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The Book of All-Power
Edgar Wallace



To
HARRY HUGHES-ONSLOW



CONTENTS

   I INTRODUCING MALCOLM HAY
  II A GUN-MAN REFUSES WORK
 III THE GRAND DUCHESS IRENE
  IV THE PRINCE WHO PLANNED
   V THE RAID ON THE SILVER LION
  VI PRINCE SERGANOFF PAYS THE PRICE
 VII KENSKY OF KIEFF
VIII THE GRAND DUKE IS AFFABLE
  IX THE HAND AT THE WINDOW
   X TERROR IN MAKING
  XI THE COMMISSARY WITH THE CROOKED NOSE
 XII IN THE PRISON OF ST. BASIL
XIII CHERRY BIM MAKES A STATEMENT
 XIV IN THE HOLY VILLAGE
  XV THE RED BRIDE
  XVI THE BOOK OF ALL-POWER
 XVII ON THE ROAD
XVIII THE MONASTERY OF ST. BASIL THE LEPER
  XIX THE END OF BOOLBA
      CHAPTER THE LAST



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCING MALCOLM HAY


If a man is not eager for adventure at the age of twenty-two, the
enticement of romantic possibilities will never come to him.

The chairman of the Ukraine Oil Company looked with a little amusement
at the young man who sat on the edge of a chair by the chairman's desk,
and noted how the eye of the youth had kindled at every fresh
discouragement which the chairman had put forward. Enthusiasm, reflected
the elder man, was one of the qualities which were most desirable in the
man who was to accept the position which Malcolm Hay was at that moment
considering.

"Russia is a strange country," said Mr. Tremayne. "It is one of the
mystery places of the world. You hear fellows coming back from China who
tell you amazing stories of the idiosyncrasies of the Chink. But I can
tell you, from my own personal observations, that the Chinaman is an
open book in words of one syllable compared with the average Russian
peasant. By the way, you speak Russian, I understand?"

Hay nodded.

"Oh, yes, sir," he said, "I have been talking Russian ever since I was
sixteen, and I speak both the dialects."

"Good!" nodded Mr. Tremayne. "Now, all that remains for you to do is to
think both dialects. I was in Southern Russia attending to our wells for
twenty years. In fact, long before our wells came into being, and I can
honestly say that, though I am not by any means an unintelligent man, I
know just as little about the Russian to-day as I did when I went there.
He's the most elusive creature. You think you know him two days after
you have met him. Two days later you find that you have changed all your
opinions about him; and by the end of the first year, if you have kept a
careful note of your observations and impressions in a diary, you will
discover that you have three hundred and sixty-five different
views--unless it happens to be a leap year."

"What happens in a leap year?" asked the innocent Hay.

"You have three hundred and sixty-six views," said the solemn Mr.
Tremayne.

He struck a bell.

"We shan't want you to leave London for a week or two," he said, "and in
the meantime you had better study up our own special literature. We can
give you particulars about the country--that part of the country in
which the wells are situated--which you will not find in the guidebooks.
There are also a few notable personages whom it will be advisable for
you to study."

"I know most of them," said the youth with easy confidence. "As a matter
of fact, I got the British Consul to send me a local directory and
swotted it."

Mr. Tremayne concealed a smile.

"And what did the local directory say about Israel Kensky?" he asked
innocently.

"Israel Kensky?" said the puzzled youth. "I don't remember that name."

"It is the only name worth remembering," said the other dryly, "and, by
the way, you'll be able to study him in a strange environment, for he is
in London at this moment."

A clerk had answered the bell and stood waiting in the doorway.

"Get Mr. Hay those books and pamphlets I spoke to you about," said
Tremayne. "And, by the way, when did M. Kensky arrive?"

"To-day," said the clerk.

Tremayne nodded.

"In fact," he said, "London this week will be filled with people whose
names are not in your precious directory, and all of whom you should
know. The Yaroslavs are paying a sort of state visit."

"The Yaroslavs?" repeated Hay. "Oh, of course----"

"The Grand Duke and his daughter," added Mr. Tremayne.

"Well," smiled the young man, "I'm not likely to meet the Grand Duke or
the Grand Duchess. I understand the royal family of Russia is a little
exclusive."

"Everything is likely in Russia," said the optimistic Mr. Tremayne. "If
you come back in a few years' time and tell me that you've been
appointed an admiral in the Russian Navy, or that you've married the
Grand Duchess Irene Yaroslav, I shall not for one moment disbelieve you.
At the same time, if you come back from Russia without your ears, the
same having been cut off by your peasant neighbours to propitiate the
ghost of a martyr who died six hundred years ago, I shall not be
surprised either. That is the country you're going to--and I envy you."

"I'm a little surprised at myself," admitted Malcolm, "it seems almost
incredible. Of course, sir, I have a lot to learn and I'm not placing
too much reliance upon my degree."

"Your science degree?" said Tremayne. "It may be useful, but a divinity
degree would have been better."

"A divinity degree?"

Tremayne nodded.

"It is religion you want in Russia, and especially local religion.
You'll have to do a mighty lot of adapting when you're out there, Hay,
and I don't think you could do better than get acquainted with the local
saints. You'll find that the birth or death of four or five of them are
celebrated every week, and that your workmen will take a day's holiday
for each commemoration. If you're not pretty smart, they'll whip in a
few saints who have no existence, and you'll get no work done at
all--that will do."

He ended the interview with a jerk of his head, and as the young man got
to his feet to go, added: "Come back again to-morrow. I think you ought
to see Kensky."

"Who is he?" asked Hay courteously. "A local magnate?"

"In a sense he is and in a sense he's not," said the careful Mr.
Tremayne. "He's a big man locally, and from a business point of view, I
suppose he is a magnate. However, you'll be able to judge for yourself."

Malcolm Hay went out into the teeming streets of London, walking on air.
It was his first appointment--he was earning money, and it seemed
rather like a high-class dream.

In Maida Vale there are many little side streets, composed of shabby
houses covered with discoloured stucco, made all the more desolate and
gloomy in appearance by the long and narrow strip of "garden" which runs
out to the street. In one of these, devoted to the business of a
boarding-house, an old man sat at a portable bench, under the one
electric light which the economical landlady had allowed him. The room
was furnished in a typically boarding-house style.

But both the worker at the bench, and the woman who sat by the table,
her chin on her palms, watching him, seemed unaffected by the poverty of
their surroundings. The man was thin and bent of back. As he crouched
over the bench, working with the fine tools on what was evidently
intended to be the leather cover of a book, his face lay in the shadow,
and only the end of his straggling white beard betrayed his age.

Presently he looked up at the woman and revealed himself as a hawk-nosed
man of sixty. His face was emaciated and seamed, and his dark eyes shone
brightly. His companion was a woman of twenty-four, obviously of the
Jewish type, as was the old man; what good looks she possessed were
marred by the sneer on her lips.

"If these English people see you at work," she said presently, "they
will think you are some poor man, little father."

Israel Kensky did not stop his work.

"What book are you binding?" she asked after awhile. "Is it the Talmud
which Levi Leviski gave you?"

The old man did not answer, and a dark frown gathered on the woman's
heavy face. You might not guess that they were father and daughter, yet
such was the case. But between Sophia Kensky and her father there was
neither communion of spirit nor friendship. It was amazing that she
should accompany him, as she did, wherever he went, or that he should be
content to have her as his companion. The gossips of Kieff had it that
neither would trust the other out of sight; and it may be that there was
something in this, though a stronger motive might be suspected in so far
as Sophia's actions were concerned.

Presently the old man put down his tools, blinked, and pushed back his
chair.

"It is a design for a great book," he said, and chuckled hoarsely. "A
book with steel covers and wonderful pages." He smiled contemptuously.
"The Book of All-Power," he said.

"Little father, there are times when I think you are mad. For how can
you know the secrets which are denied to others? And you who write so
badly, how can you fill a great book with your writings?"

"The Book of All-Power," repeated the man, and the smile on the woman's
face grew broader.

"A wonderful book!" she scoffed, "filled with magic and mystery and
spells--do you wonder that we of Kieff suspect you?"

"We of Kieff?" he repeated mockingly, and she nodded.

"We of Kieff," she said.

"So you are with the rabble, Sophia!" He lifted one shoulder in a
contemptuous little gesture.

"You are also of the rabble, Israel Kensky," she said. "Do you take your
dinner in the Grand Duke's palace?"

He was gathering together the tools on the table, and methodically
fitting each graver into a big leather purse.

"The Grand Duke does not stone me in the street, nor set fire to my
houses," he said.

"Nor the Grand Duchess," said the girl meaningly, and he looked at her
from under his lowered brows.

"The Grand Duchess is beyond the understanding of such as you," he said
harshly, and the woman laughed.

"There will come a day when she will be on her knees to me," she said
prophetically, and she got up from the table with a heavy yawn. "That I
promise myself, and with this promise I put myself to sleep every
night."

She went on and she spoke without heat.

"I see her sweeping my floors and eating the bread I throw to her."

Israel Kensky had heard all this before, and did not even smile.

"You are an evil woman, Sophia," he said. "God knows how such a one
could be a daughter of mine. What has the Grand Duchess done to you that
you should harbour such venom?"

"I hate her because she is," said the woman evenly. "I hate her not for
the harm she has done me, but for the proud smile she gives to her
slaves. I hate her because she is high and I am low, and because all the
time she is marking the difference between us."

"You are a fool," said Israel Kensky as he left the room.

"Perhaps I am," said the woman, his daughter. "Are you going to bed
now?"

He turned in the doorway.

"I am going to my room. I shall not come down again," he said.

"Then I will sleep," she yawned prodigiously. "I hate this town."

"Why did you come?" he asked. "I did not want you."

"I came because you did not want me," said Sophia Kensky.

Israel went to his room, closed the door and locked it. He listened and
presently he heard the sound of his daughter's door close also and heard
the snap of the key as it turned. But it was a double snap, and he knew
that the sound was intended for him and that the second click was the
unlocking of the door. She had locked and unlocked it in one motion. He
waited, sitting in an arm-chair before a small fire, for ten minutes,
and then, rising, crossed the room softly and switched out the light.
There was a transom above the door, so that anybody in the passage
outside could tell whether his light was on or off. Then he resumed his
seat, spreading his veined hands to the fire, and listened.

He waited another quarter of an hour before he heard a soft creak and
the sound of breathing outside the door. Somebody was standing there
listening. The old man kept his eyes fixed on the fire, but his senses
were alive to every sound. Again he heard the creaking, this time
louder. A jerry-built house in Maida Vale does not offer the best
assistance to the furtive business in which Sophia Kensky was engaged.
Another creak, this time farther away and repeated at intervals, told
him that she was going down the stairs. He walked to the window and
gently pulled up the blind, taking his station so that he could command
a view of the narrow strip of garden. Presently his vigil was rewarded.
He saw her dark figure walk along the flagged pavement, open the gate
and disappear into the darkened street.

Israel Kensky went back to his chair, stirred the fire and settled down
to a long wait, his lined face grave and anxious.

The woman had turned to the right and had walked swiftly to the end of
the street. The name of that street, or its pronunciation, were beyond
her. She neither spoke English, nor was she acquainted with the
topography of the district in which she found herself. She slowed her
pace as she reached the main road and a man came out of the shadows to
meet her.

"Is it you, little mother?" he asked in Russian.

"Thank God you're here! Who is this?" asked Sophia breathlessly.

"Boris Yakoff," said the other, "I have been waiting for an hour, and it
is very cold."

"I could not get away before," she said as she fell in beside him. "The
old man was working with his foolery and it was impossible to get him to
go to bed. Once or twice I yawned, but he took no notice."

"Why has he come to London?" asked her companion. "It must be something
important to bring him away from his money-bags."

To this the woman made no reply. Presently she asked:

"Do we walk? Is there no droski or little carriage?"

"Have patience, have patience!" grinned the man good humouredly. "Here
in London we do things in grand style. We have an auto-car for you. But
it was not wise to bring it so close to your house, little mother. The
old man----"

"Oh, finish with the old man," she said impatiently; "do not forget that
I am with him all the day."

The antipathy between father and daughter was so well known that the man
made no apology for discussing the relationship with that frankness
which is characteristic of the Russian peasant. Nor did Sophia Kensky
resent the questions of a stranger, nor hesitate to unburden herself of
her grievances. The "auto-car" proved to be a very common-place
taxi-cab, though a vehicle of some luxury to Yakoff.

"They say he practises magic," said that garrulous man, as the taxi got
on its way; "also that he bewitches you."

"That is a lie," said the woman indifferently: "he frightens me
sometimes, but that is because I have here"--she tapped her
forehead--"a memory which is not a memory. I seem to remember something
just at the end of a thread, and I reach for it, and lo! it is gone!"

"That is magic," said Yakoff gravely. "Evidently he practises his spells
upon you. Tell me, Sophia Kensky, is it true that you Jews use the blood
of Christian children for your beastly ceremonies?"

The woman laughed.

"What sort of man are you that you believe such things?" she asked
contemptuously. "I thought all the comrades in London were educated?"

Yakoff made a little clicking noise with his mouth to betray his
annoyance. And well he might resent this reflection upon his education,
for he held a university degree and had translated six revolutionary
Russian novels into English and French. This, he explained with some
detail, and the girl listened with little interest. She was not
surprised that an educated man should believe the fable of human
sacrifices, which had gained a certain currency in Russia. Only it
seemed to her just a little inexplicable.

The cab turned out of the semi-obscurity of the side street into a
brilliantly lighted thoroughfare and bowled down a broad and busy road.
A drizzle of rain was falling and blurred the glass; but even had the
windows been open, she could not have identified her whereabouts.

"To what place are you taking me?" she asked. "Where is the meeting?"

Yakoff lowered his voice to a husky whisper.

"It is the café of the Silver Lion, in a place called Soho," he said.
"Here we meet from day to day and dream of a free Russia. We also play
bagatelle." He gave the English name for the latter. "It is a club and a
restaurant. To-night it is necessary that you should be here, Sophia
Kensky, because of the great happenings which must follow."

She was silent for awhile, then she asked whether it was safe, and he
laughed.

"Safe!" he scoffed. "There are no secret police in London. This is a
free country, where one may do as one wishes. No, no, Sophia Kensky, be
not afraid."

"I am not afraid," she answered, "but tell me, Yakoff, what is this
great meeting about?"

"You shall learn, you shall learn, little sister," said Yakoff
importantly.

He might have added that he also was to learn, for as yet he was in
ignorance.

They drove into a labyrinth of narrow streets and stopped suddenly
before a doorway. There was no sign of a restaurant, and Yakoff
explained, before he got out of the cab, that this was the back
entrance to the Silver Lion, and that most of the brethren who used the
club also used this back door.

He dismissed the cab and pressed a bell in the lintel of the door.
Presently it was opened and they passed in unchallenged. They were in a
small hallway, lighted with a gas-jet. There was a stairway leading to
the upper part of the premises, and a narrower stairway, also lighted by
gas, at the foot leading to the cellar; and it was down the latter that
Yakoff moved, followed by the girl.

They were now in another passage, whitewashed and very orderly. A
gas-jet lit this also, and at one end the girl saw a plain, wooden door.
To this Yakoff advanced and knocked. A small wicket, set in the panel,
was pushed aside, and after a brief scrutiny by the door's custodian, it
was opened and the two entered without further parley.




CHAPTER II

A GUN-MAN REFUSES WORK


It was a big underground room, the sort of basement dining-room one
finds in certain of the cafés in Soho, and its decorations and furniture
were solid and comfortable. There were a dozen men in this
innocent-looking saloon when the girl entered. They were standing about
talking, or sitting at the tables playing games. The air was blue with
tobacco smoke.

Her arrival seemed to be the signal for the beginning of a conference.
Four small tables were drawn from the sides and placed together, and in
a few seconds she found herself one of a dozen that sat about the board.

The man who seemed to take charge of the proceedings she did not know.
He was a Russian--a big, clean-shaven man, quietly and even
well-dressed. His hair was flaming red, his nose was crooked. It was
this crooked nose which gave her a clue to his identity. She remembered
in Kieff, where physical peculiarities could not pass unnoticed, some
reference to "twist nose," and racked her brains in an effort to recall
who that personage was. That he knew her he very quickly showed.

"Sophia Kensky," he said, "we have sent for you to ask you why your
father is in London."

"If you know my father," she replied, "you know also that I, his
daughter, do not share his secrets."

The man at the head of the table nodded.

"I know him," he said grimly, "also I know you, Sophia. I have seen you
often at the meetings of our society in Kieff."

Again she frowned, trying to recall his name and where she had seen him.
It was not at any of the meetings of the secret society--of that she was
sure. He seemed to read her thoughts, for he laughed--a deep, thunderous
laugh which filled the underground room with sound.

"It is strange that you do not know me," he said, "and yet I have seen
you a hundred times, and you have seen me."

A light dawned on her.

"Boolba, the _buffet-schek_ of the Grand Duke!" she gasped.

He nodded, absurdly pleased at the recognition.

"I do not attend the meetings in Kieff, little sister, for reasons which
you will understand. But here in London, where I have come in advance
of Yaroslav, it is possible. Now, Sophia Kensky, you are a proved friend
of our movement?"

She nodded, since the statement was in the way of a question.

"It is known to you, as to us, that your father, Israel Kensky, is a
friend of the Grand Duchess."

Boolba, the President, saw the sullen look on her face and drew his own
conclusions, even before she explained her antipathy to the young girl
who held that exalted position.

"It is a mystery to me, Boolba," she said, "for what interest can this
great lady have in an old Jew?"

"The old Jew is rich," said Boolba significantly.

"So also is Irene Yaroslav," said the girl. "It is not for money that
she comes."

"It is not for money," agreed the other, "it is for something else. When
the Grand Duchess Irene was a child, she was in the streets of Kieff one
day in charge of her nurse. It happened that some Caucasian soldiers
stationed in the town started a pogrom against the Jews. The soldiers
were very drunk; they were darting to and fro in the street on their
little horses, and the nurse became frightened and left the child. Your
father was in hiding, and the soldiers were searching for him; yet, when
he saw the danger of the Grand Duchess, he ran from his hiding-place,
snatched her up under the hoofs of the horses, and bore her away into
his house."

"I did not know this," said Sophia, listening open-mouthed. Her father
had never spoken of the incident, and the curious affection which this
high-born lady had for the old usurer of Kieff had ever been a source of
wonder to her.

"You know it now," said Boolba. "The Grand Duke has long since forgotten
what he owes to Israel Kensky, but the Grand Duchess has not. Therefore,
she comes to him with all her troubles--and that, Sophia Kensky, is why
we have sent for you."

There was a silence.

"I see," she said at last, "you wish me to spy upon Israel Kensky and
tell you all that happens."

"I want to know all that passes between him and the Grand Duchess," said
Boolba. "She comes to London to-morrow with her father, and it is
certain she will seek out Israel Kensky. Every letter that passes
between them must be opened."

"But----" she began.

"There is no 'but,'" roared Boolba. "Hear and obey; it is ordered!"

He turned abruptly to the man on his left.

"You understand, Yaroslav arrives in London to-morrow. It is desirable
that he should not go away."

"But, but, Excellency," stammered the man on his left, "here in London!"

Boolba nodded.

"But, Excellency," wailed the man, "in London we are safe; it is the one
refuge to which our friends can come. If such a thing should happen,
what would be our fate? We could not meet together. We should be hounded
down by the police from morning until night; we should be deported--it
would be the ruin of the great movement."

"Nevertheless, it is an order," said Boolba doggedly; "this is a matter
beyond the cause. It will gain us powerful protectors at the court, and
I promise you that, though the commotion will be great, yet it will not
last for very long, and you will be left undisturbed."

"But----" began one of the audience, and Boolba silenced him with a
gesture.

"I promise that none of you shall come to harm, my little pigeons, and
that you shall not be concerned in this matter."

"But who will do it, Excellency?" asked another member.

"That is too important to be decided without a meeting of all the
brethren. For my part, I would not carry out such an order unless I
received the instructions of our President."

"I promise that none of you shall take a risk," sneered Boolba. "Now
speak, Yakoff!"

The man who had accompanied Sophia Kensky smiled importantly at the
company, then turned to Sophia.

"Must I say this before Sophia Kensky?" he asked.

"Speak," said Boolba. "We are all brothers and sisters, and none will
betray you."

Yakoff cleared his throat.

"When your Excellency wrote to me from Kieff, asking me to find a man, I
was in despair," he began--an evidently rehearsed speech, "I tore my
hair, I wept----"

"Tell us what you have done," said the impatient Boolba. "For what does
it matter, in the name of the saints and the holy martyrs" (everyone at
the table, including Boolba, crossed himself) "whether your hair was
torn or your head was hammered?"

"It was a difficult task, Excellency," said Yakoff in a more subdued
tone, "but Providence helped me. There is a good comrade of ours who is
engaged in punishing the bourgeoisie by relieving them of their
goods----"

"A thief, yes," said Boolba.

"Through him I learnt that a certain man had arrived in England and was
in hiding. This man is a professional assassin."

They looked at him incredulously, all except Boolba, who had heard the
story before.

"An assassin?" said one. "Of what nationality?"

"American," said Yakoff, and there was a little titter of laughter.

"It is true," interrupted Boolba. "This man, whom Yakoff has found, is
what is known in New York as a gun-man. He belongs to a gang which was
hunted down by the police, and our comrade escaped."

"But an American!" persisted one of the unconvinced.

"An American," said Yakoff. "This man is desired by the police on this
side, and went in hiding with our other comrade, who recognized him."

"A gun-man," said Boolba thoughtfully, and he used the English word with
some awkwardness. "A gun-man. If he would only--is he here?" he
demanded, looking up.

Yakoff nodded.

"Does he know----"

"I have told him nothing, Excellency," said Yakoff, rising from the
table with alacrity, "except to be here, near the entrance to the club,
at this hour. Shall I bring him down?"

Boolba nodded, and three minutes later, into this queer assembly,
something of a fish out of water and wholly out of his element, strode
Cherry Bim, that redoubtable man.

He was a little, man, stoutly built and meanly dressed. He had a fat,
good-humoured face and a slight moustache, and eyes that seemed laughing
all the time.

Despite the coldness of the night, he wore no waistcoat, and as a
protest against the conventions he had dispensed with a collar. As he
stood there, belted about his large waist, a billycock hat on the back
of his head, he looked to be anything from a broken-down publican to an
out-of-work plumber.

He certainly did not bear the impress of gun-man.

If he was out of his element, he was certainly not out of conceit with
himself. He gave a cheery little nod to every face that was turned to
him, and stood, his hands thrust through his belt, his legs wide apart,
surveying the company with a benevolent smile.

"Good evening, ladies and gents," he said. "Shake hands with Cherry Bim!
Bim on my father's side and Cherry by christening--Cherry Bim, named
after the angels." And he beamed again.

This little speech, delivered in English, was unintelligible to the
majority of those present, including Sophia Kensky, but Yakoff
translated it. Solemnly he made a circuit of the company and as solemnly
shook hands with every individual, and at last he came to Boolba; and
only then did he hesitate for a second.

Perhaps in that meeting there came to him some premonition of the
future, some half-revealed, half-blurred picture of prophecy. Perhaps
that picture was one of himself, lying in the darkness on the roof of
the railway carriage, and an obscene Boolba standing erect in a
motor-car on the darkened station, waving his rage, ere the three quick
shots rang out.

Cherry Bim confessed afterwards to a curious shivery sensation at his
spine. The hesitation was only for a second, and then his hand gripped
the big hand of the self-constituted chairman.

"Now, gents and ladies," he said, with a comical little bow towards
Sophia, "I understand you're all good sports here, and I'm telling you
that I don't want to stay long. I'm down and out, and I'm free to
confess it, and any of you ladies and gents who would like to grubstake
a stranger in a foreign land, why, here's your chance. I'm open to take
on any kind of job that doesn't bring me into conspicuous relationship
with the bulls--bulls, ladies and gentlemen, being New York for
policemen."

Then Boolba spoke, and he spoke in English, slow but correct.

"Comrade," he said, "do you hate tyrants?"

"If he's a copper," replied Mr. Bim mistakenly. "Why, he's just as
popular with me as a hollow tooth at an ice-cream party."

"What does he say?" asked the bewildered Boolba, who could not follow
the easy flow of Mr. Bim's conversation, and Yakoff translated to the
best of his ability.

And then Boolba, arresting the interruption of the American, explained.
It was a long explanation. It dealt with tyranny and oppression and
other blessed words dear to the heart of the revolutionary; it concerned
millions of men and hundreds of millions of men and women in chains,
under iron heels, and the like; and Mr. Bim grew more and more hazy, for
he was not used to the parabole, the allegory, or the metaphor. But
towards the end of his address, Boolba became more explicit, and, as his
emotions were moved, his English a little more broken.

Mr. Bim became grave, for there was no mistaking the task which had been
set him.

"Hold hard, mister," he said. "Let's get this thing right. There's a guy
you want to croak. Do I get you right?"

Again Mr. Yakoff translated the idioms, for Yakoff had not lived on the
edge of New York's underworld without acquiring some knowledge of its
language.

Boolba nodded.

"We desire him killed," he said. "He is a tyrant, an oppressor----"

"Hold hard," said Bim. "I want to see this thing plain. You're going to
croak this guy, and I'm the man to do it? Do I get you?"

"That is what I desire," said Boolba, and Bim shook his head.

"It can't be done," he said. "I'm over here for a quiet, peaceful life,
and anyway, I've got nothing on this fellow. I'm not over here to get my
picture in the papers. It's a new land to me--why, if you put me in
Piccadilly Circus I shouldn't know which way to turn to get out of it!
Anyway, that strong arm stuff is out so far as I'm concerned."

"What does he say?" said Boolba again, and again Yakoff translated.

"I thought you were what you call a gun-man," said Boolba with a curl of
his lip. "I did not expect you to be frightened."

"There's gun-men and gun-men," said Cherry Bim, unperturbed by the
patent sarcasm. "And then there's me. I never drew a gun on a man in my
life that didn't ask for it, or in the way of business. No, sirree. You
can't hire Cherry Bim to do a low, vulgar murder."

His tone was uncompromising and definite. Boolba realized that he could
not pursue his argument with any profit to himself, and that if he were
to bring this unwilling agent to his way of thinking a new line would
have to be taken.

"You will not be asked to take a risk for nothing," he said. "I am
authorized to pay you twenty thousand roubles, that is, two thousand
pounds in your money----"

"Not mine," interrupted Bim. "It's ten thousand dollars you're trying to
say. Well, even that doesn't tempt me. It's not my game, anyway," he
said, pulling up a chair and sitting down in the most friendly manner.
"And don't think you're being original when you offer me this
commission. I've had it offered me before in New York City, and I've
always turned it down, though I know my way to safety blindfolded.
That's all there is to it, gentlemen--and ladies," he added.

"So you refuse?" Neither Boolba's voice nor his manner was pleasant.

"That's about the size of it," said Cherry Bim, rising. "I'm a grafter,
I admit it. There ain't hardly anything I wouldn't do from smashing a
bank downwards, to turn a dishonest penny. But, gents, I'm short of the
necessary nerve, inclination, lack of morals, and general ungodliness,
to take on murder in the first, second, or third degree."

"You have courage, my friend," said Boolba significantly. "You do not
suppose we should take you into our confidence and let you go away
again so easily?"

Mr. Bim's smile became broader.

"Gents, I won't deceive you," he said. "I expected a rough house and
prepared for it. Watch me!"

He extended one of his hands in the manner of a conjurer and with the
other pulled up the sleeve above the wrist. He turned the hands over,
waggling the fingers as though he were giving a performance, and they
watched him curiously.

"There's nothing there, is there?" said Cherry Bim, beaming at the
company, "and yet there is something there. Look!"

No eyes were sharp enough to follow the quick movement of his hand. None
saw it drop or rise again. There was a slur of movement, and then, in
the hand which had been empty, was a long-barrelled Colt. Cherry Bim,
taking no notice of the sensation he created, tossed the revolver to the
ceiling and caught it again.

"Now, gents, I don't know whether you're foolish or only just crazy. Get
away from that door, Hector," he said to a long-haired man who stood
with folded arms against the closed door. And "Hector," whose name was
Nickolo Novoski Yasserdernski in real life, made haste to obey.

"Wait a bit," said the careful gun-man. "That's a key in your waistcoat
pocket, I guess." He thrust the barrel of his revolver against the
other's side, and the long-haired man doubled up with a gasp. But Cherry
Bim meant no mischief. The barrel of the gun clicked against the end of
a key, and when Cherry Bim drew his revolver away the key was hanging to
it!

"Magnetic," the gun-man kindly explained; "it is a whim of mine."

With no other words he passed through the door and slammed it behind
him.




CHAPTER III

THE GRAND DUCHESS IRENE


Israel Kensky was dozing before the fire when the sound of the creaking
stair woke him. He walked softly to the door and listened, and presently
he heard the steps of his daughter passing along the corridor. He opened
the door suddenly and stepped out, and she jumped back with a little cry
of alarm. There were moments when she was terribly afraid of her father,
and such a moment came to her now.

"Are you not asleep, Israel Kensky?" she faltered.

"I could not sleep," replied the other, in so mild a tone that she took
courage. "Come into my room. I wish to speak to you."

He did not ask her where she had been, or to explain why, at three
o'clock in the morning, she was dressed for the street, and she felt it
necessary to offer some explanation.

"You wonder why I am dressed?" she said.

"I heard a great noise in the street, and went out to see----"

"What does it matter?" said Israel Kensky. "Save your breath, little
daughter. Why should you not walk in the street if you desire?"

He switched on the light to augment the red glow which came from the
fire.

