsky has been 
inexplicably here, too. I go on the walks he 
would have chosen. I speak to him about the 

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pictures he loved. I can see his face lighting 
with his un-self -conscious smile, the move- 
ment of his narrow hands, his slight, compact 
figure. If there were mists here as in Petro- 
grad, I am certain he would emerge. Is it 
possible that he, too, has passed za gmnitza 
beyond the borders and returned to me here 
in Moscow, where the dead are known? 



XVIII 

NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

NATALYA NIKOLAIEVNA is in Mos- 
cow. I met her at the station this morn- 
ing, the same station where Vronsky first sees 
Anna alighting from the train. It was Tolstoi's 
scene repeated; the train rumbling in, shaking 
the station, the smart conductor and the het- 
erogeneous passengers. One of the slim, long- 
waisted officers talking near me might have 
been Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch, the 
luxurious figure with curling beard and the 
flower in his buttonhole. Sometimes I see 
Anna Karenina in Natalya Nikolaievna, the 
dark hair clustering about a semi-pellucid 
skin, and the sensitive red mouth, except that 
Natalya Nikolaievna is taller than Anna 
Karenina, with more the air of a reserved 
young princess. The resemblance was very 
striking to-day when she alighted from the 
train, less frail than usual and more vivacious. 

233 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

"Ah, Amerikanka," she cried, kissing me on 
both cheeks, her long gray eyes shining 
through her black lashes, "I bear good tid- 
ings! News! News! Do you understand, 
Amerikanka? God grant that it is true 
news from my brother, from Dmitri!" 

A message out of that blind immensity! 
I could not speak ; I could only look at her as 
one might look at some bright angel who bore 
confirmation of a paradise. 

And then while Masha, the little maid with 
fair braids wound round her head, and old 
Anton looked after the luggage, she told me 
the meager detail. A message had come, 
only one word, a quaint word they had used 
as children. "The word makes it certain." 
She laid her hands on my shoulders and 
looked at me with shining eyes. "No one 
knew but Dmitri and me." 

She withdrew her hands from my shoulders 
and stood for a moment, wrapt in memory. 
She was very like Dmitri Nikolaievitch at that 
moment. What an intensity of feeling these 
Russians have, that makes other passions look 
compromising and commonplace! And then 
we made our way out of the cavernous station, 
through which the spring sunshine stole ten- 

234 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

tatively like new little tendrils of joy in a 
barren life, and rolled away tinder the bur- 
geoning limes which seemed but the precipita- 
tion of one's own joy. 

Natalya spread her thin hands in the sun- 
shine. "Ah, this wonderful old city!" she 
cried, as we followed the winding streets. 
"My school-days were spent here. How I 
love it! One does not ask enough of life!" 

One does not ask enough of life ! 

I have been to pray at the little chapel 
under the Kremlin Hill. "Unexpected Joy," 
the Russians have named it the chapel that 
I love best in Moscow. How well these Slavs 
know the heart! Dear godmother, once you 
warned me that life would lead me to religion ; 
it has not been through sorrow, as you feared, 
but it is something akin to pain. 

Perhaps it is only the sunshine, perhaps it 
is the news of a Russian victory, perhaps it is 
the maltchiks crying great bunches of lilies on 
the street that makes me so blithe. But 
suddenly in the midst of it there strikes one 
grim note. Seven officers were hanged to- 
day. The Novoye Vremya prints only the 
statement and the Russians are silent. 

It is not in victory, but in crises, that one is 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

most conscious of the Slav. It is in catas- 
trophe that the Russians draw together as if 
by racial impulse, and from the circle of their 
anxiety look coldly or indifferently at the 
foreigner. They talk little, ceasing when I 
enter, and I am warned not to speak English, 
the language of an ally, on the street. What 
do we of America, the blend of every nation- 
ality, know of this pure, white-hot flame of 
an inbred race? How many new currents 
are visible nowadays! At first Russian life 
moves on a fairly undisturbed stream of 
existence, but gradually, as one's eyes be- 
come accustomed to the complexity, and 
more observant, mysterious whirlpools man- 
ifest themselves, and strange subterranean 
flows. 

A bit of Mile. Novinska's natural gaiety has 
returned, an enchanting thing to see. To-day 
we went to the Nobility School near the Red 
Gate, at which she was educated, an enormous 
white structure rambling about a court. We 
were admitted by a decorative butler, who 
scrutinized me suspiciously and left us to wait 
in the drawing-room furnished with rosewood 
and a chrysoprase table and pervaded with a 

236 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

fragrance which suggested the passing of a 
Lely or a Kellner beauty. 

"He regards you as if you might be about 
to elope with the pet princess," twinkled Mile. 
Novinska. 

Madame T., the principal, was more cordial. 
It was touching to see her when she took 
Natalya Nikolaievna's hands. 

"Ah, dushenka, I know. The fiance," she 
murmured, kissing Natalya Nikolaievna on 
both cheeks. "But you are brave and God 
will be good to you." 

She turned to me with an enveloping smile. 
" I remember this one as so tiny a child. ' The 
black witch,' the girls used to name her. She 
was so fiery, with a wee face and such thin 
arms, always curled up reading. And madame, 
votre mere? Ah, mademoiselle, she is one of 
the truly great ladies of Russia. And the 
little brother who was at the Corps des 
Pages? Do you remember how he used to 
come in his long uniform, always with a big 
box of sweets, looking like a young Napo- 
leon?" 

We had tea at the hands of the suspicious 
butler, who evidently approved no Americans 
invading this sacrosanct spot, where not a drop 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

of other than titled blood flows, whose walls 
not even an American millionairess could scale 
with father's golden ladder. 

"I wish Mademoiselle I 'Americaine to see 
our monastery," Mile. Novinska said. 

"If you are expecting luxuries," Madame T. 
warned, "turn back. No scented quarters 
here heaped with silken pillows; no seductive 
sweet-eating princesses." 

And indeed it was, in spite of Madame T.'s 
warning, far less luxurious than I had im- 
agined. A scrubbed and sanded monastery 
with white walls and rows of iron beds. We 
entered into an airy room with beds in a row, 
each with an ikon at its head. The plain 
toilet articles and bath slippers of straw were 
arranged with geometric precision. Madame 
T. opened the wardrobes that we might see. 
Each showed one heavy stuff dress, two pairs 
of woolen stockings, a coat, and a tam-o'- 
shanter for outside, not in the street little 
nobles do not walk in the street, but in the 
courtyard, the same sunny courtyard that we 
could see outside the window, where the Czar 
and Czarina come for tea. The school was 
established by Elizabeth and is directly under 
the patronage of the Czar, the highest medal 

238 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

that a girl can win being the monogram of the 
Empress in diamonds. 

"She rarely comes now, the Empress," said 
Madame T., "but how lovely she was in those 
days!" 

"Yes, I remember," Mile. Novinska mur- 
mured. 

In the linen-room, stacked high with snowy 
homespun linen, patient maids were mending 
with exquisite stitches. Mile. Novinska 
greeted two of the maids while I gazed and 
gazed at those peasant-plain garments. Un- 
like the poet, I thought not a little of the 
revelation therein. Before me seethed the 
embroidery and lace from which the American 
girl rises like Venus from the foam. These 
garments were simplicity itself, not only sim- 
ple, but heavy and durable. 

"No man could quite comprehend the 
abysmal difference," I murmured to Natalya 
Nikolaievna. 

"In all things the young Russian girls, like the 
young French girls, are superbly unspoiled," 
answered Mile. Novinska, reading my thought, 
"but when they are married their trousseaus 
are magnificent. The trousseau of my best 
friend, when she was married, was fit for a 
17 239 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

museum. As for seclusion, at first she dared 
not even drive alone or drink so much as a 
white wine without her husband's permission, 
all of which amused the husband enormously." 

"And in all this there is the touch of the 
epicurean East." 

"Yes. How more deliciously prepare a 
woman? When she goes to her husband, her 
senses, her imagination, are as fresh as the day 
she was born," said Mile. Novinska. "She 
is ready for all the delicate allurements of life, 
for the Russian loves a woman not alone for 
the woman herself, but for what she can give 
him." 

"In spite of all the camaraderie in Russia" 
Madame T. frowned severely "we are not 
yet free from the harem." 

