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Full text of "The penitent"

LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
DAVIS 



THE PENITENT 

is VOLUME ONE OP 

THE NEW WORLD TRILOGY 

THE OTHERS TO FOLLOW ARE: 

THE PASSION FLOWER AND THE PAGEANT-MAKER 



THE PENITENT 



THE PENITENT 



BY 

EDNA WORTHLEY UNDERWOOD 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

&f)e ibcrstbe $>ress Cambridge 
1922 

LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 



COPYRIGHT, IQ22, BY EDNA WORTHLEY UNDERWOOD 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



tKfc Btoewibe $re 

CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS 
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. 



TO 

CALVIN THOMAS 

Dedicated to the late Professor Calvin Thomas, late head of the 
department of Teutonic Languages and Literatures, Columbia 
University, New York City, to whom first this initial idea of 
The New World Trilogy three novels picturing the crum 
bling of the great civilization of the past was submitted and 
which he was kind enough to commend. 

Once my teacher; always my friend ; and to the world at 
large a noble example of broad and accurate scholarship. 



Er [Alexander] war seit dem dreizehnten Mtirz 1801, vom Bewusztsein 
der ihm drilckenden Mitschuld am Todte des Vaters, ein Biiszer geworden, 
der nach den Heilsmitteln und nach den Heiligengotles suchte, die ihm 
den Last abnehmen sollten." 

SCfflEMANN 

(TRANSLATION) 

" Since the thirteenth of March, 1801, Alexander, because of the 
oppressive consciousness of his guilt in the murder of his father, had 
become a penitent, who sought the means of healing, the Holy God, to 
take the burden away." 

SCfflEMANN 



"Modern history knows no more tragic figure than Alexander. " 

Encyclopedia Britannica 

"The necessities of politics are the proper motive for modern 
tragedy." 

NAPOLEON THE FIRST 



CONTENTS 

I. THE MEETING 3 

II. ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 34 

III. THE JOURNEY SOUTH 60 

IV. ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 76 
V. THE DUEL 90 

VI. THE NIGHT VIGIL 105 

VII. PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 116 

VIII. THE ART EXHIBIT 127 

DC DAWN on THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 143 

X. BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 159 

XI. ODESSA 171 

XII. MADAM WORONZOW 181 

XIII. METTERNICH 195 

XIV. CRIMEA AND THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 215 
XV. A DINNER-PARTY BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 2 29 

XVI. CAUCASIA 242 

XVII. ALEXANDER 251 

XVIII. THE RETURN 262 

XIX. MtKHAILOVSKY 277 



x CONTENTS 

XX. THE DECISION 285 

XXI. THE FAREWELL 303 

XXII. TAGANROG 312 

XXIII. COUNT WORONZOW 318 

XXIV. ORCHIDS AND Music 327 

XXV. KUSMITCH THE MONK 341 

XXVI. THE NEWS 350 

XXVII. PRINCE METTERNICH'S LETTER 363 

XXVIII. THE PENITENT 366 



THE PENITENT 



THE PENITENT 



CHAPTER I 
THE MEETING 

"THESE meetings are getting to be a bore!" thought Alexis 
Sergiewitch Pushkin, concealing his yawning mouth hurriedly, 
and glancing about at the same time to see if any one had ob 
served his indifference. 

He would not have come to-night, probably, this petted dandy 
of the world of fashion, if it had not been a special meeting, and 
if the members had not insisted vigorously that his presence was 
necessary. Besides, to-night the leading members of the South 
ern Society, from Moscow, were here too, and his absence would 
iave been in the nature of a discourtesy. 

It was easy enough for him, the petted darling of Petersburg's 
smart set, to believe that his presence was necessary. Was he 
not sought by the elite? Who was more popular? He was the 
spoiled child of the fashionable crowd who was beginning to 
think that he had been made for people to compliment, to caress, 
[n addition, Ryleiev had asked him to come and in a manner 
that he felt to be significant. He liked Ryleiev. He did not wish 
to displease him. They were sympathetic. They were old 
iriends. And Ryleiev was a poet like himself, but of course 
not such an important one. Did he not have reason to believe 
that he was the only real poet in Russia? Was not that what 
people said? 

Ryleiev was the host to-night too. He had procured permis 
sion, for the occasion, to use one of the empty upstairs counting- 
rooms of the Russian-American Company, for which he had been 
working since he had given up his unpleasant position with the 



4 THE PENITENT 

Criminal Court whose procedures had spread before his mind 
such an unhappy comprehension of injustice, of misrule, that he 
was saddened. This was on the Moi'ka. Ryleiev, who was mar 
ried, lived right next door, in a small, four-roomed, wooden house, 
likewise owned by the Russian-American Company, from the 
front door of which you could look out and see the Blue Bridge. 

Alexis Sergiewitch, be it said, did not fancy greatly this plebe 
ian quarter. And least of all to-night! He looked about the bare, 
ugly room, where men spent their lives in prosaic work instead 
of pleasure, with a suppressed frisson of distaste. A large, awk 
ward, oblong table was in the center. It was covered with green 
oilcloth, stamped with raised red and blue flowers. There were 
yellow-painted wooden armchairs with low, round backs; some 
high, narrow desks with tall, long-legged stools; unpainted pil 
lars of wood supporting the low, none too clean, ceiling. The 
cheap candles that lighted the room had not been cleaned for so 
long they looked as if they were encrusted with ice, or had been 
through a gray snowstorm. Alexis Sergiewitch hated everything 
that savored of discipline ; discomfort, or shabby living. 

By force of contrast with the ugly present, and its atmosphere 
of compulsion and of toil, he recalled the night before. He had 
spent it with one of Petersburg's loveliest women. What fun the 
smuggling him in had been! He chuckled now at thought of it. 
How well he had acted his part, too, that of messenger from the 
fashionable modiste, Marcelle, bringing home late a gown! At 
the recollection he looked down upon his slim, elegant figure with 
approval. Then the luxurious, satin-hung, violet-perfumed room, 
with its profusion of flowers, and its seductive inmate, swung be 
fore the eyes of his brain and shut out the ugly present. 

"Why don't you pay attention?" 

Kakhovsky of the deep-set, treacherous eyes and brutal face 
nudged him roughly, discourteously. This vexed him. He was 
particularly sensitive to discourtesy. 

Kakhovsky was a Pole, a gentleman by birth, he claimed, who 
had gambled away his estates, and who was envious of men with 
money, or who were better placed socially than himself. He had 
the manners of a boor, and Alexis Sergiewitch hated him. He 



THE MEETING 5 

hated him also because he was ugly to look at, and offended his 
sensitive poet's eyes. Kakhovsky had a huge, protruding under 
lip, that hung down and made him look like an animal, a sort of 
hog's jowl. His voice was rough, harsh. He had a mean, high- 
tempered face. And he was shabbily dressed and looked dirty. 
He looked like anything but the gentleman he claimed to be. 

At the other end of the room they were crowding around 
Ryleiev mysteriously. They were whispering. There was an air 
of suspense and secrecy about them. Kakhovsky seemed to 
understand. But he, Alexis Sergiewitch, did not. Kakhovsky 
evidently was in the secret. But he would not tell. He watched 
them intently for a moment with his little, twinkling, evil, pig 
eyes, as if he knew just what they were saying. Then, without 
addressing young Pushkin, or as if with intention to ignore him, 
he sauntered jauntily over to join them. 

Alexis Sergiewitch noticed, wearily, that to-night a light that 
resembled inspiration shone in the great, sad, beautiful eyes of 
Ryleiev, and the refractory brown curl that stood up on the top 
of his head was bobbing briskly. His somewhat frail body looked 
frailer than usual, too, he thought. He was nervous and restless. 

Ryleiev, however, always dressed atrociously, in the worst 
taste, affecting bright-colored plaid vests, huge, showy scarf-pins, 
and his coat looked as if it had been made for some one else. But 
his head, which would be noticed in any assembly, was a poet's 
head. This made Alexis Sergiewitch remember the poem "Vo- 
inarovsky" which Ryleiev had just written, and had dedicated 
to the elegant Alexander Bestushew, the friend he loved, the 
dark, sensitive, boyish figure that was now standing beside him. 
Certain lines floated without volition through his memory. It 
was poetry. He enjoyed it. He could not forget it. There was no 
doubt about it. Ryleiev was a poet. 

Prince Odojewsky, blond, slender, aristocratic, the petted 
darling of his mother and the social elite, and like himself only 
twenty, slipped supplely from a tall stool, beside a dirty, guttering 
candle, and lounged slowly toward the others. Odojewsky was 
charmingly frivolous and frail to look upon. He was a picture 
worthy of a painter. He was pretty as girls are pretty, and 



6 THE PENITENT 

young. He was finely enough dressed to attract comment. He 
had a waist so slender two hands could clasp it, contrasting 
sharply with the long, full flare of his black broadcloth coat. His 
shirt and the dramatic, Byronic swathing of his neck were 
of the finest cambric from Marseilles. Like young men of fashion 
of the day, he was tightly corseted, and his blond hair was 
brushed out daringly into the middle of his cheek on each side, 
where it swirled around like a yellow rosette. 

The brothers Mouravieff-Apostol were aristocrats too, like 
young Prince Odojewsky. But like Ryleiev they were older, a 
little, than the others and they had both fought in the war with 
France. Their father, who had been the childhood friend of 
Alexander, the Emperor, and his playmate in the imperial pal 
ace, and had shared likewise with him his careful classical educa 
tion, was not only a great gentleman, after the courtly standard 
of the past, but a Greek scholar of repute, and a philologist. He 
lived in Florence now, in a luxurious, old, yellowing palace of 
Italian marble, devoting his life to the study of Greek and Ro 
man art. He had translated Aristophanes into Russian, and now 
he was writing elegant if insipid verse, in the noble tongue of 
Greece. Here in the proud, picturesque, Italian city, away from 
his own untutored, rougher race, living in a luxury that was regal, 
the accredited friend of princes and emperors, he was dream 
ing his days away, like the patrician he was, over the perished 
poets of antiquity. He was a figure, in short, such as only the 
highly specialized life of a brief period, its leisure, its barely 
touched wealth, could create. 

He bore proudly an ancient name : Mouravieff, ancient nobles 
of Russia; and Apostol, the revolutionary hetman of the Ukraine 
who dared to defy Peter the Great, and who in the end won his 
admiration. But none of this restless, warlike blood had come 
down to him, the scholar, the exquisite, the lonely sybarite of 
beauty. It had skipped him and become the perilous heritage, in 
a perilous period, of his two tall, handsome sons, who were ar 
guing now with such evident zest with Ryleiev, as Alexis Sergie- 
witch stood idly watching them. Alexis Sergiewitch had no in 
terest in this conversation which he could see was growing more 



THE MEETING 7 

and more animated, even to the point of resembling dissension. 
They were just literary societies, anyway! What could any of 
them tell him about art, about letters? He smiled disdainfully at 
the thought. He wished again that he had not come. He did not 
feel that he belonged in these amateurish, schoolboy debates. 
Besides, they bored him. 

The brothers Mouravieff-Apostol had both been in the Na 
poleonic wars, those epoch-making wars, which had created a 
new, a dangerous sense of fellowship among men, and had scat 
tered bright firebrands of discordant thought throughout a con 
tinent. They had been attached to the staff of Field Marshal 
Wittgenstein, of the Second Army Corps. Pestel, as it happened, 
a German by name but a Russian by blood, had been there too. 
He, in fact, because of a peculiar stern ability, had been made 
aid-de-camp to Prince Wittgenstein. These three were the initial 
founders of the two societies which were meeting in joint session 
to-night. The idea had been at first the result of a need of diver 
sion in the black, lonely, unenlivened nights they had spent to 
gether upon the battle-fields, when they were huddled together 
in the discomfort of rain, of snow; merely a glittering, fanciful 
dream to entertain their brains and make the slow hours go more 
quickly. Then, boyishly enough, they had planned together the 
remaking of their country. And Pestel, who had been most 
serious, most interested from the beginning, had even gone so far 
as to write, laboriously, a new code of laws, which he was con 
vinced, because of a certain self-reliance which was his, an un 
tutored conceit, was what Russia needed and would cure her 
social ills. 

The three saw and agreed upon various points of weakness in 
the existing social structure. One was that there were only two 
classes of people in the land; the one so few, the other so many, 
and the distance between them was too great for safety. It made 
them useless, in a way, to each other. It was a source of weak 
ness, of not easily defined loss. The aristocrats, in minority; and 
the rough, unmoulded mass of unlettered peasants who could 
neither read nor write. It was this, at first, that the young men 
hoped to change. This, they believed, created unrest, dissatis- 



8 THE PENITENT 

faction. This was a breaking spot which needed strengthening. 
There must be some kind of leveling, some kind of filling in. 

Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol had at length been promoted. He 
had been made lieutenant-colonel. And he filled the office with 
the dignity, with the pride that became his ancient race. It had 
been the lot of his race always to command, not obey. With him 
therefore it was an inherited instinct, and he' did it well. 

He was a distinguished, tall, resolute, blond figure, well fitted 
to lead. His brother, Ataman, younger, was less determined, less 
aggressive. He was of gentler mould. He looked the artist he 
was not. There was some indefinable quality in his face that was 
appealing. He had the sensitive, trembling mouth of a child. 
They were both aristocrats and they looked it. They belonged 
to his world, and Alexis Sergiewitch looked upon them kindly. 

But Pestel, who was talking with them now so earnestly, he 
did not like. Pestel was considerably older than the others. His 
hah- was beginning in places to turn gray. He was over thirty. 
His face was yellow like a Chinaman's, with dull, small, black, 
cruel eyes set too far apart; eyes which were peculiarly expres 
sionless, unless he was moved to anger, when they took on a deep, 
slow, sullen, coal-like glow. He dressed showily and badly. His 
figure was unpleasant because his right shoulder was considerably 
higher than the left. He was small and a little too slight of build, 
but wiry. And he possessed great endurance. He had won a 
medal, indeed, for bravery in the campaign of 1812. His nature, 
however, was hard, cruel. He had little heart. And he came by 
the lack of it honestly. His father had been the most savage, 
brutal governor that Siberia had had. In that pale, barren land- 
strip, reaching out to touch the far Pacific, he had made tears 
fall like rain. His name, in that lonely land, had been a synonym 
for sorrow. Within the son, too, could be felt something that re 
sembled steel, that could not be made to bend; something deter 
mined, resisting, beyond the normal. 

The high-pitched, dictatory voice of Pestel now floated over 
to where he stood. It was angry. It was harsh and argumenta 
tive. It overrode the voices of the others and bore them down 
brutally. 



THE MEETING 9 

"I came back from abroad, from France, with new ideas, new 
points of view, ambitions, just like all the other soldiers," he de 
clared dictatorially. 

"We Russians, hundreds, thousands of us, had bought with 
our suffering, our life-blood, the freedom of Europe. We came 
home with a feeling of victory, of freedom. Were we not the 
petted soldiers of a triumphing, a feted army? We came back 
eager for the reward which we had earned. Did we not have a 
right to it, my friends, I ask you? 

"We came home, I repeat, to take possession of the advan 
tages which belonged to us because we had paid for them. We 
had bought them with our blood. And what do we find when we 
get here? That there is nothing for us. Alexander, the Emperor, 
has changed. We can no longer recognize in him the leader we 
used to know. He has broken his promises. He no longer cher 
ishes those noble dreams of youth which were ours and his 
together. Suddenly, he is old disillusioned, strange. We can 
not understand him! He has thrown over his happy, broad- 
minded plans for freedom, for enlightenment. The ideals, the 
hopes, which were once his have now passed on to his people, ou. 
of his reach, out of his guidance. He is terrified, we learn, at the 
spirit of liberalism, of modernism, sweeping over the country, 
which he himself helped to start. He can only condescend, it 
seems. He cannot treat with equals. 

"What does he do for us after our return from the battle 
field? How does he repay us for our blood? What is his gratitude 
for our suffering? He turns that hell-hound Arakcheiev loose 
upon us. He doubles the number of his spies. He doubles his 
guard. He gives us over to that stiff-necked drill-master, Count 
Benkendorf, who inaugurates the baseness of the paid denun 
ciation. He lets that mad priest, Photius, dictate, who has just 
the grade of intelligence of a wolf. 

"And what do we soldiers get for our reward? Tell me! This! 
In his military colonies, presided over by Arakcheiev, we are 
knouted to death. The officers who brought glory, who brought 
distinction to Russia, are dishonored, or dismissed. Dismissed, I 
tell you, without anything to live upon. Dismissed to starve, or 
to become beggars in the street. 



io THE PENITENT 

"Revolution is loose in the world. Why should not we, too, 
profit by it? Have we not every justification to do so? What else, 
my friends, is there left to do? Alexander is not what we thought 
him in the old days. He has changed, most unaccountably. In 
stead of being the inspired leader of men we used to think him, he 
is a tricky Byzantine. 

"In addition, he is forgetting Russia in his eagerness for a 
greater part, a world part. In his longing to make calm, to make 
happy again the continent which Napoleon upset, he has neg 
lected us. In trying to do everything he has done nothing. We 
are forgotten I tell you! 

"The first few months that followed the invasion of the Little 
Corsican, and the end of the war with him, found Petersburg 
gay, to be sure, as you and I remember, and the scene of an exag 
gerated social display. I grant you it was a brief period of happi 
ness. It was a period of enterprise, of rich and varied activity. 
We hoped a new era had begun. Poets, who need little encourage 
ment at any time, began to pipe up, just Jike birds when the 
year is young, and in rich contrast, I can tell you, to the gloomy 
years of war preceding. Joy swept back to reinvigorate a world 
that had grown sad with suffering. Russia was a good place to 
live in then. 

"But it did not last! Alexander changed. He would not let it 
last! Why, no one knows, unless it was that which rules cow 
ards, fear. He denied everything he used to champion. He gave 
up his friends. He became the weak slave of an abandoned 
woman, who cannot even count her lovers." 

Alexis Sergiewitch began to shake off his weariness. 

" You who did not go to the war, because you were too young," 
chimed in Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol, in a dignified manner, 
without anger, a man's manner, which carried a conviction of its 
own, "do not know, from personal experience, the truth of what 
our brother, Pestel here, has just been saying. The men of old 
Russia, our fathers, hated new France, and the Revolution." 

At this moment, Alexis Sergiewitch, always at heart the aris 
tocrat, thought: "What a relief to such boredom as this to 
night, and to the crudeness, the rough ugliness of a land like ours, 



THE MEETING u 

was the gay spirit of pleasure, of highly developed living of old 
France! What a thing to hold in memory, as an earnest of the 
possibilities of man, was that polished race that had made life 
fearless, finished, and at the same time so luxurious" a vision 
of the petted beauty of the night before occurring to him as an 
example. 

"They, our fathers, adored the France of Versailles. That is of 
the past, we know. It is dead. Nothing like it can come again. 
A new world has been born, my brothers, born upon the battle 
field where worlds have before been born, around the cannons 
of the Conqueror. The travail of the birth of civilizations is the 
boom of cannons." 

A silence, just such as the mysterious wind spreads over water, 
followed this statement, and Mouravieff-Apostol paused an in 
stant to enjoy it and to judge of its effect. 

"After such a great war as ours, my brothers, not only are the 
minds of living men different, but it may be the recent dead be 
yond are tugging at us. You cannot easily make a list of the 
powers that war unleashes." A pause longer and more dramatic 
followed. 

"What did we Russians get from that old France that is dead? 
What did we get, I ask you? Nothing but demoralization! A 
demoralization of heart, of mind that has been steadily going 
on poisoning the sincere impulses of our natures. Dissipated 
French emigres, fleeing basely to us for refuge, in 1796, from the 
vengeance of the onrushing Revolution, fleeing from the logical 
consequences of their own lives, came here to act as our teachers, 
to bring up our children, to train them in the pernicious vices 
of decadent France. Upon our youthful, honest, unsophisticated 
race, just coming into sight upon the horizon of history, there 
was set that old age of the mind, of the emotions, which are a 
part of decaying France. We became dissipated before we had 
lived. We paid a debt which we had not incurred " 

11 Wait! I tell you. There is something to be said upon 
the other side. You are dealing, like most orators, in half 
truths." 
Alexis Sergiewitch was glad of this interruption. He began to 



12 THE PENITENT 

pay attention. Prince Viazemsky was not only a friend of his, 
but a poet, too. He wondered what he was going to say. 

"That old world of Versailles, of corrupt, if you will, but still of 
magnificent manners, was, in a way, the world's standard of ex 
cellence, of a certain kind. It measured the greatest distance 
between the savage and the civilized. It measured the distance 
man has traveled from the brutal past. Poets, artists, even 
thinkers, will continue to regard it with delight. It was some 
thing perfect of its kind, something good to remember, the 
height, perhaps, of the white race, that will with difficulty be 
reached again. And you cannot reproach them with weakness, 
you who boast so willingly of having fought in the wars, or with 
enervation, or cowardice, these old French nobles, because few 
have been able to meet death as they met it. They danced smil 
ing, with gay gestures of farewell, from the minuets of Mozart to 
the guillotine, keeping step with pleasure " 

"Sh sh shl sh shl " The last sentence was drowned in 
hisses. Prince Viazemsky was forced to take his seat and leave 
the rest unsaid. But his words had not been ineffective. Via- 
zemsky's tongue seldom missed its mark. It could sting like a 
bee. 

Kakhovsky, with a head that just now resembled a wild bull, 
jumped up. He hated Prince Viazemsky for his social position, 
his distinction, and his attitude of aristocratic disdain. 

"You are only an artist a poet!" he exclaimed with scorn. 
"You cannot appreciate anything but pleasure. I wish to inform 
you, my princely friend, that that is over no matter what you 
say or think the few controlling the many. It will not come 
again. The heads of kings and emperors are not fastened too se 
curely to their shoulders these days. You know it as well as I do. 
They must go, all of them ! And I, for one, am glad of it. They 
cannot go too soon. 

"After them the nobility. And then, in time, the rich 
man, too, must go. This is the logical progression. This is the 
bottom of the long, steep, icy hill of descent down which we are 
sliding. In the new world that is coming there will be no free 
birth tickets to unearned seats. In this new world," he added 



THE MEETING 13 

solemnly, and with something that almost resembled reverence, 
"which our brother, Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol, just told us 
had been born upon the battle-field, by the light of the camp- 
fires of the Conqueror, in this new world which Napokon was 
bold enough to plunder of its old-fashioned, its trite ideals, its 
unfair finenesses, the few cannot control the many. 

"Why, I ask you, should they who create what the rich squan 
der, the producers, be despised? They are the mainstay of life. 
To the trained mind, the scientific mind, nothing can be despised. 
We have been subjected long enough to the folly of the few so- 
called chosen ones who rule. The miracle is that such subjection 
should have lasted through the centuries. It could only be suc 
cessful through the world's undeveloped youth, its period of 
swashbuckling, unreasoning romance. But the slower the 
awakening of the people, the greater its reserve of momentum. 
It will become the irresistible force. Not much longer can it be 
controlled. The period of realism has come." 

"What a strange turn affairs are taking to-night," thought 
Alexis Sergiewitch, who had expected to hear read the latest 
poetic effusions of his companions. "Are they mad? How in 
tently they are listening, too, the others! It is as if there were 
some secret, some agreed-upon coup in reserve." 

His eyes swept the group before him. Maximilian Klinger, the 
German poet, the spy, who had been in the Russian army and 
who was leaving on the morrow for his home, was here. Why 
was he here to-night, unless to report, like the base tattler he 
was, what was said in order to make trouble? His somewhat 
square head unwaveringly faced the speaker. He did not intend 
to miss a word. He was storing it up greedily. 

Behind Klinger stood Adam Mickiewicz, the Polish poet and 
patriot, now in exile in Petersburg. For an instant the sensitive 
eyes of Pushkin were arrested by the striking beauty of the face 
of Mickiewicz. There was something in the expression, the elo 
quent pallor, the contour of the head, which resembled the ideal 
which Titian and Veronese, in the great days of Italian art, had 
attempted to give to the head of Christ; a haunting combination 
of nobility and dramatic grace. 



H THE PENITENT 

In another group slightly to the right of the excited, noisy 
speaker, was young Bestushew-Rjumin, a distant relative of the 
Great Chancellor of the days of Catherine the Second; a graceful, 
aristocratic youth of genius who wore his clothes with distinction. 
He was a figure to be noticed in any crowd. He was poet, story 
teller, goldsmith, artist, and accomplished man of the world \ 
Prince Odojewsky, Prince Troubetskoi, and young Baratinsky. 
The latter was young, handsome, a poet, with the dark, eloquent 
face of an Asiatic which race he resembled. He was a fashion 
able, attractive figure. He possessed a peculiar, persistent 
charm. And he was almost a rival of Alexis Sergiewitch in the 
favor of the ladies. 

The eyes of the Polish poet, Mickiewicz, looked back occa 
sionally at the weary Pushkin, and at length a spark of interest 
brightened them. He began to think, with the accustomed scorn 
of his haughty, but treacherous race: "He looks to-night just 
what he is, a little, frail, faded, yellow negro!" This judgment 
was soon corrected by an opposing impression, that young Push 
kin had something of the changeableness of a chameleon, be 
cause he recalled just now, too, having seen him when he was a 
figure of astonishing distinction. He was not easy to judge, evi 
dently. He was not all upon the surface to see at any one mo 
ment like a display of cheap goods in a small shop. 

Alexis Sergiewitch was slender, of medium height, but supple 
and strong, because he was one of the skilled swordsmen of the 
time. He had light hair, so curly it was woolly and betrayed his 
negro blood. His eyes were blue-gray, sparkling and intelligent, 
but the white showed too conspicuously. His long, thin nose was 
noticeably flattened at the end in a manner not characteristic of 
the white race. The expression of his face held something alien, 
un-European. 

He had long, strong, white teeth that shone extraordinarily. 
But the remarkable thing about his face was that it had no eye 
brows. His figure, however, was superb. He could not be called, 
perhaps, what is understood by handsome, but he did not look 
like any one else. He was strikingly individual. He was unique, 
as alien combinations are sometimes unique; and he possessed a 



THE MEETING 15 

peculiar, supple charm both of physical movement and mind. 
About him, too, there was an indefinable air of conscious power, 
something poignantly different, which sometimes was the cause 
of irritating a new acquaintance. 

Mickiewicz bent hastily to the ear of Klinger. He whispered, 
not without malice: "I am beginning to think our fashionable, 
petted Pushkin, over there, as a poet, possesses merely charm 
and not depth." Here he smiled significantly and noted the 
effect of his words upon Klinger. " Liberty, the freedom of man, 
do not mean anything to him. Why he does not even know 
what the words mean!" warming to the subject, because Klinger 
looked sympathetic. "They are just new toys for his amuse 
ment new, fleeting enthusiasms which he thinks are fash 
ionable." 

Klinger, who was envious of Pushkin's quickly acquired repu 
tation, nodded hastily in agreement. 

Such an adverse, whispered decision as this had never before 
been uttered in Petersburg, where Pushkin happened to be the 
fashion. And Klinger, by his quick approval, contented himself 
with thinking that Mickiewicz might possibly set something dis 
agreeable going with such opinions, after he, Klinger, had re 
turned to Germany. He ended by wondering why Pushkin, that 
luxurious sybarite, who seldom had a free evening, was here at all 
to-night. 

Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol was now nodding commandingly 
toward his younger brother, Ataman, for the purpose of stimu 
lating him to play a part, since with himself and Pestel, he was 
one of the originators of the two societies, the Northern and the 
Southern, which were meeting in joint session to-night. Ataman 
was disinclined evidently, for some reason, to follow his broth 
er's repeated command. He still hesitated. At length, being 
unable longer to resist the older brother, whom he was accus 
tomed to obey, he arose slowly, unwillingly. 

" We know that in his youth Alexander had liberal ideas 
but his will was weak. In that perhaps he was just a Russian 
like the rest of us. We make plans vast plans but we do not 
execute them." He would have said "which are impossible to 



1 6 THE PENITENT 

execute" had he not feared the disapproval of his sterner brother, 
who was watching him narrowly. "The making of plans evi 
dently satisfied him. We must not be like him." 

" H 'earl Hear! Hear!" Noisy applause all but swept the 
timid, youthful speaker off his feet. Encouraged a little, he 
went on more bravely. 

"Our Russian mind, my good friends, is too much like the land 
we live in. It is vast and it has not been subjected, sufficiently, 
to cultivation. It lacks map-making, charting sure highways. 
We must be different. We must know where we are going. There 
must be ahead of us some well-defined termination." 

"Hear! Hear! Hear!" 

"Because of his sensitive and not particularly strong nature," 
thought Alexis Sergiewitch with disapproval, who was now be 
ginning to pay attention to what was said, "he is merely the 
mouthpiece through which the others are speaking. These are 
no convictions of his. It is a sort of hypnotism. And it is a 
damned shame to make him do it. He does not belong here. He 
is as much out of place as I am, or Baratinsky." 

But young Mouravieff-Apostol was still continuing. 

"The entire world is aflame for liberty. It is not only we, the 
isolated Russians. Revolution is loose among men. Our time 
has come!" 

"Is he crazy?" thought Alexis Sergiewitch. "What in the 
name of common sense does he think he is doing!" 

But Mouravieff, under the compelling eyes of his brother, was 
keeping steadily on. 

" Why should we be behind the rest of the world? Long ago we 
ceased to be nomads, mere, unknown, wandering Asiatics, carry 
ing our tents upon our backs, footing it from place to place, out 
of touch with the rest of the white race. The chosen ones, the 
thinkers, of every land are now preaching liberty, the equality 
of man. We are no longer ignorant, hesitating pathfinders. But 
we are not playing the part of leaders that we should. In this 
new, important, man-saving movement, which means the 
coming of a different civilization, Russia is inert, uninspired, 
and still sleeps on amid the dreams of the past " 



THE MEETING 17 

"Aye! Aye! Aye! and Russia should lead instead of fol 
low," thundered Ryleiev, leaping to his feet excitedly and un 
ceremoniously thrusting young Mouravieff-Apostol aside. 

" Russia, my brothers, should lead! Russia is the greatest na 
tion of them all! What other can compare with it? Only that 
dim, polar star, our neighbor in space and the Arctic night, can 
measure its vastness. It is both Europe and Asia. It is both 
North and South. It is likewise of the world of the ancient, im 
memorial East, with its prayer, patient pilgrimage, its spiritual 
ity, and, at the same time, of the new, material, pessimistic West. 

" What does our land not embrace? What other can equal it? 
Tell me! Then why should we, the rich by inheritance, follow 
dumbly the poor? Consider if you will be good enough. Does it 
not border upon the polar midnight where the prohibition of God 
passes: Here man may not dwell? And at the same time does it 
not reach unto the south where luxuriant summer invites? It is a 
combination of nature's most powerful opposites. That is why it 
is not easy to estimate. That is why it is not easy to understand. 

"Its steppes are most barren, most disconcerting, and its 
mountains highest. Its rivers are most vast and lonely, and its 
unmarked mountains still unknown. There are no other plains 
on the face of the earth to compare with the plains of Russia. 
They can measure boundary to boundary with the African des 
ert. They are spaces from which seas have been swept away, and 
vanished. 

"In the South it is a wild immensity, left just as the ice of 
glacial periods left it, keeping the unpeopled, lonely levels of its 
cosmic birth. The low country by the southern Volga, and to the 
east of it, is the bed of some ancient, primeval ocean man did not 
name nor know. From some just such gigantic space, perhaps, the 
moon was once torn out and then flung forth to light the night of 
space. 

"In the North a polar prairie, the tundra, treeless, almost 
grassless, reaching out to meet a polar water. The monotonous 
spaces have brought about certain peculiarities in our mental 
constitution. They have helped to make that difference which 
separates us from other Europeans." 



1 8 THE PENITENT 

"Another thing that has changed us is that we were shut off 
from the life of Europe in the past. Europe's history was not our 
history. But that is no reason why we should be shut off from its 
life of freedom, hope, progress in the present. These various in 
fluences, my brothers, and others which I will not pause to name, 
have contributed to a sense of loneliness, of loss. But we need 
not continue this life of isolation. We must not! Let nothing 
force us to do it ! A part in the future must be ours. 

"We missed, and therefore we have felt sadly the loss of that 
first inspired propaganda of the teachings of Christ, fresh from 
the lips of the Master. It did not reach us, in this vast, cold, 
lonely land, until it had been filtered through the dying splendor 
of Rome, the regretful glory of Greece, and, like a wanderer, at 
length, weary, paused to rest for a time in the City of Constan- 
tine. From there it spread slowly, across the Russian steppe. It 
came to us. 

"We did not see the old pagan civilizations fall prostrate be 
neath it. We did not witness the magic of its coming nor the 
completeness of its triumph. It came to us when all this was over; 
but enriched, perhaps, for the soul, with a deeper pity, a new 
comprehension. 

" We did not know either that realized spirit of Beauty, made 
visible for the longing eye of man a little while amid the confus 
ing ways of earth, which was the counted days of Greece. And 
we did not know that eloquent coming to life again, in resonant 
Mediterranean lands rich with the past, that strange, belated liv 
ing over again of the glad Greek genius, which was called the Ital 
ian Renaissance; that gorgeous period of sanity, of bloom, which 
came for a moment with its blessed refreshment after the 
pagan world was gone; that resurgence of the youth of man, 
with this addition the gift of a soul. 

"We did not know that ordered civic wisdom, that reasoned 
support and strengthening for questioning life and its problems, 
which had been distilled, as it were, through war, through con 
quest, from all the past, the concentrated wisdom of history 
which was the teaching of the Twelve Tables and Justinian Law. 

"None of this came to us. But the separations, the prohibi- 



THE MEETING 19 

tions can hold no longer. We will become one with the rest of the 
world. We will not only claim but hold our share." 

Alexis Sergiewitch no longer leaned limply and indifferently 
against the red, wooden pillar, wishing the meeting were over 
and feeling disdainful. He was erect, intense. A new and surpris 
ing thought was creeping slowly into his brain, an illuminating 
thought. Perhaps he was not Russia's only man of genius after 
all, its only poet and chosen one. For the /moment a feeling 
came over him that was new and not altogether pleasant. He 
felt small and insignificant. Ryleiev, evidently, was a poet with 
the inspiration of heroes and martyrs in his soul, while he, Alexis 
Sergiewitch, was only a petted poet of pleasure of the roses 
and the wine. What were words of sportive elegance in com 
parison with such a faith as this! 

Silence followed the outburst of Ryleiev, the silence that for 
a moment impresses itself upon men who are suddenly thrust 
without warning into the presence of something sacred. 

Alexis Sergiewitch then made one of those sudden, supple 
mental changes, which were characteristic of him, and a frequent 
cause of misunderstanding among those who associated with him. 
Whatever people might say of him he was the generous-souled 
artist. He looked down now with eyes of love, sympathy, com 
prehension, and approval at Ryleiev, who he knew had sur 
passed him. In the depths of his nature he was generous and 
just. No one had found him niggardly. 

At length Pestel, Ryleiev, Kakhovsky, and the elder Mou- 
ravieff-Apostol began to whisper together again significantly. 
When this whispered conference was at an end, Pestel took the 
place of the former speaker, and with a certain air of proud im 
portance that was disagreeable, as if he were preparing to say 
something he had long planned to say and that he alone was 
fitted to say. 

"We have played Hamlet long enough, my good friends. We 
have debated; To be or not to be! We have at length, I am proud 
to declare, reached a decision. That is why the two societies are 
in joint session to-night. For too long we have merely medi 
tated. Now we know what must be. We must exterminate the 



20 THE PENITENT 

Romanoffs. We must kill Alexander. Thus only can our country 
live, be free." 

Profound silence and no applause followed this statement. 
Evidently they had not all been informed. And the agreement 
was more than doubtful. 

Alexis Sergiewitch left his place against the red, wooden pillar. 
He walked defiantly to the center of the room, in order to face 
them equally. 

"God of our fathers! Are we scholars, I ask you? Are we 
gentlemen, seeking to help, to enlighten our land? Or are we 
criminals, murderers?" In an illuminating flash of mind he 
realized how he had been tricked into coming here to-night; how 
against his will he had been made a member of a criminal, secret 
conspiracy against the life of Alexander whom he loved. He had 
not only no interest in anything of this sort, but he was decidedly 
opposed to it. This harping about reform he detested. It was 
especially disagreeable to his nature. He hated nothing so much 
as the thought of a world of men busy in improving other men's 
morals. That was occupation for a reformer, not for a poet, an 
artist. Life was well enough as it was. He did not care whether 
people's morals were good or bad. He cared only for the bright 
pageantry which life and its movements spread before his artist's 
eyes, its resolving into eloquent, fluent lines. He enjoyed the 
pictures of living. He loved color, form, instead of morals. In 
this mental occupation with which he busied himself he did not 
relish being limited by anything, least of all by reform, which to 
him was synonymous with vulgarity, with dullness. 

"You condemn Alexander, our Emperor, wrongly," he began 
in a voice of forced calm because he was trembling with anger 
"more, unintelligently. Your outlook is narrow. You persist in 
seeing only half. He has done all that is humanly possible, in 
the time given him, with the wars, too, with which he has had to 
contend, to improve our country. He is doing it all the time. 
The age just now is difficult. You ought to know this, you who j 
pose to know so much, you who went to the war. It is one of 
great, of varied activity change uncertainty " 

"Sh shJ Sh^-sh shl" 






THE MEETING 21 

Hisses for a moment silenced him. Then Kakhovsky de 
manded, in a voice in which he did not trouble to conceal both 
scorn and contempt: 

"What do poets know? You are a poet." 

Controlling himself with effort, Pushkin replied civilly enough, 
although in a strained voice: 

"Poetry, my Polish nobleman, is for the elect; politics for the 
rabble. In addition, poets have always helped to light the road to 
freedom. But they are not murderers. They do not stab men in 
the back. They are usually able to find decent ways hi which to 
work. At the same time they war against injustice. They are 
scornful of power and place. They uphold truth for truth's sake. 
A poet is seldom deceived by the shows of things. He has the 
surest eye for what is hidden. In the poet, you who profess to 
disdain him, there is something of the prophet. You can trust his 
vision if you cannot his reason. Be assured of that. 

"To return to Alexander, whom God protect!" he added de 
fiantly, his slender body becoming rigid and determined; "re 
member, my wise friends, that he did not wish to rule. And that 
is equally true, as you know, of both his older brothers, Constan- 
tine and Nicholas. They have lived always amid murders, amid 
sudden deaths, you might say. They heard the blows struck, 
they heard the struggle that killed their father. They prefer a 
simple life, insignificance, to the throne. 

"Alexander is ruling now, not because he wishes to, but for 
your sake, for mine. And this is the way you wish to repay him. 
He has no ambition. He was born above its vulgar impulses. In 
stead of greed of power, there is in his nature the weariness, the 
ensuing disillusion of Russia's turbulent more, tragic past. In 
him there is the physical reaction of that prolonged debauch 
which was the life of his ancestors. 

"You say that he has changed, that he used to be one of us. 
That is true. But Russia has changed also, and you, who pre 
tend to be so wise, cannot see it. And so have I. And all the 
world since the wars of Napoleon. 

"Alexander has been forced to use new means in order to meet 
new conditions. Other influences, too, have come upon him. He 



22 THE PENITENT 

is only a man. He cannot wholly escape the environment, the 
usual life of a man. One of these unfortunate influences has been 
Prince Metternich. Few men, you know, have resisted the fas 
cination of Metternich. And Alexander is just the man not to do 
it. It is tragic, my friends, instead of blameworthy, the way 
Metternich has chilled the loving impulses of his heart. And he 
has worked busily, too, to break up his friendships. He set about 
isolating him, the better, sometime, to control him. That is why 
after 1812 he sent away his former advisers. It is the finger of 
Metternich, my good friends, that points the destiny of Eu 
rope" 

"To hell with Metternich!" was the prompt response. 

"Metternich," declared Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol solemnly, 
with his air of studious deliberation, "is one of mankind's op 
pressors. With a gesture of those long, white hands of his, or a 
gay word, he sweeps away the freedom of races " 

"To hell with Metternich!" was the more gruff, responsive 
roar. 

"But he, Alexander, is ours," went on Alexis Sergiewitch ten 
derly. " He belongs to us. We must stand by him. Alexander is 
not a despot. These new measures of his, of which you disap 
prove so greatly, are merely temporarily self -protective. He was 
forced for the moment to make them. He is a broad-minded, 
kind-hearted man placed by accident over a people who under 
stand only physical force." 

Hisses again. 

" What do you know about it? " queried Kakhovsky insolently. 
" You are only an artist. You are just a lapdog for a lady's bou 
doir." In the tone there was a new reproach, a peculiar disdain, 
which he had not heard before. It was the first touch of the bit 
ter world's envy of which hatred is born. It was the first cold 
breath of criticism to be spoken aloud against him. 

Alexis Sergiewitch looked across at the man he had always 
hated, with an expression upon his pale face that made Kakhov 
sky remember suddenly that the poet was not only fearless, but 
a famous swordsman. Kakhovsky therefore contented himself 
with whispering in the ear of Pestel the words he did not dare say 
aloud. 



THE MEETING 23 

"He only joined the society because he thought it was fashion 
able. To him it is just a new way of wearing your mind. The 
only thing he is really interested in," he ended maliciously, "is a 
new style in cravats or the smallness of the feet of his mistress. 
Did you know he is foolish over the feet of women?" 

Before Pestel could find time to reply, Ryleiev had arisen to 
defend Alexis Sergiewitch and to conciliate him, and Pestel did 
not wish to disturb in the least his recently acquired influence 
over the eloquent, the popular Ryleiev. 

"We are not murderers, Alexis Sergiewitch," he declared in a 
voice that showed both kindness and indulgence. " We desire the 
enlightenment of our people just as you do, their freedom, too, 
and their happiness. A great goal this ! We must be ready to do 
anything that is demanded, in return for good so great. You will 
believe just as we do when the matter is placed before you differ 
ently. 

"It is our desire to right wrong, not to do wrong. It is our de 
sire to banish suffering, not to cause suffering. It is for others we 
strive, not for ourselves. With us there is no aim either petty or 
personal. We work not for our present, individual triumph, but 
for the future of the human family. 

"There must be no more wars! There must be no more cruel 
shedding of men's blood to gratify an autocrat's ambition, and by 
loss of man-power retard the development of the world. The bat 
tles of the future must be different. They must be bloodless bat 
tles; battles of the drawing-room, the counting-house; battles of 
commanding scientists, of wisely utilized industry; in short, eco 
nomic forces. 

"New battles must be for the increasing, numerically, of en 
lightening fields of activity, for extended human welfare, not in 
the sad suffering of soldiers who are helpless, and whose death 
is a world-loss, even to the victor." 

Again young Pushkin saw Ryleiev's eyes dilate with the mad 
ness of inspiration, and he suddenly felt dwarfed, insignificant, in 
the presence of this man who loved his fellows better than him 
self or the gratification of any personal desire. 

"Our Russia," Ryleiev went on to explain, "is perhaps chosen 



a 4 THE PENITENT 

to lead the way in this vast enlightening movement, this spiritual 
uplift. For sake of this goal, the freedom of man, the developing 
of world-forces, here perhaps revolutions will come and go, with 
regularity, with power, until storm, until electricity, have swept 
clear the sky for the glory of a new sun, a new earth. It may be 
come an active mental laboratory for the making of a nobler, a 
more unfettered race. Of these revolutions new ideas, new ideals 
will be born, and then held out toward the race. It will become 
the world's hothouse, the world's forcing plant for thought of cer 
tain kinds. The ideas will be seldom right in their entirety, be 
cause man cannot like God create without trial, but on the other 
hand they will be original, enterprising most important of all, 
sincere. The educated Russian will become the world's most dar 
ing thinker. He will have the most completely emancipated mind. 
He will not be hobbled mentally by the tenets of the past. Not in 
any way will he be bound by tradition, nor by prejudice. He will 
be ready to greet the new earth. 

"Here, perhaps, all laws, moral, political, civil, will be de 
stroyed for the necessary making of new ones, different ones, 
better ones. Laws must be remade, readjusted to people, just 
like their clothing. It is just as necessary that they should fit, 
should bear some relation to the wearer. Old-fashioned, useless 
laws, regulations of mind, must be cut up and the material made 
over into better ones. This will entail grief, suffering, perhaps 
loss. It will be like the necessary but painful setting of a leg that 
is broken. 

"As I said, there will be suffering. But the eyes of men will be 
strengthened to bear the suffering by the rainbow vision of hope, 
of fresh creativeness, still existing, by the assurance of the end 
less and as yet untouched possibilities of the future. It will 
gladden their eyes with limitless promise. 

"It will be the miniature world-stage upon which for a time 
man's ideals will be visualized for them who cannot visualize; 
embodied, would be better, for the surer comprehending. And 
they who projected the idea, and then presented it as a play for 
exhibiting, will pay, perhaps, for their pleasure, their unselfish 
daring for enlightenment, with death. But a new force will have 



THE MEETING 25 

been born, a proof of endless, fresh creativeness always going on. 
The eyes even of the doubters will have glanced farther into the 
depths, where new worlds are being made, and they will gain a 
little of the faith that there is no such thing as the reasoned, the 
compulsory standstill, foolishly named perfection, for either in 
dividual life or for governments, morally or politically. Life 
means change, progress, growth." 

Pushkin was impressed by the speech of Ryleiev. More, he 
was moved by it, but in a way that Ryleiev did not count upon. 
It did not draw Alexis Sergiewitch nearer to him, but, on the con 
trary, it pushed him farther away. It threw the nature of Alexis 
Sergiewitch, for the time being, into sharper relief. He saw that 
this noble, this unselfish, vision was greater than anything that he 
himself would ever do. And he saw, too, that he could not share 
it. It was something outside the circle of his desires, his interests. 
Ryleiev continued in a calmer voice. 

"Because certain laws, certain beliefs, suited the year 1275, 
does it in any way follow that they must suit the year 1820? 
Why should they? What possible reason is there to give? Is a 
law sacred aside from its timely applicability? Should not the 
outworn and unfit be discarded for the better? Is law a matter 
of sentiment? Is a threadbare idea any better than a threadbare 
garment? Is it any more serviceable? And how can you know 
whether or not a garment fits unless you try it on? How else can 
you be sure that it is useful? 

"These try-ons, which are disagreeable, are at the same time 
instructive. They mean the vigor, the progress of humanity. 
The flag of revolution is being unfurled throughout the world. 
Even in Spain, a royal Bourbon stronghold. In Italy, no matter 
how disdainfully Prince Metternich may speak of that country. 
In the Low Countries. Even among the students in Germany. 
Kings and queens will soon be as ridiculous in real life as figures 
upon playing cards would be, parading along the streets in their 
stiff, saw-tooth crowns of pasteboard. A prodigious, future up 
heaval is on the way. Powers never before listed, and until now 
unexplored, are to be called into use. We are going, too, to find 
out that there is something greater than nationalism. And that 



26 THE PENITENT 

is internationalism, the welfare of all mankind. There is some 
thing greater and more sacred than a geographical boundary, 
and that is mankind working together for the good of man 
kind. 

"No matter how much we may differ individually, tempera 
mentally, or intellectually, there is only one thing to be done, 
and that is what our brother Pestel said. We cannot buy freedom 
with words, with tears." 

He ended amid consternation and slight applause. Pushkin 
knew that Pestel had private political ambitions, and that at the 
same time he was seeking revenge for his father's abrupt dismis 
sal from office, and his disgrace in Siberia. 

"I know I feel in my heart" Alexis Sergiewitch made 
answer " that you are wrong. Murder is always wrong. It 
cannot be right. You have not understood him. With Alexander 
a hope of justice, all things you ask for, in fact, is now near you. 
It is you who are blind. It is you who cannot understand. His 
one desire is to give Russia what you want, what I want, a con 
stitution. He is merely waiting for the proper moment when the 
people can both appreciate and use intelligently a good so great. 
You cannot put a sword into the hand of a child, can you? He is 
a political Messiah, I tell you, sent for your saving, whom you are 
hastening to crucify ye of little faith!" 

He sat down feeling baffled and defeated. In addition, he did 
not have the peculiarly emancipated mind which was character 
istically Russian, because he came of a mixed race. He did not 
see so far ahead. And at heart he was aristocratic, conservative. 
He kept his daring for the art of words. He was a poet, too, and 
believed therefore that life was so good just as it was that it 
would be foolish to trouble about making it better. His judg 
ments were aesthetic judgments. Again the luxurious, violet- 
perfumed boudoir of the night before swung seductively before 
his youthful brain. 

He was worn out physically, too; worn out with weeks of in 
sufficient sleep, dissipation, gambling, drinking, and dangerous 
love affairs. There was nothing left in him with which to com 
bat. 



THE MEETING 27 

"Do you recall what Dershawin said?" questioned Pestel. 
" 'Take but one step forward, Russia, and the world is yours.' " 

"Dershawin was an old ass!" interrupted Pushkin savagely. 
"He not only wrote in Tartar, but he thought in Tartar, too!" 

This angered Pestel afresh. He resented the tone of superior 
ity. 

"I suppose you think you'll go free while the rest of us will be 
punished, do you not?" remarked Pestel scornfully. "What do 
you suppose people are saying about your 'Ode to the Dag 
ger'?" 

"That was just poetry." 

"Hear him! Hear him! " they roared scornfully. 

When he wrote of the dagger as the last weapon of injustice, 
to him it was merely the eloquence of words. It was a sort of 
aesthetic, emotional escape valve. He had no interest in so prac 
tical a thing as its application. He was just treating a subject 
poetically. 

"You will find out the world does not think so," Pestel flung 
back maliciously. "You will see what will happen to you!" 

There was little cunning in his nature. There was no inclina 
tion to concealment. He usually said, with astonishing frank 
ness, whatever occurred to him, with small regard at the mo 
ment for consequences. 

When Alexis Sergiewitch made biting epigrams or wrote 
witty, jesting verses, there was seldom an evil intention in his 
heart. He was merely playing with words. He was practicing, so 
to speak, in the same way that a musician practices. But the 
unpoetic world, unaware necessarily of this creative impulse, 
placed a different interpretation upon his flexible word-play, 
and condemned him. To-night for the first time this disparity of 
judgment was clear to him, and it staggered him. It made him 
for the moment unhappy. To him the "Ode to a Dagger" was 
just poetry. To his companions it was a serious call to rebellion, 
to revolution, which they were convinced he was basely attempt 
ing to disavow. 

What did he care about such a stupid thing as reform? The 
thought that he could care for it was laughable. It shivered him 



28 THE PENITENT 

with restrained merriment when he heard it mentioned. He only 
wished to live, to live superbly. He wished to touch life richly 
at just as many points as possible. The world was well enough. 
Besides, that was God's business and not his. 

He was exclusively an artist. He was peculiarly uncaring of 
other things. In his heart he was interested in beauty, not moral 
ity, not political betterment. Why could not other people be 
happy and careless and mind their own business just as he did? 

"There is not a soldier nor a sailor, my fine dandy," Karhov- 
sky continued, taking up the argument gladly, seeing the evident 
defeat of Pushkin, "who does not know by heart your disrespect 
ful epigrams against government officials, the nobility, the 
church, and your obscene, unprintable stories, which surpass the 
French Crebillon in indecency. What do you suppose Alexander 
will say when some one sings to him what you wrote about his 
favorite, Arakcheiev? " humming merrily the naughty song 
which began: 

"Arak-cte-iev's An-as-fcfc-ia" 

emphasizing insolently the accents and beating time mock 
ingly. " You may just as well join us. You see, you can't escape 

after that I" 

The combination of facts was disagreeable, to say the least. 
Sergiewitch began to feel that torturing complexity of conscious 
ness, that mental double-seeing, which is characteristic of the 
creative mind. He disliked these difficult cross-currents of emo 
tion, of thought. 

Alexis Sergiewitch, in his heart, not only loved but respected 
Alexander. Now he was ashamed to recall the number of times 
the Emperor had pardoned like a father the indiscretions of his 
wild youth. He felt a veritable gripping in the heart to recall cer 
tain lines of his "Ode to Liberty," which once, with boyish van 
ity, he had thrown in front of the carriage of the Emperor. That 
was before he came to Petersburg to live, when he was attending 
the Lyceum in Zarskoje Selo. Any other but Alexander would 
have sent him to the mines. That was a shameful insult. He suf 
fered to think of it. But the words rollicked through his mind and 



THE MEETING 29 

he could not stop them. Besides, that kind of thinking just then 
was the fashion. 

To him now this "Ode" represented merely youth, and, worst 
of all, bad taste. Had words like these, which to him were only 
poetry, the fleeting enthusiasm of a moment, set people to think 
ing of revolution? And, worse than that, murder ? Now to his 
shame guilt was added. 

He believed in freedom, to be sure. Who does not? He believed 
in talking, in writing, about everything. That was the way to en 
large the horizon of life, of the mind. But putting words into ac 
tion was something ridiculous, not to be thought of. It was out 
of the question, of course. Stupidity was something puzzling to 
deal with. What a disagreeable incomprehension! 

Seeing how great was Pushkin's confusion, Ryleiev came over 
to him. The face of Ryleiev, at close range, looked thinner than 
usual to-night; the eyes more dream-haunted, as if he were being 
consumed by some inner emotion. 

"Hear what I wrote to-day, Alexis Sergiewitch ! " speaking in 
a low, confidential, friendly voice close to his ear. Evidently he 
wished to be heard only by him. "Do you suppose, Alexis Ser 
giewitch, that there are moments in life when men look ahead and 
foresee their own fate? I feel that is what I have done." 

His voice trembled slightly. There was a new note of earnest 
ness in it. Pushkin realized upon the instant that Ryleiev had a 
great heart, and the bravery, the singleness of purpose, that 
makes martyrs. He pitied him. He admired him. At the same 
time he wished passionately to save him from something, and he 
did not know exactly what. Ryleiev began to repeat: 

It is time, the secret voice keeps whispering to me, to destroy the 
tyrants of the Ukraine. 

I am not ignorant of the fact that an abyss will open beneath the 
feet of the first one who rises against the oppressors of the nation. 
Destiny has chosen me 

This sentiment surprised Alexis Sergiewitch. He had no hint 
until to-night that the desire to kill Alexander had taken root in 



3 o THE PENITENT 

their minds. He had been dissipating gayly as usual, making 
love, and penning merry jingles, while his friends had been plan 
ning their own martyrdom. Again the disparity of plan, of out 
look, struck him sharply. For the first time he felt an alien 
among them. To him this was peculiarly distasteful. He saw 
that he had slight interest in humanity, that his own serious in 
terests were different. Aloud he said nothing. He waited hope 
lessly for Ryleiev. At length he inquired hesitatingly, in a voice 
which showed he had the subject at heart: "You will join us 
will you not, Alexis Sergiewitch? You know we need you." 

Alexis Sergiewitch shook his head with sad determination. 

Another disagreeable sensation followed; pity. And at the 
same time he knew he could not hold him back from the course 
he was pursuing. Kakhovsky had been right when he declared 
that these boyish plotters were only dreamers poets. What 
had they to do with reality? 

Young Mouravieff-Apostol was looking across at the two of 
them sympathetically. He did not seem to be enjoying himself 
any better than young Pushkin. He would gladly have slipped 
away had he not been afraid of his stern brother's disapproval. 
Alexander Bestushew, too, was as frightened at the turn affairs 
had taken as he was. He was more than good-looking. He be 
longed to the world of fashion and bore the nickname of "good 
little boy." And so was handsome young Baratinsky, who was 
known to be devoted to Alexander. He had no taste for anything 
like this. But Bestushew was weak, and the influence of Ryleiev 
was as great over him as the influence of Pestel, momentarily, 
over Ryleiev. Prince Viazemsky was shocked. He was an aristo 
crat with a bitter tongue. He made up his mind to get out of it. 
He liked to rail at every one, to be sure. But that ended it. He 
knew enough to pause on the right side of action. Prince Trou- 
betzkoi no one could judge or count upon, because he had a habit 
of standing on both sides of questions. 

But there was handsome Baratinsky slipping softly away 
toward the door, and not wearing his usual air of pleasant assur 
ance. He was going to make a quick escape. He knew how dan 
gerous it was to be here. "That," thought Alexis Sergiewitch, 



THE MEETING 31 

"is just what I am going to do." He knew it was what he should 
have done an hour ago. This was an unsafe place to be found 
to-night. There was no use trying to save Ryleiev. There was 
no use arguing with him, while tkat wild light shone in his 
eyes. 

"Come join us Alexis Sergiewitch!" Ryleiev was plead 
ing again. 

"I cannot, Ryleiev. You know I have n't any inclination for 
this thing. I do not belong here. Besides, I'm worn out. I need 
sleep. Make my excuses to the others. I'm going." 

The last three years, since he joined the Foot Guards, he had 
been leading a fast life in the fashionable military set. He had 
been continually on the go in a futile, brilliant society. This was 
his first attempt at keeping up that perplexing dual life which 
was always to be his; man of fashion, soldier, poet, libertine, 
scholar, idle dreamer. He was beginning to feel the strain of it 
now, young as he was. He was beginning to feel how dangerous 
it is to try to live more than one life, however well dowered one 
may be. 

Ryleiev walked as far as the door with him, a little sadly, 
Alexis Sergiewitch thought. The rest were still arguing, still 
talking excitedly, when he slipped away. The only person who 
saw him go out the door was young Mouravieff-Apostol, and he 
knew he would say nothing. He was wishing bitterly that he 
could get away as easily. 

After Pushkin had gone downstairs, Maximilian Klinger, the 
poet and German spy, who hated Austria profoundly, unfolded a 
paper from which he read aloud some of the latest utterances of 
Prince Metternich, in order to spur on hatred of that statesman. 
He declared that Metternich was a cold-blooded cynic made es 
pecially for cajoling of kings and the camouflaging of pernicious, 
political faiths. He called him Europe's watchdog. He read in a 
clear, distinct voice, and with malicious pleasure: 

If I may impute to myself any merit, it is that of having opened 
Alexander's eyes to the circumstances and the people now surrounding 
him. I have all my life had to preach to deaf ears; now people are be 
ginning to listen because their eyes are being opened. This is espe- 



32 THE PENITENT 

daily the case of Petersburg. The Emperor, Alexander, now sees clearly 
of that I have daily proof. 

"What do you say to that? Here is another," gauging accu 
rately as he unfolded the paper the effect of the first reading: 

The Liberals have a peculiar talent for deceiving themselves. 
They shall never make me move and the Liberals with all their 
following of fools shall not win the day as long as God gives me 

strength. 

"It is Metternich, my friends, who is killing the movement for 
freedom. He has a genius for destruction. Why Metternich has 
given Alexander a book on the fly-leaf of which he wrote: 
'People to be checked. 1 Our names are there." 

"The world will find," declared Sergius Mouravieff-Apostol, 
impressed by the reading of Klinger, " that the victorious soldiers 
returned from France have not forgotten so speedily what they 
learned of equality there." 

" Be assured of that ! " agreed Pestel. " The plan," he went on, 
"is this: Alexander is to be shot the next time he goes south to 
review the troops. That time cannot be so far off. There is a 
Turkish war threatening." 

This evidently was the climax of the plot, as far as it was ar 
ranged at this moment. Its disclosure was the reason of the joint 
meeting of the two societies. 

The Petersburg that met Pushkin's eyes as he stepped outside 
on this early spring midnight was unlike that of the century that 
had passed. It no longer resembled a Finnish village, something 
hastily improvised, and of wood. The streets had been paved in 
part. They were beginning to build granite quays along the 
great river. The Mikhail Palace had been erected. Saint Isaac's 
had been rebuilt and enriched. A new library had been opened 
to the public in 1815, and statues of various personages had been 
placed for adornment along the streets, most imposing of which, 
aesthetically speaking, was Falconet's vigorous reproduction in 
bronze of tie Great Peter. 

Pushkin walked home instead of driving through the early 



THE MEETING 33 

spring night, chiefly for the purpose of helping disembarrass his 
mind of the disagreeable impressions of the evening. He walked 
alone through the long, dim streets which are wide. 

He was glad to be alone. The evening had been not only dis 
agreeable but dangerous. How could he know what report 
Klinger would make of it? Klinger envied him. He would put 
him in the worst light. What might not Kakhovsky report? He 
was angry to think he had been simple enough to be tricked into 
going. 

In the great Square he paused for a moment to enjoy more 
fully the sense of release from the crowd he had left, to shake off 
their influence, and he turned to look seaward for a moment, to 
ward those magnificent and lonely plains that stretch to meet 
the Gulf of Finland. He saw the great river. It rose like a foun 
tain of crystal from the depths of Lake Ladoga, and then swept 
its shining length across the level plain. It was pale and smooth 
to-night. It reflected the little cold stars which seemed to pene 
trate it. It possessed the pale, the perverse charm of the North. 

Day, according to the clock, was not so far away when he 
reached his room. He was too restless, however, to go to sleep. 
Too many worrying thoughts were besetting him. He dropped 
down in a chair to rest. 

When the light began to poke its pallid, prying fingers around 
the windows, he took pencil and paper and wrote to Ryleiev. 
He wrote a firm refusal to join the society. His conscience was 
lighter. He called a schweizer and sent him with it to Ryleiev's 
house. 

He sat down again in the chair and leaned back. He relaxed. 
The mask of living which we all make for ourselves was lifted, 
and then, physically, he belonged, for the time being, to that 
negro race from which he came. 

Now over by the window there was a figure, which in the dull 
light of the dawn of early spring, suggested a black man from 
the jungles of Africa! There was something about it, tense, 
dynamic beyond the power of the white race to express, some 
thing burned, tempered, by the rays of deadly suns. Pushkin was 
sleeping. 



CHAPTER II 
ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 

THE little room in the Winter Palace, which was the Emperor's 
private workroom, was familiar to people not only in Russia but 
throughout the Continent, hi the first quarter of the nineteenth 
century, because it had been reproduced so frequently. 

It was a small room. It was unostentatious. At one end a row 
of windows. At some distance from the windows, but in direct 
line with them, stood a long, square-cornered desk, opposing 
flatly the light, a desk which might have belonged to a business 
man. Upon the desk were two square, blue-glass ink-wells, and 
a pile of pens, placed there freshly each morning. On either end, 
two neat stacks of paper, even and white. A round-topped, 
wooden chair at a little distance away; and facing the windows in 
the rear, several straight-backed chairs, in a row; to the right, 
against the north wall of the somewhat oblong room, a narrow, 
hard, leather couch brown with a flat, leather cushion at 
the head. 

The paintings upon the wall, which were expensive and well 
chosen, were the only marks of distinction, except the somewhat 
lonely figure that was pacing gloomily back and forth in the 
open space in front of the desk. The figure harmonized with the 
paintings, which were the visible expression of beauty which 
great painters, impelled by some spiritual longing, had realized. 
Such a figure was Alexander. 

He was tall. He was superbly formed, even to the details of 
hands and feet. He wore a suit of fine, black broadcloth cut to 
fit tightly like the clothes in which we remember the painted 
Napoleon. He looked as if he were moulded from head to foot 
in black, smooth, lusterless velvet. His waist was slender as a 
woman's, and flexible, to match his fine, long-fingered hands, 
and slender feet. His throat was swathed in cambric, and ruffles 
of the same fine material fell over his hands. He wore no jewelry, 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 



35 



no ornaments. Nowhere was there gleam of gold, nor gem. But 
the face would arrest a sensitive observer first. It was not only 
beautiful in its regularity beyond the ordinary, but noble, with 
the light, slightly wavy, gold-brown hair brushed smoothly 
back, a la the style of Metternich, but it was so full of kindli 
ness even gentleness that it was not easy to turn away 
from its charm. 

The features had the fine precision of an unworn coin, and the 
mouth almost always smiled. At the first glance it was not easy 
to resist its fascination. It was a face, indeed, which had charmed 
Europe, even cold-blooded Napoleon, who exclaimed with some 
thing like enthusiasm when he first looked at him: "He is the 
handsomest and the noblest of the Greeks!" 

But if one observed it a little longer, perhaps, one found that 
these gentle, clear eyes, whose lids were so lovely, so smoothly 
white, seldom smiled. One found that one could not look within 
them and reach the soul that dwelled there or make it respond. 
They were like looking into superb, pellucid gems. And just as it 
was impossible to read the eyes, it was likewise impossible to 
read the mind behind the eyes. The impression would be grad 
ually borne in upon the onlooker that few would be able to find 
out what dwelled behind this charming face, whether because its 
sphinx-like peculiarity was so natural, or because its owner was 
so sensitive that he had made for himself a protective ideal from 
which nothing could make him deviate; that behind this fasci 
nating, polished exterior, he lived safe, sheltered. Then the ob 
server would very likely question himself: Was he superfine? 
Or was he so subtle, so self-contained, that no one could fathom 
him? 

It was spring. In the spring Alexander was melancholy. It 
was the tune of year when he was most unhappy. It was usu 
ally what might be termed a penitential period with him, be 
cause it was then, as a boy, but as the eldest of the family, that he 
had given unwilling consent for the murder of his father. He had 
been forced to do it, in fact, in order to save the lives of his 
mother, his brothers, his sisters and Russia from the ruin of 
a madman. However extenuating circumstances might be urged 



36 THE PENITENT 

in his favor, he could not get over the fact that he had done it. 
It was he who had given consent. It was he, therefore, who was 
guilty, who must pay the penalty, in grief, in remorse, which his 
too sensitive nature could not shake off. There was no way to 
argue the deed undone. 

They were all murdered in the spring his father, Kotzebue, 
and the Due de Berry. His father and Kotzebue, his spy, in the 
same month, March. And they had all just reached the height of 
power. 

'Like them, I am about to reach my height of power my 
efficiency," he said to himself with decision, startled at sound of 
his voice in the lonely room. "And then like them and all 
things else in nature comes the end." 

He walked over to the window and looked out. There he saw 
his fat, German mother, now no longer young, pass on horseback 
through the dirty, wet streets, attired in men's clothes, after 
his having expressly forbidden her to ride in public in that attire. 
She was a ridiculous figure. Her two legs looked like inflated 
balloons. He was displeased. But no trace of displeasure showed 
upon his face. Behind her came his sister, dressed the same way, 
and looking almost as ridiculous, although youth helped her a 
little. But he had forbidden them to ride like this. 

He rang. A servant entered. He sent for his confidential sec 
retary. A bent, old man with thin, pale hair who had the furtive, 
uplooking eyes and trained, expressionless face of them who serve 
the great came in. 

"Have all letters written by my mother, sisters, brought to 
me before they are sent." One disobedience, he thought, 
might lead to another. 

" Very good, Your Majesty." The bent gray figure backed out 
again. The door closed. 

His mother had never forgiven him, he knew, for not letting 
her rule in his place. Upon horseback just now, as she passed 
his window, she had reminded him of her persistent inclination 
to play Catherine the Great. 

Years of discipline had taught him to respond to the slightest 
governmental need, with the same slave-like obedience of the 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 37 

old man who had just gone out the door. His extremely complex 
mind saw at that instant the resemblance. They were both 
slaves of state. And a slave is a slave, whether he stands at the 
top or the bottom of the ladder. 

There were other and external reasons, too, now that were 
leading to a change of mind, of nature perhaps in Alex 
ander, and each one of which was contributing its quota to make 
him give up one by one the plans of the past. One was personal 
observation of men, of affairs, as he was forced to view them from 
his superior position. One was general contact with people. The 
other was a peculiarity that had developed from this, gradually, 
persistently, the power to read the hearts of others. And his 
frequent trips abroad, too, had influenced him, especially the 
trips upon which ne had come in contact with Prince Metternich, 
and the resulting influence of that statesman over him. 

The first time was in Vienna in 1817, when peace had been 
promised to the world. With his present knowledge, gained by 
personal experience, he smiled scornfully at the thought. 

"Peace! What a wild, useless word was that! Man might as 
well say: Let there be light. People could not agree upon peace 
any more than upon anything else." 

The second time had been at the Congress of Aix in 1819. 
Here again Prince Metternich had gained ascendancy over his 
mind, by restoring to him the feeling of happiness, of power. 
Here, too, he had been astonished, disgusted, at the unkingly 
actions of the German ruler, who disavowed whatever he said, 
and then prayed aloud to God to release him from his oaths. He 
had lied in a most unkingly manner. More recently he had re 
turned from the little town of Troppau where again he had met 
Metternich, and again come under that wily statesman's per 
sonal charm, which was really the most dangerous of his powers. 

Prince Metternich was older than he by a few years, and he 
was a ruler of men whose ability had been tested. He had won 
his diplomatic experience in the difficult period Napoleon had 
dominated. He was a bulwark of reliance, of defense. He re 
called just now that statesman saying: " My policy has the value 
of a religion because it is not influenced by passion." This had 



38 THE PENITENT 

pleased Alexander particularly. It was a sentiment in harmony 
with his nature. He had faith in him, too, as most men of his 
class had faith in him then. And Alexander agreed with him 
largely now, if but as a temporary need. Upon one point per 
fectly, that the first need of the world was peace. 

"Wars, you see," the courtly, eloquent Metternich had ex 
plained to him, "leave long comet-like trails of pernicious in 
fluence. They furrow deep the souls of races. It is not alone the 
dead they kill. They dishearten, they destroy the faith, the cour 
age in the living. It takes the green, sweet freshness of many 
springs," he added slowly, "to efface their sorrow." 

This was another argument to appeal particularly to Alex 
ander. No one understood better than Metternich the nature 
of the man with whom he was talking, and the best way to sway 
him. 

They were sitting alone at the moment in the drawing-room 
of the oak-paneled ceiling in the little castle assigned them in 
Troppau. Here Metternich had entertained him, banished his 
melancholy, then played for him, improvised wonderfully, in 
order to attune himself to the mood of Alexander. 

"You know, Your Majesty," he declared "because who 
else could know as well as you? that the disease, which was the 
Revolution, is slowly undermining Europe, and the old, safe life 
of our fathers nay, more civilization. This Europe of ours 
is like a rotten cliff. It is already weakened to its foundation. It 
is beginning to crumble, to feel the tottering weight of its height. 
There would be nothing gained if you and I conceal facts from 
one another. We both know that Europe is preparing for dis 
solution in a future whose date we may not with exactitude 
determine." 

He who was never in haste paused for his words to have full 
weight, and to enjoy them himself, like the epicure of life he was. 
He liked the sound of his voice. And he liked his well-placed, 
effective phrases. Nevertheless his face was sad. The thought 
grieved him. 

" I doubt to tell the truth if Europe will ever again be 
stable. . . . Not, anyway, until some new kind of civilization 






ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 39 

comes to sweep away completely the old " with a touch of 
sadness which was genuine this time. " But both you and I 
hold positions which are too important to coquette with untried 
facts. We both must abide by what is best now. We cannot 
gamble upon a future that may not be." 

Again the wily Metternich had paused, to frame effectively 
Ms final sentence in silence. 

Metternich knew that, however much Alexander might long 
for good, he had no faith in men. He knew that he was born with 
that distrust in his heart which his dissipated, worldly, old grand 
mother had gained from a lifetime of debauchery. This weak 
ened him. 

" In your country even more than mine this is not pos 
sible coquetting with the new. Russia is large therefore 
unwieldy. It is composed of hostile, of heterogeneous elements 

as you know. It would be the first to crumble! " 

As Alexander recalled now, in his lonely room, this last state 
ment of Austria's long-headed Minister, he understood that it 
was the lifted lash, held over his own head. At the same time he 
was forced to admit to himself that it was true. 

Metternich knew that the inherited weakness of Alexander 

his lack of faith in humanity took away from him the 
refuge to which he might have fled for help his people. There 
fore he must place his reliance in the same thing that he, Metter 
nich, did, which was power, held in his own hands. However 
much Alexander might pity, he could not trust. Pity is an act of 
superiority. Trust means treating with an equal. 

Despite the disclosures of the popular Austrian statesman, 
these were happy days spent with Prince Metternich in the little 
castle of Troppau. They were men of like elevation of nature, 
of training. Both possessed the same suave, polished exterior, 
the same discipline and savoir-faire in avoiding unpleasantnesses. 
Metternich could be eloquent and entertaining even with the 
multiplication table. He could treat the most tiresome details 
with charm. He could give to politics the magic of romance. 
He was a delightful causeur, and a musician, too, by nature and 
training. He did not neglect to make use of the evident pleas 
ure which Alexander found in his company. 



40 THE PENITENT 

He did not, to be sure, take up again the serious discussion of 
things political. But from time to time delicately he inter 
spersed his conversation with quotations which would have the 
effect he desired. One of these quotations had had serious effect 
upon Russia. It was from Napoleon. "You see me master of 
France! Well I would not agree to govern France three 
months with liberty of the press." This was one of the first 
impulses to bring about the press censorship, which had so irri 
tated the young societies. Alexander did not intend to perpetuate 
it. It was merely a temporary measure of precaution. 

The other quotation was from Napoleon, too, and said by him 
to Metternich once in Paris: "You do not know what a mighty 
thing is happiness." Alexander was just finding out to-day, in 
his sad and lonely meditating, that that was what he was losing 
happiness. Under the continual strain of government, under 
the pressure of opposition, of contending factions, of quarreling 
place-seekers, he was beginning to lose happiness, to die within, a 
sort of unseen, moral death. Many times since that day in Trop- 
pau these words had occurred to him. He was losing happiness. 

Despite these frank, these unreassuring political disclosures, 
he still had a feeling of regret for those days of pleasant,unforced 
companionship with the Austrian diplomatist in Troppau, which 
was really the unuttered desire for the near presence of some one 
upon whom he could rely, some one firmer of will, some one more 
determined, more aggressive than himself and more eager to 
rule. 

He was interrupted in his moody introspection by a tap at 
the door. Again a servant entered. He announced that the priest, 
Photius, was waiting without. This royal but disciplined servant 
of the people, who had ceased to consider his personal pleasure, 
gave word to admit him. 

A brown, limp, cassock-clothed figure bounded through the 
door, with a movement that suggested an animal. When he had 
crossed the threshold, he did not speak, nor move toward a chair. 
He remained haughty, erect, without a word of greeting, looking 
the Emperor directly in the eye. For an instant the Emperor 
looked back at him commandingly. Then with a graceful smile, 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 41 

half indulgence to bad manners, half gentleness, he bent his head 
before the uncouth, dirty being, who lifted a hand and made the 
sign of the cross over his bent head. After this he advanced into 
the room in increased good-humor. He took a seat in one of the 
straight-backed chairs. Photius, the furious, was in the habit of 
declaring that priests represent the incarnate God on earth, and 
that any one of them who shows timidity in presence of a mere 
ruler is no better than a wet rat. The phrases of Photius were 
usually inelegant, but correspondingly easy of comprehension. 

Alexander, knowing the ignorant man's hobby, bent his head 
to the priest. Then he seated himself gravely in the rosewood 
chair, resigned to the disagreeable interview which was sure to 
follow. 

Photius was an unpleasant object to contemplate. He was 
tall, gaunt. He had reddish, long, graying hair, falling uncombed 
about his cheeks. He had the round head minus the elonga 
tion in the back the round eyes a trifle too near together, of 
people who cannot reason and who like to combat. His eyes 
were light blue and the white was blood-streaked. The face was 
not very intelligent, not noble at all, and far from prepossess 
ing. His forehead bulged somewhat, and looked as if it had 
bumps upon it which would not go down. His nose was insig 
nificant as is frequent with people who are cruel by nature or 
combative and too small; and his mouth shapeless. Just at 
this moment he happened to be the fashionable confessor for the 
women of the Petersburg great world. This gave him increased 
importance. He was in the habit of either wheedling them or 
frightening them as the case might demand out of con 
siderable sums of money. All of which he kept greedily for him 
self. 

He was ignorant, dogmatic. He was not well balanced. He 
was narrow and fanatical. He seldom washed, considering it a 
Godless act, nor troubled to keep himself decently clean. He 
slept in a coffin, in a small, underground room where there was 
little air, and whose walls were covered with icons, with relics. 
He spent most of his time in trying to reduce society to a state 
of ignorance equal to his own. 



42 THE PENITENT 

"How are things going in our city, which is sacred to your 
patron saint, friend Photius? " 

"Badly, Your Majesty badly " 

"How is that?" with surprise just tinged with interest. 

"That is why I am here, Your Majesty." 

Alexander made no remark. He merely looked sympathetic 
and waited for the priest to continue. 

"Men are on the wrong road, Your Majesty." 

Alexander said nothing. Again he looked sympathetic and 
waited for the priest to speak on. 

"They are not headed for the pastures of faith of good 
works. They are rushing toward the pastures of desire " his 
voice rising with emotion unpleasantly. 

" Be explicit, friend Photius. What has happened? " 

" Young men, all over our country, are forming societies 
in Moscow in Great Novgorod here, too. They further 
the ways, not of God, but the Devil. They are just as dangerous 
as the Masonic Lodges." 

Again Alexander looked sympathetic. Again he waited. 

"What should a society be for if not to praise God? I tell you 
it must be stopped " - his anger, restrained up to now, breaking 
forth upon a sudden, like steam when a kettle cover is lifted. 

"You are referring to the literary societies the young men, 
I presume." 

" That is it. Exactly it, Your Majesty. Both here and in Mos 
cow. They meet to study Godless writers, poetry. Why, a poet is 
getting to be of as much importance as a priest," he added an 
grily. 

" We must have various kinds of people, I suppose, in our na 
tion, friend Photius. We must live, in some sort, the life the rest 
of the Continent live, must we not?" asked the Emperor con- 
ciliatingly. 

"Last night they met" taking no notice of the remark 
and not replying. "They have been meeting pretty regularly. 
They say anything anything. The one who ridicules best the 
state, the nobility, the church, they applaud most. They respect 
nothing." Here the memory of a witticism by Alexis Sergiewitch 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 43 

about the way Photius spent his nights, in a coffin, made him 
tremble with rage. The jingle had set Russia laughing. For 
weeks he had been longing to get even with the writer. 

There was sometimes a point that stung like an adder in the 
naughty lampoons of Pushkin. Mixed with the sting there was 
usually just enough fact to set every one laughing. 

But the words of Photius had winged Alexander's thoughts 
in an altogether different direction than the priest had intended. 
No one could count exactly upon the effect words might have 
upon him. He was continuing as before his line of gently sug 
gested protest. 

"A civilized nation, friend Photius," he remarked without 
emphasis, "must have a range of people poets priests 

scholars, scientists, administrators, men of commerce, soldiers 



Then he paused without completing the thought, feeling that 
reason could have no weight with the undisciplined, wild-fea 
tured figure facing him. But while he still preserved his usual 
charming, sphinx-like exterior, his mind took a little pleasure- 
excursion of its own choosing by way of relief. 

Photius was right. Poets were singing throughout the land. 
And not only in Russia, but around the globe. It was blossom- 
time for the human mind, a somewhat similar blossom-time to 
that which once had been in Greece long ago. Never but 
twice before had man's mind shown such capacity for flowering, 
such stored-up, unrestrainable energy, such quickly unfolded 
power. 

Eighteen hundred marks a no table 'date. At that time, and 
the years that circle it closely, some inspiring impetus stole 
softly upon the world bringing with it an army of poets, of 
painters, musicians of creative artists. Its effect was like that 
of the wind of the South in spring, blowing blue-and-white 
flowers over the steppe. Throughout the length, the breadth of 
Russia there was a piping, a chirruping. It was spring in the 
souls of men. This inspiring power of the youth of genius en 
folded the land like a richer light. These young men, these poets, 
were breaking their hearts with song just like the nightingales 



44 THE PENITENT 

which he remembered long ago on certain resplendent midnights 
of his boyhood in the Ukraine. No other land had produced so 
many in so short time, he reflected with pride. Another pecu 
liarity was that in their inexperienced youth they wrote like mas 
ters. They won their fame at an earlier age than the writers of 
other countries had even begun to think about theirs. They did 
not have to learn. They did not have to study, to work, to wait. 
They burst, full-blown, into the life of artists. One could not 
even enumerate them easily! There was Ryleiev, Baratinsky, 
Schukowsky, Viazemsky, Griboiedof, Delvig, and young Alexis 
Sergiewitch. It was like trying to count grass stalks in summer. 
And this had come with his reign. The glory of this belonged to 
him in part. 

"Oh! it isn't poetry now, Your Majesty, they are busy 
with" divining his thoughts. "It is conspiracy" throwing 
up his cramped, dirty hands, with their claw-like nails. "They 
want to rule, Your Majesty, according to their Godless plans." 

"No, no, friend Photius! Not conspiracy. Do not take them 
so seriously. They would not conspire against me. No one 
would. What you call by that unfortunate name is merely the 
distributed thought of the age to which they, like many 
others, are giving expression. They are merely doing the same 
kind of thinking that is being done in various parts of the world 
to-day." 

"But we must stop it, I tell you stop it!" jumping to his 
feet, and advancing in a threatening manner. "We must make 
our country different, we must make it a land of convents 
houses of prayer where one can hear only the tinkle of prayer 
bells, the sound of fingered breviaries order." Then he con 
trolled himself with a powerful effort and dropped down upon 
his chair. 

"That is just it," thought Alexander. "He is a symbol of 
old Russia; its narrow-mindedness, its fanaticism. It is what I 
have worked to change, to modernize. It is just that that has 
hindered the execution of all my plans." 

Photius, annoyed by the meditative silence of Alexander, 
slowly got up again. He advanced stealthily toward the front of 






ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 45 

the desk behind which Alexander was sitting, without so much 
as asking permission. 

"Your Majesty, I must tell you the truth! Last night there 
was a conspiracy, not against the government, but against the 
sacred life of Your Majesty!" 

For a second Photius paused for breath. But there was no 
change of expression upon the trained face of Alexander. It was 
still gentle, still calm. 

"They met, the brothers Mouravieff-Apostol, Pestel, Ka- 
khovsky the Pole, young Baratinsky, Prince Odojewsky, Ryleiev, 
Alexis Sergiewitch in short, all that crowd. Ryleiev and 
Alexis Sergiewitch were the leaders, the most vicious of the lot. 
First, Ryleiev amused the company by reading a disrespectful 
article about our excellent, our able Minister of War, Arakcheiev. 
The article was called 'The Favorite.' When he had finished 
young Alexis Sergiewitch leaped to his feet and recited a dirty 
verse about the same worthy representative of order, of decency, 
in Your Majesty's land, which began: 

Arak-cA^-iev's An-as-/<fc-ia 

Every one roared with delight. Your Majesty knows what 
influence the words of Alexis Sergiewitch have always had over 
the people. Your Majesty knows how they sing in the streets 
whatever he writes. They are most dangerous, his songs, because 
people cannot forget them. They ought to be suppressed ! 