"Sit down, Sophia," he said, "I have been waiting for you. I heard you
go out."

She made no reply. There was fear in her eyes, and all the time she was
conscious of many unpleasant interviews with her father--interviews
which had taken place in Kieff and in other towns--the details of which
she could never recall. And she was filled with a dread of some
happening to which she could not give form or description. He saw her
shifting in her chair and smiled slowly.

"Get me the little box which is on my dressing-table, Sophia Kensky," he
said.

He was seated by the fire, his hands outstretched to the red coal. After
a moment's hesitation she got up, went to the dressing-table, and
brought back a small box. It was heavy and made of some metal over which
a brilliant black enamel had been laid.

"Open the box, Sophia Kensky," said the old man, not turning his head.

She had a dim recollection that she had been asked to do this before,
but again could not remember when or in what circumstances. She opened
the lid and looked within. On a bed of black velvet was a tiny convex
mirror, about the size of a sixpence. She looked at this, and was still
looking at it when she walked slowly back to her chair and sat down. It
had such a fascination, this little mirror, that she could not tear her
eyes away.

"Close your eyes," said Kensky in a monotonous voice, and she obeyed.
"You cannot open them," said the old man, and she shook her head and
repeated:

"I cannot open them."

"Now you shall tell me, Sophia Kensky, where you went this night."

In halting tones she told him of her meeting with Yakoff, of their walk,
of the cab, of the little door in the back street, and the stone stairs
that led to the whitewashed passage; and then she gave, as near as she
knew, a full account of all that had taken place. Only when she came to
describe Bim and to tell of what he said, did she flounder. Bim had
spoken in a foreign language, and the translation of Yakoff had conveyed
very little to her. But in this part of the narrative the old man was
less interested. Again and again he returned to Boolba and the plot.

"What hand will kill the Grand Duke?" he asked, not once but many
times, and invariably she answered:

"I do not know."

"On whose behalf does Boolba act?" asked the old man. "Think, Sophia
Kensky! Who will give this foreigner twenty thousand roubles?"

"I do not know," she answered again.

Presently a note of distress was evident in her voice, and Israel Kensky
rose up and took the box from her hand.

"You will go to bed, Sophia Kensky," he said slowly and deliberately,
"and to-morrow morning, when you wake, you shall not remember anything
that happened after you came into this house to-night. You shall not
remember that I spoke to you or that I asked you to look in the little
box. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Israel Kensky," she replied slowly, and walked with weary feet
from the room.

Israel Kensky listened and heard her door click, then closed his own,
and, sitting at a table, began to write quickly. He was still writing
when the grey dawn showed in his windows at six o'clock. He blotted the
last letter and addressed an envelope to "The Most Excellent and
Illustrious Highness the Grand Duchess Irene Yaroslav" before, without
troubling to undress, he sank down upon his bed into a sleep of
exhaustion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Malcolm Hay had an appointment with Mr. Tremayne on the morning that saw
Israel Kensky engaged in frantic letter-writing. It was about Kensky
that Tremayne spoke.

"He has arrived in London," he said, "and is staying in Colbury Terrace,
Maida Vale. I think you had better see him, because, as I told you, he
is a local big-wig and may be very useful to you. Our wells, as you
know, are about thirty miles outside Kieff, which is the nearest big
town, so you may be seeing him pretty often. Also, by the way, he is our
agent. If you have any trouble with Government officials you must see
Kensky, who can generally put things square."

"I believe his daughter is with him," Mr. Tremayne went on, "but I know
very little about her. Yet another neighbour of yours arrives by special
train at midday."

"Another neighbour of mine?" repeated Malcolm with a smile. "And who is
that?"

"The Grand Duke Yaroslav. I don't suppose you'll have very much to do
with him, but he's the King Pippin in your part of the world."

A clerk came in with a typewritten sheet covered with Russian
characters.

"Here's your letter of introduction to Kensky. He knows just as much
English as you will want him to know."

When Malcolm presented himself at the lodgings, it was to discover that
the old Jew had gone out, and had left no message as to the time he
would return. Since Malcolm was anxious to meet this important
personage, he did not leave his letter, but went into the City to lunch
with an old college chum. In the afternoon he decided to make his call,
and only remembered, as he was walking up the Strand, that he had
intended satisfying his curiosity as to that "other neighbour" of his,
the Grand Duke Yaroslav.

There was a little crowd about Charing Cross Station, though it was
nearly two hours after midday when the Yaroslavs were due; and he was to
discover, on inquiry of a policeman, that the cause of this public
curiosity had been the arrival of two royal carriages.

"Some Russian prince or other," said the obliging bobby. "The boat was
late, and--here they come!"

Malcolm was standing on the side-walk in the courtyard of Charing Cross
Station when the two open landaus drove out through the archway. In the
first was a man a little over middle age, wearing a Russian uniform; but
Malcolm had no eyes for him--it was for the girl who sat by his side,
erect, haughty, almost disdainful, with her splendid beauty, and
apparently oblivious to all that was being said to her by the smiling
young man who sat on the opposite seat.

As the carriage came abreast and the postilions reined in their mounts
before turning into the crowded Strand, the girl turned her head for a
second and her eyes seemed to rest on Malcolm.

Instinctively he lifted his hat from his head, but it was not the girl
who returned his salutation, but the stiff figure of the elderly man at
her side who raised his hand with an automatic gesture. Only for a
second, and then she swept out of view, and Malcolm heaved a long, deep
sigh.

"Some dame!" said a voice at his side. "Well, I'm glad I saw him,
anyway."

Malcolm looked down at the speaker. He was a stout little man, who wore
his hard felt hat at a rakish angle. The butt of a fat cigar was
clenched between his teeth, and his genial eyes met Malcolm's with an
inviting frankness which was irresistible.

"That was his Grand Nibs, wasn't it?" asked the man, and Malcolm smiled.

"That was the Grand Duke, I think," he said.

"And who was the dame?"

"The dame?"

"I mean the lady, the young peacherino--gee! She was wonderful!"

Malcolm shared his enthusiasm but was not prepared to express himself
with such vigour.

"That girl," said his companion, speaking with evident sincerity, "is
wasted--what a face for a beauty chorus!"

Malcolm laughed. He was not a very approachable man, but there was
something about this stranger which broke down all barriers.

"Well, I'm glad I've seen him," said Mr. Cherry Bim again emphatically.
"I wonder what he's done."

Malcolm turned to move off, and the little man followed his example.

"What do you mean--what has he done?" asked the amused Malcolm.

"Oh, nothing," said the other airily, "but I just wondered, that's all."

"I'm glad I've seen them too," said Malcolm; "I nearly missed them. I
was sitting so long over lunch----"

"You're a lucky man," said Mr. Bim.

"To have seen them?"

"No, to have sat over lunch," said Cherry with an inward groan. "My! I'd
like to see what a lunch looks like."

Malcolm looked at the man with a new interest and a new sympathy.

"Broke?" he asked, and the other grinned.

"If I was only broke," he said, "there'd be no trouble. But what's the
matter with me is that there ain't any pieces!"

Cherry Bim noticed the hesitation in Malcolm's face and said:

"I hope you're not worrying about hurting my feelings."

"How?" said the startled Malcolm.

"Why," drawled the other, "if it's among your mind that you'd like to
slip me two dollars and you're afraid of me throwing it at you, why, you
can get that out of your mind straightaway."

Malcolm laughed and handed half a sovereign to the man.

"Go and get something to eat," he said.

"Hold hard," said the other as Malcolm was turning away. "What is your
name?"

"Does that matter?" asked the young man with amusement.

"It matters a lot to me," said the other seriously. "I like to pay back
anything I borrow."

"Hay is my name--Malcolm Hay. It's no use giving you my address, because
I shall be in Russia next week."

"In Russia, eh? That's rum!" Cherry Bim scratched his unshaven chin.
"I'm always meeting Russians."

He looked at the young engineer thoughtfully, then, with a little jerk
of his head and a "So long!" he turned and disappeared into the crowd.

Malcolm looked at his watch. He would try Kensky again, he thought; but
again his mission was fruitless. He might have given up his search for
this will-o'-the-wisp but for the fact that his new employers seemed to
attach considerable importance to his making acquaintance with this
notability of Kieff. He could hardly be out after dinner--he would try
again.

He had dressed for the solitary meal, thinking that, if his quest again
failed, he could spend the evening at a theatre. This time the elderly
landlady of the house in which Mr. Kensky lodged informed him that her
guest was at home; and a few moments later Malcolm was ushered into the
presence of the old man.

Israel Kensky eyed his visitor keenly, taking him in from his carefully
tied dress-bow to the tips of his polished boots. It was an approving
glance, for Kensky, though he lived in one of the backwaters of
civilization; though his attitude to the privileged classes of the
world--in which category he placed Malcolm, did that young man but know
it--was deferential and even servile; had very definite views as to what
was, and was not, appropriate in his superior's attire.

He read through the letter which Malcolm had brought without a word,
and then:

"Pray sit down, Mr. Hay," he said in English. "I have been expecting
you. I had a letter from Mr. Tremayne."

Malcolm seated himself near the rough bench at which he cast curious
eyes. The paraphernalia of Kensky's hobby still lay upon its surface.

"You are wondering what an old Jew does to amuse himself, eh?" chuckled
Kensky. "Do you think we in South Russia do nothing but make bombs? If I
had not an aptitude for business," he said (he pronounced the word
"pizziness," and it was one of the few mispronunciations he made), "I
should have been a bookbinder."

"It is beautiful work," said Malcolm, who knew something of the art.

"It takes my mind from things," said Kensky, "and also it helps me--yes,
it helps me very much."

Malcolm did not ask him in what manner his craft might assist a
millionaire merchant, for in those days he had not heard of the "Book of
All-Power."

The conversation which followed travelled through awkward stages and
more awkward pauses. Kensky looked a dozen times at the clock, and on
the second occasion Malcolm, feeling uncomfortable, rose to go, but was
eagerly invited to seat himself again.

"You are going to Russia?"

"Yes."

"It is a strange country if you do not know it. And the Russians are
strange people. And to Kieff also! That is most important."

Malcolm did not inquire where the importance lay, and dismissed this as
an oblique piece of politeness on the other's part.

"I am afraid I am detaining you, Mr. Kensky. I merely came in to make
your acquaintance and shake hands with you," he said, rising, after yet
another anxious glance at the clock on the part of his host.

"No, no, no," protested Kensky. "You must forgive me, Mr. Hay, if I seem
to be dreaming and I do not entertain you. I am turning over in my mind
so many possibilities, so many plans, and I think I have come to the
right conclusion. You shall stay, and you shall know. I can rely upon
your discretion, can I not?"

"Certainly, but----"

"I know I can!" said the old man, nodding "And you can help me. I am a
stranger in London. Tell me, Mr. Hay, do you know the Café of the Silver
Lion?"

The other was staggered by the question.

"No, I can't say that I do," he admitted. "I am a comparative stranger
in London myself."

"Ah, but you can find it. You know all the reference books, which are so
much Greek to me; you could discover it by inquiring of the
police--inquiries made very discreetly, you understand, Mr. Hay?"

Malcolm wondered what he was driving at, but the old man changed the
subject abruptly.

"To-night you will see a lady here. She is coming to me. Again I ask for
your discretion and your silence. Wait!"

He shuffled to the window, pulled aside the blind and looked out.

"She is here," he said in a whisper. "You will stand just there."

He indicated a position which to Malcolm was ludicrously suggestive of
his standing in a corner. Further explanations could neither be given
nor asked for. The door opened suddenly and a girl came in, closing it
behind her. She looked first at Kensky with a smile, and then at the
stranger, and the smile faded from her lips. As for Malcolm, he was
speechless. There was no doubt at all as to the identity. The straight
nose, the glorious eyes, the full, parted lips.

Kensky shuffled across to her, bent down and kissed her hand.

"Highness," he said humbly, "this gentleman is a friend of mine. Trust
old Israel Kensky, Highness!"

"I trust you, Israel Kensky," she replied in Russian, and with the
sweetest smile that Malcolm had ever seen in a woman.

She bowed slightly to the young man, and for the rest of the interview
her eyes and speech were for the Jew. He brought a chair forward for
her, dusted it carefully, and she sat down by the table, leaning her
chin on her palm, and looking at the old man.

"I could not come before," she said. "It was so difficult to get away."

"Your Highness received my letter?"

She nodded.

"But Israel," her voice almost pleaded, "you do not believe that this
thing would happen?"

"Highness, all things are possible," said the old man. "Here in London
the cellars and garrets teem with evil men."

"But the police----" she began.

"The police cannot shelter you, Highness, as they do in our Russia."

"I must warn the Grand Duke," she said thoughtfully, "and"--she
hesitated, and a shadow passed over her face--"and the Prince. Is it not
him they hate?"

Kensky shook his head.

"Lady," he said humbly, "in my letter I told you there was something
which could not be put on paper, and that I will tell you now. And if I
speak of very high matters, your Highness must forgive an old man."

She nodded, and again her laugh twinkled in her eyes.

"Your father, the Grand Duke Yaroslav," he said, "has one child, who is
your Highness."

She nodded.

"The heir to the Grand Dukedom is----" He stopped inquiringly.

"The heir?" she said slowly. "Why, it is Prince Serganoff. He is with
us."

Malcolm remembered the olive-faced young man who had sat on the seat of
the royal carriage facing the girl; and instinctively he knew that this
was Prince Serganoff, though in what relationship he stood to the Grand
Ducal pair he had no means of knowing.

"The heir is Prince Serganoff," said the old man slowly, "and his
Highness is an ambitious man. Many things can happen in our Russia,
little lady. If the Grand Duke were killed----"

"Impossible!" She sprang to her feet. "He would never dare! He would
never dare!"

Kensky spread out his expressive hands.

"Who knows?" he said. "Men and women are the slaves of their ambition."

She looked at him intently.

"He would never dare," she said slowly. "No, no, I cannot believe that."

The old man made no reply.

"Where did you learn this, Israel Kensky?" she asked.

"From a good source, Highness," he replied evasively, and she nodded.

"I know you would not tell me this unless there were some foundation,"
she said. "And your friend?" She looked inquiringly at the silent Hay.
"Does he know?"

Israel Kensky shook his head.

"I would wish that the _gospodar_ knew as much as possible, because he
will be in Kieff, and who knows what will happen in Kieff? Besides, he
knows London."

Malcolm did not attempt to deny the knowledge, partly because, in spite
of his protest, he had a fairly useful working knowledge of the
metropolis.

"I shall ask the _gospodar_ to discover the meeting-place of the
rabble."

"Do you suggest," she demanded, "that Prince Serganoff is behind this
conspiracy, that he is the person who inspired this idea of
assassination?"

Again the old man spread out his hands.

"The world is a very wicked place," he said.

"And the Prince has many enemies," she added with a bright smile. "You
must know that, Israel Kensky. My cousin is Chief of the Political
Police in St. Petersburg, and it is certain that people will speak
against him."

The old man was eyeing her thoughtfully.

"Your Highness has much wisdom," he said, "and I remember, when you were
a little girl, how you used to point out to me the bad men from the
good. Tell me, lady, is Prince Serganoff a good man or a bad man? Is he
capable or incapable of such a crime?"

She did not answer. In truth she could not answer; for all that Kensky
had said, she had thought. She rose to her feet.

"I must go now, Israel Kensky," she said. "My car is waiting for me. I
will write to you."

She would have gone alone, but Malcolm Hay, with amazing courage,
stepped forward.

"If Your Imperial Highness will accept my escort to your car," he said
humbly, "I shall be honoured."

She looked at him in doubt.

"I think I would rather go alone."

"Let the young man go with you, Highness," said Kensky earnestly. "I
shall feel safer in my mind."

She nodded, and led the way down the stairs. They turned out of the
garden into the street and did not speak a word. Presently the girl said
in English:

"You must think we Russian people are barbarians, Mr.----"

"Hay," suggested Malcolm.

"Mr. Hay. That is Scottish, isn't it? Tell me, do you think we are
uncivilized?"

"No, Your Highness," stammered Malcolm. "How can I think that?"

They walked on until they came in sight of the tail lights of the car,
and then she stopped.

"You must not come any farther," she said. "You can stand here and watch
me go. Do you know any more than Israel Kensky told?" she asked, a
little anxiously.

"Nothing," he replied in truth.

She offered her hand, and he bent over it.

"Good night, Mr. Hay. Do not forget, I must see you in Kieff."

He watched the red lights of the car disappear and walked quickly back
to old Kensky's rooms. Russia and his appointment had a new fascination.




CHAPTER IV

THE PRINCE WHO PLANNED


Few people knew or know how powerful a man Prince Serganoff really was
in these bad old days. He waved his hand and thousands of men and women
disappeared. He beckoned and he had a thousand sycophantic suppliants.

In the days before he became Chief of the Police to the entourage, he
went upon a diplomatic mission to High Macedonia, the dark and sinister
state. He was sent by none, but he had a reason, for Dimitrius, his
sometime friend, had fled to the capital of the higher Balkan state and
Serganoff went down without authority to terrify his sometime confidant
into returning for trial. In High Macedonia the exquisite young man was
led by sheer curiosity to make certain inquiries into the domestic
administration of the country, and learnt things.

He had hardly made himself master of these before he was sent for by the
Foreign Minister.

"Highness," said the suave man, stroking his long, brown beard, "how
long have you been in the capital?"

"Some four days, Excellency," said the Prince.

"That is ninety-six hours too long," said the minister. "There is a
train for the north in forty minutes. You will catch that, and God be
with you!"

Prince Serganoff did not argue but went out from the ornate office, and
the Minister called a man who was waiting.

"If his Highness does not leave by the four o'clock train, cut his
throat and carry the body to one of the common houses of the
town--preferably that of the man Domopolo, the Greek, who is a bad
character, and well deserving of death."

"Excellency," said the man gravely, and saluted his way out.

They knew Serganoff in High Macedonia and were a little anxious. Had
they known him better they would have feared him less. He did not leave
by the four o'clock train, but by a special which was across the
frontier by four. He sat in a cold sweat till the frontier post was
past.

This man was a mass of contradictions. He liked the good things of life.
He bought his hosiery in Paris, his shoes in Vienna, his suits and
cravats in New York; and it is said of him that he made a special
pilgrimage to London--the Mecca of those who love good leather
work--for the characteristic attaché cases which were so indispensable
to the Chief of Gendarmerie of the Marsh Town.

He carried with him the irrepressible trimness and buoyancy of youth,
with his smooth, sallow face, his neat black moustache and his
shapeliness of outline. An exquisite of exquisites, he had never felt
the draughts of life or experienced its rude buffetings.

His perfectly-appointed flat in the Morskaya had been modelled to his
taste and fancy. It was a suite wherein you pressed buttons and
comfortable things happened. You opened windows and boiled water, or
summoned a valet to your bedside by the gentle pressure you applied to a
mother-of-pearl stud set in silver plate which, by some miracle, was
always within reach.

He had an entire suite converted to bath-rooms, where his masseur, his
manicurist and his barber attended him daily. He had conscripted modern
science to his service, he had so cunningly disguised its application,
that you might never guess the motive power of the old English clock
which ticked in the spacious hall, or realize that the soft light which
came from the many branched candelabra which hung from the centre of his
drawing-room was due to anything more up to date than the hundred most
life-like candles which filled the sockets.

Yet this suave gentleman with his elegant manners and his pretty taste
in old china, this genius who was the finest judge in the capital of
Pekinese dogs, and had been known to give a thousand-rouble fee to the
veterinary surgeon who performed a minor operation on his favourite
Borzoi, had another aspect. He who shivered at the first chill winds of
winter and wrapped himself in sables whenever he drove abroad after the
last days of September, and had sent men and women to the bleakness of
Alexandrowski without a qualm; he who had to fortify himself to face an
American dentist (his fees for missed appointments would have kept the
average middle-class family in comfort for a year), was ruthless in his
dealings with the half-crazed men and women who strayed across the
frontier which divided conviction from propaganda.

Physical human suffering left him unmoved--he hanged the murderer
Palatoff with his own hands. Yet in that operation someone saw him turn
very pale and shrink back from his victim. Afterwards the reason was
discovered. The condemned man had had the front of his rough shirt
fastened with a safety-pin which had worked loose. The point had ripped
a little gash in the inexperienced finger of the amateur hangman.

He brought Dr. Von Krauss from Berlin, because von Krauss was an
authority upon blood infection and spent a week of intense mental agony
until he was pronounced out of danger.

He sat before a long mirror in his bedroom, that gave on Horridge's
Hotel, and surveyed himself thoughtfully. He was looking at the only man
he trusted, for it was not vanity, but a love of agreeable company that
explained the passion for mirrors which was the jest of St. Petersburg.

It was his fourth day in London and a little table near the window was
covered with patterns of cloth; he had spent an exciting afternoon with
the representative of his tailor. But it was not of sartorial
magnificence that he was thinking.

He stretched out his legs comfortably towards his reflection, and
smiled.

"Yes," he said, as though answering some secret thought, and he and the
reflection nodded to one another as though they had reached a complete
understanding.

Presently he pushed the bell and his valet appeared.

"Has the Grand Duke gone?" he asked.

"Yes, Excellency," replied the man.

"And the Grand Duchess?"

"Yes, Excellency."

"Good!" Serganoff nodded.

"Is your Excellency's headache better?" asked the man.

"Much better," replied the Chief of Police. "Go to their Highness's
suite, and tell their servant--what is the man's name?"

"Boolba, Excellency," said the valet.

"Yes, that is the fellow. Ask him to come to me. The Grand Duke
mentioned a matter which I forgot to tell Boolba."

Boolba made his appearance, a suave domestic, wearing the inconspicuous
livery of an English butler rather than the ornate uniform which
accompanied his office in Kieff.

"That will do." Serganoff dismissed his valet. "Boolba, come here."

The man approached him and Serganoff lowered his voice.

"You have made a fool of me again, Boolba."

"Excellency," pleaded the man urgently, "I have done all that was
possible."

"You have placed my fortune and my life in the hands of an American
criminal. If that is your idea of doing all that is possible, I agree
with you," said Serganoff. "Be careful, Boolba! The arm of the Bureau is
a very long one, and greater men than you have disappeared from their
homes."

"Illustrious Excellency," said the agitated man, "I swear to you I did
all that you requested. There were many reasons why I should not entrust
this matter to the men of the secret society."

"I should like to hear a few," said Serganoff, cleaning his nails
delicately.

"Excellency, the Grand Duke stands well with the society. He had never
oppressed them, and he is the only popular member of the Imperial House
with our--their society."

"Our society, eh?" said Serganoff, noticing the slip. "Go on."

"Besides, Excellency," said Boolba, "it was necessary not only to kill
the Grand Duke, but to shoot down his assassin. Our plan was to get this
American to shoot him in the park, where he walks in the morning, and
then for one of the society to shoot the American. That was a good plan,
because it meant that the man who could talk would talk no more, and
that the comrade who shot down the murderer would stand well with the
Government."

Serganoff nodded.

"And your plan has failed," he said, "failed miserably at the outset.
You dog!"

He leapt to his feet, his eyes blazing, and Boolba stepped back.

"Highness, wait, wait!" he cried. "I have something else in my mind! I
could have helped Highness better if I had known more. But I could only
guess. I had to grope in the dark all the time."

"Do you imagine I am going to take you into my confidence?" asked
Serganoff. "What manner of fool am I? Tell me what you have guessed. You
may sit down; nobody will come in, and if they do you can be buttoning
my boots."

Boolba wiped his damp face with a handkerchief and leaned nearer to the
man.

"If the Grand Duke dies, a certain illustrious person succeeds to his
estates," he said, "but not to his title."

Serganoff looked at him sharply. The man had put into words the one
difficulty which had occupied the mind of the Chief of Police for
months.

"Well?" he said.

"The title is in the gift of the Czar," said Boolba. "He alone can
create a Grand Duke who succeeds but is not in the direct line.
Therefore, the killing of Yaroslav would bring little but the property
to the illustrious person. Only if His Imperial Majesty decided upon a
worthier holder, or if the Grand Duke fell under a cloud at Court, could
it pass to the illustrious person."

"That I know," said Serganoff. "Well?"

"Well, Highness, would it not be better if the Grand Duke were
disgraced, if he were brought to St. Petersburg to answer certain
charges which the illustrious person formulated? After, the Grand Duke
might die--that is a simple matter. Russia would think that he had been
put to death by the Court party as a matter of policy. Yaroslav is not
in favour at the Court," he added significantly; but Serganoff shook his
head.

"He is not sufficiently out of favour yet," he said. "Go on, man, you
have something in your mind."

Boolba edged closer.

"Suppose the Grand Duke or the Grand Duchess were involved in some
conspiracy against the Imperial House?" he said, speaking rapidly.
"Suppose, on evidence which could not be disputed, such as the evidence
of the London police, it was proved that either the Grand Duke or his
daughter was in league with an anarchist society, or was attending their
meetings--does your Excellency see?"

"I see," said Serganoff, "but they do not attend meetings."

Boolba hesitated.

"Yet," he said, speaking slowly, "I would guarantee that I could bring
the Grand Duchess Irene to such a meeting, and that I could arrange for
the place to be raided whilst she was there."

Serganoff put down his orange stick and eyed the other keenly.

"You have brains, Boolba," he said. "Some day I shall bring you to St.
Petersburg and place you on my staff--if you do not know too much."

He paced the apartment, his hands clasped behind his back.

"Suppose you get in touch with this American again, bring him to the
meeting, unless he's afraid to come, and then boldly suggest to him that
he goes to St. Petersburg to make an attempt upon the life of the Czar
himself."

"He would reject it," said Boolba, shaking his head.

"What if he did--that doesn't matter," said Serganoff impatiently. "It
is sufficient that the suggestion is made. Suppose this man is amongst
these infamous fellows when the London police raid and arrest them, and
he makes a statement that he was approached to destroy the Imperial
life, and the Grand Duchess Irene is arrested at the same time?"

Boolba's eyes brightened.

"That is a wonderful idea, Highness," he said admiringly.

Serganoff continued his pacing, and presently stopped.

"I will arrange the police raid," he said. "I am in communication with
Scotland Yard, and it will be better if I am present when the raid is
conducted. It is necessary that I should identify myself with this
chapter," he said, "but how will you induce the Grand Duchess to come?"

"Leave that to me, Highness," replied the man, and gave some details of
his scheme.




CHAPTER V

THE RAID ON THE SILVER LION


Sophia Kensky was a loyal and faithful adherent to the cause she had
espoused, and her report, written in the weird caligraphy of Russia,
greatly interested the butler of the Grand Duke Yaroslav. From that
report he learned of the visit which the Grand Duchess Irene had paid;
learned, too, that she had been escorted to her car by an Englishman,
whose name the woman did not know; and was to discover later that the
said "Englishman" had been sent out by Israel Kensky on a special
mission. That mission was to discover the Silver Lion, a no very
difficult task. In point of fact, it was discoverable in a London
telephone directory, because the upper part of the premises were used
legitimately enough in the proprietor's business as restaurateur.

Malcolm Hay had lunch at the place and saw nothing suspicious in its
character. Most of the clientèle were obviously foreign, and not a few
were Russian. Pretending to lose his way, he wandered through the
service door, and there made the important discovery that the kitchen
was on the top floor, and also that meals were being served somewhere in
the basement. This he saw during the few minutes he was allowed to make
observations, because there was a service lift which was sent down to
the unseen clients below.

He apologized for his intrusion and went out. Officially there was no
basement-room, nor, from the restaurant itself, any sign of stairs which
led down to an underground chamber. He made a further reconnaissance,
and found the back door which Sophia Kensky had described in her
hypnotic sleep, and the location of which the old man had endeavoured to
convey to his agent.

Malcolm Hay was gifted with many of the qualities which make up the
equipment of a good detective. In addition, he had the education and
training of an engineer. That the underground room existed, he knew by
certain structural evidence, and waited about in the street until he saw
three men come out and the door close behind them. After awhile, another
two emerged. There was nothing sinister or romantic about the existence
of a basement dining-room, or even of a basement club-room.

The character of this club was probably well known to the police, he
thought, and pursued his inquiries to Marlborough Street police station.
There he found, as he had expected, that the club was registered and
known as "The Foreign Friends of Freedom Club." The officer who supplied
him with the information told him that the premises were visited at
frequent intervals by a representative of the police, and that nothing
of an irregular character had been reported.

"Have you any complaints to make?" asked the official.

"None whatever," smiled Hay. "Only I am writing an article on the
foreign clubs of London, and I want to be sure of my facts."

It was the first and most plausible lie that occurred to him, and it
answered his purpose. He returned to Kensky with his information, and
the old man producing a map of London, he marked the spot with a red
cross. All this time Malcolm Hay was busy making preparations for
departure. He would have been glad to stay on, so that his leaving
London would coincide with the departure of the Grand Duchess, but his
sleeper had already been booked, and he had to make a call _en route_ at
Vienna.

It was on the occasion of this visit with details of the location and
character of the club, that he first saw Sophia Kensky. He thought her
pretty in a bold, heavy way, and she regarded him with insolent
indifference. It was one of the few occasions in his life that he spoke
with her.

"The _gospodar_ is going to Kieff, Sophia Kensky," introduced the old
man.

"What will you do in Kieff, Excellency?" asked the woman indolently.

"I shall not be in Kieff," smiled Hay, "except on rare occasions. I am
taking charge of some oil-wells about twenty versts outside of the
town."

"It is a terrible life, living in the country," she said, and he was
inclined to agree.

This and a few trite sentiments about Russian weather and Russian
seasons were the only words he ever exchanged with her in his life.
Years later, when he stood, hardly daring to breathe, in the cupboard of
a commissary's office, and heard her wild denunciation of the man who
had sent her to death, he was to recall this first and only meeting.