The princesses themselves are stiff little 
figures in such costumes as I can imagine 
no boarding-school girl in America wearing: 
heavy blue stuff skirts, coarse, clean cotton 
blouses, broad leather belts, and hair in braids. 
They courtesy shyly as we pass, with a well- 
bred lack of curiosity. Three girls were 
standing at a cross-section of the corridor, a 
roguish gipsy face and two paler, straighter 
types with short bangs like an old French print, 

240 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

all in the heavy blue skirts and aprons tied at 
the back. 

"Countess X's daughter, the dark one," 
said the principal, mentioning a famous name. 
"Her grandfather is one of our richest land- 
owners. She will be a figure some day in 
Russia." 

"All these bobbing little girls are the bear- 
ers of the great names of Russia," said Natalya 
Nikolaievna. "In a few years they will ex- 
change their sensible boots for French heels, 
put up their long braids, lengthen their skirts 
overnight, and, voilal the Kittys and Na- 
tashas and Anna Kareninas the brilliant, so- 
phisticated women of Russian society." 

"None of them speak less than five lan- 
guages," added Madame T. 

"And are they so well educated in other 
ways?" I asked, respectfully eying the little 
polyglots. 

Madame T. shook her head gravely. 

"Russians are Orientals in temper, and the 
children, like their elders, are wretchedly dis- 
ciplined," she sighed. "I know one woman 
who was so bewildered and terrified by her 
children that she never went near her nursery. 
Can you imagine a little girl of eight declaring 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

vehemently to the governess, 'You may beat 
us and pinch us and cut us up in fine pieces 
and boil us in oil, but we will never, never 
say that we love mother as well as we love 
you.' All wealthy Russians employ English 
governesses to discipline their children." 

Through miles of spotless corridors we went, 
past innumerable immaculate rooms where 
smooth braids bent over books or industrious 
ringers recounted endless scales. 

"It was there I had scarlet fever," smiled 
Natalya Nikolaievna, looking in at the cool, 
white hospital. "Dmitri sent old Yegor with 
his parakeet do you remember? lest I might 
die!" 

And then we went below to see the baths. 
"The same Russian banya in which all Russia 
steams in one mighty cloud every Saturday 
night from the Arctic to the Caspian, from the 
Pacific to the Gulf," laughed Natalya Nikolai- 
evna. And so it was, a long, heated room 
with benches and a flagged floor, where the 
little patricians splash and scrub one another 
and climb on the top shelves to steam. 

"Can you imagine it in England or in 
America," said Natalya Nikolaievna, "all this 
steaming aristocracy ? ' ' 

242 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

"A scene for a Russian Alma-Tadema, 
ri ' est-ce-pas?" 

Perhaps it was only our mood that made it 
all seem so amusing. Our trail led back 
through the dining-room, where on the tables 
clustered blue glass bowls. 

" Nu, Amerikanka, of course you cannot un- 
derstand," Mile. Novinska laughed, deli- 
ciously. "Have you ever read of gentlemen 
who waved their hands to dry them and rinsed 
their mouths from golden ewers? These 
bowls are of the Middle Ages. One rinses 
one's mouth after dining! The custom con- 
tinues in not a few houses of the old nobility." 

How I should have liked seeing the little 
lad from the Pages' School solemnly sending 
his parakeet to the little black witch sister, 
"lest she might die!" 

This more than half old Byzantine city is 
forever flinging a new jewel into one's lap as 
magnificently as if she were the mistress of 
Aladdin's lamp. And it is well to have bau- 
bles, for no one knows when Dmitri Niko- 
laivitch returns. Last night it was the Ar- 
tistic Theater, the despair and the joy of 
connoisseurs Gordon Craig, Granville Bar- 

243 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

ker, and even the Germans. And yet Madame 
Novinska remembers, only twenty years ago, 
an evening of amateur theatricals at the house 
of a rich merchant, Alexieff, in which the 
merchant himself played the leading roles. 
And the merchant is still playing the leading 
roles, for he was Stanislavsky. 

The theater is of the simplest. The walls 
are done in a forest brown with a frieze of 
Tchekov's chaiki, sea-gulls, in stenciled flight. 
The curtain also is a woodsy brown, with 
white gulls pinioned against it, reminiscent 
of Tchekov's "Sea Gull," and also of the in- 
comparable Komissarshevskaya's tragically 
wild and tender r61e. The whole atmosphere 
is serious. It is not the mode to dress, and the 
audience looks like a flock of wrens. But the 
faces are intellectually eager and the eyes 
smoldering eyes never seen on Broadway. 

"I never feel so much a vulgar intruder as 
at the Artistic Theater," Mile. Novinska de- 
clares, "spying on private affairs which should 
be no concern to the public." 

To me the Artistic Theater spells two great 
traits of the Russian: extreme realism and a 
deep vein of poetry. In a realistic play, the 
art is photographic. If a play is to be given 

244 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

in the Tambov dialect, the company lives in 
Tambov for the summer. If the scene is laid 
in Greece, the r61es are assimilated under 
Hellenic skies. The peasant is disgustingly 
true to life! The Russians are realists and 
their dramatic realism reaches its meticulous 
ne plus ultra in Tchekov, a whimsical master 
of genre who opposed the artificial cutting 
away of contingent matter and the intense fo- 
cusing of dramatic conversation and action. 
He wrote, one might say, in the flat. And 
yet, through what seems a sea of irrelevant 
and trivial detail runs a large and inexplicable 
poetry. And with a similar technique the 
Artistic Theater plays Tchekov, casting up sig- 
nificance from the commonplace, chaotic de- 
tails like a delicate lacy pattern. That which 
with other players is unintelligible and dull be- 
comes, with their technique, suffused with 
meaning pathos, despair, longing which are 
the reality of Russian provincial life. When 
the play is not realistic, the Russian wanders 
in strange vales of the imagination, of which 
the Saxon has little intimation. Gordon 
Craig, searching for new symbols of dramatic 
representation, chose among the players of 
the Artistic Theater for figures to set against 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

his sweeping lines of pity and fear. The re- 
sult of the experiment was a "Hamlet" that 
marked a new epoch in the theater a "Ham- 
let" Greek in the pity and fear induced by its 
setting, and as acted by these marvelously in- 
telligent and sensitive players, Greek in its 
terror and tragedy a high poetic achieve- 
ment. 

"Stanislavsky is the dominant personality 
now, as he has always been," Mile. Novinska 
informed me. "A leonine Byronesque man 
with magnificent dark eyes under his heavy 
brows." 

Mile. Knipper is the premiere among the 
actresses. The play was "Autumn Violins," 
a dramatic bit, as melancholy as a Russian 
autumn itself. One can but follow Knipper 
avidly. She is not beautiful now, but she is 
poetic and sympateechnaya and the woman 
whom Tchekov loved. 

We had tea between the acts with the little 
beagle-eyed secretary, who told us that but 
for the war the company would have been in 
England next year, and asked about certain 
productions in America, with an eye to the 
future of the Artistic Theater. And then 
after the theater, through his kindness, we 

246 



NEWS FROM THE FRONT 

went behind the scenes to Tchekova's (Mile. 
Knipper's) dressing-room. 

Lafcadio Hearn's epitaph to the grass-lark 
who, when Hana, the housemaid, forgot to 
feed him, ate his own legs, might have been 
written above Tchekova's door: "Yet, after 
all, to devour one's legs for hunger is not the 
worst that can happen to a being cursed with 
a gift of song. There are human crickets who 
must eat their own hearts in order to sing." 
A spent figure in a lavender dressing-gown sat 
limply in front of an enormous mirror, while 
a maid, too wise to touch her, hovered in the 
background. In "Autumn Violins" she had 
played the r61e of a mother who married her 
own lover to a daughter in order to avert 
scandal. The Russians all about us had com- 
mented, "She ages moment by moment." 
And I had felt it, too, with anguish less akin 
to pity than to terror. Now this disintegrat- 
ing woman sat before me, dark lines following 
her sagging cheeks, two splashes shadowing 
her eyes, the weariest thing in the world. 
And I realized as if I had not realized it a 
thousand times before the pain of a being 
"cursed with the gift of song." 

When I thanked Tchekova for the pleasure 
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MISS AMERIKANKA 

she had given me she looked at me with 
Russian kindness and a little curiosity. "You 
liked my play?" she asked, a little wistfully. 
It may have been acting; if so, it was superb. 
Tchekova, the idol of Russia, wistfully asking 
for commendations! 