"After that the crowd arose. They sang his revolutionary 
'Ode to the Dagger.' Then they made plans against the govern 
ment to overthrow it!" he whispered tragically, gasping for 
breath. There was a pause, slight, but effective. 

" What would you advise, friend Photius? " was the diplomatic 
answer that broke the silence. 

"This! This! Your Majesty! Send that insolent, danger 
ous Pushkin to the mines for life!" 

Photius had now said what he came to say. The released, 
electric energy of his heretofore suppressed hatred vibrated 
through the little room. 

"We cannot always do, you know, just what we would like, 



46 THE PENITENT 

friend Photius. There are restraints upon us, you understand; 
restraints in form of world-opinion. What would enlightened 
Europe say if Alexander sent to the mines of Siberia the young 
men of genius of his land who are merely working off the super 
abundant energy of their youth their brains? What he has 
done we deplore. We will take it under advisement. Can you not 
suggest some less arbitrary means of restoring what you 
call order?" 

Photius felt mollified more, flattered. Evidently he was 
considered of importance, worthy to help rule. His anger visibly 
decreased, seeing the goal so plainly within reach. 

Alexander was too subtle to disturb with words this peace-giv 
ing meditation which had taken such careful dealing to produce. 
After a little Photius suggested, in a changed voice, which ex 
pressed his satisfaction. 

"Suppose we send him to the Monastery of Solovetz?" The 
accented "we" amused Alexander, but he kept unchanged his 
smooth gravity. 

"Send him there Your Majesty! The priests will take the 
kinks out of him. I'll answer for that!" smacking his lips in 
revengeful anticipation. 

That gray, turret-bristling, sad Monastery of Solovetz, upon 
the Arctic Circle, by the shore of the White Sea! What a place to 
send a fellow like Pushkin who had leaped up like a God in the 
sunlight. The extensive training in Greek letters of Alexander 
in his youth, and in literature in general, made him able to com 
prehend the fact that in Pushkin there was some of that old Di- 
onysian sense of joy, of vivid being, which meant stored-up, cre 
ative energy. Pushkin, telling his beads! Pushkin wearing an 
ash-hued cassock! Pushkin in the Monastery of Solovetz, on the 
shore of the White Sea ! What a place for a poet in whom he knew 
throbbed the old Neronic dreams, the old jeweled glamour of vi 
sions, who loved the pageantry, the pomp of life. Alexander 
sensed prophetically upon the moment that in all probability life 
would be sad enough for him anyway. It is seldom too easy for 
the poet who perforce must dwell in a prose world. And in 
Alexis Sergiewitch there was African blood to make more peril- 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 47 

ous the complexity. With his tropical blood and impulses he was 
sufficiently out of place. He was a vivid, equatorial bird of fire 
dropped by accident of destiny amid the sad fogs of a Finnish 
marsh. 

"We will consider your suggestion, friend Photius. We will 
think it over. Important judgments, you know, require delibera 
tion. We try to do our duty in this respect." 

Photius was disappointed. He felt vaguely that his prey was 
slipping away from him. 

"Send him there, Your Majesty. Do it now! And send Ryleiev 
along with him. Shut them up alone. Feed them on bread 
and water. You'll see the change then how it is good for 
them." 

" We will do something, friend Photius. We will do something. 
We thank you and we will confer with you again." Alexander 
had risen in sign of dismissal. 

"If you do not, Your Majesty" bounding up with an angry 
suppleness that again recalled a wild animal held by a leash 
" God will punish you ! " his voice rang out prophetically, sonor 
ously. "Or if you delay too long then the judgment of God 
will be upon you. He will send His avenging floods upon the city 
His lightning. He will send death. He will send uprisings 
of peoples! of nations! He will send His angry ocean to invade 
the land!" 

His little round eyes were red as blood now. Only ancient 
Apocalyptic visions of terror dwelled in his undisciplined, narrow 
brain. His wild hair was falling in strings over his disordered 
face. 

The door opened softly. The serene Alexander was bowing 
him out. He was hoping at the same time, in that beautiful voice 
that touched men's hearts, that he would have the pleasure of 
seeing him, soon again. 

When the door closed there hovered over the mouth of Alexan 
der an expression that recalled tantalizingly the less lovely mouth 
of his august grandmother, Catherine the Great, who was mis 
tress of all dissimulation. 

Photius had not gone far before he was fortunate enough to 



48 THE PENITENT 

meet his friend Arakcheiev, who had just returned to the city 
from a flying visit to his estate, Gruzena. He had been on a little 
shopping tour along the Nevsky Prospect, for the purpose of buy 
ing a large number of the cheapest account books he could find 
to send back by the peasant who had driven him in. Arakcheiev 
had a passion for exactitude, for the making of infinite additions. 
He had figured out a plan by which everything on his estate was 
to be listed, and counted; every cucumber, every tallow-candle 
end. Photius hailed him with delight. He told him of his inter 
view with Alexander. He urged him to hasten to the Winter 
Palace, and use his greater influence for the same end. 

Hunting down human prey pleased Arakcheiev. He hastened 
willingly to comply with the priest's request. He hated Alexis 
Sergiewitch too. The witty jingle about Anastasia, the mistress 
he loved, had touched him in a sensitive spot. At the same time 
it made him feel ridiculous. People were laughing at him. It 
made him rage, too, to confess to himself that he was unable to 
pay young Pushkin back with the same bloodless but deadly 
weapon, wit. 

The Minister of War was ushered at once into the private office 
of the Emperor, who was genuinely glad to see him. In the pres 
ence of Arakcheiev, who did not have his own far, disconcerting, 
mental range, the restless, questioning, vacillating nature of Al 
exander found strength and poise. It was like a temporary resto 
ration to health of mind. He enjoyed it. He knew, to be sure, 
that Arakcheiev's nature was cruel, that it was brutal, but at the 
same time he knew that a stronger, a less merciful hand than his 
own was needed in governing. Only God can mete out justice 
daily, without making mistakes. He knew that Arakcheiev sup 
plied qualities that were lacking in himself. And then he had a 
debt of gratitude to pay to him. In his youth, Arakcheiev used to 
defend, to protect him, from the brutal anger of his father. He 
had saved him from many an unpleasantness. 

When Arakcheiev was young he had been a corporal in Gats- 
china. He was ignorant. In the presence of a superior he was 
humble, cringing, but in the presence of an inferior he went as far 
the other way. He was a brutal master. He was an enemy of 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 49 

liberalism, new ideas, because he sensed that their increasing in 
fluence was sure, in time, to lessen his own. 

The man who entered flashed upon the senses the impression of 
something gray, colorless, without emotion. He was square- 
shouldered, but only of medium height. His eyes were small and 
cruel, like dots of intermittently visible flame. He was heavy. 
He had the short arms which sometimes go with immaturity of 
feeling, cruelty. He possessed neither the flexibility of body nor 
of mind which were so richly displayed in the royal figure oppos 
ite. 

"I came in from Gruzena this morning, Your Majesty. My 
men, who have watched faithfully over Your Majesty's city, 
have informed me of a meeting last night. About this I find it 
necessary to confer with Your Majesty." 

Alexander waited. 

"The two societies, the Northern and the Southern, met in one 
of the upstairs rooms of the Russian-American Company, with 
the poet Ryleiev as host. They were all there the young noble 
men, and the writers. Word has been brought to me that the na 
ture of the societies is changing. It is no longer literature 
nonsense songs they talk about. It is government. In fact, 
Your Majesty, it has developed into a criminal conspiracy. And 
I am afraid that it has extensive offshoots in other cities, 
Moscow, of course Great Novgorod and even farther 
south." 

Alexander's face showed neither surprise nor fear. " Who told 
you?" 

" Klinger the German. He was in the army awhile. He started 
back to Germany to-day." 

"What did he say?" 

"Enough to make me know that Ryleiev and Alexis Sergie- 
witch are dangerous, a source of future trouble. They set exam 
ple of talking disrespectfully about people in office, the church, 
too. It is a bad example! I do not think it wise to let it go on. 
Words precede acts, you know." 

" What would you suggest? " 

"Well, censorship is not effective, evidently." 



50 THE PENITENT 

It occurred to Alexander upon the moment that a secret litera 
ture was now circulating in manuscript. He had read it, too, 
some of it, with a guilty joy. 

"You see," Arakcheiev went on, "it is this habit of treating 
men of affairs lightly with disrespect." He was careful not to 
mention the merry lampoon which Alexis Sergiewitch had writ 
ten about him. He had a different plan in mind, and one which 
he felt would win. "Because of the universal restlessness of 
people, since the war, when the country is like a sea trying to 
regain quiet after a prolonged storm, measures taken must be 
not only swift, but effective" 

Alexander became thoughtful. While his face was still calm 
and untroubled, the winning smile about his lips had disap 
peared. 

"He might be put in the fortress of Peter and Paul " 

"You mean?" 

"Yes, Your Majesty, Alexis Sergiewitch -=-" 

"Ah " 

"And there, cold, lack of food well, various accidents 
might happen. Life, Your Majesty, is uncertain" looking in 
tently at him with his penetrating, deep-set eyes. 

Why could they not give him a chance to spare them, these gay 
young men of genius, with whom he was in sympathy! Why 
could they not confine their interest to letters and let the 
government alone! 

"But we cannot suppress our men of mind, our men of 
ability. What would the rest of Europe say of us? " 

"The rest of Europe, Your Majesty, need not know what 
happens in Russia. That is only for Your Majesty for me. 
It is the business of papers to print what they are told. Facts 
should have nothing to do with news that is, if facts are not as 
we wish them." 

" You" and (( we." That made him an accomplice to deeds he 
did not like to contemplate, much less be a party to. 

Arakcheiev divined his thoughts. "We cannot always spare 
our feelings especially when the welfare of the nation is at 
stake." This suggestion was fortunate on his part. Certainly 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 51 

governing was the most unpleasant constitutional amusement 
in the world. 

Alexander had no personal inclination to be cruel. Besides, he 
reasoned, if you cut off the top of a plant, its roots will strike out 
more vigorously underneath. He knew also that important 
events frequently have trifling causes. This swept him in an 
other direction. His broad, his philosophical outlook was banish 
ing, as usual, the individual point at issue. 

"All these boyish thinkers," Arakcheiev continued, "are, as 
none know so well as Your Majesty, merely the late offshoots of 
the French Revolution, attempting to strike deep root, in a pro 
ductive and unworn soil. If they are not destroyed at the start, 
Your Majesty, and in such a way that there can be no recur 
rence, it is probable that, in time, there will be another Revolu 
tion here." 

Aside from fear of revolution, Arakcheiev hated daring 
thinkers. He was sullenly on the watch to turn his fanatics loose 
upon them. 

Arakcheiev was as cruel at heart as Photius, but he was more 
intelligent. His mind was not of a high order. At the same time, 
in a way, he was a man of some brain power. He had made 
commendable changes in the army. He had reorganized suc 
cessfully the artillery. His thinking, however, and his govern 
mental helpfulness usually took the form of detail. 

"Your Majesty must not fail to take into consideration, too, 
that this is the first outbreak of the revolutionary spirit in the 
north of Europe, if we except the comparatively recent student 
uprising in Prussia which they were wise enough to put down 
upon the moment. We cannot look upon it any other way than 
this that it is our duty, to humanity, no matter what our indi 
vidual inclinations may be, to suppress the young traitors. 
Since they are Russians, we are responsible." 

This was a gentle reminder of the murder of Alexander's pro 
tege and spy, Kotzebue, by the Prussian students, and a possible 
threat, therefore, to him. Arakcheiev meant this: // you do not 
do it, the fate of Kotzebue will be yours. But Alexander did not 
need to be reminded. With the prophetic sensitiveness of his 



52 THE PENITENT 

far-seeing, supple mind, he had sensed approaching the danger 
ous might of an army of the people, the unlettered, the masses, 
somewhere within the future. He had felt it coming nearer and 
nearer, as we feel occasional chill breaths of wind from a distant 
storm. It was something cold, something cruel, shivering the 
safe surface of the present. He knew that it was on the way. 
But, as his custom was, he had communicated this thought to no 
one. Now that Arakcheiev expressed it, however, it had added 
weight, because it echoed his unuttered convictions. It fell 
upon him with the force of memory. 

" One by one Your Majesty it would be best for them 
to disappear. No one will ever know except us, what became of 
them. It is our duty to our race." This "us" was the unfor 
tunate word for Arakcheiev in the sentence he had uttered. 

" Milorodovich, Your Majesty, Governor- General of the 
city, has reported young Pushkin to me not only for an 'Ode to 
Liberty,' but for an * Ode to the Dagger,' because the two poems 
contain certain expressions against Your Majesty which 
cannot in safety be permitted. Count Nesselrode, too, has 
spoken to me of his wild nature, his unruly tongue and Count 
Benkendorf. Youth, as a rule, needs disciplining." 

Alexander did not hasten to reply. He had always been in 
clined to overlook an attack against his personal self. This was 
not wholly bravery. It was the first beginning of a certain weari 
ness, of a settled conviction that to care was useless. What must 
be, must be. 

"Young Pushkin has no respect for anything!" Arakcheiev 
went on. "And, in addition, he is faithless to his friends. Now 
there is Karamsin, to give Your Majesty an example in point. 
You know that Karamsin has been a lifelong friend of his 
family. Pushkin has written and circulated an epigram in which 
he dubbed him, 'poet of the Knout.' And Schukowsky, Push 
kin's dearest friend and his protector, he called day before yes 
terday, in a gambling club, l a poet promoted to a court flunky ' 
Daily he turns that bitter tongue of his loose upon some one of 
his benefactors usually a man of position, too, in government 
affairs." Arakcheiev was watching the face of Alexander. But 

. 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 53 

not even he, as well as he knew him, could gauge accurately what 
was going on within. 

Alexander had a liking for young Pushkin. His own cosmo 
politan mental training, his extensive cultivation in his youth 
in Greek made him able to understand, to appreciate him. He 
had just read Pushkin's first published book, "Ruslan and Liud- 
milla." He had enjoyed it. He was proud of it as a product of his 
race. He was astonished, too, at its finished, its daring style. 
He was confronted with a manner of writing the Russian tongue 
that he had not seen, nor dreamed to be possible; a style literally 
woven of dew and sunlight. The verse had astonishing ease. He 
had not read anything possessing in the same degree this quality, 
except Attic Greek, and this it resembled more than a little, he 
knew. He appreciated the artistic excellencies. In young Push 
kin's brain evidently now lay limpidly, and ready for future un 
folding, a store of noble visions. These were qualities which 
Arakcheiev, of course, could not understand. He was ignorant 
in such things. He was unable to judge. 

But Arakcheiev was an opponent to be reckoned with. He 
had cunningly kept his strongest weapon for the last. It was not 
his purpose to argue, but to conquer. He understood, as well as 
any one could, the shifting, secretive nature of the man with 
whom he was dealing. He knew, too, that Alexander was chang 
ing rapidly, and it was not easy to measure accurately either the 
degree or the direction of the change. Therefore the effect for 
himself and his private plans was uncertain. He knew that 
Alexander secretly revolted against things he was forced to do. 
An impulse, to move him strongly, must be an impersonal one or 
one of nobility. No motive, purely of self, could do it. 

"Here is another example, Your Majesty, of Pushkin's ability 
to set something going. It may, of course, be unintentional. I 
do not say that it is not. Last week, in a gambling club he fre 
quents, some one mentioned the name of that worthy nobleman, 
Your Majesty's friend, Count Michael Woronzow, whom Your 
Majesty has made Governor of Bessarabia, with Your Ma 
jesty's customary Tightness of choice. Pushkin began to sing at 
the top of his voice: 



54 THE PENITENT 

Half my lord, half tradesman, half sage, and half dunce, 
Here's a hope that he'll wish to be whole for this once. 

Of course, then, the others joined in. They ridiculed Woronzow'" 
Alexander's left eyebrow curved upward. Arakcheiev knew 
that he had succeeded, and beyond his hope. This was the only 
mark of external emotion the exquisite person opposite was 
known to show. Alexander's mind became instantly active. 
Count Michael Woronzow was the most faithful, devoted serv 
ant a sovereign ever had. He was a rock of reliability. Alexan 
der, who was known to despise his fellow-men, was forced to re 
spect him. Short-bodied, insignificant-looking, snub-nosed, in 
elegant, Woronzow possessed a great, a noble soul. He led the 
self-abnegatory life of a martyr. A lifetime, and a fortune, this 
little old man had spent in southern Russia, trying to make the 
desert bloom like the rose. Over barren, uncounted miles, his 
short legs had tramped stubbornly, patiently, planting the olive, 
the vine, the orange, for other men and other years to reap the 
fruit, to enjoy. He asked nothing for himself. He gave all to his 
fatherland. He had built cities. He had developed commerce. 
He had opened seaports along the Black Sea. He had been one 
of the men to build Odessa. He had kept out plagues and infec 
tions. He had even paid entire regiments out of his own pocket. 
What stories he had heard of him ! Officers, returning briefly to 
Petersburg on leave of absence, related eloquently how in the 
continuous warfare against the unconquerable Mohammedan 
tribes of the Caucasus, when, the little old man used to sit down 
to rest upon a tree-stump, he would take out his dirty notebook 
calmly, while the bullets were flying and hissing around him, and 
carefully make out a list of medicines which his soldiers needed, 
to be sent for on the next ship from Odessa to Marseilles or or 
der new ball-gowns for the frail, lovely, but ungrateful woman 
who bore his name. Bravely, too, he had opposed Napoleon. Al 
exander's heart swelled with sympathy, with indignation. 

Arakcheiev was too wise to speak and run the risk of disturbing 
this meditation which he had so carefully set in action. Instead 
he began to count. So many pictures first. Then so many chairs: 
four in front of the desk and one behind it. So many pens. So 






ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 55 

many piles of paper: one on one end of the table and one on the 
other. He had done this dozens of times before. But in periods of 
doubt and forced inaction he fell back upon the comfortable re 
liability of figures. When in doubt, count. Just as he finished 
the last addition, Alexander was recalling a parting word of Met- 
ternich: "Woronzow is a very right-minded Russian" 

The names of Metternich and Arakcheiev frequently occurred 
to him at the same time, as dissimilar as these two men were, be 
cause they both gave him the same pleasant feeling of stability, 
of decision, which he could not easily procure for himself. At 
length he spoke. 

" I comprehend the importance of what you say. Later in the 
day I will send a message to you at the Ministry." 

Arakcheiev showed no inclination to push further the discus 
sion. He knew how to let well-enough alone. He knew he had 
won. 

"How are things going on your estate?" 

"Well Your Majesty well! I am planning a hospital 
now for the people; and a training school for special workers." 
He understood that things like these pleased the Emperor. Then 
he arose, took up his rough, dark-gray coat lined with yellow fox 
fur, bent his head humbly in salutation, and backed out, servile, 
obedient. 

After the door closed upon Arakcheiev, it seemed to Alexander, 
suddenly, that he and young Alexis Sergiewitch were alike in a 
peculiar, nameless kind of misfortune. They were two lonely, 
somewhat helpless figures, opposing each other dumbly, but un- 
derstandingly, across a vast area of disturbance. 

His melancholy was increasing as it usually did at the end of 
prolonged meditation. Now it occurred to him that, in spite of 
his unlimited power, he seldom had anything the way he wished 
it. He had always believed in peace. What was the result? Up 
to the year 1815 he had signed more decrees for war than any 
former ruler of his country in the same length of time. He ad 
mired young Alexis Sergiewitch. More, he liked him and 
yet 

He began to consider the case of Alexis Sergiewitch. As usual 



56 THE PENITENT 

he sought a subtlety that would appease Photius and Arak- 
cheiev, in some degree satisfy them, uphold the dignity of the 
ruling class by defending it, and at the same time preserve in 
tact, for his own pleasure, his customary, enigmatic position. 

He had listened to what Arakcheiev and Photius had said. He 
had seemed to agree with them without the committal of words. 
But he had put off the hair-splitting delicacy of decision. 

Arakcheiev was not so dull as Alexander might think. When 
he left and walked briskly away toward the Ministry, he realized 
afresh how few could understand him. There was not a single 
member of his suite, who saw him daily, who could do it any bet 
ter than he, Arakcheiev, he thought proudly. Not one of them 
could form a reasonable guess of what was going on within the 
ruler's head. 

Arakcheiev then decided that the most difficult combination 
there is, is sensitiveness, combined with subtlety. On top of both 
these, he knew was Alexander's suspiciousness. He did not trust 
any one but himself, unless it might be Count Woronzow. His 
training had helped to make him more suspicious, and his self- 
control was something colossal. This doubled the burden of life 
upon him. 

Alexander's meditation ended in his deciding to exile Alexis 
Sergiewitch. He would send him to Bessarabia. There he would 
put him under the care of Woronzow, whom he could trust. This 
would serve several purposes at one time. It would get him away 
from the city and its dangers. It would separate him from plot 
ting companions. It would save his life probably, and at the 
same time temporarily satisfy the ones who were clamoring for 
his punishment. 

He sent a note to Arakcheiev to this effect. He added to the 
note the recommendation that in the army camps it would be 
well to keep the soldiers busy at some kind of work. This ex 
pressed the unuttered fear of what might happen if they had full 
time in which to plot. In short, it was a measure of safety against 
them, the equal of that against Pushkin. 

When this was written he called a servant. He sent word to the 
Empress that he would join her at tea at the usual time. 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 57 

An hour later he was bending over her hand with courtly grace 
and saying: "I ordered your room filled with forget-me-nots to 
day, my dear, because outside is still our misty, chill cold al 
though the calendar declares it is spring. I wished you to be the 
first to enjoy the spring." 

The large, somewhat childish eyes that looked up to thank 
him, were just the color of the flowers. They showed that she 
was glad to see him. 

She led him joyously across to her work-table to show him a 
turquoise upon which she was engraving his profile. His eyes fol 
lowed with pleasure the slender figure, in white, trailing lace, 
whose heavy mass of golden hair seemed too great a weight, that 
was preceding him. 

Elizabeth Alexandra was forty, but there was that something 
about her still girlish, which is felt sometimes in the presence of 
unmarried women, or women of great chastity. 

He examined the turquoise with apparent interest, as if there 
was nothing else in the world of more importance at that mo 
ment. His manner was unfettered and happy. 

Then he followed her over to the small, curving-backed, ivory- 
hued, satin sofa, near the window, where she always sat to pour 
tea. The boudoirs of women gave him pleasure. They called to 
that which was feminine within his own nature. It was a sort of 
going home of the spirit, so to speak. He watched the two small 
hands, with the huge gems upon them, fluttering over the price 
less porcelain, the silver, and the graceful figure, with its sloping 
shoulders and long, slender neck. When the tea was poured, and 
the little round biscuits passed, she began to talk, to gossip, about 
what her women in waiting had told her, and the ladies of the 
court. She had heard a scandal about the unmoral life of that 
negro poet, Pushkin. His immorality, she declared, was extraor 
dinary even in a city noted, like Petersburg, for its immorality. 
She heard he spent his nights in debauchery. 

Elizabeth Alexandra was something of a puritan. The provin 
cial notions of the petty German courts where she had lived still 
clung to her. There was a certain lack of flexibility in her nature, 
too. She could not accommodate herself easily to fresh points of 



58 THE PENITENT 

view. She urged the Emperor to restrain him. Then she re 
peated a witticism of Pushkin's which she had heard: 

In Russia there is no law, 
Only a post, and on it a crown. 

To her surprise Alexander laughed. He tried to make her un 
derstand that Alexis Sergiewitch was a merry, harmless boy, 
with a kind heart. "He is no more dangerous, my dear, than 
our good-looking Baratinsky, or Prince Odojewsky, whom the 
women find agreeable. There is no malice in him. He is having 
a good time, because he has made his debut as a poet, and the 
world is applauding him." 

He treated her like a child, but like a spoiled child whom one 
must not cross. She asked him if the wheels of government were 
running smoothly, or if he were burdened with work, with worry. 
The voice that replied was tender and alluring. He asured her 
that everything was exactly as he desired. 

When he arose to go, he explained that unfortunately he would 
not be able to dine with her to-night, but that he had commanded 
Count Alexis Orlow, whom he knew to be an agreeable compan 
ion, to take his place. He trusted she would enjoy herself. 

He bent and lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. When she 
looked up to meet his eyes in farewell, she noticed how like the 
sky they were; deep, serene, where no one could see to the depths. 
For a fleeting instant she wished, plaintively, that he were less 
exquisite and more human. When the door closed, and he had 
gone, the lovely solitude of luxury seemed more lonely, and the 
eyes of the flowers were just as comprehensible as those of the 
man who had left. 

Outside he hastily told his orderly to make ready a sleigh, that 
did not bear the royal arms, and with the swiftest horses. His 
relief from the burden of his great position, and its boredom, 
which his secretive nature did not permit him to share, was the 
swift feet of horses, or the arms of women. 

Like the lightning, his black, silent, somber, muffled figure 
sped through the wide, dark streets which were silent and secre 
tive like his soul. The cold, gray-slipping Neva kept its secrets. 



ALEXANDER AND ELIZABETH 59 

The fortress of Peter and Paul, which he was passing now, with 
its dungeons beneath the level of the water, kept its secrets, too, 
and did not tell. The long, gray, massive administration build 
ing where Arakcheiev and Count Benkendorf presided, never 
gave to the world a truthful account of its cruel or its unjust de 
crees. 

Outside the city the chill, wet night wrapped him about like a 
swathing veil. Spring had not reached as far north as this. About 
him spread the silent, secretive velvet of the snow. The wind 
that whipped about his ears still kept the loneliness of night and 
winter. 

But this refreshed him, rested him, this beating up against the 
unconquered, brutal North. He drew strength from its untamed 
contact. When the dripping horses were taken back to the stable 
again, Alexander sought the hard soldier's cot, in a little room 
adjoining the cabinet, and, without undressing, threw himself 
upon it and slept soundly until day. 

In the middle of the night a slender figure, completely envel 
oped in gray veils, seemed to float rather than walk down the 
cold, windy corridors, floated through great door after great 
door, which was opened softly by a servitor who neither looked 
up nor spoke, until at length the room of the Emperor was 
reached. Here she opened the door timidly and looked in. "Ah! 
yes! He is here. Then he is not with her to-night." Softly, si 
lently, the gray-draped figure floated back again through the 
same long corridors, to the room where artificial heat was closing 
too soon the drooping eyes of blue forget-me-nots. 



CHAPTER III 
THE JOURNEY SOUTH 

ALEXIS SERGIEWITCH slept until past midday. A pale, fat serv 
ant girl, two stiff blue ribbons floating behind from her cap, was 
bringing him a belated breakfast, and arranging it upon the table, 
when Schukowsky entered, somewhat hurriedly and without 
ceremony. 

"Come in! Come in, Vassili Andrejewitch ! " called young 
Pushkin gladly. Then he happened to remember a merry and 
none too respectful epigram he had given expression to about 
his friend the day but one before. His sensitive, expressive face 
changed. Vassili Andrejewitch stood looking at him with kind, 
questioning eyes. He guessed easily the subject of his thoughts. 
It amused him. 

"I did not mean anything Vassili Andrejewitch I mean 
disrespectful " 

Schukowsky, who was twenty years older than Pushkin, was 
still smiling at him indulgently. The older man not only under 
stood him, but he liked him sincerely. 

"In the couplet I improvised about you the other day " 

" Do not worry about it dear little brother, Alexis Sergie- 
witch I know you did not " 

Pushkin interrupted him. "I do not know what makes me say 
the things I do, Vassili Andrejewitch. It is not my heart, God 
knows it is not! It is as if my tongue went careering along with 
out either head or heart " looking up at him like a child, in 
genuously. 

"Forget it dear little brother Alexis Sergiewitch! Forget it! 
I understand. It is just the superabundant energy of a poet in 
the flood tide of his years. I understand! I understand." 

Pushkin gave him a grateful look and moved toward the table. 

"Eat with me, Vassili Andrejewitch?" 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 61 

"Thanks no. Go ahead." 

"Just a glass of tea?" 

"No." 

Schukowsky waited until the meal was finished, walking rest 
lessly about in the little room. 

"Anything up, Vassili Andre j e wi tch ?" Pushkin questioned as 
he finished, pushed his plate and tea-glass back, turning his boy 
ish face toward the older man. "How is your long poem coming 
on 'The Wandering Jew' ?" 

" Well so-so," a somewhat distrait voice replied, as if he had 
lost interest in it. 

"Did you bring it? I'd like to hear it, Vassili Andrejewitch.* 

"No not to-day." 

"Why did n't you?" 

"Time enough." 

"But what is the matter with to-day?" feeling dimly, 
through the dull lassitude of late sleeping and preceding weeks oi 
dissipation, something important withheld within the mind ol 
Schukowsky. 

Schukowsky looked at the pale, eager face with the tangled, 
pale curls above it, much as a father would have looked. The 
sensitive Pushkin felt it. He was aware of it in the same way that 
one is aware of the soft touch of slipping sunlight. 

Schukowsky went on speaking from the propelling impulse of 
his own thoughts. "Early this morning, I gave a Russian lesson 
to the wife of the Grand Duke Nicholas. I found out while I was 
in the palace no matter how! You know the underground 
routes by which news travels in Russia that there was a meet 
ing of the two societies last night Northern and Southern. 
It has been reported pretty generally that it was really a 
revolutionary meeting with the ultimate object of overthrowing 
the government " 

Schukowsky paused. Pushkin looked frightened. He waited 
nervously for him to go on. He felt that what he had feared 
greatly the night before had really come true. 

"Were you there, Alexis Sergiewitch?" sternly, with a sharp 
accent of displeasure. 



62 THE PENITENT 

"Yes," was the answer, looking straight toward the black, 
slanting, Mongolian shaped eyes of Schukowsky. 
^"Well it seems that that German poet, Klinger whose 
writing the wife of the Grand Duke Nicholas admires so be 
cause she is German, too sent in a report. Your name was 
mentioned as one of the leaders of the plot against the Em 
peror. Klinger left for his home in Germany to-day and 
stepped nimbly out of the affair." 

"I was there Schukowsky. But 1 opposed the plot God 
knows I did! I swear it to you upon my honor. I left the meeting 

on that account. Klinger told that lie because he hates me. 
His is a mischief -making race! There is some professional jeal 
ousy in it, too, on his part of course." 

"The fat is in the fire. The whole story, with I do not know 
how many additions, has gone to Count Benkendorf, Arakcheiev 

and the Emperor. Those upon whom the blame fell hardest 
were men of the nobility " 

"Well?" in surprise, looking more and more frightened. 

"You are to be punished I hear exiled " 

"What for? What have I done? " 

"I do not know; that is, not exactly." 

"Are you sure, Vassili Andrejewitch?" 

"Do not worry! Do not worry! In his heart the Emperor likes 
you. Always remember that, Alexis Sergiewitch " solemnly. 
" Whatever is done will be ultimately for your own good. So 
do not rebel." 

"Vassili Andrejewitch" in a trembling voice "The in 
stant I reached here last night, I wrote a letter to Ryleiev, refus 
ing to have anything more to do with the society. They tried to 
make me join it." 

"Good! Now write another letter just like it, explaining that 
act on your part, and give it to me. Be quick! Address it to me." 

Pushkin wrote the letter as he was told. Schukowsky put it 
into his pocket and out of sight. "Hurry, now! Go through all 
your papers just as rapidly as possible. Burn, right here in 
this stove, everything that could get you into trouble. I will help 
you." 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 63 

"Why, Vassili Andre jewitch, you do not think it will come so 
soon, do you?" in a frightened voice. 

" You know the decrees of Alexander! Do they not usually fall 
without warning? " Pushkin complied sadly, feeling as if he were 
walking in his sleep, but not doubting for a moment the wisdom 
of Schukowsky's advice. " I tried to find you night before last to 
tell you to avoid meetings of the kind for a while. Where in 
the world were you?" 

Pushkin stuffed a package of papers hurriedly into the stove, 
then he put his mouth gayly to Schukowsky's ear. It was a great 
name he whispered, which he dared not utter aloud. 

"Why do you take such risks you foolish boy? Do you 
want a sword run through your body? " 

Alexis Sergiewitch did not seem to hear. Happy memory for a 
moment shut off the present, with its worry and its disagreeable 
demands. " She has the loveliest feet Vassili Andrejewitch. 
Picture to yourself that great palace on the Morskoi her 
room at night. The flowers the dancing light of candles 
over coverlets of satin, and her with only Schukowsky, 
she " 

The amorous confidence was interrupted harshly. "Yes, Mon 
sieur Pushkin is within," the voice of the fat, pale servant-girl 
replied. 

A feldjager entered. He placed his two feet together crisply, 
bowed, and handed out a sealed paper. They both knew what 
had come. It was hardly worth the trouble of reading. It ex 
plained that Alexis Sergiewitch was transferred to work under 
the direction of Count Woronzow in Kishenev, Bessarabia. In 
an hour he must start. No books, no papers of any kind, could be 
taken with him. He was forbidden to communicate, before he 
left, with any one in the city. He was to write no letters. The 
message came direct from Count Benkendorf. 

The feldjager had left immediately after delivering the letter. 
Two servants, however, of the government came in to remain un 
til the moment of departure. Both Alexis Sergiewitch and Schu 
kowsky knew that this meant exile under the polite guise of 
change of work. Luckily the letters and papers were burned be- 



64 THE PENITENT 

fore the arrival of the message. There was nothing telltale left. 

"It was more than decent of you, Vassili Andrejewitch " 
Pushkin began somewhat shamefacedly, as together they set 
about packing his clothes. 

"Do not think of it," interrupted Schukowsky. 

"But it was after that couplet, especially. Makes me 
ashamed of myself damned if it don't when I see how much 
bigger your nature is than mine. Do not forget that I appreciate 
how decent it was Vassili Andrejewitch will you?" 

They packed on in silence, trying, in a short time, and finding 
it impossible, to cram in the young dandy's extensive wardrobe. 
Pushkin was downcast and confused. He was like a little child, 
and did whatever Schukowsky told him. 

The sleigh was at the door. The two men on guard within 
arose obediently to escort him. Just as the driver was preparing 
to lift his whip, Pushkin leaned again toward Schukowsky. 

"Write to mother for me, Vassili Andrejewitch. Tell her I'll 
send a letter myself from Kishenev, as soon as I can. And 
Schukowsky if you should see any one else explain " 
The great gray eyes looked pleadingly out of the youthful face. 
Schukowsky understood readily enough that "any one else" 
meant the lady of the boudoir in the palace of two nights ago. 

Schukowsky promised indulgently, and smiled to himself, be 
cause he knew that his impressionable young friend would forget 
about the lady in question before he reached the third post sta 
tion. 

"Try to live wisely, dear little brother Alexis Sergiewitch! 
God be with you " he called after him, with a sudden outburst of 
emotion, as the sleigh disappeared from sight, in the thick yellow- 
black mists of spring. 

When Alexis Sergiewitch saw the open country spread its cold 
desolation before him, he tried to turn about, in order to take one 
last, farewell look at the luxurious city which has been unkind to 
Russia's men of genius. But no such thought as this occurred to 
him. It was already indistinguishable now, a black blur. He 
could not see it because the mists had swept in so thick between. 
Instead of taking farewell of the city, he was saying farewell, in 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 65 

his heart, to happy, care-free years, when he had been the spoiled 
child of that capricious, dissipated aristocracy and its beautiful, 
idle women; a farewell really to untrammeled, careless youth. 

For days the extraordinarily swift feet of Russian horses had 
been carrying him steadily southward, on that smooth, wide 
chaussee, the finest in all Europe, which leads from Petersburg 
to Moscow. This road starts proudly, eloquently, toward the 
warmth, the fervor of the south. Straight away it leads, a line 
vigorous and white under the light; an imperious road that 
rushes onward with a sort of zest, as if it might lead to conquest. 

Alexis Sergiewitch did not arouse himself sufficiently from the 
sad moroseness that enveloped him, to look about, or to take note 
of his surroundings. It was sadly disturbing, this exile, because it 
was so sudden, so unexpected. And he had been having such a 
good time. It was unpleasant to be snatched away in a moment 
from his friends, his pleasures, with this quick, harsh uprooting 
of life. 

The order had been given to go with speed. They moved on 
ward, therefore, with rapidity while the dull, wet landscape 
slipped past on either side. Too few hours were given for sleep at 
the different post stations, so Alexis Sergiewitch slept on a part of 
the day. He slept sitting upright, his youthful body swaying 
supply with the motion of the vehicle. In these days of sleep and 
a sort of dazed subconsciousness, he merely remembered dully 
dawn after dawn, gleaming yellowly across many leagues of un 
known land. But the fresh air, the absence of excitement, drink, 
dissipation, the prolonged rest, m short, were having their effect, 
and reburnishing with vitality his body, elastic with youth. 

"It is lucky we made the change, Fedor. Look ahead!" ex 
claimed the driver one day, pointing with his blunt whip-end for 
the companion who was really sent to guard him. The words 
rang refreshingly in young Pushkin's ears. 

"What change? " questioned Alexis Sergiewitch, suddenly be 
coming aware of his surroundiftgs. 

"Can't you see, yourself? The snow is gone!" was the surly 
and none too polite reply. To be sure, the sledge had given place 
to a kibitka, and the kibitka had been exchanged for a troika. 



66 THE PENITENT 

They were on wheels now, and the three horses made their speed 
even greater. The face of his guard was pale, cruel, and dull. 
Evidently he was a Livonian. Pushkin disliked him instinctively. 
His eyes were hard and light. The lashes that shaded them were 
perfectly white. He was unpleasant to look at. He avoided him. 

No one understood better than Count Benkendorf how to 
select a jailer, for that was what he really was, a reliable jailer 
who could not be bribed, and who could act with swiftness, with 
decision, should the occasion require. There would be no use in 
thinking of getting away from this man. There was nothing to 
do but submit. 

But the snow was gone! That was something to be glad of . He 
drew a deep breath of relief. He felt happier. It was as if a gen 
tler world had come with its vanishing. No longer did he feel that 
bitter wind upon his face, that bends the black pine boughs in 
the North, and that sings with the shrillness of sorrow. The 
melancholy of the North was giving way. 

He looked about. He saw wet, newly green, smiling fields, 
which the vanishing snow had left burnished and bright; patches 
of bushes, still unleaved, of a dull, rust-red; the burnt-orange of 
bare soil, and far away the ripple of an horizon swept with the 
wine-hued purple of distance. 

In the center of chosen places, where the sweet green was 
freshest, were the roof lines of little villages. He said to him 
self, thinking of proud Petersburg at the moment, that to hum 
ble places spring comes first, and with greatest splendor. He 
looked at them with youthful, receptive eyes. These little vil 
lages, he observed, were almost all just alike: two long rows of 
wooden houses, a street between, with the gable ends of the 
houses turned toward the road. Pictures like these, strung 
upon the long brown road he was traveling, were passing con 
tinually before his eyes. 

This awakening world of nature, which he had not taken the 
time to observe before, because he was usually accompanied by 
a crowd of noisy, talkative friends, began to stimulate him. He 
set about observing the scenes before him, with sympathy and 
interest. 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 67 

They were just beginning to enter the broad, fertile rye-fields 
of Muscovy. What a distance they had driven! The season was 
advanced down here. The spring was early. The bustle of the 
warm, merry outdoor days was at hand. The fields were ani 
mated. They were pleasant to look upon. The broad spaces were 
dotted as far as he could see with workers. Blond peasant girls 
were busy on the land. As the driver paused to repair a slight in 
jury to the axle of the right front wheel, one who had a long braid 
of flaxen hair, and who happened to be working near the road, 
could be heard singing lustily while she worked. 

Come . . . beautiful spring! 



with fruitfulness 
Over the forest. . . . 

Under the white moon! 

Alexis Sergiewitch listened with enjoyment. He liked to look at 
her, too. She was blond and golden like the spring. And she was 
young like himself. "How rich, how musical is our Russian 
tongue! " he thought. He was surprised he had not thought of it 
before. It is really nobler than French, he affirmed proudly, in 
fluenced upon the moment by anything that pleased him, sway 
ing easily to the sensitive adaptability of his nature. 

And there ahead ! Why, Moscow was there ! Was it possible? 
And in so brief a time! How rapidly they had driven! How it en 
ticed the eyes! Bright hues in squares, circles, triangles, and 
above it crosses, the bright tremble of gold prayers. It was a huge 
piece of gay, sparkling embroidery flung across the monotonous, 
level rye-fields. He could hardly believe his eyes. He could 
hardly believe that they had come so far. They had covered the 
ground in those days of sleep of his as if by magic. He saw dimly, 
but recognized, because he knew them so well, the red- white mist 
that marked the Donskoi Convent the ancient battlements of 
the Devitschei and the wide, fertile plain beyond, where 
twinkled the winding Moskva. The outline was typically Rus 
sian. Alexis Sergiewitch remembered that one of the Italian 



68 THE PENITENT 

architects who had helped build the city had been named Fiora- 
vente (flower in the wind). And that was just what it looked like 
from the distance from which he was now viewing it, a monstrous 
bouquet of huge-petaled flowers suddenly made stationary in 
space, and changeless. It belonged to the old gay night of Slavic 
fable and monstrous faith. 

The Moscow which Alexis Sergiewitch now saw before him, on 
his road to exile, was the new Moscow, which Russian enterprise 
and patriotism had rebuilt after the dramatic conflagration 
which marked Napoleon's approach and the beginning of his 
downfall. It was therefore a proud monument to revolt against 
aggression and autocracy. 

It was in truth a marvelous city, in outline, for the eye. It 
thrilled him. He loved to look at it. They were so near now he 
could distinguish easily the gold crosses on the great churches. 
He knew that beneath these crosses there were shining half- 
moons, which boasted to every beholder that here Islam had met 
defeat. The city was a proud testimonial to the faith of his race, 
and an eloquent one. 

Now they entered. Bright buildings swept swiftly past him. 
Above his head he saw a wild, double-headed eagle, which 
seemed to be looking suspiciously just now toward both the east 
and the west. They passed the Kremlin, that stupendous monu 
ment to Slavic genius, which the peasants call "the white stone- 
built, the gold-domed" 

Moscow was home, in a way, to Alexis Sergiewitch. It was 
good to be here again. It renewed former pleasant sensations. 
The current of his thoughts changed. He felt that he would like 
to find out if his family were still in the city, where they had, 
passed the winter as usual in social pleasures, or if, the spring be 
ing so early, they had gone to one of their country estates, per 
haps Mikhailowsky. But there was no way to find out. Not for 
anything would he ask a favor of this pale-eyed Livonian jailer 
who had been set to watch him, and whom he had disliked at 
sight. Not for the world would his pride risk refusal from an 
inferior like him. 

As they dashed noisily onward, through street after street, to 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 69 

the hostelry assigned them, and the low sun sent its late rays to 
light the towers, the walls, of strangely formed buildings, fre 
quently painted a wild and savage red, he felt proud of his an 
cient city. It occurred to him speedily that it takes something 
besides money to build a city of charm like this. The petulance 
and pride of kings is necessary, the caprice of autocrats, some 
thing, in short, altogether removed from the reasoned reliability 
of democracy, or of republican institutions. They, the latter, 
make serviceable buildings; autocrats make lovely ones. There 
are certain grandeurs that can belong only to a monarchy, he de 
cided. And he smiled faintly, so speedily did change influence 
him, as he remembered those foolish young enthusiasts for re 
publicanism whom he had left behind in Petersburg. 

Shut up alone that night in his room in the hostelry, without 
the changing interest of the journey to enliven him, he began to 
be homesick and sad. He chafed under restraint. 

He would like to see the old town home in Moscow, where they 
had lived in a sort of faded, pretentious splendor; rare furnishings 
from abroad in one room, and in the next, rough, rush-bottomed 
chairs made by their own peasants, and where they used to enter 
tain in such a princely manner. 

Was his mother in Moscow to-night, he wondered? She had 
not loved him greatly, perhaps, although they had been merry 
enough together, but still to-night he longed to see her. Then he 
had a quick vision of her as he saw her last, having her fortune 
told, which was one of the things of which she never tired. She 
was standing under two tall poplars by the edge of the flower gar 
den, on the south side of the house where the ragged pinks grew, 
a slender, gray-eyed mulatto, whose face showed plainly her ne 
gro blood. Her head with the thick, dry, curling, unruly hair, 
which was of a color no one could name, and which must be des 
ignated merely blond-ashen, was bent in rapt attention, toward 
the short, black, gypsy girl who knelt in front of her and held her 
palm. She wore a pale-blue dress, trimmed with long, slender 
points of inset white lace. Her eyes were happy and attentive. 
They were large and round and gray, like his own, where the 
white showed unnaturally, and within them there was an expres- 



7 o THE PENITENT 

sion that was un-Russian. Her face was the yellow, gray-white of 
the mulatto. And she was so astonishingly thin. Her shoulders 
were high, sharp, like old Egyptian statues of black basalt. He 
could see just how the line of them lifted the soft, blue silk of her 
gown. How happy she had been that day, and absorbed in the 
fortune-telling! The picture persisted strangely. She cared only 
for pleasure, idleness, and she had no sense of responsibility nor 
duty. His sister Olga He longed to see her the most. He loved 
her. They were sympathetic and fond of each other. His brother 
Leo was probably drunk to-night as usual. His father was drink 
ing wine and reading Moliere, or gossiping, if he could find any 
one about the house who was not already worn out with his 
tongue, and who would listen. His uncle Vassili, his father's 
brother, was very likely correcting bad verses, in a ragged writ 
ing-pad, placed on top of his knee. 

Arina Rodionovna his nurse A hi there was his real 
mother! He felt a pulse of real contrition now. But what was the 
use! He was a prisoner. It did not make any difference what he 
wished to do. He could not see them to-night. And he could not 
even make a guess when the time would come that he could. 
Who could estimate the length of his exile? 

When they rattled away from Moscow the next morning, just 
as the sun was coming up, they turned sharply toward the south 
west, toward a new world, which he, who had had no opportunity 
to travel, had not entered. He looked forward to it with enthu 
siasm, with interest. He was developing a little of the traveler's 
zest for novelty. 

For days and days what he saw most vividly now and kept the 
pleasantest memory of was the rich, kaleidoscopic passing of the 
old centers of Slavic civilization, the early strongholds of his race, 
his faith; picturesque cities, most of them, he observed; all more 
or less alike, showing where the Orient had taken its last poign 
ant farewell of the Occident. Rapidly Alexis Sergiewitch drove 
through them one after the other. Many of them had been 
walled cities in an earlier, more warlike day. In the distance, as 
he approached them, they showed bunched cupolas, gay domes, 
like beds of budded tulips fantastically colored and capricious of 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 71 

line. Frequently they rose out of the plain upon a group of little 
fat, round hills, beside the shore of dull, sluggish rivers that re 
flected them grudgingly, all keeping something of the solemn at 
mosphere of mediaeval days, of protest against influences new or 
un-Russian. They were usually imposing when seen from a dis 
tance, and he liked to look at them. They made him vaguely 
happy. Some of them fascinated him. He wished he could have 
the liberty to explore them. And the sunsets down here in the 
South, across lonely levels, when they had left for a day the ; 
cities behind! They were something grand and not easily to be J 
forgotten. They swept his soul with joy, and a keen, almost fever 
ish desire for things new and unattainable. More and more daily 
here the level distances were becoming disconcerting, the horizon 
more and more variable, and more readily effaced. He gained 
the impression of rich, peopled spaces, which he knew nothing 
about, and over which he longed to travel. 

The cold, deathlike, unpleasant smell of wetness left by melt 
ing snow was gone. The ground, the trees, were clothed again in 
vivid garments of green, and his boyish heart throbbed respon- 
sively with pleasure. The errant air was warm. 

Broad spaces in front of him became busy with a life he had not 
seen before, and which interested him. Those marvelous migra 
tory merchants of the South, the tschoumaks, heading their own 
caravans, stretched out in long, black, wavering lines. Tents 
sprang up anywhere as if by magic. Hungry herds, freed from 
the prison of winter, moved lightly and happily in the sunny 
spaces. Cranes circled above his head their long deferred but 
annual flight. The forests were no longer black and frowning. 
Farm gardens showed splashes of variegated, smiling green. 
Pale, tangled willows, still vibrant from the storms of night, were 
swinging at dawn their wild green hair beside the brooks he 
was crossing. In short, spring had arisen, resplendent, over the 
steppe. 

The space they had covered now was great, at the speed they 
had been making. Alexis Sergiewitch had been traveling what 
seemed to him a long time. But it was no wonder because even 
from Tchernigow to Kiev, here in the South, was five stations. 



7 a THE PENITENT 

He first saw the sacred ancient city far ahead, when the road 
took a sharp turn, perched upon its mile-long, rocky hill. It re 
sembled a painted, penitential picture out of some missal of the 
past. It looked like the chromos with their pensive reds and yel 
lows that hang sometimes upon peasant walls. The melancholy 
of the North was fast giving way to a different spirit, the more 
expansive spirit of the South. He felt this first markedly in Kiev, 
which is looked upon as a holy city, and which was the scenic 
background of his first important book, "Ruslan and Liud- 
milla." The sight of this venerable city charmed him. It was so 
different from Petersburg, which is set out in straight lines, like a 
stiff, military parade, where in the out-of-doors he had always 
felt something a little morose. He liked its crooked streets. Even 
the Dnieper seemed to feel the importance of the ancient place 
it passed, and became less noisy, less turbulent. 

The rebellious feeling of being snatched away from his friends, 
his poetry-making, his love-making, his pleasures, in short, had 
disappeared with the snow. It had melted in the warm sun of the 
South. He had forgotten, in fact, all about them; even his new 
beauty of the dangerous night rendezvous; faithful Schukowsky; 
his young companions who were plotting and dreaming, fool 
ishly, as he thought, of freedom; his neglected duties in the For 
eign Office, everything, in short, in his facile habit of turning to 
whatever is new. He was glad he was here. He looked only 
ahead, and with delight. 

Before him now the broad, inspiring steppe shone, where the 
wind is wild and free and tumbles with the grasses, where the sky 
grows bluer and the horizon broader. It was as if he had been 
swept suddenly along head first into grandeur, into space. He 
began to understand sympathetically the popular saying: Free 
as a Cossack. 

Below mediaeval Kiev of the religious past and archaic silhou 
ette, the blessed land of freedom for the oppressed among men 
begins. The country from here south to the Black Sea was to old 
Russia what in an earlier day still New England, Massachusetts, 
had been to the Pilgrim Fathers, and other Europeans fleeing 
from religious and political persecution. He thought of all this 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 73 

with zest. Before him lay a land of freedom, of mad dreams, of 
wild and untamed energy. And who was more fitted by nature to 
appreciate such things than Alexis Sergiewitch? It was as if it 
were a replica, indeed, of the spirit of his own soul. Almost all 
the cities and villages from here to the coast of the Black Sea 
Mohilev, which he had just entered, Kishenev, and far away to 
the south on the shore, Rostov, Mariopol had been founded 
by nameless fugitives. Here men had dared to think their own 
thoughts. Here men had dared to be free. 

Even the rich and respected in these Southern cities, the mer 
chants, the men of affairs, Alexis Sergiewitch knew, had been 
serfs two generations before. They had a different mental out 
look, therefore, than men of noble blood; broader, more humanly 
elastic. These cities had been built and peopled by men who 
were strong and daring. There was something about them, too, of 
that spirit that makes the heyday of youth. 

As he rolled through strange city after strange city, he sniffed 
this atmosphere sensitively, responsively, just as a spread 
sail sniffs the fresh, impelling sea wind. The land between the 
Dnieper and the Dniester is the land of freedom. He felt at once 
its stimulation of lawlessness, of rebellion. This had always been 
the blessed place of escape for the oppressed, and he thought 
merrily, with his accustomed nimbleness and levity of mind: 
"What are laws, anyway? Are they not just a corset, which no 
two nations wear tight in the same place?" He had something 
that resembled a woman's lack of respect for them. To his mind 
law was just a way to make trouble legitimately. This was a 
good country, indeed, in which to be. He was happy to be here. 
Here Heaven was high, and the Tsar was far off, and he was glad 
of it. 

He was just passing the first artel and he was turning to look 
back, at this movable, out-of-door club-village, where fugitive 
serfs, escaped criminals sometimes, men hi hiding for various 
causes, without acknowledged name or passport, lived through 
out the warm season, and hired out as workmen on the great 
farms, the meierhdfe, whose comfortable, even luxurious, low 
dwelling-houses he was passing so frequently now. These houses 



74 THE PENITENT 

looked inviting, happy. He longed to enter. Through their wide, 
pleasant, sunny windows the great, free, steppe winds blew. 
Merry, noisy children were tumbling about in the yards in front 
of them. The picture was animated and attractive. 

Broad, felt-hatted Moldavians, slow-moving and deliberate as 
Quakers, jogged by from time to time on fat horses. Or he saw 
them at a distance driving flocks of broad-backed, fat-tailed 
sheep. They wore long white woolen caftans. They were ef 
fective figures in the fields. Beside the road, grain and tobacco 
plantations outspread their fertile patchwork squares of dif 
fering hues. 

There were little, noisy shops occasionally which were kept by 
talkative, bargaining Jews and Armenians in their long black 
caftans, and who are the world's greatest traders. 

A dirty gypsy camp, a tabor, swung into view. From it Alexis 
Sergiewitch could hear the high, shrill notes of a violin, and 
sounds of gayety. All was animation down here, movement. 
And then came his first glimpse of Kishenev, the journey's end, 
the capital of Bessarabia, the province which Alexander had an 
nexed to Russia. He looked at it eagerly, anticipatingly. 

Kishenev at this date was a city of considerable extent, and 
some importance. Just as Petersburg was built upon islands and 
suggested Venice, Kishenev was built upon hills and suggested 
the situation of Rome. The hills lifted it to easy visibility for the 
approaching traveler. It was pleasant enough to look upon. It 
had long streets, and most of the modest dwellings stood in their 
own gardens, which Alexis Sergiewitch saw now, gay with the 
flowers of spring, grass, and with trees. 

The Old Town because there were two side by side 
looked like an old woodcut. The buildings were shabby. They 
suggested lonely places far to the east. There were some old build 
ings, to be sure, in the new, more recently built sections, but not 
so many. The new section looked just like any town of Europe 
with nothing particularly distinctive to mark it. Some of the 
buildings were expensive and up to date. They were frequently 
painted in bright colors while the roofs were green. He saw little 
parks, where there were white columns, and an abundance of 



THE JOURNEY SOUTH 75 

flowers, and decorative shrubs. It was a pleasant picture from the 
rich, vineyard-covered hills they were rattling up and down so 
noisily. His boyish heart was expanding with the joy of novelty, 
of anticipation, and at the knowledge that if he must still have a 
jailer, it would no longer be this pale, stubborn-faced Livonian 
whose menacing silence nothing could break. He liked the looks 
of the Old Town as it swung nearer. It promised interesting 
places to explore. As they rattled through the streets he was sur 
prised at the varied population; Italians, Greeks, Turks, Bulga 
rians, French, a generous sprinkling of gypsies, Armenians, and 
Jews. 

Then the merry lampoons which he had improvised about 
Count Woronzow, with whom he would soon be face to face, oc 
curred to him to depress him. Did he know about it, he wondered? 
And if he did, what did he think? But he remembered on fuller 
consideration that there was nothing to fear on his part from 
that, because Woronzow was a good deal like Schukowsky in that 
he was noble and forgiving. So he resigned himself with the flexi 
bility of youth and looked out upon the green-squared city 
which now did not seem to be so large as he had thought when he 
first viewed it from a distance. It had the appearance of greater 
extent because most every little house had each its own garden 
and shading trees of acacia or poplar. 

He wondered briskly what it would be like, this new life which 
he was about to begin in this far city of the South, toward which 
he had been journeying so long. What would it hold for him? 
Did Fate have something important up her sleeve here? And 
when would he be permitted to go back? 



CHAPTER IV 
ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 

ALEXANDER had been alone in his cabinet since daylight, reading 
state documents. Indeed, to his regret, nowadays, he seldom had 
a chance to read anything else. They filled his waking hours. His 
devotion to duty was so unusual that he made, without murmur 
ing, the necessary sacrifice. The state had no more devoted 
slave nor overburdened serf than he. Indeed the old order of 
things of Russian sovereigns was in his case showing a peculiar 
reversal. Instead of Alexander taking everything away from the 
people, as they of old had sometimes done, the people were more 
and more taking away from him, and the most important of the 
things taken was happiness. He recalled, too frequently, the wise 
words of Napoleon: "You do not know what a mighty thing is 
happiness." (Vous ne savez pas quelle puissance est la bonheur.) 
It was true he did not know until he was beginning to lose it. 

As he sat, reading document after document, there was a run 
ning accompaniment of unpleasant thoughts, of dawning con 
sciousnesses, perhaps deferred fears, that he was unable to put 
away. In spite of his unlimited power, his proud position, his 
will was constantly thwarted. He seldom had his way. Conces 
sions were wrung from him of which he did not approve, but could 
not at the moment find the proper means to resist. 

It did not need the uneasy, provocative, evil whispering in his 
ear of Metternich to make him see from his lofty lookout position 
as ruler that the old Europe of the past, of kings and unquestioned 
power, of the supremacy of the leisure class, was beginning to 
topple, like a brittle, tall, porcelain pagoda, and that the day of a 
different kind of living was dawning. 

His religion, however, forced him to believe that whatever God 
wills must be good. He did not presume to question it. Yet it 
was coming somewhat speedily, he thought, the destined change. 
He wondered nervously what it would do to the poor, unlettered, 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 77 

helpless people of his too extensive land, and how much he, per 
sonally, might be held accountable, because of the bold proclam 
ations of freedom of his generous but perhaps foolish boyhood. 
He had been at fault himself. He could see it now. Without 
knowing it he had been helping on the dissolution. 

Perhaps now it would be better to put on the brakes, so to 
speak, and thus hinder, as best he was able, the too swift descent 
of the hill. The liberal thoughts of his youth were the property of 
the nation. He was no longer the intellectual leader which he had 
started out to be. It was the people now who were the leaders. 
A peculiar reversal, this, which he had not seen coming. And 
now it was here. 

If liberty was a toy which his people, his children, were not 
capable of using just now, and with which they might wound 
themselves, it was his paternal duty to withhold, for a time, the 
toy. When they were ready for it, it would be time enough to 
give it to them. This meant the increasing of the number of spies. 
This meant punishments against whose rigor his gentle heart re 
belled. This meant delegating a certain amount of power, which 
he could not always personally supervise, both to Count Benken- 
dorf and Arakcheiev. This meant drawing tighter and tighter 
the reins of government, which had its dangers. -* 

And they, the governed, could not know that what he was 
doing was merely a temporary expedient, based upon the desire to 
give them their fill of liberty in a safer future, which he hoped was 
near, and one less menaced by a world in revolt. 

But how could he tell them so they would wait and be patient, 
they who knew nothing of political conditions at home, nor 
world conditions abroad, they who could not understand? 

These were stern curative measures, like the amputation of a 
limb to prevent the spread of a pernicious ill. Forbidding Rus 
sians to travel abroad, import books, limiting carefully those 
permitted to be read, were, in their opinion, protective, curative 
measures, against the inroads of fresh mental maladies from 
neighboring countries. Along all these disagreeable roads, except 
that of the death penalty, Alexander had been pushed farther 
and farther, and always against his will, in the weak hope that a 



y8 THE PENITENT 

change of conditions might lessen the need of proceeding. But 
with the concessions he had made there had been within him this 
basic thought: // is only temporary. I will withdraw at the first op 
portunity. Always his subtlety, his habit of concealment, made 
them feel the shadowy, threatening outlines of unknown terri 
tory, which they could neither measure accurately nor dominate. 
This caused a double vacillation: first, in him as ruler; second, in 
them, as his advisers and helpers. This vacillation reacted upon 
the people. It was felt dumbly by them. 

There was dissatisfaction in the army, which had found life 
stale and in need of enlivening, back home again after the exciting 
entertainment of the wars. The soldiers could not settle down to 
the narrow humdrum which held no promise. Patriotism had 
changed to ennui. It missed the stimulus of war. 

There had been an uprising in Great Novgorod. The Caucasus 
was restless. Something was brewing there. Tim's had been in 
vaded not so long ago. Turkey was warring on Greece. Poland 
could never long be relied upon. 

He would have felt better if outside of Russia he could have 
looked out upon a calm and reassuring Europe. But this was not 
to be. In France, Louis XVIII, the old Bourbon, was tottering, 
rapidly now, to a not greatly regretted rest, and the political 
horizon was threatening. 

Spain had won a constitution, from another Bourbon grown 
weak and incapable, with a dangerous shaking-up of government 
foundations and general discomfort. The weak hands of John 
the Fourth of Portugal had been forced to give up their hold upon 
that glorious, glowing, unexploited continent, South America, 
from which fabulous place ships returned with their scuppers 
awash with emeralds, with gold. Metternich, Alexander's evil 
genius, had just declared that Italy was no longer a political 
entity. In the Low Countries, his sister, Anna Pawlowa, might 
any day lose her throne. Sicily and Naples were in the direst 
straits. The German student bodies were clamoring for a consti 
tution from a monarch who had forsworn his word. Austria, to 
be sure, under the watchful genius of Metternich, presented 
tentative peace. And England, with Metternich's hated arch- 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 79 

fiend Canning its ruling providence, now at head of the Ministry 
for Foreign Affairs, protected its national existence basely as 
usual; by sheltering the revolutionary mischief-makers of other 
nations in return for promises of peace and immunity. Surely a 
stormy political sea to contemplate, whence neither strengthen 
ing nor comfort could come to him. 

But the political concessions which had been wrested from him 
one by one, unpleasant and self-depreciatory as they were, were 
not causing him the keen sense of present discomfort, of a certain 
domestic concession, it may be called, of the week before. 

Alexander's children by the Empress Elizabeth were dead, in 
their infancy. He had only one child living, a daughter, Sophie, 
now eighteen, by his mistress of many years, Marie Antonova 
Narischkin, whose position in Petersburg society was hardly 
second to that of the Empress. His deep, trusting love for this 
woman, and for his daughter, was the one safe refuge of happi 
ness in the confusion and slavery of his life. Their palace shel 
tered him as frequently as the Imperial Residence. 

The husband of Marie Antonova, Dmitri Lvovitch Narischkin, 
bore from the crown the nominal title of grand ecuyer, but he was 
almost never in Petersburg. His duties were delegated to another. 
In the merry but irreverent conversation of the envious onlookers 
upon the doings of a court, he was dubbed "King of the Corri 
dors," while Marie Antonova herself was nicknamed the Rus 
sian La Valliere, with this difference (as a contemporary re 
marked) that she would do anything rather than become a nun. 

Dmitri Lvovitch was an old man now, and not a bad one. He 
was a member of a distinguished family, who in the past had re 
fused to be ennobled, which is the reason the name is not found 
in le livre de velours. His health was not too good just at present. 
He had been slightly paralyzed in fact, and one side of his face 
twitched violently, like the face of Peter the Great. The luxuri 
ous Petersburg palace over which Madam Narischkin presided 
was kept up, partly, with no ill-will by him, but its air of royal 
luxury, its wasteful surplus of liveried attendants, came from the 
too easily opened purse of Alexander. The "second family" of 
Alexander had become a matter of such long standing in Peters- 



8o THE PENITENT 

burg that it had ceased to be a subject for discussion among Rus 
sians. It was not the only " second family" of high rank in the 
city, where the title was not unfamiliar. The cosmopolitan fame 
of the city of the North had, in a way, rested upon its licentious 
ness, which no great pains was taken to conceal. And in Alex 
ander's case it was considered merely as one of the necessary 
perquisites of power. 

The undignified position of Dmitri Lvovitch Narischkin did 
not reflect especial discredit upon him. It did not lessen the 
personal respect in which he was held by his friends. They 
understood that it was a misfortune neither of his making nor 
continuing. 

Marie Antonova herself was a Polish woman of noble but not of 
princely rank. She possessed in a high degree the fickle change- 
ableness that characterizes her emotional race. She had black 
eyes, radiant, the kind one cannot see within; long, silky, luxuri 
ant black curls that might have blazed upon the head of a Sul 
tana, and that grew with a gracious caress upon her brow; a pink- 
and- white complexion; a mouth which close scrutiny showed to 
be somewhat shapeless, devoid of character; and a rather small, 
round, dimpled, soft, voluptuous body. She was forty now, but 
by some marvel she did not look a day over twenty. She wore, 
frequently, Grecian gowns of heavy white silk crepe, which 
clung gracefully to her beautiful body. Her voice was low, sweet ; 
her manner gentle, seductive, and caressing. There was some 
thing about her physically that helped to lull the little cares of 
Alexander to sleep, and to make him vaguely happy. For him 
her presence held a potential charm. 

The domestic concession which had been wrung from him and 
which was now gnawing him with discontent, with useless re 
gret, referred to the contemplated marriage between his beloved 
daughter Sophie Narischkin and Count Schuvalow. When Count 
Schuvalow presented himself unexpectedly be it said, and rather 
too suddenly, as a suitor, Marie Antonova insisted upon accept 
ing huii with the fervor, the lack of reason that characterized her 
acts. It was impossible to discuss the matter with her calmly. It 
was impossible to consider it from different angles. When she 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 81 

wanted a thing, reason had nothing to do with it. She not only 
insisted upon acceptance, but it must be at once. 

There was nothing in particular to urge against Count Schuva- 
low, although he himself would never have selected him. He was 
sufficiently rich, in the late twenties, possessed of considerable 
distinction, and the usual requisites of his class. But like most 
of the young men of his set he was a good deal of a viveur. In 
deed, the handsome, blond men of the Schuvalow family had for 
generations been imperial lovers of the women of the Romanoffs. 
It had become with them a sort of profession, handed down from 
generation to generation. Alexander would have preferred to 
avoid a repetition of this scandal in the case of his daughter. 
The chief cause of his hesitation, and the cause of his regret now, 
was because he did not think that Count Schuvalow had any 
affection for his daughter. How could he have? They had con 
versed, had seen each other seldom. They were barely ac 
quainted. In that case the marriage was merely an object to an 
ambitious end with him, hi which his daughter was being made 
use of. His own desire was that she should have not only a pro 
tector, but a man who loved her. 

And the attitude of his daughter in the affair had puzzled him 
more than anything else. She did not take sides in the dispute. 
It was as if it did not concern her. If she showed a temporary in 
terest, it was to take the side that pleased him, as if, with her, 
her devotion to her father were the only question. 

Count Schuvalow was kind-hearted. He need have no fear on 
that score. And yet he would not have selected him. 

If his daughter were married, in a home of her own, protected 
by the great fortune which he intended to settle upon her, her 
present anomalous social position, in the house of a man who was 
not her father, but who still had legal authority over her accord 
ing to the law of Russia, would be at an end. And in case he, 
Alexander, should die suddenly, it would be better. This was a 
point in its favor. 

But Sophie Narischkin was not well. It was more than probable 
that she had consumption. This was a fact he did not permit him 
self to think of except under pressure. It was the horror that 



82 THE PENITENT 

stalked in the background of his mind. If this were true, what he 
had permitted was both hasty and brutal. She was frail. She 
was delicate. He could not look upon it any other way than as an 
unkindness to drag her away from her chiklhood's home, from the 
watchful care of himself. And what was the excuse for doing it? 
A man who did not love her and whom she barely knew, not to 
mention feeling affection for; a weak yielding, therefore, to one 
of the tantrums of Marie Antonova. Might he not be condemn 
ing her to a life of loneliness, of illness? She was young yet 
too young. There was no hurry. She was just a schoolgirl. He 
could not think of her as grown. Why had he not merely deferred 
the matter to some undated future, when, if it possessed sparks 
of genuineness, it would have resurrected itself? Had he not 
weakly been forced into this against his will, against his judg 
ment, by the tears of Marie Antonova, who might any day, like 
the unaccountable child she was, insist upon having the moon? 
He had yielded in the face of all his reasoning powers which 
were against it. He had done wrong, and he knew it. 

These arguments and discussions had taken place some months 
before. But the party celebrating the engagement had been only 
the week before. Since that day he had not seen his daughter, 
although an equerry had carried daily a message to her. 

The papers of Petersburg had been loud in their praise of the 
expensive, the lavish trousseau, which had been made in France, 
and the jewels and noble gifts presented by himself. They were 
on display now, he knew, in one of the upper rooms in the 
Narischkin Palace. 

He could not recall how she had looked that night without a 
certain gripping of the heart. She was thin and frail to unreality. 
He did not know she was so thin until he saw her in white, un- 
draped satin, which increased her height, her thinness. The 
sight shocked him. Her cheeks were too red, a desperate, perni 
cious red that was not of health. The great mass of her blond 
hair, piled high on the top of her childish head, seemed to crackle 
with a dry and angry light, as if infused with some unnatural 
heat. In the long ropes of yellow pearls which he twined about 
her neck for a gift, she did not take an interest. She did not look 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 83 

at them. Her only word of thanks was to whisper in his ear: 
"Remember you have promised to let me name the wedding 
day!" 

His assent had given her visible pleasure. It was the only thing 
she seemed to care about. She showed neither interest nor dis 
like for her intended bridegroom. She was calm and apparently 
happy. This seemed to Marie Antonova to be as it should be. 
She was glad of it. 

But to Alexander, whose senses were finer and more discrimi 
nating, there was something wrong which he could not get at. It 
baffled him. He knew, sensitively, that it was only an appear 
ance of right. He recalled, too, how the dark, expressive eyes of 
young Baratinsky had followed her that night, with mingled 
longing, regret, adoration. He had fresh consciousness of being 
hurried into error. 

She danced but once, he remembered, that night, and with 
Count Schuvalow, because dancing made her cough. He could 
never forget his unbidden, mental impressions as he watched her; 
a figure, eloquent, pathetic, arresting, and so perishingly lovely. 
Suddenly there had swept over him a sort of infinite regret that 
Marie Antonova could not feel as he did, could not appreciate 
her. In the light of his great love for his daughter he saw for an 
instant the limitations of the mother. When she sat down to rest 
after that one dance, young Baratinsky came and looked at her 
with eyes that haunted him still. And there was about her that 
night such a peculiar, pitiful combination of the child and the 
woman. It was as if she were both at once, and yet never wholly 
either. Baratinsky had felt this at the moment just as he had. 
Baratinsky was sad, too. He knew he loved her. 

He could endure the torture of thought, of regret, no longer. 
He put aside the rest of his unread papers, carefully marking the 
exact place where he had left off. He rang. He ordered his car 
riage. He made up his mind to go to see her at once. 

To his inquiry upon entering, a servant told him that Made 
moiselle Narischkin was in her apartments. He made his way 
hastily up the yellow marble stairs, and directed his steps to her 
door. As he folded her tenderly in his arms to kiss her, he felt 



84 THE PENITENT 

dimly that she clung to him with a new resistance, a new com 
prehension. 

The similarity of the two heads so close together now was 
striking. In both were the same fine lines, like the handing down 
by heredity of an antique ideal. Both were blond, elegant, and 
aristocratic. It was indeed as if Sophie Narischkin were the visi 
ble image of his own poetic dreams in his vanished boyhood. His 
visions stood incarnate before him. It was as if he were looking 
upon his regenerated self made young again. From Marie Anto- 
nova she seemed to have inherited neither physical nor mental 
traits. And a more far-reaching, generous, a finer mind looked 
out of her eyes. Strangest and most inexplainable of all, in a cer 
tain grand nobility of heart, she might have been the spiritual 
child of his own wife. By some unregistered subtlety of the law 
of selection she had rejected the blood of her mother. 

"Are you happy, Sophie, my darling?" holding her at 
arms' length and looking down into her eyes searchingly. 

" Why should I not be? Have I not pleased you? " 

"No, darling not me. This concerns you wholly." 

"Well, what difference does it make?" 

"What difference / You can ask? Why your whole fu 
ture" 

She laughingly shook her head and looked up at him with 
loving eyes. 

"Why does it not? Tell me!" 

Again she shook her head and would not explain. They seated 
themselves facing each other, on a canape in the pale-green room 
whose walls were painted to simulate the first flush of spring upon 
the woodlands. 

Alexander was still uneasy and conscience-stricken. Her laugh 
ing replies had not satisfied him. He was searching in his mind 
for some surer way of getting at the facts. 

" Now that you have had a week of intimacy with Count Schu- 
valow and have learned to know him better what do you 
think of him? It is not too late yet, you know. Does he please 
you? Do you think he will make you happy? Tell me exactly 
how you feel. You alone are to be considered." 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 85 

"He is pleasant enough. But I hardly see him. He looks in for 
a moment asks for my health kisses my hand and then 
goes to see mother." She said this happily, indifferently, inter 
ested evidently only in the presence of the one beside her. Then 
to allay further worry, she added: "He is polite, courteous, al 
ways. Do not worry, dear love! Everything is as it should be. 
Yesterday he sent me this this miniature of himself" pick 
ing up a tiny picture from the table at the head of the canape. 

Alexander looked for a moment at the fresh face of youth it 
framed. He felt the painter had made the blue of the eyes too 
seductive, and the mouth too lasciviously red. He handed it 
back without comment. It displeased him. 

" What does your mother say, dear, the more she sees of him? " 

She hesitated slightly before replying, as if to choose her words 
with care. 

"I almost never see her." 

"How can that be? Is she not here as usual?" 

A slightly longer hesitation followed this. She evidently was 
confused. She did not know what to say. 

"Since the engagement was announced she has told me 
never to come to her room without first sending a valet de pied to 
tell her I am coming." Her voice sounded strange in her ears. 
She wished now she had kept on saying she did not know. 

"What can that be for?" the sweet, deep voice questioned 
calmly. 

"I do not know." 

" That is a strange thing to do. It seems to me wholly without 
cause." 

"That is what I felt, too. So I thought I would ask you 
to see if you agreed with me." 

Her voice was just as he remembered it as a little girl when he 
answered some childish query. Alexander looked thoughtful. 

His daughter continued hurriedly as if she wished to get the 
subject off her mind: 

"One day I forgot. I went into her room without being an 
nounced. She was very angry very. She acted just as she did 
when we were discussing the engagement. That " looking up 



86 THE PENITENT 

at him sympathetically " is why I am glad that the engage 
ment is settled is over with the scenes made you unhappy. 
I could not bear to have them last any longer" 

"That is just what worries me so, darling. You assented for 
me. I felt it all the time. That is what makes me feel I have done 
wrong." 

"But did you not say that I can name the wedding day?" she 
questioned, so merrily, with such a change of manner, and such a 
brave light in her eyes, that he was reassured. "Ah you will 
see how that makes it right!" 

Again he was puzzled and his face showed it. She laughed. 
The laughter made her cough. She put her handkerchief to her 
lips. When she took it away, she concealed deftly from his in 
quiring eyes the little drops of blood that spotted it. 

"This morning I heard two maids talking when they thought I 
was asleep. What do you suppose they said? Perhaps I ought 
not to tell you." 

"I am sure I cannot guess what they said, dear." 

"It seems too foolish to repeat. Perhaps I ought not to " 

"Tell me!" 

"I do not even know why I should remember it." 

"Well what did they say, dear?" 

"They said that when Count Schuvalow visits mama, she 
always locks the door. Why do you suppose she does that? Then 
they laughed and whispered a long time with their heads so close 
together I could not catch what else they said." 

A white mask slipped swiftly over the face of Alexander. The 
sensitive eyes of his daughter saw it in an instant. It pained her. 
She regretted her words, although she did not understand why 
they had affected him. 

Quickly he put away the thought that caused it, and his lips 
wore their old flexible grace again. She changed the subject 
abruptly, wishing she could make the former words unsaid. 

"I'd like to prevail upon mama to go to the country. Do you 
not think it is a strange caprice for her to insist upon remaining in 
Peter in summer! I think it would be better for me out of doors, 
do not you?" . 






ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 87 

" Decidedly my dear! You shall go, too. I will see to it." 

" She will oppose it! She is always so bored when we are down 
by the Gulf of Finland. You know how she hates the country 
how cross she is there " 

The little French clock on the table by the miniature marked 
the early afternoon. A change was discernible in Sophie Narisch- 
kin. Her little hands were restless. The hue of carmine was 
creeping up across her cheeks. Fever was lighting its sparkling 
candles in her eyes and insinuating an added glitter among the 
tresses of her heavy hair. 

"Let us take a look at the gift-room together, little one just 
you and I! Then I will look in upon your mother for a moment 
and go." 

"Leave the gift-room until another day," she pleaded. 

"Are you tired of seeing it?" 

"How could I be?" 

"Why?" 

"I have not seen it at all." 

"You have not seen it? Astonishing! Why have you not? 

"Is there not time enough, dear one?" she answered evasively, 
her young face for an instant wearing a mask that resembled his 
own. 

"You have not seen the jewels the gowns from Paris all 
for you?" 

She shook her head. 

She was walking with him toward the door now. When he put 
his arms about her in farewell, he was surprised at the heat of her 
body. It was like embracing a flame. 

When, a few minutes later, he mentioned to Marie Antonova 
that it was imperative they go to the country, and right away, 
she did not say anything, but he was conscious of her stubborn 
resistance. 

"It is imperative, my love, because of Sophie's health. I 
should think you could see it yourself. You should consider her 
more than you do." He sensed within her then a hardness, at 
variance with her gentle, velvety exterior. He felt she was indif 
ferent, just then, to everything but the wishes of her personal 



88 THE PENITENT 

self. Yet her voice was so low, and the little movements of her 
voluptuous body so caressing, that the unpleasant impressions 
were fleeting. 

"One cannot leave at a moment's notice," she replied. 

"One can do many things if duty demands it." He knew 
that this reply displeased her. 

"I cannot see how I can get away before another month." 

"You cannot take a month out of a Russian summer, my dear, 
and have any summer left. You must go as I said, immediately. 
Do not force me to issue an imperial ukase" he added lightly. 

He was as putty in her hands, she knew, in everything, unless 
it concerned the health of his daughter. On that subject argu 
ment was useless. She said nothing more, but he could feel the 
weight of her increasing displeasure. 

"Come," rising when he found she was not inclined to talk, 
"accompany me down the hall that I may have the comfort of 
your presence a little longer." 

She obediently put down the Italian lace which she was tenta 
tively draping upon a blush-rose robe of silk, and walked along 
beside him, a little sullenly. 

"Be sure to order my apartment made ready for to-night," he 
remarked carelessly. 

"I am going out to-night," was the somewhat nervous reply. 
"It will be very late when I return." 

"Where, dear?" 

"First, to Prince Viazemsky's reception. Later to a little sup 
per at the Austrian Embassy Count Fiquelmont's " 

" Well that has been before has it not? Can I not wait as 
usual for you?" 

"No not to-night I To-night it would be better to sleep at the 
Imperial Palace " 

11 Oh! I see you are going to punish me," he replied good- 
naturedly, "for insisting upon your going to the country 
against your will." 

She smiled a trifle enigmatically. 

"These requests that I sleep at the Palace are coming rather 
frequently of late, are they not?" 



ALEXANDER AND HIS DAUGHTER 89 

"I do not know why you should be surprised/' she added, with 
suspicious haste and a little anger. "Have I not had much to see 
to? The engagement of Sophie the trousseau new gowns 
for myself, for the occasion and my usual social engagements, 
too. What can you expect? " Her voice was a little unsteady now, 
out of its customary key. 

He noticed it sensitively, and turned to look at her. 

"As you wish my love always" the indulgent voice replied. 

She did not say anything in return. He kissed her lightly and 
ran down the stairs and out to his waiting carriage. 



CHAPTER V 
THE DUEL 

" WHAT 's your name? " 

"Sari." 

"Sari what?" 

"I just told you, did n't I?" 

"I mean your other name of course!" 

"Other? There is n't any!" 

"Just Sari?" questioned Alexis Sergiewitch indulgently, look 
ing down upon the pretty gypsy. 

"Isn't that enough?" 

"If you say so, it has to be." 

It was late at night, some time after the arrival in Kishenev of 
Alexis Sergiewitch. They had met between the crowded tables in 
the Kabak of Samus (the Wine-Shop of Little Samuel) which is 
situated in the Old Town which he had promised himself to ex 
plore the day of his arrival, a part of Kishenev which was both 
evil-looking and shabby. 

"My how elegant you are!" patting softly with the flat 
palms of her two hands his fashionable white pique coat, and 
pleated shirt-front of fine cambric. He wore, too, the superb long 
boots of soft leather, common with men of the upper class, which 
fitted as if they had been moulded upon his feet. 

"You are from Peter, are n't you?" 

He nodded amicably, still smiling, as one would at a pretty 
child. 

"Are you a prince?" 

"No; but I'd like to be one to you" laughing until his long 
white teeth gleamed like ivory. 

"Well, you can be, if you want to " 

He looked down upon her caressingly, but he did not hasten 
to reply. Through open doors and windows came the warm, 
sweet scents of summer, the pale night of polar summer, slipping 



THE DUEL 91 

down toward the sea of the South. The sky outside was gray- 
white. One could see at a distance. The Kabak was crowded with 
the variegated human conglomeration that borderlands usually 
show, where life is rough and noisy. There were Moldavians, 
Russians both of the North and the South, Bulgarians, Greeks, 
Armenians, Jews, Turks, gypsies, and an occasional fat-bellied, 
phlegmatic German colonist, with a sprinkling of Italians. It 
looked like a scene from a comic opera. Some were eating mama- 
liga with butter, and the highly spiced and peppered dishes of the 
locality. Food had never been more plentiful in Russia than now. 
The masses were seldom better fed, because foodstuffs were so 
easily procured. Beef and mutton, any cut, cost one kopec a 
pound. Dried and candied fruits of all kinds were five kopecs a 
pound. French and Italian wines were five kopecs the bottle. 
A turkey, a fowl, or a duck cost little more. Vegetables were even 
cheaper than meat, fowl, or fruit, while milk and cheese seemed al 
most to have lost a money value. And when holidays or fete-days 
came, the fattest turkey could be bought for a ruble; or else a 
small sucking pig. 

Those who were not eating were gambling with cards or domi 
noes. Others were playing chess; all were drinking, talking, 
laughing. Women mingled with the men freely. The great 
est license in both action and speech prevailed. Moldavian 
youths in white-belted caftans were carrying about drinks on 
bright, painted, wooden trays. Young Russian men in bouffant 
trousers and tall boots, and who wore beards, helped with the 
food when the rush was greatest, while the owners kept the ac 
counts by means of a Tartar reckoning-board. The dry click, 
click of the little balls, that slipped from side to side, punctuated 
the noise. 

" What 'syour name?'* 

"Alexis, little one, pretty one" caressingly playing with 
the words. 

Her face was grave for a moment. "That is unlucky! Can't 
you change it? 5 ' 

"No, dear. Only women can do that" laughing again. 

She did not understand, and she did not laugh in return. 