Israel Kensky dismissed his daughter without ceremony, and it was then
that Malcolm Hay told him the result of his investigations. The old man
sat for a long time stroking his beard.

"Two more days they stay in this town," he said, half to himself, "and
that is the dangerous time."

He looked up sharply at Hay.

"You are clever, and you are English," he said. "Would you not help an
old man to save this young life from misery and sorrow?"

Malcolm Hay looked at him in astonishment.

"To save whom?" he asked.

"The Grand Duchess," replied Kensky moodily. "It is for her I fear, more
than for her father."

Malcolm Hay was on the point of blurting out the very vital truth that
there was nothing in the wide world he would not do to save that
wonderful being from the slightest ache or pain, but thought it best to
dissemble the craziest of infatuations that ever a penniless and obscure
engineer felt for a daughter of the Imperial House of Russia. Instead he
murmured some conventional expression of his willingness.

"It is in this club that the danger lies," said Kensky. "I know these
societies, Mr. Hay, and I fear them most when they look most innocent."

"Could you not get the police to watch?" asked Malcolm.

Had he lived in Russia, or had he had the experience which was his in
the following twelve months, he would not have asked so absurd a
question.

"No, no," said Kensky, "this is not a matter for the police. It is a
matter for those who love her."

"What can I do?" asked Malcolm hastily.

He had a horrible feeling that his secret had been surprised, for he was
of the age when love is fearless of everything except ridicule.

"You could watch the club," said Kensky. "I myself would go, but I am
too old, and this English weather makes me sick."

"You mean actually watch it?" said Malcolm in surprise. "Why, I'll do
that like a shot!"

"Note who goes in and who come out," said Kensky. "Be on hand at all
times, in case you are called upon for help. You will see my daughter
there," he said, after a pause, and a faint smile curved his pale lips.
"Yes, Sophia Kensky is a great conspirator!"

"Whom do you expect me to see?" asked the other bluntly.

Kensky got up from his chair and went to a leather bag which stood on
the sideboard. This he unlocked, and from a mass of papers took a
photograph. He brought it back to the young man.

"Why," said Malcolm in surprise, "that is the man Serganoff, the Prince
fellow!"

Kensky nodded slowly.

"That is Serganoff," he said. "Here is another picture of him, but not
of his face."

It was, in fact, a snapshot photograph showing the back of the Police
Chief; and it might have been, thought Malcolm, of a tailor's dummy,
with its wasp waist and its perfectly creased trousers.

"Particularly I wish to know whether he will visit the club in the next
two days," said the old man. "It is important that you should look for
him."

"Anybody else?"

Kensky hesitated.

"I hope not," he said. "I hope not!"

Malcolm Hay went back to his hotel, feeling a new zest in life. His
experience of the past few days had been incredible. He, an unknown
student, had found himself suddenly plunged into the heart of an
anarchist plot, and on nodding terms with royal highnesses! He laughed
softly as he sat on the edge of his bed and reviewed all the
circumstances, but did not laugh when the thought occurred to him that
the danger which might be threatening this girl was very real.

That side of the adventure sobered him. He had sense enough to see that
it was the unalienable right of youth to believe in fairies and to love
beautiful princesses, and that such passions were entitled to disturb
the rest and obscure the judgment of their victims for days and even for
weeks. But he had an unpleasant conviction that he was looking at the
Grand Duchess from an angle which was outside his experience of fairy
stories.

That night when he went on his way to take up his "police duty" in the
little street behind the Silver Lion, he saw two mounted policemen
trotting briskly down the Strand followed by a closed carriage, and in
the light of the electric standard he caught a glimpse of a face which
set his heart beating faster. He cursed himself for his folly, swore so
vigorously and so violently at his own stupidity, that he did not
realize he was talking aloud, until the open-mouthed indignation of an
elderly lady brought him to a sense of decorum.

She was going to the theatre, of course, he thought, and wondered what
theatre would be graced by her presence. He half regretted his promise
to Israel Kensky, which prevented him discovering the house of
entertainment and securing a box or a stall from whence he could feast
his eyes upon her face.

His vigil was painfully monotonous. It was the most uninteresting job he
had ever undertaken. Most of the habitués of the club had evidently come
at an early hour, for he saw nobody come in and nobody go out until
nearly eleven o'clock. It began to rain a fine, thin drizzle, which
penetrated every crevice, which insinuated itself down his neck, though
his collar was upturned; and then, on top of this, came a gusty easterly
wind, which chilled him to the marrow. Keeping in the shadow of the
houses opposite, he maintained, however, a careful scrutiny, thereby
earning the suspicion of a policeman, who passed him twice on his beat
before he stopped to ask if he were looking for somebody.

As midnight chimed from a neighbouring church the door of the club
opened and its members came out. Malcolm crossed the road and walked
down to meet them, since they all seemed to be coming in the same
direction.

There were about twenty men, and they were speaking in Russian or
Yiddish, but the subjects of their discourse were of the most innocent
character. He saw nobody he knew, or had ever seen before. Israel Kensky
had expected that the St. Petersburg Chief of Police would be present;
that expectation was not realized. Then he heard the door bolted and
chained, and went home, after the most unprofitable evening he had ever
spent.

How much better it would have been to sit in the warm theatre, with,
perhaps, a clear view of the girl, watching her every movement, seeing
her smile, noting her little tricks of manner or gesture.

In the end he laughed himself into a sane condition of mind, ate a
hearty supper, and went to bed to dream that Serganoff was pursuing him
with a hammer in his hand, and that the Grand Duchess was sitting in a
box wildly applauding the efforts of her homicidal relative.

The next afternoon Malcolm Hay was packing, with the remainder of his
belongings, a few articles he had purchased in London. Amongst these was
a small and serviceable Colt revolver, and he stood balancing this in
the palm of his hand, uncertain as to whether it would not be better to
retain his weapon until after his present adventure. Twice he put it
into his portmanteau and twice took it out again, and finally, blushing
at the act, he slipped the weapon into his hip-pocket.

He felt theatrical and cheap in doing so. He told himself that he was
investing a very common-place measure of precaution taken by old Israel
Kensky, who was probably in the secret police, to protect his protégée,
with an importance and a romance which it did not deserve. He went down
to his post that night, feeling horribly self-conscious. This time he
kept on the same side of the street as that on which the club was
situated.

His watch was rewarded by events of greater interest than had occurred
on the previous night. He had not been on duty half an hour before two
men walked rapidly from the end of the street and passed him so closely
that he could not make any mistake as to the identity of one. Had he not
been able to recognize him, his voice would have instantly betrayed his
identity, for, as they passed, the shorter of the two was talking.

"I'm one of those guys who don't believe in starving to death in a
delicatessen store----"

Malcolm looked after the pair in amazement. It was the little man whom
he had befriended in the courtyard at Charing Cross station. Other
people drifted through the door in ones and twos, and then a man came
walking smartly across the street, betraying the soldier at every
stride. Malcolm turned and strolled in his direction.

There was no mistaking him either, though he was muffled up to the chin.
With his tight-waisted greatcoat, a glimpse of an olive face with two
piercing dark eyes, which flashed an inquiring glance as they
passed--there was no excuse for error. It was Colonel Prince Serganoff
beyond a doubt.

A quarter of an hour later came the real shock of the evening. A girl
was almost on top of him before he saw her, for she was wearing shoes
which made no sound. He had only time to turn so that she did not see
his face, before she too entered the door and passed in. The Grand
Duchess! And Serganoff! And the American adventurer!

What had these three in common, he wondered. And now he recalled the
warning of the old man. Perhaps the girl was in danger--the thought
brought him to the door, with his hand raised and touching the bell-push
before he realized his folly. There was nothing to do but wait.

Five minutes passed and ten minutes, and then Malcolm Hay became
conscious of the fact that something unusual was happening in the
street. It was more thickly populated. Half a dozen men had appeared at
either end of the street and were moving slowly towards him, as
though----

And then in a flash he realized just what was happening. It was a police
raid. In his student days he had seen such a raid upon a gambling house,
and he recognized all the signs. He first thought of the girl--she must
not be involved in this. He raced toward the door, but somebody had ran
quicker, and his hand was on the bell-push when he was swung violently
backwards, and an authoritative voice said:

"Take that man, sergeant."

A hand gripped his shoulder and somebody peered in his face.

"Why, he's English," he said in surprise.

"Yes, yes," gasped Malcolm. "I'm sorry to interfere, but there is a lady
in there, in whom I'm rather interested--you're raiding this club,
aren't you?"

"That's about the size of it," said a man in civilian clothes; and then,
suspiciously, "Who are you?"

Malcolm explained his status and calling.

"Take my advice and get away. Don't be mixed up in this business," said
the officer. "You can release him, sergeant. What's the time?"

A clock struck at that moment, and the officer in charge of the raid
pressed the bell.

"If you've a lady friend involved in this, perhaps you'd like to stand
by," he said. "She may want you to bail her out," he added
good-humouredly.




CHAPTER VI

PRINCE SERGANOFF PAYS THE PRICE


Mr. Cherry Bim, a citizen of the world, and an adventurer at large, was
an optimist to his finger-tips. He also held certain races in profound
contempt, not because he knew the countries, but because he had met
representatives of those nations in America, and judged by their
characteristics.

So that the man called Yakoff, whose task it was to inveigle Mr. Bim
again to the premises of the Friends of Freedom Club, found to his
astonishment that Mr. Bim required very little inveigling. The truth
was, of course, that the gun-man had a supreme contempt for all
Russians, whom he had classified mistakenly as "Lithanians" and
"Pollaks." To the fervent promise made by Mr. Yakoff that no harm would
come to him, Cherry Bim had replied briefly but unprintably.

"Of course, there'll be no harm come to me," he said scornfully. "You
don't think I worry about what that bunch will do? No, sir! But I'm
powerfully disinclined to associate myself with people out of my class.
It doesn't do a man any good to be seen round with Pollaks and Letts."

Yakoff earnestly implored him to come and give the benefit of his
experience to the assembly, and had promised him substantial payment.
This latter argument was one which Cherry Bim could understand and
appreciate. He accepted on the spot, and came down to the stuffy little
underground room, expecting no more than to be asked to deliver a
lecture on the gentle art of assassination. Not that he knew very much
about it, because Cherry, with three or four men to his credit, had shot
them in fair fight; but a hundred pounds was a lot of money, and he
badly needed just enough to shake the mud of England from his shoes and
seek a land more prolific in possibilities.

The first thing he noticed on arrival was that Boolba, the man who had
interrogated him before, was not present. In his place sat a smaller
man, with a straggly black beard and a white face, who was addressed as
"Nicholas."

The second curious circumstance which struck him was that he was
received also in an ominous silence.

The black-bearded man, who spoke in perfect English, indicated a chair
to the left of him.

"Sit down, comrade," he said. "We have asked you to come because we
have another proposition to make to you."

"If it's a croaking proposition, you needn't go any farther," said
Cherry, "and I won't trouble you with my presence, gents, and----" he
looked in vain for the woman he had seen before, and added, that he
might round off his sentence gracefully--"fellow murderers."

"Mr. Bim," said Nicholas in his curious singsong tone, "does it not make
your blood boil to see tyranny in high places----"

"Now, can that stuff!" said Cherry Bim. "Nothing makes my blood boil, or
would make my blood boil, except sitting on a stove, I guess. Tyranny
don't mean any more in my young life than Hennessy, and tyrants more
than hydrants. I guess I was brought up in a land of freedom and glory,
where the only tyrant you ever meet is a traffic cop. If this is another
croaking job, why, gents, I won't trouble you any longer."

He half-rose, but Nicholas pushed him down.

"Not even if it was the Czar?" he said calmly.

Cherry Bim gaped at him.

"The Czar?" he said, with a queer little grimace to emphasize his
disbelief in the evidence of his hearing. "What are you getting at?"

"Would you shoot the Czar for two thousand pounds?" asked Nicholas.

Cherry Bim pushed his hat to the back of his head and got up, shaking
off the protesting arm.

"I'm through," he said, "and that's all there is to it."

It was at that moment that Serganoff came through the door and Cherry
Bim remained where he stood, surprised to silence, for the face of the
newcomer was covered from chin to forehead by a black silk mask.

The door was shut behind him; he walked slowly to the table and dropped
into a broken chair, Cherry's eyes never leaving his face.

"For fifteen years," said the gun-man, speaking slowly, "I've been a
crook, but never once have I seen a guy got up like that villain in a
movie picture. Say, mister, let's have a look at your face."

Cherry Bim was not the only person perturbed by the arrival of a masked
stranger. Only three men in the room were in the secret of the
newcomer's identity, and suspicious and scowling faces were turned upon
him.

"You will excuse me," said the mask, "but there are many reasons why you
should not see me or know me again."

"And there's a mighty lot of reasons why you shouldn't know me again,"
said Cherry, "yet I've obliged you with a close-up of my distinguished
features."

"You have heard the proposition," said the man. "What do you think of
it?"

"I think it's a fool proposition," replied Cherry contemptuously. "I've
told these lads before that I am not falling for the Lucretia Borgia
stuff, and I'm telling you the same."

The masked man chuckled.

"Well, don't let us quarrel," he said. "Nicholas, give him the money we
promised."

Nicholas put his hand in his pocket and brought out a roll of notes,
which he tossed to the man on his left, and Cherry Bim, to whom tainted
money was as acceptable as tainted pheasant to the epicure, pocketed it
with a smack of his lips.

"Now, if there's anything I can do for you boys," he said, "here's your
chance to make use of me. Though I say it myself, there ain't a man in
New York with my experience, tact and finesse. Show me a job that can be
done single-handed, with a dividend at the end of it, and I'll show you
a man who can take it on. In the meantime," said he affably, "the drinks
are on me. Call the waiter, and order the best in the house."

Serganoff held up his hand.

"Wait," he said; "was that the door?"

Nicholas nodded, and the whole room stood in silence and watched the
door slowly open. There was a gasp of astonishment, of genuine
surprise, for Irene Yaroslav was well known to them, and it was Irene
Yaroslav who stood with her back to the door. She wore a long black
cloak of sable and by her coiffure it was evident that she was wearing
an evening toilette beneath the cloak.

"Where is Israel Kensky?" she asked.

She did not immediately see the man in the masked face, for he sat under
a light and his broad-brimmed hat threw his face into shadow.

Nobody answered her, and she asked again:

"Where is Israel Kensky?"

"He is not here," said Serganoff coolly, as she took two paces and
stopped dead, clasping her hands before her.

"What does this mean?" she asked. "What are you doing here, Ser----"

"Stop!" His voice was almost a shout, and yet there was a shake in it.

Serganoff realized the danger of his own position, if amongst these men
were some who had cause to hate him.

"Do not mention my name, Irene."

"What are you doing here?" she asked. "And where is Israel Kensky?"

"He has not come," Serganoff's voice was uneven and his hands shook.

She turned to go, but he was before her and stood with his back to the
entrance.

"You will wait," he said.

"What insolence is this?" she demanded haughtily. "I had a letter from
Israel Kensky telling me to come here under his protection and I should
learn the truth of the plot against my father."

Serganoff had recovered something of his self-possession and laughed
softly.

"It was I who sent you that letter, Irene. I sent it because I
particularly desired you here at this moment."

"You shall pay for this," she said, and tried to force her way past him,
but his strong hands gripped her and pushed her back.

She turned with a flaming face upon the men.

"Are you men," she asked, "that you allow this villain, who betrayed my
father and will betray you, to treat a woman so."

She spoke in Russian, and nobody moved. Then a voice said:

"Speak English, miss."

She turned and glanced gratefully at the stout little man with his
grotesque Derby hat and his good-humoured smile.

"I have been brought here by a trick," she said breathlessly, "by this
man"--she pointed to Serganoff. "Will you help me leave? You're English,
aren't you?"

"American, miss," said Cherry Bim. "And as for helping you, why, bless
you, you can class me as your own little bodyguard."

"Stop!" cried Serganoff hoarsely, and instinctively, at the sight of the
levelled revolver. Cherry's hands went up. "You'll keep out of this and
do not interfere," said Serganoff. "You'll have all the trouble you want
before this evening is through. Irene, come here."

At one side of the room was a narrow doorway, which most of the members
believed led to a cupboard, but which a few knew was a safety bolt in
case of trouble. The Prince had recognized the door by its description,
and had edged his way towards it, taking the key from his pocket.

He gripped the girl by the waist, inserted the key and flung open the
door. She struggled to escape, but the hand that held the key also held
the revolver, and never once did it point anywhere but at Cherry Bim's
anatomy.

"Help!" cried the girl. "This man is Serganoff, the Chief of Police at
Petrograd----"

There was a crash, and the sound of hurrying footsteps. A voice from the
outer hall screamed, "The police!"

At that moment Serganoff dragged the girl through the doorway and
slammed it behind him. They were in a small cellar, almost entirely
filled with barrels, with only a narrow alley-way left to reach a
farther door. He dragged her through this apartment, up a short flight
of stairs. They were on the level of the restaurant, and the girl could
hear the clatter of plates as he pushed her up another stairway and into
a room. By its furniture she guessed it was a private dining-room. The
blinds were drawn and she had no means of knowing whether the apartment
overlooked the front or the back of the premises.

He stopped long enough to lock the door and then he turned to her,
slipping off his mask.

"I thought you would recognize me," he said coolly.

"What does this outrage mean?" asked the girl with heaving bosom. "You
shall pay for this, colonel."

"There will be a lot of payment to be made before this matter is
through," he said calmly. "Calm yourself, Irene. I have saved you from a
great disgrace. Are you aware that, at the moment I brought you from
that room, the English police were raiding it?"

"I should not have been in the room but for you," she said, "my
father----"

"It is about your father I want to speak," he said. "Irene, I am the
sole heir to your father's estate. Beyond the property which is settled
on you, you have nothing. My affection for you is known and approved at
Court."

"Your affection!" she laughed bitterly. "I'd as soon have the affection
of a wolf!"

"You could not have a more complete wolf than I," he said meaningly. "Do
you know what has happened to-night? An anarchist club in London has
been raided, and the Grand Duchess Irene Yaroslav has been found in the
company of men whose object is to destroy the monarchy."

She realized with a sickening sense of disaster all that it meant. She
knew as well as he in what bad odour her father stood at Court, and
guessed the steps which would be taken if this matter became public.

"I was brought here by a trick," she said steadily. "A letter came to
me, as I thought, from Israel Kensky----"

"It was from me," he interrupted.

"And you planned the raid, of course?"

He nodded.

"I planned the raid in the most promising circumstances," he said. "The
gentleman who offered to be your good knight is a well-known New York
gun-man. He is wanted by the police, who probably have him in their
custody at this moment. He was brought here to-night, and an offer was
made to him, an offer of a large sum of money, on condition that he
would destroy the Czar."

She gasped.

"You see, my little Irene, that when this gun-man's evidence is taken in
court, matters will look very bad for the Yaroslav family."

"What do you propose?" she asked.

"There are two alternatives," he said. "The first is that I should
arrest you and hand you over to the police. The second is that you
should undertake most solemnly to marry me, in which case I will take
you away from here."

She was silent.

"Is there a third possibility?" she asked, and he shook his head.

"My dear," he said familiarly as he flicked a speck of dust from his
sleeve. "I think you will take the easier way. None of these scum will
betray you, thinking that you are one of themselves--as I happen to
know, some of the best families in Russia are associated with plotters
of this type. As for the American, who might be inclined to talk, in a
few weeks he will be on his way to New York to serve a life sentence. I
have been looking up his record, and particularly drew the attention of
the English police to the fact that he would be here to-night."

Cherry Bim, creeping up the stairs in his stockinged feet--he had
marked and shot the fuse-box to pieces before the police came in, and
had burst his way through the door in the wall--heard the sound of
voices in the little room and stopped to listen. It was not a thick
door, and he could hear Serganoff's voice very clearly. He stooped down
to the key-hole. Serganoff had not taken the key out, and it was an
old-fashioned key, the end of which projected an eighth of an inch on
the other side of the door. Cherry Bim felt in his pocket and produced a
pair of peculiarly shaped nippers, and gripped the end of the key,
turning it gently. Then he slipped his handy gun from his pocket and
waited.

"Now, Irene," said Serganoff's voice. "You must decide. In a few minutes
the police will be up here, for they are instructed to make a complete
search of the house. I can either explain that you are here to witness
the raid, or that I have followed you up and arrested you. Which is it
to be?"

Still she did not answer. Serganoff had laid his revolver on the table
and this she was manoeuvring to reach. He divined her intention before
she sprang forward, and, gripping her by the waist, threw her back.

"That will be more useful to me than to you," he said.

"Sure thing it will!" said a voice behind him.

He turned as swift as a cat and fired. The horrified girl heard only one
shot, so quickly did one report follow another. She saw Cherry Bim raise
his hand and wipe the blood from his cheek, saw the splinter of wood
where the bullet had struck behind him; then Serganoff groaned and
sprawled forward over the table. She dared not look at him, but followed
Bim's beckoning finger.

"Down the stairs and out of that door, miss," he said, "or the bulls
will have you."

She did not ask him who the "bulls" were; she could guess. She flew down
the stairs, with trembling hands unfastened the lock and stepped into
the street. It was empty, save for two men, and one of these came
forward to meet her with outstretched hands.

"Thank God you're safe!" he said. "You weren't there, were you?"

Malcolm Hay was incoherent. The detective who was with him could but
smile a little, for the girl had come out of the door which, according
to his instructions, led only to the private dining-room.

"Take me away," she whispered.

He put his arm about her trembling figure, and led her along the street.
All the time he was in terror lest the police should call her back, and
desire him to identify her; but nothing happened and they gained
Shaftesbury Avenue and a blessed taxicab.

"To Israel Kensky," she said. "I can't go home like this."

He stretched out of the window and gave fresh instructions.

"I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Hay," she faltered and then covered
her face with her hands. "Oh, it was dreadful, dreadful!"

"What happened?" he asked.

She shook her head. Then suddenly:

"No, no, I must go home. Will you tell the cabman? There is a chance
that I may get into my suite without Boolba seeing. Will you go on to
Israel Kensky after you have left me, and tell him what has happened?"

He nodded, and again gave the change of instructions.

They reached the hotel at a period when most of the guests were either
lingering over their dinner or had gone to the theatre.

"I hate leaving you like this," he said; "how do I know that you will
get in without detection?"

She smiled in spite of her distress.

"You're an inventor, aren't you, Mr. Hay?" she laughed. "But I am afraid
even you could not invent a story which would convince my father if he
knew I had been to that horrible place." Presently she said: "My room
overlooks the street. If I get in without detection I will come to the
window and wave a handkerchief."

He waited in a fit of apprehension, until presently he saw a light leap
up to three windows, and her figure appeared. There was a flutter of a
white handkerchief, and the blinds were drawn. Malcolm Hay drove to
Maida Vale, feeling that the age of romance was not wholly dead.

To his surprise Kensky had had the news before he reached there.

"Is she safe? Is she safe?" asked the old man tremulously. "Now, thank
Jehovah for his manifold blessings and mercies! I feared something was
wrong. Her Highness wrote to me this afternoon, and I did not get the
letter," said Israel. "They waylaid the messenger, and wrote and told
her to go to the Silver Lion--the devils!"

His hand was shaking as he took up the poker to stir the fire.

"He, at any rate, will trouble none of us again," he said with malignant
satisfaction.

"He? Who?"

"Serganoff," said the old man. "He was dead when the police found him!"

"And the American?" asked Hay.

"Only Russians were arrested," said Israel Kensky. "I do not think I
shall see him again."

In this he was wrong, though six years were to pass before they met: the
mystic, Israel Kensky, Cherry Bim the modern knight-errant, and Malcolm
Hay.




CHAPTER VII

KENSKY OF KIEFF


Malcolm Hay drew rein half a verst from the Church of St. Andrea. Though
his shaggy little horse showed no signs of distress, Malcolm kicked his
feet free from the stirrups and descended, for his journey had been a
long one, the day was poisonously hot and the steppe across which he had
ridden, for all its golden beauty, its wealth of blue cornflour and
yellow genista, had been wearisome. Overhead the sky was an unbroken
bowl of blue and at its zenith rode a brazen merciless sun.

He took a leather cigar-case from his pocket, extracted a long black
cheroot and lit it; then, leaving his horse to its own devices, he
mounted the bank by the side of the road, from whence he could look
across the valley of the Dneiper. That majestic river lay beneath him
and to the right.

Before him, at the foot of the long, steep and winding road, lay the
quarter which is called Podol.

For the rest his horizon was filled with a jumble of buildings,
magnificent or squalid; the half-revealed roofs on the wooded slopes of
the four hills, and the ragged fringe of belfry and glittering cupola
which made up the picture of Kieff.

The month was June and the year of grace 1914, and Malcolm Hay, chief
engineer of the Ukraine-American Oil Corporation, had no other thought
in his mind, as he looked upon the undoubted beauty of Kieff, than that
it would be a very pleasant place to leave. He climbed the broken stone
wall and stood, his hands thrust deeply into his breeches pockets,
watching the scene. It was one of those innumerable holy days which the
Russian peasant celebrated with such zest. Rather it was the second of
three consecutive feast days and, as Malcolm knew, there was small
chance of any work being done on the field until his labourers had taken
their fill of holiness, and had slept off the colossal drunk which
inevitably followed this pious exercise.

A young peasant, wearing a sheepskin coat despite the stifling heat of
the day, walked quickly up the hill leading a laden donkey. The man
stopped when he was abreast of Malcolm, took a cigarette from the inside
of his coat and lit it.

"God save you, _dudushka_," he said cheerfully.

Malcolm was so used to being addressed as "little grandfather," and
that for all his obvious youth, that he saw nothing funny in the
address.

"God save you, my little man," he replied.

The new-comer was a broad-faced, pleasant-looking fellow with a ready
grin, and black eyebrows that met above his nose. Malcolm Hay knew the
type, but to-day being for idleness, he did not dread the man's
loquacity as he would had it been a working day.

"My name is Gleb," introduced the man: "I come from the village of
Potchkoi where my father has seven cows and a bull."

"God give him prosperity and many calves," said Malcolm mechanically.

"Tell me, _gospodar_, do you ride into our holy city to-day?"

"Surely," said Malcolm.

"Then you will do well to avoid the Street of Black Mud," said Gleb.

Malcolm waited.

"I speak wisely because of my name," said the man with calm assurance;
"possibly your excellence has wondered why I should bear the same name
as the great saint who lies yonder," he pointed to one of the towering
belfries shimmering with gold that rose above the shoulder of a distant
hill. "I am Gleb, the son of Gleb, and it is said that we go back a
thousand years to the Holy Ones. Also, it was prophesied by a wise
woman," said the peasant, puffing out a cloud of smoke and crossing
himself at the same time, "that I should go the way of holiness and that
after my death my body should be incorruptible."

"All this is very interesting, little brother," said Malcolm with a
smile, "but first you must tell me why I should not go into the Street
of Black Mud."

The man laughed softly.

"Because of Israel Kensky," he said significantly.

You could not live within a hundred miles of Kieff and not know of
Israel Kensky. Malcolm realized with a start that he had not met the old
man since he left him in London.

"In what way has Israel Kensky offended?" asked Malcolm, understanding
the menace in the man's tone.

Gleb, squatting in the dust, brushed his sheepskin delicately with the
tips of his fingers.

"Little father," he said, "all men know Israel Kensky is a Jew and that
he practises secret devil-rites, using the blood of Christian children.
This is the way of Jews, as your lordship knows. Also he was seen on the
plains to shoot pigeons, which is a terrible offence, for to shoot a
pigeon is to kill the Holy Ghost."

Malcolm knew that the greater offence had not yet been stated and
waited.

"To-day I think they will kill him if the Grand Duke does not send his
soldiers to hold the people in check--or the Grand Duchess, his lovely
daughter who has spoken for him before, does not speak again."

"But why should they kill Kensky?" asked Malcolm.

It was not the first time that Israel Kensky had been the subject of
hostile demonstrations. The young engineer had heard these stories of
horrible rites practised at the expense of Christian children, and had
heard them so often that he was hardened to the repetition.

The grin had left the man's face and there was a fanatical light in the
solemn eyes when he replied:

"_Gospodar_, it is known that this man has a book which is called 'The
Book of All-Power!'"

Malcolm nodded.

"So the foolish say," he said.

"It has been seen," said the other; "his own daughter, Sophia Kensky,
who has been baptised in the faith of Our Blessed Lord, has told the
Archbishop of this book. She, herself, has seen it."

"But why should you kill a man because he has a book?" demanded Malcolm,
knowing well what the answer would be.

"Why should we kill him! A thousand reasons, _gospodar_," cried the man
passionately; "he who has this book understands the black magic of
Kensky and the Jews! By the mysteries in this book he is able to torment
his enemies and bring sorrow to the Christians who oppose him. Did not
the man Ivan Nickolovitch throw a stone at him, and did not Ivan drop
dead the next day on his way to mass, aye and turn black before they
carried him to the hospital? And did not Mishka Yakov, who spat at him,
suffer almost immediately from a great swelling of the throat so that
she is not able to speak or swallow to this very day without pain?"

Malcolm jumped down from the wall and laughed, and it was a helpless
little laugh, the laugh of one who, for four long years, had fought
against the superstitions of the Russian peasantry. He had seen the work
of his hands brought to naught, and a boring abandoned just short of the
oil because a cross-eyed man, attracted by curiosity, had come and
looked at the work. He had seen his wells go up in smoke for some
imaginary act of witchcraft on the part of his foreman, and, though he
laughed, he was in no sense amused.

"Go with God, little brother," he said; "some day you will have more
sense and know that men do not practise witchcraft."