"But that is quite sincere," Mile. Novinska 
assured me, as we turned away. "With us, 
especially at the Artistic Theater, our great 
players are very humble." I wanted to beg 
Mile. Knipper to talk of Tchekov, but it did 
not seem the one perfect topic, since the rumor 
is that she made him miserably unhappy. 
The company was leaving on the night train 
to play their annual term in Petrograd, afesta 
in the theatrical world for the capital, and I 
lingered only long enough to beg Tchekova 
to come to America, an idea in which she was 
as interested as the barest neophyte. Two 
strong impressions will always remain of this 
premiere among Russian players sympathy 
and work a sympathy as universal as life 
the human being marvelously realized and 
relentless labor. 

I comprehend, too, why the Russian, when 
in London, avoids the drama. 



XIX 



"SOMETHING POIGNANT' 



ONE might linger forever in this sunny 
paradise; as a matter of fact, however, 
I shall be away to the Novinskys' summer 
place as soon as the lake clears. No mes- 
sage from Dmitri Nikolaievitch out of the 
dark. My life is a House of a Thousand 
Emptinesses. 

Madame Novinska went to Tver before the 
ice broke, but just now the lake is an impasse 
and the only road to Bortnaka is a hundred 
versts around the shore over Russian roads, 
difficult at any time and bottomless in spring. 
I remember Madame Novinska's narration of 

how the doctor at drove all night, with 

fresh horses every hour, once when M. Novin- 
sky was ill, only to assure her that she was 
doing all that was possible, drink huge 
draughts of coffee, snatch a fish-pasty, and 
then drive all day back again. 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

I have been making pilgrimages these days 
to all the well-beloved haunts of my Bagdad 
to the intimate sketches of Russian life at the 
Tretyakov Gallery, and the Vereshchagins, 
Oriental and opulent and shimmering with 
heat; to Gelza last night at the ballet, danc- 
ing her fantastic Belgique, gleaming in red 
and gold and trumpet-clear, the apotheosis 
of the Belgian spirit ; to Kolokol and Uspensky 
and, not least, to the pigeons at the Spasskaya 
gate. And to-day I am just home from 
Sparrow Hills. 

Princess Kalitzina's cousin came for me, 
and it was charming out on that old Moscow 
road to Sparrow Hills, past the "Not Dull" 
palace stretching its pale buff length along 
the river among the mysterious Bocklin trees, 
and the park, a fresh sunny paradise. From 
the terrace of Sparrow Hills the city unrolls, 
a vast, illuminated scroll below, the capital 
picked out in blue and green and gold, bound 
only by the silver of river and sky. If the 
hills had kept a guest-book they would have 
recorded many a famous guest, even that most 
distinguished Moscow visitor, Napoleon Bona- 
parte ! It was from this terrace that Napoleon 
sought to decipher the beautiful prize and 

250 



'SOMETHING POIGNANT' 

gazed upon the long-coveted city disappearing 
in fire and smoke. 

It was inexpressibly fragrant as we sat and 
sipped tea on the parapet in the soft spring 
sunshine, under the budding limes Anna 
Tcherbatskaya (Princess Kalitzina's delicious 
young cousin not long since married, ab- 
sorbed in a pensive reverie of the young sur- 
geon at the front) and I . Anna Tcherbatskaya 
has just been on a visit to the front, traveling 
like a young empress, and has lived seventeen 
days just below the crest of a hill, under the 
roar of the guns. I look at her, and for the 
moment I am in the Petrograd hospital again 
and I hear M. Novinsky's quaint, un-English 
voice, "No one gives herself like a Russian." 
Nevertheless, I count it something for a girl 
who, until her marriage two months ago, had 
never crossed the street alone. And so we 
sat, I musing on the city below, on Napoleon 
and many things neither the city nor Na- 
poleon, on this strange world which that 
something within me called from the unknown, 
and which I feel has taken for me a significance 
of finality. 

Of one thing I am certain never again 
shall I be free from Russia. Foot-loose, I 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

must always turn eastward. It flashes various 
colors through me, this modern Byzantium; 
sometimes I feel positively iridescent with 
the radiance gorgeous, barbaric unleashing 
everything that the Anglo-Saxon has tamed 
in me. A curious dream which has haunted 
me since childhood has returned: the dim 
cool of a Byzantine courtyard, a blue sky 
above, columns ineffably gray and old, the 
soft pad, pad of slave feet in the dust, and a 
woman, lying near a pool, dreaming passionate 
dreams. The image had been long allayed 
until it came to life again in this Oriental 
Russia. Sometimes, again, this fragrant, mel- 
ancholy old land calls to something strange 
and deep within me. I seem to hear the 
Nubians singing again at night on the Nile, 
and yet I no longer thrill. A strange white 
peace fills my soul; at the heart of the tur- 
bulence lies infinite repose. A quiet hand has 
been laid upon me. I feel all the hopes and 
loves of all the ages breaking about me, and 
the beauty and pathos of life becomes poig- 
nant, unendurable! It is not happiness, is it, 
this pain? 

And yet it draws me the mystery of all 
this brooding land draws me irresistibly. 

252 



'SOMETHING POIGNANT" 

Like death, Russia throws everything into 
greater significance. Perhaps it is Dante's 
blessedness. Perhaps it is Who can define 
it? Beside it, placid English life flowing be- 
tween its lush banks seems spiritually flat and 
commonplace. Something so far stranger and 
sweeter and deeper is here, that for one second 
of it one would not exchange ten years of 
cheerful security. In both America and the 
Orient lies a far clearer happiness than in 
Russia: America strong, youthful, certain; 
the lotus-East with its suggestion of eternal 
peace, the junk sails in the purple mists, and 
the temple bells calling across the little val- 
leys. And yet I must always return to this. 
" Something homely and poignant." 

Yes, I comprehend, Dmitri Nikolaievitch, 
though you no longer bare for me its injus- 
tice, its struggle, its melancholy, and you, 
whether you live still here or there beyond, 
have become for me the sum and crown of 
its poignance. 



XX 

FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

BORTNAKA at last ! Russian country, be- 
loved by poet and peasant, and now add- 
ing another adorer though an alien. Dmitri 
Nikolaievitch's Russian country! I left Mos- 
cow in the late afternoon and journeyed by 
night, an eerie white night which only half 
closed the curtains of day and invested the 
world with a gray ghostly charm. Summer 
travelers across Siberia must needs carry blue 
curtains to defend themselves against this 
pervasive half-light. Without these blue 
guards the journey may add to itself as ex- 
perience, but it sadly deteriorates as a journey. 
Sleep is out of the question, and the senses, 
overstrained by the continuous light, are as 
ragged as the beggars who peer out of the 
stations. Verst after verst, hour after hour, 
the plain unwinds endlessly, monotonously, 
like wool from a skein. Objects fringe ghost- 

254 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

ily; trees blur in the half-light and grow 
preternaturally large. A primitive terror 
sweeps through one's limbs. The earth is off 
its orbit, running wild in space. One calls to 
the eternal hills for deliverance but there is 
not even a rise in the ground! With mid- 
night springs up a delusive promise of respite 
from the light; a shadow creeps reassuringly 
over the earth, but it is dusk and not darkness. 
At eleven the sun dips below the horizon; 
at two-thirty it is balancing itself again on 
the rim of earth like a flattened orange, spill- 
ing a crimson-and-amethyst flood over the 
world. The relentless cycle has begun again. 
It is a lonely mood, and yet I am not lonely; 
I am curiously, half -pensively, half -childishly 
content. Am I not bound for Agatha and the 
tarts and the limes? Besides, again the illu- 
sion of place is upon me. With every new 
spot, Dmitri Nikolaievitch, it seems to me, 
must appear. A message must wait at Bort- 
naka! 

The train deposits me at what should be an 
early hour, but, by the tale of the sun, a day 
well advanced. It is a dusty little station, 
inside which travelers in smocks are drinking 
tea, sucking sugar under their tongues. A 
is 255 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

shy little peasant girl offers me buttercups and 
daisies "for the love of God and the aid of 
the wounded" a kindly little creature. I 
want to ask her if she fancies gooseberry tarts, 
but I have only time to fumble for a penny 
and clamber into a cavernous vehicle which 
scurries off through the dust in the direction 
of the boat. What a calash is I have never 
known, but that rickety, swinging shell, 
threatening every moment to dissolve into 
the elements from which it came, satisfies en- 
tirely my imagination. Perhaps I am not 
exigent to-day bound for Bortnaka. 