9 a THE PENITENT 

" You see I don't ask about your other name/' 

" Well, you can if you want to, little one." 

" My, how slim you are and and young," she added a 
little wistfully. " I don't believe you are strong like our men! " 

In an instant his arm circled her. He held her in a vise. She 
lifted her face toward him childishly. But some butterfly caprice 
of perversity touched him and he did not kiss her, but instead 
merely swept her face gayly with his light, perfumed curls as he 
released her and set her down. 

"I am not younger than you am I?" 

She looked at him sidewise, and he wondered at the pale, green, 
ungypsy eyes in this dark face. Some wild, uncatalogued mix 
ing of races was there. 

"How old are you?" 

She shook her head. "How do I know? I am young till I 
have wrinkles. Then I 'm old What difference does the count 
make?" 

"Not any, little one, to me. If I like you " 

"Well, do you not?" 

"I like you all a little if you are pretty " 

" Come with me ! " She seized his hand and drew him eagerly 
toward the door, along the narrow space between the tables. He 
followed unwillingly. At the door he paused despite her efforts. 

Outside the door, on either side, and resting against the wall 
of the Kabak, were rows of green-painted scythes, made in the 
United States of America. They belonged to the workers eating 
within, who lived in the little summer camp-villages near by. 

" Where are you taking me? " 

She smiled at him without answering. 

"Do you wish to steal me?" 

"Home, with me " 

"What for?" 

"7 like you. Don't you know it?" 

"Where do you live?" 

"Nowhere that is, everywhere. Wherever the wagon is!" 

" Where is the wagon to-night? " 

"Down there! Across the Bug in the field beyond Jacob 
Eisenstein's meierhof " 



THE DUEL 



93 



"That's too far, little one. Too far!" 

"Come!" 

"Not to-night." 

"Why? Don't you like me?" 

" Oh, yes/ Who could help it? " noticing that the eyes looked 
bluer now that emotion touched them, and that her dark cheeks 
were underflushed richly with red. Her nose was short, straight, 
and her little teeth sharp, and slightly pointed like an animal's. 

"Then what is wrong with to-night?" leaning toward him 
as if in anticipation of a caress. 

" Too far I told you. Too far / " 

To her this petted dandy of the great world was like some ex 
quisite human toy, which she could not understand nor classify, 
but which she longed for. She had never seen anything to com 
pare with him, his dash, his elegance, his air of conquest. 

Again tantalizingly he evaded the offered caress, and he felt 
her dumb longing surge up against him. 

He looked back at the gayly variegated picture within the 
Kabak. It was a brilliant, changing, human canvas that pleased 
his eyes. It was new, strange, interesting, gayly colored, dra 
matic. He was flattered, too, by the servile, admiring glances his 
fashionably dressed, slender body evoked. The form of him dom 
inated the assembly. And that was what he had an inclination 
to do always wherever he went, to dominate. In addition, these 
first weeks in Kishenev had been spent by him in a wild revel of 
recklessness, when he first set out to break the fast, in regard to 
both women and wine, imposed upon him by the long journey 
south and the Livonian guard whom he knew could not be trifled 
with. He was tired to-night. He had dissipated to the limit. 

Weekly accounts of his insubordination, his rebelliousness, 
had been regularly sent to Petersburg by Count Woronzow. He 
refused to appear, on time, with the other young men, in the 
Counting-House, in the morning. Here his daily task was laid 
out. This not only injured the spirit of discipline, but the respect 
ful esteem in which work should be held. 

He shrugged his shoulders indifferently when reprimanded, 
at the idea that a gentleman, a scholar like himself, should be 



94 THE PENITENT 

asked to work. Work was for people of a different mental and 
social status. He would hold the position, nominally, if they in 
sisted and he had to. But let some one else do the work! He 
would not do it, and he let them know it. 

He had spent most of his nights in the narrow, crooked hill- 
street that led to the Old Town, which had fascinated him so. Here 
were houses of pleasure, open night long, and kept by women 
of all nations. He had found a different, a more interesting 
world of people than in Petersburg, and he was exploring it thor 
oughly. It had the color, all the license, and some of the glamour 
of the Orient. 

Within the Kabak now he could hear the dull click, click of the 
Tartar reckoning-board alluring his sleep-heavy eyes like a lul 
laby. At the right end of the long bar where drinks were poured, 
in a corner a little dim and sheltered, he caught sight of an empty 
table which looked attractive. " Let's go inside, little one! 
There is a table, empty. See it? We will drink and watch the 
crowd awhile together." She followed him, but reluctantly, be 
cause she wanted him alone to herself. He felt a sudden longing 
to look upon the scene through lazy, sleep-dulled eyes; his arm, 
perhaps, about the wiry little body of Sari; and to listen, without 
the trouble of replying, to her prattle. "Which will you have, 
Sari? " he asked in a lazy, indifferent voice, " the red wine of Eri- 
van, or the white wine of Kisliar?" 

She was awed a little by this grand seigneur manner to which 
she was unused and did not speak. She reckoned, however, quickly 
that the price of this wine, if she could only have it, would buy her 
a new yellow-and-white silk head-kerchief. Whether she spoke 
or not evidently did not matter. He told the boy to bring plenty 
of both. He took a long, slender cigarette and fitted it into a 
receptacle of chased gold, first offering one to her. Then he 
watched the thin blue smoke-circles twine and twine about the 
small dark head of Sari, which was gracefully poised and round, 
watched it with a certain conscious voluptuousness, like one who 
loves pictures better than life. 

" You are not real Russian, are you? " looking at him 
curiously, and burning with eagerness to know more about him. 



THE DUEL 95 



"What am I, if I am not?" 

" I don't know. That's why I asked. Some Russians have gold 
hair. Yours is just as light, but it is n't gold at all" observing 
critically the pale curls, so thick, so deep. It was as if their gold 
had been muted by the black, forward-stretching shadows of 
some long ago, some ancient, imperishable dusk, that still per 
sisted in enveloping him. She felt this as she sipped her wine and 
looked up timidly, from time to time, at the exquisite, arresting 
pallor of the youthful face beside her, which passion was etching 
so rapidly. He was drinking red wine thirstily, eagerly, and 
seemed to have forgotten her. She had not met anything so pecul 
iar as this disdain. She did not know what it meant. 

" Why did you speak to me? " He did not hear. "Don't you 
want to have a good time with me? " 

"Talk if you feel like it.'* 

"Are n't you going to say anything to me?" 

"Perhaps. It may be I wanted to know your name. Or I 
wanted to hear your voice / don't know What difference 
does it make? " He was not looking at her. "Ah, yes!" he went 
on in a weary voice, thinking he had been rude. "I have heard 
you play other nights here. Sometimes right in the middle of 
the music you stop break it off and your hand falls on the 
balalaika. Perhaps I wanted to ask you why you do it? I think 
that's it!" 

"Oh, that! It 's because I remember " 

"Remember what?" 

"Yancksi." 

"Who is Yancksi?" 

"My lover" 

"Did you love him?" 

"He went away." 

"Where?" 

"To Hungary perhaps to play the fiddle to fat Germans 
somewhere when they eat and listen or dance and make 
love But he despises them all the white men " 

"I do not care! What's that got to do with it?" 

"He did n't say good-bye. He just went " 



96 THE PENITENT 

"Did you care? " 

"I don't know what you mean by care. I just remember him 
when I play pieces he used to play then " 

"WhowYancksi?" 

"Yancksi? Oh! Everybody knows him. He's the handsomest 
gypsy from here to the Black Sea. And the best fiddler, too. 
He'll bring back gold from Hungary. You just ask any one. 
Fow'tfhear!" 

Then Alexis Sergiewitch recalled a certain petted beauty in a 
great pale palace in Petersburg, whom he, too, had left without 
saying good-bye. Aloud he remarked: 

"They are alike just under the skin, great lady or little gypsy. 
Woman is woman; made after the same pattern" and in his 
opinion not in the image of God. Then he leaned back, half 
closed his eyes, put his arm about Sari carelessly, and prepared 
to observe the tables in a pleasant, warmly luxurious mood. 

Diagonally across from where they sat, a young Jewess, in 
a high gold-embroidered turban, was playing chess for money 
with a Greek who wore full bright-blue Turkish trousers, a 
short red jacket, and a little blue round cap, set high on his head. 
He was evidently one of the service men guarding the border. 
The face of the Jewess was pale and eloquent. It showed the dis 
tinguished lines of a highly specialized race. Only the face was 
marred a little, he thought, by greed, by shrewdness. 

An Armenian woman, in loose green robe, a khalat, from whose 
head depended a swinging black veil, was going from table to 
table whispering something. A h, yes! he had seen her before, in 
the crooked hill-street that led to the Old Town, which was the 
Kasbah of Kishenev. She kept a pleasure house there. He re 
membered a young girl he had met there once, in whose eyes 
there was the starry splendor of the nights of the East. The 
woman herself was no longer young. He turned his eyes away. 
Four handsome Italian men were gambling and quarreling. He 
liked the gleam across their faces of the red wine when they lifted 
their glasses. A Wallachian woman, who was handsome, and 
whom he had seen dance the czarda, was sitting sleepily against 
the wall. She was perfectly motionless. The round gold placques 



THE DUEL 97 

on her h^ad and breast did not tremble. He watched her elo 
quent black lashes against her cheeks. 

A Turkish woman, wearing a short, red-velvet, gold-braided 
bolero, whose face suggested warm ivory and black velvet, and a 
glance of whose smooth black eyes was like an unearned caress, 
was evidently trying to get some important information out of a 
half-drunken, long-bearded Great Russian, who still preserved 
his native subtlety despite the wine. Perhaps she was a spy. A 
Turkish war was threatening. He noticed that her body had the 
suppleness, the grace, that mark the Asiatic. He liked her. She 
possessed th&t peculiar energy in languor that belongs to the 
East. Everywhere his sleep-dazed eyes turned he saw dully, but 
with a distinct pulse of pleasure, arresting lines, striking groups, 
clash of colors, love-affairs concealed or in embryo, so to speak, 
the marked intermingling of the manners of Europe with savage 
Muscovy and the Orient. Upon life here, despite the continued 
efforts of Count Woronzow, there was no restraint, and the busi 
est, gayest hours, when the sham coverings of morality were 
thrown off, were those of night. A dark woman, whose race he 
could not even guess, was sheathing a sword. He had seen her 
use it in a dance earlier in the night, when she stood naked to 
the waist, the sword poised upon her head. She was making 
her way toward the door now, wrapping about her brow, as she 
walked along, a bright-green gauze, that gleamed like a wet, 
shining emerald. The balls of the Tartar reckoning-board 
clicked seldom. The crowd was leaving. The young waiters 
were snatching naps along the wall. Sari was asleep, too. 

"Did you mistake me for a pillow, little one?" he laughed, 
shaking her somewhat roughly. She looked uncomprehendingly 
for an instant into the pale, distinguished face that resembled a 
vision that was beside her. He shook her again, still laughing 
and indifferent. "Come. Wake up! It is time to go." 

Wearily she bent to pick up her balalaika of kissel wood, dotted 
with little white diamonds of inset bone. She tried to put the 
strap over her head. Then she paused a moment to look at him, 
realize just where she was, and put up one hand again to touch 
softly the fine material of his clothes, which attracted her so. 



98 THE PENITENT 

"Good-bye, little one! I'll see you again sometime, perhaps" 
touching her shoulder and bending his face for an instant tan- 
talizingly near her own, as if he were going to kiss her, then 
straightening up swiftly. 

She was dazed, and slightly displeased, as if some swift swal 
low's wing had grazed her eyes. 

"Good-bye Prince Alexis!" She was just a little dark 
figure now, moving unsteadily toward a square of veiled pallor 
which was the door. 

On the threshold she paused a moment, as if hesitating to 
breast the freshness and light outside, and because she hated so 
to leave him. She turned to look at him again, to make sure that 
he was real. "The wagon Alexis goes in a few days " If 
he heard what she said, he did not trouble to answer. He paid no 
heed to her going. 

The guests of night in the Kabak were being replaced by guests 
of the early morning. The server of drinks, the keeper of accounts, 
were gone and new ones had taken their places. A tall, dark, 
gaunt Mongol-faced Calmuck was cleaning up the long brown 
counter, and washing the glasses noisily in dirty water. A sleepy- 
eyed, tousle-headed Russian boy, roughly awakened, was sweep 
ing awkwardly between the tables. The balls on the Tartar 
reckoning-board had been slipped back to place, to make ready 
for new accounts. Fresh, sweet air, from open doors and windows, 
was beginning to pulse, like a tide, under the heavily suspended 
tobacco smoke and the vapors of wine. Alexis Sergiewitch de 
cided that he would order his breakfast, one of the hot peppered 
dishes they made so well here, which he liked, and some tea. But 
before he had time to give the order there was noise, disturbance, 
at the door. At the same time the reapers were boisterously 
sorting out their scythes. A number of young men were entering, 
newcomers, Russians, and mostly from the North like himself. 
Among them were some of his office companions in Woronzow's 
Counting-House, and Lvovitch Stolischnikow, a wealthy mer 
chant's son from Riga, to whom most of his own neglected duties 
had fallen. They had been having a gay night like himself, but 
farther up the hill, in the Old Town. They had stopped into the 



THE DUEL 99 

Kabak of Samus for breakfast, before going on to their work in 
the new city, which was lower down. " There he is the white- 
figured dandy from Peter who is too proud to work," called 
out Stolischnikow scornfully at sight of Alexis Sergiewitch, re 
membering wrathfully, upon the moment, the added duties that 
had fallen to him. 

Alexis Sergiewitch looked him steadily in the eye without 
replying. 

They sprawled noisily over chairs at one of the larger tables, 
and called for a waiter. 

" Keep still, Stolischnikow," whispered one of the others. 

" You are drunk! He is n't so pale, nor so weak as he looks." 

" Do you suppose I 'm afraid of that society butterfly? That " 

"Sh-hl Sh shl " came the warning from another. 

" He 's a dressed-up whipper-snapper." Then one bent merrily 
and whispered something in Stolischnikow's ear, which made 
him laugh immoderately, and glance from moment to moment 
toward young Pushkin, who sat stern and white, alone at his 
table, pretending not to know the others were there. 

Stolischnikow proceeded to pass the whispered story around 
the animated, eager, youthful group at his table. Each gave way 
to an uncontrolled guffaw as he heard it, and his eyes gleamed 
across toward Pushkin. The early morning crowd gave promise 
of being more noisily unrestrained than the night crowd which 
had left. The night crowd was usually given to love and wine, 
cards and dancing, while the first morning hours caught the 
worn-out brawlers on the wing, making change of place, either 
weary or disgruntled. 

" He 's what I call a filcher! " asserted Stolischnikow, louder. 

"What's that?" 

"It is a kind of stealing you can't punish." 

Pushkin paled visibly. The group of newcomers were too in 
terested in this statement to notice it. Like all Russians they 
talked, talked, all the time, and were endlessly greedy for any 
thing that promised surprise or novelty. 

"Explain!" 

" Well first he steals my time in the office. I do his work 



ioo THE PENITENT 

I get nothing for it. Oh! no! He has not done six hours' 
work since he has been here. What does he do, you ask? He digs 
Greek coins on the banks of the Bug, cleans them tries to 
catalogue them. He writes poetry makes love gets drunk 

idles " 

The faces of the listeners looked sympathetic. "And you do 
his work? Well, you 're an ass! " 

"Back in Petersburg he niched other men's wives or 
sweethearts " 

This statement did not arouse particular interest in his hearers 
because it was so common. They knew stories enough of that 
kind. 

" They say" looking about carefully, as if not wishing this 

information to be general " that even the of the he 

did not let alone " whispering the name of a woman of soci 
ety whom every Russian knew. 

This was a more interesting morsel of gossip. They looked 
at each other with bright eyes in which unsuppressed interest 
shone. They would like to hear more about this. This was in 
teresting. 

"He niches poems from poets of other nations. He translates 
them, signs his name to them, and then sells them as his own 
and takes the money." 

Stolischnikow was growing madder and madder, as he waited 
hungrily for the breakfast unaccountably delayed. Wrongs rolled 
up within his mind like huge snowballs. 

"That 's what zfilcher is. Now do you understand?" 

This silence showed that they did understand. They were 
sympathetically impressed. 

"What's he here for?" at length came the query. 

"Don't you know?" scornfully. 

" If I did, do you think I should ask? " replied another one, 
equally hungry and inclined to be irritable. "Why?" 

" It can't be you don't know! " 

" Well why don't you say it and have it over with? " 
impatiently. 

"Because he's a traitor to Russia. He plotted against the 
Emperor" 



THE DUEL 101 

" That 's a lie! " thundered a voice so deep, so savage, it was not 
easy to believe it came from the thin, white-coated figure at the 
neighboring table. "No man is more loyal to Alexander than I! 
No man respects him more." Pushkin was on his feet. 

"Don't anger him more, Stolischnikow!" whispered one of his 
friends. 

"No, don't!" seconded another. 

"There is no better swordsman in the land," warned a third. 

Pushkin walked toward the table where the young fellows were 
sitting. The room suddenly became silent. Fear spread over it. 
The other early breakf asters began to look intently at the group. 
They forgot to eat. 

"Take back what you said, or apologize," demanded Alexis 
Sergiewitch. 

Stolischnikow was silent. 

"Take it back, I say! No man is more loyal to Alexander than 
I. I will not permit any one to make a statement to the contrary." 

The black, sullen eyes of Stolischnikow looked doggedly back 
into Pushkin's without replying. 

"Will you take it back?" 

"No!" 

" Then take that, you coward you traitor! You " striking 
him across the face with his hand. 

The young men jumped up, just as Stolischnikow made a dash 
across the table for Pushkin, which they had hoped to prevent. 

"Gentlemen" came the stern voice of the day bartender, 
"fighting is not permitted. Settle your differences outside. But 
I would advise you to remember the prohibition which the new 
Governor of Bessarabia, His Excellency Count Michael Woron- 
zow, has made against dueling." 

They paid little attention to this wise recommendation. 

"We will settle this outside, gentlemen, as he says," agreed 
Alexis Sergiewitch with dignity. "Where shall we go?" 

"The best place," one of Stolischnikow's companions hastened 
to explain, "is the cherry orchard, just beyond Jacob Eisenstein's 
meierhof. We cannot be seen there, nor heard either. Choose 
your seconds, Monsieur Pushkin!" was the scornful advice. 



102 THE PENITENT 

"Oh, I do not need any! You take all you want. This is not of 
importance to me." 

"I suppose you'd rather use swords, wouldn't you?" asked 
one of Stolischnikow's friends hesitatingly. 

"It does not make the slightest difference!" was the rejoinder. 
"I'll fight with anything you say." 

"Then I'll choose pistols for Stolischnikow." 

"Suit yourself! It is all one to me!" Alexis Sergiewitch was 
almost good-natured. 

As the crowd started toward the door, he began to chat uncon- 
strainedly with the other young fellows. 

Just outside the door they paused to examine pistols, match 
two and judge of their condition. This discussion was proceeding 
in an almost friendly manner when .two wagons filled with fash 
ionable youths drove up with a dashing curve upon the noisy 
white pebbles in front of the Kabak. In addition to the youths 
there was a good-sized basket of champagne in one of the wagons. 
The bottles were packed carefully in wet sawdust to keep the 
wine cool. 

"What good fortune, boys! A duel!" Their words expressed 
the delight they felt. 

"Where is it going to be? But first, gentlemen, drink with us. 
The best vintage of France, gentlemen!" boastingly. "Then 
with your permission we will drive to the place you have chosen 
for the duel to see that it goes according to rule. That is, 
gentlemen, if you have nothing to say against it," they added 
politely. 

They uncorked the bottles. They drank lustily of the proffered 
champagne, except Alexis Sergiewitch. He kept proudly by him 
self and a little apart. But he observed with flattered pride the 
admiring glances from time to time turned toward himself. He 
knew they were asking each other: Who is he? Who is he? and 
he liked it. 

He had seldom felt happier, indeed, nor more fearless than on 
this enchanting morning of spring. When they reached the edge 
of the cherry orchard and climbed out of the carriages, he seldom 
stepped more daintily or nimbly across a polished floor in Peters- 



THE DUEL 103 

burg to meet some fair dancer than he was moving now across the 
wet, lush grass of morning. Larks were singing jubilantly over 
his head. The free, shining steppe unrolled before his joyous, 
youthful eyes, like a pulsing ocean, ready to bear him to some 
promised land, as he walked along to keep, perhaps, his last 
tryst with death. Far across the Bug he could see horses now 
and a wagon. Ah! that, very likely, was the peregrinating 
home of Sari of the night, Sari of the narrow eyes the color of 
green ice. And now a little black dot was moving toward it, 
slowly slowly far out across the tumbling grasses. It looked 
like a little black flower, the round black head of Sari. And just 
at this moment, unreasonably and capriciously, Sari symbolized 
love, pleasure, and the seductive power of himself, largely be 
cause he had refused her, and had not followed to the night ren 
dezvous. The wind upon his face was sweet from the winnowing 
darkness of night. He enjoyed it. He sniffed it with pleasure. 
Suddenly he paused in his walk with the others toward the place 
they had agreed upon for the duel. He looked up. Jacob Eisen- 
stein's cherry-trees were red with fruit. Gems, precious and rare 
in color as a ruby, dotted the green, and laughed in splendor 
above his head against the blue. 

"Goon/ Choose the place. Get ready. Whistle when you have 
done it and I will come" reaching up to pull down nearer a 
bough of shining fruit. He ate as fast as he could, and then be 
gan to fill his pockets, like a child who expects to be scolded and 
taken away. When both pockets were filled, he plucked all that 
he could carry in his hands. Just then the whistle sounded. He 
turned regretfully to follow it. 

"Here is your pistol, Monsieur," one of the young men of the 
champagne wagon declared, holding out the weapon to him. 
"And here is your place. It is measured off. Stand here!" 

Alexis Sergiewitch did exactly as he was told, without looking 
up, or seeming to pay attention, because he was busy with a 
pleasanter occupation. His anger, his excitement of a little while 
ago, had disappeared. He was enjoying himself thoroughly, to 
the amazement of the onlookers who had stumbled by accident 
upon the amusement so popular with young men of Russia. 



io 4 THE PENITENT 

"When my friend here counts four, you are to fire. Do you 
hear?" 

Alexis Sergiewitch acted as if he did not hear. He went on eat 
ing the cherries which he held in his free hand, his body turned 
slightly away from his opponent, at whom he had not so much as 
glanced. 

"Monsieur Pushkin, the time to begin has come." 

"Very good. Go ahead." 

"But it takes two to fight a duel, does it not?" 

"Of course! Here I am. Fire whenever you feel like it." 

"Kindly turn in the correct position, toward your opponent, 
Monsieur Pushkin. Place ! " 

He obeyed, holding the pistol limply in his free hand, while he 
crowded the fruit into his mouth with the other. 

"One two three four." One shot rang crisply on the 
clean air. It whizzed over the pale curls of Alexis Sergiewitch, 
who did not trouble to look up. No one spoke. They watched in 
amazement the aristocratic, white-coated figure, eating so hap 
pily and greedily. 

"Are you satisfied, gentlemen?" he questioned, without look 
ing at them. 

"Why did you not fire?" 

"Well," was the merry answer, "I had to pay him some way, 
did I not, for doing my work? I do not mind death but I do 
hate office work" laughing with gayety and good-humor. 

"I beg your pardon for the foolish things I said in the Kabak," 
declared Stolischnikow frankly, walking toward him and offering 
his hand. " I r m ashamed of myself . It was inexcusable." 

"Don't mention it! Don't mention it!" was the quick reply, 
his vanity satisfied by the admiration he had received, and the 
gratification of his love of dominating. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE NIGHT VIGIL 

AFTER her father had embraced her and left her at the door of her 
room, Sophie Narischkin stood idly for a moment looking at the 
woodland scene painted on the wall near where she was, a repro 
duction of her favorite outdoor nook at their summer home by 
the Gulf of Finland, thinking that in a short time she would be 
there again. The silk door covering fell and she remained where 
she was for a few moments, looking lovingly at the paintings he 
had had made for her. In this position she overheard without in 
tention the conversation between Marie Antonova and Alexander 
in the hall without, and the request that he should sleep at the 
Palace again that night. She rang for her maid then to dress her 
for the street, and sent word to her English governess that they 
would go out at once for the doctor's prescribed two hours daily 
in the open air. 

During the drive she was distrait. She was preoccupied. She 
barely spoke a word to her companion. She was going over the 
old subject of worry which had annoyed her continually of late, 
and of which she could not stop thinking. She had been sur 
rounded by carefully instructed, silent, highly paid servants from 
whom no information was to be obtained. And in the insincere 
social world there was no one to whom she could go. At the same 
time it was covert hints, exchanged glances, guarded innuendoes, 
half-heard whispers from these two worlds, the world of social in 
feriors and the world of her equals, which first raised the suspi 
cion that there was something peculiar about her situation, that 
all was not as it should be. Why did the other young ladies of her 
acquaintance have only one father and mother, while she had 
two? And why was she not a Grand Duchess of the Romanoffs 
instead of just Sophie Narischkin, if, as she did not doubt, she 
was the daughter of Alexander? 

As a little girl she remembered Dmitri Lvovitch Narischkin, 



106 THE PENITENT 

whose name she bore, to her childish eyes then an old man, and 
she gained the peculiar impression that in some way he was suf 
fering, and she was sorry. She thought probably that that was 
what made his face twitch. 

He was always courteous, always gentle. But he did not come 
near her. He did not pet her. He seemed not to see her. Soon 
she learned that he avoided her whenever he could. She could 
not recall that he ever voluntarily spoke to her. 

There were long months when he was away somewhere, she did 
not know where, and she did not see him, and no one spoke 
of him. Marie Antonova treated him badly, she thought. She 
pitied him. She rebelled against it. She had an unwomanly sense 
of impersonal justice that would give to each his right. She re 
membered protesting once with her for this. Her mother had re 
plied sharply that it was none of her business. And she had an 
swered, questioningly: "Why is it not? Is he not my father?" 

Then Marie Antonova had looked long at her with round, large, 
black, angry eyeSi in which there was a puzzling glint of surprise. 
It was one of the few times she had seen the soft, deceptive, vel 
vety surface of her mother changed. It had shocked her. She 
did not know that two persons so seemingly different could 
dwell in one body. 

Later Dmitri Lvovitch seemed to be ashamed of her. This had 
caused her a very real, childish grief. This was worst of all. It 
had cut her to the quick, and all but made her ill. For a long 
time she had puzzled her head about it. After that, they used to 
quarrel violently, Marie Antonova and Dmitri Lvovitch, and her 
mother told her she would whip her severely if she ever told of it 
to any one. By any one she understood Alexander. These quar 
rels were at night, and they terrified her so that for days follow 
ing she slept nervously like one in a nightmare. And then she 
was not well as a result. 

Dmitri Lvovitch remained away for longer and longer periods 
after the quarrels, and when he did come home for a little while, 
he looked so old, so out of place and strange, sitting about lonely 
and unnoticed in the great, splendid rooms, that she felt sorrier 
for him than ever. But whenever she tried to show him her sym- 



THE NIGHT VIGIL 107 

pathy, to get near him, she found it displeased him, she felt he 
wanted her to go away, where he could never look upon her 
again. This was painful. The older she grew the more he seemed 
to dislike her. He seemed to have a fresh grudge against her for 
growing up. 

Long years came when Alexander was almost always with 
them, and she forgot about the past and was happy. He petted 
her enough for a dozen fathers. She used to think sometimes that 
Marie Antonova was jealous of her. He used to take her to the 
Imperial Residence, too. There the Empress Elizabeth petted 
her, and always called her "my little daughter." Yet the Em 
press did not come to see her. Why was that? Since she had been 
ill, she frequently sent an equerry, however, to inquire for her 
health, or to bring her a gift. 

During these two years that she had been out in society, it was 
evident to her intelligent eyes, trained unconsciously from her 
lonely childhood to observe freely and impersonally, that women 
shunned her mother, despite her mother's happy, high-handed 
ruling of the court set, and that just at present they were shun 
ning her more than ever. It was as if her mother had recently 
done something that forever put her out of reach of pardon. 
They were civil enough to her face, to be sure, especially if Al 
exander were present, but behind her back there were significant 
looks, exchanged glances, guarded and scornful smiles. And as 
for herself, the attitude of the social world toward her was one of 
mingled pity and admiration. It puzzled her. The pity hurt. 
Why should it be? It was intangible; she could not get at it. It 
was something that had to be borne. 

She observed, too, that the various members of the Emperor's 
family, his mother, sisters, brothers, their wives, almost never 
addressed Marie Antonova, but they were unfailingly charm 
ing to her, Sophie. But her mother evidently did not miss their 
attentions, and she cared nothing at all for their opinions, be 
cause she was usually surrounded by an admiring coterie of men. 
This made her mother happy. This gave her all that she re 
quired, which meant adulation and social triumph. 

There is perhaps nothing more difficult than to try to observe, 



io8 THE PENITENT 

with just, appraising eyes, conditions which have surrounded one 
from birth. In the case of a person of middle class, acquaint 
ances, sharp-eyed, critical schoolmates, envy, perhaps, occasion 
ally perform this bitter service. But in the case of Sophie Nar- 
ischkin, highly placed as she was, and protected by an Emperor, 
there could be no such possibility of sudden enlightenment nor 
contact. 

The past two years, during which time she had frequented 
her mother's salons, her drawing-rooms, and associated with her 
mother's acquaintances, not too carefully chosen, she had heard 
many questionable conversations, and risques stories, many scan 
dalous accounts of liaisons in high places, when Alexander, be it 
understood, was not present. Her mother had not taken pains 
either to shield or enlighten her. And she had always found lying 
about in easy reach of her hands the erotic, immoral, French 
novels which alone amused the idle hours of her sensuous mother. 
This had given her an outlook, a knowledge of another kind, 
quite as unusual for a young girl of her years and station. Now a 
thought, perhaps better a fear, was rising slowly in her mind like 
the black, threatening upheaving in the western sky in summer 
of a vast and alarming storm. Like the storm it shadowed the 
happy pleasant living beneath it, and cast its shadows in all di 
rections. Was her mother one of the celebrated bad women of her 
generation, such as she had read of in history, such as Isabella 
Orsini, for instance, to choose at random a noteworthy example? 
Could it be possible that she, too, was a courtesan, protected by 
royal favor? But Alexander loved her. He was noble. He could 
not love her surely if she were so unworthy. So how could that 
be? Or was it that she deceived him? No, no, on no account 
could that be! She could not be so base in the face of such love, 
such consideration, such lavish generosity. They lived, she re 
flected, in just such state as the royal family lived, thanks to 
him. She could not hold him up to ridicule, she could not be so 
ungrateful, uncaring. She dismissed the thought. 

Her mind was so preoccupied that she did not even observe 
where they were driving, nor did she see young Baratinsky, hand 
some, dark, emotional, who passed them on horseback, and who 



THE NIGHT VIGIL 109 

read easily the grief and worry upon her face. He cursed his luck 
again that something always separated him from her. Nor did 
she know when they turned toward home. 

Yet she could not help linking fact with fact with precision, 
and contemplating the sum total of those facts, and realizing that 
that sum total was something considerable. And there were, of 
course, other facts, perhaps greater ones, that she did not know. 

She had never, to be sure, seen much of her mother, who was 
usually either going to or coming from some entertainment. She 
was not a mother to waste time in a nursery. This fact she offered 
to herself hastily, gladly, in rebuttal of her suspicions. This was 
always the case except when they were in the country. Then 
Marie Antonova was ill-tempered, unsociable, and spent her 
days reading French novels, which depicted the only life she 
loved and could find satisfaction in, or in looking forward to the 
date of her return to the city she found so pleasant, where life 
could be made what she wanted it to be. So there had not been 
much companionship even there. 

But what possible reason could there be now in forbidding her to 
enter unannounced the apartments of Marie Antonova? Was not 
this an astonishing prohibition? This had come since Count Schu- 
valow had begun paying court to herself. When she had told this 
to her father earlier in the day, she saw that it had shocked him. 
Then she had quickly regretted having mentioned it. He, too, 
thought something then. And the thought had not been pleas 
ant. 

When she had heard Marie Antonova tell Alexander that to 
night she was going to a reception at the palace of Prince Via- 
zemsky, the unbidden thought had come that it was a lie. She 
had felt many times lately that her mother's laughing accounts 
of goings and comings were false and that they concealed some 
thing else very different. Then she tried bravely to correct this 
thinking in herself, declaring it was wholly base, unwarranted; 
that it was merely the false fabric built up by her lack of health 
and consequent wrong seeing. It was undutiful. She would stop 
it. In this brave, repentant mood, insisting that all was right be 
cause she wished it to be, she returned to the Narischkin Palace. 



no THE PENITENT 

On her way to her rooms she passed a servant in the hall below. 
She noticed that he wore the Schuvalow livery. A few moments 
after the curtain of her own door had shielded her from sight, she 
saw Marie Antonova run hastily down the yellow marble stairs 
to talk to this messenger in person, instead of sending word by her 
maid or a lackey, which would have been the usual thing to do. 
Evidently she wished no one to hear what she said and she did 
not dare risk it in writing. Concealment could be the only im 
pulse back of this. She waited for a few minutes without taking 
off her hat, thinking the message from Count Schuvalow must 
surely concern herself, and that soon her mother would come 
across the hall to her room to give it to her. But she did not 
come. She waited awhile longer. Then she rang for her maid and 
began to dress for dinner, puzzled and worried anew throughout 
the dressing as to what could be back of this. 

At eight she dined alone with Marie Antonova, who was in 
excellent spirits, her eyes shining with happiness and anticipa 
tion, but who carefully refrained from mention of Count Schu 
valow, as did her daughter. This was suspicious, too, in her 
talkative, indiscreet mother. 

For the first time Sophie Narischkin saw her mother's beauty 
with a new, a different comprehension. She saw her with an em 
phasis that was quite unusual and not pleasant. There was some 
thing about it that was shameless. It was too bold. It was al 
most vulgar. It lacked refinement. It lacked sensitiveness, deli 
cacy. She felt that she was dressed only for show, to attract the 
greedy, lustful eyes of men. She did not look to her like a great 
lady to-night, not like the Empress, but like a courtesan. She 
recalled quite involuntarily as she watched her across the 
table, her massed pile of silken black curls, where gems sparkled, 
her languorous eyes, her voluptuous shoulders and gestures, her 
dress cut too low a story her governess had told her when she 
was just a little girl. She was provoked that the story was so 
d propos and that it should occur to her now. It was how once 
Marie Antoinette had sent a portrait of herself, most resplend- 
ently attired, to her mother, Marie Therese, and that astute 
ruler of a nation and penetrating judge of men had returned the 



THE NIGHT VIGIL in 

picture immediately with this reply: " This is not a portrait of 
the Queen of France you send me. This is some cheap French ac 
tress" After she thought this over, she felt ashamed of herself, 
and sorry again that she had thought it. 

When they arose from the table and went into the little blue 
drawing-room, Marie Antonova still wore her happy air, and she 
told her daughter glibly that she was going to look in upon several 
of her friends to-night, one of whom was Prince Viazemsky, who 
was receiving, because they were leaving the city so soon, and 
that she should not return until very late. She took it as a matter 
of course that her daughter was not to accompany her. She was 
evidently nervous. She was eager for the time to come to go. 
Her little satin-shod foot patted the floor restlessly at intervals, 
and hidden thoughts passed behind her eyes. At half-past ten 
she rang for her carriage. Her maid wrapped her in a cloak of 
gold lace and black sable, and accompanied her down to the 
carriage door, where she arranged carefully the long train of her 
gown. 

Sophie Narischkin, left alone, idled for a while at the blue-and- 
gold painted spinet, trying to recall the words of a song of Bara- 
tinsky's. Vaguely in the song she felt his love touch her, and the 
beauty of his dark face flashed across her mind. Then she found 
that the motion of her arms in playing made her cough more 
than usual. She left the spinet and slowly climbed the yellow, 
lighted staircase, and turned idly into her mother's suite of 
rooms. The long windows here were open. She stepped out for 
a moment upon one of the little, round, iron balconies to breathe 
the freshness and to observe the pale, daylight night of summer 
above her head, which put out so persistently the dim polar stars. 
She let the curtains fall behind her. 

She had stood here but a little time when two maids came in to 
straighten up Marie Antonova's room from the unavoidable dis 
array of dressing, and to fold back her bed-coverings for the 
night. Their voices came to her distinctly. They had the free, 
unrestrained notes that proved the absence of superiors. They 
were both scornful and merry. Their words betrayed the dis 
respect they felt for their mistress. 



iia THE PENITENT 

"Madam Narischkin told me not to wait up for her to-night." 
Here they both laughed. 

" We all know what that means with her don't we? " 



La-la-M 

beginning to hum a risque French love-song about a night ren 
dezvous that probably paralleled in their minds those of Marie 
Antonova. Then they both laughed again, whispered together 
for a moment, finished putting the room to rights for the return 
of their mistress, and went out gayly and noisily. 

Then she, Sophie Narischkin, was not alone suspicious of her 
mother? It was common talk, evidently, among the servants. 
And her own belief that she had told a lie to Alexander was not 
unfounded or wicked. Her vague feeling that something was 
wrong could be trusted. Her cheeks burned with shame. Her 
pride was wounded. A sort of sickening terror swept over her, in 
which the only clear thought was that it must be kept from 
Alexander, because it would hurt him so. And she, no matter 
what it cost her, must be one of the brave ones to help keep it. 
This made her, in a way, an accomplice against him whom she 
loved. Not only the physical beauty, but some of the noble na 
ture of Alexander had been inherited by his daughter. She re 
volted at this baseness. From any angle the situation for her was 
painful more, humiliating. 

But he must be protected first. This she saw clearly through 
the confusion and shame that gripped her, realizing afresh how 
great was her love for him. 

Upon the balcony late, with bare shoulders, bare arms, and 
without a wrap, she at length began to feel chilly. She turned 
and made her way slowly to her own room, where she asked the 
waiting maid to disrobe her and to bring a padded dressing- 
gown. Then she dismissed her for the night and sat down. 

Here alone in the sweet, all-night twilight of sub-Arctic 
summer, she rapidly recalled the past, seeking anew interpreta 
tions of things that had puzzled her in the light of her recently 
acquired knowledge. 



THE NIGHT VIGIL "3 

There was a night at the theater in the early spring which she 
remembered particularly. Lasky, the handsome Pole the women 
were so crazy over, who resembled nothing so much as a lithe, 
brown-black tiger, was playing. She and her mother occupied a 
box alone. Her mother was in gala attire. She was wearing a 
new, high, pointed tiara of red and white stones, which Alexander 
had had made for her. Whenever Lasky received any especial 
triumph upon the stage, glasses were lifted first at him, and then 
turned at once upon her mother. Sometimes it had seemed to her 
that the words the popular Pole uttered were addressed to her 
mother; that Lasky and her mother were the real actors whom 
the house were applauding. And in the eyes of Marie Antonova 
as she watched him, her daughter saw a light that transformed 
her and made her almost a stranger. She had been restless, too, 
just as she was to-night. And she had tapped her pretty feet 
impatiently. Then Alexander made his entrance. The audience 
arose. He came at once to their box, serene, handsome, noble to 
look upon. But she had felt upon the instant that, for some rea 
son she could not at all explain, his presence displeased her 
mother. She felt that great waves of anger, great waves of re 
bellious disappointment, were sweeping over her, like an in 
coming sea which no one may check. She had been astonished 
at the time at the subtlety of her discernment. She had won 
dered how she knew. Then she remembered thinking it was be 
cause she played the part of an observer in life, a mere looker-on, 
so to speak. Her penetrating mind was not obscured by selfish or 
personal wishes. 

Alexander came home in the carriage with them that night. 
She felt that this had displeased her mother more than any 
thing else. After Alexander took a seat in their box, the Polish 
actor did not again look in their direction. He seemed to avoid 
them with his eyes. But the audience kept looking stealthily, as 
if to observe, for some reason, her mother anew. The audience 
evidently had some fresh interest in her. It had been a most un 
happy evening for her. She had been glad when it was over. 
And now she hoped they would go away to the country without 
delay. If they did, she would secretly beg Alexander to prolong 



"4 THE PENITENT 

their stay there, by some means or other. That would give her 
added time for peace, for self-adjustment. 

She heard a slight noise in the outer hall. She picked up the 
miniature clock from the green table and held it up in front of the 
tiny blue flame which was flickering in front of the Virgin. It was 
twelve o'clock. Marie Antonova surely could not be returning so 
early. Social life in Petersburg had only just begun. She peered 
out carefully from the shelter of the silken curtain. There she 
was, however ! Her cloak of gold lace was trailing heavily behind 
her, and exposing her bare, white shoulders, and the sparkle of 
gems, like a night of sullen stars, in her curly, thick hair. Her 
head was thrown back. There was delight in her eyes a reck 
less, wild delight. The expression changed her so that it shook 
her daughter, like grief or fear. There she was! And bending 
over her now, as his hand was just reaching out for the doorknob 
to turn it softly, bending over her lovingly, so that from time to 
time he hid her face, was Count Schuvalow, young, blond, se 
ductive. They opened the door stealthily. They went in. 

She did not know how long she stood there after that. She 
could estimate the length of time only by the fact that her feet, 
her limbs, were cold, numb, and a heavy weariness enveloped her. 

The air was icy now. It came through the pallid window 
squares in little, petulant breaths. She wished that she had 
closed some of the windows. She felt chilly again just as she 
had upon the balcony. 

The door of her mother's room opened again, timidly this 
time. Count Schuvalow came out. She watched him walking 
carefully on tiptoe along the edge of the thick blue velvet floor 
covering to the top of the yellow marble stairs which the dying 
candles were lighting dimly. She saw him turn the collar of his 
coat up quickly, and then balance carefully for the space of an 
instant upon the top stair, before he stepped down. 

She did not feel any added personal resentment in the fact 
that the lover she had just seen leave the room of Marie An 
tonova at this hour was her fiance, or that this greatly increased 
the enormity of the sin. She knew that Alexander's promise 
that she could name the wedding day released her. She had no 



THE NIGHT VIGIL 115 

delusion about the cough that racked her. She knew that when 
the gay leaves of autumn took their departure she would very 
likely go with them. But Alexander! What would the knowledge 
do to him? Alexander, whom the people of Petersburg were be 
ginning to call the Prince of Peace when they looked out of their 
windows and saw him pass in the streets, what would it do to 
him! What would it do to him whom her childish heart wor 
shiped as she worshiped her God? She felt that she was base for 
being glad that she, perhaps, with the autumn, would get out of 
it; the worry, the nerve strain, the humiliation, the shame, and 
leave him alone, alone without her love to protect him, to shelter 
him, alone to suffer on. 

Perhaps Dmitri Lvovitch, in the years long passed, had loved 
her mother, too, and she had betrayed him. That was why he was 
old and sad now. That was why he was neglected and driven 
away. Perhaps that was what she always did, betray betray 
She was vile base and it could not help but reflect 
upon her. Was she not the daughter of this monster whom men 
mocked? Who was she? Was she not merely the accidental re 
sult of one of her mother's many nights of stolen love of long ago? 

Shortly afterwards she heard servants beginning to be astir. 
She found then that the pillow was wet. Broad summer daylight 
had come. It was flooding the room with cold, clear light. It 
showed that she had had a slight hemorrhage of the lungs dur 
ing the night. She rang for a maid and had the pillow changed. 
She cautioned her carefully against mentioning the fact to any 
one. 

She asked the solicitous maid to close the window shutters to 
keep out the light and the early chill, and to tell her mother that 
she would not be down for breakfast because she was sleeping 
late, but that she would meet her at three o'clock as she had 
promised. 



CHAPTER VII 
PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 

THE affair of the duel could not be kept from Count Woronzow 
for any length of time. When the news of it, together with all the 
astonishing, slightly ridiculous details, greatly enlarged and dis 
torted, putting, naturally, the burden, the blame for law-break 
ing upon Alexis Sergiewitch, reached the old man's ears, it was 
three days later. Lvovitch Stolischnikow he shut up in the 
Guard-House without delay, ordering a diminished food ration 
and the highly sobering recommendation of solitude and medita 
tion. Young Pushkin he could not find, or he would have pun 
ished him the same way. He issued a general order, however, for 
search. Alexis Sergiewitch had hidden, hoping the affair would 
blow over if he were not present to keep alive its interest, hidden 
in a little white house kept by a Turkish woman, halfway up the 
long hill, in the Old Town. Here he could listen to Oriental mu 
sic, eat strange, highly spiced foods that tickled his palate pleas 
antly, smoke and idle, in short, enjoy himself considerably in his 
own way, if it had not been for the pressing need of clean clothes. 
And here they found him, despite his silence and the willing sac 
rifice of cleanliness. 

Count Woronzow, in the meantime, had done a good deal of 
speculating about this perplexing specimen of the genus hu- 
manum who had been unceremoniously handed over to his pro 
tection and discipline. 

Count Michael Woronzow was not so stupid as he looked. In 
addition he had had experience with men. Few knew them bet 
ter. Few would be quicker to see or give credit for merit of any 
kind, unless it happened to be artistic merit. He had seen no 
little of the world. His powers of observation had not been 
limited to Russia or his own race. He had seen something of all 
races. He had been born upon a ship off the coast of Spain. The 
renowned cities of Europe had passed in turn in review before 



PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 117 

his childish eyes. He had received his diplomatic education out 
side of Russia. He had been sent to school at a great English 
university. In manner and dress there was something about him 
still of an English country gentleman of the richer class. His 
wealth was colossal. Palaces which he seldom saw, in various 
parts of Russia and the Crimea, owned him as master. The 
combined estates of himself and his wife were reported to equal 
in extent the realm of France. Yet he lived soberly, with no out 
ward show, giving himself almost no more comforts or luxuries 
than his men, and never in any way acting the superior. 

He was small, dark, stubby, and of a bearing far removed 
from imposing. His noble birth was in no wise evident. His fore 
head was insignificant, his hair was unruly, and his eyes small, 
dark, nondescript, deep-set, and expressionless. But what was 
lacking in exterior finish and adornment had been richly added 
to his heart, his nature. They contained the beauty his body did 
not. At the risk of his life he had saved the lives of soldiers under 
fire. He had commanded in person in the dramatic siege against 
Erivan. He was a brilliant figure by virtue of his bravery in the 
battle by Borodino. Once in 1 8 1 5 he generously paid off the debts 
of his officers that they might feel unencumbered; to the amount 
of two million rubles. 

When Alexis Sergiewitch was found, he, too, was ordered to 
the Guard-House, with a like recommendation concerning soli 
tude and meditation. A punishment exactly equal with that of 
Stolischnikow was meted out to him. 

That day, as it happened, he had received a letter from his old 
nurse, Arina Rodionovna, in which she wrote: "I have just had 
a mass said for your health. Live, my darling, a good life, and 
never do anything to be ashamed of." When he read this, the 
dramatic, unflinching hero of the duel in the cherry orchard, who 
could face death, wept like a child. 

Count Woronzow meditated. His meditation had inharmo 
nious heights and depths. It coasted occasionally near dazzling, 
and, for him, dangerous islands of speculation. He saw plainly 
that pleasure was the only life the boy could comprehend. This 
was cause more for pity than blame. Life is sweeter to poets, to 



n8 THE PENITENT 

artists, he said to. himself, in that brief fury which is their youth, 
than it is to other people. It seems to them then that the world 
is made for them alone. Count Woronzow was educated. He 
knew that the road of poets almost always lies along the dizzy 
edge of an abyss. He saw plainly in young Pushkin, too, that 
great, vibrant, unrestrainable power of life, such as is born 
under equatorial suns. But if he was gay-spirited and reckless, 
he knew at the same time that the boy was not cowardly. "And 
he is young!" he said to himself. "Youth, and a poet! A bad 
combination. In the unfortunate case of Alexis Sergiewitch, the 
only rule of conduct that he knows anything about is a fantastic 
honor, which even in our old-fashioned Russia is beginning to 
be passe." 

Here he smoked vigorously, as if trying to gather courage for 
the conclusion which he could not seem to avoid. 

"A poet's idea of the conduct of life is usually old-fashioned, 
no matter how much of a modern he may be in his art. A poet, 
usually, lives emotionally at least a generation behind his 
age." 

Before he ventured upon the next observation he smoked even 
more vigorously. Then he made hastily the sign of the cross, as 
if in horror of his unregeneracy. Who was he to pass judgment 
upon his fellows? Was he, too, not filled with original sin? Not 
for any consideration would he have uttered aloud such a revo 
lutionary idea. Even the thinking soiled the whiteness of his 
upright soul. 

"The best thing that can happen to a poet is to die young. 
He cannot put up, decently, with what life gives later; old age, 
disillusion, and the loss of that marvelous joy which, as soon as the 
world sees it, marks him out for envy, for hatred and trouble. 
Old age has no place for him where he is not either useless or 
ridiculous in the world to-day. His butterfly nature must 
feed upon the flowers and be flattered by the sun of youth. Only 
life's loveliest gardens are suitable for him, its pleasances. To 
the poet, old age is fatal." 

Here he puffed so furiously that his round, inconspicuous face, 
with its rows of horizontal brow-wrinkles, vanished in a cloud of 



PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 119 

smoke; for what was he, he thought humbly again (by way of 
retribution this time), that he should pass judgment upon his 
brothers! He shook his head wearily with something that re 
sembled despair. How confusing, how perplexing was life ! Then 
he arose. He opened another window. This seemed to relieve 
him. The heat in Kishenev, in summer, was intense. Through 
the open window came a wind current from another direction, 
and the heat-tinged fragrance of a pale, tall poplar and two white 
birches which grew close by. The current of his meditation 
changed slightly as he reseated himself. 

"He is different, racially, from the others" recalling some of 
the wild adventures, the hairbreadth escapes, during the past 
weeks, of young Pushkin, whom Alexander, in a private letter, 
had commended to his protection. "I cannot therefore reason 
ably expect from him the same results." 

Count Woronzow was interested in horticulture. He studied it. 
He experimented in plantings of various kinds. He had made 
independent scientific observations of his own. He was coming 
to believe in certain peculiar but interesting affiliations between 
men and plants. .This had a bearing upon his present outlook. 
The same laws were applicable, largely, to both. Both were life, 
only in different stages of progression. 

" He is of a different race," he said aloud, as if he had reached a 
new and more definite conclusion. " Not so long ago some of his 
progenitors were savages of the jungle. He is not to be blamed 
because he is as he w." Count Woronzow was fast finding step 
ping-stones across the place of difficulty. The opposite shore 
was heaving into sight. It was steadying him. 

"He can comprehend no spiritual truth. He can see only the 
sensuous beauty of his surroundings. He feels only the superb- 
ness of surfaces. This is reality to him. 

"In him, too, there is that tremendous, outbounding vitality 
that characterizes tropic growths, like the exuberant, expanding 
wonder of jungle plants, under equatorial suns, with which we of 
the North do not sympathize and which we cannot gauge. One 
should not be angry because the jungle flowers more profusely 
than the plain. That view would be unintelligent unscientific" 



THE PENITENT 

He concluded that beyond the quick judgment of our conceit, 
our shabby momentary wisdom, there is a greater judgment 
which unself-conscious facts unfold slowly. 

"Besides there are no places of amusement here no legit 
imate ones, at least. There is only the wine-house. Young men 
must be amused! The wine-house is the social center club, 
gambling-house, dance-hall, general place of meeting for ex 
change of ideas the bank the exchange place of rest " 
Again he shook his head wearily. There was much to be done by 
him, in the way of bringing about civilized living, loftier stand 
ards in this South of Russia, which he was trying to remake, 
to bring up to the measure of the rest of Europe, and nearest of 
all to that dull, well-ordered England where he had spent much 
of his youth. 

Another reason that he felt peculiarly responsible for the wel 
fare of Alexis Sergiewitch was that he believed that the keeping 
together and in influence of the native aristocracy possessed 
elements of strength that meant the future saving, the security 
of the land. The aristocracy of a country must be kept intact. 
It was the backbone. It was the model. In his heart there was 
the respect that good men keep for the best of their race. This 
belief had been strengthened by his education in England, this 
feeling of fellowship, this feeling for caste. If it was not altogether 
just, it had been proved to be serviceable. He was convinced 
it was best in the long run. 

The ancestors of Alexis Sergiewitch, on one side, had been the 
same as his own. He respected them, therefore. They had fought 
in the old dramatic, fanatical wars for the faith with Poland, 
against the Turk, where his fathers had fought. They had 
stormed off the slant-eyed Mongol. They had opposed the 
Swede. They had helped build the ancient cities of the Slav in 
the South just as his ancestors had done. They were part of the 
picturesque past. He came, in short, of a celebrated boyar race. 
For that reason Count Woronzow had a certain increased con 
sideration for him, or rather felt greater his responsibility. He 
belonged to the caste whose duty it was to keep Russia intact, 
and free of foreign influence. In addition, a friend of the old 



PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 121 

man's, in whom he had considerable confidence, had observed 
young Pushkin at night in the wine-houses, and in various 
places of pleasure in the Old Town. He had confided to Count 
Woronzow that he did not think Alexis Sergiewitch got any 
pleasure out of his wild nights of drinking and gambling, nor 
even from his relations with women. He longed for pleasure, 
but he could not grasp it. He searched for it continually, but it 
eluded him like a will-o'-the-wisp. What he gets oftenest is 
weariness, his friend had explained, and disappointment, which 
he is not old enough now to understand. He has some wild pagan 
ideal in his brain which he is not able to make real. He longs to 
duplicate the pleasures of Petronius, of Catullus, but he does 
not know how. The only thing that can bring him this intensity 
of pleasure he longs for is his art which he neglects. He longs 
to live poetry instead of writing it. The double vision confuses 
him. In short, Count Woronzow gained the impression from his 
friend's wise conversation that the pursuit of folly was an obses 
sion with the young man. He was merely trying to find some 
thing unfindable that belonged to the spirit, and that symbolized 
to his mind what men mean by spring, youth, delight. 

He concluded now, as a result, that he, Woronzow, had not 
done his duty. Or, better, perhaps, he had not understood what 
his duty was in its petty and peculiar ramifications. Any wrong, 
he acknowledged generously, means accountability in two places. 
He must give up some of the few hours of leisure that remained to 
him for the purpose of directing the amusements of the young 
men who were with him. It was his duty. He wondered that he 
had not seen this before. He must superintend not only their 
work, but their play. He must cut another slice out of his own 
hard-working, perplexed day. He would invite them to take 
dinner once a week with him. He would provide from his own 
pocket a dinner so good that they would be glad to come. Then 
they could talk together as friends, and in the talk he would 
scatter helpful and suggestive thoughts, just as he had scattered 
apple and fruit seeds the length and breadth of the uncultivated 
steppe, and wait, with the same absence of impatience or prej 
udice, for the good fruit to be borne. 



122 THE PENITENT 

He received his young guests at dinner a few nights later in the 
same distinguished attire, with the graceful, affable manner with 
which he would have received men of his rank in any of his 
sumptuous palaces. When dinner was announced, he arose and 
stepped in front of a small brass icon hanging on the wall, the 
same one he had carried with him faithfully through the Napo 
leonic wars. He made the sign of the cross, and said a brief prayer. 
The substance of the prayer was that he hoped the bread of the 
spirit would redound to the good of his youthful guests, like the 
bread upon his well-filled table to their bodies. As usual he was 
sincere, reverent, and commanded respect. 

After the dinner was over, and they had returned to his plain 
little living-room, and he had explained his interest in having 
them as guests at his board in future once a week, and after they 
had chatted awhile, chiefly upon the injury the locusts were doing 
to the midsummer fruit crop about Kishenev and its grape- 
curled hills, the threatening rumors of an approaching war over 
the Greeks and the sacred faith, he asked the other young men 
to be good enough to excuse him. He explained that he had some 
matters of importance which he wished to discuss alone with 
Alexis Sergiewitch. 

" My dear Alexis Sergiewitch/' he began when they two were 
alone together, "because your fathers were friends and com 
panions of my fathers, and our interests, our sentiments must 
have, therefore, in some sort, the same objective, because they 
had a similar origin, I have felt moved to remonstrate about this 
goal you seem to have set for yourself, namely, Pleasure. Pleas 
ure as a goal, my boy, is like drinking only the foam upon your 
champagne and then throwing the rich liquor, which is beneath, 
to the dogs. Pleasure, of your kind, is possible only in youth. 
And youth is so brief my boy lasts such a little while It 
is not worth living, alone, for. Long years come after it, Alexis 
Sergiewitch sobering years to all when pleasure as 
you interpret it is not only unreachable but ridiculous. 
Long years which pleasure cannot help us to meet to live 
through. But there is something that persists and is great, both 
in youth and age; and that is service service to man to 



PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 123 

Russia without hope or wish for reward and duty." In 
the voice that was speaking there was no spirit of dictation, no 
command, no I-am-holier-than-thou tone, only a great kindness. 
Alexis Sergiewitch could feel it shining upon him warmly, like a 
generous, all- vivifying sun. 

"You have refused to perform your duties in the office. No 
one, under me, can eat the bread of our blessed Emperor without 
giving return, according to his strength, his ability. I cannot 
permit, in honor, & filching from him." The word filching touched 
the ears of Alexis Sergiewitch unpleasantly. 

"When you learn to substitute duty for desire, you yourself 
will be happier, too. You will have found something to live for. 
You will be richer." 

This closing sentence sent defensive thoughts, not altogether 
flattering, flying like dust-clouds across the surface of his mind. 
He had the intelligence to grasp very distinctly the expanded 
meaning of the old man's words. He knew upon the instant that 
there was truth in them, and that he could put up only with 
things that Were pleasant. He could not suffer. He was not 
brave enough, spiritually, to learn how. He could not put up, 
for an instant, with boredom. It was necessary for him, he knew, 
to keep himself wrapped about with joy. He must feel contin 
ually the titillation of happiness that was changing. He must 
keep himself continually in a mental world that both enchanted 
his senses and made him happy. He could not subsist upon the 
same kind of mental food as his fellow-workers in the office. The 
long, dull, dutiful, unmarked working days of ordinary human 
ity would be death to him. That was probably the difference, he 
thought upon the moment, between the mental atmosphere 
poets live in and that of people who are not poets. He saw, in a 
cruel, clarifying flash, that unconsciously he had been reversing 
the normal, healthful, conditions of living. He was becoming 
that most perilous thing, for which wise life makes no provision 
but sadness the rare, the exceptional. 

"I have not so much myself to live for," the little old man was 
continuing, in a sort of chastened voice which caught his ear 
sharply and which hurt him, "not so much love not so much 



124 THE PENITENT 

happiness But perhaps I was not good enough to deserve it," 
he concluded soberly. "So I work for others. I work to bring 
God's good into the world. I put service in the place of self." 
The old man was becoming now a pitiful figure. 

Varying emotions swept confusingly over Alexis Sergiewitch. 
They swayed him now this way, now that, as he listened to the 
old man's words. He viewed clearly as Count Woronzow spoke 
that other, that different world of work, of duty, for which he 
had no ability and not sufficient respect. But it was what made, 
what safeguarded mankind, he was forced to admit. 

"The impersonal good that you get from helping others 
with no wish for return has something in it that satisfies, that 
armors the soul; you might call it the manna of the spirit. Self, 
my boy, is a little, shabby thing to live for. Self, however, is all 
that little minds can find. But we must pity, not blame, them who 
have eyes for nothing else. I thank God that He has given me the 
eyes to see something else. With the power to see comes obliga 
tion, and then the joy of service. 

"When I am stern with you, Alexis Sergiewitch, it is duty, 

not revenge. Duty, as I see it. I may not always be right. I 

pray to God for light. I have no help. I live in lonely outposts 

for years at a time the hard life of a soldier, a pioneer. The 

blood of me goes to make the desert bloom." 

Pushkin was listening to a new poetry, the poetry that the 
heart of great men makes. In nobility of nature he recognized a 
poetry superior to that of words. He felt again that queer little 
jostle of mind he had felt first the night in Petersburg when he 
had listened to his inspired friend, Ryleiev, unfold his unselfish 
dream for the freedom of man. Evidently there were outposts in 
the unmapped Land of Poesie, which he, the fashionable, petted 
Pushkin, did not know and had not suspected. 

"Whenever anything happens to wound me to grieve me," 
the kind old voice which the years had tempered was continuing, 
"I perform some fresh service for my fellow-men." 

The pause that followed swung in upon them with the power 
of a sea that is silent in its surging. Then the conversation 
changed as a tide changes that has reached its full, and in Count 



PUSHKIN AND COUNT WORONZOW 125 

Woronzow the entertaining courtier took the place of the as 
cetic, the reformer, and to a question of young Pushkin's he re 
plied : 

" Yes I saw him once, face to face your hero Napoleon 
in the battle. It was on the smooth and level land, just this side 
of the Polish border, in the beginning of that fateful autumn, 
when he was first turning his face toward what he thought was 
glory and Russia. As usual, he was commanding in person. 
I was in command myself that day of a detachment under Ba- 
gration. Bagration, you know, had ninety thousand men at one 
time on the Niemen. It was what you might call the flower of the 
Russian army. He was hot-headed. He wanted to give battle at 
once. But Barclay de Tolly refused. At the first light at 
dawn we were right opposite the enemy. Our play, as you 
know, was to withdraw to withdraw refuse to give battle, 
lure them on into the heart of the country, where winter and 
cold would destroy colossally as the arms of man could not. 
Barclay de Tolly kept making Bagration retreat. He had to do 
it, you see, to keep up with him. He was no mean tactician, and 
Bagration, who had been to school to Suwarow in the art of war, 
had a genius for protecting retreats. Before I knew what was 
happening, there I was, face to face with him! What do you 
suppose he looked like? A god a pagan god; white, relentless, 
beautiful, and unmoved." 

Count Woronzow was now rapidly making the sign of the 
cross. An expression that united ecstasy and fear was upon his 
face. 

"That was what he really was, not a man, a pagan god the 
spirit of evil come out of the South into our pious, God 
fearing Russia, to destroy the work of the Cross. 

" I knew it then. I knew he was the spirit of evil, made incar 
nate. I spurred my horse. I started toward him. With God hi 
my heart I would have destroyed him. I felt the strength. I felt 
the courage. A bugle-call rang out, clear, pure, shattering as the 
first sun ray. In between him and me swept the rhythmic feet of 
protecting Polish cavalry. First, the light hussars; then the 
heavy dragoons those pitiful, eloquent, dramatic Poles, who 



i26 THE PENITENT 

were of so little account in the humdrum of a long siege." He 
paused here for the full effect of his words to be felt by his youth 
ful listener. Then in a changed voice, whose distributed empha 
sis could not be missed, he remarked: "The Polish cavalry, 
Alexis Sergiewitch, is to the army what the genius is to life; 
something splendidly effective, but only in rare moments. The 
commonplace, broadly considered, is far more important." 

Back alone in his room that night, Alexis Sergiewitch did not 
like to contemplate the fact that the life he led was, as Count 
Woronzow had endeavored to point out, frequently ridiculous, 
and almost always exaggerated. He felt dimly, to be sure, and 
often enough, without any one's help the wrongness, the unrea 
son of his acts. But he did not like to confront unpleasant facts. 
He did not like, either, to plan a way to avoid them. It suited him 
better to put away their disagreeable memory, with a gay and 
eloquent gesture, and to flee for comfort to that invisible world of 
creative power, which Count Woronzow was so disposed to be 
little, where he, too, by means of what the world calls folly, could 
reign superbly. 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE ART EXHIBIT 

SOCIAL and intellectual Petersburg was on its way to the Art 
Exhibit. It had opened, under the patronage of Alexander, in 
what was called the Engelhardt Salon, a semi-public place, where 
promenade concerts were given in winter, sometimes great balls, 
and where conventions had been called. It was good, the Em 
peror thought, to develop interest in impersonal things such as 
painting, music, the dance, and to divert the popular mind from 
politics and affairs governmental. 

The painters exhibiting, it is hardly necessary to state, were 
not Russians. Petersburg was a city where there was little that 
was genuinely Russian, and where most things were imported, 
including the current speech, except food, the dance, and the 
earth upon which the buildings, copied from those of other na 
tions, were built. 

In this hastily, sketchily improvised civilization of the Far 
North, where necessarily there must be much lacking, in this 
mad, willful attempt to make life sumptuous and rich without 
the careful, complacent aid of time, there was nothing old, noth 
ing venerable, save perhaps the pitiful human race and its endless 
continuance. There was nothing here hallowed by years and af 
fection. There was nothing made interesting or important by 
past generations, by their love, by their efforts, or by their ca 
prices. There was no native expression here in the North hi ar 
chitecture, either stone or wood, or in painting, of the reasoned, 
patiently evolved life of the people. There had been no eloquent, 
inspired, shadowing Middle Age in this country to temper richly 
the present, or to pile lavishly its ecstatic treasures about them. 
All was new, glaring, harsh, imitated, dull. 

In the proud palaces of Petersburg, where moved people so 
richly dressed, there were no superb accumulations from the past, 
from ancestors, that belonged here by right of origin. They, the 



128 THE PENITENT 

present owners, were frequently superior to their surroundings, 
while princely families of the south of Europe to-day are occa 
sionally inferior to theirs. 

The rich Petersburgers lived gayly, uncaringly, amid the false 
splendors, filched and furnished backgrounds, of alien races. 
This, unconsciously absorbed through the eyes, the senses, had 
no little to do with their mental suppleness, their astonishing in 
tellectual receptivity. And they who were on their way to the 
Art Exhibit, the members of Petersburg's polite world, and the 
members of its mentally alert world, the intelligentsia formed a 
mosaic, an ethnological mosaic, as richly varied and as geograph 
ically interesting as the background formed by their homes and 
their belongings. 

Few of them almost none of them, in fact were of pure 
Russian blood. Among their ancestors had been Tartars, Greeks, 
Georgians, Lithuanians, Poles, Swedes, Germans, Wallachians, 
English, Scots, and so forth and so forth; a list too great to enu 
merate or to give in half its entirety. This had shed upon the 
conduct of their lives contradictory impulses, conflicting energies. 

The people who had made the beautiful but to them foreign 
furniture amid which they lived their dissipated lives and played 
their parts, and who had formed the great society of the days be 
fore the Terreur, which they adored so and copied assiduously, 
had been a race of one blood. They had possessed the social har 
mony that comes of homogeneity. But now the powerful oneness 
of the past of them they copied was broken up, even in France, 
just as it had been already racially broken up in them here, the 
Russians. All that the world of Alexander's day could do was to 
look back upon it, the great past, just as we look back, perhaps, 
at some proud moment of Greece, with regret for a vanished ideal. 
This interesting ethnological world-map, which was Petersburg 
society in the eighteen-twenties, was not, perhaps, readily read 
able by all. It was only under the pressure of rare or intense 
moments that the hidden impulses of the racially varied people 
who lived here showed or became effective. In small but his 
trionically unimportant ways all individuals, in their petty dis 
contents, hatreds, their personal preferences, give expression 



THE ART^EXHIBIT 129 

again to the old primitive impulses of races. He who is nearest 
to the primitive past cannot be depended upon so greatly in the 
present. His blood is not sufficiently chastened. Not yet sin 
cerely enough does he worship civilization, which has the power 
not only to subdue, but to kill. There is a lack of harmony within. 
The inner man is not at peace. He is still a hybrid. That is what 
Petersburg society was. And that is what its leader, Alexander, 
was too, an exquisite, political hybrid, not reducible to exact 
cataloguing anywhere. 

The cosmopolitanism of Petersburg, its astonishing, complex, 
hothouse, human growths has never been equaled in the world, 
and it has been curiously neglected by the social historian. Cos 
mopolitanism, that brilliant, useless thing, that superb ineffi 
ciency, suggesting the glowing, golden surface of a seedless 
orange, was to be studied at its best here, with its shifting shad 
ows, its disconcerting complexities. Cosmopolitanism means, 
usually, an end of desirable, genuine things, but almost never a 
beginning. It is the last fine flowering of a garden soon to be de 
stroyed, which is permitted to bear no fruit. 

The paintings to-day on view, in the otherwise bare and ugly 
rooms, were by three Frenchmen who were popular just at pres 
ent in Russia. Carlo Vernet, his younger brother Horace, and 
the portraits painted here some years before by Joseph de Mais- 
tre. whose daughter, Countess de Laval, now held the salon 
most French in Petersburg. 

When the carriage was announced at the Narischkin Palace, it 
found Sophie Narischkin ready and waiting. At that moment 
her mother entered. She wore a large lace hat upon her curly 
head, and in her corsage a bouquet of fresh, dewy, red roses just 
sent by Alexander. She told her daughter with a sort of nervous 
haste, always a little impressed by the clear, truthful eyes she 
confronted, that she would have to drive on without her and 
meet Alexander at the Exhibit. They were, as of course her 
daughter knew, leaving town in the morning, and she would be 
obliged to call at her dressmaker's on the way. She had quite 
forgotten, until just now, about the necessity to do this. She in 
sisted, however, upon Sophie going on immediately in the wait- 



130 THE PENITENT 

ing carriage. She herself would take another carriage, she ex 
plained, and come to join them as soon as the engagement with 
the dressmaker was at an end. She seemed impatient for her 
daughter to go. She was eager in fact to be rid of her. Her daugh 
ter knew only too well what this meant, this freedom and safety 
to do as she pleased, while the rest of her friends were busily en 
gaged elsewhere. She knew, too, that argument would be useless. 
She drove away without her. 

Alexander was outside the Engelhardt Salon in his carriage 
awaiting her. She looked at him with the old thrill of mingled 
love and pride. 

"But my darling surely you have been ill since I saw 
you? " the grave, sweet voice with its deep heart tones questioned. 

"No, indeed! I am quite well" not mentioning the hemor 
rhage of so short a time before. 

" But to me you look ill or changed. What is the mat 
ter, darling? " the old fear clutching frantically at his heart. 

"Is it not this dress?" To conceal her increasing thinness 
from his kind, wise eyes, she had had gowns made of colored 
gauze, with long sleeves shirred on both sides to the wrist, and 
high, shirred collars. The one she wore to-day was dark blue. 

"Perhaps it is, dear!" grasping at anything that would 
drive away for a moment the fear he did not have the strength to 
confront. "Where is your mother?" hastily, a new surprise 
in his eyes. " She promised to meet me here." 

"I merely came on ahead; that is all in order not to keep 
you waiting. She is with her dressmaker," she fabricated hesi 
tatingly. "She will be here very soon." 

"I am sorry she could not come with you." There was regret 
in his voice. 

"She will not be late, I assure you." She could not meet his 
eyes as she said this. She felt small and mean. She was forced to 
the untruth to save him. They entered the Exhibition together 
now, and the whisper was passed around : 

"The Emperor is here/" 

All eyes were now turned upon the eloquent figure of Alex 
ander. Members of the court circle hastened to pay their re- 



THE ART EXHIBIT 131 

spects. Young Prince Odojewsky led Sophie Narischkin trium 
phantly away to show her a picture which had impressed him. 
It was Horace Vernet's dramatic canvas "Mazeppa," the one 
showing the naked body of the hero bound to a horse which 
hungry wolves with red, out-lolling tongues were following with 
eagerness to destroy. 

"Do you know, Mademoiselle Narischkin, why that picture 
impresses me so?" questioned his frail, somewhat effeminate 
voice. She turned toward him kind eyes that comprehended. 
"It is because those ravening wolves, with their pointed, lecher 
ous tongues, are the griefs that have followed me since the death 
of my mother. That is just the way I feel! The picture tells it." 
The last words trembled in his throat. Grief was choking him. 
"I knew you would understand." He looked at her gratefully. 
"It comforts me to see you." 

She on her part thought then, without daring like him the 
satisfaction of expression, that the wolves were like the fears, the 
mental torments that beset her. Only in her case they had over 
taken and caught her. And now they were eating her up. 

Prince Odojewsky was sensitive and gentle. She liked him. 
He was blond, too, and young like herself. Baratinsky, poet and 
nobleman, with the dark, supple beauty of an Asiatic, was bow 
ing before her. She remembered his love-song and her heart 
responded. He had the deep, arresting, eloquent eyes that belong 
to desert races. There was something about them that echoed in 
her heart. He had been greatly delighted, he told her, with the 
chalk drawings which the younger Vernet had made of the head 
of Napoleon. He was just on the point of asking her to go to look 
at them with him, when the younger of the brothers Mouraviefl- 
Apostol, the one with the sensitive mouth that trembled so 
easily, came to tell her to be sure not to miss Horace Vernet's 
picture of Prince Poniatowsky on horseback by the banks of 
the Elster. He went on to explain, with boyish enthusiasm, that 
one of the pupils of Horace Vernet had seen this very scene, just 
the moment before the Prince leaped from the white horse he was 
riding into the river to his death. From this description Vernet 
had made the painting. 



132 



THE PENITENT 



Mouravieff-Apostol was the grandson of a famous hetman. 
Therefore things Polish appealed to him. He had inherited, too, 
a little of his distinguished father's art-sense. 
^Baratinsky was sorry he could not have her to himself awhile. 
Some one always took her away. It was his usual luck. He was 
always planning, scheming to be alone with her. But she seemed 
as elusive as she was frail physically. Lately he knew she was 
worried about something. He longed dully to shield her, to help 
her. But, of course, some one came and took her from him. He 
was always baffled. There was never any chance for him. 

This group of young people were sympathetic temperamentally. 
They enjoyed each other. They sought each other's society. 
Alexander looked over from time to time and saw them. He 
wished dully that it was one of these young men his daughter was 
to marry, and not Count Schuvalow, for whom he felt more and 
more an antipathy he could not conquer. Of the three he would 
have selected Prince Odojewsky. Yet he knew that young Bara- 
tinsky was more than fond of her. 

Sophie Narischkin, while apparently listening politely and 
with interest to what was being said to her, and replying intelli 
gently enough, was wondering why her mother did not come. 
The time was too long now. It would soon begin to arouse sus 
picion. Why had she done this? And to-day! And where was 
she? She had seen Count Schuvalow, at a distance, down a 
cross-street, on horseback, with some of his men friends, as she 
drove here. So she was not with him. Then with whom was she? 
Could it be Lasky? He was in the city now, she knew, rehearsing 
for an early fall opening. She had read it in the "Petersburg 
News." Had she driven in a hired carriage, which no one could 
recognize, to the rooms of Lasky? Had she been so foolish, so 
reckless? She believed in her heart that that was where she was. 
She could not well doubt her recklessness now. It was Lasky she 
was so crazy over. It was Lasky she was with! Fear over 
whelmed her. 

Count Alexis Orlow, Prince Viazemsky, and Schukowsky the 
poet now made their appearance. They told her young compan 
ions merrily that they had been permitted to monopolize her 



THE ART EXHIBIT 133 

long enough. Schukowsky stayed only a moment, however. He 
was one of the ugliest-featured men she ever saw, with a face like 
a Chinese puzzle. But she liked him as every one else liked him 
because of the nobility of his heart. She admired his writing, too. 
He hoped she would look attentively at Carlo Vernet's drawing 
of the valley of the Po. It was one of the set belonging to his 
scenes from the Italian Campaigns of Napoleon. It was as good 
as a trip to Italy. It had given him pleasure. It was like visiting 
the battle-ground of the Conqueror. He hoped it would give her 
pleasure, too. He bowed with old-fashioned grace, and went on. 

Prince Viazemsky, of the penetrating gray eyes and bitter 
tongue that spared no one, she did not like any better than her 
father liked him. She had about the same attitude toward him. 
He was always finding that humanity was baser than he thought 
it. But he was a man of comprehensive cultivation and no slight 
poetical gift. He had a scornful, disillusioned mind which 
shocked her. He railed at everything and everybody. His sar 
castic, revealing witticisms were current coin of mental exchange 
in the society he frequented. 

He inquired politely about her health. She knew he did not 
believe her when she said that she was well. Then he hoped, with 
an inflection of voice that asked a question without daring to 
hope for an answer, to see, later, her mother. She felt that this 
was a spider-web trap for her unwary tongue. She ignored the 
stressed word. She spoke hastily of their departure on the mor 
row for the summer home by the Gulf of Finland. After she said 
this she knew that it was wrong. She wished she had not said it. 
It told him that this was her mother's last afternoon in town. 
The sly old fox knew that she would not waste it. He knew per 
fectly well to what use she would put it. He did not remain long 
after this. He soon left her alone with Count Orlow. He, per 
haps, had merely wished to assure himself of something. 

Count Alexis Orlow was a great gentleman, a trained courtier, 
older than Viazemsky, and graver; blond, and retrospectively 
handsome. She felt that he had a peculiar, mole-like quality of 
burrowing into the mind secrets of people which one must guard 
against. He was slightly of the old school in conversation, which 



i 3 4 THE PENITENT 

rather pleased her. She liked the courtly, deferential men of the 
past. She did not find him unpleasant. He declared he knew 
that her mind was occupied with something foreign to the pic 
tures, noticing the shadows that were flitting across her youthful 
face. He laughingly begged her to confide in him, and asked 
abruptly if he were not correct. Why did shefiot tell him what it 
was, he insisted. Surely it was safe to confide in an old man like 
him. 

She knew on the instant that he wished to find out if she knew 
what sort of a person her mother was, and especially what she 
was doing at this moment, when he knew the Emperor was ex 
pecting her here. And that was exactly what he was meditating 
about. In fact, this question had been a most absorbing one with 
him of late. He and Prince Viazemsky were never tired of dis 
cussing the subject pro and con, and the evident blindness of 
Alexander. He wondered if it were this knowledge or ill-health 
that made her sad, meditative. All his conversation was a polite, 
far-away attempt to satisfy this curiosity. Did she, or did she 
not know? And if she knew, what did she think? Would she tell 
Alexander? Or would she help conceal it? 

Viazemsky was the talkative Russian, greedy for news, for 
human observations, happenings, because his ancestors had lived 
upon lonely estates in the country and had lacked companion 
ship. Count Alexis Orlow, on the other hand, was impelled by a 
different motive. He had a hobby. He loved emotions, espe 
cially the emotions of women, just as he loved swords, war, horses, 
gorgeous uniforms, and his huge, velvet-hung palace, with its 
pictures, its marbles. It was a stimulus which he needed and 
sought. He procured it for himself just as he procured his fa 
vorite wine. He amused himself by watching them, by dissect 
ing, like the virtuoso he was, the petty impulses that led to these 
emotions. That was what he was busying himself with mentally 
now, while he was looking down into the honest, childish, blue 
eyes of Sophie Narischkin. 

Prince Viazemsky had passed on. He was now pausing in 
front of the picture of Madam Pushkin, painted by Joseph de 
Maistre, when Alexis Sergiewitch was four years old. It was a 



THE ART EXHIBIT 135 

glowing canvas, a sort of gorgeous bloom from a tropic jungle. 
It was an arresting picture even to the casual observer, who 
cared nothing for art. It was, perhaps, a trifle perverse. It 
showed the erratic, unexpected flowering of equatorial blood 
in an Arctic land, where its strangeness had been still further 
heightened by wealth, by leisure. It was troubling, unique, but 
at the same time attractive. A chance passer asked Prince Via- 
zemsky, audaciously, what he thought of it. The reply was no 
less audacious: "Can you wash a negro white?" 

The lazy, handsome, dissipated, youthful face of Pushkin's 
father was beside it. The eyes were shining with suppressed 
eagerness to talk, to gossip. It showed remarkable zest for life. 

Madam Woronzow was next in line, charming, queenly, friv 
olous. She was the care-free aristocrat, the superior one, whom 
no cry of the masses could reach. She was painted as she lived, 
throned above them in a sort of imperial disdain. And for most 
of the moral laws she kept the same lofty disdain. 

Prince Viazemsky bent his aristocratic head carefully over the 
pencil sketches that showed Napoleon. The fine lines of scorn 
that marked his mouth were lessened. But he did pause to think 
that Vernet was one of the first artists whom Napoleon had deco 
rated. He looked long at the dashing " Poniatowsky " whose 
name recalled to him the many lovers of Catherine the Great. 
Few could draw a horse better than Vernet, he knew. He re 
flected that he was one of the great battle painters of France. 
Something of the respect he felt was expressed in his face. He 
knew, too, that Horace Vernet adored poetry and liked to think 
he used his brush as poets their pens. And because he prided 
himself upon his exact knowledge, he was mentally estimating 
how many of these pictures had been exhibited before and how 
many were new. The only flattery Prince Viazemsky really en 
joyed was that which he gave himself. No matter how strained 
might be his relations with others, he was usually on good terms 
with himself. 

The young men belonging to the two secret societies were out 
in force, all except Pestel and Kakhovsky. They could find no 
pleasure in so gentle and unselfish a thing as art. There was 



136 THE PENITENT 

something about all of them that impressed an onlooker with the 
fact, that although they were young in years, most of them, they 
had had no youth. It had been destroyed by dissipation. Men 
tally, emotionally, they had grown old too fast. 

Ryleiev, the elder Mouravieff-Apostol, Prince Odojewsky, and 
young Baratinsky were studying the pictures with interest. They 
were discussing animatedly the dominant traits of Latin painters. 
The canvases showed the highly perfected art-sense of France. 
Prince Odojewsky was enthusiastic over the brothers Vernet. 
"They were born with hands, with eyes which were trained for 
this," he declared. "On both sides their ancestors were artists, 
draughtsmen. Horace Vernet first opened his eyes in the palace 
in which there were the best paintings of France. It takes two or 
three generations of specialization to lift artistic power to a 
height that is really of consequence. Look at the soldiers in this 
one here! No one has known how to portray the soldier as 
these men have." 

"That is all very well," objected Baratinsky with profounder 
critical acumen. "But there is a certain point of what you call 
style that none of the Vernet family reached to my mind." 

"I agree with Baratinsky," chimed in Ryleiev. "They have 
loved the applause of the crowd too much to choose with sufficient 
care. Besides great art is not produced so facilely. It came a 
little too easy to them. The fine frenzy of what, for a better 
term, you might call of the soul. Don't you say so, Baratinsky?" 

Baratinsky agreed a little too hastily; while Prince Odojewsky 
added: 

"Horace Vernet is young at the game yet. Wait awhile, boys! 
Wait awhile! 11 

They enjoyed most the pictured faces of men of the Slav race 
seen independently through a French painter's brush; men like 
Count Woronzow, General Ravesky, Kutusov, Prince Galitzin, 
Sergius Lvovitch Pushkin, a peculiar mingling of modern France 
and savage Muscovy. Another reason they enjoyed these por 
traits is because their race is interested solely in people. 

