HALF a dozen boys were gathered in one of the studies at
Shrewsbury. A packed portmanteau and the general state of litter on
the floor was sufficient to show that it was the last day of
"Well, I am awfully sorry you are going, Bullen; we shall all
miss you. You would certainly have been in the football team next
term; it is a nuisance altogether."
"It is a nuisance; and I am beastly sorry I am leaving. Of
course I have known for some time that I should be going out to
Russia; but I did not think the governor would have sent me until
after I had gone through the school. His letter a fortnight ago was
a regular stumper. I thought I should have had another year and a
half or two years, and, of course, that is just the jolliest part
of school life. However, it cannot be helped."
"You talk the language, don't you, Bullen?"
"Well, I used to talk it, but I don't remember much about it
now. You see I have been home six years. I expect I shall pick it
up again fast enough. I should not mind it so much if the governor
were out there still; but you see he came home for good two years
ago. Still it won't be like going to a strange place altogether;
and as he has been living there so long, I shall soon get to know
lots of the English there. Still I do wish I could have had a
couple of years more at Shrewsbury. I should have been content to
have gone out then."
"Well, it is time for us to be starting. I can hear the
In a few minutes the omnibus was filled with luggage inside and
out; the lads started to walk to the station. As the train drew up
there were hearty good-byes, and then the train steamed out of the
station, the compartment in which Godfrey Bullen had taken his seat
being filled with boys going, like himself, straight through to
town. All were in high spirits, and Bullen, who had felt sorry at
leaving school for the last time, was soon as merry as any of
"You must mind what you are up to, Bullen," one of his
companions said. "They are terrible fellows those Nihilists, they
"They won't hurt Bullen," another put in, "unless he goes into
the secret police. I should say he would make a good sort of secret
"No, no; he is more likely to turn a Nihilist."
"Bosh!" Bullen said, laughing. "I am not likely to turn a secret
policeman; but I am more likely to do that than to turn Nihilist. I
hate revolutionists and assassins, and all those sort of
"Yes, we all know that you are a Tory, Bullen; but people
change, you know. I hope we shall never see among the lists of
Nihilists tried for sedition and conspiracy, and sentenced to
execution, the name of one Godfrey Bullen."
"Oh, they wouldn't execute Bullen!" another said; "they would
send him to Siberia. Bullen's always good at fighting an uphill
game, and he would show off to great advantage in a chain-gang. Do
they crop their hair there, Bullen, and put on a gray suit, as I
saw them at work in Portsmouth dockyard last year?"
"I am more likely to see you working in a chain-gang at
Portsmouth, Wilkinson, when I come back, than I am to form part of
a convict gang in Siberia—at any rate for being a Nihilist. I won't
say about other things, for I suppose there is no saying what a
fellow may come to. I don't suppose any of the men who get penal
servitude for forgery, and swindling, and so on, ever have any
idea, when they are sixteen, that that is what they are coming to.
At present I don't feel any inclination that way."
"I should say you were not likely to turn forger anyhow, Bullen,
whatever you take to."
"Why is that, Parker?"
"Because you write such a thundering bad hand that you would
never be able to imitate anyone else's signature, unless he
couldn't go farther than making a cross for his name, and the
betting is about even that you would blot that."
There was a roar of laughter, for Bullen's handwriting was a
perpetual source of trouble to him, and he was continually losing
marks for his exercises in consequence. He joined heartily in the
"It is an awful nuisance that handwriting of mine," he said,
"especially when one is going to be a merchant, you know. The
governor has talked two or three times about my going to one of
those fellows who teach you to write copperplate in twenty lessons.
I shouldn't be surprised if he does let me have a course these
holidays. I should not mind if he does, for my writing is
"Never mind, Bullen; bad handwriting is a sign of genius, you
know. You have never shown any particular genius yet, except for
rowing and boxing, and I suppose that is muscular genius; but you
may blossom out in a new line some day."
"I don't want to disturb the harmony of this last meeting,
Parker, or I should bring my muscular genius into play at your
"No, no, Bullen," another boy said, "you keep that for Russia.
Fancy Bullen polishing off a gigantic Cossack, or defending the
Czar's life against half a dozen infuriated Nihilists. That would
be the thing, Bullen. It would be better than trade any day. Why,
you would get an estate as big as an English county, with ten
thousand serfs, and sacks upon sacks of roubles."