Russian landscape is like an amateur photog- 
rapher's work, all sky and only a rim of land. 
It is like a giant billiard-table ready for the 
play, except that there are no pockets, and the 
sky lies imminent above. Sky in Russia does 
not offer a varied show. I cannot remember 
seeing ever the rich pageantry that I used 
to watch for hours through the arch of 
the caravan in Mongolia, but in the ab- 
sence of anything else one becomes intimate 
with it, and gradually it induces the mood of 
netchevo. 

The lake might be a Scottish lake, were there 
more hills. There are few passengers; only 

256 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

peasants, lounging, thick-muscled fellows with 
tanned necks, and women in red skirts. The 
two men in corduroy next me talk hunting- 
dogs while I gaze at the monastery towers, 
flashing a startling, unearthly radiance across 
the waters, and watch the weather-beaten cap- 
tain release his hands from the wheel to cross 
himself to the spires and domes. In spite of 
Agatha and the tarts, I feel lost, and that 
not in a country, but in a continent. Never 
have I had the sensation of traveling so far in 
so strange, so earthy a land. No sea, no 
outlet. It is one of the things I hate in Rus- 
sia, this suffocation by the earth. 

After two hours we begin turning into a 
small bay, and the captain, who looks after 
Madame Novinska's guests, comes to point 
out what seems to me a village overlooking the 
lake. I discern a great house with white 
pillars, half encircled by izbas and backed on 
three sides by deep forest M. Novinsky's 
ancestral rooftree. An old Southern planta- 
tion dwelling it might be, except for the som- 
ber forest, purely and unmistakably Russian. 
An air of leisure and a patriarchal charm lies 
upon its grassy slopes. Will Tolstoi's Levin 
or Turgenev's Liza step out from the portico? 

257 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

The Novinskys I have always seen in far more 
formal environment. 

Mile. Novinska and three big hunting-dogs 
from the Czar's kennels with two lordly 
youths in hunting-togs, cousins just home on 
furlough, are standing at the pier, with a 
fringe of barefooted peasant maids in the 
background, all a-flutter in their gay aprons. 
It is an event, and I am the event ! As for me, 
I feel myself immersed in peace. I could 
deposit myself on the pier, never to stir, except 
to watch the wind moving among the piny 
trees or follow the uncouth shadows on the 
lake. 

Of my endless gallery of Russian pictures, 
few in which Mile. Novinska figures I shall 
ever forget. She is wearing a broad hat 
which adds a piquant mystery to the shadows 
of her languid eyes, and trails her white 
skirts delicately over the greensward, tall and 
picturesque, not an image designed to make 
one abolish aristocracy. I search the thin 
face under the broad hat eagerly. A fainter 
tinge of rose follows the curve of the porcelain 
cheek than when I had seen her in Moscow. 

"There has been no other news," she says, 
as our pageantry winds up the greensward 

258 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

under the trees toward the white columns, 
while two young peasant lads throw them- 
selves^ on my luggage. "But for the sake of 
ma mere we must have courage. Who knows, 
there may be a message any day, any mo- 
ment. I will not so easily believe that all is 
not well." I could feel her long fingers 
trembling on my arm. 

And this is the hidden source of M. Novin- 
sky's life. I cannot sleep for the delight of 
being here under this ancestral rooftree in the 
heart of the country, the background that 
yields a figure satisfying the deeps of one. 
Through the window I can see the little izbas 
dreaming wanly in the moonlight as dream the 
streets in Whistler's French villages. Beyond 
sighs the forest, blue-black, immense in this 
pale nocturnal stillness, as impenetrable as the 
heart of Russia itself; above its inchoateness 
the pines alone are like adventurers, tall ship 
masts above the band of black. After the 
open steppe, the forest allays my fears, bids 
me "lay down my heart," sings to me of se- 
curity. I watch it, fascinated, as I have 
watched other woodlands the gray-green, 
elfin forests of Ireland, the whispering bam- 

259 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

boo groves of China. This forest is far more 
enigmatic than other forests, far more sentient ; 
in such fastnesses has been forged the will of 
Russia, in such mysteries has been shaped her 
soul. The wind rises and falls like a chant, 
like the desire of a people. How many strange 
shapes seem about to emerge Stenka Razin, 
the boyars of Nizhni Novgorod and Kazan 
days; M. Novinsky's father. M. Novinsky 
himself must have come out of it many times 
as a dreaming little lad, hunting and fishing, 
as the university student, as the young barin. 
It lies mystic, quiescent now, draped with 
mists caught up in white garlands as if for 
some bridal nom de Dieu! some ghostly 
bridal! 

I was awakened this morning by old Yegor's 
voice, and looked out my casement window to 
see Madame Novinska, in a black frock with 
a white Elizabethan collar, cutting roses which 
she deposited in a shallow basket borne by 
the old majordomo. It is the first item in 
her day. 

The Bortnaka house starts with a formal 
enough hall, paneled in red and hung with 
trophies of the chase, but it soon trails out 
into a small room where one may dry one's 

260 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

hunting-togs in winter, and on this side turns 
into a big living-room facing the lake. There 
are the usual beautiful hardwood floors, 
deeply luxurious divans, some fine old colored 
etchings, exquisite Persian rugs and embroid- 
eries which Madame and M. Novinsky gath- 
ered in Persia. The most formal room in the 
house is a room resplendent with ancestors, 
opening through French windows on the lake 
terrace and scented with the fragrance of 
wistaria and the lime walk below. 

"You will find the house not less informal 
than the inmates," Mile. Novinska had 
warned me the first morning. "The Russian 
is too wayward to stiffen into convention like 
the Britisher, and such punctiliousness as is 
his he leaves in town." On this old Russian 
estate, lif e is as simple and as rural as Tolstoi's 
Levin ever lived, with a venerable patriarchal 
charm, such as one finds under the ancestral 
roofs of the East. 

Bortnaka breakfast is a movable feast. 
Imagine an addicte of the French roll and a 
cup of black coffee confronted by a ham 
entire; by a deep pottery bowl from which 
cream is ladled by a silver dipper; by monu- 
ments of hot bread suggestively neighbored 

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MISS AMERIKANKA 

by jams and marmalades, the whole guarded 
at the end of the table by a samovar of tea 
and an urn of coffee, all under the eyes of 
peasant maids in blue and red coifs, who take 
advantage of your innocence to leave bacon 
and eggs before you and desert you to your 
fate. Luncheon, only less astounding than 
breakfast, is served on the veranda under 
the limes, attended by a sapphire-eyed Per- 
sian cat who looks reflectively to the lake, 
dreaming, perhaps, of his own East. Every- 
body comes in outdoor togs, for everybody 
sails or swims or walks. Stepan and Piotr, 
very much the land banns, have been inter- 
viewing the forester or inspecting the wheat 
in the village beyond, or accompanying the 
official sent by the Government to teach the 
peasant intelligent methods of agriculture. 
And that in itself is another story. I am 
constantly amazed at the time and patience 
the landowners expend on their peasants. . . . 
Or it may be that Piotr has been out hunting 
with the dogs since dawn. There are two 
teas, one at four when the mail arrives the 
postmaster is so terrified with English mail 
that he sends it outright to Madame Novinska 
and we sort it and the other at nine, Russian 

262 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

fashion. And we dine, too ! One changes for 
dinner, but it can hardly be called dressing, 
and afterward there is tennis in the twilight, 
that wondrous white light which invests all 
this northland with its eerie poetry. 

The overseer comes with reports of the 
crops, the priest from that white tower across 
the lake, an old countess from the next estate, 
in worn Paris finery. And all through the 
house there is a stream of life, of men and 
dogs and hunting and news of the field and all 
the intangible freshness of things out of doors, 
and rarely good talk. The Russian does not, 
like the Saxon, leave his conversation in the 
city. The house is full of books: French 
novels, English biography, an excellent collec- 
tion of Persia, some of them inscribed in a 
hand like Dmitri Nikolaivitch's neat script. 
I am never sure whether I like rainy days 
when I curl up in the library, watching the 
storm sweep down the lake, hearing tales of 
Bagdad or swirling down the Tigris in a 
basket, or the sunny days when I betake 
myself to the forest, watching the rafts build- 
ing or simply wandering deeper and deeper 
among the ravines of shadows, looking into 
the upper leafy spaces. Madame Novinska 

263 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

spends much of her time alone, writing or 
working over plans for the estate. She feels 
a greater anxiety for Dmitri Nikolaivitch, I 
am certain, than she would admit, and in spite 
of the movement through the house there is 
always for the first time, I confess it a 
dread waiting for one knows not what from 
out there like that weary, weary walking with 
the dead. 