The great, humane heart of Ryleiev looked out of his poet's 
eyes somewhat sadly to-day. But he was dressed showily and in 



THE ART EXHIBIT 137 

bad taste as usual. He was regretting just now, in a way that 
made him suffer, the plotting that was in progress against the 
life of Alexander, whose aristocratic noble form his eyes followed 
with an artist's sensitive pleasure. In the light of the moment, 
he glimpsed the plot's baseness. He was vaguely wishing that he 
could run away from the country and get out of it all. Sometimes 
he wished he were dead. He was tired of the prolonged struggle 
of life with duty. 

"Look at the Emperor now!" he whispered to Prince Odo- 
jewsky on a sudden; "standing there alone, in profile, against 
that wall!" 

The eyes of his young companion turned slowly from the pic 
tures and obeyed his order. He had felt a certain thrill in the 
voice of Ryleiev, who continued, sure of sympathetic under 
standing in the poet, Prince Odojewsky: 

"Faces whose physical beauty was like that of Alexander, my 
friend, looked down from the marble of old Athenian friezes, or 
else out of delicate, patiently carved Alexandrian gems. Be 
lieve me we shall not soon again see such an one," he added 
sadly. "How dull we are you and I and the rest! 

"Imagine, will you," he explained in a tone which scorn of self 
and his fellow-men dominated, "a handsome Greek athlete 
who looks like the ones who used to win in the games so flex 
ibly, so symmetrically is he formed, dressed in an ugly, uncomfort 
able Russian military uniform, and poised upon the awkward, 
uncertain edge of a social-political upheaval. And we blame 
him! Who could hope to understand such a puzzling situation? 
Who could control it?" The words made the same deep impres 
sion upon his hearers that the thought had made upon him. In 
the eyes of some of them there was regret mingled with shame. 

"Can you get ahead of that for reasonless contrasts, my 
friends? Can you get ahead of that !" 

They did not reply. They, too, perhaps, were thinking some 
thing similar only they did not have the courage to say it. 

"And in his heart," after a pause added Odojewsky, "there is 
something nobler than in his body." 

Alexander had now circled the room. He had examined the 



ij 8 THE PENITENT 

paintings with pleasure and with intelligent comprehension. He 
found upon the walls the pictured faces of former friends, former 
youthful acquaintances, not only of Russia, but whom he had 
known years ago, in Paris, in his boyhood. He looked carefully 
at the numerous sketches of Napoleon, whom he generously 
called the world's greatest organizer. He looked at Italian land 
scapes which he had loved and visited. Carlo Vernet had out 
spread patiently, truthfully, vast expanses of towns, of country. 
He admired the powerful, the fresh brushing-in, of Horace Ver 
net, who was one of the first to begin to break the iron classic 
tradition, and whose expansive soul was hypnotized by love of 
distant countries, exotic scenes, and the tragic episodes of his 
tory. He enjoyed thoroughly these fine expressions of Latin 
genius. 

He had reached the side of his daughter again. With her were 
two old gentlemen, faithful friends of the family, grands sei 
gneurs of an earlier reign: Count Bobrinsky, now seventy-five 
years old, the son of Catherine the Great and that proud profes 
sional beauty, her lover, Gregory Orlow; and Count Cyril Razum- 
owsky, usually slightly sentimental, his companion, who was a 
nephew of the morganatic husband of the lovely dead Empress 
of the mid-eighteenth century, Elizabeth Petrowna. Men of the 
old school liked to associate together, in these days of social 
disparity. Count Bobrinsky of the old days and Prince Viazem- 
sky of the present could not understand each other. Mentally, 
they were centuries apart. Society was broken up now into 
numberless definite groups, marking every degree of shading 
from the old opinions and way of living to the most reactionary 
upholders of what is newest. 

"Surely Madam Narischkin is not coming !" Alexander re 
marked in a dull, disappointed voice to his daughter, somewhat 
questioningly. She was glad that Prince Viazemsky and Count 
Alexis Orlow were not beside them to hear this remark, but were 
now watching them instead from a little distance. She could not 
think of anything to reply that seemed satisfactory. She was 
saved the necessity luckily, however, by the rapid, somewhat 
breathless entry of Marie Antonova herself. Sophie Narischkin 



THE ART EXHIBIT 139 

looked at her sharply, quickly. The delicate, wire-held edge of 
her large lace hat was bent slightly. The roses Alexander sent, 
which had been so fresh when she started, were completely 
crushed now, and, worst of all, pinned on in a different place. 
It was evident at once, to her trained, appraising eyes, that 
Marie Antonova was not her usual poised self, that she was more 
than a little confused at meeting so suddenly this battery of eyes. 
Alexander saw nothing of this, however. He smiled down upon 
her tenderly, and held out a hand in glad greeting. 

"I have had the most annoying time!" she pouted. "The 
draping of one of my gowns was wrong. She misunderstood me 
the modiste entirely. It had to be taken off and draped over 
again! The model was gone, as bad luck would have it. I had to 
stand for all the redraping myself. I was forced to do it 
to remain right there until it was done because we are leaving 
to-morrow. I am so sorry to be late!" She looked nervously 
about to judge of the effect of this impromptu explanation. Her 
daughter knew at once that it was a lie. She knew that back of it 
was some fresh indiscretion. She wondered wildly if the others 
knew it too. 

"It was too bad for you to miss the pictures," the voice of 
Alexander was replying gently, with evident intention to calm 
her. The more her daughter observed her, the more signs she saw 
of her mother's agitation and her hasty dressing. 

" It is getting too late for me to make the round of the gallery 
again," Alexander was declaring gently. Marie Antonova was 
secretly glad. Pictures bored her. But she smiled sympatheti 
cally her regret. Sophie Narischkin knew that smile. It usually 
meant dust successfully flung in some one else's eyes, a triumph 
which it was impossible to acknowledge. 

Count Bobrinsky and Count Cyril Razumowsky greeted her 
politely. They blandly paid her the social compliments she 
was accustomed to hear. It was a part of their tradition and 
training. 

Count Alexis Orlow and Prince Viazemsky, under pretense of 
examining critically another picture, had drawn perceptibly 
nearer. Sophie Narischkin saw this move. She knew what it 






THE PENITENT 

meant. It was really her mother whom they wished to observe 
critically, and not the picture at all. She understood. 

"Notice the light in her eyes," remarked Viazemsky in a whis 
per, "and, her hair!" 

"Yes," replied Count Orlow, "and the slippers she could put 
off and on quickly without a maid. And the Grecian robe, 
sparsely fastened down the front." 

" Where do you think she was, Orlow? " 

"Not with Schuvalow!" replied Viazemsky with decision. 
"I saw him in the street as I came here." 

"Then it must be Lasky." 

"Lasky? Yes, probably." 

"She does not put the slightest sense in her affairs. Nothing 
but caprice, passion, enter into them. No plan ! No forwarding 
of ambition! No fear no consideration of consequences 
nothing" 

"It is just as if she had no head at all. She flies ahead like 
a sailboat with the wind," declared the discriminating Prince 
angrily. "I have studied her, and other women of her stamp, 
because of a certain pleasure the study gives me for a long 
time, Viazemsky. Passion, I tell you, with Marie Antonova is a 
drug which dilutes the reality of the unpleasant but necessary 
wearinesses of life. It is the narcotic which her weak but slightly 
vicious nature demands. It dulls her, pleasurably, to duties of 
all kinds, which she detests. And it is largely a physical question 
with her, too, do you not think so? It is a need that must be 
supplied, like food, and of which she thinks if she ever thinks 
about anything with no more shame, or misgiving." 

" But her daughter is not deceived by her any more, the way 
Alexander is!" declared Viazemsky with conviction. "I have 
seen it in her face to-day for the first time. Believe me she 
knows. She was worried for fear her mother would not get here 
on time, and Alexander would drive away and happen upon her 
in a hired carriage in some questionable locality. She was 
worried, too, about her personal appearance as she entered. Did 
you not observe her? Did you not see with what critical eyes she 
looked at her?" 



THE ART EXHIBIT 141 

" You may be right, Viazemsky ! I rather think you are right." 

"The daughter is not only finer, but far more intelligent than 
the mother." 

The too hastily arrayed appearance of Marie Antonova was 
not lost, either, upon the two wise old worldlings who had just 
addressed her after the manner of men of their inherited position 
and courtly habits. They knew her as the others knew her. 
Alexander alone was innocent of what was going on in the minds 
of his associates. He was happy as usual in her mere presence. 

"There is an important matter awaiting decision in my cabi 
net," Alexander was explaining. "If you do not care to remain 
longer, I will see you both to your carriage. I came only for the 
pleasure of being with you a little while," directing the words to 
Marie Antonova. She signified her readiness to go, without 
looking at him, and they walked toward the door together. 

When the two women were seated in the carriage, Alexander 
leaned toward Marie Antonova, and told her happily that the 
important work awaiting him pertained to his now fully matured 
plan of spending some weeks alone with them by the Gulf of 
Finland, while the Empress and her ladies-in-waiting and some 
of the court were still at Tsarskoje Selo, where they had gone 
early in the spring. 

This piece of news delighted Sophie Narischkin. She looked at 
him with loving eyes. He, however, looked tenderly at Marie 
Antonova, expecting her to say something, to be glad, too. 
Marie Antonova was apathetic. She was indifferent. She was 
too eager to get home to care what anybody wanted. But as 
usual he did not notice her mood, a thing which his daughter had 
recently told herself that he never seemed to do, no matter how 
marked it might be. This showed how great was his love, his 
trust. He believed unquestioningly that her affection for him 
was as great as his for her. It was just this quality of deep, abid 
ing faith which touched the heart of his daughter. He left them 
with the happy promise of joining them as early as the next day 
but one, by the Gulf of Finland. 

As they drove rapidly homeward, Sophie Narischkin ob 
served carefully the indifferent, to-day slightly dissipated, face 



1 42 THE PENITENT 

of her mother, who was so busy thinking her own thoughts, 
thoughts which always excluded her, the daughter. 

She was surprised to find that the great mass of her mother's 
black curls was not fastened up at all, but instead merely shoved 
hastily under the hat which held it. The curliness somewhat 
covered up the disorder. She hoped wildly that no one else had 
observed this. The crushed red roses had left wet, dirty stains 
along the front of her dress. She understood better now the ill- 
concealed confusion of her entrance, which could not be delayed 
longer, and which she was forced to make. 

But it was terrible, this clear, disillusioned seeing, which was 
hers for the moment, this sudden snatching away from her eyes 
of the protecting veils of illusion and happiness. It was like living 
in a roofless house in a land where the rain fell continually. 

For a moment she envied Alexander his happy innocence and 
the faith that accompanied it. She wished she too could have 
it back again. 



CHAPTER IX 
DAWN ON THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 

" IT is a crowd of horsemen. Russian cavalry, as I live!" 

"Are you sure?" questioned Sari. 

"Yes! I can see the uniforms plainly," replied Alexis Sergie- 
witch. 

"They must have been sent by Count Woronzow to find you 
and bring you back," declared the gypsy. 

" Let them search ! I don't care! They cannot find me." 

This conversation took place a little more than a year later, 
after the dramatic duel in the cherry orchard. It had been a year 
of friction and unhappiness. Count Woronzow, according to his 
conception of duty, had kept on trying to make a conventional 
keeper of accounts out of Alexis Sergiewitch whose mind did not 
reach beyond the two gray canvas covers of his ledger, and who 
was devoted to obedience, accuracy, and order. He could not do 
it because it was impossible. He was disappointed. Never before 
had he been given such refractory material. 

He set out to accustom him to regular, to daily toil. He wished 
to make him appreciate the reasonable rewards of patience, of 
discipline. In this young land, Russia, where there was so much 
to be done in the way of material labor, in developing, in up 
building a country which was rich and new, there must, of course, 
be countless young men, just like Alexis Sergiewitch, whose per 
sonality, whose independent living must be crushed for the pur 
pose of making them dutiful, unrebelling slaves. Count Woron 
zow believed that this was not only right, but necessary. It 
meant the preserving, the developing of his native land. He had 
given up his life to this despite the opportunities for freedom, for 
leisure, his colossal wealth offered. Why should not others do 
the same? 

If he was occasionally harsh, it was because his effort to be just 
toward all was great. No one under him could eat the bread of 



144 THE PENITENT 

his blessed Master without giving a return in labor. But with 
Alexis Sergiewitch he could do nothing. He would neither work 
nor obey. And not only this, but he was going the limit in every 
excess. He had been leading the wildest kind of life since he came 
to Bessarabia. He had caused old Count Woronzow sleepless 
nights and days of worry. He did not think the work assigned 
him was of importance. He looked down upon it with a sort of 
contempt. Alexander had trusted this wayward youth to him to 
be reformed. But try as he would he could do nothing with him. 
There was nothing to do but confess failure. He who had gone 
bravely to battle with Napoleon must confess to failure in the 
person of this slender youth. That discipline, that honor, to 
which he had given belief throughout his life, were useless here. 
He wondered from time to time if he would be able to explain 
to Alexander why he had failed, just why the young man was so 
insubordinate. 

He saw plainly that in Alexis Sergiewitch there vibrated emo 
tions, passions, mightier than the power of civilization to subdue 
or dominate. He understood, after these weary months of ex 
perimenting, that sometimes the call of his black blood, the in 
herited past in him, outweighed the present or any present-day 
consideration. In him there was something entirely different 
from the other boys in his Counting-Room, who daily sat upon 
their tall stools as they were bidden, and figured. There was a 
contradictory, resentful, dominant power of life such as can be 
found only under tropical suns. Count Woronzow knew, of 
course, that his ancestors on one side, the Russian side, had been 
tent-men from the cityless uplands of Asia, where the thirst of 
the desert is great; restless nomads, next, of old Muscovy; and on 
the other side from the black lands of Africa. 

He kept wondering if he could explain this satisfactorily to 
Alexander. He must explain! It was not his habit to confess 
futility or failure. He was seeing more clearly, too, that people 
who create aesthetically and especially if they can create with 
power must in some way be closer to the unnamed forces of 
nature, which man cannot change so easily or make over for his 
approbation. There must be in them, along with the cultivation 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 145 

of their own day, the seemingly inharmonious combination of 
the child and the savage. When the connecting proof cannot be 
in this life, one may be assured that some unweighed law of na 
ture has swept upon them the motive-power of the past. He saw, 
in short, when he could not explain to his own conscience Push 
kin's unreasoning insubordination, his contradictory traits of 
character, that he would have to fall back upon unexplored, un 
explained ethnic laws, profound, organic. 

He could not make him work with regularity. It was impos 
sible. He had some of the faithlessness, the lack of dependable 
persistency which characterizes the black people. With them 
pleasure will slip in between just like sunlight through the chinks 
of a hut. He lacked, too, the moral energy, the purpose of direc 
tion, of the white races. He saw this clearly now after so many 
months of observation, of discouraging experience, but the 
question was, would the dispatches he had been sending to Peters 
burg make the Government understand it too? Alexis Sergie- 
witch resembled a new variety of peach-tree which he had im 
ported recently, and whose roots would not take hold readily of 
Russian soil. 

One day, after a particularly wild night of gambling and quar 
reling in the Kabak of Samus, where Alexis Sergiewitch had not 
only lost so heavily that he had begun to pawn his clothing, but 
had created a disturbance that was setting tongues wagging, he 
thought of sending him to Ismail, to the fortress there, for disci 
pline. When this was reported to Alexis Sergiewitch, he felt 
rather pleased than otherwise. The Oriental name, the far un 
known place to the south by the shore, tickled his romantic sense. 
It made him dream of adventure. He felt a hero of romance. 
Then, too, the name reminded him of one of his childhood's 
heroes, Suwarow, and that general's military feats there. His 
grandfather had told him endless stories of poor, old, bent, 
grumbling, rheumatic-bodied Suwarow, who soaked his feet, 
said his prayers, and planned the bloody massacre of Ismail. In 
Ismail he would be out of sight and hearing, for a time at least, 
while gossip subsided in Kishenev. 

But Count Woronzow did not send him there. Another of his 



146 THE PENITENT 

hobbies intervened. This time it was his devotion to service. 
There Pushkin would be useless save for the fact that he would 
suffer merited punishment. But punishment for its own sake was 
waste. He must unite punishment with service. In this way he 
would be serving his government twice in one act. After some 
more confused and not too pleasant meditation, in which he 
prayed repeatedly to be freed from anger and be given vision, 
he decided to send him on a mission through southern Bessarabia 
to report upon the injury the locusts were doing to the young 
fruit-trees which had been planted by his order. 

This command enraged Alexis Sergiewitch. He lost his head. 
He saw in it merely a desire to humiliate him. He fell into a 
passion of unreasoning temper. A poet, a dandy of the great 
world like himself, a leader of fashion, to spend a summer count 
ing little black bugs upon peach-trees! He would not do it. His 
stormy and excitable nature rose in rebellion. He wrote a curt 
note of refusal to Count Woronzow and ran away. 

And just at that dramatic moment he thought of Sari of the 
summer before, and how one night in the Kabak of Samus, she 
had pointed out, when they were standing by the door together 
where the green-painted scythes were piled, the direction of 
their gypsy tabor; "Down there beyond Jacob Eisenstein's 
meierhof" she had said. He joined them as they were breaking 
camp and starting south. That had been several days ago. Now 
he and Sari were sitting comfortably together in the back of the 
front wagon that led the way, while a herd of untethered saddle 
horses trotted after them. He was wearing gypsy clothes like the 
rest of the men. A red handkerchief was over his head and tied 
under his chin. Over this he wore his hat, and Sari had laughed 
and insisted upon making, with a coal, very black eyebrows for 
him to whom nature did not give any. Now his face was tanned 
and wind-burned. He was as black as the others. 

General Ingoff, with a detachment of cavalry, sent to find him 
and bring him back, dashed by with noisy uprearing of horses* 
hoofs as they passed the untied ponies, which proceeded to stam 
pede. They pirouetted upon their thoroughbreds like a Moorish 
"fantasia" on the edge of the desert. Alexis Sergiewitch looked 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 147 

boldly out at the old man's dull, sluggish blue eyes with the 
round, protruding flesh-sacks beneath them. He saw his red 
pouchy cheeks like a little red squirrel's distended with nuts, 
they were so close together. He felt happy and gay at the suc 
cessful deception, and very safe. His heart laughed within him. 
He tightened gayly the arm that encircled Sari. 

After General Ingoff and his men had whirled on and out of 
sight, Sari's father, who was driving the head wagon, left the 
road. He turned southeast toward Ismail, where he plunged in 
among the pathless grasses. Sometimes these grasses were so 
high that it gave them the sensation of swimming. Scents of 
earth, of leaves, were in his nostrils. Here, once in a while, they 
passed a lonely, detached izba, that looked as if it were lost. 
Flocks of blue-legged quail, which are poisonous and not fit to 
eat, started up with terror, spread out their short wings and scam 
pered away. Flocks of birds swept over their heads, on their way 
to the lush marshes of the South. Once they caught glimpse of a 
distant caravan whose wagons were drawn by huge Mongolian 
camels, which even at a distance looked ragged and shabby at 
this season, because their winter coat had fallen off in patches. 
Then the unmarked loneliness began and did not end. 

After they had traveled toward the southeast for days, still 
in the direction of Ismailow, where they were comfortably sure of 
not encountering traveling merchant caravans or a detachment 
of border soldiery headed by Greek officers on duty of inspec 
tion, a crevasse or small canon, in which were trees and running 
water, broke diagonally the level monotony of grass. Here they 
camped. 

After the unhappy, exasperating year in Kishenev, this was a 
great relief. There they had tried to make Pushkin live like a 
convict. They had hounded him day and night. He had been 
under sharp and irritating supervision. He had had no liberty 
except what he stole, and then paid for in punishment, in im 
prisonment in the Guard-House. Every movement had been 
spied upon, then reported. 

And now came this, this blessed Eden; freedom from duty, 
freedom from obligation of every kind. He decided impulsively 



i 4 8 THE PENITENT 

that this was the life for which he was made. He would not go 
back to civilization. He would give up the white man's existence, 
which is largely legalized slavery at best. With the gypsies he 
would keep to the life of pagan nature. He would be free, happy, 
untrammeled. Pleasure was the only life that he could compre 
hend. Just now this gave him pleasure. Because of his sensi 
tiveness, his adaptability, he was influenced as usual by anything 
that made him happy for a moment. And it was usually easy for 
him to justify himself just as he was doing now. Restraint, 
civilized living, restrictions, are for the mediocre, he kept telling 
himself. They could not have anything permanently lasting with 
a person like him. He was able at length to reach the pleasant, 
the self -laudatory conclusion that it takes a certain amount of 
dullness to lead a well-regulated life. Dullness is to life what 
blinders are to a horse was his last flattering deduction. They 
shut off the alluring vision of the forbidden roads one should not 
travel. With this he flung himself heart and soul into the life 
about him. And there was much in it, in truth, that suited him. 

Now that inherited past was not only calling him, but claim 
ing him. Atavistic flesh-memories, which he did not understand, 
were beginning to move dimly within him. Contact with the 
wild stirred turbulent longings and emotions. Sometimes, over 
his subconscious self, when sunset was dyeing the vast levels 
about him, there swept, as invisible wind sweeps and then shivers 
the surface of water, but far below the insistent boundary of 
speech, forgotten cell-memories of the colors of Africa, that land 
so wonderful in hue-tingling sensations like a delirium 
too powerful and too fleeting for words to express. For a swift 
instant it was as if his spirit glimpsed the ancient, astounding 
sunsets of the desert. Vast visions piled up within him, towering, 
trembling, like the huge, up-piled, white, Quixote cloud-castles 
of summer. And then at touch of passion which enslaved him, at 
touch of the hand of Sari, they crumbled, they fell. The en 
nobling sensation lost its gold. It was transmuted into base 
metal. 

The camping place was the level land by the edge of the canon. 
Here he and Sari slept upon a blanket. A tree growing lower 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 149 

down within the wall of the canon-side, hung over them like a 
roof. Sometimes, when the metallic sheen of the heat lightning 
of late summer brightened the night, he could see the strange, 
ice-green eyes of Sari, whose color never ceased to be a surprise. 
She had the round, somewhat dry, muscled superiority of body 
which is the property of races not white, and who have not known 
padded luxury. He who had lived always amid the false, the 
borrowed graces, the exaggerated luxury of a hastily imitated 
civilization, appreciated this unmasked vigor, this sincerity. 
Sari's hair smelled like camp-smoke, and her clothing slightly, 
too. Before they went to sleep he used to watch the leaping 
camp-fire, over which the evening meal had been cooked, play 
ing over bronze bodies, or even spangling with bright green the 
swinging branches, the soft leaves above their heads. Or the 
stars drew near. They began to glow with a sympathetic luster, 
which loosened the tongues of the story-tellers. 

Then the throbbing voice of the nightingale dominated them, 
like the pulse of night. The night seemed to come to life, and the 
leaves above their heads whispered wildly. When the song and 
the whispering leaves were stilled, there was a silence so mys 
terious, so weighty, it was as if caused by some new, some mighty 
power of which he had never heard. And late, late, a large 
round yellow moon would come swinging dizzily out of the un 
known, ploughing the blacknesses about them, and gilding ca 
ressingly the levels. And always there was the night voice of 
grasses, grasses that swept southward in unbroken vigor to the 
shore of the Black Sea. There were haunting, shifting, frail 
sounds, too, he could not name nor catalogue. He was con 
fronted with the language of nature, which only the unself- 
assertive, the humble, learn well. Here was a world he did not 
know existed. 

And the mind and nature of Sari were just as far away from 
his comprehension, just as new, just as strange and interesting, 
as the unlearned speech of nature. Of love, of emotion, of the 
fine things of the heart, she had just the same understanding as 
the nightingale which was singing above them. And yet the 
very difference pleased him. 



1 5 o THE PENITENT 

Sometimes, when she was not sullen, she told him the names 
her people had given to the flowers about their bed. The violet 
they called the "flower of the night." He kissed her at this. He 
told her that that was what she was to him, his flower of the night. 
But in gypsy clothes he did not enchant her as he had that magic 
night of summer long ago in the Kabak of Samus, when he wore 
the white pique and the fine cambric of Petersburg which had 
so delighted her. His hands were not so white now nor so 
heavily ringed. And they did not finger a cigarette case of 
gold. Nor was his hair perfumed and exquisite. In short, he 
looked just like all gypsies such as she had always seen. The 
charm was broken. It was the new, the untried, or the alluring 
that Sari wished. 

She confided to him her longing for a silk head-kerchief of 
white and gold. Also she hoped sometime, in the winter, when 
even down south by the shore of the sea, or by Ismail under the 
wall, it rained too often and was cold, to have a lover who had a 
house. It was frightful sleeping out in the winter or even in 
the wagon. Always wet always uncomfortable. But in sum 
mer no! There was no other way to sleep in summer. 

One night, upon a sudden, they heard the wild, impassioned 
note of a violin, ending as speedily as it began. For a second, 
until she found out who made the music, her eyes darted green 
fire, just like a cat's. Some tremendous emotion swayed her. 
"7 thought it was Yancksi!" she gasped, as she lay down beside 
him again. 

And sleep was so good upon the ground, the heavy, dreamless 
sleep, with the age-old magnetism of the earth upon them. And 
it was good to open his eyes, morning after morning, with Sari 
beside him, and look out across a vast, green land, inspiring, 
refreshing a vast, primitive land, where man has left no mark 
any more than he has left a mark upon the sea; where duty is not, 
nor law with its bristling restrictions. And the joy, too, each 
morning of the wind upon his face, wind frolicsome and free, and 
that called to him with the voice of youth. Sometimes, in the 
first deceiving light of early day, the ragged, ill-dressed gypsies 
upon their shaggy ponies, going slowly down the sloping canon- 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 151 

side for water, became superb, dramatic figures, and for the mo 
ment were fine. Looking out across the distance, he learned that 
any lonely little figure, black and moving among the grasses, 
possessed a certain eloquence of art. He was gaining broader, 
different, more impersonal vision. And the blessed peace of blue 
unmarked day following day and of love. 

Sari, whom once he had disdained, was becoming more and 
more necessary to him as passion forged unbreakable chains 
upon him. And the oneness of it all! This pleased him. There 
were no inequalities here. No rulers; no ruled. No one had more 
than the other. Home to all of them was the same, the little red 
point of flame around which at night, with the great blackness 
beyond, their food was cooked. He was rapidly learning nature's 
compensations for them who have nothing. And in this great 
immensity of nature the values of life began to change slowly, 
subtly. There were new virtues, new vices, and the ones that he 
had' always been accustomed to were discarded of their own 
weight. Right and wrong became unstable. They were not evi 
dently eternal things like the stars, as he had always thought 
them. In addition, there was enough of the Russian in him, in 
whom there is always something of the instinct of the wanderer, 
to become accustomed to anything. And he enjoyed greatly, too, 
the picture of his youthful self, with the sun of summer upon 
him, in the great free steppe filled with flowers and nodding 
grasses. 

The father of Sari was more diligent and more intelligent than 
the other men of the tabor, who did nothing but hunt occasion 
ally. He, on the contrary, worked. He made pipes; he made 
small ornaments of kissel wood which he inlaid with a good deal 
of taste with designs made of white bone, and which he sold suc 
cessfully in the towns. 

While the old man worked he liked to talk. He dispensed 
freely to Alexis Sergiewitch the unlearned philosophy of his race, 
the philosophy of nature's man. 

"To be what you call civilized, Prince Alexis" he had 
adopted Sari's first name for him he explained one day, "is to 
become a voluntary slave. It is to be the subject continually of 



1 52 THE PENITENT 

petty tyranny, the slave of things that are not only false but 
foolish. The way to be happy and free at the same time is to 
have nothing just like the birds except wings and that 
other freedom, which only lasts a minute youth" he added a 
little sadly. 

Alexis Sergiewitch was listening with attention. This was as 
firm and reasonable a plan for the guiding of life as that of Count 
Woronzow. And the old fellow possessed a dignity of his own, 
too, just as unshakable. 

"We are wiser than your civilized man, whom we despise. 
You cannot fool us into thinking that one man is better than 
another because he happens to own a new coat which again 
happens to be cut either long or short or to be blue or brown. 
How does it change what dwells inside of a man whether his house 
is stone or wood, a palace or a hovel?" The other side of the 
human tapestry was being held up for young Alexis Sergiewitch 
to contemplate. 

" We have not been corrupted by the white man's laws. Laws 
corrupt oftener than they cure. Laws are just like giving medi 
cine to a well man. We are superior in many things. The gypsy 
has never learned to feel the duty of revenge. There are certain 
basenesses of soul that belong only to civilization. We have re 
fused to learn this false, this civilized viewpoint. Of youth we 
say why should it not be just as free as the bird? There is too 
much hypocrisy in the white man's morality. There is too much 
suffering, too much unfairness. And then, how does he know that 
he is right? We choose not to have any, because we prefer the 
genuine to the imitation. To escape law, to escape its restric 
tions, its corruptions, its injustice, we cheerfully give up all the 
comforts of life warmth, shelter soft living." 

To his surprise Pushkin found that he had much to learn from 
the gypsies. Any living, evidently, that is sincere has points 
of justification. He was beginning to look down upon civilized 
follies with some of the grand disdain of the savage. 

The old gypsy's beliefs were as well grounded as those of Count 
Woronzow. And he was just as faithful to them. He began to 
think that it takes a certain kind of unestimated ability to sup- 



THE ACKERMAN STEPPE 153 

port, day after day, this complete inaction, a balance between 
mind and body which civilization has destroyed. 

" While we do not play games like the civilized man, neither do 
we grieve nor rage like him. We do not laugh so much either. We 
are not so merry. We are not so ruled by fear. We are 
more like the inanimate things of nature in this the trees, 
the flowers on the steppe with which we live and from which 
we have learned by long association. Long association has drawn 
us nearer to them made us become alike. A tree is not so dif 
ferent from a man, Prince Alexis! If we have not the white man's 
good qualities, neither have we his evil ones his boasting, his 
cant, his hypocrisy, his highly developed cruelty, his unfairness." 

Summer was drawing to an end. Alexis Sergiewitch, who had 
become fully accustomed to this life and its habits, paused in his 
general looking about, and began to observe Sari more critically. 
To his surprise he saw that she was waiting for something. She 
was like a wary animal on the point of being startled. In the 
depths of her cold green eyes were the shadows of memory. He 
could see them just as one can see dark objects through ice. Her 
ear caught quickest any sound that came upon the wind. She 
was alert for the near coming of something distant. Often, in the 
night, he knew that she was not sleeping, and he always knew 
now that she was not thinking of him. She was lying perfectly 
quiet, her arms folded under her head, with wide, open eyes 
watching the stars measure the slow course of night and time. 
Then it seemed to him that she did not sleep at all. She was not 
nervous. She merely waited, patiently, as an animal waits. In 
the day she looked too frequently and long toward the southeast, 
the direction of Ismail. He wondered what it was that made her 
do it and what she was thinking about. She did not try any more 
to conceal her indifference to him. He was evidently merely an 
incident of the season when the sun rides high, and there are 
huge, bright-colored blossoms splashing the steppe. He was just 
a part of sun and summer. 

She did not play her balalaika. Nor did she idle. She worked 
industriously sewing four large yellow-plaid handkerchiefs she 
had bought in Kishenev into a basque, down the front of which 



154 THE PENITENT 

she sewed large, white, glass, square-cornered buttons. While 
she sewed she was mentally absorbed, and her mind was far 
away, or else turned inward upon something she remembered. 
She was busy retelling the emotions of the past. 

One night, when they went to bed, the sound of th leaves 
above their heads was dry. Summer had gone. Far down in the 
bottom of the ravine below them, he could hear a wind in whose 
voice there was something that resembled a threat. Late in the 
night the surface of sleep was worn thin, and he awoke with a 
start. The place beside him was empty. Sari was gone. He arose 
to reconnoiter. It was a night of scudding clouds with filmy, un 
stable light. The ground was a restless checker-board of black 
and white. The camp were asleep. But one of the horses, the 
best one, that had followed the wagon, was gone. She must have 
made a good distance by now, he thought, because he could not 
hear a sound. He was stunned with anger. He was stunned with 
wounded pride, with grief. To be tricked like this by a gypsy. 
He awoke the old man. 

"Do you know where she is?" he asked excitedly. "One of 
the horses is gone, too!" 

"She did n't tell me but I know that she has gone to meet 
Yancksi." 

"How could she know where to meet him?" 

" We heard last summer, in Kishenev, from another tribe, that 
last winter he left Hungary going down the great river to 
winter in the South in the City of the Golden Horn. From there 
he sent word he was going to come by water to Ismail at the end 
of this summer. This is the end of summer now." 

So that was the reason of this journey toward the southeast, 

toward Ismail. He had thought all along that it had been taken 

for his sake. It was not for him at all. It was just to meet Yancksi 

Sari's lover. He had been traveling all this time to meet him. 

The others, of course, knew this. 

The face of Pushkin became black with rage. A fit of ungov 
ernable anger took possession of him. "I will take another horse. 
I will find them. Then I will kill them, both! " trembling so he 
could scarcely speak. 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 155 

"Wait my boy! Wait!" placing a detaining hand upon 
his shoulder. " Did I not tell you that youth is as free as the bird? 
She will leave Yancksi too after a time and come back to 
you if you wait. Things that are new, you know, are fine for 
women. Her mother used to do the same thing to me. But she 
always came back." 

Alexis Sergiewitch, whose only guide was a fantastic sense of 
personal honor, in which pride was mixed, still declared his in 
tention of revenge, still insisted that he would follow them, that 
he would kill them. 

" Listen to me, Prince Alexis!" the old man responded sternly. 
" Take this horse, and return to the people from whom you came. 
Over there, not far away, is the road. Follow it north. In time you 
will come upon tschoumaks with their caravans, headed for 
Kishenev. They will let you ride to the city with them. They 
will feed you. Turn the horse loose. It will find its own way back 
to us. 

"You are not fitted for our life. You cannot forget that ig 
noble belief of the white man revenge" he declared solemnly. 
"While you ask freedom for yourself, you are not willing that 
other people should have it. We do not punish. We do not make 
others suffer under the pretext that we are right. We do not kill. 
But we will not live with a murderer! Take the horse and go. 
You cannot learn the wisdom of the savage. You are unfit to 
learn it. All you can understand is having your own way," he 
added solemnly. "And while you ride along, meditate upon this: 
If you pluck a wild tulip upon the steppe in spring, does that make 
it impossible for any one else to pluck another wild tulip the next 
spring?" 

Life was so simple, so easy for them who had neither religion 
nor prejudice. It was not so easy to unlearn as to learn. 

Unceremoniously he found himself thrust out of his Eden. 
He was alone on the highway headed toward Kishenev. He was 
bounced about from place to place like a rubber ball. Just as 
when he had been put out of Petersburg he had nothing to sav 
about it, so he had nothing to say about it now. He did not fit 
in well either with civilized or uncivilized man. In fact, in the 



156 THE PENITENT 

mood of grief and anger that ruled him, he could not seem to 
think of any place where he did fit in, any place where he was 
permitted to live or be happy. He was a superfluity, something 
not wanted anywhere. There was a guiding wisdom for all 
people, it seemed, except for him. 

He had been happy here. The life suited him. He hoped it 
would never end. Now it had been taken away from him, with 
out consulting his wishes in the matter. He was just a coin tossed 
from hand to hand, with no will of his own. He was heartbroken. 
And Sari the interrupted life with Sari! Grief, anger, unas- 
suaged desire, blind passion, longing for revenge choked him. 
Sari/ Sari! . . . 

When, weeks later, with a slow merchant caravan, he entered 
Kishenev at night, he did not need either paint or gypsy clothing 
to disguise him. He was ragged, dirty, black from exposure, 
and so thin from emotion and hard living that no one would 
recognize the white, pique-coated dandy of the summer be 
fore. He made his way at once to the Kabak of Samus for food 
and wine. 

When he entered the Kabak the crowd within at the little 
round tables were perfectly still. They were hushed. They were 
listening with breathless attention to a sad and tragic figure, to a 
man who was improvising a song, a song which was a confession 
of his life. The man, who sat alone at a table, was young, too, 
like Alexis Sergiewitch. He had black curls, but his face was fur 
rowed and marred with grief. It was tragic with suffering. Be 
tween every verse he sobbed aloud, and bent his head upon the 
dirty table slopped over with wine and food. Then he stood erect. 
He stretched out his arms to attract attention, and sang sang 
recklessly for the unburdening relief of his soul. Over his chair 
was a blood-stained Caucasian shawl, black, with an embroidered 
border. 

Like a madman I stand here with eyes fixed on the shawl, 
While anger and anguish upon my heart fall. 

I was youthful in years then, scarcely more than a boy, 
When I gave my heart up to a Greek girl with joy. 



THE ACKERMANN STEPPE 157 

She was sensuous and fair; I was proud of her love; 
But the wings of misfortune spread darkling above. 

I was sitting, gayly, with a guest, undisturbed, 
When a Jew came and in my ear whispered a word. 

" Proudly here with your friends you drink, not dreaming how 
Your Greek girl with her lover is deceiving you now." 

I curse the Jew roundly, but my purse at him fling, 
And I order my servant the horses to bring. 

We mount, we set off with the speed of the wind, 
While madness takes hold of my heart and my mind. 

I enter her chamber on tiptoe, and alone, 

An Armenian embraces her as if she were his own. 

She was lifting her lips for her new lover's kiss, 

When with one blow I struck her fair head off with this. 

I snatched from the quivering head this black shawl 
And with it I wiped bright my long sword-blade all. 

Since then I kiss no more eyes sweet as the skies; 
Since then pleasure no more in long love nights lies. 

Like a madman I stand here, with eyes fixed on the shawl, 
While anger and anguish upon my heart fall. 1 

What terrible grief breathed from his face! What grief trem 
bled upon his voice ! No one would report the murder or its con 
fession to Count Woronzow. Every one, on the contrary, would 
help conceal it. Murder meant exile for life in the mines of Si 
beria. Every listener here to-night in the Kabak of Samus, just 
like Alexis Sergiewitch, probably had some personal, some private 
memory that would temper judgment. The poor fellow had 
sobbed out his repentance here by the table in the wine-house, to 
a crowd of listeners who had understood. He had concealed 
nothing. He had received the consolation of confession. Now he 
would slip away. He would hide in the long, waving grass of the 

1 Translated from the Russian by the author. 



158 THE PENITENT 

interminable steppe, the trackless desert, and be forgotten, this 
man whom the tragedy of living, for a few vivid moments, had 
lifted to the power of expression of a poet. 

Alexis Sergiewitch forgot his own grief in something that re 
sembled thankfulness. If he had had his way, if something 
blessed had not intervened to save him, this fate, the fate of the 
murderer, would have been his to-night. 

After he had eaten, he made his way wearily to the hill-street 
of the Old Town, and to the house of the Turkish woman. Here 
he could rest in hiding and recuperate. And here, while the first 
chill rains of autumn fell, and the leaves, and the wind became 
fitful and sad, he, too, made his confession; made it just as the 
poor murderer in the Kabak of Samus had made his, in song. He 
poured forth the story of his We with Sari, of that one brief sum 
mer spent in Eden. He wrote "The Gypsies." He who had 
moved in the court set was the first to discover the people. In 
writing it he broke away impetuously from the limitations of the 
age, just as he had broken away from the iron discipline of Count 
Woronzow. He broke away from the art-ideal of the day, and 
bravely sketched the quick, sure outline of something new that 
was to come, a kind of writing that would dominate the modern 
world, which he was the first to discover for art. 

He recalled the song, too, "The Black Shawl." It was poetry 
not influenced either by Anacreon or French models, but by life. 
That was the way he would write in the future. He, too, would 
throw away models, stale school learning, and look out upon life 
and create. 



CHAPTER X 
BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 

SOPHIE NARISCHKIN enjoyed the day's drive to the summer home 
by the Gulf of Finland, and in a new way, a way in which she had 
not enjoyed anything before. The belief that another year was 
not likely to find her driving down this pleasant road of child 
hood, through the bright, buff, blue-dusted polar day, with the 
delight of the shining, keen sea-edge beyond, and the peaceful, 
green, planted farm-lands cozily nestling on either side, gave her 
the detached, impersonal outlook of a farewell. She looked lov 
ingly at everything, with fresh interest, fresh comprehension, and 
a chastened, not bitter, regret that none of these gay, sun-lighted 
scenes of earth could be hers but a little longer. The disease that 
gripped her she knew was proceeding by leaps and bounds. It 
was sweeping onward like a fire across dry pine-lands. She was 
losing flesh. Her fever was increasing. Her cough was dryer. It 
was harsher. 

She looked carefully at the well-known landmarks as she passed 
them, as if to imprint them upon her mind forever, so that she 
could not forget them. Grief at the knowledge of what her mother 
was, together with the inescapable disgrace for herself connected 
with it, had had the effect of lessening the hold upon life of her 
will. But along with the giving-up, there was the release from 
worry, from shame. 

The mood of her sullen, rebellious mother who was sitting 
beside her, and who would neither speak nor reply when spoken 
to, did not disturb her. She saw it with the same diminishing 
emphasis of vision as a person floating in a balloon looks down 
upon any small, moving, human object which is out of voice- 
reach. 

When, two days later, Alexander came, to their surprise he did 
not wear the usual military uniform. He was in the fashionable 
white pique and fine French cambric of a country nobleman. The 



160 THE PENITENT 

only thing that kept in mind his official importance was the fact 
that couriers went day and night between Petersburg and the 
summer home. 

Marie Antonova did not come downstairs any day until noon. 
Alexander arose at four in summer. He attended to his dis 
patches until breakfast. He and his daughter not only break 
fasted, but passed the mornings alone together. These summer 
mornings by the Gulf of Finland were the happiest hours she 
had spent in her life. If her mother was all that was wrong and 
undesirable, her father more than compensated. He realized her 
ideals of beauty, of charm, of loving kindness, of gracious, benefi 
cent presence. He was father and mother in one. He was like an 
ideal character keeping some of the old, unreal, perished charm 
of romance. She never tired of looking at him. Even in the pal 
aces of Petersburg she had noticed how his presence dwarfed 
other men into crude inconspicuousness. Here alone with him, 
in these sweet mornings of summer by the sea, in the spacious, 
flower-filled gardens above which birds scattered their songs, 
gardens so rich, so lovely, so blossom-buried, that they dimmed 
man's dream of the valleys of Paradise; immaculate in white 
pique, graceful, eloquent, with a great love shining in his eyes, 
she was startled to find that he reminded her of the Saviour of 
Man. It seemed to her day after day that it was the two figures 
blended in one that she walked with, and conversed with, amid 
the flowers, and the sunshine, and the song of birds. 

Long ago, when she was just a little girl, he had reminded her 
of the noble white Greek marbles that she saw in the long shin 
ing palace corridors, on the days when he took her to visit the 
Empress. Then she knew that the change from that time to this 
had been persistent, although gradual. There had been a slow 
taking-away of one quality, and an equally slow adding of an 
other. It was as if the soul of him had been slowly filtered of the 
petty basenesses, the inequalities, the hatreds, the shrewd but 
vulgar self-assertiveness that are of life. He was to her now like 
the pictures of that impressive, protecting, draped figure, which 
the priest who had prepared her for confirmation used to show 
her of the white-robed Christ meditating upon the hills of Pal- 



BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 161 

estine, where grew the lily and the olive-tree, in the brief, bright 
days before the Betrayal. 

When he bent over a flower he admired to show it to her, it was 
as if his presence blessed it. When they walked side by side, 
across the slightly yellow-green grass, to a remote corner of the 
garden, past the hill of the scented cedars, and came upon a hid 
den nest rilled with tiny, speckled eggs, it seemed his smile swept 
them into life. The roots of the giant pines, upheaving angularly 
out of the earth, and the broad leaf surfaces above them, seemed 
to leap with the light of his love. 

She watched the wild birds bend nearer to him their circling 
flight, as if under some magnetic control. Butterflies settled 
upon his hands. Seldom at his approach did the green, burnished 
humming-bird desert the tall, pink, swaying hollyhock. 

When their happy morning wandering in the garden by the sea 
was over, she always felt a little pang in her heart, because it was 
he who remembered first, and mentioned the fact, that it was 
time to meet Marie Antonova for lunch and they must not keep 
her waiting. There was always the tiny pin-prick of grief that 
she alone did not suffice for him, that at an appointed hour his 
heart turned longingly toward her mother. Then they went to 
the long, brown, rustic settee, by the yellow roses, which were 
riotous and rich just now with the gold of the sun upon them, and 
there they awaited her, patient at any delay. She came directly 
toward them usually, from the front door, a little distance away. 
She was a seductive figure in blond lace or pink mull, moving 
along a pebbly walk, bordered on each side with round, large, 
bright-hued blossoms that splashed her skirt; or she passed 
pointed- topped evergreens, some of which had a shining, blue- 
white, unmeltable dew upon them, a magic, unheralded effect of 
summer beneath the Pole. Her silken, soft, black curls were light 
in the little breezes that touched them. 

Alexander looked up at her always with the same delighted, 
happy eyes. But they met no response of any kind in hers. Her 
morning mood was regulated by how much or how little she hap 
pened to be satisfied at the moment with her personal appear 
ance. She seldom ventured beyond the safe boundary line of self . 






1 62 THE PENITENT 

Usually, too, she was hungry, more than a little cross, and too 
impatient to greet either one of them. But her small harshnesses, 
her petty indifferences, disappeared in the great loving sea of 
his kindness like a pebble dropped into the deep. This was con 
stant pain to his daughter, the being forced to observe the daily 
tragedy. 

During the first week of their stay by the Gulf of Finland, Marie 
Antonova concealed her boredom, her ill-temper, as best she 
could. Every summer she told herself that she would not be 
punished like this another summer. She cared nothing for the 
blond, unfolded beauty of the sunny world of nature that sur 
rounded her. She did not read except books of a type she would 
not dare have Alexander see. She had no interest in the extensive 
estate, the serfs who dwelled there, nor her daughter. She was 
not fond of boating nor exercise. She did not care for music nor 
any womanly pastime. She would not play outdoor games. She 
hated rustic amusements and what she called peasant mirth. 

Family life was to her a terror to be escaped. And Alexander 
was a lover of such long standing she could not remember when 
she had not been tired of him. She would not have endured him 
all these years if it had not been for his great position, and the 
fact that he possessed the purse of Fortunatus. His position per 
mitted her to lord it over other women. It protected her from 
men's scorn and evil tongues. And his wealth gave her what the 
merely moderate income of Dmitri Lvovitch could not give her. 
But even with this she felt that her security, her soft living, were 
purchased at too high a price. Each year, before the summer 
was over she told herself angrily that she would not put up with 
another one. In short, at her summer home there was nothing 
she wanted, while in Petersburg there was everything. 

She had been torn from her new, impetuous, boyish lover, 
Schuvalow, whose youth delighted her, and whom she had not 
had long enough to become tired of. At the same time, against 
her will, she had been taken away from much-applauded, fascin 
ating Lasky, whom at this moment she loved as much as she was 
capable of loving anything. Women were wild over Lasky. She 
was afraid of losing her precedence and power by being away. 



BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 163 

All of which helped to make her more resentful, more rebellious. 
Petersburg, too, meant freedom. There she could do many 
things, and no one know it. It meant balls, soirees, gossip, flir 
tations, dressmakers, admiration, gambling, the diversions that 
were important to her. This family solitude a trois, in the coun 
try, made her unhappy. It was something she could not endure. 
The fact that she was forced to remain here made her hate 
Alexander. 

. Besides, Elizabeth the Empress had persisted in living on 
throughout the years, with what seemed to her unpardonable 
perversity. This kept her from marrying Alexander. This kept 
her from being Empress in name. She was growing careless with 
anger, with disappointment. The older she grew and the more 
danger she saw of the proud position that is vouchsafed to so 
few slipping through her fingers, the more it annoyed her. Alex 
ander could not be influenced to set Elizabeth aside in her favor. 
There were a few things that not even she could sway him 
to do. 

Sophie Narischkin was watching the growing restlessness of 
her mother with alarm. She had seen it before. She knew what 
it meant. She had become skillful by practice in forecasting the 
mental weather of her dissipated mother. Daily now she dreaded 
the noon hour to come, which meant her mother's regular re 
appearance, and her own nervous, sensitive watchfulness over 
her conversation, her manner. Daily she dreaded a dramatic 
explosion of some kind. 

Alexander seemed neither to see nor sense anything of this, he 
was so deeply content in the presence of the woman he loved. 
She felt forced, at length, to speak to her mother in private, and 
to chide her for her unpleasant moods. In doing this she was sur 
prised to find that the only means to appeal to her was by using 
base motives, because such motives alone could sway her. 

" You know how greatly it pleases him to be here with you 
alone. You might sacrifice, more willingly, it seems to me, your 
private interests when it is he who provides for you lavishly. 
Especially since it is a question of such a little while just a 
little rest from care for him In the end you return to Peters- 



1 64 THE PENITENT 

burg and the things you enjoy. It is he who gives you your 
position, you must remember. Everything comes from him." 

To her surprise her mother did not say anything in return. 
She did not show an inclination to quarrel. She could not at 
once, however, judge of the effect of her words. She did not con 
tradict her nor seem disposed to be revengeful. During the next 
few days she refrained from saying anything particularly dis 
agreeable, although she would not talk much, and she was notice 
ably silent. 

Sophie soon became aware, however, that Marie Antonova 
was meditating profoundly. She was plotting something. 
Thoughts were passing and repassing behind her eyes like the 
great, shadowy, blurred forms of fish looked down upon in deep, 
green sea-water. She awaited with suppressed anxiety the result 
of this continued meditation. 

She judged at length that the meditation was considered suc 
cessful and favorable to her wishes, because Marie Antonova sat 
late quite willingly, one pallid, silvery, north-Russian night upon 
the lawn with Alexander. Her voice was soft and velvety as of 
old, and the sound of her little laugh had been happy, seductive. 
She could hear it plainly in her chamber above through whose 
broad windows the gentle wind came and brought the night 
sweetness of yellow roses. 

The next day, at lunch, Marie Antonova declared she was 
getting fat. She knew she was losing her figure. She jested about 
it, however, and to her daughter appeared too good-natured for 
the fear to be genuine. She said she believed it was because she 
was not dancing nightly here as she did in Petersburg. She felt 
that she ought to make up for this lack of exercise in some way. 
Not only her appearance demanded it, but her health. To com 
bat increasing flesh she decided she would ride. She had been 
told that it would restore the figure. She would be obliged to do 
something or have a new wardrobe made. Her dresses were grow 
ing so tight it was difficult to fasten them. 

Her watchful daughter understood that she had found a way 
out, but Alexander did not, so he offered, generously, to ride with 
her. To this she demurred gently. She replied she planned to 



BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 165 

ride fast; that that was the only way to reduce successfully, and 
it would not be good for him. He needed rest. He declared that 
that made no difference, that he would do anything to please her. 

The plan had now expanded fully in her daughter's alert mind. 
She had learned how to read her mother. But Alexander was 
ignorant of it as usual. 

"No," she answered gently, somewhat denyingly. "I will ride 
alone in the morning while you and Sophie are taking your 
usual walk in the grounds. That will not take away any of the 
hours which you and I are accustomed to spend together. I will 
ride during the morning the time when I usually sleep." This 
gentle consideration for other people, her daughter knew, meant 
the selfish and safe gratification of getting her own way. 

"Very well, dear," Alexander replied. "As you wish of 
course. I will select a groom, then, to accompany you." 

Sophie knew that this displeased her mother, but that her 
mother did not dare say so. She wondered again that he did not 
understand. She knew also that Alexander's money would pay 
for that same groom to remain in hiding, in a perfectly safe place, 
until her mother was ready to reenter the grounds. 

This plan was carried out for a few days. She returned promptly 
to lunch as she had promised. Then she not only did not return 
for lunch, but not until late in the afternoon. She had reasonable 
excuses each time to cover these changes, these delays. One day 
the horse got a stone in its foot and it took a long time to get it 
out. Then the horse limped. It seemed to suffer and she was 
forced to go slowly to spare it. She made a show of sympathy 
which her daughter saw through readily. Once she lost her way 
by turning off the main road. One day the heat made her faint, 
and she was obliged to sit in the shelter of some trees for a while. 
She did not dare to mount and start back until late when the 
heat had lessened. She regretted this. She was almost apologetic. 
Sophie knew that this meant fear or some hairbreadth escape 
from being caught. At length the hour of returning became so 
very late that they were forced to sit down to dinner alone with 
out her. These dinners were sad and solemn. No one spoke. 
There was nothing safe to say. Alexander was either worried for 






1 66 THE PENITENT 

her safety or suspicious. His daughter was unable to tell which. 
She was worried, too. He had spent his afternoons in walking 
restlessly about the paths in front of the house that led to the 
gate and in looking expectantly up and down the road. Sophie 
was at her wits' end to know what to say. She had had all she 
could do to keep him from mounting and riding out in search of 
her. That would have been, she knew, the worst thing that could 
happen. 

One night Marie Antonova came in too tired either to put in 
an appearance at dinner or afterward. Sophie felt sure that Alex 
ander suspected something. He was meditative. His face wore a 
look she could not read. He forbade her going again. He was 
sterner than his daughter had ever seen him. She wondered 
futilely what it was of which he was thinking. 

To the surprise of her daughter, Marie Antonova was neither 
rebellious nor angry. What could this mean ? She settled back 
into the habit of getting up at noon with perfect good-humor. 
Sophie wondered what could possibly be back of this. Something 
must be, of course. Some new plot, and a subtler one. That it 
was not just what it seemed on the surface she felt certain. But 
for the little space it lasted she was grateful. 

The correctness of her suspicion was proved three days later. 
It was a night when she had coughed a good deal and been rest 
less. These daylight nights of summer were hard for her. A little 
before four o'clock she gave up the effort of sleeping, threw a 
padded robe about her for protection, and sat down by the win 
dow. Her apartment, as it happened, was along the front of the 
house, where it overlooked the broad highway that led whitely 
away toward Petersburg. Her mother's apartments and those of 
Alexander were on the other side of the house, with a view upon 
the water, and upon the woods beyond. She looked out quickly. 
She was just in time to see Marie Antonova, disheveled and 
frightened because she had been so long away, coming in on 
horseback. She was trying vainly to make the horse walk softly 
upon the edge of the turf so no one could hear him. 

The cause of her late good-humor, her apparent indifference to 
Alexander's command, was clear. She had been going out occa- 



BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 167 

sionally during the night, and then, to make up for it, sleeping 
half the day. 

But how had she been able to conceal her night absence from 
Alexander? That she did not know nor have any means of find 
ing out. But here she was! This proved it. 

Sophie Narischkin stepped back quickly from the window, so 
that Marie Antonova would not know that she had seen her. 
She must have a groom or one of the house servants in her pay to 
help conceal her stolen exits, her daughter thought at once. "I 
wonder which one it can be!" 

Sophie crept softly back to bed. She was determined to think 
up a plan to circumvent, without any apparent act of interven 
tion, these night adventures of her mother; something that would 
put a stop to them effectively, before the truth was disclosed to 
Alexander, and to their summer neighbors along the highway. 

To her surprise she hit upon a plan easily. It pleased her so she 
determined to tell Alexander at breakfast and beg him to put it 
into execution, before Marie Antonova could hear of it, or come 
downstairs. She would beg Alexander to send the saddle horses 
in the stables to a pasture by the sea which belonged to their es 
tate, and where their sheep and cattle were. The ostensible ex 
cuse would be that making them stand upon a hard floor in sum 
mer was cruel, that it injured their hoofs, while the soft, damp 
sea-meadows would not only be a kindness to them, but would 
restore their feet. Their neighbors saw to things like this. Why 
should not they? And she would beg him to see to it that very 
morning before her mother got up to hear about it, or attempt to 
prevent it. This last she would think herself. She would not, of 
course, say it. 

After he had met her in the morning room, kissed her, inquired 
how she had slept, and they had begun their breakfast together, 
she set about carrying out her plan. It pleased Alexander. It 
succeeded at once, just as she had expected it to do, because of 
its unforced reasonableness. 

That day Marie Antonova did not come downstairs to lunch. 
Her first appearance was toward the late dinner hour, when she 
wore the air of happy-hearted restlessness her daughter knew so 



1 68 THE PENITENT 

well. Alexander was happy too. He thought this bright-eyed, 
loving buoyancy was for him. One of his radiant hours seemed 
to be rising. His daughter knew better. She knew that it was 
because she had a rendezvous that night, and that she was 
happy, not in contemplating her daughter and Alexander in the 
present, but in forgetting them, in making-believe to herself 
that they were not. Evidently one of the grooms sent to the 
meadows with the saddle horses had been the one who was in 
her pay, and she still knew nothing. With suspense Sophie 
Narischkin awaited the disclosure that must come. 

Liqueur was served after dinner out of doors upon the lawn. 
Among the trees, the birds were beginning to sing their good 
night songs, and spill their farewell sweetness upon the flowers. 
Frogs were calling. The blond, bright day of summer was dying. 

As evening came on, Alexander was happy and talkative. He 
was telling Marie Antonova how he had missed her during the 
day. The tender words he uttered in that magic voice, so rich, 
so moving, fell upon her ears as unheeding as the bird songs upon 
the flowers. Then he recounted in detail what he had done to put 
in the time until she came downstairs to join him; how, first, in 
the morning after his dispatches had been attended to, it had 
occurred to him to give the saddle horses a little rest, a little 
freshening in the meadows. So he had sent them away. He did 
not happen to mention Sophie's name in connection with this, 
and she was glad. Luck was on her side evidently this time. She 
Was careful not to look up so her mother could see intelligence 
shining in her eyes. 

"Did you send them all?" she inquired a little hastily and 
with a change of tone her daughter noticed. 

"Yes, dear, all. We do not need them since you are riding no 
longer, do we? " 

Sophie held her breath. Alexander was not watching Marie 
Antonova's face at that moment, but her daughter was. She saw 
such a look of wild disappointment followed by savage hatred 
leap into her eyes that it terrified her. What depths of evil were 
within her! She felt that the old waves of anguished rebellion 
were sweeping over her, just as she had felt that night at the the- 



BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 169 

ater when Lasky was playing and Alexander had come to take 
them home. She had guessed correctly. Marie Antonova had an 
appointment for to-night. There was no way to know with 
whom, of course. But one thing was certain, she could neither 
keep it nor send word. She had been outwitted. Now she was 
held fast in a net where struggling was useless. Sophie was both 
amused and glad. She did not dare look up. She hardly dared 
breathe. She sat perfectly motionless, her eyes fastened upon her 
shoes. She had outwitted her long-practiced, scheming mother 
who was iri the habit of fooling them all. 

Alexander continued pouring words of love and tenderness 
upon her unheeding ears, while she sat rigid, looking straight 
ahead, the unemptied liqueur glass arrested halfway to her lips, 
just where it was when the disclosure came. 

Finally she managed to say dully, with little blunt, measured 
pauses between the words, as if each word were difficult to get 
over: "I find I have a headache coming on. I think I will go 
to my room and have my maid brush my hair." 

"Do not desert me to-night, love!" he begged in a disap 
pointed voice. " Fresh air will do you good. You have been in 
doors too much. I have waited all day for this." 

She did not answer. Her daughter watched her face grow thin 
and strained, with the violence of suppressed emotion, sup 
pressed anger. 

"Let us walk awhile in the garden together. See what a 
night it is for love ! Let us be lovers again as we were once 
long ago Marie ! Marie! " Emotion and surprise rang in 
his voice. 

She was halfway to the house now. She did not look back nor 
answer, nor say good-night. Sophie Narischkin realized that, 
try as she might, to-night she could not fill the place of Marie 
Antonova in the heart of Alexander. She alone did not build his 
happiness. She realized, too, afresh the hard, wicked nature of 
her mother, and the great love that had for so many years been 
wasted upon her. 

The expression upon the face of Alexander made her suffer. 
His face wore that stern, white, rigid mask she had seen but once 



1 7 o THE PENITENT 

before, but which she could not bear to look at. No word, how 
ever, of either complaint or criticism crossed his lips. But there 
was grief in the depths of his eyes. 

In a few moments, after a servant had taken the liqueur 
glasses away, he offered his arm to her with the old, gentle grace, 
to which she was never insensible, and they strolled down the 
flower-bordered avenues together, toward the Gulf, which white 
mists were blotting now into sad similarity to that vast unknown 
men dread, which it seemed uncannily to her then that they two 
were both approaching. 

He felt that she was suffering, and suffering for him, and his 
every word was expended in brave attempt to bring joy back to 
her. 



CHAPTER XI 
ODESSA 

THE presence of Alexis Sergiewitch in Kishenev could not be 
concealed indefinitely from Count Woronzow, nor indeed the 
fact that he had written truthfully, even boastfully, in a verse 
that was new at this period, a description of his shameful life 
among the gypsies, and forwarded the manuscript to Petersburg 
to be printed. With " The Gypsies " he had also sent on to Peters 
burg another poem, "The Black Shawl," to which, in momen 
tary enthusiasm or caprice, he signed his name, too, as author, 
because it had pleased him to remember the words. For the past 
year every courier who went North took along and then scat 
tered over the country the resentful or the inspiring melody of 
his writing. 

The official dignity, the conventional feelings, of Count Woron 
zow were outraged. It was useless, the old man thought, to try 
again to influence him by talk, by argument. He refused, there 
fore, to see him or to have any contact with him. But he issued 
an order for his imprisonment. After the imprisonment came 
the same round of futile meditations. He could not make him 
work. He had tried and failed. He could not keep him hi prison 
permanently either. That would injure his health. His presence 
in Kishenev was becoming pernicious. It was leading to the form 
ing of imitative bands of rebellious, admiring youths, who if they 
could string a few jingling words together thought they were 
poets and therefore had the right to do anything. What was to 
be done? He could not let it go on. He could not let his disci 
pline be broken up. He had repeatedly written to Petersburg for 
advice. The replies had just as repeatedly left the decision to 
him. He decided at length that Pushkin must be removed from 
Kishenev. Since he could not go back to Petersburg, but re 
mained, nominally under his supervision, he would send him to a 
new milieu, to Odessa. There he could place him in another office, 



172 THE PENITENT 

under his supervisor of accounts in that division of his govern 
ment, who happened to be a man in whom he had confidence. 
He could not dissipate so madly there at first, because it would 
take time to make acquaintances. 

And so just as Alexis Sergiewitch had set out from Petersburg 
without will of his own, and with a driver who was likewise his 
jailer, so he set out from Kishenev. But Count Woronzow was 
not so successful in selecting jailers as that arch-fiend, Count 
Benkendorf, in Petersburg. This was a merry, good-looking 
fellow, young like himself, and one who admired Pushkin greatly. 
He knew all about his dramatic adventures, too, in the Kabak, 
the Old Town, and down on the steppe, toward Ismail. 

When he had left Petersburg at the sudden command of au 
thority, it was with grief. Since that time he had been slowly 
acquiring a new sensation, a sort of pleasurable trust in the un 
known, which he went gladly to meet. It had some of the allure 
ment of a game of chance, only the stakes were greater. He was 
learning to enjoy the giving himself over to new influences. 

And he was not now in his usual wild, emotional mood. After 
the period of creative exaltation in the little white house of the 
Turkish woman, on the long hill, where he had temporarily ex 
hausted himself in writing, he was experiencing, as he usually 
did, a reaction which either took the form of indifference to 
things in general or a peculiar, ill-defined, nervous fear. And 
then the autumn frequently had a salutary effect upon him. It 
was the season when he was calmest and most reasonable, and 
did his best writing. With the feverish scarlet of the forest he, 
too, put away some of the wild impulses of his blood, and became 
quiet, tractable. And, too, he was acquiring a liking for travel, 
especially down here in the less inclement South where it was 
warm. He enjoyed promenading his eyes over the outlines of 
strange cities, new and unseen landscapes. 

This was another world down here. It was unlike anything his 
limited experience had come in contact with, in the North. It 
was a pleasure to set out across the autumn land, with the clear, 
pale sky above him, which held no threat. Southern Russia in 
autumn caressed his senses. The pale, level distances pleased 



ODESSA 173 

him. The steppe even showed a variety of late flowers. There 
were sweet williams, canterbury bells, goldenrod in abundance, 
and the late-flowering sweet pea. White butterflies with mar 
bled wings fluttered over the flowers. Blackbirds flew up like 
grasshoppers from the harvested fields. Sometimes caravans 
passed them which were drawn by camels; not the tiny, North- 
African variety, but huge, majestic Mongolian camels, looking, 
in the enveloping yellow dust of distance, like a realization of a 
vision of Apocalyptic beasts, monstrous, ungainly. 

The levels were yellow. Amber scents came on the wind. 
There was something in the air, too, that was gentle, meditative, 
like repentance. In farmhouse gardens along the highway were 
striped melons, called arbuses, whose leaves the frost had killed, 
and tall poles covered with dying hop- vines which floated in the 
wind. There were purple grapes and russet pears. There were 
kissel plums and rich reaped fields of maize. Alexis Sergiewitch 
saw here, too, the result of Count Woronzow's work, in aston 
ishing apples, some of which measured twenty- two inches 
around, and a wealth of opulent fruit. The nightingale which 
had sung to him of love, of passion, down upon the Ackermann 
Steppe toward Ismail during the nights of that magic summer, 
was gone now, gone to the warm sheltered valleys of the Cauca 
sus. Less eloquent- throated songsters had taken its place. 

Bender, the first place of consequence he came to, where the 
Dniester is narrow, but still deep and swift, recalled to him Prince 
Potemkin who had died here by the side of the road, just where 
he was traveling now, in the arms of his niece, Countess Bran- 
icksi. He observed Bender with interest. 

Next came Tirospol, a place founded by German agricultural 
ists. He could see their pale, dull, patient faces in the fields about 
him, and the results of their diligence. Then after Tirospol the 
vast plain began to be visible, that spreads its pale, unmarked 
defense, like a desert, about Odessa on the land side; a yellow 
plain which the winds rule, and where they race violently, tum 
bling up huge clouds of dust; tremendous winds that pound and 
howl, sweeping all the way from remote Asia toward the lonely 
outpost of Russian civilization. 



174 THE PENITENT 

After interminable, weary hours across the yellow plain came 
white Odessa, and beyond the Sea, which to him was the 
ocean he had never seen. He felt the joy of coming into view of 
the Black Sea after days of unenlivened levels. It was charm 
ingly blue just when he first saw it, and enticing, with white, 
pointed sails upon it. It allured him. It beckoned him on. 

The first, far glimpse of Odessa, the first Russian city where 
semi-modern methods of swift city-building had been demon 
strated, is impressive. He felt it. He greeted it with gay exclama 
tions. The building of Odessa brought about a marked division 
between the methods of construction of the mediaeval and the 
modern world. 

Alexis Sergiewitch was sensible to its impressiveness, even at 
this distance. It was the first city he had looked upon which was 
not in appearance a Russian city. He was charmed at once by 
the thought that its building was connected with a magic name, 
which had dominated his childish imagination just like Napo 
leon ; a French name, too, the name of its early maker, Richelieu 
the Duke, which made him recall the merry, spirited tales he had 
heard of that other Richelieu, Richelieu the Cardinal. 

Alexis Sergiewitch immediately set happily about making 
plans, with the young driver, to conceal their arrival, for a time 
at least, from Count Woronzow's staff of office men, so that 
they could amuse themselves in their own way. They would! 
both be free for a few days, enjoy themselves in sight-seeing, 
and in putting up at some expensive French hostelry. Alexis 
Sergiewitch had a little money. They would use that until it was 
gone. Then he would borrow more upon his father's name, which 
was what other young men of his class were in the habit of doing. 
He was not going to let either duty or lack of money lessen his 
enjoyment when there was such an opportunity to do as he 
pleased. 

Wide, pleasant, and very modern-looking they found the 
streets of Odessa. Here sea-winds sported. Here the gay South 
ern sun rejoiced the heart. The city was luxurious to the eye. 
It was spacious, well suited, in short, to be new in this land, 
which was new and vast. It had the cosmopolitanism, the broad 



ODESSA 175 

world-contacts, which characterize popular seaports. A breath 
of that modern, scientific era of commerce was already being felt 
here. It was a night city, too, just like Petersburg or Moscow. 

In the streets of Odessa, which with his young friend, who was 
as reckless as he was, he now proceeded to explore, he found to 
his astonishment not Russia, but Europe and Asia amicably 
shaking hands. Here East met West. Their mingled costumes 
dominated the wide, windy streets; the ancient caftan and tur 
ban of Asia jostling the latest fashions of France. Women were 
wearing luxurious gowns upon the street down here in the warm 
South, gowns of silk, of pique, of muslin, with velvet shoes upon 
whose toes were monograms of gold or of diamonds; costly In 
dian shawls, gold-embroidered cloaks of gay velvet, and hose 
of transparent French silk. And in the women who wore these 
clothes Alexis Sergiewitch saw a new beauty, the misty, the 
veiled eyes of the North, uniting with the voluptuousness and 
the richer freedom of the South. 

Upon the street signs above his head various languages were 
written. And there were small open bazaars along the business 
thoroughfares just like those in Damascus or Stamboul. He ex 
plored them all in a sort of greedy haste. He longed to buy every 
thing he saw displayed for sale, for sake, chiefly, of the emotion 
of buying. 

He explored the long terrace which overlooks the sea the ter 
race bordered on one side by palaces, sumptuous residences, and 
occasional monuments which is imposing. At the base of this 
terrace spreads a large semicircle where on a sudden he found 
himself face to face with the hero of his dreaming childhood, 
Richelieu the Duke, in bronze, who had been one of the first to 
plan building a city by accurate, scientific methods. He paused 
to look intently at the slightly scornful but highly intelligent face 
of the great Frenchman who had amused himself, when forced to 
flee from the Terreur, by building a Russian city. Then he ad 
mired the mammoth staircase back of the statue, with its count 
less, uniform, shining steps leading to the terrace above, and the 
general atmosphere of sumptuousness and space, symbolizing 
as it were the limitless ambition of that subtle Latin face fixed in 



1 76 THE PENITENT 

bronze, that had flung upon the semi-savage, south-Russian 
shore, the ordered, the ennobling vision of those city-building, 
Mediterranean peoples. The newness of the city pleased him too. 
There were no marks here of a melancholy past. 

He loitered gladly hi the long, wide streets, which looked so 
pleasant to his boyish eyes, so alluring. Frequently these spa 
cious streets were interrupted by squares. Sometimes they were 
bordered by acacia-trees. He was happy and free. He was inter 
ested in everything. 

Best of all in Odessa he loved the wharf. Here he idled for 
hours. He never grew tired of it. It was in truth in these years 
a remarkable place, and at the height of its importance. There 
was no merchandise in existence that did not enter the free port 
of Odessa. It was one of the ultimate destinations for the cara 
vans of the world: carpets from Persia; perfumes and shining 
brass, rainbow porcelains and massed exquisite colors from 
China; splashed muslins, precious carvings, and scents from 
India; jewels, silks, laces from France; Arab horses; French 
thoroughbreds; gold furniture; tropic fruits; bright-hued birds; 
English stoneware; Birmingham cottons. It was as rich in mar 
vels, indeed, as the fabulous seaport of Tyre, which boasted ivory, 
apes, and peacocks, which Biblical kings admired and ancient 
writers chronicled. 

Daily here, with an untamable, nervous, sensitive joy, he 
promenaded his delighted eyes over the piled-up treasures of the 
earth, displayed by the edge of this blue-black sea. Hours and 
hours he stood here happily watching the waves shake out mer 
rily their little white ruffles of foam, and thinking how they had 
come all the way from that vast, that mysterious Asia he dreamed 
of and longed to see. 

After his companion had started back for Kishenev, not dar 
ing to remain longer and sure of punishment as it was, he forgot 
about Count Woronzow, his Counting-House, and duty. He 
became merely a young aristocrat, a traveler, who idled and 
amused himself. In his eyes the greatness of novelty, of pleas 
ure, more than justified the attitude. 

One night at the French hostelry, where he happened to be 



ODESSA 177 

dining late, he was alone at the table with an Englishman of 
about his own age, who the next morning was taking ship for 
Marseilles on his homeward way to England. When he found 
out that Alexis Sergiewitch, his young Russian vis-a-vis, spoke 
not only French, but English in some degree, reading it per 
fectly, he asked if he would care to have two small books of verse, 
the work of two young poets of his land, by name Byron and 
Shelley, for which he had not been able to find room in his bags. 
The pale, young, un-Russian-looking Russian, not only accepted 
the gifts with alacrity, but he showed a restless haste to get hold 
of them. 

For the next few days, while the Englishman was sailing calmly 
away toward Marseilles and thinking of England, Alexis Sergie 
witch barely left his room except to eat. He could with difficulty 
find time to sleep, so greedily did he read. 

Alexis Sergiewitch had never seen any such poetry as these 
two books contained. It was a revelation. It moved him more 
deeply than anything had ever moved him. Never had he 
dreamed of such poetry as this ! Its beauty, its vigor, its daring, 
its wild, unrestrained, onrushing verbal sweep; its defiance, its 
thunderous assailing of God and man, its creative fire that burned 
away falsenesses, basenesses. It was the last, free, late flowering 
of the stormy, fight-loving Saxon's sea-robbing soul. It was the 
last outflung glowing splendor, in civilized man, of the Berserk 
er's rage. It was one of the last expressions in literature of un 
mixed racial unity before the great amalgam came with its blend 
ing, its blurring. It was the last genuine expression of that which 
was England. The reading made him mad. It destroyed what 
little respect for order, for duty, remained to him. It made him 
arrogant. It made him more proud of his poet's calling. 4 

This was not the first time in the history of letters that poetry 
had made men mad. History has recorded the fact in the case 
of two poets of an earlier day, Hafiz the Persian, and Anacreon. 
There was a time when the reading of the former was prohibited 
both by church and government, because it was declared he made 
men mad. Both Hafiz and Anacreon had flung at commonplace 
man a flashing, consuming fire that dazzled while it burned, just 



178 THE PENITENT 

as in these books Alexis Sergiewitch was reading. And in them 
both was the same old, unreasoned joy, the same battling de 
fiance, the same disregard of duty, of obedience; in short, the 
unleashing of a dangerous power that teaches man he is a god and 
not a slave. And the pictured faces in the front of the two books 
enchanted him so: Shelley's, the delicately featured, high-bred 
face of another race; and the noble beauty of Byron which Law 
rence never ceased to regret he did not paint. He could not look 
enough at them. He could not turn his eyes away. 

The more he read, the more Alexis Sergiewitch saw in himself 
another Byron. He was pleased. He was flattered. He felt that 
he was abused, too, by the world just as Byron did. He sympa 
thized eagerly with Byron's contempt for conventions. He had 
less in common with the brave, free soul of Shelley. 

From Byron he took only the bad qualities, such as rebellion 
against law, against order, and not the great ones, which were 
love for his fellow-men and willing warfare for their freedom. He 
was too racially dissimilar to assimilate them as they were, be 
cause there were not only centuries but vast geographical spaces 
between them. With Alexis Sergiewitch democratic ideals were 
largely a pose; but he had the same wayward pride, the same 
desire to touch life supremely at as many points as possible. His 
emotions, however, were not so deep. They were not so sincere. 
And they were always changing. They were merely for the mo 
ment's amusement, rather than the substance of which life is 
made. But he was a subtler and a more delicate artist than either 
of them, even if he had less strength. He had more charm, if less 
vigor, and a lightness of touch which neither could approach. 

Alexis Sergiewitch was something of a butterfly instead of an 
intellectual heavyweight. In his soul there was no grand passion 
for the freedom of mankind such as redeemed richly the wild 
deeds of Byron; there was no dream of the unselfish sacrificing of 
self for a world's ideals. But very likely no one has seen the art 
istry of the two Englishmen, the power, the beauty of their 
word-craft, as he saw it. And certainly no one ever drank in their 
untamable fire as he did that lonely winter of exile by the sea of 
the South. 



ODESSA 179 

How deeply would he have been moved if he could have known 
that Shelley of the unforgettable face had died in Italy the winter 
before, and strangely enough, that it should occur while he was 
writing "The Triumph of Life/' a poem powerful, defiant, and 
somber. Byron, too, was not far removed in time from a death 
equally moving, equally dramatic. 

From the Englishman's stories about Byron and Greece, Alexis 
Sergiewitch got the idea that they were both there, and a plan 
began to develop in his head to join them. " What a life," he kept 
saying to himself, "could we lead together! What could we not 
effect!" He saw already in fancy the form of his youthful self, 
outlined against the classic marbles of that lovely land. He 
painted eloquent dream-pictures with himself as hero, by the side 
of Byron. Then, overcome by the splendor of his vision, his own 
emotions, and the longing to get away, he wept. He wept, too, at 
thought of the Roman poet Ovid, once exiled here in southern 
Russia, just as he was exiled now. The golden-tongued heroes of 
the past dwelled with him spiritually. And he suffered deeply to 
think of his childhood's hero Napoleon, exiled upon an island 
where he had died. He felt a magic, sympathetic union with the 
great men of his age. 

He wandered alone by the water, forging impossible, wild plans 
of getting to a Turkish ship, that would bear him south, out of 
Russia; via another Turkish ship he could make his way to Greece, 
and Byron. If he could only get away from Russia! If he could 
only free himself from its constraining laws! 

But a Turkish war with Greece was threatening. The ships of 
that country were unsafe. They were out of the question. And 
there was no other way to leave Odessa without a passport. 

Alone by the water, in the grave and violet evening, when the 
breath of the wind was suave, he declaimed the classic lines de 
scriptive of Italy and Greece, of Byron and Shelley, until it 
seemed to him that he could hear coming across this sea their 
sweet, shrill, far flutes of song, coming across space as now they 
would be forced to come across time. That, in the early evening, 
is what the deep's voice was to him here, in the wind and in the 
dusk. It called to his poet's soul with the resistless lure of the 



I8o THE PENITENT 

Greek lyrics. The old mad songs of Anacreon, of Sappho, rippled 
in his ears. He wandered here in the night, too, and the storm. 
When cold, white hail, like a dagger dance, dimpled the sea with 
dots and disguised its levels, he felt that he could glimpse the tot 
tering, towering galleons of old, with their gorgeous prows, with 
their sweep of banked oars, coming for him. 

When fact at length began to penetrate his longing dream, he 
wrote, forgetting in his enthusiasm the excellent resolution he 
had made in the white house in Kishenev, to look out upon the 
world and do his own seeing. He wrote of it in the manner of 
Byron. 



CHAPTER XII 
MADAM WORONZOW 

AFTER Alexis Sergiewitch had given vent in words to his first 
Byromc rage, he had written out his soul in song. After all his 
plans for escaping from Russia via a Turkish ship and joining 
Byron had failed, the old thirst for wine, for the caressing arms 
of women, love, which was seldom suppressed lon^ at a time 
came back. He made one of those supple, startling changes,' 
which were so much a part of his nature and so necessary to 
him, and swung, mentally, toward something different. 

Down here in the South of Russia, where her husband's word 
was law, Madam Woronzow queened it more royally than the 
Wife of Alexander in Petersburg, because the Empress had no 
interest in queening it. Madam Woronzow was a beauty. She 
was legtre, superficielle, seduisante. She was the daughter of 
Countess Branicksi, who was favorite niece of that great reveler 
Prince Potemkin. Her father, according to Russian law and the 
service of the church, had been Commander-in- Chief of the armies 
of Poland. But who he really was in fact would have been diffi 
cult, indeed, to tell, so many lovers had the fair Countess had 
especially when she lived in the gay, Oriental pavilions of Prince 
Potemkin, down on the Ackermann Steppe, near Ismail. Her 
father might have been the Prince de Ligne or the Duke of Nas 
sau. And we recall, too, certain possible, merry, confirmatory 
proofs about Count Roger de Damas, the young French hero of 
the brutal siege of Ismail, which he wrote down in his diary on 
the spot. The futility of fact here is proved amply. Now to the 
lady herself. 

Madam Woronzow was just as unlike that worthy and re 
sponsible person, the Count, her husband, as it is possible to be. 
He regarded her, it may be said, with the forgiving eyes with 
which the saint regards the earthly cross that paid for sainthood. 
If he included her in his nightly prayers, which is more than 



1 82 THE PENITENT 

probable, it was from habit and good-breeding, not because he 
hoped the prayers would prove effective over her. 

Madam Woronzow had the gayly impertinent face of old 
France; spirited, a trifle maline, petulant, with saucy, up til ted 
nose. A bunch of curls frolicked high upon the back of her head. 
Her brown, merry eyes were full of twinkles, like water when the 
sun shines. Her mouth broke readily into smiles. She looked 
proudly down upon the mass of untitled plebeians beneath her 
with an arrogant Marie de Medici look. She was mistress of 
every high-handed prerogative of class, together with caprice, 
and various other more intimate personal addenda, some of which 
could not well be dwelt upon with profit. She was a singularly 
fine specimen of the woman of her type, a worthy pupil of those 
dissipated old emigres, who had taught the Russians not only 
their polished, courtly speech, but their moral laxity, their 
legerete. 

Being the daughter of Countess Branicksi, the favorite niece, 
she had inherited a goodly part of the colossal fortune of Prince 
Potemkin, who had laid not only Russia but the East under 
tribute, and who once piled high his library shelves with dia 
monds instead of dusty books. With the money she had inherited, 
too, his princely nature, some of his caprices, and his tastes. 

Late on Wednesday night, which was the night when Countess 
Woronzow received, Alexis Sergiewitch went proudly up the 
steps of her pale, slate-stone palace and sent in his name by one of 
her footmen. He was wearing new clothes to-night and a new 
style of cravat, both made just as closely to imitate those worn 
by the pictured Byron as possible, while his pale, scented curls 
were brushed back with a daring, an abandon, that reminded one 
of Shelley. He was in gay spirits to-night, too. He felt flattered 
by his English style and foreign appearance. 

Accustomed as he was to the palaces of Petersburg, he was 
startled slightly at the outspread vista of salons that unfolded 
before his eyes as he entered. Height, space, splendor. The walls 
were hung with pale, pink-tinted silk velvet. Pink silk velvet, 
figured, covered the floor, a carpet that had been the gift of a 
Turkish prince and a trophy of Persian war. White crystal chan- 



MADAM WORONZOW 183 

deliers hung at regular intervals from the ceiling. Along the 
walls were mirrors from Venice, as huge as doors, reaching to the 
floor, and each one was framed in cut, rose-hued, flashing crystal. 
The furniture was gold and pale-blue satin. And the woman who 
bowed to receive him, despite her diminutiveness, her exquisite 
baby- Venus type of body, had the regal air of a grande dame at 
the court of the Grand Monarque. She spoke the French of that 
period, too. She wore bright sea-green satin, covered with flut 
tering ruffles of the filmiest white silk lace, and she carried a 
painted fan. 