"Perhaps I am wiser than you," said Gleb, getting up and whistling for
his donkey, who had strayed up the side lane.

Before Malcolm could reply there was a clatter of hoofs and two riders
came galloping round the bend of the road making for the town. The first
of these was a girl, and the man who followed behind was evidently the
servant of an exalted house, for he wore a livery of green and gold.

Gleb's ass had come cantering down at his master's whistle and now stood
broadside-on in the middle of the road, blocking the way. The girl
pulled up her horse with a jerk and, half-turning her head to her
attendant, she called. The man rode forward.

"Get your donkey out of the way, fool," he boomed in a deep-chested
roar.

He was a big man, broad-shouldered and stout. Like most Russian domestic
servants, his face was clean-shaven, but Malcolm, watching the scene
idly, observed only this about him--that he had a crooked nose and that
his hair was a fiery red.

"Gently, gently." It was the girl who spoke and she addressed her
restive horse in English.

As for Gleb, the peasant, he stood, his hands clasped before him, his
head humbly hung, incapable of movement, and with a laugh Malcolm jumped
down from the bank, seized the donkey by his bridle and drew him
somewhat reluctantly to the side of the road. The girl's horse had been
curveting and prancing nervously, so that it brought her to within a
few paces of Malcolm, and he looked up, wondering what rich man's
daughter was this who spoke in English to her horse ... only once before
had he seen her in the light of day.

The face was not pale, yet the colour that was in her cheeks so
delicately toned with the ivory-white of forehead and neck that she
looked pale. The eyes, set wide apart, were so deep a grey that in
contrast with the creamy pallor of brow they appeared black.

A firm, red mouth he noticed; thin pencilling of eyebrows, a tangle of
dark brown hair; but neither sight of her nor sound of her tired
drawling voice, gave her such permanence in his mind as the indefinite
sense of womanliness that clothed her like an aurora.

He responded wonderfully to some mysterious call she made upon the man
in him. He felt that his senses played no part in shaping his view. If
he had met her in the dark, and had neither seen nor heard; if she had
been a bare-legged peasant girl on her way to the fields; if he had met
her anywhere, anyhow--she would have been divine.

She, for her part, saw a tall young man, mahogany faced, leanly made, in
old shooting-jacket and battered Stetson hat. She saw a good forehead
and an unruly mop of hair, and beneath two eyes, now awe-stricken by
her femininity (this she might have guessed) rather than by her exalted
rank. They were eyes with a capacity for much laughter, she thought, and
wished Russian men had eyes like those.

"My horse is afraid of your donkey, I think," she smiled.

"It isn't my donkey," he stammered, and she laughed again frankly at his
embarrassment.

And then the unexpected happened. With a frightened neigh her horse
leapt sideways toward him. He sprang back to avoid the horse's hoofs and
heard her little exclamation of dismay. In the fraction of a second he
realized she was falling and held out his arms to catch her. For a
moment she lay on his breast, her soft cheek against his, the
overpowering fragrance of her presence taking his breath away. Then she
gently disengaged herself and stepped back. There was colour in her face
now and something which might have been mischief, or annoyance, or sheer
amusement, in her eyes.

"Thank you," she said.

Her tone was even and did not encourage further advances on his part.

"I lost my balance. Will you hold my horse's head?"

She was back in the saddle and turning, with a proud little inclination
of her head, was picking a way down the steep hill before he realized
what had happened. He gazed after her, hoping at least that feminine
curiosity would induce her to turn and look back, but in this he was
disappointed.

The peasant, Gleb, still stood by the side of the road, his hands
clasped, his head bent as though in a trance.

"Wake up, little monkey," said Malcolm testily. "Why did you not hold
the horse for the lady whilst I helped her to mount?"

"_Dudushka_, it is forbidden, _Zaprestcheno_," said the man huskily.
"She is _Kaziomne_! The property of the Czar!"

"The Czar!" gasped Malcolm.

He had lived long enough in Russia to have imbibed some of the awe and
reverence for that personage.

"Little master," said the man, "it was her Magnificence, the Grand
Duchess Irene Yaroslav."

"The Grand----!" Malcolm gasped. The reality of his dreams and he had
not recognized her!

Long after the peasant had departed he stood on the spot where he had
held her, like a man in a trance, and he was very thoughtful when he
picked up the reins of his horse and swung himself into the saddle.

Kieff is built upon many hills and it has the beauty and distinction of
possessing steeper roads than any other city in Europe. He was on his
way to the Grand Hotel, and this necessitated his passing through Podol,
crossing the Hill of the Cliff, and descending into the valley beyond.

Considering it was a feast day the streets were strangely deserted. He
met a few old men and women in festal garb and supposed that the
majority of the people were at the shrines in which Kieff abounds. He
passed through the poorer Jewish quarter, and did not remember the
peasant's warning not to go into the Street of Black Mud until he had
turned into that thoroughfare.

Long before he had reached the street he heard the roar of the crowd,
and knew that some kind of trouble was brewing. The street was filled
with knots of men and women, and their faces by common attraction, were
turned in one direction. The focal point was a densely packed crowd
which swayed toward the gateway of a tall, grim-looking house, which he
recognized as the home of the millionaire, Kensky.

The roar intensified to a continuous shriek of malignant hate. He saw
sticks and fists brandished and heard above the scream of frenzied women
the deep-throated "Kill! Death to the Jew!" which was not unfamiliar to
one who knew Kieff in moments of religious excitement. It was no
business of his, and he drew his horse to the side of the street and
watched, wondering what part the black-bearded Russian priests, who were
in force and who seemed to form the centre of each knot of idlers, were
playing in this act of persecution.

On the outskirts of the crowd he observed a green and gold coat, and,
its wearer turning his head, he recognized him as the swarthy menial who
had ridden behind the Grand Duchess. He was as violent and as energetic
as the most lawless, and seemed engaged in pushing men into the crowd
and dragging forward hesitant bystanders to swell the throng which was
pressing about the iron gates of the building.

And then Malcolm saw something which brought his heart to his mouth, a
white hand raised from above the bobbing black heads, a hand raised in
appeal or command. Instinctively he knew its owner and spurred his horse
into the throng, sending the people flying in all directions. There was
a small clear space immediately before the door which enabled him to see
the two chief actors in the drama long before he was within hailing
distance.

The space was caused by a dead horse, as he afterwards discovered, but,
for the moment, his eyes were fixed on the girl who stood with her back
to the grille, shielding with her frail body a little old man,
white-bearded and bent, who crouched behind her outstretched arms, his
pale face streaming with blood. A broken key in the grille told the
story of his foiled attempt to escape. Grimy hands clutched at Malcolm's
knees as he drove through the press, a stone whistled past his ear and
shrill voices uttered imprecations at the daring foreigner, but he
swerved to left and right and made a way until the sight of the dead
horse brought his frightened mount to a quivering standstill.

He leapt from the saddle and sprang to the girl's side, and to his
amazement his appearance seemed to strike consternation into her heart.

"Why did you come? Get away as quickly as you can," she breathed. "Oh,
you were mad to come here!"

"But--but you?" he said.

"They will not hurt me," she said rapidly. "It is the old man they want.
Can you smash the lock and get him inside?"

"Give us the book, Jew," yelled a deep voice above the babel of sound.
"Give us the book and you shall live! Lady! Magnificence! Make the old
man give us the book!"

Malcolm took a flying kick at the gate and the lock yielded. He half
lifted, half carried the old man and pushed inside, where another locked
door confronted them.

"Have you a key?" demanded Malcolm hurriedly. "Quick!"

The old man felt in his pocket with trembling fingers and in doing so he
crept behind his guardian. Malcolm now turned and faced the crowd.

"Come in, for God's sake," he called to the girl, but she shook her
head.

"They will not hurt me," she said over her shoulder; "it is you!"

At that moment Malcolm felt something heavy slipped into the loose
pocket of his jacket and a quivering voice, harsh with fear, whispered
in his ear:

"Keep it, _gospodar_. To-morrow I will come for it at the Grand Hotel at
the middle hour!"

The crowd was now surging forward and the girl was being pressed back
into the little lobby by their weight. Suddenly the door opened with a
crack and the old man slipped through.

"Come, come," he cried.

Malcolm leapt forward, clasped the girl about the waist and swung her
behind him.

The shrieks of the crowd broke and a new note crept into the pandemonium
of sound, a note of fear. From outside came a clatter of hoofs on the
cobbled roadway. There was a flash of red and white pennons, the glitter
of steel lances and a glimpse of bottle-green coats as half a sotnia of
Cossacks swept the street clear.

They looked at one another, the girl and the man, oblivious to the
appeal of hand and voice which the old man in the doorway was offering.

"I think you are very brave," said the girl, "or else very foolish. You
do not know our Kieff people."

"I know them very well," he said grimly.

"It was equally foolish of me to interfere," she said quickly, "and I
ought not to blame you. They killed my horse."

She pointed to the dead horse lying before the doorway.

"Where was your servant?" he asked, but she made no reply. He repeated
the question, thinking she had not heard and being at some loss for any
other topic of conversation.

"Let us go out," she said, ignoring the query, "we are safe now."

He was following her when he remembered the packet in his pocket and
turned to the old man.

"Here is your----"

"No, no, no, keep it," whispered Israel Kensky. "They may come again
to-night! My daughter told them that I was carrying it. May she roast!"

"What is it?" asked Malcolm curiously.

The old man's lips parted in a toothless smile.

"It is the 'Book of All-Power!'"

He blinked up at Malcolm, peering into his face expectantly. "They all
desire it, _gospodar_, from the Grand Duke in his beautiful palace to
the _moujik_ in his cellar--they all desire my lovely book! I trust you
with it for one night, _gospodar_, because you are English. Ah, well,
you are not Russian. Guard it closely, for it holds the secret of tears
and of happiness. You shall learn how to make men and women your slaves
and how to turn people into Jews, and how to make men and women adore
you, ai, ai! There are recipes for beauty in my book which make plain
women lovely and old men young!"

Malcolm could only stare.




CHAPTER VIII

THE GRAND DUKE IS AFFABLE


The girl's voice called, and Malcolm left old Kensky without a word and
went to her side. "Will you walk with me to my father's palace?" she
said. "I do not think it is safe for you to be alone."

A semi-circle of mounted Cossacks surrounded them now, and the
unfaithful Boolba (such was the servant's name, he learnt) was standing
with an impassive face holding his horse's head.

"One of the soldiers will take your horse," she said. "Boolba, you will
follow us."

Her voice was stern and she looked the man straight in the eyes, but he
did not flinch.

"_Prikazeno_, Highness, it is ordered," he said simply.

She turned and walked the way she had come, turning into the big square
followed by a small escort of Cossacks.

They walked in silence for some time, and it was the girl who first
spoke.

"What do you think of Russia, Mr. Hay?" she asked.

He jerked his head round at her in surprise.

"You didn't know me on the hill," she laughed, "but I knew you! And
there are not so many foreigners in the Kieff region that you should be
unknown to the Grand Duke," she said, "and besides, you were at the
reception which my father gave a year ago."

"I did not see your Highness there," said Malcolm. "I came
especially----" he stopped short in confusion.

"That was probably because I was not visible," she replied dryly. "I
have been to Cambridge for a year to finish my education."

"That is why your English is so good," he smiled.

"It's much better than your Russian," she said calmly. "You ought not to
have said '_ukhoditzay_' to people--you only say that to beggars, and I
think they were rather annoyed with you."

"I should imagine they were," he laughed; "but won't you tell me what
happened to your servant? I thought I saw him on the outskirts of the
crowd and the impression I formed was----" he hesitated.

"I shouldn't form impressions if I were you," she said hurriedly. "Here
in Russia one ought not to puzzle one's head over such things. When you
meet the inexplicable, accept it as such and inquire no further."

She was silent again, and when she spoke she was more serious.

"The Russian people always impress me as a great sea of lava, boiling
and spluttering and rolling slowly between frail banks which we have
built for them," said the girl.

"I often wonder whether those banks will ever break," said Malcolm
quietly; "if they do----"

"Yes?"

"They will burn up Russia," said Malcolm.

"So I think," said the girl. "Father believes that the war----" she
stopped short.

"The war?"

Malcolm had heard rumours so often of the inevitable war which would be
fought to establish the hegemony of the Slav over Eastern Europe that
the scepticism in his tone was pardonable. She looked at him sharply.

"You do not think there will be war?"

"One has heard so often," he began.

"I know, I know," she said, a little impatiently, and changed the
subject.

They talked about the people, the lovable character of the peasants, the
extraordinary depth of their religious faiths, their amazing
superstitions, and suddenly Malcolm remembered the book in his pocket,
and was about to speak of it, but stopped himself, feeling that, by so
speaking, he was betraying the confidence of the old man who had
entrusted his treasure to a stranger's care.

"What is this story of the book of Kensky?"

"'The Book of All-Power'?"

She did not smile as he had expected her to.

"Old Israel Kensky is a curious man," she said guardedly. "The people
credit him with all sorts of powers which of course he does not possess.
They believe he is a wizard, that he can bend people to his will. They
say the most terrible things about the religious ceremonies over which
he presides."

They were mounting the hill behind which lay the fashionable quarter of
Kieff with its great stone palaces, its wonderful cherry gardens and
broad avenues.

"I like old Kensky," she went on; "he sometimes comes to the palace to
bring new silks--he is the greatest merchant in Little Russia. He even
tells me his troubles--he has a terrible daughter: you have heard about
her?"

"I thought she was rather good," said Malcolm humorously. "Isn't she a
Christian?"

The girl shrugged her shoulders. Evidently her Grand Ducal Highness had
no great opinion of Sophia Kensky's conversion.

The Grand Ducal palace was built in the Byzantine style and presented,
from the broad carriage drive that led from the road, a confusion of
roofs, windows and bastions, as though the designer had left the working
out of his plan to fifty different architects, and each architect had
interpreted the scheme of construction in his own way.

The Grand Duke was standing in the portico as they went through the
gate, and came down the steps to meet them. He was a mild-looking man of
medium height and wore pince-nez. Malcolm remembered that on the one
occasion he had met his Highness he had been disappointed in his lack of
personal grandeur.

"My child, my child!" said the Duke, coming to the girl with
outstretched arms. "What a terrible misfortune! How came you to be mixed
up in this matter? The commandant has just telephoned to me. I have
called for his resignation. By St. Inokeste, I will not have the rabble
breathing upon you! And this is the good gentleman who came to your
rescue?"

He surveyed Malcolm with his cold blue eyes, but both glance and
intonation lacked the cordiality which his words implied.

"I thank you. I am indeed grateful to you. You understand they would not
have harmed the Grand Duchess, but this you could not know. As for the
Jew----"

He became suddenly thoughtful. He had the air of a man wholly
preoccupied in his secret thoughts and who now emerged from his shell
under the greatest protest. To Malcolm it seemed that he resented even
the necessity for communicating his thoughts to his own daughter.

"I am happy to have been of service to your Grand Ducal Highness," said
Malcolm correctly.

"Yes, yes, yes," interrupted the Grand Duke nervously, "but you will
stay and breakfast with me? Come, I insist, Mr.--er--er----"

"Mr. Hay, father," said the girl.

The conversation throughout was carried on in English, which was not
remarkable, remembering that that was the family language of the Court.

"Yes, yes, yes, Mr. Hay, you must stay to breakfast. You have been very
good, very noble, I am sure. Irene, you must persuade this gentleman."
He held out his hand jerkily and Malcolm took it with a bow.

Then without another word or even so much as a glance at his daughter,
the Grand Duke turned and hurried back into the palace, leaving Malcolm
very astonished and a little uncomfortable.

The girl saw his embarrassment.

"My father does not seem to be very hospitable," she smiled, and once
more he saw that little gleam of mischief in her eyes, "but I will give
you a warmer invitation."

He spread out his hands in mock dismay and looked down at his untidy
clothes.

"Your Highness is very generous," he said, "but how can I come to the
Grand Duke's table like this?"

"You will not see the Grand Duke," she laughed; "father gives these
invitations but never accepts them himself! He breakfasts in his own
room, so if you can endure me alone----" she challenged.

He said nothing but looked much, and her eyes fell before his. All the
time he was conscious that red-haired Boolba stood stiffly behind him, a
spectator, yet, as Malcolm felt, a participant in this small affair of
the breakfast invitation. She followed Malcolm's look and beckoned the
man forward. He had already surrendered the horses to an orderly.

"Take the lord to a guest-room," she said in Russian, "and send a valet
to attend to him."

"It is ordered," said the man, and with a nod, the girl turned and
walked into the house, followed at a more leisurely pace by Malcolm and
the man with the crooked nose.

Boolba led the way up a broad flight of stairs, carpeted with thick red
pile, along a corridor pierced at intervals with great windows, to
another corridor leading off and through a door which, from its
dimensions, suggested the entrance to a throne-room, into a suite
gorgeously furnished and resplendent with silver electroliers. It
consisted of a saloon leading into a bedroom, which was furnished in the
same exquisite taste. A further door led to a marble-tiled bathroom.

"Such luxury!" murmured Malcolm.

"Has the _gospodar_ any orders?"

It was the solemn Boolba who spoke. Malcolm looked at him.

"Tell me this, Boolba," he said, falling into the familiar style of
address which experience had taught him was the correct line to follow
when dealing with Russian servants, "how came it that your mistress was
alone before the house of Israel Kensky, the Jew, and you were on the
outskirts of the crowd urging them on?"

If the man felt any perturbation at the bluntness of the question he did
not show it.

"Kensky is a Jew," he said coolly; "on the night of the Pentecost he
takes the blood of new-born Christian babies and sprinkles his money so
that it may be increased in the coming year. This Sophia Kensky, his own
daughter, has told me."

Malcolm shrugged his shoulders.

"You are no ignorant _moujik_, Boolba," he said contemptuously, "you
have travelled with his Highness all over the world." (This was a shot
at a venture, but apparently was not without justification.) "How can
you, an educated man of the people, believe such rubbish?"

"He has a book, _gospodar_," said Boolba, "and we people who desire
power would have that book, for it teaches men how they may command the
souls of others, so that when they lift their little fingers, those who
hate them best shall obey them."

Malcolm looked at him in astonishment.

"Do you believe this?"

For the first time a smile crossed the face of the man with the crooked
nose. It was not a pleasant smile to see, for there was cunning in it
and a measureless capacity for cruelty.

"Who knows all the miracles and wonders of the world?" he said. "My lord
knows there is a devil, and has he not his angels on earth? It is best
to be sure of these things, and we cannot be certain--until we have seen
the book which the Jew gave to your lordship."

He paused a little before uttering the last sentence which gave his
assertion a special significance. Malcolm eyed him narrowly.

"The Jew did not give me any book, Boolba," he said.

"I thought your lordship----"

"You thought wrongly," said Malcolm shortly.

Boolba bowed and withdrew.

The situation was not a particularly pleasant one. Malcolm had in his
possession a book which men were willing to commit murder to obtain, and
he was not at all anxious that his name should be associated with the
practice of witchcraft.

It was all ridiculous and absurd, of course, but then in Russia nothing
was so absurd that it could be lightly dismissed from consideration. He
walked to the door and turned the key, then took from his pocket the
thing which Israel Kensky had slipped in. It was a thick, stoutly bound
volume secured by two brass locks. The binding was of yellow calf, and
it bore the following inscription in Russian stamped in gold lettering:


                     "THE BOOK OF ALL-POWER."


"Herein is the magic of power and the words and symbols which unlock the
sealed hearts of men and turn their proud wills to water."

On the bottom left-hand corner of the cover was an inscription in
Hebrew, which Malcolm could not read, but which he guessed stood for the
birth-name of Israel Kensky. He turned the book over in his hand, and,
curiosity overcoming him, he tried to force his thumb-nail into the
marbled edge of the leaves that he might secure a glimpse of its
contents. But the book was too tightly bound, and after another careful
examination, he pulled off his coat and started to make himself
presentable for breakfast.

The little meal was wholly delightful. Besides Malcolm and the girl
there were present a faded Russian lady, whom he guessed was her
official chaperon, and a sour-visaged Russian priest who ceremoniously
blessed the food and was apparently the Grand Duke's household chaplain.
He did not speak throughout the meal, and seemed to be in a condition of
rapt contemplation.

But for all Malcolm knew there might have been a hundred people
present--he had eyes and ears only for the girl. She had changed to a
dark blue costume beneath which was a plain white silk blouse cut deeply
at the neck.

He was struck by the fact that she wore no jewels, and he found himself
rejoicing at the absence of rings in general and of one ring in
particular.

Of course, it was all lunacy, sheer clotted madness, as he told himself,
but this was a day to riot in illusions, for undreamt-of things had
happened, and who could swear that the days of fairies had passed? To
meet a dream-Irene on his way to Kieff was unlikely, to rescue her from
an infuriated mob (for though they insisted that she was in no danger
he was no less insistent that he rescued her, since this illusion was
the keystone to all others), to be sitting at lunch with such a vision
of youthful loveliness--all these things were sufficiently outside the
range of probabilities to encourage the development of his dream in a
comfortable direction.

"To-night," thought he, "I shall be eating a prosaic dinner at the Grand
Hotel, and the Grand Duchess Irene Yaroslav will be a remote personage
whom I shall only see in the picture papers, or possibly over the heads
of a crowd on her way to the railway station."

And so he was outrageously familiar. He ceased to "Highness" her,
laughed at her jokes and in turn provoked her to merriment. The meal
came to an end too soon for him, but not too soon for the nodding
dowager nor the silent, contemplating priest, who had worn through his
period of saintly abstraction and had grown most humanly impatient.

The girl looked at her watch.

"Good gracious," she said, "it is four o'clock and I have promised to go
to tennis." (Malcolm loathed tennis from that hour.)

He took his leave of her with a return to something of the old
ceremonial.

"Your Grand Ducal Highness has been most gracious," he said, but she
arrested his eloquence with a little grimace.

"Please, remember, Mr. Hay, that I shall be a Grand Ducal Highness for
quite a long time, so do not spoil a very pleasant afternoon by being
over-punctilious."

He laughed.

"Then I will call you----"

He came to a dead end, and the moment was embarrassing for both, though
why a Grand Ducal Highness should be embarrassed by a young engineer she
alone might explain.

Happily there arrived most unexpectedly the Grand Duke himself, and if
his appearance was amazing, as it was to judge by the girl's face, his
geniality was sensational.

He crossed the hall and gripped the young man's hand.

"You're not going, Mr. Hay?" he asked. "Come, come, I have been a very
bad host, but I do not intend to let you go so soon! I have much that I
want to talk to you about. You are the engineer in charge of the Ukraine
Oil Field, is it not so? Excellent! Now, I have oil on my estate in the
Urals but it has never been developed...."

He took the young man by the arm and led him through the big doors to
the garden, giving him no chance to complete or decently postpone his
farewell to the girl, who watched with undisguised amazement this
staggering affability on the part of her parent.




CHAPTER IX

THE HAND AT THE WINDOW


An hour later she came from tennis, to find her father obviously bored
almost to the point of tears, yet making an heroic attempt to appear
interested in Malcolm's enthusiastic dissertation of the future of the
oil industry. The Grand Duke rose gladly on her appearance, and handed
him over.

"I have persuaded Mr. Hay to dine with us to-night, and I have sent to
the hotel for his baggage. He is most entertaining, my little love, most
entertaining. Persuade him to talk to you about--er--oil and things,"
and he hurriedly withdrew.

The girl sat down on the seat he had vacated.

"You're a most amazing person, Mr. Hay," she smiled.

"So I have been told," said Malcolm, as he filled a glass with tea from
the samovar.

"You have also a good opinion of yourself, it seems," she said calmly.

"Why do you think I am amazing, anyway?" said he recklessly, returning
to the relationships they had established at luncheon.

"Because you have enchanted my father," she said.

She was not smiling now, and a troubled little frown gathered on her
brow.

"Please tell me your magic."

"Perhaps it is the book," he said jestingly.

"The book!" she looked up sharply. "What book?"

And then, as a light dawned on her, she rose to her feet.

"You have--you have Israel Kensky's book?" she whispered in horror.

He nodded.

"Here with you?"

"Yes, here," he slapped his pocket.

She sat down slowly and reached out her hand, and he thought it shook.

"I do not know who was the madder--Israel Kensky to give it to you or
you to take it," she said. "This is the only house in Kieff where your
life is safe, and even here----" She stopped and shook her head. "Of
course, you're safe here," she smiled, "but I wish the book were
somewhere else."

She made no further reference either to the amazing volume or to her
father, and that night, when he came down to dinner, feeling more on
level terms with royalty (though his dress-suit was four years old and
his patent shoes, good enough for such mild society functions as came
his way, looked horribly cracked and shabby), he dismissed the matter
from his mind. The dinner party was a large one. There were two bishops,
innumerable popes, several bejewelled women, an officer or two and the
inevitable duenna. He was introduced to them all, but remembered only
Colonel Malinkoff, a quiet man whom he was to meet again.

To his amazement he found that he had been seated in the place of
honour, to the right of the Grand Duke, but he derived very little
satisfaction from that distinction, since the girl was at the other end
of the table.

She looked worried and her conversation, so far as he could hear,
consisted of "yes" and "no" and conventional expressions of agreement
with the views of her companions.

But the duke was loquacious, and at an early stage of the dinner the
conversation turned on the riot of the morning. There was nothing
remarkable in the conversation till suddenly the Grand Duke, without
preliminary, remarked in a matter-of-fact tone:

"The danger is that Kensky may very well use his evil powers against the
welfare of Holy Church."

There was a murmur of agreement from the black-bearded popes, and
Malcolm opened his eyes in astonishment.

"But surely your Highness does not believe that this man has any
supernatural gift."

The Grand Duke stared at him through his glasses.

"Of course," he said, "if there are miracles of the Church why should
there not be performed miracles by the Powers of Darkness? Here in
Kieff," he went on, "we have no reason to doubt that miracles are
performed every day. Who doubts that worship at the shrine of St.
Barbara in the Church of St. Michael of the Golden Head protects us
against lightning?"

"That is undoubtedly the fact, your Imperial Highness," said a stout
pope, speaking with his mouth full. "I have seen houses with lightning
conductors struck repeatedly, and I have never known any place to be
touched by lightning if the master of the house was under the protection
of St. Barbara."

"And beneath the Church of Exaltation," the Grand Duke went on, "more
miracles have been performed than elsewhere in the world."

He peered round the table for contradiction.

"It was here that the Two Brothers are buried and it was their prayer
that they should sleep together in the same grave. One died before the
other, and when the second had passed away and they carried his body to
the tomb, did not the body of the first brother arise to make room? And
is there not a column in the catacomb to which, if a madman is bound, he
recovers his reason? And are there not skulls which exude wonderful oils
which cure men of the most terrible diseases, even though they are on
the point of death?"

Malcolm drew a long breath. He could understand the superstitious
reverence of the peasant for these relics and miracles, but these were
educated men. One of them stood near to the throne and was versed in the
intricacies of European diplomacy. These were no peasants steeped in
ignorance, but intellectuals. He pinched himself to make sure that he
was awake as the discussion grew and men swopped miracles in much the
same spirit of emulation as store-loafers swop lies. But the
conversation came back to him, led thereto by the Grand Duke, and once
more it centred on that infernal book. The volume in question was not
six inches from the Grand Duke, for Malcolm had stuffed it into his tail
pocket before he came down to dinner, and this fact added a certain
piquancy to the conversation.

"I do not doubt, your Highness," said a stout bishop, who picked his
teeth throughout the dinner, "that Kensky's book is identical with a
certain volume on devil worship which the blessed Saint Basil publicly
denounced and damned. It was a book especially inspired by Satan, and
contained exact rules, whereby he who practised the magic could bind in
earthly and immortal obedience the soul of anybody he chose, thus
destroying in this life their chance of happiness and in the life to
come their souls' salvation."

All within reach of the bishop's voice crossed themselves three times.

"It would have been well," mused the Grand Duke, "if the people had
succeeded this morning."

He shot a glance at Malcolm, a glance full of suspicious inquiry, but
the young man showed no sign either of resentment or agreement. But he
was glad when the dinner ended and the chance came to snatch a few words
with the girl. The guests were departing early, and kummel and coffee
was already being served on a large silver salver by the _buffetschek_,
whom Malcolm recognized as the ubiquitous Boolba.

"I shall not see you again," said the girl in a low voice. "I am going
to my room. But I want you to promise me something, Mr. Hay."

"The promise is made before you ask," said he.

"I want you to leave as early as you possibly can to-morrow morning for
your mine, and if I send you word I want you to leave Russia without
delay."

"But this is very astonishing."

She faced him squarely, her hands behind her back.

"Mr. Hay," she said, and her low voice was vibrant with feeling, "you
have entangled yourself in an adventure which cannot possibly end well
for you. Whatever happens, you cannot come out with credit and safety,
and I would rather you came out with credit."

"I don't understand you," he said.

"I will make it plainer," said she. "Unless something happens in the
next month or two which will point the minds of the people to other
directions, you will be suspect. The fact that you have the book is
known."

"I know," he said.

"By whom?" she asked quickly.

"By Boolba, your servant."

She raised her hand to her lips, as if to suppress a cry. It was an odd
little trick of hers which he had noticed before.

"Boolba," she repeated. "Of course! That explains!"

At that moment the Grand Duke called him. The guests had dwindled away
to half a dozen.

"Your coffee, Mr. Hay, and some of our wonderful Russian kummel. You
will not find its like in any other part of the world."

Malcolm drank the coffee, gulped down the fiery liqueur, and replaced
the glass on the tray. He did not see the girl again, and half an hour
later he went up to his room, locked the door and undressed himself
slowly, declining the assistance which had been offered to him by the
trained valet.