I am writing from the veranda on the lake 
side of "The Flugel." The sunshine is pour- 
ing down gloriously, lighting the dark pines 
and picking out all the colors in the shirt of 
the Cuttlefish who is weeding beets in the 
garden below. Yesterday I helped Stepan 
and Piotr and Casper Caspich land the boat 
and free the shiny wrigglers from the nets 
hung on the fence. But to-day it is too heav- 
enly quiet to move more than an eyelash. 
The Cuttlefish is just the man to watch on 
such a morning. 

It is as peaceful as a Persian garden, an 
illusion furthered by Ossman, who perches on 
the veranda railing, waving a plumy black 
tail, even as a hand-maiden waveth her fan. 
Ossman is a true Mussulman. His ancestors 

264 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

were transported in a basket from Persia by 
Madame Novinska herself, and with him he 
brought all the manner of the East. 

But Bortnaka is not Persian, despite Oss- 
man; it is the Russianest Russian, a page from 
Turgenev's own world. The estate, an orig- 
inal grant from the Czar, has been in the 
family three hundred years. On one side lie 
three villages, one of them the village which 
M. Novinsky's father built for his freed serfs. 
Beyond these lies another great estate be- 
longing to Princess Kalitzina. One may 
walk all day and never leave the piny forests 
of Bortnaka itself, but if one proceeds along 
the lake long enough in the opposite direction 
from the villages, one comes upon what was 
once a magnificent place belonging to a mem- 
ber of the Tolstoi family. I believe the 
famous author visited here as a boy and men- 
tions it in one of his books. 

A wing of one of the quarters which belonged 
to the house serfs is now given over to the 
country post-office. When Natalya Niko- 
laievna and I drove over in the troika yester- 
day for the mail, I begged to peek at the 
interior of the great house that stretched itself 
along a hill-crest and overlooked the lake in 

265 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

truly regal style. I can't quite take a Russian 
estate yet without the least bit of thrill; 
an atmosphere lingers about even the more 
modest ones, strange to the child from a land 
where "you are as good a man as I and I'm 
a better man than you." And this Tolstoi 
place, even in decay, has the truly and royally 
Russian grand manner. In America I should 
have listed the house as seen from the lake 
as a summer hotel, and that it is soon to 
become under the direction of an astute man- 
ager. It is a loose-jointed house, with in- 
mAmerable corridors and rooms for the hosts 
of guests who used to gather from the estates 
round about, and wings at the sides for the 
three hundred house serfs once attached to the 
domain. Beyond lie orchards and broad 
fields of rye, which employed the ten thou- 
sand serfs who went with the estate. Ten 
thousand "souls," as the Russians say, and 
all of one's own color! It staggers my 
imagination, and my grandfather was a slave- 
owning Southerner. 

Only one of the beautiful rooms remains in- 
tact a dining-room paneled in dark Russian 
oak and carved with the Tolstoi coat of arms, 
and a little medieval balcony on both sides 

266 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

above, where the musicians played during 
dinner. Madame Novinska has told me of 
guests riding over to this estate in the old days 
to hunt wolves or bears all day and dance all 
night or play at private theatricals in the ball- 
room, with ladies applauding from the balcony. 
Just what this mighty Russian feasting and 
drinking and revelry must have been, with 
wines and choice viands from the four corners 
of the earth, and boar-hunting, and ballet- 
dancers down from Petrograd! A regal old 
tyranny! 

A door in the dining-room not high enough 
for a man to enter, Natalya Nikolaievna ex- 
plained: "The serfs must enter there to greet 
Madame Tolstoi and to receive their silver 
from her majordomo on Easter morning. Its 
lack of height insured humility." But this 
extravagant despotism is of the past. The 
only one who remembers all those gay days, 
besides Madame Novinska, is blind now. The 
Tolstoi family have all scattered. The old 
Tolstoi house is fallen into decay and, like 
those who made the hall and the high-ceil- 
inged rooms ring 'with laughter, it, too, is 
wrapped in memories. 

From the house we wandered across the 
267 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

fields to the old Tolstoi church, still lifting its 
domes and its spires above the high cloister 
wall. A double row of white birches beckoned 
above the path that led through the half- 
open gates. White clouds were floating in the 
sky above the blue domes, and the golden 
Russian cross seated a crow. The peace of 
the dead was over all, a peace so deep, so 
intense that it quivered like silence; but one 
was not lonely. One felt near the Russian 
God. The fragrance of the human and the 
present lingers, too, about the white walls and 
the sedgy grasses. A week ago they brought 
a young soldier home and laid him to sleep, his 
last sleep, under the silvery birches, where the 
guns do not roar nor the shells shriek, but all 
is God's peace. ... In such a God's Acre 
the Novinskys, too, sleep their long sleep. 

Alexei was waiting for us with reproachful 
eyes, and we turned home again, straight 
through the deep, piny forest, vaulting like 
cathedral arches above our heads for twenty 
versts. I know a road at Nikko where the 
arches vault higher, but I know no road that 
I love so much as this needle-carpeted path 
through the hush of the forest. The horses 
love it, too. Orlik, who gallops at the side 

268 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

while the others trot, throws up the needles 
with his flying heels and tosses his head far to 
the side, as a properly trained outside troika 
horse should do, as if to say, "This is a Russian 
road and I am Russian and I love it." Alexei, 
the coachman, throws back his head, braces 
his feet, sometimes half -standing and leaning 
forward, as if he were driving the chariots of 
the sun, and urges the horses on with strange 
Russian cries. With his long black beard 
streaming in the wind, his rose-colored sleeves, 
and his velvet jacket girt about with a brilliant 
blue shawl, Alexei looks like a Bakst fantasy. 

Alexei, like La Polskaya, is vain; with 
Alexei, it is an extraordinary pride of his 
beard. Last winter he kept pointing out his 
extreme value as a coachman because of his 
handsome beard. When no higher wages were 
forthcoming for this superior beauty, he sug- 
gested that he might shave it off. 

"Do, Alexei," urged Madame Novinska, 
seriously. "I have never had a coachman 
without a beard." 

About two versts from the house we heard 
the voices of the raftsmen at work, building 
the great rafts which every spring the estate 
at Bortnaka sends down the Volga. A large 

269 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

part of the revenue of Bortnaka comes from 
these huge cuttings of pine and oak, and Mile. 
Novinska explained to me how thousands of 
rubles may lie in knowing how to replant, how 
to cut the trees properly for the least waste, 
and also the dread of forest fires. In their 
newly peeled state, the logs looked like 
Brobdingnagian piles of taffy straws, fresh 
and delicious enough to eat. Out on the blue 
waters of the lake two mammoth rafts were 
already afloat, the long timbers laid in orderly 
rows and bound together with young saplings ; 
the same rafts, each carrying a little hut, that 
we had met on the Volga. I could see them 
on the river as they floated farther and farther 
toward Astrakhan. And I could hear the 
raftsmen's songs ringing out on the river when 
the little fires were lighted at night, and often- 
times the sound of a gipsy carousal, river 
giants protesting against the monotony of life 
and the steppe. And farther and farther 
down the river they float, by day and by 
night, and fainter and fainter the songs, 
until the river widens into the sea. 

How near one comes to the heart of life 
here on this old estate! It accounts for much 

270 



FROM TURGENEV'S WORLD 

of M. Novinsky's simplicity, the simplicity of 
people reared away from the marts, which no 
term in the world could ever cloud ; a sense of 
inherited responsibility which nothing and no 
person could ever lose. I would burn a 
thousand tapers to Nicholas the wonder- 
worker to see him once against this old back- 
ground under the rooftree of his fathers. 

To-night there beyond the fields of green, 
under the eaves at the izbas, a peasant girl is 
singing, a wild wailing melody running like a 
silver thread through the white night a 
melody torn from underneath a woman's 
heart, an air of unfulfilment. Ah! Dmitri, I 

understand. 
19 



XXI 

THE SCORPION'S STING 

T IKE scorpions the war stings far more 
I v cruelly here in the country than in the 
city. To pay taxes, gold and silver that is 
one thing but to cut the sinews of war out of 
your own flocks and herds! The second com- 
mandeering of horses has begun. The ukases 
have been up for three weeks, and since dawn 
to-day the peasants have been gathering in 
the square of the whitewashed chapels under 
the birches; blotches of gaily kerchiefed 
women and boys in red and blue rubashkas and 
old men, torpidly assembling. How old a 
Russian peasant grows! The sky is a com- 
passionate Volga sky, but it looks down on a 
scene less untroubled. The Government of- 
ficers have come, smart fellows in khaki riding- 
trousers; they stand in a cleared space of the 
grassy street among horses :black and gray 
and pinto measuring them with a long pole 

272 



THE SCORPION'S STING 

marked with a nail at the proper height. A 
rather swaggering officer, the younger, with 
a cropped tan mustache, who would not 
waltz badly; the other a thick-bodied, red- 
nostriled man who would make a good fourth 
at bridge both thoroughgoing and indifferent 
to the grumbling of the muzhiks. 

