Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1893

Condemned as a Nihilist ebook

G. A. Henty

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Opis ebooka Condemned as a Nihilist - G. A. Henty

There are few difficulties that cannot be surmounted by patience, resolution, and pluck, and great as are the obstacles that nature and the Russian government oppose to an escape from the prisons of Siberia, such evasions have occasionally been successfully carried out, and that under far less advantageous circumstances than those under which the hero of this story undertook the venture.

Opinie o ebooku Condemned as a Nihilist - G. A. Henty

Fragment ebooka Condemned as a Nihilist - G. A. Henty

Chapter 1 - A GREAT CHANGE.

About Henty:

George Alfred Henty (8 December 1832 – 16 November 1902), was a prolific English novelist, special correspondent and Imperialist. He is best known for his historical adventure stories that were popular in the late 19th century. His works include Out on the Pampas (1871), The Young Buglers (1880), With Clive in India (1884) and Wulf the Saxon (1895).

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There are few difficulties that cannot be surmounted by patience, resolution, and pluck, and great as are the obstacles that nature and the Russian government oppose to an escape from the prisons of Siberia, such evasions have occasionally been successfully carried out, and that under far less advantageous circumstances than those under which the hero of this story undertook the venture. For the account of life in the convict establishments in Siberia I am indebted to the very valuable books by my friend the Rev. Dr. Lansdell, who has made himself thoroughly acquainted with Siberia, traversing the country from end to end and visiting all the principal prisons. He conversed not only with officials, but with many of the prisoners and convicts, and with Russian and foreign residents in the country, and his testimony as to the management of the prisons and the condition of the convicts is confirmed by other independent writers personally cognizant of the facts, and like him able to converse fluently in the language, and writing from intimate knowledge of the subject.



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 term.

"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 omnibus."

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 them.

"You must mind what you are up to, Bullen," one of his companions said. "They are terrible fellows those Nihilists, they say."

"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 policeman."

"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 fellows."

"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 laugh.

"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 disgusting."

"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 expense."

"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. Petersburg.

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. Petersburg."

"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 short time."

"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 summer."

"Well, you must make the most of him this time then," her father said.

"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 don't mind."

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 public schools.

"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 him.

"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 that."

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 sledges."

"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 close."

"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 well?"

"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 tea-urn.

"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 sledges have!"

"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 in England."

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 it.

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 room.

"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 up."

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 much."

"Then if they have a bad master they can leave him and go to someone else?"

"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 asked.

"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 other people."

"Ah! shall we ever come to this in Russia, Akim?" Petroff said.

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 good family."

"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 asked.

"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 it."

"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 it."

"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 of expedients."

"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 up."

"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."