From the open window came the heavy perfume of heliotrope, but it was
neither the garden scent nor the moderate quantity of wine he had taken,
nor the languid beauty of the night, which produced this delicious
sensation of weariness. He undressed and got into his pyjamas, then sat
at the end of his bed, his head between his hands.

He had sat for a long time like this, before he realized the strangeness
of his attitude and getting on to his feet, found himself swaying.

"Doped," he said, and sat down again.

There was little of his brain that was awake, but that little he worked
hard. He had been drugged. It was either in the kummel or in the coffee.
Nothing but dope would make him feel as he was feeling now. He fell into
bed and pulled the clothes about him. He wanted to keep awake to fight
off the effects of the stuff and, by an absurd perversion of reasoning,
he argued that he was in a more favourable position to carry out his
plan if he made himself comfortable in bed, than if he followed any
other course.

The drug worked slowly and erratically. He had moments of complete
unconsciousness with intervals which, if they were not free from the
effect of the agent, were at least lucid. One such interval must have
come after he had been in bed for about an hour, for he found himself
wide awake and lay listening to the thumping of his heart, which seemed
to shake the bed.

The room was bathed in a soft green light, for it was a night of full
moon. He could see dimly the furniture and the subdued gleam of silver
wall-sconce, that caught the ghostly light and gave it a more mysterious
value. He tried to rise but could not. To roll his head from side to
side seemed the limitation of conscious effort.

And whilst he looked, the door opened noiselessly and closed again.
Somebody had come into the room, and that somebody passed softly across
the foot of the bed, and stood revealed against the window. Had he been
capable of speech he would have cried out.

It was the girl!

He saw her plainly in a moment. She wore a wrapper over her nightdress,
and carried a small electric lamp in her hand. She went to the chair
where he had thrown his clothes and made a search. He saw her take
something out and put it under her wrap, then she went back the way she
came, pausing for the space of a second at the foot of his bed.

She stood there undecidedly, and presently she came up to the side of
the bed and bent down over him. His eyes were half closed; he had
neither the power of opening or shutting them, but he could see clearly
the white hand that rested on the bed and the book that it held, and the
polished table by the bedside reflecting the moonlight back to her face
so that she seemed something as intangible and as shadowy as the night
itself.

A little smile played upon her pale face, and every whispered word she
uttered was clear and distinct.

"Good-bye, poor Mr. Hay," she said softly.

She shook her head as though in pity; then, stopping swiftly, she kissed
him on the cheek and passed quickly to the half-open door by which she
had entered. She was nearing the door when she stopped dead and shrank
back toward the bed. Another electric lamp gleamed unexpectedly. He saw
the white of her nightdress show as a dazzling strip of light where the
beam caught it. Then the unknown intruder touched on the light, and they
stood revealed, the girl tall, imperious, a look of scorn on her
beautiful face, and the stout menial with the crooked nose.

Boolba wore an old dressing-gown girdled about with a soiled rainbow
sash. His feet were bare, and in his two hands laying from palm to palm
was a long thin knife.

At the sight of the girl he fell back, a grotesque sprawling movement
which was not without its comicality. A look of blank bewilderment
creased his big face.

"You--you, Highness!" he croaked. "The Jew, where is he?"

She was silent. Malcolm saw the quick rise and fall of her bosom, saw
the book clutched closer to her side beneath the filmy silken gown.

Boolba looked from the girl to Malcolm, from Malcolm to the heavy
curtains at either side of the open window--curtains which the drugged
man had not drawn.

"He has left his quarters, Highness," Boolba spoke eagerly; "he was seen
to enter the grounds of the palace--where is he?"

He took a step toward her.

"Stand back--you slave!" she breathed, but with a bound he was upon her.
There was a brief struggle, and the book was wrenched from her hand.

Malcolm saw all this, but lay as one dead. He was conscious but
paralysed by the potion, and could only watch the girl in the grip of
the obese monster and feel his heart going like a steam hammer.

Boolba stood gloating over his prize, fondling the book in his big,
coarse hands. Malcolm wondered why the girl did not scream--yet how
could she? She was in his room in the middle of the night, she, a
daughter of emperors.

The man tried to wrench open the locks which held the covers, but
failed. Suddenly he looked up, and glared across at the girl.

He said nothing, but the suspicion in that scowl was emphasized when he
moved to the wall near the window and the light of a bracket lamp.

Again he examined the book and for the first time spoke:

"Oh, Highness, was it you who sent for Israel Kensky that the book
should be restored----"

So far he got when an arm came from behind the curtain--a hand
blue-veined, and it held a yellow handkerchief.

The girl saw it, and her hand went to her mouth.

Then the handkerchief struck full across Boolba's face, covering it from
forehead to the mouth.

For a moment the man was paralysed, then he pulled the handkerchief away
and clawed at the clay-like substance which adhered to his face.

"Mother of God!"

He screamed the words and, dropping the book, stumbled forward, rubbing
at his face, shrieking with pain.

The girl ran swiftly through the open door, for feet were now pattering
along the corridors and the flicker of lights showed through the
doorway. Boolba was rolling on the ground in agony when the servants
crowded in, followed by the Grand Duke--and he alone was fully dressed.

"Boolba--what is it?"

"The book--the book! It is mine! See ... floor!"

But the book had disappeared.

"Where, Boolba--where, my good Boolba?" The voice of Boolba's master was
tremulous. "Show me--did he strike you--he shall suffer, by the saints!
Look for it, Boolba!"

"Look! Look!" yelled the writhing man. "How shall I look? I who am
blind--blind--blind!"




CHAPTER X

TERROR IN MAKING


In the spring of 1919 Malcolm Hay came out from the Kursky Voksal
carrying his own well-worn valise. An indifferent cigar was clenched
between his white teeth, and there was a sparkle of amusement in his
grave eyes. He stood seventy inches in his stockings, and an excellent
judge of men who looked him over, noted the set and width of shoulders,
the upward lift of chin, the tanned face and flexibility of body, marked
him down "soldier"--either American or English.

Malcolm looked up and down the deserted street and then caught the eye
of the solitary _intooski_, a thoughtful-looking man with a short,
square beard, looking monstrously stout in his padded green coat, the
livery of the Moscow drosky driver.

The man on the sidewalk smiled and walked across the pavement.

"Little brother," he said in fluent Russian, "would you condescend to
drive me to the Hotel du Bazar Slav?"

The driver who had noted so approvingly the shape of Malcolm's
shoulders did not immediately answer; then:

"British?--I thought you were."

He spoke excellent English, and Malcolm looked up at him bewildered.

"I seem to know your face, too--let me think."

The cab-driver tapped his bearded chin.

"I have it--Hay. I met you four years ago at a dinner party in
Kieff--you are the manager of an oil company or something of the sort."

"Right," said the astonished young man, "but--I don't exactly place
you."

The drosky driver smiled.

"And yet I dined with you," he said. "I sat next the Grand Duchess
Irene--later, when war broke out, I invited you to my headquarters."

"Good God!" Malcolm's jaw dropped. "General Malinkoff!"

"Commanding the 84th Caucasian Division," said the bearded man dryly,
"and now commanding one little horse. If you will get into my excellent
cab I will drive you to a restaurant where we may eat and drink and be
almost merry for--fifty roubles."

Malcolm stepped into the little drosky like a man in a dream. Malinkoff!
He remembered him, a fine figure on a horse, riding through Kieff at
the head of a glittering throng of staff officers. There was a function
at the Grand Hotel to meet the new Commander, a great parade at that
ancient palace in his honour--Malcolm had come in from the oil-fields
partly to meet him at dinner--partly for news of one who had of a sudden
vanished from his life.

The drosky drove furiously through the east end of the town, and the
passenger noted that the driver was careful to avoid the big
thoroughfares which led to the Krasnaya Plotzad and that centre of
Moscow which is the Kremlin.

Presently it drew up before a small eating-house in a poor street, and
the driver hoisted himself to the ground. He left his horse unattended
and, leading the way, pushed open the swing doors of the restaurant and
passed down a long, low-ceilinged room crowded with diners, to a table
at the far end.

"Sit down, Mr. Hay. I can promise you a fair but by no means sybarite
feast--good morning, Nicholas Vassilitsky."

He nodded pleasantly to a grey-haired man in a workman's blouse sitting
at the next table, and the man addressed rose stiffly, bowed and sat
down.

"If you wish your clothes valeted whilst you are in Moscow, I recommend
my friend," said the driver, snapping his fingers towards a stout
waitress. "Colonel Nicholas Vassilitsky is not only an excellent
Director of Military Intelligence but he can press a pair of trousers
with any man."

He gave his orders briefly, and turned to his companion.

"First of all, let me interrogate you. You are on your way to
Petrograd?"

"Yes--I am on my way home. During the war I have been controlling allied
supplies in Little Russia--the Revolution stopped that."

"Fortunate man--to have a country," said General Malinkoff, and he spoke
seriously and without bitterness. "A country and an army--coherent,
disciplined comrades in arms."

He shrugged his padded shoulders.

"Yes--you are on your way to your home? It will take you months to leave
the country--if you ever leave it. I tried to leave last month. I am a
reactionary with a leaning toward discipline. I cannot breathe the air
of democracy. I used to think I had Liberal ideas. There was a time when
I thought that a day would dawn when the world would be a great United
States of Free People. Ah, well--I am still a reactionary."

Malcolm knew that behind those grave eyes was a world of laughter, that
beneath the solemn words was a gentle irony, and yet for the while he
could not distinguish how much of tragedy there was in the man's fun.

"But why are you----"

"Driving a cab?" The general finished the sentence. "Because, my friend,
I am human. I must eat, for example; I must have a room to sleep in. I
need cigarettes, and clean shirts at least three times a week--for God's
sake never let that be known. I must also have warm clothes for the
winter--in fact, I must live."

"But haven't you--money?" Malcolm felt all a decent man's embarrassment.
"Forgive me butting into your affairs, but naturally I'm rather hazed."

"Naturally," laughed the general. "A bottle of kavass, my peach of
Turkistan, and a glass for our comrade."

"Long live the Revolution!" wheezed the waitress mechanically.

"Long may it live, little mother!" responded the general.

When the girl had gone he squared round to his companion.

"I have no shame, Mr. Hay--I'm going to let you pay for your own dinner
because I cannot in these democratic times pauperize you by paying for
you. No, I have no money. My balance in the State bank has been
confiscated to the sacred cause of the people. My estate, a hundred
versts or so from Moscow, confiscated to the sacred cause of the
Revolution, my house in Petrograd is commandeered to the sacred service
of the Soviet."

"But your command?"

The general did not smile now. He laid down his knife and fork and threw
a glance behind him.

"The men began shooting their officers in March, 1917," he said,
lowering his voice. "They executed the divisional staff in May--the
democratic spirit was of slow growth. They spared me because I had
written a book in my youth urging popular government and had been
confined in the fortess of Vilna for my crime. When the army was
disbanded I came to Moscow, and the cab was given to me by a former
groom of mine, one Isaac Mosservitch, who is now a judge of the high
court and dispenses pretty good law, though he cannot sign his own
name."

"Mr. Hay," he went on earnestly, "you did wrong to come to Moscow. Get
back to Kieff and strike down into the Caucasus. You can reach the
American posts outside of Tiflis. You'll never leave Russia. The
Bolsheviks have gone mad--blood-mad, murder-mad. Every foreigner is
suspect. The Americans and the English are being arrested. I can get you
a passport that will carry you to Odessa, and you can reach Batoum, and
Baku from there."

Malcolm leant back in his chair and looked thoughtfully at the other.

"Is it so bad?"

"Bad! Moscow is a mad-house. Listen--do you hear anything?"

Above the hum of conversation Malcolm caught a sound like the cracking
of whips.

"Rifle-firing," said the general calmly. "There's a counter-revolution
in progress. The advanced Anarchists are in revolt against the
Bolsheviks. There is a counter-revolution every morning. We cab-drivers
meet after breakfast each day and decide amongst ourselves which of the
streets shall be avoided. We are pretty well informed--Prince
Dalgoursky, who was a captain in the Preopojensky Guard, sells
newspapers outside the Soviet headquarters, and the comrades give him
tips. One of these days the comrades will shoot him, but for the moment
he is in favour, and makes as much as a hundred roubles a day."

The waitress came to the table, and the conversation momentarily ceased.
When she had gone Malcolm put the question which he had asked so often
in the past four years.

"Can you give me any news of the Grand Duke Yaroslav?"

The other shook his head.

"His Highness was in Petrograd when I heard of him last."

"And--and his daughter? She has been with the Russian Red Cross on the
Riga front, I know."

The bearded man shot a queer glance at his companion.

"In what circumstances did you see her last?" he asked.

Malcolm hesitated.

He could hardly tell a stranger of that tragic scene which was enacted
in his bedroom. From the moment she had fled through the door he had not
set eyes upon her. In the morning when he had wakened, feeling sick and
ill, he had been told that the Grand Duke and his daughter had left by
the early northern express for the capital. Of Boolba, that hideously
blinded figure, he heard nothing. When he inquired for Israel Kensky,
men shrugged and said that he had "disappeared." His house was closed
and the old man might be in prison or in hiding. Later he was to learn
that Kensky had reappeared in Moscow, apparently without hindrance from
the authorities. As for Boolba, he had kept his counsel.

"You seem embarrassed," smiled Malinkoff. "I will tell you why I ask.
You know that her Grand Ducal Highness was banished from Court for
disobedience to the royal will?"

Malcolm shook his head.

"I know nothing--absolutely nothing. Kieff and Odessa are full of
refugees and rumours, but one is as much a suspect as the other."

"She would not marry--that is all. I forget the name of the exalted
personage who was chosen for her, though I once helped to carry him up
to bed--he drank heavily even in those days. God rest him! He died like
a man. They hung him in a sack in Peter and Paul, and he insulted the
Soviets to the last!"

"So--so she is not married?"

The general was silent, beckoning the waitress.

"My little dear," he said, "what shall I pay you?"

She gave him the scores and they settled.

"Which way now?" asked the general.

"I hardly know--what must a stranger do before he takes up his abode?"

"First find an abode," said the general with a meaning smile. "You asked
me to drive you to the Hotel Bazar Slav, my simple but misguided friend!
That is a Soviet headquarters. You will certainly go to a place adjacent
to the hotel to register yourself, and afterwards to the Commissary to
register all over again, and, if you are regarded with approval, which
is hardly likely, you will be given a ticket which will enable you to
secure the necessities of life--the tickets are easier to get than the
food."

The first call at the house near the Bazar Slav gave them neither
trouble nor results. The Soviet headquarters was mainly concerned with
purely administrative affairs, and the organization of its membership.
Its corridors and doorway were crowded with soldiers wearing the
familiar red armlet, and when Malinkoff secured an interview with a
weary looking and unkempt official, who sat collarless in his shirt
sleeves at a table covered with papers, that gentleman could do no more
than lean back in his chair and curse the interrupters volubly.

"We might have dispensed with the headquarters visit," said Malinkoff,
"but it is absolutely necessary that you should see the Commissary
unless you want to be pulled out of your bed one night and shot before
you're thoroughly awake. By the way, we have an interesting American in
gaol--by his description I gather he is what you would call a gun-man."

Malcolm stared.

"Here--a gun-man?"

Malinkoff nodded.

"He held up the Treasurer-General of the Soviet and relieved him of his
wealth. I would like to have met him--but I presume he is dead. Justice
is swift in Moscow, especially for those who hold up the officials of
the Revolution."

"What sort of justice do these people administer?" asked Malcolm
curiously.

Malinkoff shrugged his padded shoulders.

"Sometimes I think that the very habit of justice is dead in this land,"
he said. "On the whole they are about as just and fair as was the old
regime--that is not saying much, is it? The cruelty of our rule to-day
is due rather to ignorance than to ill will. A few of the men higher up
are working off their old grievances and are profiting enormously, but
the rank and file of the movement are labouring for the millennium."

"I think they're mad," said Malcolm.

"All injustice is mad," replied Malinkoff philosophically. "Now get into
my little cab, and I will drive you to the Commissary."

The Commissary occupied a large house near the Igerian Gate. It was a
house of such noble proportions that at first Malcolm thought it was one
of the old public offices, and when Malinkoff had drawn up at the gate
he put the question.

"That is the house of the Grand Duke Yaroslav," said Malinkoff quietly.
"I think you were inquiring about him a little earlier in the day."

The name brought a little pang to Malcolm's heart, and he asked no
further questions. There was a sentry on the _podyasde_--an untidy,
unshaven man, smoking a cigarette--and a group of soldiers filled the
entrance, evidently the remainder of the guard.

The Commissary was out. When would he be back? Only God knew. He had
taken "the Little Mother" for a drive in the country, or perhaps he had
gone to Petrograd--who knew? There was nobody to see but the
Commissary--on this fact they insisted with such vehemence that Malcolm
gathered that whoever the gentleman was, he brooked no rivals and
allowed no possible supplanter to stand near his throne.

They came back at four o'clock in the afternoon, but the Commissary was
still out. It was nine o'clock, after five inquiries, that the sentry
replied "Yes" to the inevitable question.

"Now you will see him," said Malinkoff, "and the future depends upon the
potency of your favourite patron saint."

Malcolm stopped in the doorway.

"General----" he said.

"Not that word," said Malinkoff quickly. "Citizen or comrade--comrade
for preference."

"I feel that I am leading you into danger--I have been horribly selfish
and thoughtless. Will it make any difference to you, your seeing him?"

Malinkoff shook his head.

"You're quite right, it is always dangerous to attract the attention of
the Committee for Combatting the Counter-Revolution," he said, "but
since I have taken you in hand I might as well see him as stay outside
on my cab, because he is certain to inquire who brought you here, and it
might look suspicious if I did not come in with you. Besides, somebody
will have to vouch for you as a good comrade and friend of the Soviet."

He was half in earnest and half joking, but wholly fatalistic.

As they went up the broad spiral staircase which led to the main floor
of the Yaroslav Palace, Malcolm had qualms. He heartily cursed himself
for bringing this man into danger. So far as he was concerned, as he
told himself, there was no risk at all, because he was a British
traveller, having no feeling one way or the other toward the Soviet
Government. But Malinkoff would be a marked man, under suspicion all the
time. Before the office of the Commissary was a sentry without rifle. He
sat at a table which completely blocked the doorway, except for about
eight inches at one side. He inquired the business of the visitors, took
their names and handed them to a soldier, and with a sideways jerk of
his head invited them to squeeze past him into the bureau.




CHAPTER XI

THE COMMISSARY WITH THE CROOKED NOSE


There were a dozen men in the room in stained military overcoats and red
armlets. One, evidently an officer, who carried a black portfolio under
his arm, was leaning against the panelled wall, smoking and snapping his
fingers to a dingy white terrier that leapt to his repeated invitations.

At the table, covered with documents, were two people, the man and the
woman.

She, sprawling indolently forward, her head upon her arm, her strong
brown face turned to the man, was obviously a Jewess. The papers were
streaked and greasy where her thick black ringlets had rested, and the
ashes of her cigarette lay in little untidy heaps on the table.

The man was burly, with a great breadth of shoulder and big rough hands.
But it was his face which arrested the feet of Malcolm and brought him
to a sudden halt the moment he came near enough to see and recognize the
Commissary.

It was not by his bushy red beard nor the stiff, upstanding hair, but
by the crooked nose, that he recognized Boolba, sometime serving-man to
the Grand Duke Yaroslav. Malcolm, looking at the sightless eyes, felt
his spine go creepy.

Boolba lifted his head sharply at the sound of an unfamiliar footfall.

"Who is this?" he asked. "Sophia Kensky, you who are my eyes, tell me
who is this?"

"Oh, a boorjoo," said the woman lazily.

"A foreigner too--who are you, boorjoo?"

"A Britisher," said Malcolm.

Boolba lifted his chin and turned his face at the voice.

"A Britisher," he repeated slowly. "The man on the oil-fields. Tell me
your name."

"Hay--Malcolm Hay," said Malcolm, and Boolba nodded.

His face was like a mask and he expressed no emotion.

"And the other?"

"Malinkoff!" snapped the voice at Malcolm's side, and Boolba nodded.

"Commanding an army--I remember. You drive a cab, comrade. Are there any
complaints against this man?"

He turned his face to Sophia Kensky, and she shook her head.

"Are there any complaints against this man, Sophia?" he repeated.

"None that I know. He is an aristocrat and a friend of the Romanoffs."

"Huh!" The grunt sounded like a note of disappointment. "What do you
want?"

"The stranger wishes permission to remain in Moscow until he can find a
train to the north," said Malinkoff.

Boolba made no reply. He sat there, his elbows on the table, his fingers
twining and untwining the thick red hair of his beard.

"Where does he sleep to-night?" he asked after awhile.

"He sleeps in my stable, near the Vassalli Prospekt," said Malinkoff.

Boolba turned to the woman, who was lighting a new cigarette from the
end of the old one, and said something in a low, growling tone.

"Do as you wish, my little pigeon," she said audibly.

Again his hand went to his beard and his big mouth opened in meditation.
Then he said curtly:

"Sit down."

There was no place to sit, and the two men fell back amongst the
soldiers.

Again the two at the table consulted, and then Sophia Kensky called a
name. The man in a faded officer's uniform came forward, his big black
portfolio in his hand, and this he laid on the table, opening the flap
and taking out a sheaf of papers.

"Read them to me, Sophia," said Boolba. "Read their names."

He groped about on the table and found first a rubber stamp and then a
small, flat ink-pad. Sophia lifted the first of the papers and spelt out
the names.

"Mishka Sasanoff," she said, and the man growled.

"An upstart woman and very ugly," he said. "I remember her. She used to
whip her servants. Tell me, Sophia, my life, what has she done now?"

"Plotted to destroy the Revolution," said the woman.

"Huh!" grunted the man, as he brought his rubber stamp to the paper,
passing it across to the waiting officer, who replaced it in his
portfolio. "And the next?"

"Paul Geslkin," she said and passed the document to him. "Plotting to
overthrow the Revolution."

"A boorjoo, a tricky young man, in league with the priests," he said,
and again his stamp came down upon the paper, and again the paper went
across the table into the portfolio of the officer.

The soldiers about Malcolm and his friend had edged away, and they were
alone.

"What are these?" whispered Malcolm.

"Death warrants," replied Malinkoff laconically, and for the second time
a cold chill ran down Malcolm's spine.

Name after name were read out, and the little rubber stamp, which
carried death to one and sorrow to so many, thudded down upon the paper.
Malcolm felt physically ill. The room was close and reeked of vile
tobacco fumes. There was no ventilation, and the oil lamps made the
apartment insufferably hot. An hour, two hours passed, and no further
notice was paid to the two men.

"I can't understand it quite," said Malinkoff in a low voice.
"Ordinarily this would mean serious trouble, but if the Commissary had
any suspicion of you or me, we should have been in prison an hour ago."

Then suddenly Boolba rose.

"What is the hour?" he said.

A dozen voices replied.

"Half-past ten? It is time that the sweeper was here."

He threw back his head and laughed, and the men joined in the laughter.
With a great yellow handkerchief, which reminded Malcolm of something
particularly unpleasant, Boolba wiped the streams from his sightless
eyes and bent down to the woman at his side, and Malcolm heard him say:
"What is his name--he told me," and then he stood up.

"Hay," he said, "you are a boorjoo. You have ordered many men to sweep
your room. Is it not good that a house should be clean, eh?"

"Very good, Boolba," said Malcolm quietly.

"Boolba he calls me. He remembers well. That is good! I stood behind
him, comrades, giving wine and coffee and bowing to this great English
lord! Yes, I, Boolba!" he struck his chest, "crawled on my knees to this
man, and he calls me Boolba now--Boolba!" he roared ferociously. "Come
here! Do this! Clean my boots, Boolba! Come, little Boolba, bow thy neck
that I may rest my foot!"

A voice from the door interrupted him.

"Good!" he said. "My sweeper has arrived, Hay. Once a day she sweeps my
room and once a day she makes my bed. No ordinary woman will satisfy
Boolba. She must come in her furs, drive in her fine carriage from the
Nijitnkaya--behold!"

Malcolm looked to the doorway and was struck dumb with amazement.

The girl who came in was dressed better than he expected any woman to
be dressed in Moscow. A sable wrap was about her shoulders, a sable
toque was on her head. He could not see the worn shoes nor the shabby
dress beneath the costly furs; indeed, he saw nothing but the face--the
face of his dreams--unchanged, unlined, more beautiful than he had
remembered her. She stood stiffly in her pride, her little chin held up,
her contemptuous eyes fixed upon the man at the table. Then loosing her
wrap, she hung it upon a peg, and opening a cupboard, took out a broad
broom.

"Sweep, Irene Yaroslav," said the man.

Malcolm winced at the word, and Malinkoff turned to him sharply.

"You know her?" he said. "Of course you do--I remember. Was that why
Boolba kept us waiting?"

"He was butler in the Yaroslav household," said Malcolm in the same
tone.

"That explains it," said Malinkoff. "All this is for the humiliation of
the Grand Duchess."

"Sweep well, little one," scoffed Boolba from his table. "Does it not do
your heart good, Sophia Kensky? Oh, if I had only eyes to see! Does she
go on her knees? Tell me, Sophia."

But the woman found no amusement in the sight, and she was not smiling.
Her high forehead was knitted, her dark eyes followed every movement of
the girl. As Boolba finished speaking she leant forward and demanded
harshly:

"Irene Yaroslav, where is Israel Kensky?"

"I do not know," replied the girl, not taking her eyes from her work.

"You lie," said the woman. "You shall tell me where he is and where he
has hidden his 'Book of All-Power.' She knows, Boolba."

"Peace, peace!" he said, laying his big hand on her shoulder. "Presently
she will tell and be glad to tell. Where is your father, Irene
Yaroslav?"

"You know best," she replied, and the answer seemed to afford him
amusement.

"He was a religious man," he scoffed. "Did he not believe in miracles?
Was there any saint in Kieff he did not patronize? He is with the saints
this day," and then, in a fierce whisper to Sophia--"How did she look?
Tell me, Sophia. How did she look when I spoke?"

"He died three weeks ago," said Irene quietly, "at the Fortress of Peter
and Paul," and Boolba rapped out an oath.

"Who told you? Who told you?" he roared. "Tell me who told you, and I
will have his heart out of him! I wanted to tell you that myself!"

"The High Commissary Boyaski," she replied, and Boolba swallowed his
rage, for who dared criticize the High Commissaries, who hold power of
life and death in their hands, even over their fellow officials? He sank
down in his chair again and turned impatiently to Sophia.

"Have you no tongue in your head, Sophia Kensky!" he asked irritably.
"Tell me all she does. How is she sweeping--where?"

"By the men, near the big bookcase," said the woman reluctantly.

"Yes, yes," and he nodded his great head.

He rose, walked round the table, and paced slowly to the girl as she
stood quietly waiting. Malcolm had no weapon in his pocket. He had been
warned by Malinkoff that visitors were searched. But on the table lay a
sheathed sword--possibly the mark of authority which Boolba carried. But
evidently this ceremony was a nightly occurrence. Boolba did no more
than pass his hand over the girl's face.

"She is cool," he said in a disappointed tone. "You do not work hard
enough, Irene Yaroslav. To-morrow you shall come with water and shall
scrub this room."

The girl made no reply, but as he walked back to his seat of authority
she continued her work, her eyes fixed on the floor, oblivious of her
surroundings. Presently she worked round the room until she came to
where Malcolm stood, and as she did so for the first time she raised her
head, and her eyes met his. Again he saw that little trick of hers; her
hand went to her mouth, then her head went down, and she passed on as
though she had never seen him.

"What did she do, Sophia? Tell me what she did when she came to the
Englishman. Did she not see him?"

"She was startled," grumbled Sophia; "that is all. Boolba, let the woman
go."

"Nay, nay, my little pigeon, she must finish her work."

"She has finished," said Sophia impatiently; "how long must this go on,
Boolba? Is she not an aristocrat and a Romanoff, and are there none of
your men who want wives?"

Malcolm felt rather than saw the head of every soldier in the room lift
to these words.

"Wait a little," said Boolba. "You forget the book, my little
pigeon--the 'Book of All-Power.' I would have that rather than that
Irene Yaroslav found a good husband from our comrades. You may go, Irene
Yaroslav," he said. "Serge!"

The officer who had taken the death warrants, and who stood waiting for
dismissal, came forward.

"Take our little brother Malinkoff and the Britisher Hay and place them
both in the prison of St. Basil. They are proved enemies to the
Revolution."

"I wonder who will feed my little horse to-night," said Malinkoff as,
handcuffed to his companion, he marched through the streets in the light
of dawn, en route, as he believed, to certain death.




CHAPTER XII

IN THE PRISON OF ST. BASIL


The temporary prison called by Boolba "St. Basil," was made up of four
blocks of buildings. All save one were built of grey granite, and
presented, when seen from the courtyard below, tiers of little windows
set with monotonous regularity in discoloured walls. The fourth was
evidently also of granite, but at some recent period an attempt had been
made to cover its forbidding facade with plaster. The workmen had
wearied of their good intent and had left off when their labours were
half finished, which gave the building the gruesome appearance of having
been half skinned. Flush with the four sides of the square was an open
concrete trench, approached at intervals by flights of half a dozen
stone steps leading to this alley-way.

Malcolm Hay was pushed down one of these, hurried along the alley-way,
passing a number of mailed iron doors, and as many barred windows, and
was halted before one of the doors whilst the warder who all the time
smoked a cigar, produced a key. The door was unlocked, and Hay was
thrust in. Malinkoff followed. The door slammed behind them, and they
heard the "click-clock" of the steel lock shooting to its socket.