The older strikes an attitude of authority, 
pulling at his mustache, legs far apart. " Ny, 
show me his paces!" he orders, throwing the 
rope bridle of a gray horse to a lumbering 
young peasant. Little matter to him if this 
is the last horse which Ivan Ivanovitch has to 
plow the grain-land. War is war! As a 
matter of fact, it is not Ivan Ivanovitch's 
last horse; he has concealed another in the 
bushes. But he clambers on him as slowly 
as if it were and rides him off under the 
dappling birches. Two foresters pass in fur 
caps with shrewd glances. The cook comes 
out from the long, rambling kitchen, dressed 
in pure white, his mustache turning up like 
the points of a scimitar, a knife stuck through 
his belt, and makes a few derogatory com- 
ments on the horse. As a matter of fact, the 
gray proves himself no great steed. Ivan 
J vanovitch clambers clumsily off again, ' ' Be- 

273 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

sides, he kicks, your Excellency," he offers, 
cannily. But one officer writes something in 
a black book and the other marks the horse 
with a cross of red paint, while Marya, Ivan 
Ivanovitch's wife, sinks beside the beehive 
and rocks with her head in her apron. Six 
from the Novinsky stables are chosen this 
time, and one of them is Orlik, who gallops 
at the side in the troika. The peasants 
watch them indifferently as they are led away. 
" Neetchevo" they shrug their shoulders. 
"There is always plenty of everything at the 
great house." 

"How do they feel the war?" I asked of 
Piotr Pavlovitch, the overseer of the estate, 
an amorphous-bodied, keen old Russian with 
shaggy hair and eyes far apart, a mighty bear- 
hunter in his time. 

"The peasants?" He centered his gaze on 
the uncouth faces filmed over with ignorance. 
"The Germans are just over that hill there, 
in their minds, and if they do not fight the 
Nyemetzki will come over the slope and take 
all their horses! He is a shrewd one, the 
peasant. Da barishnya (you have said it). 
But his world is as big as his own field. 
Before this war is finished there will be the 

274 



THE SCORPION'S STING 

devil to pay." Piotr Pavlovitch strikes off in 
the direction of the wheat while I turn back 
to the house. 

At night I hear the horses leaving, like a 
great wind rushing through the wood. Why 
do they always take them at night? All 
through the hours I awake with a sense of 
uneasiness such as I felt in Siberia and that 
first morning in Petrograd: tides of men 
streaming down the white path fragments of 
song the trampling of boots and the rumbling 
of guns ; then they all drop into an abyss which 
gives back nothing. 

I love to see Madame Novinska here in the 
country. In Petrograd and at her great 
place, the palace of Peter the Great, Madame 
Novinska is the grand chatelaine, but here on 
this old estate buried in the heart of Russia, 
with these peasants who have been the re- 
sponsibility of her father and her father's 
father before her, she is the simple barina. 
It is a wonderful cultural factor, that in- 
herited sense of noblesse oblige, the respon- 
sibility of the greater for the less, the powerful 
for the humble, which we possess so meagerly 
in America. I find it running all through 
this "nobleman's nest." Yes, I am aware 

275 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

that it is a social and economic maladjustment 
that has brought about this condition; that 
it is the lover of brocaded fabrics, of pageants, 
in me that finds it charming, but I am not sure 
that it brings out the worst qualities of 
human beings. 

Madame Novinska was returning from a 
drive to a neighboring estate with her chari- 
oteer of the sun when I emerged on the terrace 
yesterday afternoon. There had been a new 
and important order posted in the town of 

O and the peasants clustered around her 

carriage while she read to them slowly, care- 
fully, as one reads to apprehensive children. 
Perhaps this is the portrait of M. Novinsky's 
mother that I like most of all: the exquisite 
contours of her face undimmed, infinitely sad 
and paling daily with anxiety for Dmitri 
Nikolai vitch, but looking with eyes tender 
with Russian tenderness at her other children, 
the peasants. Madame Novinska belongs to an 
older generation, but she has always seemed to 
me to have achieved that toward which our 
generation struggles : a discriminating and in- 
tense personal emotion, but released from the 
merely personal into that larger love for a 
people, a race. Beyond her one feels as the 

276 



THE SCORPION'S STING 

confreres of Turgenev felt beyond him, as one 
feels beyond all Russians who love Russia, a 
shadow; the sense of hopeless yearning over 
these confused and dim-eyed ones, denied 
their right to knowledge, and now both a 
promise and a menace. Some day it will be 
M. Novinsky's, this responsibility for "souls" 
if ever he returns. Every day here throws 
him into higher relief. I am less certain to 
misunderstand him, now that I have seen this 
old Russian background. 

Natalya Nikolaievna had come out on the 
terrace and we stood looking down at the 
scene in the waning light. It was all like 
a part in a play far more like a play than 
those realistic scenes from Tchekov: Natalya 
Nikolaievna in her white gown and turquoise 
shawl, slim, patrician, inexpressibly lovely; 
the barina below moving slowly toward the 
house, followed by a train of bright kerchiefs 
and white blouses ; and beyond, the lake, the 
forest purpling in the dusk, the impenetrable 
background of all this simple patriarchal life. 
Natalya Nikolaievna caught my glance. 

"Fancy, Amerikanka," she said, quietly. 
"In the revolution of 1905 they stoned every 
one our own peasants did. They even bolted 

277 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

the stable doors and burned our horses and 
stoned my father. My mother was the only 
one who could go among the villages. This is 
medieval Russia. Ma mere they count not as 
human, but one of the saints." 

The post has come. 

Only a letter from Feodor, Marya's husband, 
who is a gunner of the battery to which two of 
the Novinsky horses are attached. The 
horses "draw bravely," he writes. There are 
new-comers in the regiment, a little girl of 
seven and a boy of five. The father had 
found the mother dead when he returned to 
the village on furlough. There were no rela- 
tives in the village and he carried the children 
back to the trenches. The soldiers are very 
kind to them. Shto dyelatch? What else was 
to be done, Feodor asks. 

No word from Dmitri Nicholaivitch. I can- 
not bear staring forever like this into empti- 
ness. 



XXII 
"THE BARIN RETURNS" 

THE whole world has changed its dim hues 
for the colors of joy ! A sweet, mellow old 
place! The limes are showering the air with 
fragrance, the earth is carpeted with lilies-of- 
the valley, a cuckoo called this morning from 
the edge of the forest. Even the caftan and 
the beard of the old peasant who plows that 
point of land seem to blow debonairly. All 
day the housekeeper jingles her keys among 
the storehouses; Madame Novinska walked 
down the terrace to the roses this morn- 
ing without a cane; Natalya Nikolaievna is 
peacock-eyed. Old Yarshin, in charge of the 
bathhouse, is transporting cans of water on 
long poles over his shoulder. The toothless 
old babas and batushkas, sitting in the grassy 
dooryards, are nodding their heads and whis- 
pering. "The young barin returns. God's 
hand is not against us. Slavu bogu!" can it 

279 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

be true? The message came to Madame 
Novinska yesterday. Only Agatha and I are 
useless, toothless old Agatha rocking and 
weeping with her head in her apron, and I 
I steal away to the forest. 

The beloved old forest ! Green, veiled with 
a luminous white, an indescribable ethereal 
loveliness; black earth, the scent of lilies-of- 
the valley everything that is transcendently 
fresh against all that is immemorially old. 
Spring comes on the wing, here in Russia, 
with a sudden rush of joy as nowhere else 
the resurrection! The rain has left the forest 
fragrant, full of moving currents of air and 
elusive shadows. To-day a flock of yellow 
butterflies flit through the labyrinths, trem- 
ulously pendent like flecks of gold in old 
liqueur. I follow them swiftly, eagerly, still 
deeper and deeper into the wood, leaving the 
needle-carpeted road and open spaces for dim 
arcades, hung every day with new and deli- 
cately moving filigrees. 