"What bosh you fellows talk!" Bullen laughed. "There is one
thing I do expect I shall learn in Russia, and that is to skate.
Fancy six months of regular skating, instead of a miserable three
or four days. I shall meet some of you fellows some day at the
Round Pond, and there you will be just working away at the outside
edge, and I shall be joining in those skating-club figures and
flying round and round like a bird."
"What birds fly round and round, Bullen?"
"Lots of them do, as you would know, Jordan, if you kept your
eyes open, instead of being always on the edge of going to sleep.
Swallows do, and eagles. Never mind, you fellows will turn yellow
with jealousy when you see me."
And so they laughed and joked until they reached London. Then
there was another hearty good-bye all round, and in a couple of
minutes they were speeding in hansoms to their various
destinations. Godfrey Bullen's was Eccleston Square. His father was
now senior partner in a firm that carried on a considerable
business with the east of Europe. He had, when junior partner,
resided at St. Petersburg, as the firm had at that time large
dealings in the Baltic. From various causes this trade had fallen
off a good deal, and the firm had dealt more largely with Odessa
and the southern ports. Consequently, when at the death of the
senior partner Mr. Bullen returned to England to take up the
principal management of the affairs of the firm, it was not deemed
advisable to continue the branch at St. Petersburg, and Ivan
Petrovytch, a Russian trader of good standing, had been appointed
their agent there.
The arrangement had not worked quite satisfactorily. Petrovytch
was an excellent agent as far as he went. The business he did was
sound, and he was careful and conscientious; but he lacked push and
energy, had no initiative, and would do nothing on his own
responsibility. Mr. Bullen had all along intended that Godfrey
should, on leaving school, go for a few years to Russia, and
should, in time, occupy the same position there that he himself had
done; but he had now determined that this should take place earlier
than he had before intended. He thought that Godfrey would now more
speedily pick up the language again, than if he remained another
two or three years in England, and that in five or six years' time
he might be able to represent the firm there, either in conjunction
with Ivan Petrovytch or by himself. Therefore, ten days before the
breaking-up of the school for the long holidays, he had written to
Godfrey, telling him that he should take him away at the end of the
term, and that in two or three months' time he would go out to St.
Mr. Bullen's family consisted of two girls in addition to
Godfrey. Hilda, the elder, was seventeen, a year older than the
lad, while Ella was two years his junior.
"Well, Godfrey," his father said, as, after the first greeting,
they sat down to dinner, which had been kept back for half an hour
for his arrival, "you did not seem very enthusiastic in your reply
to my letter."
"I did not feel very enthusiastic, father," Godfrey replied. "Of
course one's two last years at school are just the jolly time, and
I was really very sorry to leave. Still, of course you know what is
best for me; and I dare say I shall get on very well at St.
"I have no doubt of that, Godfrey. I have arranged for you to
live with Mr. Petrovytch, as you will regain the language much more
quickly in a Russian family than you would in an English one;
besides, it will be handy for your work. In Russia merchants'
offices are generally in their houses, and it is so with him; but,
of course, you will know most of the English families. I shall
write to several of my old friends, and I am sure they will do all
they can for you; but I shall write more to my Russian
acquaintances than to my English. The last are sure to call upon
you when they hear you have come out; but it is not so easy to get
a footing in Russian families, and you might be some time before
you make acquaintances that way. Besides, it is much better for you
to be principally in the Russian set than in the English, in the
first place, because of the language; and in the second, because
you will get a much better acquaintance with the country in general
with them than among the English.
"There are not many English lads of your own age out there—very
few indeed; and those nearest your age would be young clerks. I
have nothing whatever to say against young clerks; but, as a rule,
they consort together, spend their evenings in each others' rooms
or in playing billiards, or otherwise amuse themselves, and so
learn very little of the language and nothing of the people. It is
unfortunate that it should be so; but they are not altogether to
blame, for, as I have said, the Russians, although friendly enough
with Englishmen in business, in the club, and so on, do not as a
rule invite them to their houses; and therefore the English,
especially the class I am speaking of, are almost forced to
associate entirely with each other and form a sort of colony quite
apart from native society. I was fortunate enough to make some
acquaintances among them soon after I went out, and your mother and
I were much more in Russian society than is usual with our
countrymen there. I found great advantage from it, and shall be
glad for you to do the same. You will have one very great
advantage, that you will be able to speak Russian fluently in a
"I don't think I remember much about it now, father."