The room was a medium-sized apartment, innocent of furniture save for a
table in the centre of the room and a bench which ran round the walls.
Light came from a small window giving a restricted view of the courtyard
and a barred transom above the doorway. An oblong slit of ground glass
behind which was evidently an electric globe served for the night.

There were two occupants of the room, who looked up, one--a grimy,
dishevelled priest--blankly, the other with the light of interest in his
eyes.

He sat in his shirt-sleeves, his coat being rolled up to serve as a
pillow. Above the "bed" hung a Derby hat--an incongruous object. He was
short, stout, and fresh coloured, with a startling black moustache
elaborately curled at the ends and two grey eyes that were lined around
with much laughter. He walked slowly to the party and held out his hand
to Malcolm.

"Welcome to the original Bughouse," he said, and from his accent it was
impossible to discover whether he was American or English. "On behalf of
self an' partner, we welcome you to Bughouse Lodge. When do you go to
the chair--he's due to-day," he jerked his thumb at the crooning priest.
"I can't say I'm sorry. So far as I am concerned he's been dead ever
since they put him here."

Malcolm recognized the little man in a flash. It was his acquaintance of
London.

"You don't remember me," smiled Malcolm, "but what is your particular
crime?"

The little man's face creased with laughter.

"Shootin' up Tcherekin," he said tersely, and Malinkoff's eyebrows rose.

"You're--Beem--is that how you pronounce it?"

"Bim," said the other, "B-I-M. Christian name Cherry--Cherry Bim; see
the idea? Named after the angels. Say, when I was a kid--I've got a
photograph way home in Brooklyn to prove it--I had golden hair in long
ringlets!"

Malinkoff chuckled softly.

"This is the American who held up Tcherekin and nearly got away with ten
million roubles," he said.

Cherry Bim had taken down his Derby and had adjusted it at the angle
demanded by the circumstances.

"That's right--but I didn't know they was roubles. I _should_ excite my
mentality over waste paper! No, we got word that it was French money."

"There was another man in it?" said Malinkoff, lighting a
cigarette--there had been no attempt to search them.

"Don't let that match go out!" begged Cherry Bim, and dug a stub from
his waistcoat pocket. "Yes," he puffed, "Isaac Moskava--they killed poor
old Issy. He was a good feller, but too--too--what's the word when a
feller falls to every dame he meets?"

"Impressionable?" suggested Malcolm.

"That's the word," nodded Cherry Bim; "we'd got away with twenty
thousand dollars' worth of real sparklers in Petrograd. They used to
belong to a princess, and we took 'em off the lady friends of Groobal,
the Food Commissioner, and I suggested we should beat it across the
Swedish frontier. But no, he had a girl in Moscow--he was that kind of
guy who could smell patchouli a million miles away."

Malcolm gazed at the man in wonderment.

"Do I understand that you are a--a----" He hesitated to describe his
companion in misfortune, realizing that it was a very delicate position.

"I'm a cavalier of industry," said Cherry Bim, with a flourish.

"Chevalier is the word you want," suggested Malcolm, responding to his
geniality.

"It's all one," said the other cheerfully. "It means crook, I guess?
Don't think," he said seriously, "don't you think that I'm one of those
cheap gun-men you can buy for ten dollars, because I'm not. It was the
love of guns that brought me into trouble. It wasn't trouble that
brought me to the guns. I could use a gun when I was seven," he said.
"My dad--God love him!--lived in Utah, and I was born at Broke Creek and
cut my teeth on a '45. I could shoot the tail-feathers off a fly's
wing," he said. "I could shoot the nose off a mosquito."

It was the deceased Isaac Moskava who had brought him to Russia, he
said. They had been fellow fugitives to Canada, and Isaac, who had
friends in a dozen Soviets, had painted an entrancing picture of the
pickings which were to be had in Petrograd. They worked their way across
Canada and shipped on a Swedish barque, working their passage before the
mast. At Stockholm Issy had found a friend, who forwarded them carriage
paid to the capital, whereafter things went well.

"Have you got any food?" asked Cherry Bim suddenly. "They starve you
here. Did you ever eat _schie_? It's hot water smelling of cabbage."

"Have you been tried?" asked Malinkoff, and the man smiled.

"Tried!" he said contemptuously. "Say, what do you think's goin' to
happen to you? Do you think you'll go up before a judge and hire a
lawyer to defend you? Not much. If they try you, it's because they've
got something funny to tell you. Look here."

He leapt up on to the bench with surprising agility and stood on tiptoe,
so that his eyes came level with a little grating in the wall. The
opening gave a view of another cell.

"Look," said Cherry Bim, stepping aside, and Malcolm peered through the
opening.

At first he could see nothing, for the cell was darker than the room he
was in, but presently he distinguished a huddled form lying on the
bench, and even as he looked it was galvanized to life. It was an old
man who had leaped from the bench mumbling and mouthing in his terror.

"I am awake! I am awake!" he screamed in Russian. "_Gospodar_, observe
me! I am awake!"

His wild yells shrunk to a shrill sobbing, and then, with a long sigh,
he climbed back to the bench and turned his back to the wall. Malcolm
exchanged glances with Malinkoff, who had shared the view.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Come down and I'll tell you. Don't let the old man hear you speak--he's
frightened."

"What did he say?" he asked curiously.

Malcolm repeated the words, and Cherry Bim nodded.

"I see. I thought they were stuffing me when they told me, but it's
evidently true. He's a Jew," he went on. "Do you think them guys don't
kill Jews? Don't you make any mistake about that--they'll kill anybody.
This old man has a daughter or a granddaughter, and one of the comrades
got fresh with him, so poor old Moses--I don't know his name but he
looks like the picture of Moses that we had in our Bible at home--shot
at this fellow and broke his jaw, so they sent him to be killed in his
sleep."

"In his sleep?" repeated Malcolm incredulously, and Cherry Bim nodded.

"That's it," he said. "So long as he's awake they won't kill him--at
least they say so. I guess when his time comes they'll settle him,
asleep or awake. The poor old guy thinks that so long as he's awake he's
safe--do you get me?"

"It's hellish!" said Malcolm between his teeth. "They must be devils."

"Oh, no, they're not," said Cherry Bim. "I've got nothing on the
Soviets. I bet the fellow that invented that way of torturing the old
man thinks he's done a grand bit of work. Say, suppose you turned a lot
of kids loose to govern the United States, why Broadway would be all
cluttered up with dead nursery maids and murdered governesses. That's
what's happening in Russia. They don't mean any harm. They're doing all
they know to govern, only they don't know much--take no notice of his
reverence, he always gets like this round about meal times."

The voice of the black-coated priest grew louder. He stood before the
barred window, crossing himself incessantly.

"It is the celebration of the Divine Mystery," said Malinkoff in a low
voice, and removed his cap.

"For our holy fathers the high priests Basil the Great, Gregory the
Divine, Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, for Peter and Alexis and Jonas, and
all holy high priests," groaned the man, "for the holy wonder workers,
the disinterested Cosmas and Damiauns, Cyrus and John, Pantaleon and
Hermolaus, and all unmercenary saints...!

"By the intercession of these, look down upon us, O God!"

He walked back to his seat and, taking compassion upon this man with a
white, drawn face, Malcolm went to him.

"Little father," he said, "is there anything we can do for you?"

He produced his cigarette case, but the pope shook his head.

"There is nothing, my son" he replied in a weary voice, which he did
not raise above one monotonous tone, "unless you can find the means of
bringing Boolba to this cell. Oh, for an hour of the old life!" He
raised his hand and his voice at the same moment, and the colour came to
his cheeks. "I would take this Boolba," he said, "as holy Ivan took the
traitors before the Kremlin, and first I would pour boiling hot water
upon him and then ice cold water, and then I would flay him, suspending
him by the ankles; then before he was dead I would cut him in four
pieces----"

"Phew!" said Malcolm, and walked away.

"Did you expect to find a penitent soul?" asked Malinkoff dryly. "My
dear fellow, there is very little difference between the Russian of
to-day and the Russian of twelve months ago, with this exception, that
the men who had it easy are now having it hard, and those who had to
work and to be judged are now the judges."

Malcolm said nothing. He went to the bench and making himself as
comfortable as possible he lay down. It was astounding that he could be,
as he was, accustomed to captivity in the space of a few hours. He might
have lived in bondage all his life, and he would be prepared to live for
ever so long as--he did not want to think of the girl, that sweeper of
Boolba's.

As to his own fate he was indifferent. Somehow he believed that he was
not destined to die in this horrible place, and prayed that at least he
might see the girl once more before he fell a victim to the malice of
the ex-butler.

To his agony of mind was added a more prosaic distress--he was
ravenously hungry, a sensation which was shared by his two companions.

"I've never known them to be so late," complained Cherry Bim
regretfully. "There's usually a bit of black bread, if there's nothing
else."

He walked to the window and, leaning his arms on the sill, looked
disconsolately forth.

"Hi, Ruski!" he yelled at some person unseen, and the other inmates of
the room could see him making extravagant pantomime, which produced
nothing in the shape of food.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon, and Malcolm was dozing, when they
heard the grate of the key in the lock and the slipping of bolts, then
the door opened slowly. Malcolm leapt forward.

"Irene--your Highness!" he gasped.

The girl walked into the cell without a word, and put the big basket she
had been carrying upon the table. There was a faint colour in the face
she turned to Malcolm. Her hands were outstretched to him, and he caught
them in his own and held them together.

"Poor little girl!"

She smiled.

"Mr. Hay, you have made good progress in your Russian since I met you
last," she said. "General Malinkoff, isn't it?"

The general stood strictly to attention, his hand at his cap--a fact
which seemed to afford great amusement to the gaoler who stood in the
doorway, and who was an interested spectator.

"It was Boolba's idea that I should bring you food," said the girl, "and
I have been ordered to bring it to you every day. I have an idea that he
thinks"--she stopped--"that he thinks I like you," she went on frankly,
"and of course that is true. I like all people who fly into danger to
rescue distressed females," she smiled.

"Can anything be done for you?" asked Malcolm in a low voice. "Can't you
get away from this place? Have you no friends?"

She shook her head.

"I have one friend," she said, "who is in even greater danger than
I--no, I do not mean you. Mr. Hay"--she lowered her voice--"there may be
a chance of getting you out of this horrible place, but it is a very
faint chance. Will you promise me that if you get away you will leave
Russia at once?"

He shook his head.

"You asked me that once before, your Highness," he said. "I am less
inclined to leave Russia now than I was in the old days, when the danger
was not so evident."

"Highness"--it was the priest who spoke--"your magnificence has brought
me food also? Highness, I served your magnificent father. Do you not
remember Gregory the priest in the cathedral at Vladimir?"

She shook her head.

"I have food for you, father," she said, "but I do not recall you."

"Highness" he spoke eagerly and his eyes were blazing, "since you go
free, will you not say a prayer for me before the miraculous Virgin? Or,
better still, before the tomb of the holy and sainted Dimitry in the
cathedral of the Archangel! And, lady," he seized her hand in entreaty,
"before the relics of St. Philip the Martyr in our Holy Cathedral of the
Assumption."

Gently the girl disengaged her arm.

"Father, I will pray for you," she said. "Good-bye!" she said to
Malcolm, and again extended both her hands, "till to-morrow!"

Malcolm raised the hands to his lips, and stood like a man in a dream,
long after the door had slammed behind her.

"Gee!" said the voice of Cherry Bim with a long sigh. "She don't
remember me, an' I don't know whether to be glad or sorry--some peach!"

Malcolm turned on him savagely, but it was evident the man had meant no
harm.

"She is a friend of mine," he said sharply.

"Sure she is," said the placid Cherry, unpacking the basket, "and the
right kind of friend. If this isn't caviare! Say, shut your eyes, and
you'd think you were at Rectoris."




CHAPTER XIII

CHERRY BIM MAKES A STATEMENT


Malcolm was awakened in the night by a scream. He sprang from the bench,
his face bathed in perspiration.

"What was that?" he asked hoarsely.

Malinkoff was sitting on the edge of the bench rubbing his eyes.

"I heard something," he yawned.

Only Cheery Bim had not moved. He was lying on his back with his knees
up and his hands behind his head, wide awake.

"What was it, Cherry?" asked Malcolm.

Slowly the little man rose and stretched himself.

"I wonder what the time is," he said evasively.

Malcolm looked at his watch.

"Half-past three," he replied.

"He's asleep anyway," said Cherry, nodding towards the recumbent figure
of the priest. "He might have been useful--but I forgot the old man's a
Jew."

"Do you mean----?" said Malinkoff and glanced at the gate.

Cherry nodded again.

"I never thought they'd carry it out according to programme," he said,
"but they did. I heard 'em come in."

There was the thud of a door closing.

"That's the door of his cell. They have taken him out, I guess. The last
fellow they killed in there they hung on a hook--just put a rope round
his neck and pushed him in a bag. He was a long time dying," he said
reflectively, and Malcolm saw that the little man's lower lip was
trembling in spite of his calm, matter-of-fact tone.

Malinkoff had walked across to the priest, and had shaken him awake.

"Father," he said, "a man has just died in the next cell. Would you not
read the Office of the Dead?"

The priest rose with an ill grace.

"Why should I be awakened from my sleep?" he complained. "Who is this
man?"

"I do not know his name," said Malinkoff, "but he is a Jew----"

"A Jew!"

The priest spat on the ground contemptuously.

"What, I speak an office for a Jew?" he demanded, wrath in his face.

"For a man, for a human fellow creature," said Malinkoff sternly, but
the priest had gone back to his hard couch, nor would he leave it, and
Malinkoff, with a shrug of his shoulders, went back to his bed.

"That is Russia--eternal Russia," he said, and he spoke without
bitterness. "Neither Czar nor Soviet will alter it."

They did not go to sleep again. Something was speaking to them from the
next cell, something that whimpered and raised its hands in appeal, and
they welcomed the daylight, but not the diversion which daylight
brought. Again the door banged open, and this time a file of soldiers
stood in the entrance.

"Boris Michaelovitch," said the dark figure in the entrance, "it is the
hour!"

The priest rose slowly. His face was grey, the hands clasped together
before him shook; nevertheless, he walked firmly to the door.

Before the soldiers had closed around him he turned and raised his hand
in blessing, and Malinkoff fell upon his knees.

Again the door slammed and the bolts shot home, and they waited in
silence.

There was no sound for ten minutes, then came a crash of musketry, so
unexpected and so loud that it almost deafened them. A second volley
followed, and after an interval a third, and then silence. Cherry Bim
wiped his forehead.

"Three this morning," he said unsteadily. "Anyway, it's better than
hanging."

There was a long pause, and then:

"Say," he said, "I'm sorry I said I was glad that guy was going."

Malcolm understood.

The day brought Irene at the same hour as on the previous afternoon. She
looked around for the priest, and apparently understood, for she made no
reference to the missing man.

"If you can get away from here," she said, "go to Preopojenski. That is
a village a few versts from here. I tell you this, but----"

She did not complete her sentence, but Malcolm could guess from the
hopeless despair in her voice.

"Excuse me, miss," interrupted Cherry Bim. "Ain't there any way of
getting a gun for a man? Any old kind of gun," he said urgently; "Colt,
Smith-Wesson, Browning, Mauser--I can handle 'em all--but Colt
preferred."

She shook her head sadly.

"It is impossible," she said. "I am searched every time I come in
through the lodge."

"In a pie," urged Cherry. "I've read in stories how you can get these
things in a pie. Couldn't you make----"

"It's quite impossible," she said. "Even bread is cut into four pieces.
That is done in the lodge."

Cherry Bim cast envious eyes on the tall guard at the doorway. He had a
long revolver.

"I'll bet," said Cherry bitterly, "he don't know any more about a gun
than a school-marm. Why, he couldn't hit a house unless he was inside of
it."

"I must go now," said the girl hastily.

"Tell me one thing," said Malcolm. "You spoke yesterday of having one
friend. Is that friend Israel Kensky?"

"Hush!" she said.

She took his hand in both of hers.

"Good-bye, Mr. Hay," she said. "I may not come to-morrow."

Her voice was hard and strained, and she seemed anxious to end the
interview.

"Boolba told me this morning," she went on, speaking rapidly but little
above a whisper, "that he had----certain plans about me. Good-bye, Mr.
Hay!"

This time she shook hands with Malinkoff.

"Don't forget the village of Preopojensky," she repeated. "There is only
the slightest chance, but if God is merciful and you reach the outside
world, you will find the house of Ivan Petroff--please remember that."
And in a minute she was gone.

"I wonder what was wrong," said Malcolm. "She was not so frightened
when she came in, then she changed as though----"

Looking round he had seen, only for the fraction of a second, a hand
through the grating over the bench. Someone had been listening in the
next cell, and the girl had seen him. He sprang upon a bench and peered
through, in time to see the man vanish beyond the angle of his vision.
Malinkoff was lighting his last cigarette.

"My friend," he said, "I have an idea that in the early hours of the
morning you and I will go the same way as the unfortunate priest."

"What makes you think so?" asked Malcolm quickly.

"Not only do I, but the Grand Duchess thinks so also," said Malinkoff.
"Possibly this is news."

Again the door was opened, and this time it was an officer of the Red
Guard who appeared. He had evidently been chosen because of his
knowledge of English.

"I want the thief," he said tersely in that language.

"That sounds remarkably like me," said Cherry.

He put on his Derby hat slowly and went forth in his shirt-sleeves. They
watched him through the window being taken across the courtyard and
through the archway which led to the prison offices and the outer gate.

"They haven't released him, I suppose?" asked Malcolm, and Malinkoff
shook his head.

"He is to be interrogated," he said. "Evidently there is something which
Boolba wants to know about us, and which he believes this man will
tell."

Malcolm was silent, turning matters over in his mind.

"He won't tell anything that will injure us," he said.

"But the man is a crook," said Malinkoff; "that is the word, isn't it?"

"That's the word," agreed Malcolm grimly, "but he's also a man of my own
race and breed, and whilst I would not trust him with my pocket-book--or
I should not have trusted him before I came in here--I think I can trust
him with my life, supposing that he has my life in his hands."

In twenty minutes Cherry Bim was back, very solemn and mysterious until
the gaoler was gone. Then he asked:

"Who is Israel Kensky, anyway?"

"Why?" asked Malcolm quickly.

"Because I'm going to make a statement about him--a written statement,"
he said cheerfully. "I'm going to have a room all to myself," he spoke
slowly as though he were repeating something which he had already told
himself, "because I am not a quick writer. Then I am going to tell all
that she said about Israel Kensky."

"You can tell that in a second," said Malcolm sternly, and the little
man raised a lofty hand.

"Don't get up in the air."

"Why have they sent you back now?"

"To ask a question or two," said Cherry.

He put on his coat, examined the interior of his hat thoughtfully, and
jammed it down on his head.

"Ten minutes are supposed to elapse," he said melodramatically, "passed
in light and airy conversation about a book--the 'Book of--of----"

"'All-Power'?" said Malcolm.

"That's the fellow. I should say it's the history of this darned place.
Here they come."

He pulled down his coat, brushed his sleeves and stepped forward briskly
to meet the English-speaking officer.

They passed an anxious two hours before he returned, and, if anything,
he was more solemn than ever. He made no reply to their questions, but
paced the room, and then he began to sing, and his tune had more reason
than rhyme.

"Look through the grating," he chanted, "see if anybody is watching or
listening, my honey, oh my honey!"

"There's nobody there," said Malcolm after a brief inspection.

"He'll be back again in five minutes," said Cherry, stopping his song
and speaking rapidly. "I told him I wanted to be sure on one point, and
he brought me back. I could have done it, but I wouldn't leave you
alone."

"Done what?" asked Malcolm.

"Saved myself. Do you know what I saw when I got into that room for the
first time? The guy in charge was locking away in a desk three guns and
about ten packets of shells. It sounds like a fairy story, but it's
true, and it's a desk with a lock that you could open with your teeth!"

It was Malinkoff who saw the possibilities of the situation which the
man described.

"And they left you alone in the room?" he asked quickly.

"Sure," said Cherry. "Lift my hat, and lift it steady."

Malcolm pulled his hat up, and the butt of a revolver slipped out.

"There's a Browning there--be careful," said Cherry, ducking his head
and pulling off his hat in one motion. "Here's the other under my arm,"
he put his hand beneath his coat and pulled out a Colt.

"Here are the shells for the automatic. I'll take the long fellow. Now
listen, you boys," said Cherry. "Through that gateway at the end of the
yard, you come to another yard and another gate, which has a guard on
it. Whether we get away or whether we don't, depends on whether our luck
is in or out."

"Look!" he whispered, "here comes Percy!"

The door swung open and the officer beckoned Cherry forward with a lift
of his chin. Cherry walked toward him and the officer half turned in the
attitude of one who was showing another out. Cherry's hand shot out,
caught the man by the loose of his tunic and swung him into the room.

"Laugh and the world laughs with you," said Cherry, who had an
assortment of literary quotations culled from heaven knows where. "Shout
and you sleep alone!"

The muzzle of a long-barrelled '45 was stuck in the man's stomach. He
did not see it, but he guessed it, and his hands went up.

"Tie him up--he wears braces," said Cherry. "I'll take that belt of
deadly weapons." He pulled one revolver from the man's holster and
examined it with an expert's eye. "Not been cleaned for a month," he
growled; "you don't deserve to be trusted with a gun."

He strapped the belt about his waist and sighed happily.

They gagged the man with a handkerchief, and threw him ungently upon
the bench before they passed through the open door to comparative
freedom. Cherry locked and bolted the door behind them, and pulled down
the outer shutter, with which, on occasions, the gaoler made life in the
cells a little more unendurable by excluding the light. The cells were
below the level of the courtyard, and they moved along the trench from
which they opened.

Pacing his beat by the gateway was a solitary sentry.

"Stay here," whispered Cherry; "he has seen me going backward and
forward, and maybe he thinks I'm one of the official classes."

He mounted the step leading up from the trench, and walked boldly toward
the gateway. Nearing the man, he turned to wave a greeting to an
imaginary companion. In reality he was looking to see whether there were
any observers of the act which was to follow.

Watching him, they did not see exactly what had happened. Suddenly the
soldier doubled up like a jack-knife and fell.

Cherry bent over him, lifted the rifle and stood it against the wall,
then, exhibiting remarkable strength for so small a man, he picked up
the man in his arms and dropped him into the trench which terminated at
the gateway. They heard the thud of his body, and, breaking cover, they
raced across the yard, joining Cherry, who led the way through the deep
arch.

Now they saw the outer barrier. It consisted of a formidable iron
grille. To their right was a gloomy building, which Malcolm judged was
the bureau of the prison, to the left a high wall. On either side of the
gateway was a squat lodge, and before these were half a dozen soldiers,
some leaning against the gate, some sitting in the doorway of the
lodges, but all carrying rifles.

"This way," said Cherry under his breath, and turned into the office.

The door of the room on his left was open, and into this they walked. It
was empty, but scarcely had they closed the door than there were
footsteps outside. Cherry, with a gun in each hand, a hard and ugly grin
on his fat face, covered the door, but the footsteps passed.

There was a babble of voices outside and a rattle and creak of gates.
Malcolm crept to the one window which the office held (he guessed it was
here that Cherry had written his "statement"), and peeped cautiously
forth.

A big closed auto was entering the gate, and he pulled his head back.
Cherry was at his side.

"Somebody visiting--a fellow high up," whispered the latter hoarsely;
"they'll come in here, the guy we left in the cell told me he'd want
this room. Try that door!"

He pointed to a tall press and Malinkoff was there in a second. The
press was evidently used for the storage of stationery. There was one
shelf, half way up, laden with packages of paper, and Malinkoff lifted
one end. The other slipped and the packets dropped with a crash. But the
purring of the auto in the yard was noisy enough to drown the sound
unless somebody was outside the door.

"Three can squeeze in--you go first, Mr. Hay."

It was more than a squeeze, it was a torture, but the door closed on
them.

Malcolm had an insane desire to laugh, but he checked it at the sound of
a voice--for it was the voice of Boolba.

"I cannot stay very long, comrade," he was saying as he entered the
room, "but...."

The rest was a mumble.

"I will see that she is kept by herself," said a strange voice,
evidently of someone in authority at the prison.

Malcolm bit his lips to check the cry that rose.

"Irene!"

"..." Boolba's deep voice was again a rumble.

"Yes, comrade, I will bring her in ... let me lead you to a chair."

He evidently went to the door and called, and immediately there was a
tramp of feet.

"What does this mean, Boolba?"

Malcolm knew the voice--he had heard it before--and his relief was such
that all sense of his own danger passed.

"Sophia Kensky," Boolba was speaking now, "you are under arrest by order
of the Soviet."

"Arrest!" the word was screamed, "me----?"

"You are plotting against the Revolution, and your wickedness has been
discovered," said Boolba. "_Matinshka!_ Little mama, it is ordered!"

"You lie! You lie!" she screeched. "You blind devil--I spit on you! You
arrest me because you want the aristocrat Irene Yaroslav! Blind pig!"

"_Prekanzeno, dushinka!_ It is ordered, dear little soul," murmured
Boolba. "I go back alone--listen! My auto is turning. I go back alone,
_drushka_, and who shall be my eyes now that my little mama is gone?"

They heard the chair pushed back as he rose and the scream and flurry as
she leapt at him.

"Keep her away, little comrade," roared Boolba. "Keep her away--I am
blind; her father blinded me; keep her away!"

It was Cherry Bim who slipped first from the cupboard.

Under the menace of his guns the soldiers fell back.

"Auto Russki--hold up the guard, Hay," he muttered, and Malinkoff jumped
through the doorway to the step of the big car in one bound.

Cherry held the room. He spoke no Russian, but his guns were
multi-lingual. There was a shot outside before he fired three times into
the room. Then he fell back, slamming the door, and jumped into the car
as it moved through the open gateway.

Malcolm was on one footboard, Malinkoff by the side of the chauffeur on
the other.

So they rocked through the ill-paved streets of Moscow, and rushed the
suburban barricade without mishap.




CHAPTER XIV

IN THE HOLY VILLAGE


"Preopojensky, but by a circuitous route," said Malinkoff, speaking
across the chauffeur. "What about the wires?"

He looked up at the telegraph lines, looping from pole to pole, and
Malcolm thrust his head into the window of the limousine to communicate
this danger to the sybaritic Mr. Bim, who was spraying himself with
perfume from a bottle he had found in the well-equipped interior of the
car.

"Stop," said Cherry. "We're well away from Moscow."

At a word from Malinkoff the chauffeur brought the car to a standstill
and Cherry slipped out, revolver in hand.

Then to the amazement of Malcolm and the unfeigned admiration of the
general, Cherry Bim made good his boast. Four times his gun cracked and
at each shot a line broke.

"To be repeated at intervals," said Cherry, climbing into the car. "Wake
me in half an hour," and, curling himself up in the luxurious depths of
swansdown cushions, he fell asleep.

Happily Malinkoff knew the country to an inch. They were not able to
avoid the villages without avoiding the roads, but they circumnavigated
the towns. At nightfall they were in the depths of a wood which ran down
to the edge of the big lake on which the holy village of Preopojensky
stands.

"The chauffeur is not the difficulty I thought he would be," reported
Malinkoff; "he used to drive Korniloff in the days when he was a
divisional general, and he is willing to throw in his lot with ours."

"Can you trust him!" asked Malcolm.

"I think so," said Malinkoff, "unless we shoot him we simply must trust
him--what do you think, Mr. Bim?"

"You can call me Cherry," said that worthy. He was eating bread and sour
cheese which had been bought at a fabulous price in one of the villages
through which they had passed. Here again they might have been compelled
to an act which would have called attention to their lawless character,
for they had no money, had it not been for Cherry. He financed the party
from the lining of his waistcoat (Malcolm remembered that the little man
had never discarded this garment, sleeping or waking) and made a casual
reference to the diamonds which had gone to his account via a
soi-disant princess and the favourite of a Commissary.

"Anyway," he said, "we could have got it from the chauffeur--he's open
to reason."

They did not ask him what argument he would have employed, but were glad
subsequently that these arguments had not been used.

What was as necessary as food was petrol. Peter the chauffeur said that
there were big army supplies in Preopojensky itself, and undertook to
steal sufficient to keep the car running for a week.

They waited until it was dark before they left the cover of the wood,
and walked in single file along a cart-track to the half a dozen
blinking lights that stood for Preopojensky.

The car they had pulled into deeper cover, marking the place with a
splinter of mirror broken from its silver frame.

"Nothing like a mirror," explained Cherry Bim. "You've only to strike a
match, and it shows a light for you."

The way was a long one, but presently they came to a good road which
crossed the track at right angles, but which curved round until it ran
parallel with the path they had followed.

"There is the military store," whispered the chauffeur. "I will go now,
my little general."

"I trust you, _drushka_," said Malinkoff.

"By the head of my mother I will not betray you," said the man, and
disappeared in the darkness.

After this they held a council of war.

"So far as I can remember, Petroff is the silk merchant," said
Malinkoff, "and his house is the first big residence we reach coming
from this direction. I remember it because I was on duty at the
Coronation of the Emperor, and his Imperial Majesty came to
Preopojensky, which is a sacred place for the Royal House. Peter the
Great lived here."

Luck was with them, for they had not gone far before they heard a voice
bellowing a mournful song, and came up with its owner, a worker in the
silk mills (they had long since ceased to work) who was under the
influence of methylated spirit--a favourite tipple since vodka had been
ukased out of existence.

"Ivan Petroff, son of Ivan?" he hiccoughed.

"Yes, my little dove, it is there. He is a boorjoo and an aristocrat,
and there is no Czar and no God!--_prikanzerio_--it is ordered by the
Soviet!..."