Alexis Sergiewitch had come at an opportune time. Madam 
Woronzow was ennuyee. Winter in Russia was, to be sure, the 
belle saison. But not in Odessa. That referred to Petersburg, to 
Moscow, where she was not permitted to be. Her gay and com 
panionable friends had gone North, therefore, to the court. The 
French and English had sailed south by the sea, so her great 
salons were not filled as usual to-night, and now the last comers 
were leaving. 

She received Alexis Sergiewitch with cordiality. His name was 
familiar to her, and so were his escapades. They understood each 
other at a glance. They were alike; both children of pleasure who 
drank deep of the moment, regardless of cost. He kissed the little 
hand that looked like a doll's, and then, before he thought, he 
kissed the slender wrist. She looked up and laughed. Her little 
dimples twinkled. 

"Is it really Monsieur Pushkin, or is it Monsieur Byron? " 

She recognized his carefully copied attire. This pleased him. 
Then they both laughed together because they were young and 
careless. 

"OhI Countess Woronzow I should not have come here to 
night! I forgot!" in a burst of confidence. 

"Forgot what? " eagerly scenting a secret. 

" I was sent here, Odessa ever so long ago, by Monsieur le 
Comte to work in his offices. And I never reported " 

" What did you do? " She was visibly interested. 

"I ran away and hid. Then I had a good time." 

Madam Woronzow was delighted with the merry confession. 



1 84 THE PENITENT 

Nothing so interesting had happened for a long time. The way 
ward curls of her high chignon were dancing approval. 

"What will become of me now, if you tell!" There was 
genuine fear in his voice this time. 

" Well serve me instead of Monsieur le Comte. It will be 
all in the family, will it not? " she replied, restraining again, with 
difficulty, her laughter at the humor of the situation. This was 
the way she liked life to be. 

She was walking rapidly toward the rear of the great salons 
now, her green-and-white train dragging heavily behind her 
across the pink carpet, and showing the tiny gold slippers and 
gold lacework hose she wore. Then she turned abruptly, paused, 
wrapping herself up for the instant in its white flutter. " We will 
go into the little sitting-room, where we can chat. The drawing- 
rooms are too large for conversation, don't you think so? I will 
smoke. And there I will order wine for you." 

The smaller room they entered was like a daytime dusk, being 
hung and furnished in pale violet satin. It was lighted by one 
huge, yellow, swinging lily, an Indian lotus made of Venetian 
glass. Upon little tables of satinwood, scattered here and there, 
were boxes of solid gold, of solid silver, which held sweetmeats, 
cigarettes, or powdered perfumes to inhale. She reached for the 
silken bell-rope and ordered champagne. She found then that 
she was thirsty, too. She drank the merry, sparkling liquid with 
him, drank it from a long-stemmed, scarlet, Bohemian glass, on 
the outside of which were gold knobs, each holding a turquoise. 
Alexis Sergiewitch saw about him here something of that mate 
rial splendor of living which in the last days of Catherine the 
Great had been something enormous. 

"It is a great bore to be forced to spend la saison in Odessa," 
she complained, settling herself comfortably upon a pate, a piece 
of furniture in vogue now, half sofa, half easy-chair, over the end 
of which her long, green, lace-flounced train billowed. 

" Monsieur le Comte, you see, is building a new palace for me 
in the Crimea. Occasionally, of course, I am obliged to run down 
by boat, and look it over. No not so far! Yes, it is at Gursuf 
near Alupka. The coast of Crimea, you know, is rapidly be 
coming an Asiatic Riviera. 



MADAM WORONZOW 185 

"This place is getting shabby don't you think so?" 
glancing about with a little pouting air of disapproval. " The one 
he is building is an Oriental marvel!" She clasped her little 
hands excitedly, whereon great gems sparkled. "It is just such a 
piece of architecture, Monsieur Pushkin, as the Venetians at 
tempted to build in India long ago for the Grand Moguls. 
When it is completed it will rival the Alhambra. It will be a 
realized dream of Haroun el Raschid!" declared the spoiled 
beauty, whose colossal wealth had left no limits in life for her. 
"I am tired of this" She put her wineglass down, and held out a 
long, slender cigarette until it touched the red flame- tongue of a 
bronze-green Japanese dragon. Then she settled back comfort 
ably to smoke, to gossip, and to enjoy herself. 

"Oh! Count Michael is making things merry for you my 
young friend!" 

"You mean his reports?" he questioned somewhat quickly. 

"I should say so! Both Arakcheiev and Photius are furious" 

He did not need to be told how they hated him. "And the 
Emperor?" he inquired with an interest he tried to conceal. 

" No one you know ever really knows just what he thinks 
he is buttoned up so tight on the inside" Here she paused 
and looked at him with her merry eyes in which laughter slum 
bered. "Count Michael, you know, is the best man in the 
world but he takes things seriously. That is a mistake. 
Don't you think so? " She did not wait for a reply. 

"Photius is feather- white, like the Terek in spring. You 
see Count Galitzin in Moscow has gone over to the Catho 
lics the Jesuits? Had n't you heard of it? You had not! Now 
Photius demands that all the Catholics be driven out of Russia," 
the indiscreet tongue continued. "Think of that! Foolish! 
Don't you think so? " blowing carefully a smoke-ring and 
watching it drift away. "Sometimes I say French Catholic 
prayers and sometimes Russian Orthodox prayers. But it 
comes out the same in the end. A prayer is a prayer, whether it is 
French or Russian. Don't you say so? I knew you would agree 
with me. 

"Fancy! He has made Alexander put Shishkov in Count 



1 86 THE PENITENT 

Galitzin's place as Minister of Education. And just because of a 
prayer! I don't know of any one who has a worse time of it than 
Alexander. I would rather be Countess Woronzow than Emperor 
Alexander." 

"And I would rather you would if it is here I am permitted 
to be," he reciprocated warmly. 

Alexis Sergiewitch did not care at this moment what they were 
saying of him in Petersburg. That was far away, the champagne 
was ample and fine, not to mention the merry face of youth 
that was leaning so amiably toward him. 

"Have you heard the latest about Marie Antonova? You 
haven't? Is it possible! She deceives Alexander right 
along " Here she hesitated and looked at him appraisingly. 
"Lean over here! And don't look at me and then I'll whisper it 
to you." 

He obeyed. His pale curls touched her red, alluring lips. 
Laughing, and all but setting his curls on fire with her careless 
cigarette, she whispered in his ear the latest amorous escapade 
of the mistress of the Tsar. " Would you believe it? Is n't it 
amazing! And he 's to be her own son-in-law." Then they 
laughed aloud together like the two merry children they were. 

"But Alexander is changing," she declared in a tone of fi 
nality. " My friends write I would n't know him. He is growing 
melancholy. He is afraid of Europe books new ideas. And 
they say he is so sensitive even fancies his lackeys make fun of 
him behind his back, when they hand him his coat his hat 
Fancy! Serves him right, too. He has never had eyes for any 
one but Marie Antonova. I don't think she is so very good- 
looking do you ? I thought you 'd say so ! If a man changes his 
gloves should he not also " Again she bent her curly 
head and whispered gayly, naughtily, in his ear. This time he 
brushed slightly with his lips, his cheek, the white arm. Then he 
finished the bottle of champagne. 

"Oh! so many things have happened in Peter!" she exclaimed 
in a tone that expressed regret that she had not been there. Then 
she added with a touch of that shrewd aperqu that distinguishes 
French women and surprises one into admiration in the midst of 
folly: 



MADAM WORONZOW 187 

"You know, I believe we live more in two years here in Russia 
than in ten years elsewhere. What do you think? " 

She folded her painted fan quickly, placed it upon the table 
and lighted another cigarette, stretching out luxuriously beneath 
the rich light the soft whiteness of her arms. 

"Did you hear about young Prince Odojewsky? You did not? 
Poor boy! His mother is dead. He is literally grieving himself to 
death. Young Mouravieff-Apostcl is one of your friends, is n't 
he? I thought so! Well he brought a pretty, blond girl up from 
one of his estates. Yes to Peter! I don't know exactly it's 
political but anyway she was reported, and sent to Arakche- 
iev's estate near Smolensk and there Anastasia had her 
knouted to death. I thought it would shock you. The knout cut 
the end of her little white nose right off" 

Alexis Sergiewitch shook off the wine. The picture flashed to 
his brain. He suffered. He recalled the sensitive, almost girlish 
mouth of young Mouravieff-Apostol, and how it used to tremble 
if anything unpleasant affected him. 

"Now the secret societies I guess they are political, too, 
some of them, are n't they? are raging for revenge. I don't 
believe much in Pestel's sincerity, do you ? " 

Alexis Sergiewitch did not hear. His mind was far away 
with the pretty, childish, blond mistress of young Mouravieff- 
Apostol. 

"The only reason he's against the government is because he's 
mad because his father was dismissed from office. But that 
handsome Ryleiev he's in earnest!" 

The heart of Alexis Sergiewitch was bleeding and he did not 
listen. 

Countess Woronzow looked down upon such affairs from the 
impersonal height of one who cannot accept even criticism be 
cause placed in life so securely. " The Grand Duke Constantine" 
her unwise tongue went rattling on. "You know how stupid 
he is? Well, he said something witty the other day. The 
Countess de Laval wrote me. You know her! He said: Preserve 
me, God! from death by fire or water or from marriage with a 
German princess!" She laughed immoderately at this. Her 



1 88 THE PENITENT 

white throat rippled like a canary's in song. "You know they 
all have square ankles and wrists just like peasants." 

Her gold shoes twinkled softly in the dim light. Alexis Ser- 
giewitch looked down upon them. He adored beautiful feet. 
Impulsively he bent his blond head and ran his lips along her 
gold-clad ankles. Madam Woronzow was enchanted. She sat 
very still, smiling, and watched him. She knew that she had the 
prettiest feet in Russia. 

"It's a long time since you heard the gossip of Peter, is n't it? 
I thought so! Baratinsky is still deeply in love with the Emper 
or's daughter. Why in the world did n't Alexander give her to 
him?" 

Alexis Sergiewitch wondered why, too. This was not news to 
him. 

"I have been told that that mad monk, Photius, is demand 
ing your death, or permanent exile, from Alexander." 

Again, through the fumes of wine that confused him, a little 
needle of pain entered his heart, and he suffered. Countess 
Woronzow was just like a bird. Words, futile or deadly, dropped 
from her dimpled lips with the cruel inconsequentiality of song 
from a golden canary. She, however, was observing with a sort 
of zest this abnormal sensitiveness of his. She enjoyed it. It 
was something so unusual to watch. 

"Very good people would be all right, if they could just let 
other people alone. But you see, they never have any affairs 
of their own. I should n't be surprised if that were the reason. 
Should you?" 

He nodded his head without hearing. 

"Have you heard about the beautiful Oriental, Persian, I 
think, with whom Prince Metternich is in love? You haven't? 
Not a word? How is that! She is one of his spies. I should n't 
be a bit surprised if sometime she came to Russia. Should 
you? Every one of consequence, does sometime. Don't you 
think so? 

"In Vienna this came straight from Count Fiquelmont in 
Peter in Vienna, he has a room walled in pale-gray velvet; a 
room no one enters but himself. And in that room there is only 



MADAM WORONZOW 189 

one object. Guess what it is! You can't? A life-size copy of 
Cupid and Psyche, a copy made by Canova himself. And there, 
beside it, beside this naked, beautiful woman in marble, he 
dreams of the woman of flesh whom he loves. Is n't that a 
splendid thing to do? What do you think of that! 

"I have never met Prince Metternich!" she added a little pen 
sively. She became meditative now. She puffed on at her ciga 
rette without talking, as if gathering together carefully, or else 
shaping to suit her caprice of the moment, some impression which 
interested her. " Sometimes I have thought that you and 
Prince Metternich and Alexander might be called the poetic tri 
umvirate" 

This unexpected shrewdness of perception aroused him. He 
began to listen. 

"Why?" he inquired a little hastily. 

"Well you are a little poet with words of roses and 
the wine. Alexander is a divine poet dreaming of universal 
peace the rebirth of humanity; but Prince Metternich is a 
sort of sane poet a poet in his daily living " 

He did not wait for her to finish. The wine was working its 
will with him now. He was longing, too, to drown the suffering 
which her careless tongue had caused. 

"That is what I am going to be, and now!" His face showed 
a sort of white and tragic fire, which for the moment dominated 
her, and which she liked. Decidedly she was having a good time. 
The boy was interesting. 

With this he slipped over to her silken seat and took a place 
behind her. He bent impulsively his fresh lips of youth to her 
smooth satin shoulders. She was pleased. She laughed just as a 
child laughs with a new toy, but she did not repel him. 

Love was something he did not experience. He was lonely in 
some sad, indefinable way. He wanted to shut out effectively for 
a while his mental vision of the world's cruelty. He must have 
warmth just as people suffering with physical cold seek heat. 
The beauty of the room, the late hour, the wine, the sumptuous 
surroundings, the sense-disturbing presence of the woman her 
self, called to the artist in him. He loved only the beautifully 



1 90 THE PENITENT 

gowned body of the woman beside him, the highly evolved art of 
dress which was hers, developed in Paris; her wit, her social finish, 
her royal gems, her immoral frivolity, her unbridled license of 
speech, her aristocratic hauteur, her cultivated taste for pleasure, 
and the fact that she looked upon life, and its enjoyments just as 
he did but the woman herself he had no thought of loving. 
He did not even trouble to see her. That was something so alto 
gether different that it did not darken the edge of his thinking. 
She merely flattered his senses after long abstinence. But was 
not that enough? Why should one demand that every daisy be 
come a rose? They were young. They were careless and gay. 
They both belonged, by nature and training, to that powerful, 
pagan, unrestrained, free eighteenth century that was passing, 
and the present was theirs. 

"Sunday night" unclasping forcibly his detaining arms, 
arising, sweeping out with a quick motion of little gold feet, the 
long, fluttering, lace-flounced train, and opening and closing her 
painted fan "Sunday night you will dine with me. Are 
you not now in my service for punishment because you ran 
away and hid from Monsieur le Comte?" 

Her little laugh rang merrily again. She was happy. He was 
such a charming boy fro play with. And he was so astonishingly 
sensitive! "And Sunday night I am going to give you a little 
gift. Perhaps it is what you call pay for service just as if you 
were working in the Counting-House. Will not that be fun, to 
play? No I will not tell you now what it is! It's a secret! 
No 7 will not! To tell would spoil the pleasure." 

Again she was the proud mistress of the rose-hued salon, 
bowing out a guest. 

" Until Sunday night, Monsieur Pushkin, adieu" 

He bent over her hand. "You may be sure, Madame la Com- 
tesse, that this time I shall not run away." 

He hailed the arrival of Sunday with delight, not because of 
love for Countess Woronzow, but because in the meantime im 
aginative terrors had been tugging at his mind. The imagination 
he was not using just now in art was turned inward destructively 



MADAM WORONZOW 191 

upon himself. " That mad monk Photius is demanding your death 
of Alexander " These words repeated themselves in his mind by 
some independent volition of their own. It was not the definite 
thought of death, but the words gave life to a huge, tragic, phan 
tasmagoria of fear, something that frequently fell upon him like 
a monster and devoured him, after prolonged periods of writing 
or imaginative strain. 

But the childish, blond mistress of his friend, young Mourav- 
ieff-Apostol, he had known and liked. He saw with his brain the 
little cut-off white nose. It made him suffer. He longed for re 
lief from the futile torture of his undisciplined thinking. 

Countess Woronzow had ordered after-dinner coffee and 
liqueur served in her boudoir, giving way to one of her caprices, 
which were many. He followed happily the large half-moon of 
curving garnets that held the curls on the top of her head, and 
that matched her dress, into the cold, white, satin-shining frosti- 
ness of the painted room, where Cupids along the walls were 
blowing blue roses from puffed cheeks, or weaving lassoes of pale 
ribbon the hue of sentimental ashes of roses. She heeded not at 
all, conversationally, the grave dignitary who poured coffee, and 
then offered them diminutive crystals filled with a liqueur yellow, 
fine, sparkling. 

" Can you guess what the gift is? " she inquired at once. 

He shook his head. 

"Have you not thought of it?" 

"Of course! I have thought of nothing else," he fabricated 
glibly. 

" It is just the color of me to-night. Now can't you guess? " 

Again he shook his head. 

"How can you be so stupid? Pull the curtains when you take 
out the coffee," she commanded the expressionless-faced individ 
ual. Straight folds of white satin to match the windows fell over 
the door giving upon her private sitting-room without, and with 
it fell solitude on them, and the lure of youth, and love. 

"How stupid you are! See! Did n't I say it was the color of 
me?" She held out a large, inscribed cornelian stone set in a 
ring. 



1 92 THE PENITENT 

He looked at it with sparkling eyes. It was, indeed, a charming 
gift and one worthy of the giver. "What does it say upon it, 
Countess Woronzow? " taking the ring delightedly and fitting it 
upon his finger. 

"It is in Hebrew, the inscription. It says: Simha, son of the 
most holy Rabbi Joseph. Blessed be his name. The ring has magic 
power. It will protect you from evil. Wear it always for me." 

"Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let me repay you," he 
called in a voice which emotion was swaying. He walked across 
to one of the white-curtained windows, where he stood in medi 
tation for a little while. Then, turning swiftly, his head flung 
back, a rapt, eloquent look within his eyes, he walked toward her, 
with inspired face and gesture and began to improvise. 

Where the sea with ceaseless wave beat 

Lonely shore flecks white with foam, 
Where the moonlight glows all golden 

From a southern heaven's dome, 
Where in wanton harem-pleasures 

Revels oft the Mussulman, 
An enchantress twixt her kisses 

Gave to me this Talisman. 

Set thy heart not upon treasures, 

'T will not aid a miser's greed, 
Nor the favors of the Prophet 

To a worldly end e'er lead; 
If thy soul is filled with longing 

For kindred at dark or dawn, 
To the North it may not bear thee 

Back again, my Talisman. 

But when in the hour of midnight 

Lustful eyes shall lure like morn, 
When false lips that do not love thee 

Kiss in pity or in scorn; 
From love's sin and deep repentance, 

From the sway of passions strong, 
From betrayal and love's heartache, 

Will guard thee, my Talisman! 1 

1 Translated from the Russian by the author. 






MADAM WORONZOW 193 

As he finished reciting the last line, his fresh voice ringing with 
passion, and just as he was approaching her to bend down and 
put his emotional young arms about her, to repay her in his way 
for the gift, the white satin door-covering was flung back with 
an air of authority. In the door stood Count Woronzow, and 
behind him, an orderly. 

The Countess arose, bowed gracefully, and exclaimed : 

"Mcmsiew, mon mari, I welcome you! I cannot tell you how 
lonesome I have been, nor how sadly I have longed for your 
presence." 

The orderly meantime had signaled to Alexis Sergiewitch, 
who, as he passed the Countess, saw her jewel-crowned head in 
clining for a second in graceful dismissal of him. Count Woron 
zow came in. 

Alexis Sergiewitch glanced back. He saw a little white hand 
behind the Count's coat fluttering him a merry if brief farewell. 
The face of the Countess showed no trace of surprise or discom 
fiture. She was receiving the Count with the dignity that be 
fitted his rank. Her eyes were merry, happy. It had been a 
charming little comedy. And she had played her part so well! 
She was proud of herself. In addition, it had ended at the right 
moment. A lover might become insistent or wearisome, es 
pecially when he is so young. Not always could one be rid of one 
at the psychological moment when emotion reaches its height, 
and have something so pleasantly dramatic one might al 
most say romantic to remember. She had enjoyed herself 
hugely while it lasted. He was so tremulously sensitive, so full of 
fire. Now she approved of herself. How much more satisfactory 
to play real comedies, in life, and be yourself the heroine, than to 
play them for other people upon a stage! And then no one had 
written a poem to her. So this time there had been something 
new. 

Late that night, in a little bare room which belonged to Count 
Woronzow, a room which did not look like the other rooms of 
the palace, where he kept a picture of his mother, an old Russian 
Bible, a battered icon of brass that had belonged to his grand 
father, and a few sacred books, Count Woronzow wrote a solemn 



i 9 4 THE PENITENT 

letter to Alexander in Petersburg, the last paragraph of which 
was as follows: 

It would be well to take Pushkin quickly away from Odessa, from 
this enthusiastic and applauding milieu, who are all trying to make 
him believe that he is a great writer, while in reality he is only a feeble 
imitator, of an original very little worthy any one's praise Lord 
Byron, 



CHAPTER XIII 
METTERNICH 

PRINCE METTERNICH was walking happily in the marble hall 
of that luxurious chateau, situated at no great distance from 
Verona, on Lake Garda, which had been lent him by one of his 
royal friends, and which bore in the neighborhood various sug 
gestive or romantic nicknames, such as "Cupid's Nest," "Love's 
Bower," because it had been the dramatic, elegant setting for the 
liaisons of men of his class. Over its parapets, through its long, 
graceful windows, the faces of lovely women had looked. The 
oval-topped mirrors of its halls, its drawing-rooms, had reflected 
women renowned at that period. Only imperial beauties came 
here or women of princely blood. 

He was awaiting in the spacious hall, with its rich, time-yel 
lowed seats and statues of marble, eloquent of the great past of 
Rome, Chali the Persian, whom in her tender, formative youth 
he had taken and trained to be a super-spy; who in various Con 
tinental cities had performed creditably his bidding, and whom 
he had summoned from Algiers to meet him here. 

Any approach to Verona made Prince Metternich high 
hearted and happy. It was a place of glorious memory. Here, in 
1822, he had won triumphs over the best diplomatists in Europe. 
Here, for a proud moment, he had been master of the world. 
Here he had succeeded in making the nations believe that the 
stability of the Hapsburgs meant the stability of Europe. He 
knew the technique of diplomacy as few knew it. He loved it as 
an art. And he loved it for its own sake. 

He recapitulated the events of that year with an equal min 
gling of pleasure, of pride. He had conceived the idea of the 
Congress of Verona, the forming of a league of rulers against the 
ruled, and it was he who summoned the representatives of other 
nations to come. Alexander of Russia, when he reached Verona, 
because of his share in the recent, triumphant overthrow of Na- 



196 THE PENITENT 

poleon, and his avowed intention to become the savior of the 
Continent, was the foremost figure in Europe. When the Con 
gress was over, Alexander had fallen. He was not the great, the 
dominating figure of his debut in Verona, but instead, he, Prince 
Clement Metternich, had taken his place. He had there forced 
Alexander to join his policy. In doing it, he had made him break 
his pledged word to the Liberal party. The result was that he 
stood convicted, before Europe, of double-dealing. This was the 
master stroke of Metternich. 

" I would rather be the one who rules a king than the king," 
he was reflecting proudly, as he paced the luxurious hall. "It is 
just as glorious and a good deal safer," he added with a 
chuckle. 

At that Congress, just as Alexander, when a vote was being 
taken, had responded confidently: I answer for Russia! he, 
Metternich, disclosed the fact that Alexander's favorite regi 
ment was in revolt, that it had killed its colonel, and that there 
was rioting in the streets of Petersburg. This was his second 
master stroke. It weakened the power of Alexander. It sur 
prised him. It grieved him. Like magic it reversed the relative 
positions of power of the two men. Then he, Metternich, became 
the bulwark of Europe. He, Metternich, became a super-king, 
throned above the others. But that was of the past. The time 
between had been unpleasantly productive of change. Now, 
somewhat figuratively speaking, perhaps, and yet with basic 
truth, a world stood in arms, powerful, revengeful. 

" Ah Chalil" There was unconcealed pleasure in the voice 
that called her name, as he heard steps upon the stairs and turned 
to meet her. It was in truth a picture calculated to win the ap 
proval of the sensuous, luxurious Metternich, that connoisseur of 
women. 

Down the white, gleaming stairs of marble swept, with the 
alluring ease that distinguishes the Asiatic, a tall, slender woman 
wearing a gown of trained, flame-hued gauze which left her 
arms and shoulders bare. It was gripped tightly at the waist. 
But the skirt was draped and dragged its reverberating reflection 
along the floor. It was as if the room had suddenly burst into 
bloom. 



METTERNICH 197 

The black hair upon the small, round head was parted in the 
middle, combed smoothly back and coiled upon her neck. Not a 
lock broke the outline. It resembled a hood of ebony. She had 
the broad, low brow, the short, straight nose of antique races. 
The eyes, however, were brown, transparent, wide-set, with a 
mingled expression of nobility and intelligence. She wore no 
jewels, no ornaments, but she carried a fan of ostrich feathers, 
the color of pale, green jade. 

He moved quickly to meet her. He took her two hands in his. 
He drew her toward him emotionally, longingly, touching with 
his lips fondly, first one shoulder and then the other. His eyes 
expressed the pleasure he found in her presence. 

"A h! Chali the suns of Algiers have colored you richly! 
You are the hue of that precious ivory which has been the pride 
of kings." Then he added a little sadly, so evocative was her 
presence, as if momentarily grieved by some luxurious thought: 
"You bring to me the South I have always loved. Despite the 
power, the prestige which life has lent me, I have regretted it has 
been a necessity it be spent in the North. It is a good deal to 
miss the caress of blue water, flowers and that luxury of 
light." 

A servant entered. He proceeded to set flames upon the many 
tiny, tall, white glistening candles in the gold and marble sconces 
along the walls. The quick meeting of candlelight with the not 
yet perished day transformed the long windows that gave upon 
the lake, and the double entrance doors that opened upon the 
curving front portico, into huge, translucent gems of aqua 
marine and melted sapphire, forming recurring backgrounds of 
wonderful blue, while the gauze flame of the gown of Chali shone 
deeply in the heart of tall mirrors, which alternated with doors 
and windows like the dusk of mysterious water. 

Prince Metternich was a worthy companion to stand beside 
her, as they turned toward the dining-room where dinner had 
been announced. He was tall, handsome, blond, with amber 
curls brushed loosely back, a noble figure that had known how to 
keep the grace of centuries. He had blue eyes, merry, kindly; a 
sensual mouth, but the royal presence, the dignity of a king. He 



198 THE PENITENT 

had been painted by Lawrence and by Gerard, and in those elo 
quent portraits of the last of the great aristocrats, there is some 
thing compelling, some fine, unanswerable argument for the past 
and its arrogance, to make men forgive it, and long for it again. 
He was about fifty years old now, but he looked younger, so 
slender was his body, youthful. 

To-night he wore, save for the powdered hair, a suit resem 
bling the court costume of France; black satin coat, tight trou 
sers of the same material, long silk hose, lace falling profusely 
over his hands, and buckled shoes. Love and unbridled desire 
for the seductive woman moving so supplely beside him, were 
surging in his heart as they walked along. This helped to in 
crease the youthful glamour of his appearance. 

Upon the two ends of the table which awaited them flowers cut 
from their stems were loosely piled after the Roman manner: 
blue lilies on one end of the table, pink, late, single-leaved roses 
upon the other. Slender glasses, slender decanters, of carved or 
etched crystal, poised white, cold, clear as aspiring thoughts, 
upon the thick, lustrous linen. Here to-night for Prince Metter- 
nich some of the elements of happiness were brought together 
and commingled: love, intrigue, and a pretty woman. 

As he observed critically the arresting head, rising with such 
distinction above the gown of unfigured gauze, and the flowers 
across the table, it occurred to him, and the thought pleased him, 
that upon the highways of the dead and perished East, those 
ancient highways that had led to Sidon to Babylon and Tyre 
there had been women who looked like her. Beauty in women 
inspired in him an increased richness of phrase, and widened 
certain boundaries of thought. This was one of the pleasures 
they procured for him. Like wine, like pictures, they heightened 
the energy of life. 

Like the egotist that he was, he could not enjoy anything that 
was not in a way his own creation. He was a collector of beau 
tiful and rare objects, just as his friend Talleyrand was a col 
lector of prints. Chali was one of the lovely human objects which 
he had collected. 

About ten years ago, when she was little more than a child, 



METTERNICH 199 

although a girl widow, one of his companions, for the moment 
in Greece, Count Esterhazy, to be exact, had come upon her, told 
Prince Metternich of her, and brought them together. At once 
he had seen, not only her beauty, but the clear, poised mind of 
her race, which promised usefulness to him. He had begun to 
employ women spies, such as Princess Bagration, who had been 
one of his first ones, and who still continued to annoy him with a 
passion of which he had grown weary. 

He had taken her first, escaping briefly and gladly from the 
mist and cold of a Viennese winter, to the Azure Coast, the 
world's playground; so sunlight and flowers had been symbols of 
her, together with pleasure and delighted escape from work, from 
duty. There had been brief meetings at other seasons; in emer 
ald-green valleys set high amid the white snows of the Alps; and 
once among the gayly peopled boulevards and the lights of Paris. 
In all places tutelage along the lines of service for him had been 
joined with pleasure. 

Just as Prince Metternich liked to collect gems of art, just so 
he liked to collect human gems, women. But the human gems 
aroused in him a finer range of feelings, not only personal pride, 
the titillation of pleasure, but satisfied vanity, because frequently, 
as in the case of Chali, he had been instrumental in their per 
fecting. In short, he saw in them the handiwork of himself as 
creator. Not only had her body belonged to him, but her mind 
bore the imprint of his training and his pet ideas. She had re 
ported to him conditions of life, socially, economically, politically, 
in various countries. She had employed the charm, the power 
of her personal self to sway individuals to his demands. For the 
past few years she had been in Algiers, keeping him informed of 
the progress, the plans of that race he so hated, the English, and 
chronicling the increasingly unstable footing there of France. 
Her religion, her unmistakably Oriental origin, had been pe 
culiarly effective for him there, with Moslems of high position. 
In Algiers she had procured information that was important. 

Because of this Chali had been surprised by the sudden, the 
unexpected removal from a place of such pregnant activity, and 
the summons to join him here as speedily as possible. She knew 



200 THE PENITENT 

something out of the ordinary was at stake. She knew some 
thing up to now concealed must be the mainspring of the sum 
mons. Although she understood his admiration, his enjoyment 
of herself, her poised mind, trained to read facts without a foolish 
admixture of flattery, told her that desire for herself was not the 
reason. The pleasure he found in her, she believed, was merely 
one of the more or less inconsequential pleasures he was in the 
habit of finding by his path of life. His cultivated selfishness had 
not escaped her. 

Chali belonged to a type of women who attained peculiar per 
fection for a brief period in these fleeting, transition years which 
marked the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of 
the so-called modern age, but who did not persist until to-day. 
A woman of brains, of beauty, trained not by fond, loving, flat 
tering parents and friends, or foolishly indulgent husband and 
relatives, but by brilliant, impersonal men of the great world 
for posts of efficiency, and associating almost never with other 
women except punctiliously, upon purely perfunctory grounds of 
etiquette, in the political salon, the legation, the public place. A 
sort of woman who replaced, temporarily, perhaps, in the early 
difficult transition years of the young nineteenth century, a little 
of what the highly educated hetaira had been to man's social life 
in pagan Greece. Such women had come oftenest from the Le 
vant. They had played an important part in history ; in the 
Mediterranean lands; in southern Russia in particular; in France, 
in Italy; women trained to silence, to observation, to the domi 
nance of self, to the folly of unwise speaking, and to become 
at length splendidly poised, eloquent figures in the changing 
pageant. 

Metternich was pouring, with evident enjoyment, golden 
Chartreuse into a sensitive, long-stemmed glass that shivered at 
the touch, and remarking a propos of his thoughts and his happi 
ness : "I have always loved flowers, music, and beautiful women." 

"But why, Your Excellency, do you mention women last?" 

taking the proffered wine gravely. 

" Because to my mind they unite the charm, the sweetness of 
the other two. It is merely my way, you see, of adding the sum " 

Uf ting his glass toward her significantly, and drinking. 



METTERNICH 201 

Her deep-set, unsmiling eyes met his across the wine. 

"How old are you now my Chali?" his words veering 
swiftly with his thoughts, and taking on a tone of tenderness. 

"Almost twenty-five, Your Excellency." 

"Ah! could it have been so long ago, those years of love and 
youth of ours in the South of France on the Cdte d'Azur/ 
O! that I could live them over again!" he exclaimed, surrender 
ing himself to a maelstrom of memory in which love played the 
predominant part. He smacked his lips slightly, either because 
of the sweetness, the enjoyment of wine, or of memory. 

"Then you are not so far from the age of the year just half 
my age. Your feet stand upon the edge of the eighteenth cen 
tury a time when all women knew how to love," he added, 
with mingled conviction and regret, because he felt that pleasure- 
free period was withdrawing. 

"They have never forgotten, in the East, Your Excellency." 
The glance that answered this was a caress. 

No one could be more charming than the great Metternich in 
his hours of self-indulgence. Now he was giving free reign to his 
inclinations, to the natural man within him which politics sup 
pressed. Unusual attractiveness and affability were his; his 
mind was flexible and pleasure-loving. It was rich with learning 
too, and his companions had been the leaders of his day. With 
no one, perhaps, did he so perfectly put away the crafty political 
tricksman as with Chali, because few women had so met the 
approval of both his heart and his head. 

"Life has dealt me many blows," he continued, but not sadly. 
" It is only love that has preserved for me my vigor. I believe 
that I am a greater man in that the slavery of the scholar, and 
the burdensome detail of a diplomatic life, have not destroyed 
in me my love for pretty women. It is love that has helped to 
keep me mentally flexible " 

And Chali knew, as she listened, that the secret of a pretty 
woman, when she succeeds, is silence and not words; the evoca 
tive silence that inspires the man beside her. She knew that her 
influence with Metternich was the result of the fact that she was 
the point de depart for his more effective thinking, the thinking 



202 THE PENITENT 

that suddenly discovers new ideas, and which increased his sat 
isfaction with himself. Into his difficult diplomatic profession 
Prince Metternich put bitter reality, cold reasoning, determi 
nation. He used no fantasy there. Into his living he put dreams, 
conversation, music, pleasure, cultivation of all kinds, idealism, 
love. In short, he made life his work of art. 

Some such thought as this was passing rapidly through her 
mind, but she gave no sign of it. The meeting of men of power 
had made her able to appreciate the unusual range of his nature. 

"I have brought to Your Excellency the flowers for which you 
wrote," the low-toned, even voice that melted so easily into the 
brooding blue of the night was saying. 

"What flowers?" 

"Flowers of Africa, Your Excellency. Those strange flowers 
that live upon air which you have been eager to see." 

His face showed delight as his memory swung back to the for 
gotten request. 

"Orchidea! Oh! I remember " 

"And such as no one in Europe has seen. I can assure you 
that in this, too, you shall be first." He was listening with in 
terest, with pleasure. "I have had them collected from jungles, 
from well-nigh inaccessible mountain-tops from tall trees. 
Some look like phosphorescent moons. From the center of others 
long, satiny ribands depend. In the dusk they are white, waving 
arms. They are like the call of a woman who loves. Some with 
mouths wide open and red. Some with dots like wild, white eyes 
that may not sleep. Some frail, sweet, evanescent, as gray butter 
flies in the day." 

His face expressed pleasure. Besides, he loved extravagances. 
He had an inclination, inherited from his father, to squander 
money. The collector's zeal for a moment awoke, as he thought 
of those fabulous flowers of which he had only heard. 

" I will hang them upon the walls of my study in Vienna. Next 
winter, when they bloom, I will think of Africa and you." 

"And I did not forget the music. When my boxes are un 
packed, I will play for you upon my violin some of that discon 
certing, wild music." 



METTERNICH 203 

This interested him again. He was a musician. He could 
improvise at will. He could reproduce upon the spinet whatever 
he heard. "There will be plenty of time for that," he replied as 
they arose, and walked toward the drawing-rooms again. "Do 
not think I am going to give you up in a day after this jour 
ney. We shall be together awhile." Again he was beside her, 
and for an instant his cheek rested upon the dark, shining shoul 
der. "Is it not something to be proud of, my Chali," he asked, 
lifting his head, "to be the woman chosen from all Europe for 
the pleasure, the companionship of Metternich, on one of his 
rare vacations the woman for whom he makes kings, em 
perors, wait patiently in their cabinets? " In her deep, calm eyes 
for the moment shone the starry flattery of pleasure. 

In the cream-hued satin-and-gold drawing-room which they 
were entering, and which precious porcelains and paintings 
splashed emotionally with color, they lighted their cigarettes. 
They moved about freely for exercise, glimpsing from moment to 
moment in their walk the purple dimness outside, where occa 
sional yellow stars were swinging dangerously from the wild 
black hair of wind-touched trees, and the scents of night came in. 

Suddenly she felt that Prince Metternich was becoming pre 
occupied. A thought was pushing her from him. It was as if a 
cloud drifted confusingly in between them. She felt it sensitively. 
She did not speak. She feared to break in upon his meditation 
which probably was of importance. At length he looked over at 
her with a new expression in his eyes. She felt he was estimating 
her afresh. When this silence on his part had lasted what seemed 
to her long, he declared: 

"You will play havoc, Chali with the hearts of those blond, 
pale Russians!" 

The secret was out. To Russia! 

'''Russia!" The trained voice expressed something that re 
sembled dismay. 

"You are not displeased little love?" 

"It is, of course, as Your Excellency wishes." But he knew 
that the thought of that land of cold and storm was not welcome. 

"Do not worry. The journey will not be hard. First to Tagan- 



204 THE PENITENT 

rog in the South, by the Sea of Azov. Almost all of it you can 
make by water quickly without discomfort. In addition 
you can afford to go leisurely stop whenever you wish." He 
was trying to make the plan pleasant. But even these words, he 
knew, had not lessened the dismay which she felt at the sug 
gestion. 

"It is only you, Chali, I can trust with this most delicate, dan 
gerous venture because this little head of yours nothing has 
turned." 

"And my duty there? What is that to be, Your Excellency?" 

"Briefly, this. Alexander before long will be on the way to 
Taganrog. The pretext of his going is to review the army of the 
South, to see if it is in condition for the impending war with 
Turkey. But I do not believe that that is the cause. I feel sure 
that it is a pretext. Conditions in Russia are bad very bad. 
Alexander is the cause of it, too. He is a romantic dreamer 
and unfortunately upon a throne. Instead of putting romance 
into life as I do " looking down upon her tenderly and smiling 
reminiscently, as she seated herself upon a fauteuil beside him 
"he puts romance into politics. I do not know of a worse place 
where it could be put. 

"He is thinking, planning, to free the serfs and I think 
fear of giving Russia a constitution. Freeing the serfs at this 
critical moment would be like removing a dam which holds in 
check for utilitarian purposes waters which would become de 
structive. This must not be, now! This has alarmed me. His 
emotional, vacillating vision is threatening the ruin of mankind. 
It will bring on another French Revolution." 

She waited, alert, silent, interested now, for what would come 
next. It was no slight undertaking, however, this he was to send 
her on. She did not know whether to be vexed or flattered. 

" In addition, there is a widespread plot against his life, a plot 
whose roots are far-spreading, deep. You see, Russia has felt 
dimly what I have seen clearly that just at this time Alexander 
is wrong. This barbarous monster, Russia, that is awakening 
from the sleep of centuries, must be my ally. It must help me 
stop world-revolution. It must help me combat the influence of 
England, with that arch-fiend Canning at head of foreign affairs." 



METTERNICH 205 

She looked at him interrogatively, fear slowly creeping into the 
depths of her eyes. 

" Not a crime Your Excellency? " 

"You know you are what I might call my honorable spy," 
he replied evasively. "That is what I was in my youth at the 
Court of Napoleon. What I want you to do is this: Urge on 
Alexander's natural inclinations one of which is to give up the 
throne on some pretext or other. He has thought of it often. 
You are merely to urge him toward what at the time happens to 
be the level of his greatest weakness. The spread of revolution 
must be stopped. Foster his dreams. Urge him toward those 
that will be useful to me. Make such use of the gifts with which 
nature and training have provided you as you have never made 
before." 

She was listening intently, but with apprehension again in 
stead of pleasure. 

"To-day, perhaps, Alexander thinks he is Marcus Aurelius. 
To-morrow he is a philosopher. The next day he is a priest of 
the Church of Rome, or a penitent. Is it wonder no one under 
stands him? I doubt," he added, "if any one ever will." 

Her mobile face showed how readily she was grasping his 
meaning. The road began to unfold a little. She recalled a min 
iature she had once seen of this Russian ruler. She had remem 
bered long the peculiar charm of his mouth. 

Again the great statesman became meditative and preoccu 
pied. She had faith in his mental clairvoyance, his winged, far- 
reaching vision. She knew that the senses of Metternich were as 
alert for sounds of future, of popular demonstration, as the senses 
of the savage for game. Prince Metternich could now distinguish 
plainly the stealthy, oncoming feet of uprising masses, not only 
desirous enough, but angry enough, from centuries of deprivation, 
of oppression and now, being united, mighty enough to 
overthrow, to trample under foot the power of kings, the no 
bility, and then the prerogatives of wealth. She understood now 
that this discernment, the firm determination to check it if he 
could while yet there was time, were the motive power behind 
the present plan. She knew, too, that the part he had selected for 



THE PENITENT 

her to play would not be inconsiderable. She was flattered by 
this display of faith in her. And yet it was a good deal to con 
front, that unknown land. He interrupted her meditation. 

"I assure you, Chali, that the terrors of the French Revolu 
tion were not over on the day the guillotine first fell into disuse 
in that laughing city by the Seine. Quite the contrary ! Its power 
was increased. Instead of being centered in Paris, it was multi 
plied. It was scattered over the world, undermining beliefs, old 
standards, former habits of living, just as the persistent sun of 
spring slowly melts the snow-fields. I fear " Here he hesi 
tated. He dreaded to clothe the thought with the brief reality 
of words. 

"I fear it was the beginning of a slow world-dissolution, out 
of which, and after which, centuries later, a new and an entirely 
different civilization will be born. I fear, sometimes, that it was 
the first terrifying announcement of a new cycle of time. They, 
of course, who are not trained thinkers, or sensitive sociological 
observers, who live just from day to day, between the potage 
and the pudding, so to speak, are incapable of foreseeing or 
fearing 

He hesitated again, for some reason she did not know. Then 
his mind reverted to the past. "I had a chance to see it with my 
own eyes the first breaking-up of the old world, the first fierce 
onslaught of the French Revolution the masses turned loose 
upon the aristocracy. I was brought up, as you know, at the 
Rhenish Courts, where my father filled various posts in capacity 
of Minister just as I do now. I was a student in Strassburg 
University when suddenly the city was filled with refugees, 
with the naked, starving nobility of France fleeing from the 
rabble. The public buildings were opened tc shelter them and 
the University halls. We students were turned out to make room 
for them. I saw these pale, terrified people men, women, 
little children clad in ragged silks, velvets, laces, clutching 
frantically their gems, fleeing with feet that were bare, that were 
bleeding; delicately nurtured people who were unused to hard 
ships. It is something I cannot forget. It is something I do not 
wish to see again. I learned then what it meant to stir up the 



METTERNICH aoy 

dormant, unfriendly masses. It is the power of an ocean, un 
leashed in storm." 

Now she had received the significant key to his policy of the 
last few years. She understood things that had puzzled her. In 
the light of this fear all was clear. But Russia how she hated 
the thought! Russia so faraway 

"Do you know, Chali, that pleasure has not existed, for itself, 
I mean, since the Revolution? Joy is dying out of the world. 
The time will come when it will be no more. Something new then 
will light the hearts of men. Upon the pleasure stored up in 
mankind in the old days of leisure and of power, the heart of 
France must live for generations. From this same stored-up 
wealth of pleasure all its art will have to be born, until art can 
no more be made. 

"Every one, of course, knows that there has been nothing that 
can be called Society since the Revolution. There has been noth 
ing since but its pale, its cheapened simulation. Think what it 
meant, my dear! A race of specially trained men and women, 
delicately tempered, witty, brilliant, and some of them noble 
living upon the heights of life, freed from work, freed from forced 
effort, from base emotions such as envy, poverty, greed, and 
busied with cultivation of the things of the mind! Unjust? Un 
fair? But God gives varying talents to men when they are born. 
Is that unfair, too? Then it is God whom we must condemn. 

"Unfairness, probably, enters into the making of things that 
are supremely fine or that other name for unfairness Na 
ture's name, selection. I speak not as a moralist alone. I speak not 
as a political reformer, but as an artist, and as a trained observer. 
Absolute equality can exist only in an imaginary world, my dear! 

"And we have not yet seen its supreme dissolution, this great 
society of the past. Ah! my Chali, I suffer, at the vision of what I 
believe to be coming! All the superiorities of the past, which are 
a part of place, of preferment, will vanish. On the way to the 
making of that future, which no one now can foresee in its en 
tirety, there will be a sort of human hash, a social condition which 
will resemble chaos, when the descendant of kings will marry 
(say) the peasant's son, the ditch-digger's daughter. In this way 



THE PENITENT 

will be brought about the leveling for the successful upbuilding 
of that new world, that vaunted socialistic super-structure, which 
I am glad to say I shall not live long enough to see. But, the 
future belongs to the people" 

While he was speaking, it seemed to Chali that Metternich 
had changed subtly. He had become, upon a sudden, a figure 
great, pitiful, even tragic, bemoaning as he was the slow crum 
bling of that old civilization in which he had been brought up, 
which was the only thing he could love or respect, and not know 
ing how soon the final collapse would come, nor what sort of a 
community would remain after it. She saw at the same time how 
well he himself, in body and mind, represented that old civiliza 
tion of kings, that aristocracy of courtly living whose end he pre 
dicted, in short, the superiority of the few at the expense of the 
many. She began to wonder at this changed world of Europe, so 
different from what it was when she went to Algiers. She herself 
had seen the difference. People were not so happy. Conversation 
and friendship were not things existing now purely per se. Even 
happiness was being commercialized. In the depths of joy, of 
pleasure, there was Fear, wearing a dissembling mask, to be sure, 
but still it was there. Joy was gradually being withdrawn from 
life like the necessary heat of a dead and fading sun. 

He went on in the same even, if slightly saddened, voice. She 
listened with the struggle of conflicting emotions growing stronger 
and stronger within her. 

" I can look with respect upon the king if he was born a king, 
but not upon his serf made king by chance. In addition, the serf 
cannot be equal to it. The lowly born cannot withstand the se 
ductions of power. It will make of him either a fool or a mad 
man. I love marble and iron, but I could not love tin because I 
could not love anything base. 

" In addition, I like a world that is orderly, where all is in place. 
It is autocracy and the church that have best done this. It may 
not represent ultimate good, but it is the best of which mankind 
is capable. The new world will not soon make anything to equal 
the old, in fineness, in delicacy of feeling, in unmixed power of 
faith. Too many cooks spoil the broth, even if it is only cabbage 



METTERNICH 209 

soup. I hate the vision of a world all working for reform, and not 
living, not enjoying. Life was made to live. I hate this meddle 
some setting to rights of other men's lives." 

Emotion, anger like this, she had not seen in the princely Met- 
ternich. 

"In another hundred years or so, however, there will be no 
shackles upon the world, of any kind, not even of wealth. After 
kings, power, place, then the rich man, too, must go. And then, 
it may be, faith and the old religions Intelligence, highly 
forced utility for purely commercial ends, will take the place of 
heart. Philanthropy will become a part of business. It will be 
come one of the new trades. But when the world gets this great, 
this long-dreamed-of freedom, this outspread, dull, level monot 
ony of democracy, of equality, it will not last forever. Nor will 
man wish it to. It will last until it reaches its zenith, its power of 
inner self-unfoldment, ripens, like a fruit, just as Society reached 
its zenith in France before the 'Terror.' Then the pendulum will 
begin to swing back again, toward the old autocratic, toward the 
personally centralized rule. History has recorded many times 
this swing of the political pendulum. Entire civilizations have 
died and been forgotten, which moved between these two different 
extremes. It will swing back again ! I assure you that it will be 
cause, to give only one reason, there is an end to the range of in 
ventiveness in man, although there may not be to the progression 
of forces in nature; and because, in recurrent time, the best will 
dominate. Life will not renounce easily or forever that glorious 
picture which was the past. Perfection can never be reached, but 
merely a temporarily greater or lesser good. And the reality of 
good must continue to exist in men's minds, more than in ex 
terior facts. Good really is largely a reflected vision of something 
the physical eye may not register; an ideal, necessary, but still 
superior to life. That is why the thinkers, that is why the most 
enlightened, the most experienced, should decide for the masses, 
who are not intelligent enough to know what is best for them. 
The more developed the mind, the more unwilling it is to give 
governmental power to the masses." 

And yet as he said this, within his heart there was grief, born 



210 THE PENITENT 

of the realization that nothing can stop the incoming of the tides 
of human evolution. 

"Governments, peoples, races, pass through cycles of exist 
ence just like flowers, just like fruit-trees; bud, flower, fruit, de 
cay. But the life-circle of governments, the life-circle of races is 
so large that one small human lifetime cannot sweep its entirety 
with vision. So the short-sighted individual thinks that each 
change must be final. Man, very likely, is chiefly happy for his 
inability to think. 

"Individuals, foolishly and conceitedly, set out to seek some 
hidden, some mysterious, self-flattering cause for that which is 
merely Nature minding her own business, ripening dutifully the 
fruit of the human tree. It is like hiring a detective to find why a 
ripe apple falls to the ground. There are causes, to be sure, that 
hasten or delay the fall of the apple. But the detective is not 
necessary. 

"It is upon disease, it is upon the manifold wonders of science, 
not upon brief, pitiful human life, and its mad political dreams, 
that man should place his detectives. He should do it in order to 
make man live centuries, instead of a few paltry decades. He 
should do it to banish illness, to banish waste of all kinds, to un 
cover and develop the powers latent in the earth; to chain the 
wind and the tides; to harness the sun; in short, to make the 
powers of nature, not man, work for man. That would make us 
all kings. Then there would be no political question, no economic 
question." 

She saw that the great thinker was now forgetting, in some de 
gree, the grief of the political seeker after power. 

"Ah! the future will be very different! It will not be bravely 
then upon the field of battle, after the manner of heroes of old, 
that wars of races will be fought. The old dramatic, picturesque 
days are dead. It will be basely, in the counting-room, in the 
factory, the diversified fields of commerce; in short, not in mus 
cle, not in wasted blood, but in mind active upon the forces of 
matter." 

Metternich's restless and imaginative brain was rapidly fore 
casting tune and that astounding mechanical civilization of the 
future. 



METTERNICH 211 

"Victory then will be something new, something altogether 
undreamed of; something wholly material, and as soul and no 
bility of spirit count, petty, even base. Victory will be in the 
weave of a piece of cloth, the invention of some sordid economical 
device a washing-machine, an egg-beater, a new construction 
material; not in bravery, not in the skill of armored warriors, nor 
the sweep of cavalry; something petty. I repeat, deadening to 
the spirit, uninspired, but commercially useful. The basis of life 
will change. 

"Most people, of course, would like only freedom, idleness, 
and their own way, which is just what the revolutionists are 
fighting for. Revolutionists are grown-up children who insist 
upon wreaking their will upon the world. There is baseness to be 
trained out of us all when we are young. 

"Do you suppose I would not like it sometimes, too? Do you 
suppose I enjoy toiling like a beast of burden, day in, day out; 
living only for the good of a nation, and seldom, as just now, my 
love, for my own pleasure? Think what leisure would mean to a 
man like me! I am a musician, a trained scientist, a student of 
ancient literatures. As rich as leisure would be for me, I have 
been forced to forego it, because my conscience, because my in 
telligence, tell me how necessary I am to the place I fill. 

"This is not merely personal preference on my part. Both ob 
servation and study have gone to strengthen me in what I be 
lieve; namely, the selective breeding of man, long descent, the 
chain-like going on and on of the aristocratic tradition. After 
the world has sated itself upon revolution, and its impossible 
dream of universal freedom, it must, I feel sure, come back to 
this. In the descendants of great races, great families, there are 
certain excellences, certain dependablenesses, certain points of 
honor, of fineness, certain rich, ripened kindnesses, that are not 
found frequently among the masses. The masses wish only to 
destroy. They wish only to pull down, to satisfy self. They 
know nothing of poise. They know nothing of the grace of peace, 
of the preciousness of preservation. What we are confronting 
now is what in all probability destroyed ancient civilizations, 
whose cycle of ripening had been completed, and whose greatness 



2i2 THE PENITENT 

to us to-day exists only in the flaunted name of some fabulous 
city. In addition, the Continent has been raked with wars. 
What we need now is peace. Peace is what we must have. Eu 
rope places itself in my hands to be saved from the horrors of 
revolution, which means wholesale murder, suffering, poverty, 
destruction. I must be faithful to that trust." 

Prolonged silence fell between them. Each was buried in his 
dream, while outside the purple, velvet night turned to black and 
the stars lengthened cruelly their cold light-arrows. 

Metternich was the first to speak. She awaited the words with 
a sort of fear. " Here is the important point. For this I have sum 
moned you from Algiers." His voice trembled slightly. He did 
not meet her eyes. "When Alexander reaches Taganrog he 
must not go back again to Petersburg." 

"Your Excellency?" 

" Alexander must not go back again!" 

"Your Excellency!" 

"The machinery to prevent it is already at work. Do not 
worry. Neither you nor I are to be blamed. In great politics the 
welfare of the individual is negligible. I told you that there was a 
plot against his life. In case you cannot influence him to abdi 
cate all you will have to do is to keep me informed of the prog 
ress of the plot. But he must not go back! The safety of Europe 
demands it. His weak, wild dreams are sending mankind to ruin. 
The ambassadors of Alexander at all the courts of Europe are 
disseminating his dangerous thoughts. Everywhere his states 
men are proclaiming his sympathies with liberalism. I have 
worked against these romantic notions of his as long as I can. 
The next move must be decisive. What, in addition, makes the 
matter more critical just at present is that Canning is England's 
Minister for Foreign Affairs. Canning is trying to array Russia 
against me. He is trying to isolate me in this corner of Europe, 
with only little, powerless, unpopular Prussia as my ally. If 
Alexander abdicates or dies either one of his brothers, Con- 
stantine or Nicholas, will join me and combat Canning. I am 
forced to bring into play every possible power to checkmate 
England. I am forced to do it, to save Europe. England's policy 



METTERNICH 213 

has always been a selfish one, saving herself at the expense of 
others. 

"Canning is brilliant I grant you! But it is a misfortune 
that he is in power now. He hates me perhaps envies me. And 
he fears me, too. He is brilliant but he cannot be trusted. 
His nature is full of caprices. I do not know of a harder person 
to follow unless you throw reason away. You can no more trust 
the Irish than you can trust the gypsy. There is something 
within the two races that can neither be reckoned with nor relied 
upon. Even England has never fully trusted him." 

Again to Chali he seemed pitiful, because it was evident that 
bravely, with his brain, and all alone, he was trying to stem the 
tide of a changing world a world in transition, which his pro 
phetic, powerful brain could vision clearly. Fresh passion of de 
votion for his ideals began to inspire her. He had always had the 
power to sway her with his aristocratic presence, his charm, and 
his eloquent tongue. 

"A selfish dullness, to state facts as they are, is the secret of 
England's success, and the ability to make the world believe that 
she is something which she is not. England's cliffs are chalk, my 
darling, but they resist the waves as if they were granite. There 
you have England, dear!" 

Again she was forced to admire the subtle diplomatist who 
knew so well how to combine seriousness with frivolity. His pro 
fession had no more skillful mouthpiece than this last representa 
tive of the old order. 

"I must dominate Russia! That alone can save the present, 
and guarantee the future. Alexander must not go back. There 
is a saying to the effect that no one can trust an Asiatic. But 
that must be proved to me." He smiled down upon her signifi 
cantly. 

"A truce to politics!" getting up and drawing her up by 
her two hands from the fauteuil. "Let us change politics to love. 
Before we retire we must go out upon the portico, to look at the 
face of the night bending over the lake. 

" When you first came to me, dear one, you were only a little 
girl in your teens. But you brought me the silence, the peace, 



214 THE PENITENT 

of those rich, painted mosques of your East. Now you come to 
me from Africa with the scents of the desert upon you." 

Then Prince Metternich, preoccupied as he frequently was 
with what posterity would say of him, declared: 

"Sometime here guides will point out to tourists the chateau 
where Metternich loved Chali the Persian, just as to-morrow 
they will point out to you and me, over there on the south shore, 
the villa where Catullus, the Roman exquisite, lived and loved. 
In history, beautiful Garda will belong to you and me as much as 
to him." 

His happiness and his high spirits were returning. This villa- 
bordered lake, which the Roman poet had worshiped, formed a 
fitting setting for that atmosphere of love, of luxury, in which 
statesmen of the old regime, like Prince Metternich, who pos 
sessed great range of personal tastes, carried forward their 
political plans. 

His words had had their old effect. They had attuned her to 
harmony with himself. He put his arms gently about her. For a 
few minutes they enjoyed in silence the sweet late night together 
by the water. Then he turned her toward the great stairway, 
shining, eloquent and white and lonely, under the flickering 
candles. 

"Together we will dream to-night, my Chali, that the world is 
as it used to be, not in unrest, in revolution. We will dream to 
night, you and I, that we are still enjoying the proud security of 
imperial calm, that the splendor of the past, of time, still unfolds 
for us alone. We will forget the vulgarity, the danger, of those 
wild and rampant masses that cry for blood." 

By the porticos of the chateau as the night wore on the plumed 
and purple peacocks sometimes became restless, ruffled their 
wings, or lifted their airy crests as if desirous to measure time or 
sense the day. A yellow luxurious moon rose over the lake, poised 
in the serene sky above the white roof ; and the love of Metternich 
caressed her with a subtle delicacy devoid alike of too much pas 
sion or insistence. 



CHAPTER XIV 
CRIMEA AND THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 

WHEN Alexis Sergiewitch awoke the next morning he was ashamed 
of the trick he had played upon Count Woronzow. It was more 
than shabby, look at it as he would. It was contemptible. This 
self-confession made his delinquences fall upon him like a be 
sieging army. It was just as shabby not to have remembered his 
friends in Petersburg with letters, Schukowsky in particular, 
whose wise counsel had shielded him, and who had worked to 
help him get away safely. And his own family at home! He had 
not written to his mother, his old nurse, Arina Rodionovna, nor 
his sister Olga. It was as if they had ceased to exist. He had 
thrown wisdom and common sense to the winds since he came to 
Bessarabia, where he had lived in a wild delirium. He had ex 
pended his energy in orgies. He had been a madman. In this 
momentary, clear, hard grasping of reality, this coming to, so to 
speak, he could not look upon himself favorably. 

It was bad, very bad, the affair with Countess Woronzow. But 
if he had not been caught making love to her, some other man 
would have been caught doing it. And then he was not really in 
earnest. That made it some better, he thought. Old Woronzow, 
too, could not be expected to understand that making love nowa 
days was merely a pastime, not a tragedy. He was behind the 
times, of course. All young men did it when they could not think 
of anything else to do, just as they dueled, danced. It had the 
same importance. It was one of youth's catalogued amusements. 
It was a combination of duty and necessity, which belonged to 
young manhood. Besides, if you are alone, at midnight, with a 
pretty woman like Countess Woronzow, and the champagne is 
both plentiful and good, what else is there to do? Then he smiled 
whimsically at the thought that it was old man Woronzow him 
self whom in his heart he loved, and not the pretty young wife at 
all. When life was so strange, so upside down as that, how could 
any one blame him greatly? 



216 THE PENITENT 

Count Woronzow's morning meditations were no clearer, nor 
more easily disentangled than those of Alexis Sergiewitch. His 
gayly frivolous wife did not make an appearance before midday. 
He ate breakfast alone, and had abundance of time in which to 
think. 

Odessa was ringing with the scornful epigrams, the naughty, 
unprintable jingles, the undignified escapades of Alexis Sergie 
witch. When any one longed for revenge upon an enemy, he made 
up a rhyme about him and tacked to it the name of young Alexis 
Sergiewitch. He had become a walking reference-book in which 
evil intentions of various kinds were inscribed. In addition, the 
example of insubordination he had been setting for the other 
youthful office employes was bad. It could not safely be put up 
with. He must send him away. The best thing he could do, he 
concluded, would be to follow his courier of the night before with 
another this morning, telling Alexander that he was going to send 
Alexis Sergiewitch farther south for a while, and for two reasons. 
One was to get him out of the country and away from Odessa; 
and the other to enable him to regain his health. There was no 
doubt about his looking ill. These years of unrestrained dissipa 
tion of various kinds, in the South of Russia, had made inroads 
upon his constitution. Any one could see that. He was too pale, 
too thin. This time he should have a guardian, since, evidently, 
recalling swiftly the dramatic interrupted scene of the night be 
fore, he was incapable of taking care of himself. That would be 
good for young Pushkin, and it would bring back peace to himself. 

But who should the guardian be? Not a pleasant position, 
surely, for any one. He thought solemnly for a while. He went 
carefully over his list of friends, of acquaintances. Ah he had 
itl His old friend, General Raevsky, who was right here in Odessa 
at this moment, and whom he had had the mishap to overlook. 
General Raevsky was not only a friend of long standing, but a 
person after his own heart, upon whom he could rely. He had 
been through the Napoleonic wars with Count Woronzow. He 
was one of the heroes of 1812. He had commanded, nobly, at 
Borodino, under Kutusov. It should be General Raevsky! He 
felt happier and relieved. He had hit upon the right expedient. 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 217 

The two should set out from Odessa for the Crimea, for the 
Caucasus, taking their time for the trip. The latter, he would 
make emphatic. He hoped they would remain away long. This 
not only relieved his mind now, but for a considerable period for 
the future. And until he was well out of the city, no matter how 
long that might be, he would see that he was strictly guarded. 

At length Alexis Sergiewitch and General Raevsky sailed from 
Odessa. That morning, as it happened, the broad, hospitable 
Gulf, which can shelter the ships of all nations, was calm, and 
serenely azure. To look out upon it was like a promise of happi 
ness. Alexis Sergiewitch felt this. He rejoiced. There was some 
thing about contact with beauty that usually restored him to his 
normal condition of being. He was glad to be going away. It 
was not so bad, after all, this traveling at an Emperor's expense. 

Odessa from the sea, as they sailed away that soft morning of 
spring, shone white and splendid, crowning the bold cliff upon 
which it is situated. And General Raevsky, contrary to his 
youthful companion's expectation, proved to be a sympathetic, 
even an agreeable acquaintance, despite his exterior, which belied 
such judgment. He was a short, fat, dark man, with the air of 
command, common to officers of experience. He had a short chin, 
a mouth that shut together somewhat sternly, and large dark 
eyes that bulged a little. He wore short "burnsides." They 
made two black, straight marks in the middle of his cheeks; and 
when he walked he leaned back, as if he were strutting, and his 
round, fat belly stuck out. He treated Alexis Sergiewitch like 
a friend. It was just as if they were two boys setting out on a 
pleasure excursion. He did not in any way refer to the past, nor 
the reason of their going, nor offer the vain but impolite hope 
that Alexis Sergiewitch would behave better in the future. He 
merely smoked comfortably day after day, or read a new novel 
called "Hans of Iceland," by a young Frenchman by the name of 
Hugo, watched the blue, sunny water, and left Alexis Sergiewitch 
to himself. He had been reprimanded, scolded, until he was 
confused and weary. He appreciated the treatment of General 
Raevsky. And the trip they were starting on was beginning to 
be so delightful. There was plenty to occupy his mind and eyes. 



ai8 THE PENITENT 

Leaning upon the railing and looking down upon the second- 
class deck below him, Alexis Sergiewitch saw a varied crowd; tall, 
black-capped Persians, gay-coated, laughing Georgians, hand 
some Circassians, eloquent-eyed Syrians, and peoples he could 
not readily classify, all turning homeward after transacting busi 
ness in the popular world-port they had left, where free trade pre 
vailed. On this deck they smoked, quarreled, gossiped, made 
tea, ate, dressed, and slept, and he could not look enough at the 
kaleidoscopic picture. 

It was truly delightful, the sailing leisurely southward on this 
warm sunny sea in spring. He was conscious of a luxurious, satis 
fying sensation that day after day helped to prolong. It was al 
most as if his heart's wish of escaping from Russia by a Turkish 
ship and joining Byron were being realized, and he was really on 
his way to that land of white-columned marble and black cypress- 
trees. Perhaps something really would happen, he thought 
hopefully, allured by the sunny vistas that spread about him, to 
make the wish come true. 

The water was changing color daily as they swung south. It 
was growing brighter. It was growing richer-hued, and the dis 
tances more deeply blue. 

At Eupatoria, which was the first place where they were sched 
uled to stop, he observed with interest his first mosque. The 
Orient had come to meet him. It was holding out a welcoming 
hand. Here f ezzes and turbans came on board in greater numbers. 
He regretted he could not land. He watched the city disappear in 
a merry, rollicking wind, which set all its little windmills whirling, 
and made him clutch sharply at his cap. 

South from Eupatoria began the radiant coast which Countess 
Woronzow had talked about, which princes have made their 
playground, poets sing of, and where the new-rich, after the 
Great War, had been erecting fairy palaces. 

At Sebastopol, where the halt of the sailing vessel was length 
ened to land cargo, which was intact and uninjured by cannon 
fire now, since this was more than a quarter of a century before 
the Crimean War, the indulgent General Raevsky decided they 
would land, leave their baggage at an hotel, and take a trip in- 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 219 

land. They agreed to take a look, at least, at famous Bakshi 
Serai. 

Alexis Sergiewitch could not look enough at the round, blue 
circle of the Gulf, under that tremendous wall of rock that domi 
nates it, and the bristling fortifications which bore the name of 
Sebastopol. He remembered that Catherine the Great gave it the 
name when she came here once with Prince Potemkin. General 
Raevsky, who was just as interested in everything to be seen as 
Alexis Sergiewitch, and who had all the enthusiasm of a boy in 
the subject of traveling, pointed out upon a cliff what he believed 
to be the entrance to the Kozarsky Gardens, and then he named 
the forts. The water by the side of the vessel was swarming with 
little boats which had come out to meet them, and the landing- 
place there was all gayety, excitement, and noise. 

General Raevsky, after depositing their traveling-bags safely 
in a French hostelry near the wharf, hired two saddle horses and 
a red-capped Tartar guide, and they turned their eager faces 
inland. 

A journey of some length lay before them. They agreed to 
take it leisurely. It seemed to Alexis Sergiewitch that he had never 
been so happy in his life. There was no one to nag him. There 
was no one to try to reform him. There was no one to insist 
upon his doing anything he did not wish to do. He was looking 
out upon a new, strange, interesting world. Here about him in 
Crimea, in early spring, he had found, for the first time, a sort 
of delirium of light that corresponded to some old unuttered 
longing within him. It seemed to beat upon him in great waves 
of brightness, great waves of joy. 

Sometimes they trotted along under walnut-trees of pro 
digious size. Then they rode softly through gracious groves of 
white mulberry-trees, where the grass was thick and yielding 
and the young blossoms floated down like feathers. It was an 
attractive land to look upon. It charmed his eyes. 

In little valleys, hidden away among the wooded hills, he saw 
the pale, sulphur-yellow moons of the evening primrose. He 
smelled the wet fragrance of the white lily-of- the- valley. On 
the levels, along the highway, the poplars and the white birches 



220 THE PENITENT 

gave off fragrance, and everywhere the plum-trees were in 
flower. Under his feet were wild tulips, both yellow and red. 
The little farmhouses they passed were set in friendly gardens, 
where hollyhocks were glad to grow. Wherever they stopped for 
food, they drank freely of the fine white wines of the country. 
He was so happy he even forgot those lightly spoken words of 
Countess Woronzow: " Photius has demanded your death of Alex 
ander" Death seemed far away in this radiant land of spring. 

Suddenly, then, like penance after pleasure, the farms, the 
gracious field-lands ended. The light lessened. They rode 
briskly into a deep, narrow valley of black, fantastic rocks which 
towered gloomily above them, like a dream out of the "Purga- 
torio." After picking their way carefully over this rocky road, 
which was difficult and little more than a path in places, they 
came out upon a level desert space. Nothing grew upon this vast 
pale plain. Its unmarked surface was melancholy, disconcerting. 
The hoofs of their horses echoed hollowly upon it as if it were a 
crust concealing a cavern. It took them more than two hours to 
cross it. Then General Raevsky galloped up excitedly and seized 
the arm of Alexis Sergiewitch, who with loose-hanging bridle 
was riding a few paces ahead, lost in thought. 

"Stop your horse, boy! Look!" 

In the distance he could see a bouquet of white, slender mina 
rets, glistening above the plain. 

"Bakshi Serai!" repeated the old man, with emotion in his 
voice. "That means a palace made of gardens, my boy." 

Bakshi Serai is one of the places of earth whose approach keeps 
a peculiar delight because it is so unexpected. 

When they entered the little city which bears this name so 
freighted with the magic, the tragedy of the past, they found that 
it occupied another long, narrow valley similar to the one through 
which they had just traveled, in which there was a winding river 
called the River of the Fetid Water. It was frowned down upon 
by a top-heavy, crumbling mountain, which looked to Alexis 
Sergiewitch as if at any moment it would fall over and crush them. 

It seemed to Alexis Sergiewitch, as they started to ride through 
a poplar-bordered street to a Russian inn, because General 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 221 

Raevsky insisted upon Russian food, that the sky overhead was 
bristling with lacework muezzin towers, and that he had entered 
fairy-land. 

" It was not so long ago, my boy, that the Tartar Khans them 
selves ruled here ! " declared the old man. " They were not driven 
out until 1783. Not so long ago, you see!" 

They were standing at the moment in the famous palace of 
Girei of the many loves, which Prince Potemkin, the uncle of 
Countess Woronzow, had had restored. They were in that noble 
court of the old Crimean Kings, with its slender, glistening col 
umns, with its spaciousness, its elegance. 

"It is a veritable palace of the Arabian Nights!" exclaimed 
Alexis Sergiewitch excitedly, looking about at that lovely com 
mingling of stone and Moorish inlay, where line follows line in 
bewildering tracery. Upon the walls about him he beheld for the 
first time that divine interlacing of design, the loveliest the hand 
of man has made, the arabesque. Just then General Raevsky 
was reading aloud the inscription upon the fountain that 
charmingly worded boast of desert people who have so loved the 
decorative richness of water: "In Damascus, in Bagdad, you can 
see many things, but you cannot see such a beautiful fountain" 

"This is the farthest north," went on the General, "that the 
faith of Islam has penetrated. And even here it could not last." 

"It was made for the South, it seems to me," replied young 
Pushkin abstractedly. 

"That is right. That is right for the South," agreed the old 
man. 

Together they wandered happily through those solemn and at 
the same time voluptuous gardens, which Islam alone has known 
how to make wherever its faith has predominated. They felt 
upon their hearts its peculiar gift, peace, as if the pressure of 
time had suddenly become less heavy. They felt its non-inquisi 
tive contentment with the present. In their ears there was the 
lulling murmur of doves and the tinkle of water. And in the 
atmosphere about them the blossoming scent of the orange and 
the olive. 

"This architecture," the old General insisted, "was made by 



222 THE PENITENT 

the only race in the world who knew how to lift idleness to the 
plane of art. The world has lost something, my boy, by not 
being able to produce it to-day," he added regretfully. "Some 
thing rich has gone out of life, something that had the gift of 
making man happy." 

He watched the graceful, youthful body of Alexis Sergiewitch 
moving nimbly about in the sunlight, between the shining col 
umns, or under eloquent Moorish arches; and he did not wonder 
that women had found him so likable and did not make effort to 
resist him, and then he wondered why he had not seen anything 
of that evil, insubordinate temper of which Count Woronzow had 
warned him. But General Raevsky was a Russian. Count Wo 
ronzow was more of an Englishman, and he worked sincerely to 
make Russia like that England which kept no surprises, which he 
had known in his boyhood. With General Raevsky, Alexis Ser 
giewitch was courtesy and amiability itself. There was nothing 
to complain of. 

Alexis Sergiewitch, in return, found the old gentleman as in 
defatigable a sight-seer as he was. He, too, despite his fat, shak 
ing belly and toothpick legs, could appreciate beauty and no 
bility of line. In truth their tastes were not dissimilar. 

They explored the Khan's palace, the vast, flower-bordered 
gardens that surrounded it, and then the mosques of the city, 
whose number was considerable. The old man told him their 
history, their romance. Afterward, they turned their attention 
to the little shops along the winding street, which are rather 
bazaars than shops, and where articles of red morocco are found, 
fine daggers, weapons, objects of iron and silver. Alexis Sergie 
witch saw that here began that marvelous mastery of metal 
which reaches its final perfection farther East, in Mecca, in 
Damascus. 

When evening came, however, the old man succumbed to the 
pleasures of the table. Food and wine were his seductions. He 
could not resist them. This made him disinclined for exercise 
and long for an easy-chair. He spent the evening in his room, 
resting, writing letters to his family or assembling notes of his 
journey. In the evening Alexis Sergiewitch was left alone. 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 223 

He, in truth, was not averse to this. For some days he had been 
trying to get at the bottom of what seemed to him an interesting 
mystery. Near their hostelry was a palace of Tartar days which 
had a mysterious tenant. The tenant was a woman about whom 
he was not able to find out anything, however he tried. This 
increased his eagerness. Her servants had been quizzed. They 
would not tell who she was. Nor would they say what her busi 
ness was nor where she was going. Hotel employes told him how 
long she had been there. She must be a person of importance, 
they declared, otherwise she could not be temporarily installed 
in this building, which was for tourists to see, and not for hire. 

The room of Alexis Sergiewitch in the Russian hostelry was on 
the side nearest the Unknown. He could see her occasionally, in 
the garden, in the day. But most important of all, at night he 
could hear her playing upon a violin. Sometimes he caught 
glimpses of her in an upper chamber, between the pillars, under 
the dim light of a swinging lamp of Turkish glass. Her face, 
however, he could not see distinctly however much he tried, but 
he felt that she must be young. 

The music held him spellbound. It poured madness into him. 
It was strange. It was sense-disturbing. It was the music of 
Africa. There was something about it hypnotic, compelling. It 
was as if his flesh remembered in some fabulous long ago. It was 
music as old as the pyramids, and their monstrous architecture, 
and like them it was monstrous, too. It evoked the soul of some 
thing prodigious, something perished, yet alluring, of which noth 
ing tangible remained to-day, and which the mind must be able 
to re-create within its lonely chambers if it wishes to see. This 
music brought to him the old imperious longings which the di 
verting incidents of travel had temporarily put to sleep : for light, 
warmth, pleasure, the seductive sweetness of women, and the 
gratification of emotion. 

The last night of his stay in Bakshi Serai came. The traveling 
bags had been packed, the hotel tariff paid, the red-capped Tartar 
guide informed of the hour of departure, and General Raevsky 
gone early to bed. The violin called. He could resist no longer. 
He started to follow it. 



224 THE PENITENT 

Where the shrubs, the trees, made a temporary shelter of 
darkness, he climbed one of the slender pillars. He entered softly 
the room of the swinging lamp of Turkish glass, where long rows 
of open, curving-topped windows gave upon the night. 

Chali was in the room. She was standing opposite him. It 
was just as he thought, she was young. But she did not look as he 
expected her to. She was of some other race. She belonged in 
this architectural setting because she was a woman of the East. 
To-night, as it happened, she was dressed like the women of 
Algiers where she had lived and some of whose habits she kept. 
She wore loose, overlapping gauzes, leaving the arms bare. The 
gauzes were held together in points upon the top of her shoulders; 
emerald green under sad violet under lemon yellow, splashed 
with magenta dots. 

She was not afraid. She did not cry out. She stood and looked 
at him with eyes in which there was neither anger nor fear. He 
had no thought that such a woman would be his vis-a-vis. 

She, on her part, who knew so well African races, saw before 
her a slender, yellow negro, although he was dressed as a man of 
the upper class. His hands, she observed, were pink on the inside 
like the hands of any negro. At the same time he was a figure of 
distinction, even if he did not possess what is strictly known as 
beauty. They both spoke the same world-tongue, French. 

"I am not a robber, Madam," bowing, smiling gracefully. 

She looked at the slender figure as if the explanation were super 
fluous. 

"Your music called you. What could I do?" 

Her face was grave. 

"I was forced to break in here by homesickness, the lure of 
you." 

She understood. She did not appear surprised. 

"I have been listening all these nights. Do you blame me: 
To-morrow I go away. I shall never return to Bakshi Serai. I 
shall never see you again. Surely you will forgive me and play 
for me, once. Be good enough to let me have that to remember! " 

As if it were the most natural thing in the world, this request 
from an unknown visitor who had climbed into her window, she 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 225 

picked up her violin. While she tested the strings, he was speak 
ing. 

"A momentary weariness of living, a boredom that amounts 
almost to illness a longing for something, I do not know what, 
impels me to do things for which there can be no explanation 
and for which, usually, I am punished." 

An Arab love-song sobbed upon the air. 

" Where did you first hear that? Tell me!" he implored ex 
citedly, as it ended. 

A far memory came sadly back to Chali which she could not 
utter. She had heard it first upon the wild, red soil of Africa, the 
ecstasy of black palm-plumes above her, under a voluptuous 
tropic night. And the man who sang? Again in memory she saw 
him, too. How was it possible to forget? Strange to say, he 
resembled the man who was standing before her now. Such 
a resemblance could not be without kinship of some kind. In 
this unknown, too, there were the ardors of the black races. 

To-night she was slightly homesick, lonesome like Alexis 
Sergiewitch. She was regretting the South which she did not 
wish to leave. She did not relish this formidable Russian jour 
ney ahead of her, with its hinted, tragic culmination. She wished 
there were some way to get out of it. She had had enough of 
danger. She wished she could turn around and go back. " Most 
people," she reflected, "who fall into the clutches of Metternich 
become his prey." In the presence of this Unknown she recalled 
vividly her life in Algiers. He was the color of the lions of the 
desert there tawny and pallid. 

"Once more, play for me!" he begged, emotion audible in his 
voice. He had no desire now to run away and join either Byron 
or Shelley. This caprice had gone to join his other caprices. 
There were lives besides theirs. Was not there his own? There 
were many other lands, too Africa I What distant magic in 
the world! As he listened to her violin, he became increasingly 
conscious that no present would ever be sufficient for him to live 
in, however rich. With his brain, with his longing heart, he would 
live in all lands, in all ages. Sumptuously, as the fiddle bow 
swept on, he projected himself outside the limiting bonds of 



THE PENITENT 

time, in the potential splendor of dreams. He did not know, 
luckily, or he could not have been so happy in the present, that 
in his undeveloped, crude Russia, there was no one who could 
appreciate such an accomplished sensualist. He did not know 
that he must suffer the peculiar, the sad exile of isolation caused 
by envy. The tragedy had not touched him. He was still young, 
still brave. 

How evocative was her presence ! It enlarged the boundaries of 
vision, of comprehension. Vast landscapes swung before his 
brain, unknown countries which he had not seen and perhaps 
could never see. Again the longing became imperative to get out 
of Russia, to be free. To be free somewhere upon the face of 
the earth ! To lead the life that was impelled by his own genius. 

Centered upon her he felt the distilled magic of ancient civi 
lizations. Fascinating cities of Islam flashed their fervor upon 
him, and in the brain of him who dreamed so prodigiously under 
the spell of music there was something akin to the dream, some 
thing of opulent Asia. Her presence made him live intensely. 

"Let us go to the old Khan's garden," he begged when the 
(fiddle bow fell. "Make my last night in Bakshi Serai something 
always to remember or regret," he added upon a sudden with 
wistful premonition. 

"Will you not tell me who you are now?" he pleaded, his 
breath softly caressing her neck, as they entered the lonely space 
of flowers, and felt about them in the warm night an expanding 
of the soul of youth. 

She shook her head gently. 

"Why not?" 

"Perhaps I cannot. Perhaps I may not " 

" Countess Woronzow told me in Odessa of a beautiful Oriental 
who is the spy of Metternich. I believe that is who you are." 

At the name of Metternich, he thought her face changed 
slightly, but he could not be sure in this uncertain light. To her it 
occurred upon the moment that Metternich was old and blase. 
He had loved too many women. The man beside her was nearer 
her own age. He was young, impressionable, full of fire. 

"Hear my reasons!" he continued. "You are not frightened, 



THE GARDEN OF A KHAN 227 

you did not call your servants when I entered, as another woman 
would have done. That presupposes training. You are traveling 
alone, I do not know where but under powerful protection, 
else you could not be in the Tartar palace. You are concealing 
your identity, the destination of your journey. The reason is 
political, I believe, not personal." 

"I am merely making a pilgrimage, as you see, to one of the 
shrines of my race," she explained indifferently. "I am not a 
European, you know!" 

"You have been in Algiers, where Metternich has been busy 
watching the ambitious plans of other nations, France in par 
ticular." 

" You see, I do not ask your name," was the gentle reminder. 

" No, because you are playing fair. I suppose we must remain 
mysteries to each other." 

"I know that you are Russian, young, and that we can meet 
amicably in the Land of Music," she answered with gentle eva 
sion. 

The perishing, columned palace, which had been so lovely in 
some romantic long ago, threw its charm about them. 

"What a night!" whispered young Pushk'n as they seated 
themselves upon a bench of stone where a young Crimean Khan 
had once loved and dreamed, just as he was doing now. 

"You should know the nights of Algiers! " was the quick reply. 
" And the flowers ! In cafes at night there, the people are literally 
drunk with the breath of roses, the breath of jasmines. And" 
in a whisper, as if the words were not meant for him "almost 
always at night on the edge of the desert, there is love." 

They were silent, both feeling the urge of youth and emotion, 
while around them spread that disconcerting mingling of volup 
tuousness and solemnity which characterizes the gardens of Islam. 

The hour was late. White valley mists were drifting in. They 
were drowning the moon. There was something of the fabulous 
glamour of Asia here now. There was something that had be 
longed to the nights of the Grand Moguls, to the nights of that 
furious lover, Akbar the Great. They, too, had built gardens like 
this, gardens suitable for artists in their youth, warriors, lovers, 



228 THE PENITENT 

the supreme delights of earth. As if divining his thoughts, the 
woman beside him asked: 

"Did you know that the greatest monuments to love have 
been built by men of my faith? " 

He looked at her wonderingly and shook his head. "But I am 
willing to believe anything after this" 

"Then believe me, and ask no questions." 

" Why not tell me who you are? " his voice trembling now. 

Again gently she shook her head. 

"It is impossible." 

"Then if I must give you up forever after to-night, and 
never know your name love me now! I cannot go away never 
to see you again know where you are " 

Beautiful and calm she sat beside him giving expression to the 
words of fatalism of her faith. 

" If it is written that we shall meet again," she replied, touched 
by his communicative youth, his evident sincerity, and pain, 
"we shall meet. Be sure of that! If it is not written names 
would not help it either yours or mine." 