"I dare say not, Godfrey; that is to say, you know it, but you
have lost a good deal of the facility of speaking it. You have
always got on fairly enough with it when we have spoken it
occasionally during your holidays since we have been in England,
and in a very few weeks you will find that it has completely come
back to you. You spoke it as you did English, indeed better, when
you came over to school when you were ten, and in six years one
does not forget a language. If you had been another five or six
years older, no doubt you would have lost it a good deal; but even
then you would have learnt it very much more quickly than you would
have done had you never spoken it. Your mother and the girls have
been grumbling at me a good deal for sending you away so soon."
"It is horrid, father," Hilda said. "We have always looked
forward so to Godfrey's coming home; and of course it would be
better still as he got older. We could have gone about everywhere
with him; and we shall miss him especially when we go away in
"Well, you must make the most of him this time then," her father
"Have you settled where we are going?" Godfrey asked.
"No, we would not settle until you came home, Godfrey," Mrs.
Bullen said. "As this was to be your last holiday we thought we
would give you the choice."
"Then I vote for some quiet sea-side place, mother. We went to
Switzerland last year, and as I am going abroad for ever so long I
would rather stop at home now; and, besides, I would rather be
quiet with you all, instead of always travelling about and going to
places. Only, of course if the girls would rather go abroad, I
However, it was settled that it should be as Godfrey wished.
"But I do think, father," Godfrey said, "that it will be a good
thing if I had lessons in writing from one of those fellows who
guarantee to teach you in a few lessons. I suppose that is all
bosh; but if I got their system and worked at it, it might do me
good. I really do write badly."
The girls laughed.
"I don't think that quite describes it, Godfrey," his father
said. "If anyone asked me about your accomplishments I should say
that you knew a good deal of Latin and Greek, that you had a vague
idea of English, and that you could read, but unfortunately you
were quite unable to write. According to my idea it is perfectly
scandalous that at the great schools such an essential as writing
is altogether neglected, while years are spent over Greek, which is
of no earthly use when you have once left school. I suppose the
very worst writers in the world are men who have been educated in
"Well, I am glad you have had the good sense to suggest it,
Godfrey. I had thought of it myself, but I was afraid you would
think it was spoiling your last holidays at home. I will see about
it to-morrow. I cannot get away very well for another fortnight. If
you have a dozen lessons before we go, you can practise while we
are away; and mind, from to-day we will talk nothing but Russian
when we are alone."
This had been indeed a common habit in the family since they had
come home two years before, as the two girls and Mr. and Mrs.
Bullen spoke Russian as fluently as English, and Mr. Bullen thought
it was just as well that they should not let it drop altogether.
Indeed on their travels in Switzerland they had several times come
across Russians, and had made pleasant acquaintances from their
knowledge of that language.
The holidays passed pleasantly at Weymouth. Godfrey practised
two hours a day steadily at the system of handwriting: and although
he was, at the end of the holidays, very far from attaining the
perfection shown in the examples produced by his teachers of the
marvels they had effected in many of their pupils, he did improve
vastly, and wrote a fair current hand instead of the almost
undecipherable scrawl that had so puzzled and annoyed a succession
of masters at Shrewsbury. After another month spent in London,
getting his clothes and outfit, Godfrey started for St. Petersburg.
On his last evening at home his father had a serious talk with
"I have told Petrovytch," he said, "that you may possibly some
day take up the agency with him, but that nothing is decided as to
that at present, and that it will all depend upon circumstances.
However, in any case, you will learn the ins and outs of the trade
there; and if, at the end of a few years, you think that you would
rather work by yourself than with him, I can send out a special
clerk to work with you. On the other hand, it is possible that I
may require you at home here. Venables has no family, and is rather
inclined to take it easy. Possibly in a few years he may retire
altogether, and I may want you at home. At five or six and twenty
you should be able to undertake the management of the Russian part
of the business, running out there occasionally to see that
everything goes on well. I hope I need not tell you to be steady.
There is a good deal too much drinking goes on out there, arising,
no doubt, from the fact that the young men have no family society
there, and nothing particular to do when work is over.