And he began to weep

"No Czar and no God! Long live the Revolution! Evivo! No blessed saints
and no Czar! And I was of the Rasholnik!..."

They left him weeping by the roadside.

"The Rasholniks are the dissenters of Russia--this village was a hotbed
of them, but they've gone the way of the rest," said Malinkoff sadly.

The house they approached was a big wooden structure ornamented with
perfectly useless cupolas and domes, so that Malcolm thought at first
that this was one of the innumerable churches in which the village
abounded.

There was a broad flight of wooden stairs leading to the door, but this
they avoided. A handful of gravel at a likely-looking upper window
seemed a solution. The response was immediate. Though no light appeared,
the window swung open and a voice asked softly:

"Who is that?"

"We are from Irene," answered Malcolm in the same tone.

The window closed, and presently they heard a door unfastened and
followed the sound along the path which ran close to the house. It was a
small side door that was opened, and Malcolm led the way through.

Their invisible host closed the door behind them, and they heard the
clink of a chain.

"If you have not been here before, keep straight on, touching the wall
with your right hand. Where it stops turn sharply to the right," said
the unknown rapidly.

They followed his directions, and found the branch passage.

"Wait," said the voice.

The man passed them. They heard him turn a handle.

"Straight ahead you will find the door."

They obeyed, and their conductor struck a match and lit an oil lamp.
They were in the long room--they guessed that by the glow of the closed
stove they had seen as they entered.

The windows were heavily shuttered and curtained, and even the door was
hidden under a thick portière. The man who had brought them in was
middle-aged and poorly dressed, but then this was a time when everybody
in Russia was poorly dressed, and his shabbiness did not preclude the
possibility of his being the proprietor of the house, as indeed he was.

He was eyeing them with suspicion, not wholly unjustified, for the
patent respectability of Cherry's Derby hat was no compensation for the
armoury belted about his rotund middle.

But when the man's eyes fell upon Malinkoff, his whole demeanour
changed, and he advanced with outstretched hand.

"General Malinkoff," he said, "you remember me; I entertained you
at----"

"At Kieff! Of course!" smiled Malinkoff. "I did not know the Ivan
Petroff of Moscow was the Ivan of the Ukraine."

"Now, gentlemen, what is your wish?" asked the man, and Malinkoff
explained the object of the visit.

Petroff looked serious.

"Of course, I will do anything her Highness wishes," he said. "I saw her
yesterday, and she told me that she had a dear friend in St. Basil."
Malcolm tried to look unconcerned under Malinkoff's swift scrutiny and
failed. "But I think she wished you to meet another--guest."

He paused.

"He has gone into Moscow to-night against my wishes," he said with
trouble in his face; "such an old man----"

"Kensky?" said Malcolm quickly.

"Kensky." The tone was short. "I told him that no good would come of
it--her Highness was married to-night."

Malcolm took a step forward, but it was an unsteady step.

"Married?" he repeated. "To whom was she married?"

Petroff looked down at the floor as though he dare not meet the eye of
any man and say so monstrous a thing.

"To the servant Boolba," he said.




CHAPTER XV

THE RED BRIDE


Irene Yaroslav came back to the home which had always been associated in
her mind with unhappy memories, to meet the culminating disaster which
Fate had wrought. Whatever thoughts of escape she may have treasured in
secret were cut into by the sure knowledge that she was watched day and
night, and were now finally terminated by the discovery that the big
apartment house, a suite of which Boolba had taken for her disposal when
he had ousted her from her father's house, was practically in possession
of the Soviet Guard.

She drove to the palace with an undisguised escort of mounted men, one
on either side of the carriage, one before and one behind, and went up
the stairs--those grim stairs which had frightened her as a child and
had filled her nights with dreams, passing on her way the now empty
bureau which it had been Boolba's whim for her to keep.

Maria Badisikaya, an officer of the Committee for the Suppression of
the Counter-Revolution, formerly an operative in the Moscow Cigarette
Company, was waiting in the small drawing-room which still retained some
of its ancient splendour. Maria was a short, stumpy woman with a slight
moustache and a wart on her chin, and was dressed in green satin, cut
low to disclose her generous figure. About her stiff, coal-black hair
was a heavy diamond bandeau. She was sitting on a settee, her feet
hardly touching the ground, cleaning her nails with a little
pocket-knife as the girl entered. Evidently this was her maid of honour,
and she could have laughed.

The woman glowered up at her and jumped briskly to her feet, closing the
knife and slipping it into her corsage.

"You are late, Irene Yaroslav," she said shrilly. "I have something
better to do than to sit here waiting for a boorjoo. There is a
committee meeting at ten o'clock to-night. How do you imagine I can
attend that? Come, come!"

She bustled into an ante-room.

"Here is your dress, my little bride. See, there is everything, even to
stockings--Boolba has thought of all, yet he will not see! La! la! What
a man!"

Numerous articles of attire were laid out on chairs and on the back of
the sofa, and the girl, looking at them, shuddered. It was Boolba's
idea--nobody but Boolba would have thought of it. Every garment was of
red, blood red, a red which seemed to fill the room with harsh sound.
Stockings of finest silk, shoes of russian leather, cobweb
underwear--but all of the same hideous hue. In Russia the word "red" is
also the word "beautiful." In a language in which so many delicate
shades of meaning can be expressed, this word serves a double purpose,
doing duty for that which, in the eyes of civilized people, is garish,
and that which is almost divine.

Maria's manner changed suddenly. From the impatient, slightly pompous
official, conscious of her position, she became obsequious and even
affectionate. Possibly she remembered that the girl was to become the
wife of the most powerful man in Moscow, whose word was amply sufficient
to send even Gregory Prodol to the execution yard, and Gregory's
position seemed unassailable.

"I will help you to dress, my little dear," she said. "Let me take your
hat, my little dove."

"I would rather be alone," said the girl. "Will you please wait in the
next room, Maria Badisikaya?"

"But I can help you so, my little darling," said the woman, fussing
about. "A bride has no luck for thirty years if she puts on her own
stockings."

"Go!" said the girl imperiously, and the woman cringed.

"Certainly, Excellenz," she stammered, and went out without another
word.

The girl changed quickly, and surveyed herself in the pier glass at the
end of the room. It was striking but horrible. There came a tap at the
door and the agitated Maria entered.

"He has sent for you, my little dove," she said. "Come, take my arm. Do
not tremble, my little pretty. Boolba is a good man and the greatest man
in Moscow."

She would have taken the girl's arm, but Irene waved her aside, and
walked swiftly from the drawing-room into the grand saloon. She wanted
the ordeal over as soon as possible.

The room was crowded, and though many of the electric lamps in the great
glass chandelier were not in working order and a broken fuse had put
half the wall brackets in darkness, the light was almost dazzling. This
wonderful saloon, where ten Czars had eaten bread and salt with ten
generations of Yaroslavs, was thick with humanity. Some of the men were
in uniform, some were in a nondescript costume which was the Soviet
compromise between evening-dress and diplomatic uniform. One man wore a
correct evening-jacket and a white waistcoat with a perfectly starched
shirt, over uniform trousers and top-boots. The women were as weirdly
clothed. Some were shabby to the point of rags, a few wore court dresses
of the approved pattern, and there was one woman dressed like a man, who
smoked all the time. The air was blue with tobacco smoke and buzzing
with sound.

As she came into the saloon somebody shouted her name, and there was
vigorous applause, not for her, she knew, nor for the name she bore, but
for the novelty and the "beauty" of her wedding gown.

At the farther end of the room was a table covered with a red cloth, and
behind it sat a man in evening-dress, whom she recognized as one of the
newly-appointed magistrates of the city. Nudged behind by Maria, she
made her way through the press of people, whose admiring comments were
spoken loud enough for her to hear.

"What a little beauty! Too good for a blind man, eh?"

"We have knelt for her many times, now she shall kneel for us."

"Such a dress! This Boolba is a wonderful fellow."

She halted before the table, her hands clasped lightly in front of her.
Her head was high, and she met every glance steadily and disdainfully.

The clock struck a quarter after ten when Boolba made his entrance
amidst a storm of applause.

They had never seen him in such a uniform before. Some thought it was a
new costume which had been sanctioned by the supreme Soviet for its
Commissaries; others that it had been planned especially for the
marriage. Irene alone knew it, and a cold, disdainful smile lit for a
moment her expressionless face.

She had seen Boolba in knee-breeches and white silk stockings before;
she knew the coat of green and gold which the retainers of the house of
Yaroslav wore on state occasions. Boolba was marrying her in his
butler's livery--a delicate piece of vengeance.

The ceremony was short, and, to the girl, unreal. Religious marriages,
though they had not altogether been banned, were regarded by the
official Russia as unnecessary, and a new marriage service had been
designed, which confined the ceremony to the space of a few minutes. The
attempts to abolish marriage altogether had been strenuously opposed,
not so much by the public women who were on the innumerable councils and
committees, but by the wives of the more important members of the
organization.

Boolba was led to her side, and reached out his hand gropingly, and in
very pity of his blindness she took it. Questions were asked him, to
which he responded and similar questions were asked her, to which she
made no reply. The whole ceremony was a farce, and she had agreed to it
only because it gave her a little extra time, and every minute counted.
From the moment the magistrate pronounced the formula which made them,
in the eyes of the Soviet law at any rate, man and wife, Boolba never
loosened his hold of her.

He held her hand in his own big, hot palm, until it was wet and her
fingers lost all feeling. From group to group they moved, and when they
crossed the dancing space of the saloon, the revellers stepped aside to
allow the man to pass. She noticed that in the main they confined
themselves to country dances, some of which were new to her. And all the
time Boolba kept up a continuous conversation in an undertone, pinching
her hand gently whenever he wanted to attract her attention.

"Tell me, my new eyes, my little pigeon of God, what are they doing now?
Do you see Mishka Gurki? She is a silly woman. Tell me, my little pet,
if you see her. Watch her well, and tell me how she looks at me. That
woman is an enemy of the Revolution and a friend of Sophia Kensky....
Ah! it is sad about your poor friends."

The girl turned cold and clenched her teeth to take the news which was
coming.

"They tried to escape and they were shot down by our brave guard. I
would have pardoned them for your sake, all but the thief, who broke
the jaw of comrade Alex Alexandroff. Yes, I would have pardoned them
to-night, because I am happy. Else they would have died with Sophia
Kensky in the morning.... Do I not please you, that I put away this
woman, who was my eyes and saw for me--all for your sake, my little
pigeon, all for your sake!... Do you see a big man with one eye? He has
half my misfortune, yet he sees a million times more than Boolba! That
is the butcher Kreml--some day he shall see the Kreml[A]," he
chuckled.... "Why do you not speak, my darling little mama? Are you
thinking of the days when I was Boolba the slave? Na, na, _stoi_! Think
of to-day, to-night, my little child of Jesus!"

There were times when she could have screamed, moments of madness when
she longed to pick up one of the champagne bottles which littered the
floor, and at intervals were thrown with a crash into a corner of the
room, and strike him across that great brutal face. There were times
when she was physically sick and the room spun round and round and she
would have fallen but for the man's arm. But the hour she dreaded most
of all came at last, when, one by one, with coarse jests at her
expense, the motley company melted away and left her alone with the
man.

"They have all gone?" he asked eagerly. "Every one?"

He clutched more tightly.

"To my room. We have a supper for ourselves. They are pigs, all these
fellows, my little beautiful."

The old carpet was still on the stairs, she noticed dully. Up above used
to be her own room, at the far end of the long passage. She had a piano
there once. She wondered whether it was still there. There used to be a
servant at the head and at the foot of these stairs--a long,
green-coated Cossack, to pass whom without authority was to court death.
The room on the left had been her father's--two big saloons, separated
by heavy silken curtains; his bureau was at one end, his bedroom at the
other.

It was into the bureau that the man groped his way. A table had been
set, crowded with bottles and glasses, piled with fruit, sweetmeats, and
at the end the inevitable samovar.

"I will lock the door," said Boolba. "Now you shall kiss me on the eyes
and on the mouth and on the cheeks, making the holy cross."

She braced herself for the effort, and wrenched free. In a flash he came
at her, and his hands caught the silken gown at the shoulder. She
twisted under his arm, leaving a length of tattered and torn silk in
his hand, and the marks of his finger-nails upon her white shoulder. He
stopped and laughed--a low, gurgling laugh--and it was to the girl like
the roar of some subterranean river heard from afar.

"Oh, Highness," he mocked, "would you rob a blind man of his bride? Then
let us be blind together!"

He blundered to the door. There was a click, and the room was in
darkness.

"I am better than you now," he said. "I hear you in the dark; I can
almost see you. You are by the corner of the table. Now you are pushing
a chair. Little pigeon, come to me!"

Whilst he was talking she was safe because she could locate him. It was
when he was silent that she was filled with wild fear. He moved as
softly as a cat, and it seemed that his boast of seeing in the dark was
almost justified. Once his hand brushed her and she shrank back only
just in time. The man was breathing heavily now, and the old, mocking
terms of endearment had changed.

"Come to me, Irene Yaroslav!" he roared. "Have I not often run to you?
Have I not waited throughout the night to take your wraps and bring you
coffee? Now you shall wait on me by Inokente! You shall be eyes and
hands for me, and when I am tired of you, you shall go the way of Sophia
Kensky."

She was edging her way to the door. Once she could switch on the light
she was safe, at any rate for the time being. There was a long silence,
and, try as she did, she could not locate him. He must have been
crouching near the door, anticipating her move, for as her hand fell on
the switch and the lights sprang into being, he leapt at her. She saw
him, but too late to avoid his whirling hands. In a second he had her in
his arms. The man was half mad. He cursed and blessed her alternately,
called her his little pigeon and his little devil in the same breath.
She felt the tickle of his beard against her bare shoulder, and strove
to push him off.

"Come, my little peach," he said. "Who shall say that there is no
justice in Russia, when Yaroslav's daughter is the bride of Boolba!"

His back was to the curtain, and he was half lifting, half drawing her
to the two grey strips which marked its division, when the girl
screamed.

"Again, again, my little dear," grinned Boolba. "That is fine music."

But it was not her own danger which had provoked the cry. It was that
vision, twice seen in her lifetime, of dead white hands, blue-veined,
coming from the curtain and holding this time a scarlet cord.

It was about Boolba's neck before he realized what had happened. With a
strangled cry he released the girl, and she fell back again on the
table, overturning it with a crash.

"This way, Highness," said a hollow voice, and she darted through the
curtains.

She heard the shock of Boolba's body as it fell to the ground, and then
Israel Kensky darted past her, flung open the door and pushed her
through.

"The servants' way," he said, and she ran to the narrow staircase which
led below to the kitchen, and above to the attics in which the servants
slept.

Down the stairs, two at a time, she raced, the old man behind her. The
stairway ended in a square hall. There was a door, half ajar, leading to
the kitchen, which was filled with merrymakers, and a second door
leading into the street, and this was also open. She knew the way
blindfolded. They were in what had been the coach-yard of the Palace,
and she knew there were half a dozen ways into the street. Israel chose
the most unlikely, one which led again to the front of the house.

A drosky was waiting, and into this he bundled her, jumping in by her
side, holding her about the waist as the driver whipped up his two
horses and sped through the deserted streets of Moscow.

FOOTNOTE:

[A] "Kreml" is literally Kremlin, one of the places of
detention in Moscow.




CHAPTER XVI

THE BOOK OF ALL-POWER


Malcolm was the first to hear the sound of wheels on the roadway, and
the party listened in silence till a low whistle sounded and their host
darted out of the room.

"What was that?" asked Malinkoff. "Somebody has come to the front door."

A few minutes later Petroff staggered through the doorway, carrying the
limp figure of Irene. It was Malcolm who took the girl in his arms and
laid her upon the sofa.

"She is not dead," said a voice behind him.

He looked up; it was Israel Kensky. The old man looked white and ill. He
took the glass of wine which Ivan brought him with a shaking hand, and
wiped his beard as he looked down at the girl. There was neither
friendliness nor pity in his glance, only the curious tranquillity which
comes to the face of a man who has done that which he set out to do.

"What of Boolba?" asked Petroff eagerly

"I think he lives," said Kensky, and shook his head. "I am too weak and
too old a man to have killed him. I put the cord about his neck and
twisted it with a stick. If he can loosen the cord he will live; if he
cannot, he will die. But I think he was too strong a man to die."

"Did he know it was you?" asked Petroff.

Kensky shook his head.

"What is the hour?" he asked, and they told him that it was two o'clock.

"Sophia Kensky dies at four," he said, in such a tone of unconcern that
even Malinkoff stared at him.

"It is right that she should die," said Kensky, and they marvelled that
he, who had risked his life to save one of the class which had
persecuted his people for hundreds of years, should speak in so
matter-of-fact tones about the fate of his own blood. "She betrayed her
race and her father. It is the old law of Israel, and it is a good law.
I am going to sleep."

"Is there a chance that you have been followed?" asked Malinkoff, and
Kensky pulled at his beard thoughtfully.

"I passed a watchman at the barricade, and he was awake--that is the
only danger."

He beckoned to Malcolm, and, loth as the young man was to leave the
girl's side, now that she was showing some signs of recovering
consciousness, he accompanied the old man from the room.

"_Gospodar_," said Israel Kensky (it sounded strange to hear that old
title), "once you carried a book for me."

"I remember." Malcolm smiled in spite of himself.

"'The Book of All-Power,'" repeated the Jew quietly. "It is in my room,
and I shall ask you to repeat your service. That book I would give to
the Grand Duchess, for I have neither kith nor child, and she has been
kind to me."

"But surely, Kensky," protested Malcolm, "you, as an intelligent man, do
not believe in the potency of books or charms of incantations?"

"I believe in the 'Book of All-Power,'" said Kensky calmly. "Remember,
it is to become the property of the Grand Duchess Irene. I do not think
I have long to live," he added. "How my death will come I cannot tell,
but it is not far off. Will you go with me now and take the book?"

Malcolm hesitated. He wanted to get back to the girl, but it would have
been an ungracious act not to humour the old man, who had risked so much
for the woman he loved. He climbed the stairs to the little bedroom, and
waited at the door whilst Kensky went in. Presently the old man
returned; the book was now stitched in a canvas wrapping, and Malcolm
slipped the book into his pocket. The very act recalled another scene
which had been acted a thousand miles away, and, it seemed, a million
years ago.

"Now let us go down," said Kensky.

"Lord," he asked, as Malcolm's foot was on the stair, "do you love this
young woman?"

It would have been the sheerest affectation on his part to have evaded
the question.

"Yes, Israel Kensky," he replied, "I love her," and the old man bowed
his head.

"You are two Gentiles, and there is less difference in rank than in
race," he said. "I think you will be happy. May the Gods of Jacob and of
Abraham and of David rest upon you and prosper you. Amen!"

Never had benediction been pronounced upon him that felt so real, or
that brought such surprising comfort to the soul of Malcolm Hay. He felt
as if, in that dingy stairway, he had received the very guerdon of
manhood, and he went downstairs spiritually strengthened, and every
doubt in his mind set at rest.

The girl half rose from the couch as he came to her, and in her queer,
impulsive way put out both her hands. Five minutes before he might have
hesitated; he might have been content to feel the warmth of her palms
upon his. But now he knelt down by her side, and, slipping one arm about
her, drew her head to his shoulder. He heard the long-drawn sigh of
happiness, he felt her arm creep about his neck, and he forgot the world
and all the evil and menace it held: he forgot the grave Malinkoff, the
interested Cherry Bim, still wearing his Derby hat on the back of his
head, and girt about with the weapons of his profession. He forgot
everything except that the world was worth living for. There lay in his
arms a fragrant and a beautiful thing.

It was Petroff who put an end to the little scene.

"I have sent food into the wood for you," he said, "and my man has come
back to tell me that your chauffeur is waiting by the car. He has all
the petrol that he requires, and I do not think you should delay too
long."

The girl struggled to a sitting position, and looked with dismay at her
scarlet bridal dress.

"I cannot go like this," she said.

"I have your trunk in the house, Highness," said Petroff, and the girl
jumped up with a little cry of joy.

"I had forgotten that," she said.

She had forgotten also that she was still weak, for she swayed and would
have stumbled, had not Malcolm caught her.

"Go quickly, Highness," said Petroff urgently. "I do not think it would
be safe to stay here--safe for you or for Kensky. I have sent one of my
men on a bicycle to watch the Moscow road."

"Is that necessary?" asked Malinkoff. "Are you suspect?"

Petroff nodded.

"If Boolba learns that Kensky passed this way, he will guess that it is
to me that he came. I was in the service of the Grand Duke, and if it
were not for the fact that a former workman of mine is now Assistant
Minister of Justice in Petrograd, I should have been arrested long ago.
If Boolba finds Israel Kensky here, or the Grand Duchess, nothing can
save me. My only hope is to get you away before there is a search.
Understand, little general," he said earnestly, "if you had not the car,
I would take all risks and let you stay until you were found."

"That seems unnecessary," said Malinkoff. "I quite agree. What do you
say, Kensky?"

The old man, who had followed Malcolm down the stairs, nodded.

"I should have shot Boolba," he said thoughtfully, "but it would have
made too much noise."

"You should have used the knife, little father," said Petroff, but
Kensky shook his head.

"He wears chain armour under his clothes," he said. "All the
commissaries do."

Preparations for the journey were hurriedly made. The girl's trunk had
proved a veritable storehouse, and she came down in a short tweed skirt
and coat, her glorious hair hidden under a black tam o' shanter, and
Malcolm could scarcely take his eyes from her.

"You have a coat," said the practical Malinkoff. "That is good--you may
need it."

Crash!

It was the sound of a rifle butt against the door which struck them
dumb. Muffled by the thick wood, the voice of the knocker yet came
clearly: "Open in the name of the Revolution!"

Petroff blinked twice, and on his face was a look as though he could not
believe his ears. The girl shrank to Malcolm's side, and Malinkoff
stroked his beard softly. Only Cherry Bim seemed to realize the
necessities of the moment, and he pulled both guns simultaneously and
laid them noiselessly on the table before him.

"Open in the name of the Revolution!"

A hiss from Kensky brought them round. He beckoned them through the door
by which they had made their original entry to the room, and pointed to
the light. He gripped Petroff by the shoulder.

"Upstairs to your bedroom, friend," he said. "Put on your night-shirt
and talk to them through the window."

Down the two passages they passed and came to the little door, which
Kensky unchained and opened. He put his lips close to Malinkoff's ears.

"Do you remember the way you came?" he asked, and the general nodded and
led the way.

Last but one came Cherry Bim, a '45 in each hand. There were no soldiers
in view at the back of the house, but Malinkoff could hear their feet on
some unknown outside road, and realized that the house was in process of
being surrounded, and had the man who knocked at the door waited until
this encirclement had been completed, there would have been no chance of
escape.

They struck the main road, and found the cart track leading to the wood,
and none challenged them. There was no sound from the house, and
apparently their flight had not been discovered.

Kensky brought up the rear in spite of Cherry's frenzied injunctions,
delivered in the four words of Russian which he knew, to get a move on.
They had reached the fringe of the wood when the challenge came. Out of
the shadow rode a horseman, and brought his charger across the path.

"Halt!" he cried.

The party halted, all except Cherry, who stepped from the path and
moved swiftly forward, crouching low, to give the sentry no background.

"Who is that?" asked the man on the horse. "Speak, or I'll fire!"

He had unslung his carbine, and they heard the click of the bolt as the
breech opened and closed.

"We are friends, little father," said Malinkoff.

"Give me your names," said the sentry, and Malinkoff recited with glib
ease a list of Russian patronymics.

"That is a lie," said the man calmly. "You are boorjoos--I can tell by
your voices," and without further warning he fired into the thick of
them.

The second shot which came from the night followed so quickly upon the
first that for the second time in like circumstances the girl thought
only one had been fired. But the soldier on the horse swayed and slid to
the earth before she knew what had happened.

"Go right ahead," said the voice of Cherry Bim.

He had caught the bridle of the frightened horse, and had drawn him
aside. They quickened their steps and came up to the car, which the
thoughtful chauffeur had already cranked up at the sound of the shots.

"Where is Kensky?" asked Malcolm suddenly, "did you see him, Cherry?"

A pause.

"Why, no," said Cherry, "I didn't see him after the lamented tragedy."

"We can't leave the old man," said Malcolm.

"Wait," said the little gun-man. "I will go back and look for him."

Five minutes, ten passed and still there was no sign or sound of Israel
Kensky or of Cherry. Then a shot broke the stillness of the night, and
another and another.

"Two rifles and one revolver," said Malinkoff. "Get into the car,
Highness. Are you ready, Peter?"

There was another shot and then a fusillade. Then came slow footsteps
along the cart track, and the sound of a man's windy breathing.

"Take him, somebody," said Cherry.

Malinkoff lifted the inanimate figure from Cherry's shoulder and carried
him into the car. A voice from the darkness shouted a command, there was
a flash of fire and the "zip" of a bullet.

"Let her go, Percy," said Cherry, and blazed away with both guns into
the darkness.

He leapt for the footboard and made it by a miracle, and only once did
they hear him cry as if in pain.

"Are you hit?" asked Malcolm anxiously.

"Naw!" drawled his voice jerkily, for the road hereabouts was full of
holes, and even speech was as impossible as even riding. "Naw," he
said. "I nearly lost my hat."

He spoke only once again that night, except to refuse the offer to ride
inside the car. He preferred the footboard, he said, and explained that
as a youth it had been his ambition to be a fireman.

"I wonder," he said suddenly, breaking the silence of nearly an hour.

"What do you wonder?" asked Malinkoff, who sat nearest to the window,
where Cherry stood.

"I wonder what happened to that boy on the bicycle?"




CHAPTER XVII

ON THE ROAD


Israel Kensky died at five o'clock in the morning. They had made a rough
attempt to dress the wound in his shoulder, but, had they been the most
skilful of surgeons with the best appliances which modern surgery had
invented at their hands, they could not have saved his life. He died
literally in the arms of Irene, and they buried him in a little forest
on the edge of a sluggish stream, and Cherry Bim unconsciously delivered
the funeral oration.

"This poor old guy was a good fellow," he said. "I ain't got nothing on
the Jews as a class, except their habit of prosperity, and that just
gets the goat of people like me, who hate working for a living. He was
straight and white, and that's all you can expect any man to be, or any
woman either, with due respect to you, miss. If any of you gents would
care to utter a few words of prayer, you'll get a patient hearing from
me, because I am naturally a broad-minded man."

It was the girl who knelt by the grave, the tears streaming down her
cheeks, but what she said none heard. Cherry Bim, holding his hat crown
outward across his breast, produced the kind of face which he thought
adequate to the occasion; and, after the party had left the spot, he
stayed behind. He rejoined them after a few minutes, and he was putting
away his pocket-knife as he ran.

"Sorry to keep you, ladies and gents," he said, "but I am a sentimental
man in certain matters. I always have been and always shall be."

"What were you doing?" asked Malcolm, as the car bumped along.

Cherry Bim cleared his throat and seemed embarrassed.

"Well, to tell you the truth," he said. "I made a little cross and stuck
it over his head."

"But----" began Malcolm, and the girl's hand closed his mouth.

"Thank you, Mr. Bim," she said. "It was very, very kind of you."

"Nothing wrong, I hope?" asked Cherry in alarm.

"Nothing wrong at all," said the girl gently.

That cross over the grave of the Jew was to give them a day's respite.
Israel Kensky had left behind him in the place where he fell a fur hat
bearing his name. From the quantity of blood which the pursuers found,
they knew that he must have been mortally wounded, and it was for a
grave by the wayside that the pursuing party searched and found. It was
the cross at his head which deceived them and led them to take the ford
and try along the main road to the south of the river, on the banks of
which Kensky slept his last dreamless sleep.

The danger for the fugitives was evident.

"The most we can hope," said Malinkoff, "is to escape detection for two
days, after which we must abandon the car."

"Which way do you suggest?" asked Malcolm.

"Poland or the Ukraine," replied the general quickly. "The law of the
Moscow Soviet does not run in Little Russia or in Poland. We may get to
Odessa, but obviously we cannot go much farther like this. I have--or
had," he corrected himself, "an estate about seventy versts from here,
and I think I can still depend upon some of my people--if there are any
left alive. The car we must get rid of, but that, I think, will be a
simple matter."

They were now crossing a wide plain, which reminded Malcolm irresistibly
of the steppes of the Ukraine, and apparently had recalled the same
scene to Irene and Malinkoff. There was the same sweep of grass-land,
the same riot of flowers; genista, cornflour and clover dabbled the
green, and dwarf oaks and poverty-stricken birches stood in lonely
patches.

"Here is a Russia which the plough has never touched," said Malinkoff.
"Does it not seem to you amazing that the Americans and British who go
forth to seek new colonies, should lure our simple people to foreign
countries, where the mode of living, the atmosphere, is altogether
different from this, when here at their doors is a new land undiscovered
and unexploited?"

He broke off his homily to look out of the window of the car. He had
done that at least a dozen times in the past half-hour.

"We're going fairly fast," said Malcolm. "You do not think anything will
overtake us?"

"On the road--no," said Malinkoff, "but I am rather nervous crossing
this plain, where there is practically no cover at all, and the car is
raising clouds of dust."

"Nervous of what?"

"Aeroplanes," said Malinkoff. "Look, there is a pleasant little wood. I
suggest that we get under cover until night falls. The next village is
Truboisk, which is a large market centre and is certain to hold local
officers of the Moscow Soviet."

Both his apprehensions and his judgment were justified, for scarcely
had the car crept into the cover of green boughs, than a big aeroplane
was sighted. It was following the road and at hardly a hundred feet
above them. It passed with a roar. They watched it until it was a speck
in the sky.