She lifted one hand, either in protest or farewell, he could not 
tell which. He did not know what impulse was swaying him most. 
Above them a nightingale burst into song, a lone, belated one 
evidently, that had neglected to migrate at the same time with 
the others, northward to the steppes of Russia. The old, impas 
sioned song was ringing in his ears again, the same song of pas 
sion, of delight, that had echoed above the love of him and Sari 
that lost summer, down on the Ackermann Steppe, toward Is 
mail. 

Chali had risen. She had moved a few steps away, where she 
stood graceful, aloof. 

"Tell me that sometime you will be in Petersburg!" he 
pleaded. "Tell me I shall see you again! Do not let me go 
without hope!" 

The mists were floating, blurring, between. She was becoming 
indistinct. 

"In the language of my country," she replied softly, and he 
fancied a little tenderly, " the words garden and Paradise are one. 
That means promise, does it not?" 



CHAPTER XV 
A DINNER-PARTY BY THE GULF OF FINLAND 

AFTER the deb&cle of the carefully arranged plan of Marie An- 
tonova, which resulted from sending the saddle horses away to 
the meadow, sullen, impenetrable silence settled upon her, in 
which it was as difficult to find a companionable, conversational 
pathway as it is for a skilled mariner to steer upon the sea in 
winter, under impenetrable fog. If Alexander and Sophie amused 
themselves alone together, it seemed to their delicate intuition a 
deliberate neglect of her. Then they were ashamed. And if they 
attempted to draw her into any pleasant plans with them, to 
have her join in a drive, a boating trip, she sulkily refused, and 
they remained at home. She managed not only to spoil her own 
happiness, but theirs. The house, the gardens, seemed to vibrate 
with her displeasure. Even the disciplined servants seemed 
tainted with it. Without saying a word she knew how to make 
life unbearable for every one. Not at any time had it come to her 
to consider the pleasure of others. The word duty did not occur 
in her limited, personal vocabulary. 

At length she complained to Alexander that this narrow, con 
fined way of living was injuring her nerves, and she could not put 
up with it. It was making her ill. She really feared that she was 
becoming melancholy. She felt that she ought, for her own good, 
to return to Petersburg. He could remain here with Sophie, if he 
wished and as long as he wished. He replied with some firm 
ness that it was out of the question. 

The end of the discussion was that he consented to a party. 
They spent two comparatively peaceful days following, while 
she made out the list of guests. When the list was submitted to 
Alexander, he drew his pencil through the names of a number of 
her woman acquaintances and that of the Polish actor Lasky. 

At this Marie Antonova wept. She retired to her room with 
another headache. For one day thereafter she was invisible. 



THE PENITENT 

Then the argument was taken up anew. He explained to her 
gravely that guests invited to a country house signified a closer, 
a more intimate acquaintanceship, than those asked to huge 
public affairs in a city home. Here now, since his presence made 
it the royal summer residence, it became matter of state; she 
could invite, therefore, only the old nobility and intimate friends 
of long standing, among whom, of course, Count Schuvalow was 
numbered. And it would be good, as she suggested at once, to 
ask him to stay on for a few days after the dinner. Many of the 
invited list were summering like them on near-by estates. Sophie 
knew that the slight clearing-up after this of the domestic weather 
and the occasional rifts of feeble sunshine were due to the fact 
that Count Schuvalow was to come for a visit. Alexander, be it 
said, had no such knowledge. Easily placable always, he began 
to feel sorry that he had kept her here so long against her will. 

The only important note of discord after this was just before 
the guests arrived, the early evening of the party, when Marie 
Antonova appeared in a dress which displeased Alexander. It 
lacked dignity, refinement, he told her. In it she resembled not 
the aristocratic chatelaine of a great mansion, but some wander 
ing gypsy dancer. A skirt, too short, of white silk ruffles to the 
waist, each rufHe edged with black, and a very low bodice made 
entirely of jet. She carried a red feather fan. Upon her head was 
a crown of red roses. Alexander continued to look at the costume 
with displeased eyes. She stubbornly refused to change it. 
Sophie wore white, a simulated little girl's dress, and around her 
head, his last birthday gift, a filet of enameled forget-me-nots 
upon which tiny, diamond dewdrops trembled. A long scarf of 
heavy Spanish lace covered her shoulders to conceal her aston 
ishing thinness. 

When Count Schuvalow bent over her hand in greeting, then 
tenderly lifted it to his lips, it was evident that he was shocked at 
something he saw in her face, in her eyes. He looked again, 
quickly, sharply, as if to make sure. She had changed greatly 
in these weeks of summer he had not seen her. He paused by her 
side for a little before looking in the direction of Marie Antonova, 
or even greeting her, whose eyes rested upon him with a curiously 



A DINNER-PARTY 231 

complex expression. When he left to speak to her mother, it was 
somewhat reluctantly, and there was a touch of mingled rever 
ence or regret in his attitude. Gladly she saw him move on, be 
cause her more companionable friends, Prince Odojewsky, young 
Baratinsky, and young Mouravieff-Apostol, were just behind. 
Her slightly veiled voice was clearer and happier when she ad 
dressed them. He heard it. He knew at once how little he meant 
to her. Young Baratinsky bent hastily and whispered in her ear. 
There was a look in his eyes which only his heart could light. He 
wished to remain by her side. The others had to pull him away. 
Schuvalow noticed how Baratinsky's voice grew tender when he 
addressed her. She had much in common with both Odojewsky 
and Baratinsky, and nothing at all with him. 

Then the clear, beautiful eyes of Alexander rested upon young 
Schuvalow for a moment, and his kind voice spoke inconsequen 
tial words of courtesy. He felt the impatient, lustful greed of 
Marie Antonova surge up against him like a buffeting wave. He 
could not think of anything that just suited him to say to her. 
He merely sensed that her smooth shoulders, under the jet, were 
very white, and the little clustering curls on her neck were soft 
and silken. He left her quickly. He avoided her eyes. 

The gray, scornful, penetrating eyes of Prince Viazemsky were 
almost tender when he bent his head to touch his lips to the little 
feverish hand of Sophie Narischkin. Plainly he saw death in her 
face. He wondered that Alexander and Marie Antonova did not 
see it too. 

Prince Viazemsky did not remain long with Alexander, because 
he knew the Emperor did not like him. In Marie Antonova he 
found a satisfactory target for his sharp tongue, and a shield al 
ways quick in defense, from much practice, to ward off the bitter 
arrows of his wit. He could not wound her and she did not care 
what he said. Women like Marie Antonova were a pleasant relief 
to Prince Viazemsky. He could have carte blanche with them. He 
could say whatever he wished. He knew perfectly well for whose 
eyes she was dressed to-night. And she probably knew that he 
knew and she did not care. 

Count Orlow was serene, handsome, and Sophie Narischkin 



THE PENITENT 

was not displeased to meet him. He kept her two little childish 
hands in his for a few moments, with the freedom of a privileged 
acquaintance. He looked down upon her with a grave, impersonal 
tenderness. He told her he was glad not to find any shadows to 
night upon the face of his little friend. She was very charming to 
look at, very appealing, and she pleased his aristocratic taste. 
Only women of race could appeal to the princely Orlow. 

He lingered somewhat with Alexander, who was unfeignedly 
glad to talk with him. Alexander at once promised himself a 
longer conversation with Count Orlow after dinner had been 
served, and the guests were dispersed at their own good pleasure 
throughout the gardens. 

Count Orlow found zest and amusement in delaying by the 
side of Marie Antonova, and dissecting, with his trained eyes, her 
present emotions. This was really the chief source of pleasure 
for him in society, the laying bare and then analyzing the im 
pulses of women. She was restless, he knew. She was eager for 
dinner to be over. She was eager for the guests she was receiving 
to be scattered throughout the spacious gardens, which would 
mean temporary freedom for her. She was longing for the arms 
of Schuvalow. She had spent miserable weeks of starved solitude 
here, he felt, and the mere sight of the old Petersburg crowd glad 
dened her with memories of the past. She was especially gracious 
to him. Yet he knew that while she talked with him her mind 
was elsewhere and she wished he would hasten away. And on 
her part, she was vaguely wondering, too, why the good-looking, 
blond Orlow had never paid court to her. She was not fine- 
fibered enough to sense his peculiar psychological penetration. 
She did not appreciate his loyalty to Alexander. And she did not 
know that the Orlow men were famous judges of both women 
and horses. 

In the polished but somewhat ponderous manner of old court 
days, Count Cyril Razumowsky and Count Bobrinsky were pay 
ing their respects to Sophie Narischkin. Count Bobrinsky 's pon- 
derousness was somewhat increased by his years, and now one 
could see plainly the peculiar, unlovely elongation from below the 
end of his nose to the end of his chin, which he had inherited from 



A DINNER-PARTY 233 

his mother, Catherine the Great, in high relief just at this mo 
ment as he was bending his head to pass on. He was of the same 
blood as Alexander and they met in a friendly, intimate manner. 
Then his empty compliments, light as star-dust, brushed Marie 
Antonova, whom he despised, as he bowed quickly and moved on. 

The tender sentimental heart of old, faded Count Razumow- 
sky was touched at the appearance of the Emperor's daughter. 
The mere sight of her made tears come to his eyes, just as singing 
did some tunes, or a wild sunset over the lonely fields of his 
Ukraine, or the unexpected finding of a pressed rose in a yellowed 
love-letter. The romanticism of the South was in his heart. 
She could have touched to-night a heart much less susceptible 
than that of this faded, sentimental beau of long ago. Alexander 
was sincerely glad to see him. Such men were the reliable sup 
port of his realm. He wished they were all like old Razumowsky, 
who looked as if he had never been young. 

The other less intimate friends went onward quickly, and tar 
ried only an instant over the hand of "la belle Narischkin" as 
Marie Antonova was popularly called. 

At dinner Count Schuvalow found himself by his frail little 
fiancee with her crown of unfadable forget-me-nots, and he de 
termined to talk with her, to get better acquainted with her if he 
could. But his plan was upset by the fact that Prince Odojewsky 
was on the other side of her, and she paid no attention to him. 
All he saw of her was the disappearing sparkle of the little cold 
gem-dots that circled her brow, as she turned her face toward the 
young Prince, with whom she had entered happily upon some 
engaging topic. Young Baratinsky was longing to be beside 
her, too, and that consoled him a little. But the eyes of Marie 
Antonova were looking too often in his direction. He understood 
her without speech. He wondered futilely then if the ignoring of 
himself by Sophie was accidental, or if she knew something that 
had impelled her to do it. Baratinsky loved her. Could he have 
told her? He could not read her. He was not so used to women 
of her type. It was like trying to understand the heart of a 
lily. But Baratinsky could have understood her, he felt with 
quick regret. 



234 THE PENITENT 

Count Alexis Orlow was in his element. He was sitting beside 
Marie Antonova. He was telling her how the country had worked 
wonders for the beauty of her complexion. He declared that it 
was so necessary for both her and her daughter that he was going 
to suggest to Alexander that he keep them here until snow came. 
Then he pretended to be greatly surprised at her displeasure, 
and at her eagerness to return to Petersburg. Every once in a 
while Prince Viazemsky, who sat within hearing distance, joy 
ously added a word to help on Count Orlow for the discomfort of 
Marie Antonova. 

She asked for news of the city. He replied that there was not 
any, in their set, but that Lasky the actor was having an attack of 
midsummer madness, he had heard, for a ballet dancer. Try as 
he would, he could not recall the dancer's name. And neither 
could Viazemsky. But Viazemsky hastened to add that mid 
summer madness was, in his opinion, a dangerous disease. By 
these refractions, so to speak, of her temperament, he was de 
lightedly measuring the condition of her amour. He believed 
with Viazemsky that nature had expended a good deal more upon 
the exterior than upon the interior of la belle Narischkin. 

She was heartily glad when the meal was over and the guests 
gathered in companionable, self-chosen groups, preparatory to 
going out to view the famous flowering gardens of the Emperor 
under the pale, Arctic night. 

Alexander had disappeared as if by magic. Her daughter, 
Prince Odojewsky, young Baratinsky, and young Mouravieff- 
Apostol were glad to be together again, and they were merrily 
wending their way toward the nearest door. She waited until 
Count Orlow and Prince Viazemsky had excused themselves, 
and were well out of sight. Then she went hastily after a black 
lace shawl and stood with it over her arm for a few moments, in 
a little hall adjoining the dining-room on one side. Presently 
Count Schuvalow saw her, but he did not approach. He under 
stood at once that the shawl was to cover the whiteness of her 
arms and her skirt in the depths of some sheltering arbor, and 
that he was expected to watch where she went and then follow 
discreetly at a distance. 



A DINNER-PARTY 235 

Alexander, as it happened, had gone with Count Bobrinsky to 
show that talkative old gentleman the growth of a pink crepe- 
myrtle which the Count had given him two years before. The 
rest of the large dinner crowd were now surging toward all the 
exits, and the dining-table, under the tall candles, had the long, 
white, startling emptiness of a coffin. 

After Count Bobrinsky and Alexander had inspected the 
shrub's growth, and had considered one or two confidential mat 
ters together, old Count Cyril Razumowsky joined them, and 
Alexander left to speak a word here and there to less known 
guests. Then it occurred to him that now he had the time for 
that pleasant, deferred conversation with Count Orlow to which 
he had been looking forward throughout the slow serving of the 
long dinner. He started in search of him. He walked about in 
various directions without being able to find either him or Prince 
Viazemsky, being detained from time to time by people who saw 
an opportunity to address the Emperor. 

At length he paused by the little rise of ground whereon the 
scented cedars grew, in order from this slight elevation to mark 
better the places where he had not looked. He heard voices. 
On the other side of the tall shrubs was a seat he could not see. 
The first words he heard made him pause. It was Viazemsky's 
penetrating, slightly nasal voice that was speaking. 

"You know, Orlow, you belong to the intimate family circle 
of the Emperor. Therefore it is your duty to tell him." 

"I know I know " was the troubled response. "I've 
thought that way sometimes too " 

"No Orlow has been faithless to his Emperor. They have al 
ways protected them." 

"That's true! That's true. But you see it would hurt him sc 
love is necessary to Alexander It would destroy all hi? 
happiness." 

"But think what will the result be if you do not! It 
is bad enough now." 

"I could not bear the grief hi his face, Viazemsky. Honestly, 
I could not!" 

" God in Heaven, man, see what she has done! She has taken 



236 THE PENITENT 

Schuvalow, the man her own daughter is to marry for a lover. 
For weeks he has been, night after night, occupying Alexander's 
own apartment in the Narischkin Palace. How can you hesitate 
in the face of a thing like that? " 

"But, you see, I love him, Viazemsky! I could not be the one 
to do it." 

"And not only Schuvalow but Lasky! Every one in Peter 
knows that she goes to that low-down fellow's rooms where 
women of the street go, too. You know Lasky's reputation, do 
you not?" 

" I know I know " more sadly. 

"Think of the other men before these, too There were " 
Here his voice was so low that the listener, slightly deaf, did not 
catch the names. But the list was long. 

"I talked it over with Bobrinsky once I tried to get him 
to tell him. But he does not see things the way you and I do to 
day. He belongs to an earlier century, you know. And he could 
not bear to grieve Alexander any more than I could " 

"Right now, Orlow, she is with Schuvalow in the honey 
suckle arbor down in the southeast corner of the gardens. 
She does not put the slightest discernment into her actions. 
And all these people strolling through the grounds to-night, 
who " 

Here the tall, listening figure moved quickly away and sought 
the honeysuckle arbor, which Viazemsky had just mentioned. 
His soft evening shoes made not a sound upon the dew-weighted 
grasses. His height enabled him to look down upon them easily. 
The arms of Schuvalow enfolded Marie Antonova. Their atti 
tude showed they were just preparing to leave the arbor. He 
waited to hear no more. 

He went directly to his sleeping apartments. He directed one 
valet to order a carriage, with the fastest horses, at once, and to 
take it outside the grounds to a place on the highway, protected 
from sight by the hedge. The other valet was ordered to pack his 
clothes and to start immediately for Peter in another carriage. 
He picked up a long black cape and prepared to descend the 
stairs again. Outside, in the upper hall, he met Marie Antonova, 



A DINNER-PARTY 237 

who was breathlessly trying to return the black shawl to her 
room. He went up to her at once. 

"Marie I have just heard of your relations with Count 
Schuvalow, and Lasky and from sources that leave no doubt. 
I learn that in the spring, when you requested me to sleep at the 
palace, Count Schuvalow was occupying my apartments. I 
have just seen your rendezvous with him in the honeysuckle 
arbor." 

She was so surprised, and so breathless with haste, that she 
could not speak. 

"This is the last time that you and I converse together. Keep 
everything from Sophie! I shall see her as usual.'* 

Still she could not regain her breath or her self-control. When 
she lifted her eyes to his face she involuntarily shrank back. 
Scorn curved his lips. As dull as she was, she realized that this 
was not the type of man to do bodily injury. He was too far above 
her. But there was something about his face that was terrifying. 
It was as if it were frozen. It was a white mask of ice. For one 
sickening instant she had a glimpse of the abysmal depths that 
are in the human soul. And then he was gone. 

As he went through the tall, curving hedge that formed the 
front entrance to the estate, he paused to look back. Sophie had 
just arisen from the rustic settee beside the yellow roses. She 
started toward him, when something in his face, something in his 
attitude, arrested her. She tried to speak. She tried to call his 
name. Her voice refused to obey. 

He never forgot, in the after time, how pitiful she had looked, 
how helpless. The weird polar midnight, its unearthly pallor, 
which keeps a light that is neither day's nor night's, wrapped her 
about with an added unreality. The little sparkles of cold light 
about her brow were like the dim, lost stars of far, other worlds. 
She resembled a sprite of the snow. She resembled the fabled 
spirits of lovely women who belong neither to life nor death, 
and who are said to float above the falls of the Dnieper, in spring. 
He sensed rather than saw the deep love in her eyes. She tried 
to lift her arms. She tried to hold them out toward him. But his 
tall, athletic figure seemed unstable. It seemed to crumple. 



THE PENITENT 

Something terrified her and she could not speak. In a few minutes 
she started to follow him. When she reached the gate, he was 
swinging into the carriage which sped away. 

Baratinsky, who had been looking for her, and had just suc 
ceeded in getting rid of Odojewsky and Mouravieff-Apostol, 
came up at this moment. She was white and trembling. Impul 
sively he put his arms about her to support her. 

" What is it, little one? Tell me!" 

She shook her head in a grieved, dazed manner. 

"Darling darling, tell me!" 

She broke away from his detaining arms and disappeared. 
His face expressed a grief as great as her own. " If you knew how 
I love you!" he called after her. 

Marie Antonova was like a drug addict, who in any painful 
climax of life has recourse at once to the drug that brings forget- 
fulness, that stills. Marie Antonova was a passion addict. She 
gave orders for Alexander's apartments to be prepared, that 
night, for Count Schuvalow, and then, calmer, she descended to 
her guests. 

Sophie Narischkin, obeying a sudden but imperative impulse, 
told the lackey to find Count Schuvalow as soon as he could and 
tell him she wished to speak to him alone. She would await 
him by the bed of yellow roses in front of the house. 

He wondered a little at this summons from his frail fiamee who 
had ignored him so pointedly at dinner and throughout the 
evening. He was considerably worried as to just what could be 
the cause of it. Her face, however, reassured him. It expressed 
no anger, no storm of emotion. She declared that she had never 
asked a favor of him and now she was going to begin by asking 
the first one. She hoped that he would grant it, and keep it 
secret from every one even her mother. Relieved on his guilty 
conscience to find that trouble was not brewing, he promised 
readily enough, feeling, perhaps, he could pay a little of the sad 
debt that had made him feel ashamed of himself to-night. 

"I wish you to order your carriage at once, and return to Peter. 
And I do not wish my mother, nor any one else, to know that 
you are going. You can leave your good-bye for my mother with 



A DINNER-PARTY 239 

me. " She spoke rapidly, with queer little pauses, as if to catch 
her breath. 

"But why is this?" 

"Nothing but a caprice" trying to laugh. "Nothing in the 
least important. You can trust me, can you not?" 

Count Schuvalow was not, in truth, unwilling to go. He did 
not relish greatly days of intimacy under the roof of the Emperor, 
when that august person was present, with the indiscreet, emo 
tional Marie Antonova. The unrestrained, reckless mood that 
he had found her in to-night in the honeysuckle arbor made him 
wish for an excuse to get away. It was risking too much to stay. 
In addition he was glad of an opportunity to please his rather 
difficult, childish fiancee, who so seldom addressed him. He 
promised good-humoredly. He left at once. 

Late that night, when the guests were gone and Marie An 
tonova and her daughter were alone together, the former 
said: 

"Where is Count Schuvalow?" 

"He has returned to Peter." 

"Wkatl" 

"Just as I said." 

"Why did he go? " in a tone that indicated rising emotion. 

"I asked him to." 

"Why?" 

"I do not know, exactly. It was an impulse." 

"You . . . you . . . you/" getting up and advancing to 
ward her daughter. 

Marie Antonova went to extremes both in love and hate. So 
phie Narischkin, exhausted by the late hour, the long dinner, the 
receiving, and the dramatic wordless interview with her father, 
sat weak and trembling, looking helplessly at the figure of fury 
that was advancing toward her. 

" What do you not owe to me, you ungrateful girl? Why have 
you lived a soft life, and had flowers and diamonds flung at you? 
Why have people crawled on their knees to kiss your hands when 
they would not speak to me? Do you know? Because of a sin of 
mine! That is why. That is what made you the daughter of an 



240 THE PENITENT 

Emperor, instead of the daughter of that poor old fool, Dmitri 
Lvovitch, who sits in a corner and lets his face twitch." 

The English governess and nurse for whom she had rung, 
feeling, suddenly, peculiarly weary, appeared now in the door at 
one end of the long drawing-room. The tense scene struck their 
senses. It prevented for the moment their entrance. 

"All that makes you superfine and petted, I bought I 
with the sale of my body I with the sale of my soul! Now 
you think you are better than I, because you have not been 
forced to do such things. Now you think you can sit and judge 
me, reform me make me different you little waxen idiot 
you . . . you . . . you . . . " Relapsing easily into the shocking 
speech of a woman of the street, such speech as her daughter had 
never heard before, Marie Antonova began to shriek in disap 
pointed rage. She was like a wild animal whose prey has been 
forcibly snatched from its hungry jaws. 

"Alexander has gone gone, I say and he will never come 
back You will never see him again. Now you go too. Do 
you hear me? You go too! Go, go I have no money to sup 
port you! For you my house has been turned into a combination 
hospital for years a sort of high-class nursery to spoil 
my pleasures Do you suppose I am going to spend my money 
on you when I have n't enough for myself? Get out! Go and 
earn it the way I did! " 

The head of Sophie Narischkin fell forward in a dull, heavy 
way. A gurgling sound came from her throat. Two thin streams 
of red began to trickle slowly from her lips, across the white front 
of her gown and the scarf of Spanish lace. Marie Antonova, the 
wreath of red roses on her head wilted now and falling rakishly 
over one ear, rage, disappointment, and despair in her face, 
looked like a disgraceful, drunken, lascivious maenad on the 
Greek mountains, in some wild pre-Christian orgy. 

"You English-faced bull-dog, you!" she screamed, noticing 
for the first time the governess standing by the door. " Come in 
here and take her away ! " 

The English governess, joined by the nurse, carried Sophie 
Narischkin to her room, where they disrobed her gently and put 



A DINNER-PARTY 241 

her upon the bed. Her head bumped against them dully, as if it 
were made of wood. 

As they climbed the long stairs slowly with their burden, the 
hysterical shrieks of Marie Antonova, who had now lost all self- 
control, rang in their ears. 

In the morning Sophie Narischkin was dead. 



CHAPTER XVI 
CAUCASIA 

THEY set sail from Sebastopol, upon a sea as smooth and gracious 
as the one that had speeded them from Odessa. If General Raev- 
sky knew anything of the romantic night which Alexis Sergie- 
witch had spent in the garden of the ruined palace of Bakshi 
Serai, he kept the information to himself. 

He had a chart of the radiant coast they were rounding so 
rapidly, and his mind was intent upon it. The high rock cliffs of 
Sebastopol threw long black shadows after them upon the water 
as they swung away. Its proud forts were intact now, and un 
injured by cannon fire. 

At Balaclava, where the vessel was made fast again to dis 
charge and take on cargo, the old man was enchanted with the 
almost landlocked harbor and the green hills sloping down to it 
in such a friendly manner. The famous " Valley of Death, " which 
later during the Crimean War was to be world-renowned for 
English bravery and the " Charge of the Light Brigade," was now 
merely a peaceful expanse of red and yellow poppies. 

They had reached that delightfully curving bit of land which is 
the shore of the south, and which is dotted with semi-regal es 
tates, where white villas shine among the orange groves, and the 
old man was marking his chart busily. "Alupka is as lovely as 
anything on the Cote d'Azur," he scribbled excitedly. And then 
he wrote right after it: "lalta is a Russian Monaco, as far as 
the setting of nature goes; but the houses are very ugly. It is 
too bad the lovely architecture of Spain, or France, could not 
have been duplicated here." 

For all that, lalta was pleasure-giving. It was unlike the 
North. They feasted their eyes upon it. 

After lalta came Oursuf . Here Count Woronzow was building 
the mansion for the gay Countess, which he planned to make one 
of the sights of Russia, and upon which he had expended a for 
tune. 



CAUCASIA 243 

Near Alupka, Count Woronzow had another palace, General 
Raevsky remembered to note down in his diary at that instant. 

Alexis Sergiewitch was just as busy in his way as the old Gen 
eral. He was writing, too. He was collecting together in his mind, 
and then arranging, his impressions of Bakshi Serai, and the 
gardens with the fountain. To the billowing of warm winds of 
spring in the sails and the inspiring song of blue water beneath 
him, he was writing happily and fluently. 

To the east, after Oursuf, the billowing Black Sea, unmarked 
of land, spread clean before them. And it was in this direction 
they turned. Old General Raevsky was all excitement, enthu 
siasm. No one liked traveling better than he. They were headed 
directly for a new land, an Oriental land Caucasia; and this 
gave him pleasure. To him at this period, as to every one in 
Russia, the word spelled danger, romance, adventure. The 
hand of Russia was beginning to rest heavily again upon the 
Caucasus. Travel here was none too safe. It was a place much 
talked of. What lay before them was a Promised Land, therefore, 
to them both. 

They set foot to shore at Novorossiisk. It was a tiny group of 
wood and dirt houses in Pushkin's day, set in a wild amphitheater 
of dark, somber hills. The impression it made upon Alexis Ser 
giewitch was of a place sad, barren, far away, and lonely; although 
the spicy scent of wooded heights tingled his nostrils. 

Here in the Caucasus Alexis Sergiewitch found that God had 
heard his prayer, to get away. He was, to all intents and pur 
poses, out of Russia. A world of different language, different 
customs, different religions, spread around him. Nothing re 
membered or seen before was here. 

The slightly depressing effect which the mud-plastered houses 
which bore the name of Novorossiisk had made upon Alexis 
Sergiewitch when they landed, after the bright, blue, enveloping 
light of the sea, was not altogether dissipated the next morning. 
He was disheartened, dull. Their journey, however, was not de 
layed. They started inland. They turned toward the southeast 
accompanied by a guard of Russian soldiers. The Caucasus was 
disturbed at present. Eagland, they knew, was trying to stir up 



244 THE PENITENT 

the tribes all along the Persian border. Not long before, the Per 
sians had even invaded Tiflis. Alexander was driving the Cir 
cassians of the coast out of their old quarters. He was driving 
them toward the Kuban, farther southeast. And that fierce 
Mohammedan leader, Schamyl, was making an effort to unite 
all the tribes, in order to have revenge by driving out the Rus 
sians. He planned to establish a kingdom here whose govern 
ment was to be centralized in Daghestan. Schamyl was power 
ful. He was a leader of ability. Therefore their guard was not 
amiss. Danger might lurk at any turn. 

The road led up. Soon it was so narrow they were forced to go 
single file. Broader and broader the land unrolled beneath them. 
Alexis Sergiewitch saw a luxuriant world of spring and tropic 
summer, with great vistas of veiled or snowy mountains shut 
ting in the horizon. Above him were pine, fir, and hemlock, 
higher than his eyes could reach; beside him, blossoming anem 
ones, violets, lilies; and in the valleys below a tropical wonder 
land, a world of blossoms, azaleas, white rhododendrons, pink 
thistles, Bengal roses, almond-trees, the white English thorn, 
and the blue fringed gentian. Black forests above him; and be 
yond the cruel," electric, blue flash of the sea. His indifference left 
him, face to face with wild Caucasia. 

He began to join in the interest, the emotion of General Raev- 
sky, whose fat belly made him look ridiculous, climbing these 
steep ascents upon a little mountain horse which all but disap 
peared beneath his overhanging belly. At the first level large 
enough to hold them comfortably, he called a halt. 

"Alexis Sergiewitch," he began to discourse solemnly, "do you 
realize that from the height here you are looking down upon two 
continents? Here is Europe. There is Asia. This is one of the 
roofs of the world, my boy." 

Each day they journeyed on now, the more remote became 
the wilderness, the more astonishing the circle of uplifted moun 
tains. In their ears was the sea-like sound of wind coming across 
primeval forests, or the song of hidden water, or the velvet, fur 
tive tread of wild life in the underbrush. The harmony of nature 
began to dominate them. How puerile were social dissensions, 






CAUCASIA 245 

restrictions! How vain the jealousies, the petty differences of 
opinion, that made men unhappy, and blasted their lives, when 
confronted with this tremendous nature! The spirit of Alexis 
Sergiewitch began to soar, just as he was now watching an eagle 
soar, above a dizzy Caucasian summit. He could see the old 
hemming world of his weaknesses, his boyish wrongdoing, out 
spread inconsequentially, like a map he had thrown away. He 
had risen above the past. He was serene, happy. With each 
day's traveling his spirit was becoming more unfettered, free. 

How mighty was the power that had made the mountains 
bubble up and down like boiling tea-water when the samovar 
was made ready! What inconceivable force tossed up these 
heights, the greatest in Europe, and then cut out the round, blue 
seas and set them down carefully between them! They were 
round as the botibliki which the faithful eat at Eastertide. His 
spirit was filled with reverence. It was as if he were approaching 
the throne of God. The unusual range of his nature enabled him 
to progress from disenchantment to ecstasy. His health returned. 
General Raevsky saw this. He understood that it was the effect 
of beauty upon the sensitive nature of an artist. But he made no 
remark. And not once had he referred to the past. 

Around the camp-fire at night they were too tired to talk after 
the day's ride. They smoked in silence, listened to the tethered 
horses chewing their food or moving their feet, or watched the 
yellow flame gradually lessen its light-dance on the leaves above 
them. Alexis Sergiewitch loved the nights. They had a cold, 
pure lustration at these heights. As he watched the steady stars,, 
which were brighter and nearer than down on the Russian Steppe, 
he wondered sometimes if the lovely unknown Oriental of the 
gardens of Bakshi Serai were perhaps journeying toward the east 
now, Persia, Turkey, and looking up to-night at these same stars 
and thinking of him. The thought held no bitterness, although 
he longed to see her again. 

As they approached the traveled Pass, the natural bridge over 
the mountains which connects Asia with Europe, they met other 
travelers. Alexis Sergiewitch was astonished at the beauty, the 
grace, of these mountain people; tall, muscular, flashing-eyed 



246 THE PENITENT 

Georgians whose waists were so slender two hands could span 
them. They were marvelous horsemen. He had never seen any 
to equal them. Around camping-places they pirouetted on horse 
back on the edge of abysses. They were fearless. They were 
friends with every variety of danger. They leaped ravines, where 
a false step meant death. They shot, exactly in the center, silver 
coins tossed into the air. An interpreter enabled him to talk with 
them. He was surprised to find their speech embroidered with 
poetry. It was like the delicate, intricate pattern upon a Persian 
shawl. They were intelligent, witty, subtle. 

The Circassians were just as handsome, too. The men wore 
long coats, richly galooned with gold braid, high caps set rak- 
ishly upon their heads, and gay silken shawls swathed about 
their flexible waists, where damascened daggers glittered. The 
women were even more attractive. But he looked upon them in 
differently, calmly, with the appraising eye of an artist. He was 
amazed at the variety of people he met. It seemed to him that 
in no other extent of territory equally small could so many dif 
ferent races be found. And there was one beauty common to all 
these races their eyes. He knew now what the old saying 
meant, "The eyes of Asia" 

There are two highways that lend a seeming of order to the 
tumbled, twisted, indeterminate mountain-world of the Cau 
casus: the old Caspian Road, of a time so remote it may not be 
dated; and the great Georgian Military Road; but neither was 
the fine, comparatively smooth highway of travel and commerce 
of a later day. The Georgian Military Road, as it is known now, 
was really built in 1861. Both at this date resembled mere rough 
pathways more suitable for the feet of mountain goats than well- 
kept world-highways. The Caspian Road led to Kisliar, to the 
east, on the shore of the Caspian Sea, and after a while down to 
Baku where oil had recently been found. The Georgian Road led 
along the Terek, over the dizzy Gorge of Dariel, past Kasbek and 
Elbrusz, and then connected at Jekkaterinogradskaja, with all 
the great highways leading to the cities of Russia. The latter, 
the more traveled of the two and the more important to Russia, 
which is the one they took, is probably the most astonishing 



CAUCASIA 247 

scenic road in the world. It leads over abysses which the eye 
cannot fathom, over mountains where the snow never melts, 
through tropical, flower-filled valleys. 

When Elbrusz, the highest mountain in Europe, swung to 
view, with its satellite peaks, marking grandly great voids of 
space, it was midday. General Raevsky was almost beside him 
self with excitement. He declared they must pitch camp here 
and spend the night. "My boy" his -voice was trembling 
"have you thought that you are now standing where perhaps was 
the beginning of the human race? There, to the southeast, not so 
far away although from here we cannot see it is Ararat, 
where the Ark rested after the Flood. An ancient land, this, my 
boy! And the people who live here will tell you that it was upon 
Elbrusz, yonder, that the Dove, returning to the Ark, paused to 
rest. The birthplace of man it may be is here." 

Alexis Sergiewitch looked up reverently at the aged cone, white 
with snow that could never melt, and he felt suddenly that he 
was looking out upon a landscape, not only as ancient, but as 
chaotic as any landscape of the moon. It looked as worlds must 
look when they are born, flung forth, and first begin to be bur 
nished by the brawling winds of space. 

A few days later Kasbek was before them. This, the guide 
explained, was known to the people as "Christ's Mountain," 
just why no one could tell. But to the mountain tribes, it was 
sacred. The great Georgian Highway leading from Europe to 
Asia, along which they were traveling, passed by here. The day 
was clear. They saw plainly its magnificent deep, blue glaciers 
shining like an oblong, furrowed gem of aquamarine. From the 
top of the Pass, Alexis Sergiewitch saw in all directions, far away, 
the mighty, billowing, veiled phantoms of mountains, nameless, 
ageless; a sight at once grandiose and terrible. 

"It was upon Kasbek," General Raevsky informed him 
briskly, "that the Greeks fabled Prometheus to have beea 
chained, after he stole the fire from Heaven. So here East meets 
West. The old world of Asia meets the unromantic, newly scien 
tific, upbuilding Europe." 

The descent into the valley of the Terek on the other side of 



248 THE PENITENT 

the Pass was not great. It was only about fifteen hundred feet, 
to be exact, but it was steep, slippery, dangerous. Here, for a 
space, the hillsides were bare, treeless, and stony, which made 
the descent more impressive. 

On the other side of the Pass, however, villages were more fre 
quent. At night, when they camped here, looking out upon the 
wild mountain summits of Daghestan, there echoed for the first 
time in the ears of Alexis Sergiewitch the solemn evening prayer 
of Islam. They were getting ready for war, a sacred war against 
the infidel. Some of the men were wearing chain-armor exactly 
like that worn by the Crusaders, only there was no scarlet cross 
upon it. And the smiths were busy forging it now in many little 
dark forges hidden away among the hills, and daggers of beauty, 
upon whose hilts, or blades, was written: "Be slow to anger, but 
prompt to vengeance." 

Amid these mountains of Daghestan, which are wild and mag 
nificent, Alexis Sergiewitch became like a little child, in wonder, 
in admiration. Here he met, too, a greater variety of people, and 
their attire was more varied, more richly hued. He saw women 
in wide, white pantaloons, over which were bright, swinging 
tunics of silk. He saw men smoking fragrant, Persian tobacco 
in long-stemmed, Circassian pipes. Even shepherds painted their 
sheep with daring splashes of orange, of yellow. There was a 
charm in the air. There was a charm in the sky. When he first 
opened his eyes in the morning, something so splendid, so in 
spiriting seemed to envelop both body and brain that it re 
minded him of primordial day. There was something about life 
here that must have been as it was in scriptural times, free from 
fictitiousness, with a certain rich heart-sincerity. General Raev- 
sky noticed this. He agreed with him. And in the morning, too, 
the same, fanatical, impassioned cry of the faith of Islam, which 
he had heard the evening before, spread slowly like the wings of a 
gigantic eagle above the pointed mountains. And in his sensitive, 
poet's heart he trembled at sound of that fierce, all-conquering 
cry of the spirit. 

Alexis Sergiewitch found that the little Moslem villages were 
made for a different life than he had known; more of meditation, 



CAUCASIA 249 

more of silence. The people did not talk, talk, like the Russians, 
whose tongues are never still. 

General Raevsky, who was somewhat of a glutton, which did 
not interfere with the kindness of his heart, praised the food. 
They were served with roast bear's feet washed down with wines; 
partridges; smoked tongues of elan; milk-fed pig; jerked beef; 
marmalade with vinegar sauce; ragout of young lamb made with 
vinegar; speckled trout served with a rich sauce made of sour 
cream mixed with nuts; and a rich fragrant brandy called Kisli- 
arxa. He ate, slept, smoked, said his prayers, declaimed elo 
quently for instruction of his young charge, looked about him, 
and was happy. He was taking heed, too, of the parting ad 
monition of Count Woronzow: "Take all the time you want! 
Do not hurry." 

They camped by the Gorge of Dariel, that gorge so deep that 
it is night in its depths for some time after the sun has risen. 
When he climbed to any of the heights, if the day were clear, he 
liked to fancy that a narrow blue strip of enamel, which he could 
see far away between the gaunt, gashed mountains, was the Cas 
pian Sea. Here General Raevsky caught up with his diary, while 
Alexis Sergiewitch wrote poetry. Here he wrote not only lyrics, 
but he began to sketch out a more extended piece of story-telling 
in verse, descriptive likewise of this journey, which he decided to 
name "The Prisoner of the Caucasus," a name, no doubt, sug 
gested by another book, "Prisoners of the Caucasus," written in 
French by Joseph de Maistre, whom he remembered had painted 
the portrait of his graceful, Creole mother, and which now hung 
in the old town home in Moscow. Among such favorable sur 
roundings, solitude, the snowy summits of lonely mountains, the 
voice of the great river which shook the night, the somber song 
of ancient forests, and the friendly, generous-spirited man with 
whom he was traveling, it was finished speedily. 

From Piatigorsk, where the hot sulphur springs and the mod 
ern hotels are, he sent the manuscript on to Petersburg. With it 
he sent a letter to his long-neglected friend, Schukowsky, telling 
briefly of his experiences in the South and how he had learned to 
know two English poets, Byron and Shelley. The latter, he ex- 






250 THE PENITENT 

plained, was a free-thinker. After reading him he did not know 
but that he had become one, too. About the Caucasus he would 
say nothing, because the verse he was sending on to be printed 
would tell the story. 

The journey of General Raevsky and himself up to now had 
been in the same general direction in which the Circassian people 
were being driven by Russia, south and east. Now it was changed. 

From Piatigorsk they began to turn slightly north and west. 
Winter could not be spent in the semi-shelterless, wild Caucasia, 
where snows were heavy and frequent. Autumn was bearing 
down upon them. They had both felt it sensitively and without 
wishing to mention it. For both there was a measure of grief in 
the fact. 

One morning after they passed Novogeorgevsk, where the 
sunny air about them was like liquid amber, they found they 
stood upon the last height of the somber Caucasian range. Gen 
eral Raevsky pointed sadly to vague blue levels below them and 
to northward. Here huge circling coils shone, which the old man 
told him a little sadly were the great rivers of Russia, the Don 
and the Volga. 

1 l There, my boy look there where the mountains fade 
into the plain that is Russia. There our journey, our happy 
companionship ends." The sight saddened Alexis Sergiewitch. 
He wished impetuously that it could be made to last forever. 
*' Cheer up, my boy! We are not there yet." 

Alexis Sergiewitch looked down upon the awkward, fat, emo 
tional figure beside him, and a wave of love, of gratitude for this 
man, who had given him so many months of calm and reasonable 
living, when he had possessed creative power, surged within him. 

"It is a great country, my boy over there our Russia! 
Something to be proud of. A great country, did I say ? Why, it 
covers half the earth. And Russia is going to be proud of you, 
some day I feel it. I know it. Never lose courage my boy I " 



CHAPTER XVII 
ALEXANDER 

WHEN Alexander reached Petersburg, after overhearing the 
frank disclosure of the infidelities of Marie Antonova which had 
taken place between Count Orlow and the scornful Viazemsky, 
and after seeing her in the arms of the handsome Schuvalow in 
the honeysuckle arbor, he sat in his cabinet a night and a day, 
without sleeping, without changing his apparel, or seeming to 
take notice of anything. He gave orders to admit no one. He did 
not glance toward his accumulated papers. He did not open his 
dispatches. He forgot his duties. Food was carried to him. He 
ate only bread and fruit, and little of that. He washed it down 
with water. 

He sat rigid and white, looking straight ahead, as if he were 
made of stone, but seeing nothing. The servants who answered 
his bell hastened to report that there was something "queer" 
about the Emperor, but they did not know how to tell what it 
was. They agreed that he did not appear like himself. They 
whispered cautiously to each other that "he looked as if he had 
lost his mind." 

Like the earthquake, swift, unannounced, which topples over 
tall buildings of masonry and then lays bare the hidden heart 
of the earth, the disclosure had come. It had not only shocked 
him, but it had torn loose and then uprooted the protecting, 
hidden fibers of being. He had loved Marie Antonova tenderly, 
and for a period of years. She was interwoven with the happy, 
care-free days of his young manhood. He had trusted her. More, 
the mere thought that she could be unfaithful to him had not 
occurred to him. He believed she loved him in return just as he 
loved her. All the serene, peaceful, home life, with its ensuing 
happiness, which he had known had been with her. There had 
really been no happy family life, with its little foolish but neces 
sary pleasures, for him to look back upon when he had been a 



252 THE PENITENT 

child and lived with his grandmother at court. Life there had 
been secure, triumphant, splendid, a kind of continual pageant. 
In his own home his father had been a wild-tempered, unrea 
soning madman. There had been trouble, excitement, danger 
there. So this life with Marie Antonova had supplied the need 
of his nature. Its love had given him the heart-warmth, the 
courage to go on, and the necessary human background. She 
was a part of the happy memories of youth. 

And hers was no weak, no accidental stepping from right, to 
be overlooked or forgiven great-heartedly. It had been deliber 
ate. It had been planned throughout the years and not with 
one but with many. There had been no regard to station in 
life, no regard for decency of any kind. She had lived like any 
woman of the street. She was another Orsini. He had lived with 
her, protected her, loved her, through the best years of his life 
and not known it. He had given her the best of himself. He had 
made life for her something delightful, to be envied. She was vile. 
She was contemptible. And he had not suspected it. Her base 
ness shocked him. The knowledge filled him with suffering. It 
shattered his sustaining courage. In baseness she surpassed any 
woman of whom he had heard. It was baseness unprovoked 
of independent choosing. It was something her nature required 
and sought. There was no other view to take of it. 

Just as his daughter had recast the past after she saw Count 
Schuvalow enter her mother's room at night, and had then in 
terpreted things that puzzled her in the truthful light of acquired 
knowledge, Alexander began to do the same. And the scenes 
that occurred to the two were surprisingly similar. He under 
stood now the feigned excuse of riding daily to reduce her flesh; 
the late and later hours at which she had returned from these 
rides, with the glibly plausible but now foolish excuses. How 
could he have believed them at the time? What faith was his! 
He understood various extraordinary, and to him unreasonable, 
attacks of ill temper, of sulkiness, which he had regarded indul 
gently at the moment, as little human inequalities, and then 
made futile efforts to please her, usually by some dazzling gift. 
He remembered feeling how angry she had been that night when 



ALEXANDER 253 

Lasky was playing, and he had entered the box, and how she had 
refused to speak or even to look at him when he took her home in 
the carriage. Sophie had been sad that night. She had looked up 
at him wistfully, sympathetically, with great, tragic eyes. Could 
it be that she had suspected something, and he alone had been 
blind? Could it be possible that she had tried to conceal her 
mother's wrongdoing to save him from suffering! It was then 
that her health changed so suddenly for the worse, he remem 
bered. It was clear enough now. Probably the only thing of in 
terest to Lasky had been the triumph, and the ensuing profes 
sional advertisement for himself, of having taken away the Em 
peror's mistress, Lasky I At the theater that night she and Lasky 
had been playing the real comedy, while amused Petersburg 
looked on and applauded. And he was the one who paid for it! 

There was the day of the Art Exhibit. Very likely every one 
of the intimate palace circle who had been present had had an 
idea as to where she was when they waited for her so long ex 
cept himself. He alone was the dupe. He recalled now how in 
tently Count Orlow and Prince Viazemsky had scrutinized her 
when they stood by the door ready to go to the carriage. They 
had looked her over appraisingly from head to toe. Even Via 
zemsky, whose wit sometimes had such a flexible, such a feline 
cruelty, and whom he disliked, probably pitied him then. And 
she had been cross that day, too. Vernet's eloquent canvas 
"Mazeppa," which he had been looking at just before Marie 
Antonova entered, flashed upon his super-active memory. He, 
Alexander, was another Mazeppa, a royal one, bound helpless 
to destiny whom the wolves of ingratitude, betrayal, envy, 
were following to destroy. 

He understood now why she was determined she would not 
leave the city when summer came. And he had yielded to her, 
let her go on, thereby endangering his daughter's health. The 
city gave her opportunities of freedom, which were denied her, 
alone with him, upon a country estate. 

In what moral filth had he been living all his days, he who had 
longed to be Christ's depositary of power, and to restore peace 
to the nations ! He who had longed to right the wrongs of man 



254 THE PENITENT 

throughout the ages! He had been right on a level with the petty 
butcher's clerk whose wife betrays him for a new pair of red 
morocco shoes. The sickening horror of it! The futile disgust! 
The sad regret! His intimate family life had not been one whit 
superior. He could not think of any man's that had been so vile. 
The life he had lived with her all these years, which had made 
him happy and contented, had been an enormous, constantly 
growing wrong. He had not only deceived himself, but others 
had worked to deceive him, because they believed the undeceiv 
ing would make him suffer. It was more than painful, this waking 
up to find things the opposite of what he thought them. It was 
something huge, impalpable, with which to contemplate dealing. 
It shook the soul of him. 

Sophie his beloved daughter! Did she know? If she did not, 
and if she were not trying to protect him, why had she begged 
him to^send the saddle horses to the meadow? And the time she 
chose to do it was in the morning, while Marie Antonova was 
asleep. They were sent before she came downstairs. That was a 
defensive measure evidently which she had thought out. In 
what a rage Marie Antonova had been when she found they were 
gone! She had remained in her room and sulked an entire day. 
And he had suspected nothing! How could he have been so blind? 

Why had Sophie begged him, too, to keep her mother in the 
country as long as possible? It was not for her own health. It 
was to keep Marie Antonova out of trouble. It was to avoid 
fresh scandal. Why had she whispered to him to go there as 
speedily as possible? She knew. She was trying to protect him. 

And there was the wedding to confront! That was a new hor 
ror. It must be confronted bravely, without loss of time. Marie 
Antonova's liaison with Count Schuvalow was base beyond 
comprehension; even knowing it, it was hard to believe. She had 
fought for the engagement merely to facilitate her relations with 
Schuvalow and place them beyond the range of suspicion. 

It must be stopped. What a scandal there would be, not only 
in Russia, but throughout the Continent, when he called it off! 
How could he explain, with any show of reason, a change so 
great, so sudden? Sophie would not care! It would come as re- 



ALEXANDER 255 

lief to her. He was glad of that. What veiled, bitter caricatures 
the humorous publications of England, of France, would have! 
Those of England would fall heavily, like the blow of a club. 
Those of France would sting deeply and smart for months after 
ward. Both would make him sad. Both would increase the 
range of his suffering. It was an unequaled opportunity for the 
wits. They would not miss it. What a figure he must have cut. 
to those who knew, on the night of the announcement party 
in the great glowing Narischkin Palace when the presents he 
had given his daughter were displayed! What scornful, merry 
remarks must have been whispered! And he had permitted this 
woman to bring up the daughter he adored. He was grieved. He 
was humiliated, beyond the power of retaliatory thought. 

The disclosure had as many shining, different facets of thought 
as the sun finds when it strikes the ocean's surface. These flash 
ing thought-facets blinded, confused, annoyed him. They sent 
their barbed arrows of bitter comprehension to all the vulnerable, 
unprotected places of his nature. With one there was mingled 
surprise, with another fresh shame. With another the forgotten 
but not healed surface of some ancient wound. With his unusual 
knowledge of the human heart, he had not been able to fathom 
hers, it seemed. She had mystified him just as he had mystified 
the world. His ability to read the hearts of men was something 
profound. It was an unusual, an unguessed superiority. It had 
helped to make him suspicious. It had destroyed his faith in hu 
manity. It had shaken his pleasure in friendship, in society. It 
was, perhaps, a gift of genius. Like such gifts it brought with it 
the usual fatal, not to be separated attribute. And the one time 
it had failed him, in the case of Marie Antonova, had been rich 
in destructive results. The happiness of most people, he under 
stood, depends upon their inability to see and to think. Alexan 
der had always been able to think. Now he was facing the un 
sparing light that comes with seeing. 

His yielding, generous nature, in the slow course of years, had 
made a monster out of her; a monster of selfishness and vanity; 
of sinful folly. He saw how much more dangerous to the social 
structure is a spoiled woman than a spoiled child. He saw how 






256 THE PENITENT 

much more widespread is the wrong dealt out. He supposed no 
bility must call forth nobility, just as flame, flame. But in her 
there had been no corresponding fiber of fineness, of gratitude. 
There was nothing there to call out. Humanly speaking, she had 
not progressed that far. His persistent kindness had been merely 
a superb kind of folly, a superior way of wasting. It had. been 
the planting of seeds of love upon the desert. He had builded 
his dwelling upon the sands where it is not permitted to build. 
Therefore, the tides had come and had washed it away. Life, as 
he had lived it, had been a masterpiece of wrong seeing, of false 
thinking. He was humiliated. 

Visualizing memory now showed him a different Marie An- 
tonova physically. He looked at her with the same discriminating, 
disillusioned eyes with which his daughter had looked across 
the dinner table at her that fatal night when she had watched 
Count Schuvalow come from her mother's room in the dawn. 
She was bold. She was vulgar and commonplace of mind. 
She looked like a courtesan not a woman of birth, of refine 
ment. Hard, abusive names, which not for anything would he 
have uttered, unused as he was to such words, floated of their 
own will across the surface of his mind. He was surprised to see 
how they fitted her. And he who had been summoned of God to 
rule the earth's greatest empire had been tricked by this second- 
rate woman. The mouse had moved the mountain. 

Among these surging and rebellious memories, the one that 
disgusted him most, and that recurred oftenest, was a certain 
expression her face, her eyes, had kept, the day of the Art Ex 
hibit, when she had hurried unwillingly, he knew, to him, straight 
from the arms of Lasky. 

If he had been baser, he would have suspected her, found her 
out quicker in the past, and he could have found some consola 
tion in the present in dreaming of, or in planning, revenge. But 
revenge was something outside the circumference of that fine, 
that generous life-ideal which was his. He possessed too high a 
degree of intelligence to think of revenge. 

Metternich occurred to him, as he frequently did in times of 
trouble, because of the sustaining sense of strength that states- 



ALEXANDER 257 

man gave him. He thought of Metternich now. He knew, of 
course, because all the world knew, except himself. He had 
warned him of many things why had he not warned him of 
Marie Antonova? Metternich had usually been ready enough 
to increasee his distrust of any friend. It was Metternich who 
stirred up ill-feeling between him and Napoleon. It was he, too, 
who first made him suspicious of Russia's band of young poets 
and who had insisted that they be checked. The Austrian was 
an adroit mischief-maker. He had never before shown any hesi 
tancy in pointing out new boundaries of evil in the heart of man. 
Why had he hesitated here? It must be that the reason he had 
not warned him was because, when Alexander was with Marie 
Antonova, he thought he was safely employed. He believed the 
time well squandered, for him, Metternich. 

Yet he felt no ill-will toward this capable statesman. Almost 
all the hours he had spent, whose happiness was pure and un 
blemished, which were free from the pin-pricks of disturbing 
thoughts, had been with that charming diplomatist. His happi 
nesses were too few to discount them recklessly. He clung to 
them now as the hungry cling to a crust. That seductive smile 
upon the lips of Alexander, which had played such a part in 
the restless history of the last few years, was gone. And for 
ever. Not again was it seen in the old flexible grace. This smile 
had been variously effective. It had made his slightest word of 
weight. It had not only ensnared the hearts of women, the 
masses, and the credulous public, but it had made its influence 
felt in affairs of state. It had held captive fickle France when 
he had ridden at the head of a triumphing army through 
the streets of Paris. One glance at it had melted the none too 
easily won heart of Napoleon. It even touched the dull-fibered, 
self-sufficient Wellington. When he had gone to Verona to meet 
Metternich on that memorable occasion, it had kept crowds wait 
ing eagerly in the streets, to look upon it again. For a period, 
until suffering and disillusion had begun to dun it, it had 
matched the guile of Metternich. There was something differ 
ent, very strange, about it now. There was something that sug 
gested the fixed, but spasmodically recurring, momentum of 



a 5 8 THE PENITENT 

madness, the reflex of a piece of human mechanism that had 
been roughly broken. 

He was not sure whether automatically, impelled by habit, 
he had answered the ringing of the bell, or if the door had been 
opened without his signal. However it may have been, Photius 
stood before him. Alexander did not this time bow his head first, 
gracefully, yieldingly, in greeting to the priest, while awaiting 
the priest's tardy blessing. He sat at his desk and looked straight 
at him, with eyes which seemed to be uncentered. 

Photius was surprised. He intended to insist as usual upon the 
homage which he considered his due. He did not intend to yield. 
But the look disconcerted Photius. And the figure in elegant 
evening attire, the throat swathed with fine cambric, a wilted 
flower in the buttonhole, with the white, grieved, insensitive 
face of the dead, all bore witness to something out of the ordi 
nary, and helped to disconcert him more. Something serious was 
wrong. He began to feel uncomfortable. Then he felt out of 
place. At length he wished that he had not come. 

Here was a new Alexander whom evidently he could not brow 
beat, whose seduction of manner was gone, and who did not care 
greatly about anything. He took a seat awkwardly in one of the 
chairs opposite the desk, and facing the window. He began to 
speak somewhat more limply than usual, but he was still dis 
agreeable and ready to become contradictory. His hair did not 
look as if it had ever been combed. His robe was dirty. 

"I have just learned of Your Majesty's return." The figure 
opposite did not reply. He felt the weight of its indifference. 

"I hastened to see Your Majesty because I thought perhaps 
Your Majesty had not been informed how the Turks are 
murdering, and then mutilating, the priests of our faith in 
Greece. The infidels have followed them into the temples. They 
have desecrated the altars with blood while Your Majesty 
has been resting and enjoying yourself by the Gulf of Fin 
land." He was not able to tell whether the figure opposite was 
listening, or just looking at him without listening. The eyes were 
looking through him beyond him at something he could 
not see. They were beginning to make him angry. 



ALEXANDER 259 

"As head of the Greek Church," he began stiffly, intending to 
make his displeasure felt quickly, "it is Your Majesty's duty to 
lead a holy war for the extermination of the Turk. It is your 
duty I repeat" his voice rising disagreeably now, and ex 
pressing the anger behind it "to drive him out of Europe. 
Russia is crying for you to avenge the faith. Russia is waiting 
for you wondering what is wrong " From the usual fluent 
mouth of Photius words were beginning to come, slowly, lamely. 
The silence of the figure opposite was so disconcerting. Opposi 
tion he could meet and struggle with. In fact, he liked it. He 
sought it. But with this he did not know what to do. " If you 
do not Your Majesty God will punish you as I warned 
you once. Now I warn you again." Still there was no answer. 

"God will take away from you the things you love! God will 
not permit so great a wrong which you have not lifted a finger 
to help you, who alone could stop it " 

His voice began to sound in his ears like the vain wailing of the 
wind, hi some deserted house where no one comes. It frightened 
him. 

Suddenly Photius paused. Something that resembled fear 
began to creep over him. He was a coward. He did not know 
now but some unthought-of ill was threatening himself. That 
was sufficient to modify his conduct. He could not, like his good 
friend Arakcheiev, find strength and comfort in counting ob 
jects, in making infinite additions. He did not have anything so 
reliable as figures to fall back upon. He contemplated his long 
dirty finger-nails for a while. Then he looked wisely at his un 
kempt hands. Words had failed him. He could not find any new 
point of attack. He arose and slipped out the door by which he 
had entered, with something of the same gesture with which a 
stoned dog slinks away. In the anteroom without he did not find 
any one who was willing to talk with him. There was no one who 
could or would explain. He was obliged to leave the building 
without his usual, collected budget of gossip, to distribute wher 
ever he felt that it would make the most trouble. But there was 
one thing he could do, and that was to make the most of the 
strange appearance of the Emperor, for the Emperor's discredit, 



260 THE PENITENT 

his undoing. His father had been forced from the throne ! What 
had been done once could be done again. 

He had barely time to round the corner of the huge piece of 
masonry which was the palace, and gain the open street beyond, 
when a messenger from the Gulf of Finland, who had evidently 
ridden at speed, judging from the condition of his horse, de 
manded admittance. 

The messenger bowed. He handed Alexander a letter. It was 
written by the English governess at the command of Marie An- 
tonova. It said that Sophie Narischkin was dead; and that they 
were starting that morning for Petersburg with the body, in 
order that Alexander might arrange the details for the funeral. 
It named an hour at which they expected to reach the Narischkin 
Palace. On her own account the governess added the information 
that she herself and the English nurse were leaving for Riga that 
day, also by order of Marie Antonova, from which place they 
would set out for their home in England. Alexander, with a wild 
gesture of the arm, waved the messenger away. The door closed. 
He was alone. He bent his head upon the desk. And he whom 
no one had seen show any mark of violent emotion sobbed aloud: 
" The curse of Photius is fid filled! The wages of sin is death." 

The God who punished him had also solved the problem that 
confronted him. There was no wedding to be avoided now. 
There was no difficult double living to confront, in seeing his 
daughter as usual, and not seeing Marie Antonova. There was 
no daughter for whom it was his duty to arrange a different, a 
safer place of residence. His relations with Marie Antonova were 
severed. The death of Sophie Narischkin had wiped out the past. 
The slate was clean. It was ready for beginning over again. It 
was ready for the beginning of another life. 

Another life! He was bounding back from the depths of the 
abyss of grief. He started at the thought. The shock was con 
siderable. It was one, too, of combined grief and gladness. 
another life! What astonishing, vast thought was that. He had a 
tantalizing, impotent vision of unmeasured space with its worlds 
of revolving light. Another life? Could man have more than 
one? Especially could this be possible if he had used the first one 



ALEXANDER 261 

futilely? Half of his own allotted space of days was gone already. 
Would God prolong it? Would He give to him what He did not 
give to others? Would He give him space for another upon earth? 
Could He grant the trying over again! And might it be some 
where else in some fresh place world forgotten unmarred 
by bitter memories? 

Then that sea of grief whose surging was not stilled swept over 
him again, and he cried aloud in his agony: "The wages of sin is 
death!" 



CHAPTER XVIII 
THE RETURN 

AFTER they had left the mountains behind, now become merely 
rows of ash-colored billows growing dimmer and dimmer, de 
scended into the steppe, and were well across the Don Cossack 
country, the high spirits and the happiness of Alexis Sergiewitch 
began to decrease. The old man saw the peculiar sadness growing 
upon hun. He did not know just how to set about hindering it. 
He sensed rightly enough that the foundation was fear, of some 
kind. Without mentioning the subject directly, he did what he 
could to dissipate it. 

"You have seen a good bit of Russia in the last few years, 
my boy now, have n 't you ? " The quick, sympathetic response 
he expected was not forthcoming. "You have traveled the 
length and breadth of it, not to mention Crimea and the Cau 
casus. Even if Alexander will not permit young men to go to 
France, to Italy, just now, it is better to travel the way you have 
than not at all, now, is n't it? 11 

Alexis Sergiewitch was grateful to the kindly nature that was 
trying to warm him back to happiness. "Oh! I have been 
happy with you! But what is to become of me now? Am I free, 
or am I not? My own wishes, of course, or what I deserve have 
nothing to do with the question," he added dully. 

General Raevsky, too, was expecting daily some word from 
Count Woronzow. He could not see any reason why Alexis 
Sergiewitch should not be set free. All this young fellow needed 
was the proper treatment. In his opinion, which he did not dare 
to express, however, it was ridiculous to keep him subjected to 
restraint. 

They did not have to wait long. At the first post station, after 
they reached the old Yekkaterinoslav Highway, a messenger 
from Count Woronzow awaited them. He handed General 
Raevsky a sealed document. The old gentleman made the sign 



THE RETURN 263 

of the cross over it twice before opening it. It contained the in 
formation that a letter which Alexis Sergiewitch had sent from 
Piatigorsk did not reach the person to whom it was addressed. 
It was opened, read, and the information it contained sent to 
Count Woronzow and likewise to Petersburg. The information 
was that Alexis Sergiewitch had forsworn the Orthodox Russian 
faith, and proclaimed that he was an atheist. 

Count Woronzow added the remark that the generous heart of 
Alexander would forgive, as was his habit, a lack of respect 
toward the throne, but he could not overlook lack of reverence 
toward the faith. In this decision of the Emperor he, Count 
Woronzow, concurred heartily. 

The unlucky letter written by Alexis Sergiewitch had reached 
Petersburg at an unpropitious moment. The subject of religion 
happened to be up for discussion. The zeal of French tmigres, 
preaching Catholicism, had converted many of the upper class 
to the faith of France. This disturbed the zealots. There was a 
spirited dispute in progress between Photius and Alexander, 
because Prince Galitzin, Governor of Moscow, had gone over to 
the Jesuits. Photius was demanding the old man's punishment 
and the burning of Jesuit property in Russia. He was foaming 
with rage and the zeal of persecution. The news of Pushkin's 
letter fell on top of this like fat on fire. Photius insisted upon the 
mines for him, or the Monastery of Solovetz for life. He 
pointed out, aptly enough, that lesser punishment had been tried, 
and it had failed. At this moment nothing could have been more 
unfortunate for Alexis Sergiewitch. His Majesty, Count Woron 
zow went on to explain, in the mercy of his heart, instead of pun 
ishing, merely requested young Alexis Sergiewitch to return to 
the family estate, Mikhailovsky. Here he was to be under the 
supervision of the village police, the Archimandrite of the nearest 
cloister, and his father, whose right-mindedness was unques 
tioned. He was not to leave the estate unless permission was first 
obtained from Petersburg. 

This piece of news fell like a thunderbolt out of a blue sky. 

" What did you write, my boy? " gasped the little old man. 

" Nothing that I can recall now plainly. Nothing of 



264 THE PENITENT 

importance. I think I said I had been reading an English poet, 
named Shelley, and that he seemed to be an atheist. Afterward I 
may have made some remark to the effect that if there was not 
much comfort in such thoughts there might be some truth. But 
the memory is hazy, because I did not attribute importance to it. 
I do recall that I closed by saying that we were now on the way 
back, and that I had sent a story in verse called ' Prisoner of the 
Caucasus,' on to Peter to be printed. That was all." 

"To whom was the letter addressed?" 

"My old friend, Schukowsky, the poet." 

"And it never reached him! May the saints protect you!" he 
exclaimed, dropping down upon a chair where he began to cross 
himself rapidly, while his fat belly shook. "There is nothing in 
the world that would anger Woronzow like that!" 

Alexis Sergiewitch was so disheartened he could not speak. 
They sat in silence looking solemnly across at each other. Alexis 
Sergiewitch recalled with a shudder the lightly spoken words 
of Countess Woronzow in Odessa: " Photius is demanding your 
death of Alexander! " He did not repeat the words to the old man. 
The horror of it, to his excitable nature, held his tongue tied. 
But it came back to him with the force of a blow. 

He began to regret bitterly that he had not run away when 
he was in the Caucasus and the opportunity to do so was good. 
From there, the home of fugitives, he could have made his escape 
safely. He could have reached, at length, France, Italy, and not 
been caught. There he could have been free, happy, like other 
men. He exclaimed aloud at length: "The Devil surely must 
have been in me to be born in Russia and with talent!" They 
regarded each other sympathetically. They both understood 
what it meant. 

"After you look at it a little, my boy, it is n't really so bad as 
it seemed at first," ventured the old man, by nature an optimist. 
"It is the work of some trouble-making spy of course. There 
is envy in it, too! But I feel, at the same time, that Alexander 
has done this to protect you. / know him! I was in the war with 
hun. No one is kinder at heart. He is placing you hi imprison 
ment at home, to save you from the anger of some one who is 



THE RETURN 265 

pursuing you. Instead of being sad, my boy, be thankful! You 
know that Count Benkendorf, Arakcheiev, and Photius are al 
ways at his ear now." 

Alexis Sergiewitch did know this. Yet he could not share on 
the moment the older man's conciliatory view. He was too 
grieved. His sense of injury was too great. 

"The trouble with us, my boy," he was trying to observe 
cheerfully, "is that we are hungry. Now do you not think so? 
I will order a good meal. What do you say to some sturgeon, or 
jellied partridge, or roast wild boar's head stuffed with herbs? 
We might get some of that white wine of Crimea here, too. Or 
would you rather have a sparkling French wine? Say, Burgundy? 
I am willing to leave it to you." 

The table was served by two good-looking young moujiks. 
They wore belted tunics, bouffant trousers, and they had blond 
beards. 

Food, well cooked and well chosen, was beginning to have its 
customary effect upon the old gourmand, when Alexis Sergie 
witch was summoned sharply and told to start. General Raevsky 
was affected by the harshness of the order. Protest he knew, how 
ever, would be useless. He did not attempt it. 

"Keep up courage, my boy! Never forget that what Alexander 
does is for your good." Then he blessed him, made the sign of the 
cross over his blond head, and sat down to finish his lonely meal, 
while Alexis Sergiewitch went whirling away in the dusk, across 
the sad autumn country, toward Mikhailovsky. All that night 
his mind was tortured by two questions so he could not rest. 
What was it I wrote in that letter? Why did I not escape from Rus 
sia when I had the chance? He felt helpless like a mouse over 
which the cat's paw is suspended. 

The father of Alexis Sergiewitch, Sergius Lvovitch, was a 
grand seigneur, a courtier, after the manner of the preceding 
century, which was that of France. His education was wholly 
French. He even spoke Russian badly, he used it so infrequently, 
and so infrequently came into personal contact with his serfs. 
Nothing could have induced him to read a Russian book because 
the language was not made to read in. His mind was devoted to 
society, to pleasure. 



266 THE PENITENT 

Sergius Lvovitch was not bound to the soil that supported him 
either by sufficient love or sense of duty. He suffered from lack 
of serious occupation either political or economic. His days were 
filled with folly. He had neither plan nor ambition for his es 
tates, his serfs. He had no ideal in life of any kind except pleas 
ure. Circumstances had made of him a superfluity. The social 
exquisites of France before the Terreur were brave. They could 
meet death with a smile. These Russian exquisites, being merely 
an imitation, were different. They were of a slighter moral stat 
ure. They were merely toys of life. They cannot command the 
same respect. Sergius Lvovitch had the fine if insincere manners 
of the period that was past, and a proud and aristocratic bearing. 
He had rather a noble head, although the features were a trifle of 
the rough blond Russian type. Yet he resembled considerably 
certain miniatures of the period of Louis Seize. And he still wore, 
on most occasions, the old court garb of France, or one that was 
a slight modification of it. He had that lack of love, of enduring 
affection for his children, that sometimes characterizes roues 
grown old, who have recognized no duties in life, who persist in 
hanging on to the last ragged fringe of pleasure, who find children 
in the way, and usually irrelevant. In addition, Sergius Lvovitch 
was lazy. He did not like to be disturbed about anything that 
was foreign to his personal well-being. 

For the last year or two eloquent if exaggerated accounts of 
the misdemeanors of his son and namesake had been reaching 
him rather frequently. Naughty, scornful jingles one could not 
forget, bitter epigrams about people of position, sometimes his 
own friends, had been repeated to him. That his son should have 
love-affairs, duel a little, incur gambling debts, was natural. 
That was part of the life of a young man of society. But that he 
should cherish revolutionary or unorthodox thoughts, or pro 
claim them, associate with people out of his social class, and, 
worst of all, incur the displeasure of a man of such high position, 
both socially and politically, as Count Woronzow, were outside 
the range of his comprehension. 

The books of verse his son had been publishing rapidly the 
past few years, he knew were rot. He did not take the trouble to 



THE RETURN 267 

look at them. Besides, why should a gentleman write verse? The 
fact that he had run away and lived with the gypsies made him 
so angry that he all but lost his breath whenever he thought of it. 

Here came the last straw. He had been stricken from the list of 
employes of the Foreign Office. This automatically wiped out his 
salary, also hope for future promotion. He was nobody now. He 
belonged nowhere. And what an opportunity to throw away, 
with Woronzowl And now he, Sergius Lvovitch, must be answer 
able for him ! A pretty kettle of fish ! The household under sur 
veillance of the village police! What a disgrace! What an in 
justice to a man like him ! He had been planning, as usual, for a 
winter of social diversion in Moscow. Sergius Lvovitch was al 
ways more or less ill-tempered when he was forced to remain 
upon one of his country estates any length of time. This meant 
being away from balls, gossip, the discreet flirtations of his age, 
the occasional sentimental recollecting of the past, the news, the 
romances of Paris, dinner-parties, cards, which alone spelled life 
for him. With bitter wit he murmured to himself: " Children are 
surely a blessing in disguise. And in my case the disguise becomes 
harder and harder to penetrate." 

The country home, Mikhailovsky, resembled the majority of 
Russian country places. It was a typical manor house of long 
ago. A large, rambling, two-storied wooden structure, with ad 
joining one-storied sub-buildings, out-buildings. It stood end 
to the road. The broad face of the building looked out upon a 
good-sized pond, plentifully stocked with fish, some little dis 
tance away. Beyond the pond was a heavy windmill that creaked 
sharply in the wind. Still beyond, a humble peasant village, and 
still beyond that bare, limitless fields. At one end of the pond 
stood a grove of fir-trees, thick, well grown. On the broad high 
way, which connected them with the world outside and which 
had to make a sharp turn in order to pass the long side of the 
house and the front door, were three tall, imposing pines, growing 
close together. A somewhat ambitious flower garden was in front 
of this side of the house, too, and across the road. Here ragged 
pinks grew in summer, in profusion. 

In the house there was noticeable diversity of furnishing. 



268 THE PENITENT 

There was a drawing-room in tarnished gold and faded tapestry. 
There was a marble mantal in the room whereon stood a porce 
lain nymph and a blushing shepherd boy. In one corner was a 
French spinet, that stood on three legs. There was a library 
walled with glass doors where the books were wholly French: 
Voltaire, the Encyclopedistes, Moliere, the poems of Beranger, 
Saint-Simon, Marquis de Crecqui, the naughty stories of Cre- 
billon, a Bibliotheque Amour euse, which was in all Russian houses 
of the better class, and a book of galanteries from the Bible. In 
the other rooms there were pieces of rough furniture made by 
their peasants; coarse, reed-bottomed chairs and tables put to 
gether with pegs; a combination, in short, of rusticity and faded 
splendor. Neither Sergius Lvovitch nor his wife Nadezhda 
Nicolaevna paid much attention to their inherited estates, except 
spending the incomes from them, and demanding more and more 
money from their stewards, to whom they delegated care. They 
did not pay more attention to their children. They were chiefly 
concerned in seeing that they were annoyed by them just as little 
as possible. They gave them over to nurses and a governess. 
That ended it. 

When Alexis Sergiewitch drove up to the door, it was just after 
the midday meal had been served. His father came out to meet 
him. He did not say a word. This was a bad symptom. He 
knew that silence on the part of Sergius Lvovitch, from whose 
lips words rippled during his waking hours like the water of a 
brook, argued ill. Sergius Lvovitch ordered the man who ac 
companied him to drive to the village, and there to inform the 
police that Alexis Sergiewitch had arrived, and likewise to inform 
the Archimandrite of the cloister. Also would he be good enough 
to ask them to call at their earliest convenience, to decide upon 
what should be done with the prisoner? Evidently Sergius 
Lvovitch took his deputed duty as jailer seriously. 

Fresh flame had been added to the fatherly wrath of Sergius 
Lvovitch by the personal appearance of Alexis Sergiewitch. His 
clothes were dirty. They were ragged, too. They were the same 
clothes in which he had slept out of doors for months in the Cau 
casus. His hair was long. It looked rough. His face was tanned, 



THE RETURN 269 

unshaven, and burned until it was three shades darker than his 
hair. His hands were uncared-for. His shoes were full of holes. 
In short, he was just a vagabond, a tramp. The old, perfumed, 
cambric-shirted courtier looked at him with unconcealed con 
tempt. This, his son! 

Within, in the old-fashioned living-room, furnished in black 
walnut and green cotton rep, on whose walls ascetic, sad-faced 
icons jostled questionable, merry color-prints from France, the 
family were assembled to greet him. Arina Rodionovna, his 
nurse, folded him in her arms and wept. His delicate, picturesque 
mother embraced him languidly, without either love or reproach. 
The dark eyes of his sister Olga regarded him with frank sisterly 
love. His brother Leo was not at home. 

" My pet are you hungry? What shall I bring you to eat? " 
questioned Arina Rodionovna, anxiously, just as when he was a 
little boy. 

"He does n't need to eat!" thundered Sergius Lvovitch. "Let 
him wait." 

No one dared to speak. Sergius Lvovitch was showing symp 
toms of a tantrum. 

At that moment the dressmaker, who was putting the finishing 
touches to Madam Pushkin's winter wardrobe for Moscow, 
entered humbly. She brought a blue velvet trained gown, 
trimmed with white swan's down. "If you please I would 
inquire of Madam " 

A gesture from Sergius Lvovitch closed her mouth. Another 
gesture sent her scampering away like a frightened rabbit, the 
long dress trailing behind her. 

" Shut that door ! " he commanded. The family looked at each 
other with inquiring eyes. "I suppose you have come to accom 
pany us to Siberia, haven't you?" bending upon Alexis Ser- 
giewitch a look of wrath. 

Arina Rodionovna began to wipe her eyes. 

"I do not know what you mean, sir." 

"Well, you'll find out soon enough! This house I would 
inform you, because of you, is under police surveillance. Do you 
know what that means? If we have any enemies (and who has 



270 THE PENITENT 

not?) we shall go to Siberia. That's the way such things end. 
And if we should happen to escape that, your bad reputation 
has ruined your brother's prospects in life and probably your 
sister's too." He glanced wrathfully in the direction of the sister 
it was his duty to marry to some one, or else provide for. 

" I have not done anything wrong, sir I assure you. Noth 
ing to be imprisoned for to be reproved, like this," he re 
plied hoping to calm his father by his own restraint. 

"Silence!" 

" I just wish to explain. I merely wrote a letter to Schukowsky, 
from Piatigorsk, telling him, because he is a friend of mine, that 
we were on our way back from the Caucasus. In that letter, too, 
I happened to refer to the fact that I had read Shelley and that 
he was an atheist. There was not a word about the government, 
nor about any official." 

"Well what do you want to write letters for, anyway? 
Have you lost your tongue? " His conciliatory explanation was 
of slight avail. "You have ruined your family with your evil 
life" 

He was beginning to work himself up into one of his frenzies. 
The listeners looked at each other helplessly. Anna Rodionovna 
was standing behind the chair of his mother. From under her 
high cap, now a little awry, she was looking at him with pitying 
eyes. His sister Olga was frightened. He knew how scenes dis 
tressed her. It was plain that she did not know what to do, but 
he knew her heart was with him. He was impressed, on the in 
stant, by the expression upon the face of his Creole mother. He 
felt that she touched life so lightly, so like a feather, that no 
grief, no reproach of others could reach her. While her body was 
there near them, she lived somewhere far away, in a world of her 
own. he sa t silent, probably indifferent as usual, a smile half 
scornful, half plaintive, upon her lips, and her large gray eyes, 
where the white showed so pronouncedly, in some unreachable, 
far reverie where she was happy. It was just this, probably, that 
had always been able to stem successfully his father's torrent of 
words. 

"What a life I am leading! What a life!" Sergius Lvovitch 



THE RETURN 271 

was moaning, losing self-control more and more. "Buried half 
the year in this accursed hole! Bored to death! Burdened with 
responsibility care everything works against me! Every 
thing! Even the cattle the steward This year the ewes 
insisted upon lambing just at the time a box of new novels 
reached me from Paris. Why could they not have waited say, 
a week? Whenever for a moment I was beginning to be happy 
whenever I was beginning to forget this accursed country 
life the steward sent a man to tell me how many new lambs I 
had. As if that made any difference to me in comparison with 
what I was reading! And now your mother and I were planning 
for a little diversion it would be better to say "well-earned di 
version after our hard-working summer here in Moscow. 
And along you come! What a life! What a life!" Sergius Lvo- 
vitch was on the verge of tears. " I can't stand any more now. 
Take him to his room out of my sight." 

He signaled Arina Rodionovna. His mother got up with sus 
picious haste to join her dressmaker. Olga went to the lonely 
drawing-room to practice on the painted spinet. Sergius Lvo- 
vitch put on his riding-boots, in order to relieve his anger by a 
spirited gallop across the pale, autumn country. 

He had not ridden far before he began to feel better. He was 
riding a new horse. Just yesterday the village shoemaker had 
brought the long riding-boots made under his personal supervi 
sion. In them the calf of his leg looked something as he thought a 
calf should look. He began to talk aloud, for talk he must, if not 
to people, then to space. 

" Sacrifices are bad of course. But still sacrifices have to be 
made. And that is not any fault of mine. It is better for one 
than for many a family, say. Besides to have a member of 
the family devoting his life to the church in case there is 
anything in religion might bring unexpected good to the rest. 
If Alexis Sergiewitch were placed, say, for life, in the Monastery 
of Solovetz he would be safe. He would be out of the way. 
He would be where he would not cost me any more money 
Alexander would approve of it. So would Woronzow! It would 
make peace at once in high places for the family. It seems 



272 THE PENITENT 

to me the thing to do. To have a son in the church brings a 
family about the same amount of social approbation as to have 
one in the navy or army," he rambled on. 

When five days later, the police and the Archimandrite came, 
Sergius Lvovitch spent a day that was almost happy. They con 
sumed together many small, round, yellow, raisin-dotted cakes 
and countless glasses of tea. He used their receptive intelligence 
as a kind of large blotting-paper, to receive and then soak up his 
vast overflow of words. They listened. They applauded. They 
sympathized with him. He orated. He became eloquent to the 
point of tears. He quoted Moliere and the Bible, his two stanchest 
authorities, to brace up his statements. They assured him time 
and again of his unshakable loyalty to church and state. And in 
the end they agreed about Alexis Sergiewitch. They would place 
him in solitary confinement, permit him to have no visitors, and 
forbid him to read or write. The Archimandrite signified his 
willingness to come over at stated intervals, as seemed best to 
him, to inquire into the conditions of his soul. Then, later, they 
would take up the question of committing him for life, to the 
Monastery of Solovetz. 

That night, after the household were in bed and asleep, his 
sister Olga tiptoed to the door of his room. She told him about 
the afternoon conference and what had been said. She had over 
heard her father telling it over again to her mother. 

The next morning, Alexis Sergiewitch arose early. He sought 
his father's room. He found that elderly, dissipated beau in bed 
and not too pleased to be awakened. There was a French novel 
under his pillow. Evidently he had read late. He seldom arose, 
however, before midday. He often ate his breakfast in bed. 
"I have come, father, to make an appeal to you." 
"Don't you dare call me father you antichrist!" 
"Is n't it a father's duty to protect his children?" 
"Well, what have I done! Haven't I sacrificed my life to 
mine? Who works harder than I do? " 

"Then help me pass the exile pleasantly. Let me be a member 
of the family. Don't shut me up alone like a criminal!" 

"You ingrate! You unnatural son! I forbid you from now 



THE RETURN 273 

on to speak either to your brother or your sister. If you do 
I'll punish them, too. I am not going to have you make revolu 
tionists atheists, out of them. His Majesty has made me jailer. 
That means he has faith in me. That is because he considers 
me a person of importance. I am forced to do my duty. If I did 
not, our land would be confiscated. We might be turned into the 
streets sent to Siberia " He was waving his arms excitedly 
now and preparing for another session of orating. He liked the 
subject of his personal honor. He could expatiate upon it for 
hours. 

"I will tell you right now I will not stand it. I have done no 
wrong and I am not going to be punished for things I have not 
done. I came here to talk the matter over with you calmly. If 
you refuse to listen to reason you '11 have to hear the truth." 

"What are you going to do?" 

"That is my business." 

"I repeat what are you going to do?" 

"I refuse to reply." 

Sergius Lvovitch jumped out of bed. "Murder! Murder!" he 
shrieked. 

The servants came running in. He commanded them to call 
the grooms from the stables. His mother in a white negligee, a 
French fashion-book clasped to her breast, appeared for a mo 
ment upon the threshold, graceful and alien. Seeing that it was 
just another of the numerous tantrums of her husband, she went 
calmly back and told her maid to finish dressing her hair. 

"Bind him! Now take him to the empty west room . Put a 
bed in there, a chair, and a table. Put narrow boards across the 
windows so he cannot get out. Lock him in! Then bring the 
key tome." 

"I'll send you," he called as they were bearing him away, "to 
the Monastery of Solovetz. Then you'll be safe." 

Under stress of anger the face of Alexis Sergiewitch turned 
black. His father noticed it. 

" You negro antichrist!" he hurled after him as he disappeared 
in the arms of two grooms. 