"Stick to the business, lad. You will find Petrovytch himself a
thoroughly good fellow. Of course he has Russian ways and
prejudices, but he is less narrow than most of his countrymen of
that class. Above all things, don't express any opinion you may
feel about public affairs—at any rate outside the walls of the
house. The secret police are everywhere, and a chance word might
get you into a very serious scrape. As you get on you will find a
good deal that you do not like. Even in business there is no
getting a government contract, or indeed a contract at all, without
bribing right and left. It is disgusting, but business cannot be
done without it. The whole system is corrupt and rotten, and you
will find that every official has his price. However, you won't
have anything to do with this for the present. If I were you I
should work for an hour or two a day with a German master. There
are a great many Germans there, and you will find a knowledge of
the language very useful to you. You see your Russian has pretty
nearly come back to you during the last two months, and you will
very soon speak it perfectly; so you will have no trouble about
Godfrey found the long railway journey across the flat plains of
Germany very dull, as he was unable to exchange a word with his
fellow-passengers; but as soon as he crossed the Russian frontier
he felt at home again, and enjoyed the run through the
thickly-wooded country lying between Wilna and St. Petersburg. As
he stepped out at the station everything seemed to come back
vividly to his memory. It was late in October and the first snow
had fallen, and round the station were a crowd of sledges drawn by
rough little horses. Avoiding the importunities of the drivers of
the hotel vehicles he hailed an Isvostchik in furred cap and coat
lined with sheepskin. His portmanteaus were corded at the back of
the sledge; he jumped up into the seat behind the driver, pulled
the fur rug over his legs, and said, "Drive to the Vassili Ostrov,
52, Ulitsa Nicolai." The driver gave a peculiar cry, cracked his
whip half a dozen times, making a noise almost as loud as the
discharge of a pistol, and the horse went off at a sharp trot.
"I thought your excellency was a foreigner," the driver said,
"but I see you are one of us."
"No, I am an Englishman, but I lived here till I was ten years
old. The snow has begun earlier than usual, has it not?"
"It won't last," the Isvostchik said. "Sometimes we have a week
at this time of year, but it is not till December that it sets in
in earnest. We may have droskies out again to-morrow instead of the
"The sledges are the pleasantest," Godfrey said.
"Yes, your excellency, for those that travel, but not for us. At
night when we are waiting we can get into the drosky and sleep,
while it is terrible without shelter. There are many of us frozen
to death every winter."
Godfrey felt a sense of keen enjoyment as the sledge glided
along. There were many rough bumps and sharp swings, for the snow
was not deep enough to cover thoroughly the roughness of the road
below; but the air was brisk and the sun shone brightly, and he
looked with pleasure at the people and costumes, which seemed, to
his surprise, perfectly familiar to him. He was quite sorry when
the journey came to an end at the house of Ivan Petrovytch. The
merchant, whose office was on the ground-floor and who occupied the
floor above (the rest of the house being let off by floors to other
families), came out to greet him. "I am glad to see you, Godfrey
Bullen," he said. "I should have sent to the station to meet you,
but your good father did not say whether you would arrive by the
morning or evening train; and as my driver did not know you, he
would have missed you. I hope that all has gone well on the
journey. Paul," he said to a man who had followed him out, "carry
these trunks upstairs."
After paying the driver Godfrey followed his host to the floor
above. Petrovytch was a portly man, with a pleasant but by no means
good-looking face. "Wife," he said as he entered the sitting-room,
"this is Godfrey Bullen; I will leave him in your hands for the
present, as I have some business that I must complete before we
"My name," Mrs. Petrovytch said, "is Catharine. You know in this
country we always address each other by our names. The high-born
may use titles, but simple people use the Christian name and the
family name unless they are very intimate, and then the Christian
name only. I heard you speaking to my husband as you came in, so
that you have not forgotten our language. I should have thought
that you would have done so. I can remember you as quite a little
fellow before you went away."
"I have been speaking it for the last two months at home,"
Godfrey said, "and it has nearly come back to me."
"And your father and mother and your sisters, are they all
"They are quite well, and my father and mother begged me to give
their kind regards to you."
At this moment the servant came in with the samovar, or
"It is four o'clock now; we dine at five o'clock, when the
office is closed. Many dine at one, but my husband likes it when he
has done his work, as then he does not need to hurry."
After drinking a tumbler of tea and eating a flat-cake or two
with it, Godfrey went to his room to have a wash after his long
journey, and to unpack some of his things. He thought that he
should like both Petrovytch and his wife, but that the evenings
would be dull if he had to spend them in the house. Of this,
however, he had but little fear, for he was sure that between his
father's friends and the acquaintances he might himself make he
should be out as much as he liked.