"They are taking a lot of trouble for a very little thing. Russia must
be law-abiding if they turn their aeroplanes loose on a party of
fugitive criminals!"

"Boolba has told his story," said Malinkoff significantly. "By this time
you are not only enemies of the Revolution, but you are accredited
agents of capitalistic Governments. You have been sent here by your
President to stir up the bourgeois to cast down the Government, because
of British investments. Mr. Bim will be described as a secret service
agent who has been employed to assassinate either Trotsky or Lenin. If
you could only tap the official wireless," said Malinkoff, "you would
learn that a serious counter-revolutionary plot has been discovered, and
that American financiers are deeply involved. Unless, of course,"
corrected Malinkoff, "America happens to be in favour in Petrograd, in
which case it will be English financiers."

Malcolm laughed.

"Then we are an international incident?" he said.

"You are an 'international incident,'" agreed Malinkoff gravely.

Cherry Bim, sitting on the step, smoking a long cigar, a box of which
Petroff had given him as a parting present--looked up, blowing out a
blue cloud.

"A secret service agent?" he said. "That's a sort of fly cop, isn't it?"

"That's about it, Cherry," replied Malcolm.

"And do you think they'll call me a fly cop?" said the interested
Cherry.

Malinkoff nodded, and the gun-man chewed on his cigar.

"Time brings its revenges, don't it?" he said. "Never, oh never, did I
think that I should be took for a fellow from the Central Office! It
only shows you that if a guy continues on the broad path that leadeth to
destruction, and only goes enough, he'll find Mrs. Nemesis--I think
that's the name of the dame."

Malinkoff strolled to the edge of the wood and came back hurriedly.

"The aeroplane is returning," he said, "and is accompanied by another."

This time neither machine took the direct route. They were sweeping the
country methodically from side to side, and Malinkoff particularly
noticed that they circled about a smaller wood two miles away and seemed
loth to leave it.

"What colour is the top of this car?" he asked, and Bim climbed up.

"White," he said. "Is there time to put on a little of this 'camelflage'
I've heard so much about?"

The party set to work in haste to tear down small branches of trees and
scraps of bushes, and heap them on to the top of the car. Cherry Bim,
who had the instinct of deception, superintending the actual masking of
the roof, and as the sun was now setting detected a new danger.

"Let all the windows down," said Cherry. "Put a coat over the glass
screen and sit on anything that shines."

They heard the roar of the aeroplane coming nearer and crouched against
the trunk of a tree. Suddenly there was a deafening explosion which
stunned the girl and threw her against Malcolm. She half-rose to run but
he pulled her down.

"What was it?" she whispered.

"A small bomb," said Malcolm. "It is an old trick of airmen when they
are searching woods for concealed bodies of infantry. Somebody is bound
to run out and give the others away."

Cherry Bim, fondling his long Colt, was looking glumly at the cloud of
smoke which was billowing forth from the place where the bomb had
dropped. Round and round circled the aeroplane, but presently, as if
satisfied with its scrutiny, it made off, and the drone of the engine
grew fainter and fainter.

"War's hell," said Cherry, wiping his pallid face with a hand that
shook.

"I can't quite understand it," said Malinkoff. "Even supposing that
Boolba has told his story, there seems to be a special reason for this
urgent search. They would, of course, have communicated----"

He fell silent.

"Has Boolba any special reasons, other than those we know?" he asked.

Malcolm remembered the "Book of All-Power" and nodded.

"Have you something of Kensky's?" asked Malinkoff quickly. "Not that
infernal book?"

He looked so anxious that Malcolm laughed.

"Yes, I have that infernal book. As a matter of fact, it is the infernal
book of the Grand Duchess now."

"Mine?" she said in surprise.

"Kensky's last words to me were that this book should become your
property," said Malcolm, and she shivered.

"All my life seems to have been associated with the search for that
dreadful book," she said. "I wonder if it is one of Kensky's own
binding. You know," she went on, "that Israel Kensky bound books for a
hobby? He bound six for me, and they were most beautifully decorated."

"He was a rich man, was he not?" asked Malcolm.

She shook her head.

"He was penniless when he died," she said quietly. "Every store of his
was confiscated and his money was seized by order of the new Government.
I once asked him definitely why he did not turn to his 'Book of
All-Power' for help. He told me the time had not yet come."

"May I see the book?"

Malcolm took the volume with its canvas cover from his pocket, and the
girl looked at it seriously.

"Do you know, I have half a mind to throw it into the fire?" she said,
pointing to the smouldering wood where the bomb had fallen. "There seems
something sinister, something ominous about its possession that fills me
with terror."

She looked at it for a moment musingly, then handed it back to Malcolm.

"Poor Israel!" she said softly, "and poor Russia!"

They waited until darkness fell before they moved on. Malinkoff had an
idea that there was a crossroad before the town was reached, and
progress was slow in consequence, because he was afraid of passing it.
He was determined now not to go through the village, which lay directly
ahead. The fact that the aeroplane had been able to procure a recruit,
pointed to the existence of a camp of considerable dimensions in the
neighbourhood and he was anxious to keep away from armed authority.

It was a tense hour they spent--tense for all except Cherry Bim, who had
improvised a cushion on the baggage carrier at the back of the car, and
had affixed himself so that he could doze without falling off. The side
road did not appear, and Malinkoff grew more and more apprehensive.
There were no lights ahead, as there should be if he were approaching
the village. Once he thought he saw dark figures crouching close to the
ground as the car passed, but put this down to nerves. Five hundred
yards beyond, he discovered that his eyes had not deceived him. A red
light appeared in the centre of the road, and against the skyline--for
they were ascending a little incline at the moment--a number of dark
figures sprang into view.

The chauffeur brought the car to a halt with a jerk, only just in time,
for his lamps jarred against the pole which had been placed across the
road.

Malcolm had drawn his revolver, but the odds were too heavy, besides
which, in bringing his car to a standstill, the driver had shut off his
engine and the last hope of bunking through had disappeared.

A man carrying a red lamp came to the side of the car, and flashed the
light of a torch over the occupants.

"One, two, three, four," he counted. "There should be five."

He peered at them separately.

"This is the aristocrat general, this is the American revolutionary,
this is the woman. There is also a criminal. Did any man jump out?" he
asked somebody in the darkness, and there was a chorus of "No!"

Footsteps were coming along the road; the guard which had been waiting
to close them in from the rear, was now coming up. The man with the
lamp, who appeared to be an officer, made a circuit of the car and
discovered the carrier seat, but its occupant had vanished.

"There was a man here, you fools," he shouted. "Search the road; he
cannot have gone far. Look!"

He put the light on the road.

"There are his boots. You will find him amongst the bushes. Search
quickly."

Malcolm, at the girl's side, put his arm about her shoulder.

"You are not afraid?" he said gently, and she shook her head.

"I do not think I shall ever be afraid again," she replied. "I have
faith in God, my dear. Cherry has escaped?" she asked.

"I think so," he replied in a guarded tone. "He must have seen the
soldiers and jumped. They have just found his boots in the roadway."

The officer came back at that moment.

"You have weapons," he said. "Give them to me."

It would have been madness to disobey the order, and Malcolm handed over
his revolver and Malinkoff followed suit. Not satisfied with this, the
man turned them out in the road whilst he conducted a search.

"Get back," he said after this was over. "You must go before the
Commissary for judgment. The woman is required in Moscow, but we shall
deal summarily with the foreigner and Malinkoff, also the little thief,
when we find him."

He addressed the chauffeur.

"I shall sit by your side, and if you do not carry out my instructions I
shall shoot you through the head, little pigeon," he said. "Get down and
start your machine."




CHAPTER XVIII

THE MONASTERY OF ST. BASIL THE LEPER


He gave an order to the soldiers, and the barrier was removed, then he
struck a match and lit a flare which burnt a dazzling red flame for half
a minute.

"A signal," said Malinkoff, "probably to notify our capture."

A few minutes later, with a soldier on either footboard, and the officer
sitting beside the chauffeur, the car sped through the night, checking
only before it came to the cross-roads which Malinkoff had sought for.
Turning to the left, the car swung into a road narrower and less
comfortable for the passengers.

"I wonder if they will catch our brave friend," said the girl.

"They will be sorry if they do," replied Malcolm dryly. "Cherry will not
be caught as we were."

Ahead of them and to the right apparently, on a hill by their height, a
dozen fires were burning, and Malinkoff judged that the camp they were
approaching was one of considerable size. He guessed it was a
concentration camp where the Reds were preparing for their periodical
offensive against the Ukraine. It must be somewhere in this district
that the Polish Commissioners were negotiating with the Supreme
Government--an event which had set Moscow agog.

An eerie experience this, riding through the dark, the figures of the
soldier guards on either footboard gripping to the posts of the car.
Bump, bump, bump it went, swaying and jolting, and then one of the
guards fell off. They expected him to jump on the footboard again, for
the auto was going at a slow pace, but to their surprise he did not
reappear. Then a similar accident happened to the man on the other
footboard. He suddenly let go his hold and fell backwards.

"What on earth----" said Malcolm.

"Look, look!" whispered the girl.

A foot and a leg had appeared opposite the window, and it came from the
roof of the car. Then another foot, and the bulk of a body against the
night.

"It's Cherry!" whispered the girl.

Swiftly he passed the window and came to the side of the officer, whose
head was turned to the chauffeur.

"Russki," said Cherry, "_stoi_!"

"Stop!" was one of the four Russian words he knew, and the chauffeur
obeyed, just at the moment when the car came to where the road split
into two, one running to the right and apparently to the camp, the other
and the older road dipping down to a misty valley.

The Red officer saw the gun under his nose and took intelligent action.
His two hands went up and his revolver fell with a clatter at the
chauffeur's feet. Deftly Cherry relieved him of the remainder of his
arms.

By this time Malcolm was out of the car, and a brief council of war was
held.

To leave the man there would be to ask for trouble. To shoot him was
repugnant even to Cherry, who had constituted himself the official
assassin of the party.

"We shall have to take him along," said Malinkoff. "There are plenty of
places where we can leave him in the night, and so long as he does not
know which way we go, I do not think he can do us any harm."

The Red officer took his misfortune with the philosophy which the
chauffeur had displayed in similar circumstances.

"I have no malice, little general," he said. "I carry out my orders as a
soldier should. For my part I would as soon cry 'Long live the Czar!'
as 'Long live the Revolution!' If you are leaving Russia I shall be
glad to go with you, and I may be of service because I know all the
latest plans for arresting you. There is a barrier on every road, even
on this which you are taking now, unless," he added thoughtfully, "it is
removed for the Commissary Boolba."

"Is he coming this way?" asked Malcolm.

"You saw me fire a flare," said the man. "That was a signal to the camp
that you were captured. The news will be telegraphed to Moscow, and
Boolba will come to sentence the men and take back his wife."

He evidently spoke in the terms of his instructions.

"What road will he take, little soldier?" asked Malinkoff.

"The Tver road," said the man. "It is the direct road from Moscow, and
we shall cross it very quickly. At the crossing are four soldiers and an
under officer, but no barricade. If you will direct me I will tell them
a lie and say that we go to meet Boolba."

"We're in his hands to some extent," said Malinkoff, "and my advice is
that we accept his offer. He is not likely to betray us."

The car resumed its journey, and Cherry, who had taken his place inside,
explained the miracle which had happened.

"I saw the first lot of soldiers we passed," he said, "and when the car
stopped suddenly I knew what had happened. I took off my boots and
climbed on to the roof. I only made it just in time. The rest was like
eating pie."

"You didn't shoot the soldiers who were standing on the footboard, did
you?" asked Malcolm. "I heard no shots."

Cherry shook his head.

"Why shoot 'em?" he said. "I had only to lean over and hit 'em on the
bean with the butt end of my gun, and it was a case of 'Where am I,
nurse?'"

Half an hour's drive brought them to the cross-roads, and the four
apathetic sentries who, at the word of the Red officer, stood aside to
allow the car to pass. They were now doubling back on their tracks,
running parallel with the railroad (according to Malinkoff) which, if
the officer's surmise was accurate, was the one on which Boolba was
rushing by train to meet them. So far their auto had given them no
trouble, but twenty miles from the camp both the front tyres punctured
simultaneously. This might have been unimportant, for they carried two
spare wheels, only it was discovered that one of these was also
punctured and had evidently been taken out of use the day on which they
secured the car. There was nothing to do but to push the machine into a
field, darken the windows and allow the chauffeur to make his repairs on
the least damaged of the tubes. They shut him into the interior of the
car with the Red officer who volunteered his help, furnished him with a
lamp, and walked down the road in the faint hope of discovering some
cottage or farm where they could replenish their meagre store of food.

Half an hour's walking brought them to a straggling building which they
approached with caution.

"It is too large for a farm," said Malinkoff; "it is probably one of
those monasteries which exist in such numbers in the Moscow Government."

The place was in darkness and it was a long time before they found the
entrance, which proved to be through a small chapel, sited in one corner
of the walled enclosure. The windows of the chapel were high up, but
Malcolm thought he detected a faint glow of light in the interior, and
it was this flicker which guided them to the chapel. The door was half
open, and Malinkoff walked boldly in. The building, though small, was
beautiful. Green malachite columns held up the groined roof, and the
walls were white with the deadly whiteness of alabaster. A tiny altar,
on which burnt the conventional three candles, fronted them as they
entered, and the screen glittered with gold. A priest knelt before the
altar, singing in a thin, cracked voice, so unmusically that the girl
winced. Save for the priest and the party, the building was empty.

He rose at the sound of their footsteps, and stood waiting their
approach. He was a young and singularly ugly man, and suspicion and fear
were written plainly on his face.

"God save you, little brother of saints!" said Malinkoff.

"God save you, my son!" replied the priest mechanically. "What is it you
want?"

"We need food and rest for this little lady, also hot coffee, and we
will pay well."

Malinkoff knew that this latter argument was necessary. The priest shook
his head.

"All the brethren have gone away from the monastery except Father
Joachim, who is a timid man, Father Nicholas and myself," he said. "We
have very little food and none to spare. They have eaten everything we
had, and have killed my pretty chickens."

He did not say who "they" were, and Malinkoff was not sufficiently
curious to inquire. He knew that the priests were no longer the power in
the land that they were in the old days, and that there had been
innumerable cases where the villagers had risen and slaughtered the men
whose words hitherto had been as a law to them. A third of the
monasteries in the Moscow Government had been sacked and burnt, and
their congregations and officers dispersed.

He was surprised to find this beautiful chapel still intact, but he had
not failed to notice the absence of the sacred vessels which usually
adorned the altar, even in the midnight celebration.

"But can you do nothing for our little mama?" asked Malinkoff.

The priest shook his head.

"Our guests have taken everything," he said. "They have even turned
Brother Joachim from the refectory."

"Your guests?" said Malinkoff.

The priest nodded.

"It is a great prince," he said in awe. "Terrible things are happening
in the world, Antichrist is abroad, but we know little of such things in
the monastery. The peasants have been naughty and have broken down our
wall, slain our martyred brother Mathias--we could not find his body,"
he added quickly, "and Brother Joachim thinks that the Jews have eaten
him so that by the consecrated holiness of his flesh they might avert
their eternal damnation."

"Who is your prince?" asked Malcolm, hope springing in his breast.

There were still powerful factions in Russia which were grouped about
the representatives and relatives of the late reigning house.

"I do not know his name," said the priest, "but I will lead you to him.
Perhaps he has food."

He extinguished two of the candles on the altar, crossing himself all
the while he was performing this ceremony, then led them through the
screen and out at the back of the chapel. Malcolm thought he saw a face
peering round the door as they approached it, and the shadow of a flying
form crossing the dark yard. Possibly the timid Father Joachim he
thought. Running along the wall was a low-roofed building.

"We are a simple order," said the priest, "and we live simply."

He had taken a candle lantern before he left the chapel, and this he
held up to give them a better view. Narrow half-doors, the tops being
absent, were set in the face of the building at intervals.

"Look!" he said, and pushed the lamp into the black void.

"A stable?" said Malinkoff.

He might have added: "a particularly draughty and unpleasant stable."
There were straw-filled mangers and straw littered the floor.

"Do you keep many horses?"

The priest shook his head.

"Here we sleep," he said, "as directed in a vision granted to our most
blessed saint and founder, St. Basil the Leper. For to him came an angel
in the night, saying these words: 'Why sleepest thou in a fine bed when
our Lord slept lowly in a stable?'"

He led the way across the yard to a larger building.

"His lordship may not wish to be disturbed, and if he is asleep I will
not wake him."

"How long has he been here?" asked Malcolm.

"Since morning," repeated the other.

They were in a stone hall, and the priest hesitated. Then he opened the
door cautiously, and peeped in. The room was well illuminated; they
could see the hanging kerosene lamps from where they stood.

"Come," said the priest's voice in a whisper, "he is awake."

Malcolm went first. The room, though bare, looked bright and warm; a big
wood fire blazed in an open hearth, and before it stood a man dressed in
a long blue military coat, his hands thrust into his pockets. The hood
of the coat was drawn over his head, and his attitude was one of
contemplation. Malcolm approached him.

"Excellenz," he began, "we are travellers who desire----"

Slowly the man turned.

"Oh, you 'desire'!" he bellowed. "What do you desire, Comrade Hay? I
will tell you what _I_ desire--my beautiful little lamb, my pretty
little wife!"

It was Boolba.




CHAPTER XIX

THE END OF BOOLBA


Cherry Bim, the last of the party to enter the room, made a dash for the
door, and came face to face with the levelled rifle held in the hands of
a soldier who had evidently been waiting the summons of Boolba's shout.
Behind him were three other men. Cherry dropped to the ground as the
man's rifle went off, shooting as he fell, and the man tumbled down.
Scrambling to his feet, he burst through the doorway like a human cannon
ball, but not even his nimble guns could save him this time. The hall
was full of soldiers, and they bore him down by sheer weight.

They dragged him into the refectory, bleeding, and the diversion at any
rate had had one good effect. Only Boolba was there, roaring and raging,
groping a swift way round the walls, one hand searching, the other
guiding.

"Where are they?" he bellowed. "Come to me, my little beauty. Hay! I
will burn alive. Where are they?"

"Little Commissary," said the leader of the soldiers, "she is not here.
They did not pass out."

"Search, search!" shouted Boolba, striking at the man. "Search, you
pig!"

"We have the other boorjoo," stammered the man.

"Search!" yelled Boolba. "There is a door near the fire--is it open?"

The door lay in the shadow, and the man ran to look.

"It is open, comrade," he said.

"After them, after them!"

Boolba howled the words, and in terror they left their prisoner and
flocked out of the door. Cherry stood in the centre of the room, his
hands strapped behind his back, his shirt half ripped from his body, and
looked up into the big blinded face which came peering towards him as
though, by an effort of will, it could glimpse his enemy.

"You are there?"

Boolba's hands passed lightly over the gun-man's face, fell upon his
shoulders, slipped down the arm.

"Is this the thief? Yes, yes; this is the thief. What is he doing?"

He turned, not knowing that the soldiers had left him alone, and again
his hands passed lightly over Cherry's face.

"This is good," he said, as he felt the bands on the wrists.
"To-morrow, little brother, you will be dead."

He might have spared himself his exercise and his reproaches, because to
Cherry Bim's untutored ear his reviling was a mere jabber of meaningless
words. Cherry was looking round to find something sharp enough on which
to cut the strap which bound him, but there was nothing that looked like
a knife in the room. He knew he had a minute, and probably less, to make
his escape. His eyes rested for a moment on the holster at Boolba's
belt, and he side-stepped.

"Where are you going?"

Boolba's heavy hand rested on his shoulder.

"Not out of the doorway, my little pigeon. I am blind, but----"

So far he had got when Cherry turned in a flash, so that his back was
toward Boolba. He stooped, and made a sudden dash backward, colliding
with the Commissary, and in that second his hand had gripped the gun at
Boolba's waist. There was a strap across the butt, but it broke with a
jerk.

Then followed a duel without parallel. Boolba pulled his second gun and
fired, and, shooting as blindly, Cherry fired backward. He heard a groan
over his shoulder and saw Boolba fall to his knees. Then he ran for the
main door, stumbled past the state-bedroom of the monks, and into the
chapel. It was his one chance that the priest had returned to his
devotions, and he found the man on his knees.

"Percy," said Cherry, "unfasten that strap."

The priest understood no language but his own. But a gesture, the strap
about the wrists, blue and swollen, and the long revolver, needed no
explanation. The strap fell off and Cherry rubbed his wrists.

He opened the breech of his gun; he had four shells left, but he was
alone against at least twenty men. He guessed that Boolba had made the
monastery his advance headquarters whilst he was waiting for news of the
fugitives, and probably not twenty but two hundred were within call.

He reached the road and made for the place where the car had been left.
If the others had escaped they also would go in that direction. He saw
no guard or sentry, and heard no sound from the walled enclosure of the
monastery. He struck against something in the roadway and stooped and
picked it up. It was stitched in a canvas cover and it felt like a book.
He suddenly remembered the scraps of conversation he had overheard
between the girl and Malcolm.

This, then, was the "Book of All-Power."

"Foolishness," said Cherry, and put it in his pocket. But the book
showed one thing clearly--the others had got away. He had marked the
place where they had stopped, but the car was gone!

It was too dark to see the tracks, but there was no question that it had
been here, for he found an empty petrol tin and the still air reeked of
rubber solution.

He had need of all his philosophy. He was in an unknown country, a
fugitive from justice, and that country was teeming with soldiers. Every
road was watched, and he had four cartridges between him and capture.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to go back the way the car
had come, and he stepped out undauntedly, halting now and again to stoop
and look along the railway line, for he was enough of an old campaigner
to know how to secure a skyline.

Then in the distance he saw a regular line of lights, and those lights
were moving. It was a railway train, and apparently it was turning a
curve, for one by one the lights disappeared and only one flicker, which
he judged was on the engine, was visible. He bent down again and saw the
level horizon of a railway embankment less than two hundred yards on his
left, and remembered that Malinkoff had spoken of the Warsaw line.

He ran at full speed, floundering into pools, breaking through bushes,
and finally scrambled up the steep embankment. How to board the train
seemed a problem which was insuperable, if the cars were moving at any
speed. There was little foothold by the side of the track, and
undoubtedly the train was moving quickly, for now the noise of it was a
dull roar, and he, who was not wholly unacquainted with certain
unauthorized forms of travel, could judge to within a mile an hour the
rate it was travelling.

He fumbled in his pocket and found a match. There was no means of making
a bonfire. The undergrowth was wet, and he had not so much as a piece of
paper in his pocket.

"The book!"

He pulled it out, ripped off the canvas cover with his knife, and tried
to open it. The book was locked, he discovered, but locks were to Cherry
like pie-crusts--made to be broken. A wrench and the covers fell apart.

He tore out the first three or four pages, struck the match, and the
flame was touching the corner of the paper when his eyes fell upon the
printed words. He stood open-mouthed, the flame still burning, gazing at
the torn leaf until the burning match touched his finger and he dropped
it.

Torn between doubts, and dazed as he was, the train might have passed
him, but the light of a match in the still, dark night could be seen for
miles, and he heard the jar of the brakes. He pushed the book and the
loose leaves into his pocket and ran along the embankment to meet the
slowing special--for special it was.

He managed to pass the engine unnoticed, then, crouching down until the
last carriage was abreast, he leapt up, caught the rail and swung
himself on to the rear footboard, up the steel plates which serve as
steps, to the roof of the carriage, just as the train stopped.

There were excited voices demanding explanations, there was a confusion
of orders, and presently the train moved on, gathering speed, and Cherry
had time to think. It was still dark when they ran into a little
junction, and, peeping over the side, he saw a group of officers descend
from a carriage to stretch their legs. To them came a voluble and
gesticulating railway official, and again there was a confusion of
voices. He was telling them something and his tone was apologetic,
almost fearful. Then, to Cherry's amazement, he heard somebody speak in
English. It was the voice of a stranger, a drawling English voice.

"Oh, I say! Let them come on, general! I wouldn't leave a dog in this
country--really I wouldn't."

"But it is against all the rules of diplomacy," said a gruffer voice in
the same language.

"Moses!" gasped Cherry.

The road led into the station-yard and he had seen the car. There was no
doubt of it. The lights from one of the train windows were sufficiently
strong to reveal it, and behind the stationmaster was another little
group in the shadow.

"It is a matter of life and death." It was Malcolm's voice. "I must get
this lady to the Polish frontier--it is an act of humanity I ask."

"English, eh?" said the man called the general. "Get on board."

Malcolm took the girl in his arms before them all.

"Go, darling," he said gently.

"I cannot go without you," she said, but he shook his head.

"Malinkoff and I must wait. We cannot leave Cherry. We are going back to
find him. I am certain he has escaped."

"I will not leave without you," she said firmly.

"You'll all have to come or all have to stay," said the Englishman
briskly. "We haven't any time to spare, and the train is now going on.
You see," he said apologetically, "it isn't our train at all, it belongs
to the Polish Commission, and we're only running the food end of the
negotiations. We have been fixing up terms between the Red Army and the
Poles, and it is very irregular that we should take refugees from the
country at all."

"_Go!_"

Malcolm heard the hoarse whisper, and it was as much as he could do to
stop himself looking up. He remembered the motor-car and Cherry's
mysterious and providential appearance from the roof, and he could guess
the rest.

"Very well, we will go. Come, Malinkoff, I will explain in the car,"
said Malcolm.

They lifted the girl into the carriage and the men followed. A shriek
from the engine, a jerk of the cars, and the train moved on. Before the
rear carriage had cleared the platform a car rocked into the
station-yard, dashing through the frail wooden fencing on to the
platform itself.

"_Stoi! Stoi!_"

Boolba stood up in the big touring car, his arms outstretched, the white
bandage about his neck showing clearly in the car lights. Cherry Bim
rose to his knees and steadied himself. Once, twice, three times he
fired, and Boolba pitched over the side of the car dead.

"I had a feeling that we should meet again," said Cherry. "That's not a
bad gun."




CHAPTER THE LAST


"All my life," said Cherry Bim, fondling his Derby hat affectionately,
"I have been what is called by night-court reporters a human parricide."

He occupied a corner seat in the first-class compartment which had been
placed at the disposal of the party. To the Peace Commissioners in their
saloon the fugitives had no existence. Officially they were not on the
train, and the hot meal which came back to them from the Commissioner's
own kitchenette was officially sent to "extra train-men," and was
entered as such on the books of the chef.

The girl smiled. There was cause for happiness, for these dreary flats
which were passing the window were the flats of Poland.

"I have often thought, Mr. Bim, that you were a human angel!"

Cherry beamed.

"Why, that's what I was named after," he said. "Ain't you heard of the
Cherry Bims? My sister Sarah was named the same way--you've heard of
Sarah Bims?"

"Seraphims," laughed Malcolm; "true, it's near enough. But why this
dissertation on your moral character, Cherry?"

"I'm only remarking," said Cherry, "I wouldn't like you gu--fellers to
go away thinkin' that high-class female society hadn't brought about a
change in what I would describe, for want of a better word, as my
outlook."

"All our outlooks have been shaken up," said the girl, laying her hand
on Cherry's arm.

"I am a Grand Duchess of Russia and you are--you are----"

"Yes, I'm that," said Cherry, helping her out. "I'm one of nature's
extractors. But I'm through. I hate the idea of workin' and maybe I
won't have to, because I've got enough of the--well, any way, I've got
enough."

Malcolm slapped him on the knee.

"You've brought more from Russia than we have, Cherry," he said.

"But not the greatest prize." It was the silent Malinkoff who spoke.
"Highness, is there no way of recovering your father's fortune?"

She shook her head.

"It is gone," she said quietly, "and if Russia were pacified to-morrow I
should be poor--you know that, Malcolm!"

He nodded.

"I have not even," she smiled, "poor Israel Kensky's wonderful book."

"I was a careless fool," growled Malcolm, "when we struck the road I was
so intent upon getting to the auto that I did not realize the book had
dropped out. We hadn't a second to lose," he explained for the third
time to Cherry. "The soldiers were searching in the yard when Malinkoff
found the breach in the wall. I hated leaving you----"

"Aw!" said the disgusted Cherry. "Ain't we settled that? Didn't I hear
you tellin' Percy--and say, is it true that the young lady is--is
broke?"

"'Broke' is exactly the word," she said cheerfully. "I am going to be a
nice Scottish wife and live within my husband's means--why, Cherry?"

He had a book in his hand--the "Book of All-Power."

"Where----?"

"Found it on the road," he said. "I broke the lock an' tore out a couple
of leaves to light a flare. I wanted to flag the train--but I've got
'em--the leaves, I mean."

"You found it?"

She reached out her hand for the volume, but he did not give it to her.

"I can't read Russian," he said. "What does this say?" and he pointed to
the inscription on the cover, and she read, translating as she went on:


"THE BOOK OF ALL-POWER

"Herein is the magic of power and the words and symbols which
unlock the sealed hearts of men and turn their proud wills to
water."


Cherry was silent.

"That's a lie," he said quietly, "for it didn't turn my will to
water--take it, miss!"

She took it from his hand, wondering, and turned the broken cover. She
could not believe her eyes ... and turned the leaves quickly. Every page
was a Bank of England note worth a thousand pounds.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That was how Kensky kept his money evidently," said Malinkoff. "In such
troublesome times as the Jews passed through, he must have thought it
safest to convert his property into English money, and when he had
reached the limit of his hoard he bound the notes into a book."

The girl turned her bewildered face to Cherry.

"Did you know that this was money?" she asked.

"Sure," he said; "didn't I start in to burn it?"



THE END



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