Alone in the bare room, Alexis Sergiewitch began to suffer a 



274 THE PENITENT 

sort of tragic despair, after the peak of anger had been passed. 
He had been under suspense and strain for days. Although he 
was unaware of it he was ill physically. He was suffering from a 
slow fever of the nerves which had frequently been one of the re 
sults of the violent dissensions with his father. It did not seem 
that he could breathe well down on the plain, after the long pe 
riod spent in the sparkling, keen air of the heights. And one cause 
of his suffering was an hereditary one which he knew nothing 
about, and could not therefore take into consideration. Descend 
ants of mixed black and white blood, like himself, in the third 
generation are not capable of meeting emotional strain. They 
may be strong physically, even muscular, but there is a peculiar 
lack of balance between the resisting power of body and brain. 
Now the great fear of his life, the Monastery of Solovetz, con 
fronted him. Death, as he looked at it, would be nothing in com 
parison with this. 

Knowing that Sergius Lvovitch would insist upon unburden 
ing his mind of his griefs both large and small, and his thoughts, 
and more than likely would be present at breakfast, Madam 
Pushkin ate her breakfast in her room. Then she put on a pink 
flowered cashmere, which had a voluminous skirt covered to her 
slender waist with tiny ruffles bound with blue satin ribbon, 
seated herself at the painted spinet, and sang old French love- 
songs all the morning. 

Phyllis, speak, dost love me well? 

Arina Rodionovna went from room to room wiping her eyes 
with one corner of a huge white apron. She had been told that if 
she made any attempt to see the prisoner she should be sent away 
to one of the other estates. Olga locked herself in her bedcham 
ber and went without breakfast to avoid the cataract of words of 
her father that would surely await her. 

Both Sergius Lvovitch and his wife, Nadezhda Nicolaevna, 
were nobles of the old school. Their idea of life was to dance, 
read French novels, gamble, dissipate in short, idle. Had they 
been asked by a steward even to think about any practical affair, 
they would have considered it in the nature of an affront. That 



THE RETURN 275 

was a steward's business! They knew nothing of that new, that 
more seriously minded Russia, that was just beginning to spring 
up about their feet like the weeds of a neglected garden. In truth, 
so rapidly was the country forging ahead in every department 
since the Napoleonic wars, and the return of the soldiers with 
new ideas from abroad, that a man of sixty could not compre 
hend very well a man even of thirty. There was no common level 
of conversational exchange. Each looked out upon a different 
mental world. 

Sergius Lvovitch and Nadezhda Nicolaevna were altogether of 
the Russia that was passing, whose gentlefolk were interested 
chiefly in flowers, books, music, pictures, games of all kinds, 
theatricals, charades, but seldom in anything that possessed a 
practical relation to life or resembled work or responsibility. 
One reason, perhaps, for the general dissipation, the accomplished 
time-wasting for them who lived in the country, was because of 
the sad, monotonous immensities outside, and the dearth of 
people. 

But for all classes the year 1820 meant change. It meant a 
visible breaking-up of the old ways of living, and the unrest that 
comes with too quickly attempted adaptation to the new. The 
Tsar felt this upon his throne. The petty noble-autocrat felt it 
upon his isolated estate. There was a gradual giving-way of the 
forces that had held life together and had ruled in the old days. 
This giving-way became at length the reaction of mind that gave 
birth to the revolutionary spirit. Now between the serf and the 
upper class, a bourgeois middle-class was just beginning to be, a 
class whose mental ideals were different. 

One of the contributing influences had been the little cotton 
and woolen factories, springing up now like mushrooms in the 
south-central and southeastern part of the country, whose 
employes possessed a mental equipment unlike that of the serf or 
the intelligentsia. They began to form little mental circles of 
another kind. But they did not make for harmony. The noble 
did not like the rich merchant, and the rich merchant did not 
like the noble. The rich merchant felt that he was looked down 
upon. All classes of Russians were jealous of the favors accorded 



276 THE PENITENT 

by the government to these foreign workers. The owners of the 
factories did not live upon hereditary estates. They were only 
men of business, but at the same time they had that disconcerting 
if not respected power that money gives. This put a new ele 
ment into the social life. Among the most diligent of these for 
eigners, who were always forging ahead for preferment of some 
kind, were the Germans. Their minds were well ordered. They 
were equipped with a definite plan. 

In Alexis Sergiewitch there was something of the new world 
and something of the old. He adored the imagined, picture- 
vision of that accomplished aristocracy of the past. Its pageant 
pleased his eyes. It satisfied his senses. It was in fact one of the 
few things that he respected. At the same time the noble ideal of 
impersonal justice, equality, pulled the muscles of his mind an 
other way. And yet, largely because of this same social leaven so 
powerfully at work now, he and his father could not understand 
each other. They could not find and hold enough pleasant, com 
panionable places of contact. So the sad quarrels went on. 

At night, when the members of the household were asleep, his 
sister Olga tapped upon his window. She wished to speak with 
him a little. She wished to try to console him. Alexis Sergie 
witch had had time to meditate, to plan. He must ask for help, 
he saw. There was no other way out of it. 

"Bring me paper and pen, Olga, as quickly as you can! I am 
going to write two letters. One is to Prince Viazemsky, the other 
to Schukowsky. I am going to tell them the whole story, and 
beg them to save me from the Monastery of Solovetz. To-mor 
row you must make some excuse to go to the village. It would 
never do to entrust the letters to a servant. Then, in the village, 
you can hire them taken to Peter by a courier. Do not let any 
one suspect a thing! If they happen to be in Peter, they will try 
to save me." 



CHAPTER XIX 
MIKHAILOVSKY 

WHENEVER Sergius Lvovitch passed the door of his son's prison 
he bent down and shouted through the keyhole: "Antichrist! 
Negro antichrist!" In this way he felt that he was performing his 
duty as jailer. He felt that he was saving the family from Siberia. 
Everything depended upon him. He considered himself a martyr 
to duty. 

The Archimandrite had been too busy to make the promised 
call upon the supposed penitent to pass upon the condition of his 
soul. There had not vet been time to decide, permanently, upon 
the Monastery of Solovetz. The horror still threatened him. 

Arina Rodionovna was forbidden to go to see him under pen 
alty of exile. And so was his sister Olga, although she seldom 
failed to be under his window at night, no matter what might be 
the weather. She consoled him. She propped up his courage as 
best she was able. And she was sorry for him. 

His mother was permitted to visit him. She intended to do 
so. But the last days of the sewing woman were approaching. It 
was necessary to look over her wardrobe rigorously, in case 
something should happen and they went to Moscow. In addi 
tion, a new French fashion plate had come. She and her maid 
were busy experimenting in new ways of doing her light, too curly 
hair. She did not like to risk herself out of her apartments too 
much either these days, for fear of running into Sergius Lvovitch 
and being drowned in a wordy sea of plans, of complaints. Years 
of practice had given her astonishing skill hi avoiding this latter 
calamity. 

Sergius Lvovitch did not escape suffering, too, be it said. And 
of a kind peculiarly hard for him to bear. He had no one to talk 
to. When he went to the stables, hoping to find them less lonely 
than the house, the grooms, who knew his failing, saw him com 
ing and escaped, carrying with them the harnesses to be mended 



278 THE PENITENT 

or cleaned. The lonelier his day, however, the oftener he shouted 
"Antichrist!" through the keyhole. He was forced to fall back 
upon the comedies of Moliere which were the most gossiping 
books he could find. 

The condition of Alexis Sergiewitch was pitiable. He was 
alone, in semi-darkness. He had no amusement. He had no 
occupation but his thoughts. And the thoughts happened to be 
sad ones. 

In the wandering years of exile spent in the South of Russia, 
continued practice had made of him a more experienced writer, 
but it had not brought him any wise or comfortable living. His 
mind was free and unfettered. It could climb the heights of 
poetic seeing. But the body was left behind. It received the un 
dignified chastisement that falls to the lot of children. And he 
was no more a child in years. He had no income of his own. He 
had no secure or independent place of living. He was at the 
mercy of others. He smiled grimly when he thought of the dis 
proportion between the fate of his body and his mind. He 
seemed to be extraordinary in everything, even in his ill luck. 
Even if he could create, reach out in some degree toward his 
poetic ideals, how many in Russia would read them? The serfs 
could not read at all. The upper class read French. The books he 
had printed rapidly the past few years had brought him about 
an equal mingling of hatred and admiration. From his acquaint 
ances, hatred mostly, inspired by envy. The admiration came 
from the generous-minded young poets who were his brothers in 
effort, and who understood what he was doing. The great im 
personal reading public he would like to have was not in Russia, 
then, in sufficient numbers to make a reliable or profitable fol 
lowing. So any genuine success in writing was a peculiar kind of 
failure. And all this time he was suffering with fear of the Mon 
astery of Solovetz. v 

After his sister Olga told him that she had succeeded in send 
ing his letters to Peter without being found out, he began to 
count the days in which he could reasonably expect some result. 
He had told them not to try to get a letter to him unless it bore 
the address of his sister, because no mail would be given to him. 



MIKHAILOVSKY 279 

It would be opened and read. This would get the senders into 
trouble. 

When he had counted up the greatest possible length of time 
for the going to Petersburg and returning of a courier, a morning 
came when his father, instead of the usual greeting through the 
keyhole, unlocked the door and came in. It would be more truth 
ful to say he strutted in. He was in a radiant nay, more, an 
expansive mood. His tongue was bubbling like a brook. He held 
in his hand an important-looking document. It was heavily 
sealed with red wax. It was taped. And on his face was a 
pleased, flattered expression. 

& ."My son!" he began pompously, "I have come to show you 
what are the results of a life well lived I might even say, 
without exaggeration, a life devoted to duty. This, this my 
son Look at it / This is from His Imperial Majesty It 
releases me from duty as jailer because of my honest my 
upright character. And it commands me with the family 
to Moscow for the winter. This shows how the Emperor appre 
ciates me. You will be left here; you will be nominally under the 
care of the village police and the Archimandrite." Alexis 
Sergiewitch recognized at once the good offices of Schukowsky 
and Prince Viazemsky. " Now, my son, left alone, I want you to 
meditate, I want you to consider my devotion to duty. Con 
sider the life I have lived! Try to emulate it. It is absurd for you 
to think you are a poet. Monstrous! Read Beranger if you want 
to know what poetry is. Read Beranger, my son! Do you 
suppose for a moment that any one would read Pushkin, when he 
could read Beranger? Absurd! Absurd!" 

Just then some one called him. The harangue which he had 
started successfully was left unfinished. There was joy and con 
fusion in the household. Bags, boxes, trunks were noisily hauled 
to view and emptied for refilling. The tongue of Sergius Lvovitch 
did not pause for an instant. It afforded an unresting, running 
accompaniment to all the other noises. He planned what he 
would do as soon as he reached the city. He had mock conver 
sations with all his boon companions and old sweethearts. He 
recalled what he had said and how he had looked in such and 



28o THE PENITENT 

such a box at the opera on such and such a night, with Princess 
So-and-So. 

Alexis Sergiewitch's mother was invisible. She was closeted 
with a maid and the sewing woman, whom now she had decided 
to take along with her. The kitchen and the cook were just as 
busy as the packers. The entire household was upset. The cook 
was getting food ready for the trip; bread, chickens, jellied 
meats, marmalade. Supplies of country produce had to be taken 
along for the town house in Moscow. Sergius Lvovitch was se 
lecting horses to keep in the city during the winter. For the 
moment the house hummed like a beehive with happiness and 
diligence. 

The morning they left Sergius Lvovitch did not bid him good 
bye. He was so excited, so flustered with happiness, he forgot it. 
Olga wept. She kissed him again and again. He had never seen 
his mother look so graceful. She wore a large poke bonnet of 
pale pink velvet covered with dull blue satin morning-glories, 
which matched her eyes. A huge pink satin bow with streamers 
tied it under her chin. She wore a long, pointed pelisse of gray 
squirrel, little gray squirrel bootees, and a voluminous black 
velvet skirt, ruffled to the waist with narrow black satin ribbon. 
It seemed to sweep her frail, swaying body along. She looked 
barely thirty-five. She bade him a languid and indifferent good 
bye, but her wide gray eyes were not thinking of him. They were 
thinking of balls, operas, discreet flirtations, soirees; in short, 
the only things that meant pleasure. His brother Leo, just re 
covering from a protracted drunk, appeared. They took him 
along with them. 

After the noisy departure, which was like the starting of a 
huge circus caravan, or an army transport, there were so many 
vehicles and such confusion, he heard heavy, faltering steps out 
side his door. The key turned. The door was thrown open. The 
voice of Anna Rodionovna called: "Come, my darling! Come, 
my pet my lamb! It is you and I now." 

He made his way slowly from the semi-darkness of his prison 
to the old sitting-room. He found it perfumed with an odor he 
used to like as a child, verbena. The great green rep chair with 



MIKHAILOVSKY 281 

the worn arms was by the window that looked out upon the 
withered pink garden. Beside it were some picture books he 
used to look at when he was a little boy. 

He dropped down in the chair and began to weep. To his sur 
prise he could not stop weeping. He wept on and on. It was as 
if some part of him were gradually dissolving. In the last few 
months, since he had stood on the roof of the world with General 
Raevsky, and looked down upon two continents at the same 
time, his nature had swung between such wild extremes of ec 
stasy, despair, and anger, that it had all but cost him his reason. 
For the next two weeks he was like a man convalescing from a 
long illness. He sat by the window idly in the pale sunlight. He 
soaked in renewed life through his pores. The fever in his nerves 
gradually subsided. His mental agitation was allayed. 

Then the snow came. Alexis Sergiewitch and his old nurse 
stood alone together by the window and watched it. It danced 
in the air like a battle of gnomes. For days it fell. It covered up 
the garden where the dry pink stalks rattled. It blotted out the 
pond. It powdered the humble peasant cots as pure and white 
as the abodes of the angels. The fir grove at the end of the pond 
and the three tall pines on the highway were the only visible, 
black landmarks, except the windmill, which shook the snow 
slowly from its heavy wheel. 

Winter was upon them. With each turn of the calendar the 
cold increased. The storms multiplied. There was something so 
sad, so terrible sometimes in the lonely voice of the wind of night 
and winter, that Alexis Sergiewitch shuddered and seemed afraid. 
He begged Arina Rodionovna to sleep again in the little room 
next to his, where she used to take care of him when he was a 
baby. Here, sometimes at night now, when some unconfessed 
fear made him suffer, some imagined terror loomed larger than 
any reality, she told him stories to soothe him to sleep, because 
artists are merely sensitive children grown up. Sometimes they 
were the tales of Rurik. Sometimes they were her own extem 
porized but more picturesque version of the builini, or what had 
happened to the grandmother of Alexis Sergiewitch at the elegant 
court of Catherine the Great 



282 THE PENITENT 

No letters came from either his father or mother. They were 
too busy to write. His sister Olga, however, wrote once in a 
while. Her letters told of the constant round of festivities in 
which they were living, and which turned night into day. She 
declared that she seldom saw her mother save when she was en 
tering her carriage to attend some function. The nobility were 
trying to be very gay because of the continued sadness of the 
Emperor. Sergius Lvovitch had been unlucky at cards. He had 
lost large sums of money. She wished Alexis Sergiewitch would 
tell the steward to raise all that he possibly could, even if he had 
to sacrifice horses or a piece of land, and send to him immediately. 
She explained that they were particularly short for ready money 
just now, because her mother had found her evening toilettes 
out of date. This had necessitated having new ones made in 
haste. It had been a heavy and unexpected drain upon them. 
All the women of Moscow were in love with a Polish actor, Lasky, 
she said. The ones who had been to Peter recently talked of him 
continually. Leo stayed drunk for days at a stretch. The family 
had so many social engagements they could not find time to look 
after him. And so the occasional letters read. The diversions of 
the Moscow winter with people of their own rank had made them 
forget about Alexis Sergiewitch whom they never cared to re 
member any too well. 

After a time, in the sunshine of love and peace, his heart began 
to blossom again, in song. He wrote down in verse in the morn 
ing the old nurse's tales of the night. If in this verse there are no 
great ideas, few noble or uplifting thoughts, it is of a marvelous 
limpidity, a marvelous fluency. It is like the clear, sparkling 
rivers which he found among the lofty Caucasian Mountains. 
Like them, it had come from the deep, hidden sources of life, 
from the primeval heart, and only an ancient tongue, be it said 
(say, Attic Greek), can ever translate it. 

He began to link himself to the outer world again. He began to 
take up relations with his friends. He wrote to Schukowsky. 
He wrote to Prince Viazemsky. He thanked them for what they 
had done for him. He told them he was thinking of beginning a 
long novel in verse, something on the order of ''Don Juan.' 1 



MIKHA1LOVSKY 283 

Then he recalled to memory, in verse, the Caucasus. He fin 
ished "The Fountain of Bakshi Serai." While the snow fell and 
blotted out the land about them, and the polar winds shrilled 
in the ancient chimneys, he dreamed longingly of the beautiful, 
unknown Oriental he had met there, of the scent of orange blos 
soms in the night, in rich gardens of the South, and the nightin 
gales. He longed passionately to see her once more. He won 
dered if she were lost to him forever. There was no clue by which 
to find her because he did not know her name. He did not know 
where she came from. He did not know where she was going. 
But he still clung to the belief that she was the spy of Metter- 
nich. Then the old nurse began to coax him out of doors. She 
encourgaed him to try the winter sports he used to enjoy when he 
was a child. She called his attention to the beauty of the Russian 
winter. She urged him to write of it. 

He began the novel which he mentioned in the letters to 
Schukowsky and Prince Viazemsky. He called it " Eugene One- 
gin." It pictured a life like his own, on a country estate. It was a 
remarkably truthful reproduction of the day in which he was 
living. It was something new, too, in the realm of letters of his 
race. Without attempting to finish, at the moment, the verse 
novel, which promised to be long, so insistent was the propelling 
creative power that urged him, he began to read Shakespeare. 
Another and a healthier world of mind unrolled before him. 
Shakespeare stimulated him to original creation, as genuine 
writing of great periods surcharged as it is with electric and 
communicative life, has the power to do. He planned a play, 
along new lines for Russia, something still picturing the roman 
tic history of his land, but in a period that was past, "Boris 
Godunoff." 

As the snow fell and all but buried them with its cold white 
ness, and the angry winds of a sub-polar winter whirled about the 
lonely manor-house sang threateningly in the great chimneys, he 
trod happily the old, sunny lands of romance. He moved freely 
whither he would. The wings of genius proved to be more effec 
tive in annihilating man's ancient enemies, time and space, which 
to the Russia of his day were potent, than the "Magic Cloak" of 



284 THE PENITENT 

Faust or the "Winged Shoes" of Mercury had been. The sure, 
the far-reaching vision, the serene contemplation, of great crea 
tive artists, for the time being, was his. 

Just as General Raevsky had guided his mind upward to ap 
preciative consideration of the sublime mountain-world of the 
Caucasus, the material roof of the world, so the old nurse, with 
an equal faith but a greater love, guided his footsteps upward 
again to an equally elevated world, but one of mind this time, to 
the roof of the spirit's life, so to speak, the Hebrew Bible. And 
they were not so unlike. In both were the same heights of lone 
liness, of grandeur, the same uplifting nobility dwarfing the 
shabby pettiness of ordinary surroundings, the same inspiring 
propulsion to far visioning, to faith. The Hebrew Prophets were 
unconsciously associated in his mind with the giant cliffs of rock, 
whose feet rested upon the humble levels where man is permitted 
to dwell, but whose heads reached Heaven. Both were mighty. 
Both were props of earth. Both overtowered life. 

He read the Bible. He wrote his "Paraphrase of Isaiah," 
which the Russians renamed "The Prophet." In doing this, in 
this his second most productive period of creation, he reached 
his highest point of inspiration, of calm, of noble vision, a height 
which it is regrettable to admit he did not reach again, in the 
vexation, the sad confusion of his days. 



CHAPTER XX 
THE DECISION 

AT forty men begin to revalue life. At forty men begin to think 
about the past and change their former judgments. They find 
their fellow-men are not as they thought them. Reversals take 
place. Sometimes the bad become the good. 

In Alexander's case the revaluing had been put off for a few 
years. But when it did come, it was not less penetrating through 
delay. 

He had lived to find most things the opposite of what he 
thought them. This had saddened him. It had made him feel 
uneasy, unsafe. It had shaken his belief in himself, his belief in 
the vigor of his intelligence. In his case it had happened in two 
separate ways: first, in the domestic tragedy which had occurred; 
second, in governmental and social affairs. The latter was more 
difficult to deal with, because it was widespread and not easily to 
be compassed. At the same time it was impalpable like envel 
oping fog. 

It was not easy for him to believe that that safe past was over 
forever, that gorgeous, resplendent pageant of existence in which 
he had spent his petted boyhood. It was not easy to believe that 
he was not only not the dictator of Europe, but not even of 
Russia. The detailed information of the rapidly growing plot 
against his life, the plan for overthrowing the government at the 
same time, had come to him from so many different sources, from 
such reliable sources, that he found himself in the impossible situ 
ation of believing two opposing things at the same time. He had 
believed himself the dictator of the Continent, the defender of the 
oppressed. Now, it seemed, he was being driven from his own 
throne, and was less and less the dictator of himself. He not 
only was not master of others, but it was not easy to hold on to 
what was his. An humiliating, puzzling, contradictory situation. 

Without preparation, he was confronted with a reversal of 



286 THE PENITENT 

his dreams, his hopes, his beliefs. And the cause of it? That he 
could not get at. Why had he not been able to see it first him 
self? Why had he not felt quicker than others what was going 
on? Why did he not know his country better? 

A penetrating German thinker had recently remarked that 
revolutions are made by the men against whom they are directed. 
This brilliant statement, true or untrue, had moved him. Since 
he heard it he had been debating, like Hamlet. Is it true, or is it 
not true ? If it were true then he alone was guilty. He considered 
his failures. They were many. They could not be winked out of 
sight. He had failed in dealing with the domestic situation which 
had caused sorrow and upset his life. Perhaps he was equally 
incapable of dealing with the political situation which was threat 
ening a wider destruction, threatening to upset the government. 

If the reports were true (and how could he doubt them?) a 
crisis was at hand which must be met without delay. Surely no 
one disliked the harsh definiteness of a crisis, not to mention its 
surprising upheavals, as he did. 

The country must be filled with spies, with informers. Every 
thing would be destroyed or else uprooted. There would be se 
cret, cruel trials. There would be imprisonments. There would 
be sudden deaths in dungeons. There would be sad and harrow 
ing exile trains, setting out in the night and the storm for Siberia. 
There would be hundreds suffering, dying, in the mines. The 
land would be filled with sorrow. Tears would fall like rain. 
The innocent would be punished with the guilty. Men entrusted 
with a little temporary authority would take revenge upon their 
enemies. Some of his personal friends would have to be sacri 
ficed. Countless unknown wrongs would be committed, and in 
his name. A reign of terror would begin. 

For all the suffering, all the deaths, would not he be account 
able, because it was he who ordered it? Who else could set this 
ponderous machine in motion, except himself? He would become 
a wholesale murderer. He felt that he was being pushed to act 
with fear as a motive power instead of reason. This was a dan 
gerous thing to do. It was productive of ill. His mind was bom 
barded by thoughts which he could neither get rid of nor adjust. 



THE DECISION 287 

It was as if his mind were the bed of a river and his thoughts the 
destructive, uncontrollable torrent that was rushing through it. 

He was glad, indeed, that Constantine had returned to War 
saw. He was glad, too, that the distance between Petersburg and 
Warsaw was considerable. That false, make-believe cheerful 
ness during his brother's visit, that brief putting back upon his 
shoulders of the burden of the old ways, had been a strain upon 
him. He was glad that Constantine was gone. He was rid of his 
insistence. He felt that it further freed him from the past. He 
no longer had reasons to put up against Constantine. He had 
only vague sensations, feelings, not thoughts. 

Constantine evidently had right and reason on his side. Since 
Constantine's departure he had been paralyzed by the assault of 
these feelings, these vague, indeterminate emotions; so much so 
in fact that he had turned over temporarily governmental mat 
ters to Count Benkendorf and Arakcheiev, and begun to live in 
accessible to any one, plunged in meditation. It was not easy for 
him to focus his mind long upon a point that had to be decided. 
If he went out to drive, it was preferably in the early morning 
or the late afternoon. People who watched him pass, ignorant 
peasants, the superstitious, or they who loved him, crossed 
themselves involuntarily and murmured the name of the Prince 
of Peace. There was something in his face now, something in his 
bearing, that made the words come of themselves. They floated 
up from depths of consciousness. There was a different look in 
the eyes that had been so clear. And he was profoundly sad. 

If what the various tale-bearers said was true, there was no 
safe place for him. He was not safe in the vast palace of his an 
cestors whose walls were rich with that old Muscovite art, which 
is so prodigal of gems, of gold. He was not safe in Zarskoje Selo, 
nor on his country estates; in his gardens among the flowers he 
loved; nor in the theater, the concert-hall. He was not safe in 
his cabinet where death might come with an opening door. He 
was not safe in the silence of the great cathedrals. If what the 
tale-bearers said was true, there was no safe place for him. Life 
had cast him off. The effect of this realization was that he was 
sick of living, and not what is ordinarily understood as physical 



288 THE PENITENT 

fear. He had lost all he loved. There was nothing left to live for. 
He had struggled until he was weary. He wished that it was 
over. 

Just as when on the sudden break-up of the happy domestic 
life with Marie Antonova, having found things not what they 
seemed, he had recast the past, for strengthening, for guidance, 
so now, when he found the social political surroundings not what 
he thought them, he did the same, with the hope of reassuring 
himself, with the hope of finding a way out. 

If it was not easy for him to set in motion a reign of terror, it 
was not wholly weakness, not wholly personal distaste. It was 
partly because still as basic thought in his mind was the forced 
reliance that in so brief a time the unlimited power of the past 
could not have perished. How could such a change come and he 
not see it? 

The first years of his reign had been happy. They had been 
gay with the gayety of youth, youth in his heart, youth in the 
land about him. Artists, scientists, thinkers came. Poets began 
to sing like birds in tall tree-tops in spring. And it was partly 
because of him! These years had been sportively nicknamed 
"The truce of the poets." Life gave promise of "glorious sum 
mer" in the sun of his youth. "The winter of discontent" was 
over. In every department of the broad land these years had 
been a blossom period. He had not been lonely then, either, as 
he was now. He had had happy, similarly minded friends with 
whom he had enjoyed his political dreams. With them he had 
made and unmade worlds. Then, suddenly, he remembered how 
he had disappointed these young friends. He paused a moment 
in his meditation, astonished at the thought. 

The proud, the brilliant, Prince Adam Czartoryski had relied 
upon Alexander's pledged word to make his native Poland free. 
And Pozzo di Borgo had been similarly happy in the promise that 
he would give freedom and power to Greece. His personal charm, 
his yielding grace, had been a false promise to them. In both 
cases he had intended to do it. Nay, more, he had planned to do 
it. It was his wish. But the definite decision he could not bring 
himself to face, that brief, momentary crisis, which meant the 



THE DECISION 289 

sudden severing of a part of the present. He kept putting it off 
from year to year. In the end he disappointed them both. 

His grandmother had loved him. She had been proud of him. 
He was her favorite always. She had expected him to duplicate 
the conquests of Alexander of Macedon. She had expected him 
to conquer the earth. That was why she had given him the Mac 
edonian's name, so he could not forget. That was why he had 
been taught to speak the Greek tongue like a native. Thte golden 
dream for the future had hovered over his flexible, alluring youth. 
It had made him happy in its contemplation, which was as near 
as he liked to approach the definiteness of any reality. 

Suddenly it occurred to him that in her youth she could have 
done what she planned so proudly for him. He paused again, 
astonished at the force of this. In her, he knew, there had been 
various greatnesses whose harmonious coming together had 
given strength. But in her day there had been harmony among 
the people. They did not disagree upon important points of pol 
icy. He must admit, too, that in her there had been a persistent, 
enterprising joy of mind, a youth age could not touch, which 
carried her triumphantly over difficulties. Circumstances could 
never have mastered her because of this youthful elasticity of 
nature which enabled her to look down upon them with disdain. 
It might be true, as bitter critics had asserted, that with her all 
was not real gold. But the imitation, if imitation it was, had 
been satisfactory and yielded charm. And no one could dispute 
its effectiveness, its power. He had disappointed this proud 
promise of his youth, and therefore his people, just as he had 
disappointed his boyhood friends. But he had not intended to. 
He had planned to do everything. Now reality showed him that 
he had done nothing. He did not comprehend how the result 
could be what it was, nor where the years had gone. They had 
rushed past him like a mill-race. He had not gone with them. 
It was not his wishes that were wrong. He had been right. It 
was facts. Facts had been obstinate. Life with him had been 
a brilliant, impressive improvisation, because whatever he had 
planned had remained undone. The old landed nobility had stub 
bornly resisted his efforts for reform. They would have none of 



290 THE PENITENT 

them. They wanted life lived on lonely ancestral estates just as 
their fathers had lived. He never had had anything as he wanted 
it. He loved peace. He loved quiet. And he had lived in agita 
tion, in dissension. He hated cruelty. Daily it was done in his 
name. This explained why Arakcheiev, who was rough and bru 
tal, was ruling now with such high hand. Arakcheiev formed 
the necessary, the logical pendant to the indecision of Alexander. 

But how could he be blamed for failing, he asked himself on a 
sudden with a refluence of courage, for not doing more than he 
had done, with the Napoleonic wars upon his hands? 

The events of that sickening Russian campaign! It had sad 
dened his sensitive, emotional nature. He had never succeeded 
in putting its memory out of his mind. 

He recalled too often, even now, the thousands and thousands 
of glad-hearted boys he had lured to death by sight of his manly, 
handsome, uniformed figure, by the clasp of his hand, by the 
foolish gift of silken flags, of bright banners, by the fervent elo 
quence of his prayers. The guilt upon his soul! And the long 
period of carnage that followed! How horrible for a nature like 
his, a poet's nature, that loved flowers like an Asiatic, and love 
and silence; literature; and the white, caressing arms of women! 

Then fell God's judgment upon the battle-fields of ice! 
God 1 s judgment! And in his favor. God gave victory to him. This 
had shaken him to the verge of reason. In gratitude of soul he 
promised his future to his Maker. 

And here, too, he had been a disappointment, a disappoint 
ment therefore to man, and God. From whatever he promised or 
planned, he slipped away. And he did not know how. Now there 
was the murder of the Greeks, his own co-religionists, by the 
Turks, in the face of his prohibition. The Mussulmans had just 
sworn extermination of the Greeks. The Peloponnesian War was 
in full blast. There was savage butchery. There was mutilation 
of bodies of priests, of his faith. He had promised to protect 
them. But he did nothing. It was as if something uncanny para 
lyzed his will and he could not shake himself free. 

Diplomacy, too, was intercepting him now. Metternich was 
determined that Alexander should not interfere. He wanted 



THE DECISION 291 

Austria to gain fresh territory and a sea-outlet in the south. He 
worked to discourage him. England agreed with Metternich. 
England had her own personal, selfish reasons against his inter 
fering. She wanted an open passway toward those clear cities 
of Asia, a passway for herself, which should not be policed by 
Russia. 

In addition his mind was of a caliber to permit him to find out, 
like Canute of old, that after all he was only a man, and that he 
could not bid the waves be still. He was only a man, whom a po 
litical superstition, already going out of date, had given tempo 
rary supremacy. These were all unavoidable, direct meeting with 
facts and they pained him. Their unyielding surfaces made him 
suffer. His vision of life was a poet's idealized vision, which 
sugar-coats facts, with whom fact is merely a starting-point, 
from which to forget. He had no stern, logical, realizable prose 
ideal to guide him. Beauty, fineness had to be ingredients of 
things that interested him. If not, serviceability must remem 
ber to wear their dissembling cloaks. He was a poet, not a poli 
tician, not a social reformer. His living was ruled by delicately 
graded sensations, exquisite adjustments, not by logic nor stra 
tegic thought. 

Metternich, too, was dimming more and more that gorgeous, 
hummingbird, poet's iridescence which was his by birth. Met 
ternich, one of the most practiced and unscrupulous intrigants, 
was more and more frequently keeping him from doing things 
which were to his advantage to do. By forcing Russia down, 
Austria perhaps could rise. 

Metternich was in the habit of selling individuals and nations, 
cheaply, for personal inclination, for any slight political reward, 
payable in no matter how remote a future. He sold Marie Louise 
in marriage to Napoleon for the purpose of being permitted to 
increase the standing army of Austria. By trickery, by treach 
ery, he sold the popularity of Alexander at the Congress of Ve 
rona. He placed him in the light of a moral defaulter to his people. 
He was a masterly bargainer in the little dun Shops of Discon 
tent for other men's honor, other men's power. And he disap 
proved just now of a Russian war against the Turks. He had 



292 THE PENITENT 

plans of his own to carry out. He wanted delay in everything. 
He preached continually watchful waiting because the country he 
was guiding was weak. It needed peace. It needed time for re 
habilitation. In the South was its only chance for expansion. 
Alexander had been frequently, of late, getting in Metternich's 
way. Here England met Metternich, strange to say, and Alex 
ander was confronted by the irresistible foreign policy of Can 
ning. 

He was as deeply grieved by the bitterness, the treachery in 
men's hearts, as by the domestic tragedy that had befallen him, 
or the present threatening political one. His grief over the base 
ness of humanity was greater than for any loss that could come 
to him. From his point of view pleasant intercourse with people 
was largely founded upon liking them. If he could not like them, 
for him there was no reason left for conversation. His growing 
deafness was having its effect, too. It was blurring the spoken 
word. This increased both his suspiciousness and his sensitive 
ness. 

There was no one now he fully trusted except Arakcheiev and 
the Empress. In this he was right. Both were loyal to him. 
What his own suspicious nature failed to see, Metternich stood 
ready to suggest to him. He missed, therefore, the reliable, the 
consolatory support of friendship, its heat of courage in the heart. 
He saw seldom the devoted companions of his boyhood. They 
had made life happy in the old days. Without them he had grown 
lonelier. In that vast Russia it was especially necessary that 
men should warm their hearts by each other. He was like an 
unanchored ship now. He drifted helplessly. 

His friends had not been able to understand him, to be sure, 
any more than any one else. No one had had his confidence, ex 
cept, perhaps, Marie Antonova. And she had not deserved it. 
Now, since the shock of finding out what she was, he was more 
than ever a master of concealment, more than ever lonely. In 
the forgiving splendor of art he might have found consolation. 
But his days had been devoted to politics, to dry detail. 

The prime motive power back of this concealment may have 
been some unconfessed fear, a snapping of one of the multiple 



THE DECISION 293 

spider-thin bonds of reason. Something, probably, had hap 
pened to him, in his impressionable youth, at his grandmother's 
dissolute and intriguing court, that had dried up forever the fine 
and happy springs of confidence and filled him with fear, with 
distrust of humanity, which he could not get over. Now, just as 
with other men, he was merely falling prey to his greatest weak 
ness. 

Not many, of course, are given the power which had been his,. 
to force dreams to reality, and then find them soap-bubbles, their 
glowing color changed to dirty water. He had watched too many 
gay realities suffer this sad transformation. This was making 
him more and more, as the days went by, a figure unique, lonely, 
and pathetic. Within the souls of other men he felt there was a 
poise, a calm, a stern decision, which would have saved him, but 
which he could not get hold of, and which he desired more than 
anything else in the world. But no simple human thing, it seemed, 
could be his and be retained. To him came the glittering useless- 
nesses which burned while they illuminated. 

He had lost that puissance de bonheur which Napoleon in his 
heyday used to talk about, without which men cannot live nor 
succeed. He thought of it again and again in his present dilemma. 
Historical facts, too, at this moment uncatalogued, were begin 
ning to throw their perplexing influences around him. The Rus 
sian nation was just beginning to react from the self -sympathetic, 
unifying emotion which had acompanied the driving-out of 
Napoleon. He, too, unconsciously, was in some degree at the 
mercy of the same reaction. He had been proud of his part in 
defeating Napoleon. But now, as he looked at it, he saw that it 
was not he who had defeated him. It was the masses. That 
great, inert, dull, unlettered, despised mass called the Russian 
people had risen in fury like a sea and swept him out. The peopl* 
had saved Russia, and not Alexander, the glorified, the princely 
leader. It was the spirit of an entire race speaking in outraged 
resentment, and not himself. Nations usually fall or rise by their 
own momentum, the king being an accident and not a potent 
force. Somewhere in the far future, evidently, justice was going 
to be done to humble man. 



294 THE PENITENT 

Another powerful cause at work in his present mental condi 
tion he could not know nor suspect, and therefore could not be 
blamed for, a cause reserved for the discovery of prying psychol 
ogists a century later. It was this: The Russians of the eight 
eenth century, his grandmother's period, did not live long. The 
Russians of the early nineteenth century, Alexander's day, suf 
fered from premature old age of the mind. The educated Rus 
sian of this period was a forced hothouse growth of time, and like 
all such abnormalities lacked endurance. This was the price they 
paid for civilization too quickly absorbed. This was the price 
they paid for insisting upon leaping over the safe boundaries of 
the centuries. The bodies of the men of the eighteenth century 
wore out too soon, and the minds of the men of the first half of 
the nineteenth century. The reason that his grandmother had 
escaped so triumphantly was because in her there was no Russian 
blood, and the law became inoperative. She belonged to a more 
enduring stock that had been slow in reaching maturity. 

Mental weariness came quickly to men of the upper class now; 
disillusion, which means loss of pleasure in living; and in extreme 
cases the madness of melancholia. Old age of the mind, in short. 
In obedience to the working of this law, Alexander had lost the 
elastic strength of hope which is the dominant quality of youth. 
He was feeling that indifference to living which was a trait of the 
cultivated men of his time. He had lost, partly through this, his 
faith in his fellows, his illusions, too, his fine, free, unforced re 
liance upon humanity, which, however foolish it may seem, man 
must have. Saddest, perhaps, he had lost sense of kinship with 
his race. As he looked out now upon that great confusion which 
men call the world, his own thoughts were far more revolutionary, 
far more astonishing, than those of the young men for whose 
punishment Arakcheiev was still clamoring. 

A huge, a glittering sun of disenchantment was rising slowly 
and majestically in his mind. It was rising victoriously. It was 
forcing its painful, penetrating rays in all directions. Nothing 
escaped it. It shriveled first and then dried up his little happi 
nesses until now he did not have any left. It was making of him a 
desert where nothing gracious grew. And it was making of his 



THE DECISION 295 

old, waiting fears, a black, threatening, monstrous army of night, 
ready to descend en masse upon him. His glad, unreasoned 
courage was gone; his mind's youth. 

The thing most disconcerting of all which this bitter sun 
showed him was another reversal and an astonishing one. That 
bitter sun of disenchantment was showing him that, while the 
army of Napoleon, who was the little grandson of the Great 
Revolution, had perished upon the snow-fields and met defeat, 
the invisible army of his ideas was still marching on. It was at 
work now defeating him. The scales, without warning, had been 
turned. What witchery was this! What dizzy will-o'-the-wisp 
had been lighting false pathways for his feet! Who could dream 
that such a thing could come to pass? That little grandson of the 
great upheaval was unconquerable now. The material conquest, 
which he had so unwisely ascribed to himself, was, like most of 
his other conquests, of not so much importance. What a faculty 
he had for turning pluses into minuses! The will of Napoleon 
had destroyed that old world he used to know and love and be 
happy in. It had killed its dreams. It had weakened its ambi 
tions. Like the waving of a magician's wand it had brought 
about a mighty materialization. Impersonal justice, too, the right 
of every human being, irrespective of color or race, to a share in 
the good things of the earth was a part of that new world-spirit 
for which the invisible army of the Great Conqueror was fight 
ing on. 

Was there nothing he could lay hold of? Was there nothing 
he could keep? Must whatever his hands touched slip away like 
illusive water? Was there some curse upon him? What classic 
fable could compare with what in reality had happened to him? 
He had been proud of having conquered Napoleon. Now this 
fact, too, was slipping out of sight. The ideas Napoleon's sol 
diery had disseminated were a mighty, invisible army. These 
ideas were rapidly moulding a new race of men in the world, men 
whom he could neither understand nor control. 

And before his brain there was a vision he did not like to con 
template, but which he could not put away. It was ihe troubling 
vision of that upstart soldier, Napoleon, who had leaped by sheer 



a 9 6 THE PENITENT 

ability, unaided, to the heights where he was born, but where he 
was not strong enough to maintain himself. What geographical 
magic he had wrought! He had ripped up the old Rhine States 
and then made them over into a confederation to suit his ends. 
He had cut off a slice of Germany reaching from the Elbe to the 
Alps and named it France. 

He recalled, involuntarily, those nights of brilliant conversa 
tion between Napoleon and Metternich, long ago, in Paris, sto 
ries of which the great Austrian had related to him, with such 
relish. Fragments of phrases burned in his memory, quickly 
etched impressions, worded by Metternich: Napoleon, artist of 
power. . . . That superb egotism that must live art. . . . That mind 
that clothed words in flashing symbol and then translated symbol into 
fact. . . . That man for whom the round earth was just a play 
ground. That daring figure which arose without warning to dim 
the splendor, the efficiency of him, Alexander. 

In this period of the general breaking-down of usual laws he 
was forced to admit that he did not have that personal, that po 
tent word over men which had been Napoleon's, and which 
might have hindered somewhat further the moral decay. He, 
Alexander, had charm, seductive grace; weaker characteristics. 
The difference between gold and steel. He, Alexander, knew the 
human heart, but hs was unable to turn that knowledge to ac 
count. 

The vivid phrasing of Metternich came back to memory again: 
That swift shaping, that swift cutting-out of new nations, by one 
man's will. That shaking-up of monarchies and then setting them 
down upon their feet like naughty children after punishment. That 
dizzy, deft, sweeping away of the old regime. ... All this shook his 
faith in the ancient blood of kings. He saw sadly that wars are 
not over when articles of peace are signed. That is merely the 
signal for crueler wars to begin, wars more deeply destructive, 
more intangible. The great upheaval still goes on. It merely 
changes its weapons. Civilization then sets about forging for 
itself new worlds out of the fragments of the old worlds. 

Then he succumbed to the natural impulse to shift the blame. 
There had been too many meddlesome foreigners in Russia. 



THE DECISION t 297 

They had always tried to take a hand in affairs. In early days 
the foreign influence had been that of honest, capable worlanen. 
Now it was largely of crafty adventurers. Russia had been ex 
ploited as a place of quick fortune-making. How could it be all 
his fault? Had not Russia been a rich grab-bag into which merry, 
unthinking feminine rulers had plunged their pretty hands to 
seize its monstrous wealth and then fling it away in gifts of ex 
travagant living before the eyes of an amazed world? A long, 
theatrical fair! While it lasted, it was something gorgeous and 
splendid, this stripping open of the rich, untouched heart of a 
continent to make its treasures ripple in the light. 

There were colonies of alien races scattered throughout the 
land. They were centers of hostile and unassimilable thought 
with fecund, long, outreaching tendrils. He, too, had helped 
foster this quick colonization by trained and habile foreigners. 
Once permitted, it was not easy to still the longing in the intel 
lectual Russian for the mental life of Europe. Patriotism could 
not console him for starvation of the mind. But it was wrong 
now, he felt. It was the result of a sort of foolish impatience; 
namely, the unwise attempt to make, to ripen a civilization too 
quickly. Different races could not be formed into a compact one 
without the slow aid of time. 

Like the rulers before him, his mind had been dazzled by the 
power, by the beauty, by the progress of Europe. Like them he, 
too, longed to transplant this, all in a moment, to his own land. 
It would have been better for the little native centers of industry, 
village arts, peasant arts, to have been given a slow fostering, 
and then waited, with patience. The result would have had a 
greater, a more dependable strength. Almost every country of 
the globe had its little separate colonies in Russia. These many 
tongues made it the modern, toppling, threatening Tower of 
Babel. The great, level, central plain which bore the name Rus 
sia was merely a mammoth road for the restless migration of na 
tions. 

That much-talked-about conquest over Napoleon was not 
really so important to his native land as the very different indus 
trial conquest being carried on everywhere now by these for- 



298 THE PENITENT 

eigners. This turning upside down of civilization was presenting 
everywhere different surfaces of life to the light. Some of them 
were astonishing. In this new world a man did not need to be 
noble of heart, or gracious of soul, or condescending, but to pos 
sess something astonishingly different, a clear comprehension of 
the possible combinations of the earth's unexploited substances. 
The old picturesque past where kings swaggered about in crown 
and ostrich feathers was over forever. A world as new as that 
which Columbus discovered was heaving into sight, only it was a 
good deal stranger. In his meditating upon the difficult situation 
little separate pin-pricks of misery shone, for the most part the 
result of suggestions coming from Metternich, but all of which, 
when carried to ultimate reason, belittled him, the sovereign. 
As an example in point, the close relations, which had been in 
existence so many years between Russia and England, were not 
wholly the result of wise, imperial initiative, nor far-seeing dip 
lomatic cunning, but of the humble, tongueless, armless cotton 
bobbins in Birmingham mills. Economic, therefore. This con 
stant uncovering of the ghosts of unannounced facts was star 
tling. It was really this economic rivalry, with France and Ger 
many entering the game, that had brought on the war of which 
he and Napoleon were the glittering figureheads. This constant, 
convincing agony of mind which was slowly destroying himself 
was terrible. It was the first exhibition of a new tragedy which 
the future would duplicate and duplicate again, a mean, sordid, 
base, agonizing tragedy, the tragedy of a new world devoid of all 
nobility. 

He was peculiarly out of harmony, peculiarly ill at ease, with 
this commercial, this increasingly middle-class society, which the 
war had ushered in, and which heralded untried ways of life, 
and which his own tolerant, generous nature had not hastened 
quickly enough to check. 

Different thoughts were the property of the people. There was 
a disturbing sense of comradeship, of sympathy for each other 
among the masses which meant strength for them, and which 
had not been before. The power of the middle classes was in 
creasing. To add further to the general confusion, his country 



THE DECISION 299 

was beginning to think its own thoughts, in this widespread social 
demoralization. It was getting tired of leading-strings. 

And he who held by the spirit saw that this spiritual change did 
not have a spiritual cause. It was merely an exhibition of mind 
adjusting itself to matter. 

The cause was material. Those bourgeois, those middle-class 
men, whose manners needed mending, and whose taste was 
commonplace, sometimes had brains. With their brains they had 
made little cold-blooded, tireless, nimble-moving machines, which 
turned out luxuries with which to clothe the body, to protect the 
home. In time they would bring to commonplace man the com 
fort of kings. They would help protect him against cold, disease, 
toil, weariness, discomfort. In addition they brought to his brain 
a comprehension of the earth's latent wealth and its possibilities 
for himself. With these little machines increasing in number and 
cheapness, there had come a new and an unexpected light in his 
ambition, a demand for a broader, a finer living. He thought 
such a change could come alone through prayer. He had been 
taught that. He believed it. The surprise to him was not slight. 

The new world-spirit which the soldiers of Napoleon had dis 
seminated, and which the inventive genius of the middle class 
had illustrated and developed, did not depend upon the old pic 
turesque doctrine of servant and master, the old slave system, 
that one man is better than another, one born to eat cake which 
he does not earn, and another black bread which he does earn, 
but upon something more powerful, something more broadly 
beneficent, material efficiency. The far expansion of material 
things suggested a new, a potent, an unguessed divinity. It 
meant that all must work for the good of all. There would be no 
place for kings. This was a blow. He had not reached this thought 
before. There would be place for no personal superiority of in 
herited possession either of place or wealth. Inherited superiori 
ties, such as had prevailed under the old regime, were just so 
many warts on the body politic, ugly excrescences to be cut 
away. In the heart of every human being, born in the age of the 
machines of the whirling spindles, there would be somber distrust 
of centralized power. When man could live like a king he would 



3 oo THE PENITENT 

soon begin to think like one. The real difference was on the out 
side as much as on the inside. The mainspring of the new world 
just at hand was material, not spiritual. The old regime had 
broken his spirit by first crushing his body. It had taught him 
suffering, and as reward pitiful patience. The new world would 
teach him political power, then equality. That new world would 
be astonishing! He shuddered at the thought. The words ma 
terial power expanded to their limit, then carried to logical re 
sult in individual application, meant something tremendous. In 
this new world they would not always pray pitifully for mercy 
for the dying. They would work, first, to delay death, then to 
eliminate it. Man, heretofore, had been a suppliant, prostrate, 
crushed. Now he would learn to stand. What could man not 
become ! 

The ideal of the old world that was passing, which reached its 
first height in France before the Revolution, and its second, as a 
sort of mirrored, exaggerated, false echo, in the nobility of Rus 
sia, had had three supreme ideals: The Penitent, The Passion 
Flower, The Pageant-Maker. Three ways of artistic playing. 
These ideals had hindered material progress. They were unfair. 
They were unjust. They were dramatic, useless exploitations of 
the ego which could not go on. They were illustrations of one 
absorbing the life-forces of many. They could not exist, power 
fully, in the future. They must die. They must pass away. 
They were merely prodigious leeches upon an old romantic civi 
lization, such as poets like him dreamed as children, but now out 
of date. The new world would find these ideals weak, cowardly, 
slightly ridiculous, and cheaply showy. Pagandom and the old 
France of kings had been the earth's childhood. Now its mature, 
responsible manhood was at hand. 

Business, commerce, in their broadest expansions, would be the 
evolutionizing force, instead of religion. Commerce would open 
new continents. It might chain and then exploit the stars. It 
would be the forerunner to plant civilization. It would walk hand 
in hand with a wizard, Science. Motive power back of living 
would change. It would be scientific, not emotional. But the 
heart would go out of life. 



THE DECISION 301 

This great, outswinging, tragic vision of melancholy gave him 
a sort of soul-homesickness, unuttered longing, for that spirit 
ually nobler, more delicate civilization which was fading, but in 
which he was meant to live and play his part. He did not wish to 
confront the new, the different race to be born, whose watchword 
would be economy, not exquisiteness. He did not feel anything 
within himself with which to meet it. Wars, evidently, left 
wounds which could neither be healed nor effaced. 

He was acrobatically trying to straddle two spheres of time, 
which were showing more and more an inclination to swing away 
from each other. In the broad streets of his proud Petersburg 
different ages of time were now beginning to meet and to jostle 
each other in a manner that was noticeable, like the masked 
grotesqueries in a village carnival. He, too, was just one of the 
stumbling figures that swept by. The difference between him 
and the other maskers was not one of indwelling superiority, but 
merely of greater richness of cloak and mask. He was just one of 
the passing street carnival to be jeered at along with the others: 
" You funny, you old-fashioned creature!" 

The old world to which he was accustomed, in its holiday car 
nival in one of the long Streets of Time, had gayly held up an 
Hellenic mask. This represented joy, physical beauty, luxury of 
the senses, superiority of the individual, freedom from work and 
care, emotion of the eye. 

The Christ came. There was inaugurated a different carnival 
in the long Streets of Time. It wore an Hebraic mask. It repre 
sented the practical, the economic. It stressed the present. It 
stressed the humble. It stressed sympathy for suffering and 
love. The old Hellenic carnival in these long streets which can 
never end, where always carnivals go on and on, had made a dis 
play of masks of beauty, of external loveliness. But he himself 
had worn a double mask, the Hellenic, which Hebraic pity had 
made incomprehensible. 

In the light of this rising sun of disillusion, this heightened 
vision of melancholy, if he saw exaggeratedly, he saw, too, 
prophetically, and far. 

Not only was this change going forward in his country, he 



302 THE PENITENT 

knew, but throughout the world. Not alone were Slav lands 
restless. Europe was restless too. It was ill of la maladie fran- 
$aise. Daring and brilliant thinkers were welcoming the new 
world which was just swinging into sight. There had been Byron 
and Shelley in England. There were Goethe, Heine, Borne, La 
Salle, in Germany. There were Chaadaiev, Polevoy, Ryleiev, 
Griboyedow, and Alexis Sergiewitch, to mention only a few, in 
Russia; Manzoni, Ugo Foscolo, in Italy. In France, Chateau 
briand, Constant; Simon Bolivar, in South America; and pre 
ceding them, George Washington, in the United States, and the 
negro of Haiti, Toussaint L'Ouverture. 

How could he alone be expected to meet a world-crisis? He 
knew now that it was not exclusively a Russian crisis. No mat 
ter what Count Benkendorf and Arakcheiev had tried to talk 
into him in the last stormy interviews, he could not be expected 
to turn aside a world in transition. This lessened his responsi 
bility. Their vision was short and feeble. That was the reason 
they demanded so much of him. 

Now he had found the way out. Now he knew how to step 
aside. An ancient proverb of his race occurred to him with for 
cible applicability. To-morrow to-morrow, but not to-day! He 
would go South, ostensibly to review the troops for the impend 
ing war. But he would not commit himself, absolutely, yet to war. 
This would leave a possible exit for him either way, and it would 
divert the popular mind. The gate of escape necessary for his 
mental outlook, his comfort, would be left open. He would go 
South, at once. He sensed dimly now, with something that 
might have risen to the pleasant relief of humor, in this refresh 
ing moment of relaxing, a similarity between himself and young 
Alexis Sergiewitch. Just as he had once exiled young Pushkin 
from Petersburg, now Fate, ironically enough, was exiling him. 

But he had found a temporary way out. The crisis was de 
layed. He would go South. 



CHAPTER XXI 
THE FAREWELL 

THE carriage was at the door. It was three in the morning. 
Alexander, dressed for traveling, a long black cape thrown over 
his arm, wearing no sword, no mark of his exalted position, was 
walking slowly through the vast lonely rooms of the Winter 
Palace, where myriads of dying candles flickered; a lonely, sad, 
dramatic figure in this proud, triumphant setting of the past. 

The day before he had made a will. He felt relieved. It left 
everything to his brother Nicholas. Nicholas was reliable. He 
could depend upon him. At the same time he had exacted from 
him a promise to burn immediately his letters, his papers. He did 
not wish any telltale writing of his to be left behind. 

With his upper, his reasoning mind, he kept telling himself 
that he was just setting out for a brief visit to his Southern pos 
sessions, to stop a while in Taganrog on the way, for the sake of 
change and the health of the Empress. But with his subcon 
scious mind he was making preparations for a prolonged ab 
sence. A part of life, he sensed dully, for him was over. The 
destroying of his little personal pleasures, the commonplace joys 
of every day, with their reasoned guidance, had thrown him over 
suddenly to the dark, swift power of that mighty, invisible cur 
rent which is the subconscious self, which binds us to the infinite 
and sweeps us along with no will of our own. 

He had slept but little of late. When he did sleep he was tor 
tured with unhappy visions. It was not rest. His waking hours 
had not been much better. They had been filled with gloomy 
presentiments. He saw what he felt to be omens of death every 
where. Because of the terror of these presentiments he kept 
candles burning throughout the Palace in the day. In their light, 
in their forlorn effort for their former festal air, he found some 
thing feebly akin to courage. He crept close to them. He stood 
in front of them trying to warm back his heart to the old calm. 



3 o 4 THE PENITENT 

The disciplined servants who stood guard at the doors watched 
him in astonishment. They whispered to each other timidly, 
when relieved from duty, that it was like serving a stranger, that 
something was wrong. He was the same, and yet he was so dif 
ferent they could not find words with which to express it. They 
did not know how to describe it. It surprised them. It made 
them uneasy. His eyes did not seem to focus upon them when he 
looked at^them. This began to frighten them. When, the morn 
ing before, the order had been given to keep candles burning 
throughout the night in the unused state apartments and to open 
them and set them in order, they concluded that, like his father, 
he must be mad. To-night there was another change in him. 
To-night the old expression of double meaning upon his face was 
gone. In its place there was something sterner, something that 
foreshadowed resolve. 

Through the vast, lonely, glittering rooms, where countless 
candles twinkled, where his days had been so glorious, so futile, 
his tall, black figure moved, while the round, frightened eyes of 
inquisitive servants peered after him. He paused first and long 
est in front of the chair beneath the long Venetian mirror, in the 
little anteroom, where he had sat as a boy, on a night just like 
this, alone under the candles, and listened to the sounds of agony 
that came from an adjoining room where they were strangling 
his father to death. The long mirror had recorded his face of 
boyish suffering, just as now it was recording his maturer face 
of cold resolve. What futile years stretched between ! 

In the state ballroom, the polished floor twinkled like the feet 
of invisible dancers, where the boasted beauties of Europe, with 
smiling eyes, had offered their hearts to him, where the passion 
of music had intensified life, making them forget its limits, its 
forced reserves. The deep mirrors were rich with the visions of 
the past. Within them slept the memory of jewels that had 
sparkled, eyes of love that had lured, and the lifted languor of 
arms. Across them once had moved all that muted mirage which 
was the past. He crossed the solemn, the stately splendor of 
drawing-rooms. Here Marie Antonova had queened it, wearing 
upon her throat and brow the jewels of Russia. All the rooms 



THE FAREWELL 305 

kept intimate memories for him, because it was in this regal set 
ting that he had played his part. Here admiration for his great 
position, flattery, love for his personal beauty, his charm, had 
lured him fatally, had made him smile, and forget, and then 
drift on. 

He paused longest before the portrait of his grandmother. It 
had been painted when she was old and fat. His mind registered 
accurately the robust vitality, the coarse animal strength, and 
the slight distortion of the too long chin. She seemed alive and 
vibrant now. 

The former Empress, who had preceded her, Elizabeth Pet- 
rowna, was luscious and lovely, like the rich pigment of the can 
vas that preserved her for posterity. They had been two of the 
world's most immoral women. They were merely crowned cour 
tesans. But how successfully they had lived! As he recalled the 
past, walking alone with the dead, under the fading candles, it 
was like looking down on dead cities, they were so far away. He 
saw plainly. He understood. But that was all. 

The next picture he did not look at. Try as he would, he could 
not. He stood in front of it with bowed head. It showed his frail 
little daughter wearing his last gift to her, her crown of pitiful 
forget-me-nots, and painted on her eighteenth birthday. His 
celebrated maitrise de soi-meme forsook him here. He turned 
away. He went quickly over to the window as if for relief. The 
blackness struck him like a blow. Cold night and space frowned 
in upon him. 

He wrapped himself hurriedly in the long, concealing cape. He 
left the Palace. Outside, at the foot of the stairs, he told his 
adjutant-general, Prince Volkonsky, to drive on ahead, to a place 
he designated outside the city, and there to await him. When 
Prince Volkonsky had disappeared, he gave a whispered order to 
his own coachman. He took his seat. 

It was four o'clock when he reached the door of the Church of 
Alexander Nevsky. But it was still dark. The daylight nights of 
summer were gone. Over the city bent the night. 

He was not unexpected evidently. There was movement about 
the solemn enclosure. A crowd of silent, gray-clad, ghostly 






306 THE PENITENT 

figures were there. They were lined up in order awaiting him. 
They were the monks, the living dead. In his long, black cape as 
he swept commandingly between them, wearing no insignia of 
rank, no mark of worldly power, he did not look so greatly dis 
similar. 

In the churchyard here his little children slept. He did not 
visit them. He did not even turn his head in their direction. The 
past did not matter now. He seemed to resemble both the mon 
ster and the saint, who seldom leave descendants for posterity. 
Like them he had been surprising and splendid instead of useful. 
There were no children of his left living. There was nothing of 
him, in fact, left behind in Petersburg to trouble the peace of the 
future. The severance was clean. 

He crossed the courtyard quickly. When his foot touched the 
outer threshold, the group of ghostly figures in their grave-clothes 
chanted in unison with a penetrating vibration: "Lord, save thy 
people!" The chant echoed after him dully upon the darkness. 
He walked on to the circular space under the hollow dome whose 
edges were just touched with gray. He knelt here awhile in si 
lence. Then he kissed the cross. At a slight distance glimmered 
the tomb of the saint himself, Alexander Nevsky. Upon it he 
could see faintly huge figures of barbaric metal, torn from his 
country's rich but brutal heart, keeping forever here that solemn 
gesture of submission, which was his for the moment. 

He arose. He was still muffled in the long, black, concealing 
cape. He made his way slowly in the dimness to the interior of 
the church where he chose at random a seat among the great 
number vacant. 

The aged Metropolitan, Seraphim, entered. He paid no atten 
tion to the silent, seated figure. He wore robes of mourning. He 
began at once, in a voice that was old and shaking, to celebrate 
the solemn mass for the dead. 

He began to listen in what seemed to him an unusual way. 
He began to listen with ears that were not those of his physical 
body. He was listening with the aroused, the prophetic powers 
of them who have taken a step away from life, and whose senses 
are not so dulled by its deceptive attachments. Passing over his 



THE FAREWELL 307 

head, in cold, far spaces above him, in this ghostly hour between 
the night and the day passing with the swiftness of silken 
but invisible wings went the greatness of Russia which had 
reached its apex of governmental power in Europe just as mel 
ancholy began to touch his mind. Then passed in solemn suc 
cession the imperial, the brutal ambitions of his ancestors, re 
gretfully, perhaps angrily, as if power were ill-placed with him. 
The banishing wrath of that forceful, slightly brutal personal 
ity, his grandmother, now rested with scorn upon him. He had 
overturned the structure she had so carefully built. He was 
undermining the security of the past. He felt little regret, 
however. 

The music of the impressive litany swayed on. It bore him 
with it. His lips began to frame words to suit it. His lips framed 
unuttered prayers. "Of God, let me shed no more blood! Let me 
punish no more! No more let me lift my hand in judgment against 
men! O! God make me free! No longer let me be a slave to the 
vain, the foolish attachments of life. Like the winds, 0! God, make 
me mighty, and free!" His heart was making its own, its despair 
ing chant to the rise and fall of the music. 

As soon as the mass for the dead was over, he arose. He went 
out. When he reached the outer door, just preparatory to leav 
ing, he found the aged Seraphim. He was awaiting him. The old 
man held a tiny silver statue in his hand. It was a statue of the 
Christ. Upon it was scratched faintly the letter "A," the initial 
of the Emperor's name. He lifted it and made with it the sign 
of the cross over the bent head of Alexander. Then he presented 
it to him and disappeared. When the outer gate clanged behind 
him, the living dead in their ash-hued robes were still there. 
Again they lifted the old resounding chant. It echoed in his ears 
as he walked away: "Lord, save thy people! " 

Day was not far off now. Three thin bars of level, steely 
light superimposed each other in the east. The highest towers 
were growing visible. He saw the gold dome on Saint Isaac's. 
He saw the shaft that topped the Palace of the Admiralty, 
which sailors recognize at sea. But in the streets below it was 
still so dark that the bdutchnicki in their sentinel kiosks on 



3 o8 THE PENITENT 

the street-corners did not know him as he drove swiftly past 
them. 

They were crossing the first pleasant prairie levels when he told 
the driver to stop. Petersburg, the city that had been fatal to his 
race, was visible here for the last time. After hesitating a mo 
ment, restlessly, he stood up in the carriage. He turned. He looked 
back. His face was whiter now, and pitiful. It recalled vaguely 
that of the Christ when he wept over Jerusalem. Through his 
mind swept the cry of Christ, "Jerusalem, why stonest thou the 
prophets!" His lips did not move. He did not utter a sound. 
But before he sat down again he stretched out his arms toward 
the vanishing city with an almost awkward gesture, an ambigu 
ous gesture. In his eyes there was an expression that suggested 
a long farewell. 

Then the driver turned with a quick noise of wheels into the 
broad, smooth chaussee, the same along which Alexis Sergiewitch 
had traveled on his way to exile. Only now the time of year was 
different. Alexis Sergiewitch was going toward the promise of 
spring, while winter confronted Alexander. The road stretched 
away proudly before him, vigorous and white under the new day. 
At no great distance ahead now, at the place he had designated, 
he came up with Prince Volkonsky. Here Alexander gave him 
self over to his passion for driving at speed which had been his 
most persistent relaxation in tune of trouble. They dashed away 
noisily together across the autumn landscape, which here in the 
North was cold and austere. Its riotous colors were gone. The 
air about them was silent. The birds had left. Thus, monoto 
nously for days, the wheels rolled on through flat leagues of unen 
livened fields. 

As usual, when night came, Alexander could not sleep. They 
drove a part of the night, to the discomfort of the driver. That 
night, too, as it happened, which was the thirteenth, a fiery, 
bearded cornet appeared for the first time in the sky. It traveled 
in their direction. It traveled along with them. Like a beacon, 
its bloody light led the way. 

When Prince Volkonsky first looked up and saw it, he said to 
himself, somewhat superstitiously for him: "That must be just 



THE FAREWELL 309 

such a comet as men saw when Caesar fell" He crossed himself. 
But he did not trouble to communicate his thoughts to others. 
The superstitious driver saw it. He was in terror. He kept 
murmuring to himself. He crossed himself vigorously. Once or 
twice he spoke as loud as he dared to the erect, white-faced 
figure that did not hear nor reply: "Master that means evil/ 
Master do not go on." 

In the days that followed, the vast, lonely levels that sur 
rounded him began to comfort him. They gave him the same 
relief that the cold wind of night and winter used to give him in 
the old days when vexations beset him. They were perhaps sym 
bols of that desolation where human importunities, human weak 
nesses, which had grieved him in the past, are not. The cloistral 
impersonality of space refreshed him. The relief to be going 
away! The relief to have given up the temporary guidance of 
government! The relief of having given up even the temporary 
guidance of self to the driver! Facts, he could not deal with. He 
could no longer struggle with them. He was helpless, useless. 
All he could do now was to run away. That hot, beating, quiver 
ing, perplexing thing which was humanity, with its wrongs, its 
griefs, had always made him suffer. 

And humanity could not understand him, because the word 
strength, to people at large, means merely an alloy in the gold. 
Pure gold is rare. And it is less serviceable. 

In a way, perhaps, he had always managed to keep his own 
soul out of it, above it, this suffering, struggling humanity, in a 
sort of exquisite, proud aloofness, but now at how terrible a cost 
loneliness. Anything, however, was better than its entangling 
perplexities, its labyrinthine wrongs, from which one lost the way 
out, from which one could never get free. And these wrongs not 
only entangled but ruined. Therefore he welcomed desolation. 
Desolation re-created him. And sometimes it promised him new 
fields of vision, which he scarcely dared contemplate now be 
cause the break with the past was too recent. Perhaps within 
himself he had already made the great decision, but he was un 
willing to avow it even to his secretive self. 

Traveling, swift moving ahead in space, was good. It brought 



3 io THE PENITENT 

him the momentary illusion of getting away from unpleasant 
nesses. It brought a brief cessation from responsibility. It was an 
uninsistent decision. It freed him from people whose presence 
he more and more avoided. It put him out of reach, too, of 
Count Benkendorf and Arakcheiev. The relief was so great it 
was like a sad kind of joy. 

The harvests in the lonely levels around him had been 
gathered. Here now were only dying colors, the echo of a sad, a 
sterile summer; an ending, not a beginning. The sky was cold 
and radiant. It had that immobility, that clear, wide-eyed wait 
ing, which are heralds of winter. 

Day after day he watched idly, almost indifferently, the wind 
run over the rollicking dry grasses that bent so gallantly. Some 
thing just as imperious, just as invisible, was driving him on. 
Day after day on this long drive to the southward, the early 
evenings of autumn spread their rich light about his erect, lonely 
figure with a strange regret. Day after day they shed the long, 
oblique splendor of their gold upon him. 

Because he could not sleep, they started each morning early. 
Sometimes the little, ungrown moon, pale and livid, looked down 
upon him before the dawn. Sometimes the white, wild-flying 
splendor of the rain whipped his face. He liked its cold, brief 
touch. Or, in the late afternoon, great, glittering, gray-edged 
storm-clouds lifted themselves above the desolation and swung 
across the blue. But instead of rain there came from them, usu 
ally, the chiller wind of autumn, with a touch of its shivering 
sadness. 

The distance covered now was considerable. It was as if he had 
entered a different zone, a world of tepid, unimpaired, early 
autumn. Its paler radiance enveloped him. His senses expanded 
under the touch. The indestructible, the brutal calm of nature 
was swaying him. It was beginning to light far horizons of de 
ferred hope. 

The increasing distance from the hopeless human tangle 
which had smothered him gave him courage. The burnished 
levels caressed him. He began to exchange words occasionally 
with Volkonsky. It occurred to him at length that they might 



THE FAREWELL 311 

ride together again the way they used to. The threatened crisis 
which had made him suffer seemed far. 

Then the warm, forgiving South began, the Don Cossack 
country, with its late flowering, its canterbury bells, goldenrod, 
its black-and-white mottled butterflies; the Don Cossack coun 
try, with the breath of great rivers and a freer living. 






CHAPTER XXII 
TAGANROG 

THIS was an unprepossessing place, Taganrog, which he had 
chosen. It was situated on the north shore of the Sea of Azov. 
It was lonely. It was isolated and unlovely. A deserted steppe 
spread behind it where the winds raced. In front of it spread a 
desolate water which was drying up and threatening to become 
land. It was a harsh and unpleasant change, indeed, from the 
alluring fertile Don country, with its song and dancing, with its 
profusion of wild, late flowers, its acacias, its sensitive aspen 
groves, its happy farming people, who cultivated successfully the 
peach, the chestnut, and the money-making white mulberry. 

Taganrog, on its narrow projection of land, the sea on three 
sides, had been founded for an army post by Peter the Great, 
who had planned for it an ambitious future. It had only about 
one thousand houses, however, now, most of which were of stone. 
There were only two which were worthy of consideration: namely, 
the old Greek Monastery, which was not so bad to look at, and 
the comparatively recent, commercially ugly, Marine Hospital. 

Along the one main business street, the little shops, which 
looked more like bazaars, they were so small, so dark, so crowded, 
were kept by enterprising Greeks and Armenians who had been 
doing a thriving business since the war. Ships from Marseilles, 
which usually were forced to anchor at some distance from shore, 
because of the shallow, reedy water, brought regularly to these 
little, dirty, ill-kept shops the luxuries of France, of Europe. 

Light-draft sailing vessels, which could easily reach the land, 
did a brisk, money-making business in iron, in ship timber, in 
wool, which had come by way of the Don and the Volga, from the 
rich, unexploited Russian interior, and even from remote Siberia, 
and the Pacific. From here these natural products were sent on 
again to Odessa by sea or by caravan, and from Odessa to other 
cities which were centers of distribution, even as far as Constan- 



TAGANROG 313 

tinople. Lonely Taganrog which looked as if it were in danger 
of being pushed into the sea, which was pummeled by the winds, 
was really important and energetic commercially. The great 
fleet of its light-draft sailing vessels went a great way toward 
provisioning the mountainous, occasionally snowbound, and 
always unfrequented, Caucasus. 

The house Alexander had designated as the royal residence 
stood on the shore. It was so long and low, with so many little 
windows just alike on each side, that it recalled a rope factory. 
It had a yellow front and the roof was painted green. 

The night he arrived a warm, black-yellow fog from the sea 
was creeping slowly in and enveloping lonely Taganrog. This 
gave it an uncanny, an unfriendly appearance. When he entered 
the house a faint, evasive perfume greeted him unpleasantly and 
made him think of his one other visit here some years ago. Grate 
fires made of burrian, the steppe weed used in place of wood, had 
been lighted to drive off the dampness, and the heavy atmos 
phere was forcing some of the smoke back again and down into 
the low rooms. 

When he embraced the Empress, and the childish, trustful 
eyes, which were the color of forget-me-nots, looked up into his, 
he felt the old burden of the past, from which he hoped he had 
freed himself forever, fall back upon him. The restful change of 
the long journey with its free, diverting distances, with its great, 
winnowing winds, was annihilated in a moment. Here was the 
old Petersburg furniture, too! And the pictures! And as they sat 
opposite each other at dinner, here was the old dinner service 
of fine porcelain of Dresden, with the little round covers of beaten 
silver, recalling the tragic wrongdoing of the evenings of the past. 

The house was filled with flowers in honor of him. The little 
friendly flower-faces of his rich gardens by the Gulf of Finland 
were grouped to greet him. His heart pinched with sudden pain 
at thought of how that garden of delight must be looking now, 
blasted and pallid, under the shrill winds of autumn. 

And she was so unfeignedly glad to see him, the Empress, glad 
in spite of the past. A sort of divine, unearned forgiveness. It 
was as if he had returned, not from a long journey, but from 



3 H THE PENITENT 

some more vital, perilous separation, of the heart, say, or the 
mind. It was her silent, unobtrusive celebration that the long 
agony with Marie Antonova was over. Her day had come, she 
believed. He was hers at last. 

After dinner, in the room of the low ceiling and little windows 
that was used as drawing-room, where coffee was served, he felt 
this more keenly. And he suffered again to think that in her was 
unused, stored-up youth, while in him was the desolation, the ex 
perience won from disappointment, from unrestrained pleasure. 
He could not begin over again so easily. 

There were yellow roses in the drawing-room because she 
thought he liked them. She believed that the Russian must have 
flowers about him. When she first came to live in the country, 
she used to declare that the passion for flowers proved the kin 
ship of Petersburgers with the Orient. These yellow roses were 
just like those that grew beside the rustic bench where he used 
to sit with his daughter Sophie, in the sunny mornings, to await 
Marie Antonova's late, ill-tempered coming down to lunch with 
the wild fervors of a night of sin upon her. Fitfully, they flung 
the grief, the glamour of the past upon him. For a moment they 
smothered his senses. He thought of the wages of sin which one 
must keep paying and paying. 

He sensed now, dully, that she knew about the present polit 
ical unrest, the growing threats against the government and his 
own life, but that she would say nothing. She had learned well 
from him the habit of concealing what she thought. He knew, 
too, that she would stand beside him, proudly, bravely, and 
await any fate, even death. He admired this quality. It was 
royal. 

There was something of pity, too, mingled with her happiness 
to-night, and vague, uncharted fears for the future. She believed, 
naturally enough, that the change she saw in him was due to the 
sudden wrench caused by the break with Marie Antonova and 
the unexpected death of his daughter. It was this grief that had 
changed him so. It was this grief that had brought him back to 
her at last, after all the years. He felt waves of self-forgetful 
pity touch him, while they were talking calmly of inconsequential 



TAGANROG 315 

things, such as the visit of Constantine, his journey, the house, 
just as if nothing had happened. He estimated, on a sudden, the 
elevation of the nature of the woman who sat opposite, that was 
capable of sacrifice like this. But at the same time, this sacrifice, 
together with her childish dependence upon him, were riveting 
again those chains that bound him to the past, which he had 
been trying so hard to break away from, to be free. 

Along with her majestueuse tournure, there was something about 
her now that was appealing, almost pitiful. A most astonishing 
combination, this. And this peculiar, grand indifference, too, 
which was the height either of the aristocratic idea or of personal 
fearlessness. They shook him. They made him feel contempt 
ible, especially her superb giving-up of life. Try as he would, he 
could not get rid of the feeling. 

And they were both so lonely. This bound them together. 
This made it tragic. His own personal peculiarities, his con 
stantly changing mind, together with the persistent intrigues for 
their own ambitious ends of Arakcheiev and Photius, had re 
sulted in his seeing seldom his boyhood friends. He was as iso 
lated as a tree in a desert. There was nowhere he could turn 
for help, for support. 

Her condition in this particular surpassed his own. Fate had 
willed it that the girlhood friends she had made when she first 
came were either dead or for political reasons living abroad 
where she never saw them, like Countess Tolstoy, as an example 
in fact. She had either not wished or not been able to make new 
ones. She did not care sufficiently for people. She had no inter 
ests left now but the carving of gems and her prayer book. The 
same force was operative in both their lives, namely, a force 
cutting them sbwly loose. 

No fiber of her being had taken deep root in this adopted land. 
She lacked flexibility, probably. She lacked interest, too. She 
was mentally incapable, for some reason, of transplanting. Life 
with her here, he reflected on a sudden with self-reproach, had 
been merely a proud, a lonely waiting for the end, any end. She 
had been an imposing figure in the past. Now she was becoming 
an appealing one. 



316 THE PENITENT 

If she still loved him, which he did not doubt, it was a love 
made up of too many renunciations, too many unsparing soul- 
disciplines to be humanly happy. It was made up of too many 
extraordinary qualities to be effective in the little, pleasant, care 
less round of every day. Both she and Marie Antonova marked 
two too far extremes to be reconcilable with comfortable living. 
They were two superb dissimilarities, each impossible in her way. 
He had not been able to reach the safe mean and hold it, which 
any commonplace man can do. 

Like him, she did not care for her great position. She was tired 
of it. It bored her. She was held to it by loyalty to him. They 
were both of too elevated intellect to succumb happily, if fool 
ishly, to its base, always selfish, flattery. They were not suffi 
ciently plebeian to feel superior, flattered, by elevation. They 
despised the cringing courtier, who sought promotion by appeal 
ing to a sovereign's weakness. The petty, the illogical superiori 
ties of place which please the vulgar, meant nothing to them. 
And both of them, without the exchange of a word to each other 
on the subject, were consciously confronting that changing civi 
lization whose terrors Prince Metternich had pictured for them 
so convincingly. Now they could both see that what Prince 
Metternich said was true, that the sword of Napoleon had shaken 
to its foundation the old civilization in which they were brought 
up. They did not find within themselves anything left with which 
to face readjustment to the new. They did not pause to think 
whether it would be better or worse. They had no curiosity about 
its unexplored expansions. 

But a ray of light, somewhat cruel though it was, suddenly 
shone for him. The invisible, subconscious current was still 
bearing him on. It occurred to him that her mother was living. 
She would be glad, indeed, to go back again to her girlhood sur 
roundings, to Baden, and forget, if she could, in the atmosphere 
of home, the futile years between. It would be like beginning all 
over again, only in a safer milieu. But he would think no more 
now. He would let it all rest with this thought which he would 
not seek to probe. 

When he said good-night to her, he put his arms about her 



TAGANROG 317 

tenderly, with a kiss that seemed to ask forgiveness for the past, 
a lingering kiss, in which his regret for life was dissolved. He 
seemed more human, and not so exquisite, so remote. She felt 
that her silent, flowery celebration of his coming had been suc 
cessful. She was happy. Like the child she was, she fell speedily 
asleep to the rhythm of the fog-covered sea. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
COUNT WORONZOW 

THE next morning he breakfasted late with the Empress. Upon 
her face he saw that magic return of youth which happiness 
sometimes causes in women of great chastity in whom there is a 
fund of stored-up life. He was hers at last all hers. No one 
could take him away from her. In her childish blue eyes shone 
the deep, trusting joy of possession. He wondered vaguely at 
woman's heart in which an indestructible spring seems to be 
waiting. He decided it was because they are a part of nature's 
creative plan. 

After breakfast he retired to his improvised cabinet for a little 
while. He explained that he must look over some papers which 
were awaiting him. There were the usual long, detailed reports 
about the army of the South. There was a certain necessary 
redistribution of officers in question. This he put aside for the 
next day. He had stomach for only pleasant things now. He 
read carefully, however, the request of the citizens of Taganrog 
for the granting of a park and a garden to be used for band con 
certs and amusement. The citizens explained that they were 
needful because of the isolated situation and the lack of enter 
tainment in this lonely outpost planted by the Great Peter. 
Then the petition went on to mention, more casually, the need 
of paving for the more frequented streets. The blowing of violent 
wind, the citizens urged, and the light, dry soil, not only caused 
the inhabitants to suffer from dust, but they were a menace to 
the general health. Likewise the people hoped that sometime he 
would be pleased to embellish their city with a royal residence. 
The only government building erected here for a great many 
years, the petition made bold to remind him, had been the 
Marine Hospital. The citizens felt that they had been neglected 
in the quick upspringing of new buildings on this wave of 
material prosperity which had followed in wake of the war. 



COUNT WORONZOW 319 

Another paper, which he did not read through just now, be 
cause of his temporary giving over of government affairs, referred 
to the astonishing increase in crime of all kinds, not only in 
Petersburg, but in the other large cities of the realm. There was 
added, by way of proof, a list with explanatory details. The im 
plied suggestion, of course, was, that a sterner hand at the helm 
of state was needed. He did not read this to the end. It prom 
ised too many unpleasant disclosures. 

He turned with pleasure to a long letter from Prince Metter- 
nich, written to the Empress just the week before, to wish her 
speedy restoration to health in the South. At the same time it 
informed her that one of his super-spies, by name Chali, an 
Oriental whom he had employed for years to report to him con 
ditions in various countries, would probably reach Taganrog 
during Her Majesty's visit, preparatory to a journey through 
Russia. It was necessary to reinvigorate her health, he explained, 
by the dry, cold breezes of the steppe, after several seasons spent 
in the enervation of an African climate Algiers. His chief 
object in mentioning her name, however, was because he re 
called His Majesty's fondness for music, when he had once had 
the honor of entertaining His Majesty in the Castle of Troppau. 
Chali was a violinist of ability. She would, of course, be at the 
disposal of Their Majesties, in case they found Taganrog dull 
after the gayety of their luxurious Petersburg. He went on to 
state that in Africa she had acquired a repertory of African 
music which he thought they might find not only unusual but 
enjoyable. Then he chatted lightly, as was his habit, of European 
affairs, in that charming manner which made politics read like 
a romance. After finishing the letter, which was long and ap 
parently confidential, Alexander felt the little frisson of happiness 
which contact with the mind of Metternich gave him. He ap 
proved of this polished affability which disguised unpleasant 
facts. He wished it could be found more frequently. 

He was just going to send word to the Empress to prepare for 
a drive of inspection through Taganrog, when to his astonish 
ment Count Woronzow was announced. 

The old man entered hastily. He was covered with dust. He 



320 THE PENITENT 

was weary. Evidently he had driven at speed throughout the 
night. They embraced with the cordiality which testified to 
their trust in each other and to their long acquaintance. Alex 
ander looked lovingly at the short, undignified figure, with the 
furrowed brow and dull, deep-set eyes, the ugly body that gave 
no hint of the inspired, noble soul that dwelled within. A second 
glance told him that the old man was suffering, that he was 
restraining with difficulty some painful emotion. But strange 
to say he did not sense the message. 

"Are we alone, Your Majesty?" 

Alexander hastened to assure him that they were. 

Stealthily then he drew his chair a little nearer. A cloud of 
yellow dust flew from his traveling coat, which he had not taken 
time to remove. The urgency, evidently, was great. " I have just 
discovered " Here his voice shook so he was forced to pause. 
Emotion overcame him. Alexander waited, his face betraying 
no impatience. "I have just discovered " The dull eyes 
looked up at him with a dog's faithfulness and love. " A 
plot against your life. Forgive me the necessity of uttering 
such treasonable words!" Here he crossed himself fervently. 

Alexander turned white. Not with fear, be it said, but because 
that crisis which had made him suffer, and which he had crossed 
Russia to get rid of, had found him here. Evidently he could not 
escape it. 