In the course of the next week Godfrey called at the houses of
the various people to whom he had letters of introduction, and left
them with the hall porter. His host told him that he thought he had
better take a fortnight to go about the capital and see the sights
before he settled down to work at the office; and as not only the
gentlemen with whom he had left letters of introduction and his
card—for in Russia strangers always call first—but many others of
his father's friends called or invited him to their houses, he
speedily made a large number of acquaintances. At the end of the
fortnight he took his place in the office. At first he was of very
little use there; for although he could talk and understand Russian
as spoken, he had entirely forgotten the written characters, and it
took him some little time before he could either read the business
correspondence or make entries in the office books. Ivan Petrovytch
did his best to assist him, and in the course of a month he began
to master the mysteries of Russian writing.
At five o'clock the office closed. Godfrey very frequently dined
out, but if he had no engagement he took his meal with the merchant
and his wife, and then sallied out and went either alone or with
some of his acquaintances to a Russian theatre. With December,
winter set in in earnest. The waters were frozen, and skating
began. The season at St. Petersburg commenced about the same time,
and as Godfrey was often sent with messages or letters to other
business houses he had an opportunity of seeing the streets of St.
Petersburg by day as well as by night. He was delighted with the
scene on the Nevski Prospekt, the principal street of St.
Petersburg. The footways were crowded with people: the wealthy in
high boots, coats lined with sable, and caps to match; the poorer
in equally ample coats, but with linings of sheep, fox, or rabbit
skins, with the national Russian cap of fur with velvet top, and
with fur-lined hoods, which were often drawn up over the head.
The shops were excellent, reminding Godfrey rather of Paris than
London. But the chief interest of the scene lay in the roadway.
There were vehicles of every description, from the heavy sledge of
the peasant, piled up with logs for fuel, or carrying, perhaps, the
body of an elk shot in the woods, to the splendid turn-outs of the
nobles with their handsome fur wraps, their coachmen in the
national costume, and horses covered with brown, blue, or violet
nets almost touching the ground, to prevent the snow from being
thrown up from the animals' hoofs into the faces of those in the
sledge. The harness was in most cases more or less decorated with
bells, which gaily tinkled in the still air as the sledges dashed
along. Most struck was Godfrey with the vehicles of the nobles who
adhered to old Russian customs. The sledge was drawn by three
horses; the one in the centre was trained to trot, while the two
outside went at a canter. The heads of the latter were bent half
round, so that they looked towards the side, or even almost behind
them as they went. An English acquaintance to whom Godfrey
expressed his surprise the first time he saw one of these sledges
replied, "Yes, that is the old Russian pattern; and, curiously
enough, if you look at Greek bas-reliefs and sculptures of the
chariot of Phobus, or at any other representations of chariots with
three or four horses, you will see that the animals outside turn
their heads in a similar manner."
"But it must be horribly uncomfortable for the horses to have
their heads turned round like that."
"It is the effect of training. They are always tied up to the
stables with their heads pulled in that way, until it becomes a
second nature to go with them in that position."
"It is a very curious idea," Godfrey said, "but it certainly
looks nice. What magnificent beards all the drivers in the good
"Yes, that again is an old Russian custom. A driver with a big
beard is considered an absolute necessity for a well-appointed
turn-out, and the longer and fuller the beard the higher the wages
a man will command and the greater the pride of his employer."
"It seems silly," Godfrey said. "But there is no doubt those
fellows do look wonderfully imposing with their fur caps and their
long blue caftans and red sashes and those splendid beards. They
remind me of pictures of Neptune. Certainly I never saw such beards
Besides these vehicles there were crowds of public sledges,
driven by the Isvostchiks, long rough country sledges laden perhaps
with a dozen peasant women returning from market, light well-got-up
vehicles of English and other merchants, dashing turn-outs carrying
an officer or two of high rank, and others filled with ladies half
buried in rich furs. The air was tremulous with the music of
countless bells, and broken by the loud cracking of whips, with
which the faster vehicles heralded their approach. These whips had
short handles, but very long heavy thongs; and Godfrey observed
that, however loud he might crack this weapon, it was very seldom
indeed that a Russian driver ever struck one of his horses with
Sometimes when Ivan Petrovytch told him that there was little to
be done in the office, and that he need not return for an hour or
two, Godfrey would stroll into the Isaac or Kasan cathedrals, both
splendid structures, and wonder at the taste that marred their
effect, by the profusion of the gilding lavished everywhere. He was
delighted by the singing, which was unaccompanied by instruments,
the bass voices predominating, and which certainly struck him as
being much finer than anything he had ever heard in an English
cathedral. There was no lack of amusement in the evening. Some of
his English friends at once put Godfrey up as a member of the
Skating Club. This club possessed a large garden well planted with
trees. In this was an artificial lake of considerable extent,
broken by wooded islets. This was always lit up of an evening by
coloured lights, and twice in the week was thrown open upon a small
payment to the public, when a military band played, and the grounds
were brilliantly illuminated.