To-day is a fete-day, and "the maidens 
neither plait their hair nor the birds build 
their nests." The bells in Moscow and 
Petrograd ring madly to-day from the bell- 
towers; here in the countryside they call 

280 



'THE BARIN RETURNS*' 

tranquilly from the white monastery tower 
across the lake. 

This afternoon, while we were drinking tea 
on the terrace, under the limes, a peasant 
woman appeared suddenly at the French 
windows of the dining-room, a young and 
comely woman, her gown pinned up above 
her bare feet and a gay handkerchief tied over 
her head. 

I recognized her as Marya, the "cow- 
woman," for I remembered having seen her 
among the shining dairy things. For a mo- 
ment she stood in the doorway with a troubled 
gaze, and then her eyes began to dilate with 
tears and her hands clutched convulsively at 
her peasant apron. 

"Oh, barina," she cried, throwing herself at 
Madame Novinska's feet and sobbing, "they 
will bury my malenki, my baby, to-night ! Will 
not the barishnya come and make a picture 
of him before they lay away my little pigeon?" 

Of course I promised to come my camera 
has been an open sesame among the peasants 
and to-day I could refuse no man aught! 
The poor mother began kissing the hem of my 
skirt in passionate gratitude. 

Marya had married outside her own village 
281 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

and she lived three villages beyond Bortnaka. 
After tea, Mile. Novinska and I walked 
through the vivid green of the rye-fields that 
"clothe the world and meet the sky" toward 
the squat, gray- timbered houses folded be- 
tween the hills. The grassy streets of our own 
village were peopled with the old babas and 
batushkas taking their holiday in the sun, 
whispering in awestruck tones, " Malenki, the 
little one." How they knew all about it I am 
unaware. How they know of Dmitri Niko- 
laivitch I cannot say. The peasant knows 
everything. 

The children were less impressed, and with 
each village we gained a following of dingily 
fair little boys in high boots and red-belted 
Cossack blouses, and shy little blue-eyed girls 
in pink who hung on the gray gates to open 
them for us and then fell in behind us. One 
of the older boys played an accordion and two 
had balalaikas, to the accompaniment of 
which they sang endless verses, each of which 
ended in a sharp, up-turning minor, very like 
the songs of the Chinese river boatmen. What 
a pageant we would have offered a painter 
Bagdanov-Belsky, for instance, with his gen- 
ius for genre as we passed through the fields 

282 



'THE BARIN RETURNS" 

of rye, lying glazed and green against the sky- 
line, and poured down into the villages a 
chromatic scale of reds, pinks, and yellows, 
bright embroidery of the hills. 

The village where Marya lived was all agog 
with our coming; the space about the little 
chapel was crowded with other village mothers, 
their offspring tugging at their skirts, and among 
them stood Marya, like a young Rachel, not 
weeping, but not the less mourning for her 
dead. We followed her into the little chapel, 
a crude, whitewashed structure with one 
window and a primitive ikon. 

And there in a white coffin lay a wee blos- 
som of a baby, his long lashes sweeping his 
cheeks like petals, so inexpressibly exquisite 
that it seemed he could not have strayed amid 
such uncouthness; one wondered if his soul, 
a stranger and dismayed, had not taken flight 
to nearer kindred. Candles burned at his head 
and feet, and in his hand was a waxy flower of 
many petals. 

The young mother silently picked up the 
little coffin and carried it outside. There in a 
cleared space, surrounded by the other women, 
she stood like a statue, clasping the precious 
receptacle in her strong young arms. After 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

the pictures were made we waited for her to 
return the coffin to the chapel, but she put it 
down only for a moment, tightened the ker- 
chief over her head, and then, taking up her 
white burden, and followed by half a dozen 
other women, strode off down the grassy 
street of this village of wood toward the 
shore. There are no men in the village and 
the women must needs bury their dead. The 
mother placed the coffin in a boat; three or 
four brawny women clambered in after her 
and, taking up the oars, they pushed off 
strongly from the shore. Night was falling 
and the lake had already begun to darkle in 
the mists, but through the dusk the white 
tower of the monastery shone like an angel's 
wing athwart the sky. 

These are the realities, and beside them my 
life has been filled with phantoms. No more 
ghosts to-morrow but for me, too, the white 
samite radiance of reality? 

I had so often imagined him, but never as 
he came to-day, walking so slowly, so weary, 
weary, slowly down the forest road. Joy had 
driven me for refuge to the woodland, but I 
hid my eyes against the trunk of a pine, seek- 

284 



'THE BARIN RETURNS" 

ing a haven from pain. How young and 
buoyant, invincible, he had been in those 
other days! The gallant body was still held 
proudly, but that faint look of "the man who 
was"! The forest seemed to rock about me. 
I could only wait, mute, until he came op- 
posite me in the path and he stopped, regard- 
ing me intently. 

"I have dreamed you like this under the 
trees," he said, a ghost of the old expression 
stirring in his eyes. "It is you, Amerikanka?" 

One of his hands was crushed. He carried 
his shoulder painfully. But it was his eyes 
that held the injury, horror that would be his 
till death, mystery that could never be shared. 
He leaned against the buttressed trunk of a 
tree near me that familiar movement! as 
I had seen him often watching the steppe in 
Siberia, as he had leaned against the malachite 
column that day in the cathedral. The light 
fell dimly through the trees on his slim, dark 
head. It was M. Novinsky of the steppe, 
M. Novinsky of the islands under the pines, 
of that night at the ballet. I could have wept 
for joy at the old known posture. 

"How lovely you are in that white f rock- 
here in the forest, Amerikankal" 

285 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

My voice was still lingering in forbidden 
registers, but, looking up into the gray-blue 
eyes, set in Eastern fashion, I touched the 
bandaged sleeve gently, very gently with my 
fingers. 

" Neetchevo-pravda. It is of no moment 
truth. The fortunes of the day," he said, 
gently, while his eyes continued to consider 
me carefully as if I had been a phantom 
and then slowly, wonderingly wandered up to 
the film of green. 



\ 



XXIII 

REALITIES 

WE sat down on an overturned pine and 
bit by bit the tale came, slowly, with 
fewer reserves than an Englishman would have 
shown, with less of "fledgling simplicity," but 
with Slavic sensitiveness, the repulsion, the ter- 
ror and fascination, the overwhelming ghastli- 
ness the esthete tasting his emotion. 

"You knew of the treachery among Russian 
officers, a constant giving over of the most 
important plans to the enemy. There was a 
scheme among three of us to stop the leakage 
three of us who had been friends at school in 
Petrograd. . . . We all knew that it meant 
our lives. Not one of us expected to return 
I told you but that was no matter. . . . 
Russians do not fear to die. We all scattered 
into different regiments. I chose my own. 
Do you remember the Cossack who refused to 
desert his horse in Kashgar? Partially through 
20 287 






MISS AMERIKANKA 

his help, partially through an officer, I went 
as a common soldier, later as an orderly." 

M. Novinsky paused and his eyes followed 
the curve of the lake. "It was worse even 
than we expected," he continued, after a 
silence, speaking slowly and distinctly. " There 
were terrible things. ... It w r as worse than 
anyone could have dreamed this side of inferno. 
Idon't mean the battle, thefighting that is bad 
enough. The eternal guns, the filth, the em- 
bruting of the whole fabric of life one gets 
used to that. But the treachery of officers 
dribbling all that life through their hands like 
water. . . . Shells and shells and no guns. 
. . . Guns and no shells. . . . Guns and 
shells that Bozlie moil do not fit. ... Can 
you imagine what it is to trap men in their 
trenches empty-handed to be riddled with 
shell-fire? ... To watch them helpless like 
children big as oxen clambering out of the 
trenches slow and dazed facing German 
steel, waiting for comrades to fall so that they 
may take their guns. Bozlie moil There are 
some things it is necessary to forget. . . . 
Nado zabeetch! Why those young giants did 
not choke their officers with bare hands ! . . . 
Out of the trenches, wave after wave, helpless 

288 



REALITIES 

bayonet charges against howitzers. A gun 
is money, but a man is only a man. All 
those peasant bdbas in Siberia are breeding 
men and in Russia besides their raison 
d'etre. Millions of men for the asking . . . 
and staff -officers at the back in a wood eating 
mushrooms. A man is only flesh and blood 
blood Nom de Dieu! I shall never forget that 
slippery field. ..." 

A yellow butterfly winged past us, hanging 
like a golden mote in the subdued gloom. 

1 ' And when you left the regiment? 1 ' I breathed, 
tentatively. 