"I did not pause to eat, I did not pause to sleep, after I heard 
it. I left Odessa within the hour to be the first to warn 
you." 

Again Alexander turned white. This did not deceive the old 
man. He knew that the physical courage of the man opposite 
him was as great as his own. Had he not been right by his side 
in the Battle of Nations, fought under the gates of Leipsic, 
when for four days and four nights not once was Alexander out 
of range of the guns of Napoleon? To the falling bullets he paid 
no more attention than if they had been hailstones. He and 
Alexander were blood-brothers. They had been baptized in 
flame together. Both were indifferent to death. Both believed 
sincerely that there is something better than life. 



COUNT WORONZOW 321 

"Just what is it you have heard, Count Woronzow?" came the 
calm answer. 

"The night before I started, two soldiers were overheard talk 
ing in one of the barracks. One was unfolding, in detail, the plot 
to shoot you when you make your first review of the troops here 
out on the plain " 

"They wish the fate of my father, I suppose, to be mine." 

"The one selected to do the shooting is Colonel Pestel." 

"Ah yes I know that sort of man. And his father, 
too!" 

"It seems" Count Woronzow continued "that this first 
started in a society, a club of boyish poets. Then the poetry 
society gradually changed into a revolutionary society just 
how I do not know. The object now is to exterminate the Roman 
offs make a republic here In short, they plan a repetition 
of the French Revolution on Russian soil." 

"No one can escape his sins!" exclaimed Alexander, crossing 
himself and recalling the murder of his father. He did not tell the 
old man, however, that he already knew about the plot. In this 
tragic moment the dominant trait of his nature, which was 
secretiveness, asserted itself. He did not tell him that he had 
heard it from many sources in Petersburg before he left. Nor did 
he confide to him the solemn warning of Constantine and his 
hasty journey from Warsaw. 

" I came to offer my services my influence over the army 
of the South, as Your Majesty knows, is considerable," he added 
modestly. 

"What do you suggest, Count Woronzow?" 

"The sternest the quickest measures!" 

The face of the Emperor pinched suddenly with grief. 

" I know / know your dislike because of the nobility of 
your soul, to causing suffering. But here, now, is no place for 
yielding to personal inclination. Only duty can be considered, 
Your Majesty. Duty, and the saving of Russia, which means, 
too, the saving of the faith of Christ." Count Woronzow bowed 
his head. He crossed himself with deep humility, as if grateful 
for being permitted to give his life to such an undertaking. 



THE PENITENT 

" While unshaken power is still in Your Majesty's hands, before 
the disaffection in the army has had time to grow, to weaken you 
you must strike. No matter what our hearts, what our con 
sciences may say, we must strike. And it must be to conquer 
to kill " He added in a dull voice, "It is duty." The ignoble 
little figure, seated in the low leather chair, looked almost ma 
jestic in the triumphant victory of his soul. "Once more, let me 
have the honor of leading Your Majesty's troops!" 

Alexander was moved. He was swayed from the multiple 
clutch of his crab-like fears. With something that resembled the 
exaltation of the artist, his mind leaped forward to hold those 
heights of duty the old man pictured. Triumphant visions of 
victory touched him and for the moment lifted him out of his 
melancholy. 

"You are right, Count Woronzow! We will proceed, immedi 
ately. It is the thing to do." 

"The plotters, Your Majesty, must be ferreted out by spies. 
They must be sent then, secretly, to the mines. Over Russia, over 
Siberia, with the swiftness of magic, we must fling a network of 
informers. Then we will enlist the priests. Then we will enlist 
the newspapers. Then we will proclaim a holy war against the 
Turk inflame the mind of Russia, in short, with patriotism. 
That will be useful. That will make people forget and thus 
unite the race. We will save our country!" 

"And Russia then shall acknowledge its debt to you, Count 
Woronzow, I promise you." Alexander was now enthused with 
the prospect. 

"First, Your Majesty, send couriers to Petersburg. Arrest 
the young men of the societies. There is no time to lose. Every 
minute must count for us. Arrest the young men of the branches 
of these societies, too, in Novgorod, and especially in Moscow. 
In Moscow, you know, there is always too much daring 
thinking." 

"I agree with you, Count Woronzow! That is the way to pro 
ceed. I agree with you heartily. It shall be done." 

Relief was evident upon the old man's face. He had succeeded. 

In contact with the firm, quick power of decision of this stern 



COUNT WORONZOW 323 

commander's soul, Alexander regretted the futile weeks of suf 
fering, of trying to avoid the crisis. He would meet it now, 
bravely. He would make up for the time he had lost. What a re 
lief it was this decision at last ! 

They talked then of various other matters. In the course of the 
conversation Count Woronzow hastened to inform him that 
Alexis Sergiewitch must not be numbered among the plotters, 
that he was loyal to the Emperor. 

"He is too much of a butterfly, Your Majesty, to cherish 
political convictions. He is young and hot-headed, but his heart 
is not bad." 

Alexander recalled on the instant the "Ode to the Dagger." 
He knew that it very likely had had a certain effect, and that 
effect not good. But he dismissed the thought as soon as it 
came, because he knew the writer was only a poet and not a 
political disturber. But the officials behind in Petersburg were 
of a different opinion. In addition they were angry personally, 
because of the sting of his bitter epigrams. 

At length Alexander suggested that a room be prepared for 
Count Woronzow. He told him that the midday meal would be 
served shortly, and he hoped he would give them the pleasure of 
a visit. Count Woronzow replied that he wished merely to wash, 
to remove the stains of travel, in order to be presentable to meet 
Her Majesty. A room, however, was unnecessary, because he 
was returning immediately to Odessa. In the present unsettled 
condition, he could not afford to be away. 

Count Woronzow greeted the Empress with something that 
resembled reverence. In more ways than one she represented his 
ideal woman. Various entries in his diary at this time go to prove 
it. She had most of the qualities he respected in women, and of 
which his own wife had none, whom for long, be it said, he had 
looked upon as his earthly cross. In addition to his respect for 
the Empress, he felt sorry for her. He had something of the 
sympathy that unites like to like. 

Just before he drove away, he saw Alexander alone again for 
a few moments. Alexander renewed his intention of prompt 
action. Count Woronzow asked him for a definite plan of pro- 



324 THE PENITENT 

cedure. In reply Alexander told him to use his own initiative in 
Odessa and places under his immediate supervision. He added, 
however, that he thought best to set about it secretly. He 
explained that he would send on to him immediately definite 
orders. 

When Count Woronzow, satisfied with the result of his visit, 
turned to take farewell of Alexander, he was startled by some 
change in the white face. It was almost as if he were paying his 
adieux to a stranger. He concluded that when he first reached 
Taganrog he had been so excited by weight of the news he bore, 
and so weary by the forced journey, that he had been in no 
condition to observe. 

After Count Woronzow had driven away, Alexander and the 
Empress took their deferred drive through the unprepossessing 
streets of windy Taganrog. He did not refer again to the object 
of the old man's visit. He left her in the belief that it was merely 
a call of courtesy, made equally upon them both. She gained 
the impression that the interview had been merely one of pleas 
ure. The manner of Alexander was happier than usual, lighter, 
and their conversation was care-free. They chatted easily. He 
asked her help in selecting a place for a park and for a public 
garden for flowers. This pleased her. She felt flattered. She 
enjoyed doing it. She felt that she was helping him, that at 
last she was coming into her own. She had always wished to be 
useful. 

Above their heads as they drove through the one business 
street, with its ugly, flat-topped buildings, the signs over the 
shops displayed the world's most picturesque, ancient alphabets: 
Greek, Syrian (Arabic), and Russian. 

There were noisy little wine-houses at intervals, where crowds 
gathered, and from which throughout the night ruddy, enliven 
ing light streamed. There were rough groups of caravan drivers. 
There were boatmen whose cruel, pale faces kept startling Mon 
gol traits, but whose half-naked bodies were hairy and blond. 
Among them were Black Sea pirates, bare to the waist, wearing 
tiny caps, that were perfectly round, on the backs of their heads. 
They were taking brief land-leave. They were rejoicing, with the 



COUNT WORONZOW 325 

native population, in the present cheapness and abundance of 
food and wine. Russia was feasting. Never had the land been so 
well fed. There were dance-halls. There were gambling-resorts 
which were never closed. Black gypsy women were dancing in 
the street for money in front of some of them. There was more 
than a sprinkling of Asiatics. In short, there were the usual 
harsh, noisy contrasts of a lonely outpost. 

They agreed at length upon the expediency of embellishing 
the city. The Empress suggested the adding of one or two public 
buildings. They talked freely, easily. There was no restraint. 
The rich corn country, back of the steppe, would warrant con 
siderable upbuilding, Alexander thought, as if at the moment he 
had interest in nothing else. Gayly, out of words then, they built 
their toy city. 

Just as the summer mornings he had spent with his daughter 
by the Gulf of Finland, in the flower-filled gardens, were the hap 
piest period of his daughter's life, so were the next few days the 
happiest with the Empress, because such power of giving pleasure 
to others was his. In the glory and strength of his new-found 
decision, he was something as she remembered him in his happy 
youth, when, impractical, imperial dreamer that he was, he was 
sketching plans for the welfare of the world without taking time 
into account, or its destructive tides. 

Happily, together now, they planned the freeing of the serfs, 
and the possible putting aside the burden of a crown, so wearisome 
to them both, in giving the country a constitution or a govern 
ment after the style of the United States of North America. She 
felt flattered to be consulted like this. She was content. Since he 
had come back to her after the years, what else could matter? 
They were one in mind. They were living harmoniously in that 
brilliant-colored world of the imagination where no companion 
could be so delightful as he. 

What she believed fondly to be his late refluence of love, of 
devotion to herself, was in fact the result of reconciliation in his 
own shifting, melancholy, restless mind of having been able to 
reach a decision, the thing he had struggled so long and so vainly 
to do. 



326 THE PENITENT 

He would show Russia that his hand could be stern, could be 
sure in its dealings when occasion demanded. He would show 
them that he was not so inferior to Peter. He confessed to him 
self now that he had vacillated too long. It was easy enough see 
ing as he did through the eyes of Count Woronzow. He was 
untroubled. He felt dominant and brave. 



CHAPTER XXIV 
ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 

FIVE days passed. The promised order of procedure had not been 
forwarded to Count Woronzow. Neither had order against the 
plotters been sent to Arakcheiev or Count Benkendorf in Peters 
burg. The same was true of Moscow. Alexander had done noth 
ing. The nation waited. 

Each of those five days since the departure of the old man, he 
had felt that fine courage, that brave, independent initiative 
which he had imbibed sensitively from Count Woronzow's 
presence, slowly oozing. Each morning when he awoke he found 
that he had less than the day before. 

He could not do it. Try as he would he could not force himself 
to set in motion that vast, that cruel enginery of destruction. 
The dumb impulses of his body fought against it. The deep 
undercurrent of his mind, flowing through him with the imperious 
necessity of his blood, forbade it. "O/ God, keep me from wrong! 
Do not permit me to set my hand to the murdering of men!" he 
prayed. 

Again that uncontrolled torrent of thought, of worry, was 
rushing destructively through his brain. Granted that it would 
be better for Russia, were there no personal rights of his own to 
be considered? Was it his duty for any man's say-so, however 
reliable, to mortgage his soul-welfare through vast cycles of 
living to come, by the act of murder? recalling vaguely at the 
moment that majestic prohibition of Eastern thinkers, and the 
Christian prohibition, too: Thou shall not kill! Was it his duty 
to do a thing against which his nature revolted? Would he not 
commit a greater crime if he did? His grandmother had been 
forced onward from crime to crime, from murder to murder, by 
so-called political necessity. In his boyhood he had begun, too, 
by being forced on along the same road, to sanction, namely, 
the murder of his father. That murder had embittered the years 



328 THE PENITENT 

between. It had shadowed his days. He would not be forced to 
it again. It was not his duty. There was a court of loftier appeal. 
He would not be the nation's royal, vigorously applauded exe 
cutioner. He would not murder and then accept praise for patriot 
ism. In the Napoleonic wars he had had enough of that. Great 
wars, it occurred to him with a lightning-like illumination of 
mind, not only sacrifice the lives of soldiers, but ultimately, too, 
with a crueler, a larger logic, the leaders on both sides, the vic 
torious as well as the vanquished. It seemed to be an inevitable 
progression. In the slow subsidence of that gigantic confusion, 
no one goes unscathed, not even the victor. 

With the feeling of impotence growing upon him, and with the 
great, yawning void of expectation calling him louder and louder, 
which was of men of the government, men of the army, men of 
affairs throughout the country who were awaiting his action, he 
became melancholy again. He was face to face with the crisis. 
He suffered. Fear, which is the child of suspicion and lack 
of faith, ultimately, too, of madness, increased. Daily for him, 
logically, slowly, it unfolded its unknown terrors. There were 
vague inquietudes which words might not express. There were 
troubled presentiments in the twilight. There was a new, un 
suspected, latent hostility in people. Even the unyielding, harsh 
indifferences of material things began to impress him. Special 
sadnesses awaited him if the evenings fell with rain, or the warm, 
yellow fogs of the South in winter enveloped the land. 

The Empress, however, saw and felt little of this. She was 
protected against impressions just now by her sudden, her new 
found happiness. She was self-absorbed. He had come back to 
her after the years! He was hers. Nothing else mattered greatly. 
Suddenly, by a stroke of Fate, the obstacle to her contentment, 
her supremacy, had been swept away. The rays of this unex 
pected happiness which had just arisen blinded her to other 
things. Her unused life of suppressed youth burst into blossom 
like the flowers in some magic garden. 

The meddlesome Metternich, the Continent's most accom 
plished mischief-maker, in his official cabinet in Vienna was al 
most as restless as Alexander. The silence in Taganrog was 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 329 

worrying him. He was playing for the rehabilitation of the Haps- 
burg dynasty. It was weak. It needed time for restoration. In 
addition, as he saw it, it was now or never to save the ruling 
class. His strong will steeled itself anew for the task. 

Daily, couriers brought him the same word from Taganrog. 
No change. From Chali likewise came this message. What if 
Alexander should make Russia free! What if he should give it a 
constitution! Then about his own ears would come the clatter 
ing ruin of his carefully erected schemes. All that he had worked 
for would be destroyed. His mental atmosphere resembled that 
which precedes a thunderstorm. To content himself a little 
in the weary period of waiting, he wrote notes to all the courts 
containing carefully guarded warnings against Alexander. 

Count Woronzow was waiting, too. And now with appre 
hension. So were the state officials in Petersburg, in Moscow. 
They were upon the edge of a volcano. 

Each one of these days Alexander walked alone by the shore of 
the sea for hours, just as Alexis Sergiewitch used to in Odessa 
when he was meditating running away from Russia. He recalled 
vividly what the Greek poets whose verses he had learned by 
heart in his childhood, Euripides in particular, had written about 
the sight of the sea, and its sound, banishing the grief of men. 
He wished pitifully that the miracle might be performed for 
him. 

Sleeplessness came back to torture him. Night-long he heard 
the weeping of that somber Sea of Azov, where, as winter drew 
on, mists clung like the poised, sad approach of some other world. 
Surely nowhere else, he began to think dismally, do the dawns 
rise so solemnly. He read the Scriptures. He read the lives of 
the saints. He read Saint Francis of Assisi. Hours of the night he 
remained upon his knees in prayer begging for guidance, begging 
for a way out. 

Another thing that paralyzed in him the power of quick, of 
effective action, was that in most Russians there is a slight ad 
mixture of the fatalism of the Orient, that what must be must be. 
And just now Alexander was beginning to believe that determi 
nation for the future of his country no longer rested with him 



330 THE PENITENT 

alone; that these young plotting poets were the future, casting 
its shadows ahead. He was beginning to believe that they were 
the forerunners of an unreckonable uprising of the masses, that 
new civilization of Metternich, that in time was to destroy utterly 
the kind of life in which he had been brought up. This was fear 
enlarged a thousand fold and then generalized. So in addition to 
being unwilling to proceed, he felt helpless. 

The old desire for travel, for swift moving across space, which 
was his way of meeting trouble, came. With him it was a sign of 
desperation. Just now it marked something resembling mental 
rabies, a disease. He could not oppose it. There was nothing to 
do but yield. 

He informed the Empress, suddenly, and the members of his 
improvised entourage of the South, that he was going to make a 
swift visit of inspection to some of his Crimean cities, alleging 
various feigned necessities as immediate cause. Adjutant-Gen 
eral Prince Volkonsky, as usual, accompanied him. This time 
again they did not ride together. The Prince wondered at it. 

First to Perekop he started, and insisting upon driving at a 
speed that astonished even Prince Volkonsky. Through Perekop, 
on its narrow peninsula, the little village founded so many cen 
turies ago by the Tartars, the great highway leads straight ahead, 
like a road of conquest, to Crimean lands. 

He did not see anything of the lovely, sun-warmed autumn 
country through which they were rattling with such speed, nor 
the gladness of the gay mirror of blue reflecting water beside him, 
his mind was so blinded by fears. He was swinging helplessly 
now to that fixed thought which sometimes heralds madness. 

At Simferopol, another old Tartar stronghold, in which a more 
prosperous new Russian quarter was springing up with the rapid 
ity of weeds in spring, and where mosque, synagogue, Greek 
Orthodox church, and a new pointed- topped Catholic cathedral 
rubbed elbows amicably, Prince Volkonsky fell ill. They were 
forced to stay over for two days. But the Emperor had no inter 
est in the busy little place or its picturesque situation at the foot 
of a spur of those crumpled-looking Crimean mountains, nor its 
spacious gardens, now luscious with ripened fruit, where the 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 331 

Sultans of the North used to live. He spent both days in the 
church in prayer. Both Perekop and Simferopol had been given 
to Russia by that virile, all-conquering grandmother of his, who 
above all things knew how to live. 

They sailed across from Goursuf to Aluschta, an hour's pleas 
ant sail if the wind is fair. Prince Volkonsky felt that he was in 
Italy. He was happy. A more charming place could not be 
imagined. Billows of conquest, for centuries, had rolled over this 
southern shore; from east; from west and south; Mongol, Tartar, 
Greek, Latin. Powerful, restless, rapacious races had ruled it. 
It was not impossible, indeed, that once here the soldiers of 
proud Justinian, with the golden eagles of Rome, had passed, 
and Prince Volkonsky tried earnestly to divert Alexander's 
mind by these poignant memorials of human history, and to 
suggest to him, from them, fresh plans for the expanding future. 
He observed that Alexander did not adequately estimate, or 
appreciate, the economic forces at work now, forces which were 
wholly disassociated from the moral world. But Alexander 
seemed neither to see nor hear what he said. And over his head 
here again the birds were singing, the same birds that used to 
scatter their songs so lavishly above that gorgeous garden by the 
Gulf of Finland. He did not hear them. They made him neither 
sad nor happy. 

From Goursuf two highways lead. Alexander had no interest 
in either one of them. One leads through spacious lands belong 
ing to Count Woronzow ; the other through the estate of another 
Russian nobleman. The choice was made by Prince Volkonsky. 
He took the lower road. It led through the vine-lands where 
grape-pressers were working now noisily and merrily and where 
rich scents of wine were on the air. 

Then the road led uphill, rather steeply for some distance, 
between rows of dust-covered, tall cypress-trees, where they 
could see, broader and broader, a stretch of water shine like 
silver. He had no more interest in the sumptuous crown-estate, 
Oreanda. He did not wish to visit it. He did not turn his head 
to look at it. Prince Volkonsky began to wonder again just what 
could be the object of this last, mad journey. 



332 THE PENITENT 

Each morning, when they started, very early, a transparent, 
blue haze was hanging over the vast water, while to landward 
spread the first wild rose of the sunrise. 

Smiling, sheltered Alupka, the health resort, swung to sight. 
Near it Count Woronzow was erecting the famous Moorish 
palace which was intended to equal the Alhambra and become 
one of the world's wonders. Its park was of an extent, a luxuri 
ance, both natural and cultivated, to dazzle even an Emperor's 
eyes. All along this alluring Southern shore in fact they found 
another summer, and at the same time something resembling 
the spirit of gay, sensuous Cairo, where pretty women who 
had laughing eyes wore the gowns of Paris. Here fruit that 
glowed like little round suns showed enticingly among the 
green gloss of leaves, and scents of late harvest came on the 
breeze. 

Afterward came Sebastopol on its lofty cliff, and Balaclava, 
later to be battle famous, shutting in sharply a blue circle of sea 
with white sand that glittered like diamonds. 

The drive from SebastopoJ to Eupatoria, with its mosque and 
its whirling wind mills, on the homeward curve to the north, 
where the gigantic walnut-trees grow, is one of the loveliest in 
the world. It does not need to stand second where beauty is the 
question, if perhaps it must in grandeur, to that which Alexis 
Sergiewitch had taken across the wild Gorge of Dariel, in whose 
depths light died in the day, and where Caucasian eagles whirled. 
But Alexander saw nothing of it. It did not inspire him. It did 
not give him pleasure. He did not even look at the wonders the 
lavish world was spreading before his inattentive eyes. Prince 
Volkonsky was beginning to be worried in earnest. He could not 
guess the cause of this new, this unexpected strangeness, when 
everything seemed to be moving smoothly. He puzzled his head 
over it. He began to believe that Alexander's upbringing had 
been wrong. It had been in the hands of emotional priests and a 
dreaming philosopher. If, instead, he had had some scientific 
training, he thought, it would have helped to steady him, to give 
him a different outlook. Then he could have considered what 
happened in the world about him as some phase of growth, of 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 333 

evolution. Instead of seeing everywhere emotionally either 
punishment or penalty, he would have viewed nature's uninter 
rupted progress. 

Fresh life, increased commercial energy, was now flowing into 
these little cities of the South. He tried to make Alexander see it. 
He tried to show him what it meant for Russia. He tried to 
open his eyes to future possibilities of commercial conquest. 
This Crimean country, which is Russia's Italy, was just enter 
ing upon that heightened era of business development, of modern 
scientific exploitation of natural resources, in the way of mines, 
medicinal baths, fruits, wines, grain, leather, timber, which was 
to meet its first impetuous if temporary check, a little more 
than a quarter of a century later, with the breaking-out of the 
Crimean War. It was just getting in full and inspiring swing 
now. But the Emperor's mind was so swayed by gloomy pre 
sentiments that he could not see it. 

Back in Taganrog the truthful, childish eyes of the Empress, 
which bound him to the slavery of the past, and were living 
memorials of his folly, his wrongdoing, awaited him. Back in 
Taganrog the invisible threads of fear, which made him helpless, 
miserable, were awaiting him, too, to make him a prisoner, to 
bind him again. 

He had gained nothing by the journey. This time he had not 
found in it the temporary relief which usually resulted. His last 
pleasure was gone. The crisis still confronted him. And there was 
nowhere he could turn for help, either to personal friend or polit 
ical power. He did not feel any too friendly toward England 
since her refusal of the last Russian loan. In addition, like Met- 
ternich, he disliked her Foreign Minister, Canning. He had a 
horror of his disrespectful, Irish wit. He could not rely upon 
Poland even with his brother as Governor. He knew too well 
the fickleness, the undependableness of the race. Spain and 
Italy had troubles enough of their own. Austria, he knew, was 
forced to cling closely to that necessary selfishness which is a part 
of weakness. There was nothing for him anywhere. He had lost 
even the power to hope. Only in some other world now could he 
live and find that happiness, cette puissance de bonheur, which 



334 THE PENITENT 

must be, to go on; some other world where an entirely different 
mental equipment was required. 

Alone, in desperation of soul, he stood by the Sea of Azov, 
while about him spread the impalpable agony of the twilight, 
like a new, a strange land, stretching on and on. The last faint 
streaks of peach-bloom in the west had faded. Night was shut 
ting down. 

Suddenly in something the way that the drowning clutch at a 
straw, the letter which Metternich had written to the Empress oc 
curred to him. Anything connected with Metternich was in the 
nature of a relief. He recalled his mention of that woman musi 
cian, Chali. In his increasing deafness the violin was the only 
instrument he could enjoy. He turned back toward the Resi 
dence. He walked a trifle more briskly than usual. On arrival, 
he dispatched an equerry to the low, square, somewhat isolated 
stone dwelling which was Chali's, to apprize her of his coming. 

When she lifted her eyes from the customary reverence to 
royalty with which she greeted him, what seemed to her a figure 
of pity stood before her. This was no Moscow Tsar. He brought 
to mind the memory of Holy Men to which, in the East, she was 
not unaccustomed. He recalled slightly to her that marble face 
lit by the light of tapers, in the dim, old cathedrals of Italy, to 
which men prayed. Could this be the man, she asked herself in 
amazement, whom Metternich had declared must not go back to 
Petersburg alive? Was it for this, this unutterable thing, that she 
had left her happy living and come to Russia? To her swift- 
moving, figure-making, Oriental mind the man before her sug 
gested a noble animal, wounded, at bay, with the base, yelping 
hounds of political envy, personal hatred, after him. By force 
of contrast Metternich occurred to her, and, in unflattering juxta 
position; an old, faded roue; a selfish, intellectual sensualist. She 
all but hated him. She had a dramatic moment of fierce, of angry 
revolt against the mission upon which he had sent her. Then the 
suppleness of her race proclaimed itself. Emotions change easily 
in the heart of an Asiatic. This stood her in good stead now. 
She would save him, some way or other. She would please her 
self and throw dust in the eyes of the mischief-making Austrian. 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 335 

She would serve personal desires for once. Swiftly she regretted, 
as she stood face to face with Alexander, those informatory letters 
she had been sending to Vienna. She disbelieved now most of 
the things she had heard of him. Rapidly she reversed her 
opinions. She made new ones. All his ills she believed came from 
his superiority. The charm of Alexander which had been so 
fatally powerful over the hearts of people in the past was height 
ened now by his inaccessibility. 

She sensed, suddenly, that some death-dealing blow had killed 
the living heart of him, until now it was merely a huge, an in 
visible wound. She knew that her, the woman, he could not even 
see. He had swung out beyond living, so to speak. Waves of 
self-forgetful pity began to sweep over her. She cursed futilely 
that twist of destiny that made her the slave of others. 

But she would wait and see what acquaintance might disclose. 
There were weapons in her hands. She would know how to use 
them. She was quick to see. She was quick to act. 

This, then, was the man whom the crafty diplomacy of Met- 
ternich had, for years, been pulling slowly down, from his great 
height of power, to ruin! This was the man in whose ear he had 
stood and whispered, to put shaken faith, distrust. First, he had 
worked to destroy his friendships. Then he had saddened his 
heart. At last he had made him lonely. Deep in the clear eyes 
she was looking into she could count all those accumulated disap 
pointments. 

Alexander, on his part, was confronted with a bare, dismal, 
ill-furnished room. The usual, red-flannel-framed bear-skins 
were on the floor. There were a few pieces of awkward, brown, 
leather-covered furniture made in Germany. The windows 
were narrow and deep-set. The ceiling was low. In one corner 
stood a medium-sized stove of painted porcelain. The walls 
were bare save for three great, wild, blossoming orchids from 
Africa, which kept a beauty in which there was something 
savage. 

A magnificent figure of a woman, however, was bowing before 
him, tall, slender, with a small, round, smooth-shining, black 
head. He saw a pale face, amber- tin ted, with arched, eloquent 



336 THE PENITENT 

brows. But the eyes impressed him most. In them he read con- 
noisseurship of life, and in her heart he felt a touch of that in 
telligent pity which only the wounds of living can give. He 
recalled swiftly Metternich having said to him: "I have never 
loved anything base. I love iron and marble, but I could never 
love tin nor lead." 

A voice that pleased her touched responsively her ears. " I am 
taking advantage, with your gracious permission, of Prince 
Metternich's invitation to hear you play." 

"I feared, Your Majesty," bowing him to a seat, "that you 
were going to permit me the honor of being the first to announce 
to His Excellency the giving of a constitution to Russia." She 
would simulate frankness. She would strike with the suddenness 
of surprise. 

"Would that be so bad? " gently. The thought evidently 
did not displease him. 

"Perhaps, for an old nation far ahead in the future." 

"You mean?" 

"With your gracious permission, Sire, Russia is young." 

" Cannot all people enjoy freedom? " 

"A dagger is a dangerous plaything for an infant." 

"You do not flatter." 

" Russia is youngest of the nations. If the elders France, 
England have not dared try it, how could one less experi 
enced?" Unconsciously the political faith of Metternich had 
become hers. 

Alexander became thoughtful. His doubts came back. They 
were seldom but partially asleep. It took little to arouse them. 
She was probably right. His people were children. 

"Sometimes, you know, the governing hand grows weak/-' 
was the gentle rejoinder. 

"Freedom is for the chosen, Sire. It has nothing to do with 
the masses." 

In the mood of despair that held him his subtlety was gone. 
Perhaps for the first time in his life he was frank. He wore no 
mask to-night. 

"The one who governs has a harder time than the governed," 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 337 

She saw he had no pride in his great position. The voice that 
moved her with its beauty was infinitely weary. 

Vaguely, then, the memory brushed him of long years of 
wasted youth, of wasted love, with Marie Antonova, of whom he 
seldom permitted himself to think, when there were women in 
the world like this. Metternich was a good judge of many things; 
not only men but women. Always the great statesman's 
power, his penetration, were substance for the storehouse of 
memory. 

"And now is there to be a Turkish war, Sire?" carrying on 
her beginning of undisguised frankness. In this she herself was 
interested. It concerned the people of her faith. 

" There are always wars or near or far, it seems." He 
evaded for the first time. 

"And Charles X, Prince Metternich writes me, is planning 
immediate invasion of Algiers" thinking again of people of 
her faith. 

The clear eyes looked across at her without particular inter 
est. "Being ruler, you see, is not exactly what you might call 
a divertissement" a faint shadow of the old enchanting smile 
caressing the corners of his lips. 

Then, like an inspiration, the way out of it all, for herself, for 
her master, flashed before her. This was what Prince Metternich 
had so frequently praised her for, this vivid^this independent 
seeing. 

"When one is tired of ruling, Sire, there is always the other 
life." 

His expression changed instantly. "The other life! What do 
you mean? " The thought had occurred to him first, words bub 
bling up bravely from the depths of his spirit, when the death of 
his daughter automatically severed relations with Marie Anto 
nova, and cut off the past. This was just what Chali was saying 
now. The words struck his ears with uncanny power and with 
out personal volition. 

"In the old world" her voice was flowing evenly on "the 
East, in short, kings used to put aside the crown for some 
thing greater meditation, prayer to live in solitude the 



338 THE PENITENT 

life of the mind. That was a stepping-up, Sire, not a stepping- 
down." 

She saw the suggestion moved him. She began to understand 
why he was such a riddle to his contemporaries. It was because 
people could neither understand nor believe in nobility so great. 
He did not have the usual human equipment of pettinesses, 
shabby vanities, cheap cruelties which are so many overcoats 
against the storms of human happenings. Whirlwinds of thought 
swept through her. She pitied him. And the pity was mixed 
with something that resembled reverence. She had heard much 
of him, to be sure, from that astute judge of men, Metternich. 
But no word of his had reproduced the living man who sat before 
her. 

Leaning toward him with supple grace, with sincere, eloquent 
eyes, Alexander saw a figure of charm, wearing draperies of soft 
silk the color of pimento splashed with sulphur yellow. " Some 
times, Sire, I have thought that the world has seen three super 
men. Prince Metternich and I discussed it when I met him a 
little while ago by Lake Garda. It is one of his beliefs. Three 
supermen, Sire Buddha, Christ, and Napoleon. I mention 
them in their order of birth. The latter gave his heart to conquest. 
His reward was comparable. The other two sought dominion 
over the world of the spirit. Their scepter of power was love. 
They have changed the minds of races throughout long periods 
of time, in a degree that cannot be estimated. Life has bent be 
fore them, Sire, like grain-fields before the tornado. And Buddha, 
you know, was first an Emperor. Beyond the circles of existence 
that we see, Sire, there are other circles. There is always some 
thing beyond." 

The thought she projected before his mind glowed with the 
savage splendor of those enigmatic flowers upon the wall that 
drew their substance not from the earth, but from the shining 
atmosphere. They represented a certain fury of life, its untamed 
persistence, perhaps. They were emphatic in assertion of its in 
destructibility. This was strength. This was courage. 

She was sitting opposite him perfectly motionless, with the 
praiseworthy calm of the Moslem. But she was looking at him 



ORCHIDS AND MUSIC 339 

with eyes in which there was sympathy and understanding. 
Something touched him which was grateful as warm sunlight 
after winter. It was pity. 

But her mind was active. It was not motionless like her body. 
She had found in Alexander a mental quality she had met but 
once before, in her midnight visitor in the rained palace of Bakshi 
Serai, a man without self, without greed. Perhaps this was a 
quality findable only in this vast country which she had not 
visited before, whose past had not been the same as that of 
Europe's. 

He, on his part, was picturing busily those heights of prayer, 
of renunciation, which are greater than Tsardom. He was think 
ing that failure cannot exist for them who follow the way of the 
spirit. He was picturing that other life. 

When the silence had lasted long enough, she spoke. 

"Shall I play for you, Sire?" 

"Play, if you will be good enough." 

She took her shining brown violin from its case. She tested the 
strings quickly with trained fingers. She took a position across 
the room, not far from where the orchids hung. 

Then there burst upon the surprised senses of Alexander for the 
first time that astonishing music of the black races, that music 
built up by Nature's self, music at once wild and sweet, com 
bining, as great art must, the friendly union of impossibilities. 
With imperious power of self -projection it promenaded before 
his bruised and weary senses that land of ruddy soil, burnished by 
prodigious suns, the background for life savage and free. Like 
his journey southward from Petersburg, with the winnowing 
winds about him, it refreshed him. It was that quick contact 
with the untamed from which he could draw courage. His bruised 
sensibilities were wrapped about deliciously with the concealing 
splendor of tone. He all but wept at the blessed relief it afforded. 
He sat dulled, the sting of misery lessened, under the protection 
which it gave him. It brought him temporarily that simulated 
realization of perfection of milieu, where alone he could succeed 
and be happy. It appealed to the hidden powers of his mind 
which misery had put to sleep. It released them. It made them 






340 THE PENITENT 

active. Beneath the magic of that leaping bow his grief, his 
agony, were impotent. 

When she finished, he did not move nor speak. He hesitated to 
break the charm. When he arose to take leave, it was as if he 
were desirous of keeping intact the music's memory. 

In parting, he bent over her hand with the old, inimitable 
grace which a lifetime at court had taught. Chali felt fleetingly, 
in her woman's heart, the fascination of that inscrutable smile. 
And then, like a vision, he was gone. 



CHAPTER XXV 
KUSMITCH THE MONK 

ON the night that followed, Alexander was making his deferred 
but long-promised tour of inspection of the new Marine Hos 
pital. During his absence, on his journey around the Crimean 
shore, typhus had broken out and the number of patients was 
increasing alarmingly. 

The obsequious, smooth-faced interne who accompanied him, 
took him first to the rooms where the newcomers and those less 
dangerously ill were kept, explaining, as they walked along be 
tween the beds, certain changes and certain planned enlarge 
ments of the floor-space which were desirable. 

At length they entered the room of those who were most seri 
ously ill, where the dimmer light and the weight of silence swept 
upon huii suddenly a fresh conception of suffering, of human 
instability. Unconsciously he began to walk more slowly, to look 
with added sympathy, added comprehension, at the faces of 
those who soon would meet the Great Unknown, and for whom 
life was over. A depressing sense of its sadness, its impossible 
complexities, its futility, touched him. They walked without 
speaking, softly, between the long straight rows of little white 
beds, where the faces kept the same silence, the same monotony 
of suffering. Here the interne volunteered no explanations. 

Suddenly Alexander paused. He looked down fixedly. The 
occupant of the bed was a sailor who resembled himself so 
closely, it was as if he were looking into the mirror. The interne 
saw the resemblance as soon as he did. Even his controlled face 
showed a trace of surprise. The man was younger, to be sure, but 
suffering had in some degree wiped out the difference in years. 
Alexander could not force himself to go on, so astonishing was this 
physical likeness. He still stood in silence and looked down at 
him. He felt that the interne was glancing stealthily first at his 
face and then at the face upon the bed, in order to compare them. 



342 THE PENITENT 

At length he signified to the attendant that his visit of inspection 
was over. 

In the hall outside, he turned and said to him: "Will he get 
well the young sailor? " 

"No, Your Majesty." 

"How long will he live?" 

"Perhaps half the night out." 

"Not longer?" 

"Not possibly longer, Your Majesty." 

Alexander became thoughtful. At length he remembered his 
companion again. 

"It is time for you to be relieved from duty, is it not?" 

"Yes, Your Majesty. But I am glad to remain if I can be of 
service to Your Majesty." 

Alexander thanked him and dismissed him. Then he entered 
the small bare, receiving-room, which was empty now, and 
dimly lighted. Here the prolonged, low, growling sound of the 
night sea greeted him. It was like the hoarse song of some far 
ocean of eternity beating upon shores he could not discern. Dully 
he felt the power of its continuance. 

He stood in the small, ugly room like one dazed. He looked 
about with eyes that did not see. A wild, a romantic idea, had 
flashed across his brain. In that dying sailor's astonishing re 
semblance to himself lay the long-sought way of escape. The crisis 
still confronted him. But he did not fear it now. He could escape 
it! He had found the way! 

He did not wish to go back to Petersburg again. Too many 
tragedies, too many ugly memories were there. And he was not 
sure that he could go if he wanted to. For Russia to live on, to 
prosper, it would be better for him to die, or to disappear. What 
a reversal of his old dream of world dominion was this ! The mass 
of the people were in just the same mood now as the Roman 
populace used to be before the gladiatorial games. Something 
must be thrown to them to appease them a human sacrifice 
- just as in Caesar's day a life must be flung to the mob to keep 
it still. 

For the few black hours of the night that followed now, his 



KUSMITCH THE MONK 343 

will would be supreme for the last time. For the last time, "S0 
be it Alexander" would work the old magic of command. 
He would have the dead sailor's body substituted for his own. 
He would seemingly die, and then disappear. A messenger to 
the Greek Monastery would bring immediately to the Residence 
for him a monk's robe. He would put it on. And then 

Despite the misery that had gripped him so long, a pale, far 
dawn was beginning to rise, and for him. It held promise. It 
held the promise of that other life, which is greater than Tsardom, 
which Chali had pictured and which the magic revealing splendor 
of music had presented as relief to his despair. He returned 
to the Residence speedily and alone, to hasten his plan to ex 
ecution. 

Here, in his improvised cabinet of the low ceiling and little 
windows all around, he could still hear outside the weeping of that 
somber Sea of Azov, like an accompaniment that might not be 
stilled. It was urging him on and on. Through his brain moved 
the summed-up deeds of that fated race of which he was born. 
Father had murdered son; son, father; brother, brother. And 
he himself stood guilty among the rest. He longed to get away 
from it all, the regretful memory, the sickening homage, the 
tinsel splendor, the base intrigues, the foolish pomp, and his own 
peculiar but uncontrollable contempt for his fellow-men, the 
bitter knowledge that to wish well to the world, to will its better 
ment, or to work for it, may bring results as pernicious as crime. 
In addition, the heart of him was dead. Grief, melancholy, 
betrayal, ingratitude, had dealt the blow. 

A world that was not like his ideals, and could never be now, 
must be governed in a different way. It would be better for it to 
be governed by some one else. Life was forcing him every day to 
act the lie, to deny his convictions, to be false to his ideals. The 
new world which was just arising to confront him with such 
sharp surprises, with such harsh dissimilarities, after the Napo 
leonic wars, had nothing whatever to satisfy his poet's dream. 
It was soulless. It was prosaic and unpicturesque. It would be 
come increasingly vulgar, increasingly plebeian. 

That new word found in the days of the Terreur Justice 



344 THE PENITENT 

which men had not dared to use before, was capable of terrific 
expansion. It meant, in the end, the doing-away forever with the 
civilization which he had known. The political ideal of humanity 
was undergoing a change. And it was a disturbing basic change of 
structure. He sensed before him prophetically vast spaces, which 
only the distant future could people, the background for some 
far but very different period of time. What a vision spread before 
his eyes the vast spiritual crumbling of an order of living which 
it had taken nearly two thousand years to build up and to main 
tain, the best that man had known. People were beginning to 
dress for that change even now. He had seen it in the cities. He 
had seen it in the villages. Their clothing indicated the banish 
ing of servility. They were wearing coats and dresses not made 
solely for pleasure, for frivolity, for the gratifying of kingly eyes, 
but for usefulness, and inaugurated by the Great Revolution. 
Not alone their minds had changed! The mental change was 
translated into daily living. Their bodies would change, too. 
Under the rule of the masses, the unaccountable but inevitable 
intermingling of blood, those nobly formed, aristocratic bodies 
of the past would disappear. The repeated admixture of base 
blood would gradually thicken the ankles. It would coarsen, 
make less flexible, the wrists. It would blur the features. It 
would take the long, silky length from the hair. It would shorten 
the long neck, suitable for command, disdain. It would change 
round bones to square. It would thicken, shorten, hands and 
feet. The changes upon the mind would be even greater. It 
would make plebeian. In the same degree it would change the 
spirit. In short, the fine, highly specialized race with which he 
had been reared would now slowly disappear. It would be grad 
ually transformed into a useful race. The fine breeding of the 
human flower, merely for display purposes, to perpetuate the 
aristocratic ideal, would cease. Already wild hopes, which he 
believed the future would fulfill, were dancing like gay soap- 
bubbles before the brains of the poorest, the humblest. And 
what furious, pent-up determination there was in the mob to pos 
sess, to enjoy! He trembled at the thought. It would be the swine 
let in upon the gardens, the flowers, the fruit. When the last 



KUSMITCH THE MONK 345 

barrier was down, what would it do to the stored-up riches of the 
past? 

Above the materialization, the grossness, of the pagan world, 
Beauty had arisen to dominate, to uplift, to console. And later 
still, to shine above the Dark Ages, had come Love, the Christ, to 
make beneficent, to make pitiful. In the far future, what new 
sun would rise? Above that struggling, noisy, onrushing sea of 
the masses, which Prince Metternich, for his own selfish ends, had 
just pointed out to him, and which, since, he had seen better and 
more prophetically than his Austrian guide, what new form of 
consoling superiority would come? Would there be some new 
nobility of the future? Would there be another room built on to 
the human mind to house some fresh ideal? 

He was forty-eight years old. He was vigorous of body, young, 
as years count. But mentally he was an old man. He had lived 
too much. He was disenchanted, worn out, weary. The body, 
still young to look upon, clothed scornfully this ageing soul. 

To get away I To get away I This was his only thought. To sub 
stitute the dead body of the sailor, who looked enough like him 
to be his twin, for his own body, and then to escape in the dis 
guising garb of a monk. 

He longed for the primitive things, things not connected with 
the life of man, the things that heal; the sincere, the unspoiled. 
He longed to bathe his soul in the silences of an untenanted land. 
He longed for the healing of lonely forests, for winter, and for 
dull waters unspotted by activities of commerce. He longed for 
the peace of spirit that is born of solitudes. He longed for freedom 
from false, cringing, self-seeking, treacherous courtiers. He longed 
for prayer. 

There was nothing the material world could give him. He had 
had it all. And his impression of it now, in this moment of fare 
well to the past, to power in retrospect was as of innumer 
able fetters that bound. Only in the possession of nothing was 
there peace. By prayer, perhaps, he could avert the curse that 
had fallen upon the Romanoffs. By prayer, perhaps, he could 
set others free. 

To be f reel Free as the birds are free! To be able to behold 



346 THE PENITENT 

with self-forgetful rapture the pure sky of space which the hand 
of a Creator had unrolled above his head. To have time to look 
with care, with scholarly pleasure, at the little blowing grasses 
of the fields, at the flowers upon the steppe. To idle in the out- 
of-doors as scientists, as artists idle, with wise, kind, sensitive 
eyes. To be free from responsibility over the lives of men: their 
punishing; their guiding, which had tortured him so. To be un 
observed. To be closer to his fellows. To be unenvied. To be 
unhated. 

No more to meet betrayal, disillusion ! To have nothing either 
to preserve carefully or to conceal. To be unattached. To own a 
few of the humble privileges that are the inalienable right of man, 
but which he had not been able to get hold of or to keep. To 
come back, in short, to the race after his long, sad, lonely exile 
of namelessness, which had been kingship. 

He was born a king. And he looked a king, in height, in grace 
of body, in beauty. But the mind of him was not formed for a 
king's iron, irksome tasks. Napoleon was not born a king. He 
was of humble birth. He was inferior in stature. He was not 
much taller than a child. But the mind of him was kingly and 
iron-armored for the task. And then who could tell? in 
years of solitude, of prayer, of meditation, what far boundaries 
of realms spiritual he might reach ! Who could foretell what un 
discovered springs of love, of wisdom, of spirituality, unfettered 
as he was by pride, by earthly impedimenta, and thus enabled 
to progress, he might reach? 

In all abnormalities there is power, because of concentration, 
because of the yielding-up of the little things that go to preserve 
balance. Who could estimate how much of the added power born 
of chastity, the mental, the spiritual, born of renunciation would 
come to him? With this power intensifying throughout the years 
he might purchase pardon for his family, peace for his people; 
and who could measure what divine compensation for himself? 
What gift of health, of healing? 

Prince Metternich's vivid picturing of a changing world, and 
his own growing belief in it, that new, that different civilization 
that was on the way, had impressed him sadly. It had inspired 



KUSMITCH THE MONK 347 

him with fear. It made him long to avoid it. There was nothing 
within him now with which to adapt himself to the new. He be 
longed to the old. Despite the splendor of his body, its suitability 
for the picturesqueness of pageants, his mind had grown anti 
quated. It belonged to the past. An enormous mental evolution 
was in progress. Vast visions were piling up like storm-clouds in 
the minds of humble working-men. A fatal, an imperious leaven 
was at work. It was not easy for the best minds to digest so much 
new life, so much new thought, now flowing into the world. The 
uncommon receptivity of the Russian mind made Slav lands 
more restless, more dangerous. 

Most changes in his realm had been caused by lack of money, 
shortage of food, unpopular governmental measures, real or 
fancied oppressions. This was something different. It was not 
the result of financial bankruptcy nor an increased money 
shortage, which makes people restless, unmanageable. It was 
just the opposite. It was a world in ferment. It was a world busy 
in adjusting itself to more commodious living. Old horizons, 
which once seemed fixed, had expanded, not contracted. The 
material splendor of life which had in the past belonged only to 
the ruling class was now threatening to belong to all. There could 
be but one first result: turned heads, reasonless folly, widespread 
madness. Then change of opinion as to the worth of the individ 
ual. A new equality would be born. 

Changes of government before this had been brought about by 
his own class, the nobility. This was the first time the people had 
presumed to meddle. This made it more dangerous. It was the 
beginning of taking power from the hands of the ruling class. A 
perilous beginning. These crude, these upspringing people from 
below would be hard to deal with. They would have voracious 
appetites for former prohibited things, such as posts of honor, 
adulation, ease, luxury. It would equal the thirst of the desert 
for rain. It would be swine at the table of kings. The changes 
of the new cycle would be fearful. They would be unguessed. 
There would be a vast sweeping-away to make room for the new. 
There would be neither respect for nor knowledge of the old. It 
would be a world in which art would temporarily perish and 



348 THE PENITENT 

merely the economy of material domination remain. It would 
be a world in which the little flowers of Saint Francis would be 
things of ridicule. 

Alexander, with his excessive sensitiveness, his delicacy of 
perception, saw prophetically the social debacle that was on the 
way. He felt the first cold, changing wind-breath of the changing 
world, where there would be less fineness, where courtesy, kindli 
ness, friendship, would perish until the words were all but obso 
lete. 

Soon the elite, with its high ideals, its specialized living, its 
nobility of blood, of training, purchased by the slow refining, the 
sure selection of centuries, would be no more. The horror which 
the leveling must bring ! He could not meet it. In the new civili 
zation there would be no place for fine emotions, useless fervors. 
There would be no self-forgetful sacrifice of any kind, because 
no one would make bold to claim for himself so much squandered, 
if resplendent, life of the soul. 

His melancholy saw humanity as a mighty, onrushing tidal 
wave, with new beliefs, less heart, less pity, less soul-nobility, 
but armed with a fury of earth-exploitation, of material develop 
ment, and lighted perilously by the fearless, far-seeing, electric 
eyes of science, rolling onward with an incomparable totality of 
destruction, over the old world of gentle, tender things which the 
love of Christ had implanted in the heart of an earlier genera 
tion. It would sweep it all away, with the weapons of science, 
man's intellect grown cruel, grown destructive. 

Nor would it rest content with the plunder of earth. It would 
leap at the heavens with the released power of man's limitlessly 
developed, fearless brain. And then across at the stars. Little 
man would become the monster of the future. But the tender, 
tortured heart of him clung to the old. 

He alone of that old world that was passing, passing under the 
rush of war, and the pouring-in of new ideas more destructive 
than war, was left to preach love, to preach prayer, to preach 
penitence. 

These alone, he believed, could calm the rough waters of 
anarchy, rebellion, and hinder the social disintegration that was 



KUSMITCH THE MONK 349 

threatening the world. He longed to bring to the brains of men 
again a vision of love, of unselfishness, a realization of the duty 
of all for shepherding. Perhaps behind this act of his a future of 
higher promise lay hidden. Not yet, he thought, has the modern 
world created a symbol for love, for joy, because its ideals are 
dead. 

Two days later, just as the pale December dawn was breaking 
over the first light, dusted snow-fall here in the South, a band of 
pilgrim monks passed. A tall, lithe figure, wearing likewise the 
garb of a monk, came swiftly from the door of the Residence and 
joined them. The figure walked with a glad, free motion, like a 
young god breasting the dawn! When the leader of the band 
told the newcomer, who said his name was Priest Kusmitch, that 
they were bound for Siberia, he was happy. Something like song 
arose in his heart: To the East! To the East that still kept 
belief in the things of the spirit. Away for a while from that 
onrushing, tidal wave of the masses, that sad, uncomfortable, 
disconcerting, new civilization in which the great individual, the 
significant personality, must disappear, drowned, obliterated, 
and only the rabble be left. 

By the wings of his heart Alexander had lifted himself to that 
impersonal height of human intellect, the greatest of all, which 
is renunciation. 

He went forth with no sense of defeat, but instead with truimph. 
Was he not bearing away to safety, holding it clean above the 
rabble where onrushing destruction could not touch it, the only 
thing left of the old life he had known that was worth while 
Us faith? 

To the East! Now Tsar no longer, but merely one of the Carni 
val of Time, keeping the appointed way. 

Against the background, wrought dramatically of blood and 
gold, of Russia's brutal past, its twisted history of torture and 
cruelty, moved now this noble, priestly, gray-clad figure, plastic 
with pity free at length the last Disciple of Christ. 



CHAPTER XXVI 
THE NEWS 

ANOTHER year had come to mark the stay of exile in Mikhailov- 
sky. Alexis Sergiewitch had watched the pink, red-gold burnish 
of another autumn grow pale and paler upon the unlimited leagues 
of barren fields that spread their restraining circle about him, 
until again the deep, forgiving snows of January had come, and 
covered them. The autumn had been peculiarly lovely. It had 
been long-drawn-out, radiant, with days and days of yellow sun 
shine, with petulant puffs of wind almost vernally warm and 
sweet, until November. Yet the birds had migrated early, 
strange to relate. They hardly waited for their usual fill of rich, 
reaped food from the yellowing stacks and abandoned gardens. 
The cuckoo, which cannot endure a moment of cold, took wing 
the last of August. 

As he observed critically the marks of the decreasing sun and 
the changing season, he began to remember, with a sort of hope 
less, heartbreaking regret, the lovely semi-tropical valleys hidden 
away so cozily among the lofty Caucasian Mountains, as they had 
looked to him, in spring, where blossomed the azalea, the rhodo 
dendron, jasmine; the fig-tree, the almond, and the peach. He 
recalled, too, the superb, the ancient forest of Georgia. Oh! to 
be back there again! Oh! to be under the soaring eagles, under 
the keen light above the summits that cuts like a knife! 

Then he set himself resolutely to work, because life was peace 
ful here now and well ordered, and he was happy enough. " Boris 
Godunof " was all but finished, and the long verse-novel, "Eu 
gene Onegin," was progressing well. In "Onegin" he had been 
sketching, just as the plastic artist with his brush sketches, the 
unsettled Russia of his time, and life on a lonely estate in the 
country. He was beginning to see the Russian landscape as 
something good to look upon, and he was the first to try to repro 
duce it with words. He was making marvelously clear and lucid 
pictures of his surroundings. 






THE NEWS 351 

There is no other lyric verse in the world that resembles that 
which he had just been writing. There is no denying the fineness 
of its quality. And yet it keeps close to the ground like the 
light butterflies. It breaks tradition. It makes no attempt to 
reach the height of the birds. It is, in a way, the poetry of 
things as they are. It has none of the fantastic, imaginative 
visions of Germany. Nor has it the proudly reasoned, logical 
structure of France. It reveals the unknown, unexplored soul of 
a youthful race. 

The family were still away. He heard from them even less 
frequently than of yore. Months went by without a word. They 
had been to Petersburg. They had lived upon one of their other 
estates for a time. Now they were back in Moscow for another 
winter of pleasure. 

The letters of his sister Olga, rare as they were, were less com 
municative. They seemed sad. Evidently she was not in the mood 
for letter-writing. She had hinted once that her marriage was 
being considered, because of the family lack of money. He gained 
the impression that she saw nothing else to do than sacrifice 
herself to help pay the accumulating debts. Leo, the brother, 
was doing nothing, as usual. He was sinking daily nearer to the 
level of a drunkard. His father continued to lose large sums at 
cards and to dissipate uncaringly. His mother was trying to 
rival in lavish dressing and entertaining some of the princely 
households of Moscow, such, for instance, as that of Prince 
Bagration. This necessitated not only large but constant outlay. 
His father attributed the present money shortage, the continued 
unemployment of his brother, to Alexis Sergiewitch having lost 
imperial favor and thereby injured the family. If a rich marriage 
could be arranged for Olga, and speedily, it would be helpful. It 
was her duty, of course, to sacrifice herself for the others. With 
this partial information, somewhat grudgingly given, or sadly, 
letter-writing from his family had come to a standstill. His 
mother intended to write, but it was not easy for her to find the 
time. The fine, calm mood was still his, however, and the con 
trolled, powerful writing. He was contented enough, although 
he was shut off from the rest of the world. 



352 THE PENITENT 

From reading the Bible he had progressed to the lives of the 
saints, and then to the ascetics whom duty dominated. Arina 
Rodionovna still told him stories at night when the storms raged 
and shrieked and he was restless like a little child, filled with 
fear, and could not sleep. She improvised rich, magic romances 
out of the varied past of Russia, of Peter the Great, of Mazeppa 
who rode bound to the back of a horse with the wolves at his 
heels. She related with relish incidents in the life of his great 
grandfather, Ibrahim Hannibal, the Abyssinian negro who had 
not only been the pet of the Great Peter, but lover of a great 
lady of France, and who married a blond princess of Russia. No 
romance could equal his life. And she embroidered it gayly with 
her unrestrained fancy, until her listener all but choked with 
delight. 

He began to plan the long narrative poem "Pultava," which 
has Peter and Mazeppa for heroes. He saw richer and richer 
material in the history of his land, impelled by the old nurse's 
peasant vision, and whose spoken tongue in its flexibility, its rich 
ness, she and his maternal grandmother had taught him. 

The third week in January a kibitka, with two horses, drove up 
noisily to their unvisited door. It had come from a long distance 
judging from the appearance of occupant and horses. At sight of 
it Arina Rodionovna began to cross herself rapidly. When the 
occupant came into the house, he proved to be a servant, Sasha, 
of Schukowsky. After pulling off his protecting outer coats, 
shaking off the snow, warming himself, putting his huge striped 
mittens to steam upon the stove, he gravely held out two books 
to Alexis Sergiewitch. They were an arithmetic and an old Rus 
sian grammar by Lomonossov. Alexis Sergiewitch looked the 
surprise he felt. 

" Did he send no letter? " 

"No." 

Alexis Sergiewitch began to understand. The books were 
merely the pretext of coming. Both were safe books. This meant 
that the censorship was heavy. He must have some other mes 
sage to deliver by word of mouth, remembering relevantly the 
trouble that had come from his own innocent letter sent to 



THE NEWS 353 

Schukowsky from Piatigorsk, and which had not reached its 
destination. 

"No letter you say?" 

" No. He sent only the books. But he told me to tell you of the 
outbreak." 

"What outbreak?" 

"The societies of young men. Revolutionary, he said." 

"When was it?" 

"Christmas Day." 

Alexis Sergiewitch sat down quickly. Arina Rodionovna looked 
across at him understandingly. 

"I saw it! I was there, in the Square all the time." 

"What happened?" 

"They tried to kill the royal family take over the govern 
ment" 

"Tell me just what you saw! Tell me what you know!" in 
a strained voice, whose tone was not lost upon his old nurse. 

"Well Mouravieff-Apostol both of them Pestel, Kak- 
hovsky, Bestushew, Ryleiev and some more, had influenced the 
regiments to revolt. They had marshaled them in the Great 
Square of Saint Isaac's, just back of the statue of Peter the Great. 
They were ready. They were waiting, to charge upon the Palace 

to make its inmates prisoners. But Prince Troubetzkoi, who 
was to lead them, because he was a prince and they thought the 
soldiers would obey him better, did not come. So they waited 
and waited The soldiers became restless. In the meantime 
they killed the Governor of the city " 

"Milorodovitch?" 

"Yes." 

"Milorodovitch I" exclaimed Alexis Sergiewitch, turning white, 
knowing that it was partly this man's influence over Alexander 
and the others that had kept him from being sent to the Monas 
tery of Solovetz. 

"Yes they kitted him: 1 

Alexis Sergiewitch groaned. 

"But Troubetzkoi did not come. Still they waited waited 

I saw it all. I was right there! I had just been sent on an 



354 THE PENITENT 

errand by Vassili Andrejewitch, when I found myself in this 
crowd, which was growing larger all the time. There was no way 
for me to get out of it. So there I was! " 

"What happened next?" 

"The old Metropolitan of Petersburg, Seraphim, and the 
Metropolitan of Kiev, who happened to be there on a visit, fol 
lowed by several diakons, came out of the cathedral. They saw 
the crowd. They hoped to calm it. They tried to disperse it. 
They had on their state robes of gold, crown and everything 
They held up crosses covered with jewels, which sparkled in the 
sunlight. They started to chant a prayer. But the crowd of im 
patient soldiers began to curse them. Then they flung dirty 
snowballs at them. They drove them back and out of sight. 
What do you suppose happened then, little master? " 

"I don't know" in a voice that trembled. 

"Nicholas, on horseback, accompanied only by Prince Michael, 
and unarmed, rode right up to the revolting soldiers and faced 
them. He defied them! I saw him." 

"Where was the Emperor?" 

"How do I know?" 

"You sheep's head! Where was Alexander?" 

"He was not there." 

"Of course, you fool! You said that before." 

"Did I?" 

" Where was he, I ask you? " 

"Gone." 

"Gone where?" 

"Gone away! How should I know?" 

Alexis Sergiewitch cursed and ground his teeth. He was so 
worried, so puzzled, he did not know what to think. No news 
came here. Winter and distance had cut them off from the world. 

"Kakhovsky," Schukowsky's servant was explaining, "had 
promised to shoot him." 

" Shoot whom?" 

"The Emperor!" 

"You fool, you! You said the Emperor was not there!" 

"So he spurred his horse and rode right up to meet him." 






THE NEWS 355 

"Whom? 1 ' 

"Nicholas!" 

" Kakhovsky held one hand, the one with the revolver, hidden 
in his coat. Nicholas looked him calmly in the eye and demanded, 
' What do you bring me? ' And Kakhovsky could not even look 
at Nicholas, not to mention kill him. He just turned his horse 
around like the dirty coward he was and sneaked away. They do 
say, though, that not even a wild beast can look into the eyes of 
Nicholas they are so terrible. They are not a man's eyes. For 
years, Schukowsky said, Kakhovsky had been leader of the 
plot to kill him. He had sworn to do it!" 

"That was a royal thing, Nicholas confronting an army in 
revolt, come to kill him!" thought Alexis Sergiewitch dully. 
Aloud he made no comment. He was overwhelmed with emo 
tion. 

"I saw Nicholas myself. I was not far away. I tell you he 
looked as big as three men, every bit. He was the size of a whale 
no stretching it." 

"Who could withhold admiration from Nicholas!" he thought. 
Kakhovsky/ He had always disliked him. He had always known 
he was a cowardly braggart. They should have known better 
than to have trusted Kakhovsky. If there had been anything in 
him at all, when he rode, armed, to meet Nicholas, the Decem 
brists would have triumphed and Russia been saved, and free. 

Yet how could they triumph at the first attempt? he medi 
tated. History does not record such things. The past must 
count in all men. It is the past that has built up the present. 
Result must first have cause. The poor little Decembrists had 
not known anything but an autocrat's will; nor their fathers 
before them. In their inherited blood was the suppressed mem 
ory of yielding, of undertakings begun and failed, of domination. 
They wilted at the approach of Nicholas despite all their proud 
boasts of despising imperial power. They were routed at the 
mere sight of him who was born to rule. They could do nothing 
but yield. With heartbreaking clearness he saw it all. These 
brilliant young friends of his, dreamers, artists, poets, who had 
some of the magic technique of veterans in word-craft, knew 



356 THE PENITENT 

nothing about war. They were just interesting, grown-up chil 
dren whose heads were filled with generous, fantastic fervor. The 
example of Napoleon and contact with France had unsettled 
them, but it had not given them any military experience. And 
that eloquent, fiery-tongued, dissension-breeding Pole, Mickie- 
wicz, who had remained so long in exile in Petersburg, had helped 
to unsettle them more and more. 

The servant of Schukowsky broke in upon his meditation. 
"I began to crawl back toward the edge of the Square, where 
the women and children, accidental passers-by, and foot-goers 
were grouped. I was frightened. I knew I hadn't seen the 
worst. 

"Then I heard a clattering of horses' feet. Hooked. I heard a 
great rushing. From behind one corner of the Palace swept 
Count Alexis Orlow, shining like a sun. He was commanding 
the Horse Guards. They were all in full regalia. In the snow 
light their buttons shone until they put your eyes out. They 
dashed into sight, the great Orlow leading, so swiftly you could 
not take it in. They drew up in form by the Emperor." 

"You blockhead, you said it was Nicholas." 

" So it was! They protected him. It was a splendid sight. You 
should have seen the princely Orlow. I tell you the effect of what 
he did was tremendous! When I described this to Vassili Andre- 
jewitch he exclaimed: l Again an Orlow has saved the throne!' 

"Then Nicholas turned to his aid-de-camp of the day, who 
happened to be Suhozanet. He pointed to the cannon. He com 
manded: 'Fire!' Suhozanet gave the order to the man in charge 
of the first cannon. He passed it on to the others. But there 
was n't a sound. Not a sound! A second time Nicholas signaled 
his aid-de-camp. A second time he gave the command. This 
time an answer was brought back: 'But they are our own people, 
Sire/' pointing to the Square black with the crowd. 

"Not a muscle of the face of Nicholas moved. He gave the 
order again: 'Nicholas commands you to fire!' &* 

" Then the cannons burst forth. They mowed the people down 
just as the scythe mows the yellow wheat in August. Ten times 
Nicholas repeated the word: 'Fire!' Ten times the cannons burst 



THE NEWS 357 

forth. There was no resistance. They were just as helpless as 
the wheat. He sat there like a statue. Just as motionless! Just 
as heartless! He slaughtered them until he himself was sick of 
slaughter. But his face looked just the same. Just as if he saw 
nothing at all. 

"The snow in the broad Square of Saint Isaac's was crimson 
as velvet. The cries of the dying became louder than the roar of 
the cannons had been. The cold increased the suffering." 

The picture with all its frightful details flashed before the 
brain of Alexis Sergiewitch and made him suffer. 

"Poor little figures I" he cried aloud, covering his eyes with 
both hands, trembling, as if he would shut out the picture. 

"Poor little figures, crushed and crumpled, with the infinite 
pity of God upon them!" 

"You ought not to take on like that, little master! Vassili 
Andrejewitch says you are the luckiest dog he ever heard of, to 
be saved. And I must not forget. He said for you to say nothing, 
and on no account leave your estate for an instant." 

Ah, here was the object of the message! A second time Schu- 
kowsky had acted swiftly to save him. How noble was the heart 
of Schukowsky. 

"What became of the leaders?" 

"You mean Ryleiev, the brothers Mouravieff-Apostol, Bestu- 
shew, Pestel, Kakhovsky, and the rest? They were thrown into 
the dungeons. More than a thousand others were arrested." 

"Prince Troubetzkoi? " 

"Oh! he escaped. At least I think he did. I may be wrong. 
You see, he played double on both sides." 

Alexis Sergiewitch shuddered. They would rot with filth. 
They would die of disease, hunger. They would be buried alive 
in the mines of Siberia. General Raevsky had been right in his 
parting words: "Remember, whatever Alexander does, it is for your 
own good. It is to save you." 

" It took a night and a day to haul away the dead bodies from 
the Square. They were frozen together in piles. They had to be 
beaten apart. Some of them had four arms and four legs they 
were beaten apart in such haste. And some did n't have any legs 



358 THE PENITENT 

and arms. But they could n't haul away all the snow! So that 
stayed red." 

Alexis Sergiewitch, with his poet's visualizing power, saw it all, 
in its gruesome details. He suffered. He suffered from head to 
foot. 

" I 'm pretty sure, now, that Troubetzkoi did get off, some 
way I think he ran and hid. No one saw hair or hide of 
him! 

" Nicholas wanted to pardon as many of the nobility as he 
could if he could find any excuse at all. And that reminds me. 
You know the father of the brothers Mouravieff-Apostol lives 
abroad somewhere. Well, he was an intimate friend of all the 
imperial family. Nicholas wanted to help his boys for love of the 
father. He summoned one of them." 

"Which one?' 1 

"I I can't tell " 

"Think a minute!" 

"No no I know I can't tell." 

"Goon!" 

"Well Nicholas questioned him. If he would tell about the 
plot, and name the other conspirators, Nicholas would have set 
him free, because he loved his father so." 

"Well! Well?" broke in Pushkin nervously. 

" Well he questioned him." 

" I know, I know! You said so before." 

"So I did." 

" Go on go on I tell you! " 

" He would n't answer. He would n't say one word, not even 
to save himself. Nicholas lost patience. He declared: '/ am master 
oj 'your life.' Mouravieff-Apostol replied: l To me you are only the 
son of a bastard! ' Then Nicholas flew at him. He kicked him al 
most to death. He broke his bones. He would have killed him 
on the spot, but Count Benkendorf, who happened to be in the 
next room listening at the door, rushed in and pulled him away. 
That saved him, for the moment. 11 

Alexis Sergiewitch slipped down in his chair and groaned. 
Arina Rodionovna feared that he was going to faint. 



THE NEWS 359 

"Before I came away, some of them in the dungeons went 
mad. Some strangled themselves to death with pieces of their 
clothing. And they are still making arrests! All the prisons are 
full all the dungeons. Some say the leaders are to be quar 
tered alive. But not one of them would buy life by telling on the 
others!" 

Some divine providence evidently watched over his own good- 
for-nothing days, while they who were braver met death, torture. 
Agony, like a fiery breath, enveloped him. He had never suf 
fered so acutely in his life. 

He heard but vaguely the monotonous voice of Schukowsky's 
servant saying: "I Ve got to move on. I have another errand to 
do for Vassili Andrejewitch, over there, in the village" turn 
ing his head toward the window and looking out. "It won't be 
light much longer." He was pulling on his greatcoat, tying the 
long, fringed, red-and-gray muffler around and around his neck, 
beating his snowy, frozen mittens against the stove where they 
still steamed. Soon there was a sharp jangle of little bells outside. 
He was gone. 

Alexis Sergiewitch sat like one stunned. His mind reverted to> 
that last night in Petersburg, and the meeting in the house of 
Ryleiev that looked out on the Blue Bridge. That was an ill- 
starred night, and year, for many. But he had not really believed 
that they were serious. Then he recalled with quick joy, which 
he smothered in quicker shame, the letter he had written at dawn 
the next day to Ryleiev, refusing to join the society. Schukowsky 
came then and urged him to write another letter saying the same 
thing. This probably had purchased his safety. They who had 
been fearless, who had honorably stood by their beliefs, were 
to die, in torture, disgrace, while he the yes, he could not 
withhold the honest self-confession, nor the word yes, he, the 
butterfly, the coward, had escaped. 

Again he had one of those brief, periodical, mental awakenings, 
whose pain it seemed increased each time, in which he saw, for a 
second, life as he should have lived it. This made him melan 
choly. But, strange to say, it gave him no help toward directing 
the future. For the moment he saw how wild, how disordered, 



360 THE PENITENT 

his life had been. And it had been lived only for pleasure, never 
for any great ideal. 

But he did not take into consideration, because it was im 
possible, the changes that had been going on in Russia during 
these years of exile. While he had been traveling in the South, in 
Bessarabia, in Crimea, in the Caucasus, he had been out of touch 
with Petersburg and Petersburg thought. He had forgotten his 
revolutionary companions of that spring night so long ago. He 
did not know what they had been plotting nor how they had 
progressed. He had been occupied differently. He had been 
occupied with the eternal things of nature in a land where na 
ture is both grand and lovely, instead of with the passing fads of 
man. He did not realize with what rapidity the revolutionary 
faith of his friends had penetrated and spread among the people. 
In addition, it was a characteristic of his mind to look upon all 
things lightly except art. With him, unconsciously, art and life 
had been changing places. Art, the fictitious, the unreal, was to 
him the real. Here he moved happily, bravely. Life he could not 
see. He approached it undeftly, or only to disturb. Besides, he 
had the eminently un-Russian characteristic of not caring greatly 
for social problems. He knew now that he had looked down 
upon these boyish friends of his as inaugurating merely a new 
social fashion. If they had influenced him for a moment, it was 
because he was so infinitely interested, but only for a little while, in 
everything. Interest with him, too, frequently meant keeping 
up with what was going on. His inability to believe any one 
definite thing was as great as his interest. He had no inclination 
to try to improve life. To him that was a vulgarity. The people 
who did that were prosaic people. He merely wished to picture 
life, be it good or bad, to look out upon it and feel joy. 

He realized how far he had been from being one of them. His 
brief association with the brilliant young Decembrists was be 
cause some of them were poets like himself, and young, merely 
one of his transient emotions. He was a beauty-lover, a sybarite. 
His revolutionaryism, his feebly boasted modernism, he reserved 
for art. He was inclined to be conservative as regards opinions 
political. He liked too well the picture of the old, aristocratic 



THE NEWS 361 

ideal that was passing. He felt a peculiar combination of hatred 
and contempt for the shop-keeping middle class so rapidly de 
veloping. 

They, his old Petersburg companions, who were suffering in 
dungeons now, or perhaps dead, lived for an ideal in some far fu 
ture. With them the present did not count. With him it was the 
only thing that did count. They, perhaps, were the first heralds 
of the future, where he doubted if he would like to live. He was 
not sure whether he cared very much about laws anyway, be they 
good or bad. He looked upon them as a sort of disagreeable way 
in which people who could not write, like him, amused themselves. 

Then he began to suffer differently. The torturing complexity 
of consciousness which is characteristic of the artist's mind, and 
usually helps to destroy its owner's happiness, became upper 
most. 

Alexander had understood him better than he had understood 
himself. He was not worth being taken seriously. The thing to 
do with him was to put him on a shelf somewhere, in safety, out 
of the way. Then he thought of his writing dismally, as merely 
the record of a vagabond's days. But he had loved it so, this pleas 
ant kaleidoscopic picture world, that had floated past his eyes in 
his travels! 

Night had overtaken his sad meditating. He had not seen it 
coming. Arina Rodionovna entered bringing candles. A servant 
was right behind her with others. 

"My pet my lamb, do not feel so bad! You were not one of 
the conspirators. There is no reason for you to blame yourself. 
A slice of bread cut off is not a part of the loaf, is it?" setting 
the two candles upon his reading-table, and pulling the curtains 
to cover the cold night outside. 

" Every one has to fold his mantle according to the wind, does 
he not? My darling you lack faith faith in yourself, to be 
bravely what God made you. Faith is made to live with as well 
as to die with," she added sagely. 

When the evening meal was laid and the warm room enlivened 
with the sparkling dots of candles' flame, she coaxed him to the 
table. But he could not eat. 



3 62 THE PENITENT 

"No, nurse, I'm a coward, a miserable coward who lacked the 
courage to die with the others. I was there, that night!" 

"The shock has unsettled your nerves, my lamb. That is all. 
A man who is ill has no stomach for life any more than for food. 
What is man without a stomach? And no wonder after these 
years of exile, driven from place to place no freedom." 

When late night came she could not coax him to bed. He still 
sat in the big green rep chair of the worn arms, by the window, 
half stunned with the tragic news, and his own bitter self-revela 
tion. The old woman took up her bedtime candle, made the sign 
of the cross over him, and said good-night. 



CHAPTER XXVII 
PRINCE METTERNICH'S LETTER 

THE news of the death of Alexander reached Prince Metternich 
very speedily by way of Warsaw, as speedily, indeed, as it 
reached Petersburg. He had been awaiting decisive news of some 
kind from Taganrog with something as nearly approaching nerv 
ous suspense as was possible with his disciplined German tem 
perament and long diplomatic training. Whatever that news 
might happen to be, it would be of weighty moment to him and 
to the development of his future policy of statecraft. For a long 
time whenever he thought of Russia he had quoted Shakespeare 
with deep sincerity: " Aye, there 's the rub!" 

Now the die was cast. Whoever ruled, Nicholas or Constan- 
tine, he knew them both to be autocrats by conviction and train 
ing, and this was a source of strength and promise to him. No 
more uncertainty. No more vacillation, from that huge, torpid, 
polar bear Russia, just awakening to dangerous activity from the 
s^.eep of centuries. 

At once he wrote to Chali, not in cipher, but in free and open 
hand for any one to read, thereby disclaiming culpability or too 
great interest in the recent eventful affair in Taganrog, knowing 
well that no one was more skillful than the woman he addressed 
in sifting out carefully the exact meaning intended for her alone. 
His letter showed that astonishing commingling of seriousness 
and frivolity which he knew so well how to command. He passed 
easily, as was his habit, from matters of state to love without any 
appreciable lack of harmony. He wrote: 

As usual I have reason to be pleased with you, my Chilli, and in more 
ways than one. You have understood in a brief time, better than I 
thought it would be possible, that in whatever moves the Russian 
mind there must be a combination of the sentimental and the religious. 

As cold-blooded as I am, the sudden death of Alexander shook me. 
He was once my friend. But I could not follow him in friendship and 



364 THE PENITENT 

contemplate thereby the coming wreck of what little of our old civi 
lization the French Revolution has left untouched. 

Yet I should not be shocked at the death of Alexander. The heart, 
the soul of him, died long ago. They died when he gave up the glo 
rious dreams of his youth to attempt compromises which were im 
possible. One may not serve, at the same time, both God and Caesar. 

With him, if I do not err greatly, the youth of Russia is over. Now 
its manhood will begin. My one-time powerful friends of long ago 
or enemies, as you may wish are leaving me alone to grow old with 
out them. Napoleon is gone, and Talleyrand; Richelieu, too, and the 
Due de Berry, to mention only a few. And now, Alexander! I seem, 
indeed, to lead a charmed life. I survived Napoleon, it would be truth 
ful to say. I have outlived Alexander. And now I am trying to live 
through the destructive foreign policy of that English arch-fiend, Can 
ning. I feel sometimes that I am alone in the midst of a crazy world. 

The greatest of these crazy ones is Canning. And because of him, 
my Chali, you must prepare to go North at once. Would to Heaven 
it were possible to bid you come to me! I must still live on for a while, 
I suppose, upon the stored-up memory of the happiness of our last 
meeting by Lake Garda. 

So I will think of you soon, setting out across the hyperborean 
splendor of the forests and the frosts of the North. First, to Moscow. 
Remain there for the coronation. From Moscow go on to Petersburg 
to be present at the first winter of the new Court. I have already in 
structed our ambassador there, Count Fiquelmont, to find you a suit 
able residence and to arrange for your presentation to the social elite. 

You see, Canning will leave no stone unturned to win over the new 
Emperor, whoever he may be, and the Court circle, to the side of Eng 
land. He will send his most powerful diplomatists. That is why I wish 
you to be there, too, beautiful, brilliant, gorgeously gowned. You see, 
I could not fail to have you there! I must not lose any chance to array 
Russian influence on my side. My son, Victor, may, too, in case his 
health should permit, go on to observe the installation of a Court. 

You have heard, of course, of the revolutionary outbreak in Peters 
burg. That outbreak, if I mistake not, has deep and widespread rami 
fications, threatening to undermine all Russian life. 

Nicholas behaved very creditably on that difficult occasion. Nicho 
las can be depended upon! Count Woronzow, of whom you spoke in 
your last letter, is a very worthy Russian. You can rely upon what he 
says. You will probably meet sometime, perhaps in Peter, that wild, 
hair-brained, negro poet, Pushkin. If even half I have heard of him is 



PRINCE METTERNICH'S LETTER 365 

true, there is something of the blackness of the jungle still lurking in 
his heart. But he is a poet! Many irregularities may be forgiven on 
that score. "Little Nesselrode," at present Minister for Foreign Affairs, 
probably, will hold an important place in the new Cabinet. He has 
ability. As I told you when I met you by Lake Garda, you are sure to 
play havoc with the hearts of those blond, pale Russians. 

My greatest grief in life just now is Canning. He is trying to check 
my Russian policy at every turn. And you cannot put your finger 
upon Canning any more than upon a flea. It is all the result of his 
Irish blood! The caprices, the senseless fervors, the fleeting likes, the 
reasonless dislikes, the complex intrigues, the ill-timed wit, the sudden 
swerving from an agreed-upon act, caused in his nature by Irish blood! 
This makes him dangerous to Europe now. Did you know, my dear, 
that he is the one man whom not even Lawrence could paint sympa 
thetically? That tells the story! 

Have you heard what he has done? He has acknowledged the in 
dependence from Spain and Portugal of the Colonies of South Amer 
ica. A most unwise act at this time! 

Revolution is rife in the world. And he is encouraging socially 
in London those disagreeable, ill-bred North Americans, because they 
can say in the drawing-rooms, the salons, things that it would be im 
polite or impolitic for him to say. 

In the Irish, my dear, there is a quality similar to the gypsy, some 
thing that no one can ever reckon with nor rely upon. A drop of Irish 
blood in a man is like a drop of yeast in mixing. It makes everything 
foam over. It produces a ferment. 

My one comfort, politically, has been my Imperial Master. Europe 
has been witness of the care, of the efforts, with which he has con 
stantly met the torrent of disorganization advancing now so rapidly 
over peoples, over empires. 

I cannot tell you how I have longed for you this autumn. We had a 
lovely warm, golden autumn in Vienna. I spent much of it out of doors 
among my flowers which I love better than politics. 

Now my outdoor garden flowers are gone, the orchids you brought 
me from Africa are beginning to bloom. They hang upon my wall. 
One of them, the one with a mouth that is luscious and red, reminds 
me of you. Be assured that my regret is great that this long journey 
takes you away from me instead of toward me, longing as I do daily for 
your presence. 

CLEMENT 
Manu propria Prince Metternich 



CHAPTER XXVIII 
THE PENITENT 

YEARS later. 

Summer over sparsely settled Siberia. Here summer means 
space, sunlight, silence, and the blowing of great winds over pale, 
blond fields of Northern grain, and scents of wild honey on the 
air. 

Along the rough, narrow, ill-kept roads, driving slowly in 
home-made, awkward wooden carts with heavy, creaking wheels, 
come country people, poorly dressed. They are coming from all 
directions. They come from great distances. They come like 
pilgrims upon a quest. 

Some from the far northeast, through the mighty, frowning 
forests, which grow rich, black here, and impenetrable upon 
rotting bog lands, where at high noon the air is chill and wet. 

Some come from the lake region, where restless water-birds 
rustle the reeds, and unsuspectedly long blue levels shine, and 
haze floats like mirage. 

Some come from still farther away, from the lonely cattle 
country, from the uplands, from the banks of great hurrying or 
interminably placid rivers, whose distant, unseen destinations 
keep an inscrutable charm. 

But they are all going to the same place. In their minds is the 
same thought; in their hearts the same hope. They are going to a 
little, low, wooden dwelling on the outskirts of Tomsk. They are 
talking of the miracles performed there by Kusmitch the Saint. 
Some, more intelligent than the others, and shaken with pain, 
are questioning wistfuHy: "If a man can give up self utterly, if 
he can live only for others, incorruptible and pure, lifted to 
heights of vision by faith, do you not think it possible that in 
compensation the power of healing might come? Are not the 
laws governing the world of mind exact like the laws of matter? 
There, too, is there not exact addition, exact subtraction? " 



THE PENITENT 367 

In the dooryard of the humble house of Tomsk, where grew 
gladly the larkspur, the gentle columbine, and gentian, for the 
last time, perhaps, the world was permitted to look upon the 
sovereignty of the spirit. Here, upon a rush-bottomed chair, 
sat Kusmitch the Monk. He was barefooted. He wore a rough 
robe girdled at the waist with a rope. With a tiny silver statue 
of the Christ in his hand, whereon was scratched dimly the letter 
" A," he healed and blessed the blind, the sick, the syphilitic, the 
twisted with pain, the worn with age, the worn with work and 
suffering. Brighter than the diamonds of his crown of old burned 
now the white fire of his spirit. 

Through the warm days of the brief Siberian summer he sat 
here healing the sick, spilling the wealth of his heart, making rich 
with the treasures of the spirit, giving, giving, with no wish for 
return. 

He had not grown older as men grow old with years. Some 
new, some indestructible youth had become his. He had changed, 
to be sure, but subtly. His face expressed superb peace. It was 
the face of one who had risen to a height where he could survey 
life, but where life could not vex nor grieve him. 

All the past, all its sad, its tragic memories were melted, 
blended, made one, and then annihilated in the pure whiteness of 
the flame of impersonal love, of the bonfire of self. Around him 
spread the wild, inspiring breath of untrodden lands, where 
fresh, where unexhausted vigor dwells in the red earth. 

Again mankind beheld a figure of divine beneficence, sitting 
amid the fields and the folds, blessing the poor, the aged, the suf 
fering, making the hearts of children open to his love as the sun 
light opens the flowers. He had found that other life. 



THE END 



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