The scene was an exceedingly gay one, and the gardens were
frequented by the rank and fashion of St. Petersburg. The
innumerable lights were reflected by the snow that covered the
ground and by the white masses that clung to the boughs of the
leafless trees. The ice was covered with skaters, male and female,
the latter in gay dresses, tight-fitting jackets trimmed with fur,
and dainty little fur caps. Many of the former were in uniform, and
the air was filled with merry laughter and the ringing sound of
innumerable skates. Sometimes parties of acquaintances executed
figures, but for the most part they moved about in couples, the
gentleman holding the lady's hand, or sometimes placing his arm
round her waist as if dancing. Very often Godfrey spent the evening
at the houses of one or other of his Russian or English friends,
and occasionally went to the theatre. Sometimes he spent a quiet
evening at home. He liked Catharine Petrovytch. She was an
excellent housewife, and devoted to the comfort of her husband; but
when not engaged in household cares she seldom cared to go out, and
passed her time for the most part on the sofa. She was, like most
other Russian ladies when at home and without visitors, very
careless and untidy in her dress.
Among the acquaintances of whom Godfrey saw most were two young
students. One of them was the son of a trader in Moscow, the other
of a small landed proprietor. He had met them for the first time at
a fair held on the surface of the Neva, and had been introduced to
them by a fellow-student of theirs, a member of a family with whom
Godfrey was intimate. Having met another acquaintance he had left
the party, and Godfrey had spent the afternoon on the ice with Akim
Soushiloff and Petroff Stepanoff. He found them pleasant young men.
He was, they told him, the first Englishman they had met, and asked
many questions about his country. He met them several times
afterwards, and one day they asked him if he would come up to their
"It is a poor place," one said laughing. "But you know most of
us students are poor, and have to live as best we can."
"It makes no odds to me," Godfrey said. "It was a pretty bare
place I had when I was at school. I shall be very glad to come
The room which the students shared was a large one, at the top
of a house in a narrow street. It was simply furnished enough,
containing but two beds, a deal table, four chairs, and the
indispensable stove, which kept the room warm and comfortable.
"We are in funds just at present," Akim said. "Petroff has had a
remittance, and so you find the stove well alight, which is not
always the case."
"But how do you manage to exist without a fire?"
"We don't trouble the room much then," Petroff said. "We walk
about till we are dead tired out, and then come up and sleep in one
bed together for warmth, and heap all the coverings from the other
bed over us. Oh, we get on very well! Food is cheap here if you
know where to get it; fuel costs more than food. Now which will you
take, tea or vodka?"
Godfrey declared for tea. Some of the water from a great pot
standing on the top of the stove was poured into the samovar. Some
glowing embers were taken from the stove and placed in the urn, and
in a few minutes the water was boiling, and three tumblers of tea
with a slice of lemon floating on the top were soon steaming on the
table. The conversation first turned upon university life in
Russia, and then Petroff began to ask questions about English
schools and universities, and then the subject changed to English
institutions in general.
"What a different life to ours!" Akim said. "And the peasants,
are they comfortable?"
"Well, their lives are pretty hard ones," Godfrey acknowledged.
"They have to work hard and for long hours, and the pay is poor.
But then, on the other hand, they generally have their cottages at
a very low rent, with a good bit of garden and a few fruit trees.
They earn a little extra money at harvest time, and though their
pay is smaller, I think on the whole they are better off and
happier than many of the working people in the towns."
"And they are free to go where they like?"