Dmitri Nikolaievitch roused himself from 
the reverie into which he had fallen. His voice 
plodded on. "I was with the regiment ten 
days, and then it was necessary for some one 
to go into Germany. We had our observa- 
tions, but they had to be verified for absolute 
certainty. It was a matter of lots. We drew 
before we went, and I had the lucky number. 
... I went. ... Of that I can never tell you. 
It was difficult, terribly difficult. Luckily I 
am one Russian who speaks languages as well 
as we have the reputation for speaking them. 
I had been at school in Germany da, I know 
them very well. If my German had been 

289 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

less perfect, or if I had ever been for one 
instant afraid for my life, my life would not 
have been worth a kopeck. They are ef- 
ficient but stupid. Two weeks I was in Ger- 
many, and then I came back. I traveled once 
in a day-coach with an officer mainly by 
night any way, every way. It was easier 
getting over than back, I assure you. But I 
arrived. It was done what I had set out 
to do. I could have come home then. I 
joined the troops again, I don't know why. 
Perhaps it was only a barbarian's desire to 
fight." He put his hand to his head with the 
same troubled gesture of "the man who was." 
"That was when this came. It is glorious 
to have something happen to your body after 
you had seen with your eyes. It's a point 
something bright and hard to fix your mind 
besides that. Perhaps I had not counted on 
lying a day and a night in ' No Man's Land.' ' 
he added, with a smile. "Twenty-four hours 
of staring up at a rainy gray sky with an oc- 
casional one of those oxen-like creatures crawl- 
ing over one trying to get back to the trenches. 
And the rain, the everlasting rain sodden, 
like Gorky's rains. Andrei was in the same 
regiment it was he who found me. , , , Have 

290 



REALITIES 

you read the papers two weeks, three weeks, 
ago? . . . Seven officers they were hanged." 

The forest roared past me like the torrent 
of a night sea. M. Novinsky sat resting his 
head on his hand, staring into the depths of the 
wood. From the distance came the sound of 
the foresters' singing; the fragrance of lilies- 
of-the-valley rose from the black earth, sweet 
and unendurable ! But I was far from the forest. 
I was again on a trans-Siberian train, watching 
a gaunt figure relaxed against the cushions, his 
eyes turned moodily on the steppe. 

"Dmitri Nikolaievitch " I found courage, 
after a silence, looking at the sensitive profile 
of the man at my side "he was not one?" 

M. Novinsky turned his eyes to me as if to 
steady me. "He was, Amerikanka Pro- 
shcliaiete menya. ... It had to be." 

As long as I live, the scent of pines or of 
lilies, the sound of a lake lapping against the 
shore, will bring two words in a grave, un- 
English voice, and I shall see a swarthy face 
framed between candles, the decorations of a 
uniform gleaming richly like the jewels of the 
Mother of God. 

"The dark door" it had opened to the 

General. 

291 



XXIV 

MISS AMERIKANKA CHOOSES 

WE sat in quivering silence, I aching with 
the incomprehensible futility of life and 
M. Novinsky staring again with his head on 
his hands. 

"I am happy that America is yours to re- 
turn to." The voice with its un-English 
timbre roused itself after a pause. "But you 
will never forget Russia. It will always re- 
main something tragic, magnetic, to be re- 
membered. . . . Perhaps these are the last 
days we shall have together and I must 
speak out my heart. That is the Slav. It 
may be that in Peking you have heard that 
I am a worshiper of women. I am. I wor- 
ship all beauty. But you are the first woman 
I have ever known well. . . . You cannot 
know what it means, you your joy against 
this old unhappiness so intrinsically a part of 
my fiber. ... It is unspeakably dear this 
experience unspeakably rare. If I loved you 

292 



\ 



MISS AMERIKANKA CHOOSES 

less I should ask more of you. But I prize 
you as you are I love you unique singular. 
... I tremble lest this Old World cloud your 
fountain of joy." 

I could not look at M. Novinsky. The 
terror of night and the steppe seemed flowing 
over me as on that day at the cathedral. The 
world without this figure so simple, so gentle, 
so subtly understanding it was dull, un- 
imaginable! Whatever paths of the heart 
life might lead me into, it would never be this 
one, desired. I rose from the pine where 
we had been sitting, putting my hand to my 
throat to free it from ache. What mattered 
the world old or new without this tender 
figure this exquisite sensibility! 

"I shall always return." I tried to choke 
back my tears. "Something compelled me 
here I do not know what and I shall always 
return. I love Russia." 

M. Novinsky had risen and we were again 
on the needle-carpeted road, Orlik's road, 
moving toward a little woodland bridge under 
the high vaulting trees. He stopped now as 
we came to a turn in the forest road, subdued 
and fragrant from a thicket of a delicately 
flowering white bush. 

293 






MISS AMERIKANKA 

"Russia has given me a soul," I repeated, 
avoiding him and looking up at my dim green 
comrades, the trees, blindly struggling against 
a cold gray tide. "I shall always return." 

M. Novinsky had never kissed my hands 
before, after the manner of his race; he bent 
over them as if it were a rite. 

" Americaine" he said, slowly, searching my 
face with a terrible earnestness, "Russia is 
not a land to which one returns with joy. If 
it were not my own country, perhaps I should 
love it less than other lands of sunshine and 
freedom. If she were at a less crisis or less 
unhappy I might leave her; but as she is 
now, struggling, upheaved, I am bound to 
her. You love Russia, but you do not know 
Russia. The Russia you see is the Russia of 
to-day; what Russia of to-morrow will be no 
one knows. We are on the brink of change. 
Everything one loves and everything one hates 
is going into the melting-pot, and what will 
emerge no one can say. In time we shall 
evolve into a great free nation. In time 
but what is one man's lifetime in the evolution 
of a race? For the next hundred years we are 
going to be the most unhappy people in the 
world. In my case, if one can envisage the 

294 






MISS AMERIKANKA CHOOSES 

personal a thing I have almost forgotten- 
it may mean the loss of everything of estates, 
of home, even this old Bortnaka. ... It is a 
Novinsky tradition of which we are proud 
our long fight for Russia's freedom. But we 
are nobles and the first new uncouth forces 
of democracy for which we are striving will 
have little place for us." He added the latter 
with a whimsical smile, but all the weariness 
of Asia looked out of his eyes. He was silent 
for a moment, staring down the road, and the 
contours of his face sharpened in white lines of 
pain as he turned again to me. "But you, 
Amerikanka do you not see, it is cruel to 
bring you here to this chaos, this change- 
no one knows what with your clear title to 
happiness there." 

I could feel the taut figure, looking down 
at me with sea-blue eyes, quivering under the 
leash. He had resigned me. My choice was 
in my own hands, but his eyes were compelling 
me, wistfully questioning, exploring my soul, 
burning out the very essence of me with the 
intense emotion of the Slav. And that in- 
tensity, the prescience of which had drawn 
me overseas that passion of the East was 
drawing me now irresistibly to this man lifted 
295 



MISS AMERIKANKA 

up in pain before me. I closed my eyes. I 
was promising myself away, my country, 
pledging my hope and my ambition. I had 
a sense of pathos as at the closing of a chapter. 
That was all. Of irresolution none. The 
tender eyes and sensitive mouth I could 
hardly see them through a film of tears. I 
knew that there lay my world, in those fires 
ready to light at my touch. 

"I shall not return I shall stay in Russia. 
Whatever your destiny whatever the destiny 
of this Old World it is mine, Dmitri Niko- 
laievitch. . . . Sonia and Raskolnikoff . . . you 
know . . . together." 

He was trembling violently as I said the 
last words, but he put his free hand on my 
hair and turned me toward him M. Novinsky 
of my memory. "Your whole life do you 
understand your whole life?" His voice was 
steady, but his face was pale and straining, 
his eyes touched with the mysticism of the 
Slav. 

" My whole life, Dmitri Nikolaievitch." My 
soul seemed holding out her woman hands to 
this dim, questing face and these darkening 
eyes. "Together." 

" Moya Amerikanka . . . life . . . together/' 1 
296 



MISS AMERIKANKA CHOOSES 

The passion of the East, sweeping me up in 
its embrace, lifting me on full flood-tides, 
wrapping me in mystic fire his arms closing 
about me his body trembling, exquisitely 
near ... a torrent rushed through me like the 
wind in the forest, but at the heart was peace 
infinite repose. Strange sweet tides bore 
me far, far out out out to unknown seas! 
Something poignant in Russia yes, I had 
touched it. 



THE END 












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