"Certainly they are free, but as a rule they don't move about
"Then if they have a bad master they can leave him and go to
"Oh, yes! They would go to some other farmer in the
neighbourhood. But there are seldom what you may call bad masters.
The wages are always about the same through a district, and the
hours of work, and so on; so that one master can't be much better
or worse than another, except in point of temper; and if a man were
very bad tempered of course the men would leave him and work
somewhere else, so he would be the loser, as he would soon only get
the very worst hands in the neighbourhood to work for him."
"And they are not beaten?"
"Beaten! I should think not," Godfrey said. "Nobody is beaten
with us, though I think it would be a capital thing if, instead of
shutting up people in prison for small crimes, they had a good
flogging. It would do them a deal more good, and it would be better
for their wives and families, who have to get on as best they can
while they are shut up."
"And nobody is beaten at all?"
"No; there used to be flogging in the army and navy, but it was
very rare, and is now abolished."
"And not even a lord can flog his peasants?"
"Certainly not. If a lord struck a peasant the peasant would
certainly hit him back again, and if he didn't feel strong enough
to do that he would have him up before the magistrates and he would
get fined pretty heavily."
"And how do they punish political prisoners?"
"There are no political prisoners. As long as a man keeps quiet
and doesn't get up a row, he may have any opinions he likes; he may
argue in favour of a republic, or he may be a socialist or anything
he pleases; but, of course, if he tried to kick up a row, attack
the police, or made a riot or anything of that sort he would be
punished for breaking the law, but that would have nothing to do
with his politics."
The two young men looked in surprise at each other.
"But if they printed a paper and attacked the government?" Akim
"Oh, they do that! there are as many papers pitch into the
government as there are in favour of the government; parties are
pretty equally divided, you see, and the party that is out always
abuses the party which is in power."
"And even that is lawful?"
"Certainly it is. You can abuse the government as much as you
like, say that the ministers are a parcel of incompetent fools, and
so on; but, of course, you cannot attack them as to their private
life and character any more than you can anyone else, because then
you would render yourself liable to an action for libel."
"And you can travel where you like, in the country and out of
the country, without official permits or passports?"
"Yes, there is nothing like that known in England. Every man can
go where he likes, and live where he likes, and do anything he
likes, providing that it does not interfere with the rights of
"Ah! shall we ever come to this in Russia, Akim?" Petroff
Akim made no answer, but Godfrey replied for him. "No doubt you
will in time, Petroff; but you see liberties like these do not grow
up in a day. We had serfs and vassals in England at one time, and
feudal barons who could do pretty much what they chose, and it was
only in the course of centuries that these things got done away
with." At this moment there was a knock at the door.
"It is Katia," Akim said, jumping up from his seat and opening
the door. A young woman entered. She was pleasant and intelligent
looking. "Katia, this is an English gentleman, a friend of ours,
who has been telling us about his country. Godfrey, this is my
cousin Katia; she teaches music in the houses of many people of
"I did not expect to find visitors here," the girl said smiling.
"And how do you like our winter? it is a good deal colder than you
are accustomed to."
"It is a great deal more pleasant," Godfrey said: "I call it
glorious weather. It is infinitely better than alternate rains and
winds, with just enough frost occasionally to make you think you
are going to do some skating, and then a thaw."
"You are extravagant," the girl said, looking round; "it is a
long time since I have felt the room as warm as this. I suppose
Petroff has got his allowance?"
"Yes, and a grumbling letter. My father has a vague idea that in
some way or other I ought to pick up my living, though he never
offers a suggestion as to how I should do it."
The young woman went to the cupboard, fetched another tumbler
and poured herself out some tea, and then chatted gaily about St.
Petersburg, her pupils, and their parents.
"Do you live at the house of one of your pupils?" Godfrey
"Oh no!" she said. "I don't mind work, but I like to be free
when work is over. I board in an honest family, and live in a
little room at the top of the house which is all my own and where I
can see my friends."
After chatting for some time longer Godfrey took his leave. As
soon as he had gone the girl's manner changed.
"Do you think you are wise to have him here, Akim?"
"Why not?" the student asked in turn. "He is frank and
agreeable, he is respectable, and even you will allow that it would
be safer walking with him than some we know; we do not talk
politics with him."
"For all that I am sorry, Akim. You know how it will be; we
shall get him into trouble. It is our fate; we have a great end in
view; we risk our own lives, and although for the good of the cause
we must not hesitate even if others suffer, I do hate with all my
heart that others should be involved in our fortunes."
"This is not like you, Katia," Petroff said. "I have heard you
say your maxim is 'At any cost,' and you have certainly lived up to
"Yes, and I shall live up to it," she said firmly; "but it hurts
sometimes, Petroff; it hurt me just now when I thought that that
lad laughing and chatting with us had no idea that he had better
have thrust his hand into that stove than have given it to us. I do
not shrink; I should use him as I should use anyone else, as an
instrument if it were needful, but don't suppose that I like
"I don't think there is any fear of our doing him harm," Akim
said; "he is English, and would find no difficulty in showing that
he knew nothing of us save as casual acquaintances; they might send
him out of the country, but that would be all."
"It would all depend," she said, "upon how he fell into their
hands. If you happened to be arrested only as you were walking with
him down the Nevski Prospekt he would be questioned, of course, but
as soon as they learned who he was and that he had nothing to do
with you, they would let him go. But if he were with us, say here,
when we were pounced upon, and you had no time to pull the trigger
of the pistol pointing into that keg of powder in the cupboard, he
would be hurried away with us to one of the fortresses, and the
chances are that not a soul would ever know what had become of him.
Still it cannot be helped now; he may be useful, and as we give our
own lives, so we must not shrink from giving others'. But this is
not what I came here to talk to you about; have you heard of the
arrest of Michaelovich?"
"No," they both exclaimed, leaping from their seats.
"It happened at three o'clock this morning," Katia said. "They
surrounded the house and broke in suddenly, and rushed down into
the cellar and found him at work. He shot two of them, and then he
was beaten down and badly wounded."
"Where were the other two?" Akim asked.
"He sent them away but an hour before, but he went on working
himself to complete the number of hand-bills. Of course he was
betrayed. I don't think there are six people who knew where the
press was; even I didn't know."
"Where did you hear of it, Katia?"
"Feodorina Samuloff told me; you know she often helps
Michaelovich to work at the press; she thinks it must have been
either Louka or Gasin. Why should Michaelovich have sent them away
when he hadn't finished work if one or the other of them had not
made some excuse so as to get out of the way before the police
came? But that is nothing, there will be time to find out which is
the traitor; they know nothing, either of them, except that they
worked at the secret press with him; they were never much trusted.
But Michaelovich is a terrible loss, he was always daring and full
"They will get nothing from him," Petroff said.
"Not they," she agreed. "When do they ever get anything out of
us? One of the outer-circle fellows like Louka and Gasin, who know
nothing, who are instruments and nothing more, may tell all they
know for gold, or for fear of the knout, but never once have they
learned anything from one who knows. Fortunately the press was a
very old one and there was but little type there, only just enough
for printing small hand-bills; we have two others ready to set
"Were there any papers there?"
"No, Michaelovich was too careful for that."
"I hear that old Libka died in prison yesterday," Akim said.
"He is released from his suffering," Katia said solemnly.
"Anything else, Akim?"
"Yes, a batch of prisoners start for Siberia to-morrow, and
there are ten of us among them."
"Well, be careful for the next few days, Akim," Katia said;
"don't do anything in the schools, it will not be long now before
all is ready to strike a blow, and it is not worth while to risk
anything until after that. I have orders that we are all to keep
perfectly quiet till the plans are settled and we each get our
instructions. Now I must go, I have two lessons to give this
afternoon. It tries one a little to be talking to children about
quavers and semiquavers when one's head is full of great plans, and
you know that at any moment a policeman may tap you on the shoulder
and take you off to the dungeons of St. Nicholas, from which one
will never return unless one is carried out, or is sent to Siberia,
which would be worse. Be careful; the police have certainly got
scent of something, they are very active at present;" and with a
nod she turned and left the room.
"She is a brave girl," Akim said. "I think the women make better
conspirators than we do, Petroff. Look at her. She was a little
serious to-day because of Michaelovich, but generally she is in
high spirits, and no one would dream that she thought of anything
but her pupils and pleasure. Then there is Feodorina Samuloff. She
works all day, I believe, in a laundry, and she looks as impassive
as if she had been carved out of soap. Yet she is ready to go on
working all night if required, and if she had orders she would walk
into the Winter Palace and throw down a bomb (that would kill her
as well as everyone else within its reach) with as much coolness as
if she was merely delivering a message."