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Chapter 2 A CAT’S-PAW.

  • One evening a fortnight later Godfrey went with two young Englishmen to _asked ball at the Opera. It was a brilliant scene. Comparatively few of th_en were masked or in costume, but many of the ladies were so. Every other ma_as in uniform of some kind, and the floor of the house was filled with a ga_aughing crowd, while the boxes were occupied by ladies of the highest rank, several of the imperial family being present. He speedily became separate_rom his companions, and after walking about for an hour he became tired o_he scene, and was about to make his way towards the entrance when a hand wa_lipped behind his arm. As several masked figures had joked him on walkin_bout so vaguely by himself, he thought that this was but another jest.
  • "You are just the person I wanted," the mask said.
  • "I think you have mistaken me for some one else, lady," he replied.
  • "Not at all. Now put up your arm and look as if I belong to you. Nonsense! d_s you are told, Godfrey Bullen."
  • "Who are you who know my name?" Godfrey laughed, doing as he was ordered, fo_e had no doubt that the masked woman was a member of one of the families who_e had visited.
  • "You don't know who I am?" she asked.
  • "How should I when I can see nothing but your eyes through those holes?"
  • "I am Katia, the cousin of your friend Akim."
  • "Oh, of course!" Godfrey said, a little surprised at meeting the musi_istress in such an assembly. "I fancied I knew your voice, though I could no_emember where I had heard it. And now what can I do for you?"
  • The young woman hesitated. "We have got up a little mystification," she sai_fter a pause, "and I am sure I can trust you; besides, you don't know th_arties. There is a gentleman here who is supposed to be with his regiment a_oscow; but there is a sweetheart in the case, and you know when there ar_weethearts people do foolish things."
  • "I have heard so," Godfrey laughed, "though I don't know anything about i_yself, for I sha'n't begin to think of such luxuries as sweethearts for year_o come."
  • "Well, he is here masked," the girl went on, "and unfortunately the colonel o_is regiment is here, and some ill-natured person—we fancy it is a rival o_is—has told the colonel. He is furious about it, and declares that he wil_atch him and have him tried by court-martial for being absent without leave.
  • The only thing is, he is not certain as to his information."
  • "Well, what can I do?" Godfrey asked. "How can I help him?"
  • "You can help if you like, and that without much trouble to yourself. He is a_resent in the back of that empty box on the third tier. I was with him when _aw you down here, so I left him to say good-bye to his sweetheart alone, an_an down to fetch you, for I felt sure you would oblige me. What I thought wa_his: if you put his mask and cloak on—you are about the same height—it woul_e supposed that you are he. The colonel is waiting down by the entrance. H_ill come up to you and say, 'Captain Presnovich?' You will naturally say, 'B_o means.' He will insist on your taking your mask off. This you will do, an_e will, of course, make profuse apologies, and will believe that he has bee_ltogether misinformed. In the meantime Presnovich will manage to slip out, and will go down by the early train to Moscow. It is not likely that th_olonel will ever make any more inquiries about it, but if he does, some o_resnovich's friends will be ready to declare that he never left Moscow."
  • "But can't he manage to leave his mask and cloak in the box and to slip awa_ithout them?"
  • "No, that would never do. It is necessary that the colonel should see fo_imself that the man in the cloak, with the white and red bow pinned to it, i_ot the captain."
  • "Very well, then, I will do it," Godfrey said. "It will be fun to see th_olonel's face when he finds out his mistake; but mind I am doing it to oblig_ou."
  • "I feel very much obliged," the girl said; "but don't you bring my name int_t though."
  • "How could I?" he laughed. "I do not see that I am likely to be cross- questioned in any way; but never fear, I will keep your counsel."
  • By this time they had arrived at the door of the box. "Wait a moment," sh_aid, "I will speak to him first."
  • She was two minutes gone, and then opened the door and let him in. "I a_reatly obliged to you, sir," a man said as he entered. "It is a foolis_usiness altogether, but if you will enact my part for a few minutes you wil_et me out of an awkward scrape."
  • "Don't mention it," Godfrey replied. "It will be a joke to laugh ove_fterwards." He placed the broad hat, to which the black silk mask was sewn, on his head, and Katia put the cloak on his shoulders.
  • "I trust you," she said in a low voice as she walked with him to the top o_he stairs. "There, I must go now. I had better see Captain Presnovich safel_ff, and then go and tell the young lady, who is a great friend of mine—it i_or her sake I am doing it, you know, not for his—how nicely we have manage_o throw dust in the colonel's eyes!"
  • Regarding the matter as a capital joke, Godfrey went down-stairs and made hi_ay to the entrance, expecting every moment to be accosted by the irascibl_olonel. No one spoke to him, however, and he began to imagine that th_olonel must have gone to seek the captain elsewhere, and hoped that he woul_ot meet him as he went down the stairs with Katia. He walked down the step_nto the street. As he stepped on to the pavement a man seized him fro_ehind, two others grasped his wrists, and before he knew what had happened h_as run forward across the pavement to a covered sledge standing there an_lung into it. His three assailants leapt in after him; the door was slammed; another man jumped on to the box with the driver; and two mounted men too_heir places beside it as it dashed off from the door. The men had agai_eized Godfrey's hands and held them firmly the instant they entered th_arriage.
  • "It is of no use your attempting to struggle," one of the men said, "there i_n escort riding beside the sledge, and a dozen more behind it. There is n_hance of a rescue, and I warn you you had best not open your lips; if you do, we will gag you."
  • Godfrey was still half bewildered with the suddenness of the transaction. Wha_ad he been seized for? Who were the men who had got hold of him? and why wer_hey gripping his wrists so tightly? He had heard of arbitrary treatment i_he Russian army, but that a colonel should have a captain seized in thi_xtraordinary way merely because he was absent from his post without leave wa_eyond anything he thought possible.
  • "I thought I was going to have the laugh all on my side," he said to himself,
  • "but so far it is all the other way." In ten minutes the carriage stopped fo_ moment, there was a challenge, then some gates were opened. Godfrey ha_lready guessed his destination, and his feeling of discomfort had increase_very foot he went. There was no doubt he was being taken to the fortress. "I_eems to me that Miss Katia has got me into a horrible scrape of some kind,"
  • he said to himself. "What a fool I was to let myself be humbugged by the gir_n that way!"
  • Two men with lanterns were at the door of a building, at which the carriage, after passing into a large court-yard, drew up. Still retaining their grip o_is wrists, two of the men walked beside him down a passage, while severa_thers followed behind. An officer of high rank was sitting at the head of _able, one of inferior rank stood beside him, while at the end of the tabl_ere two others with papers and pens before them.
  • "So you have captured him!" the general said eagerly.
  • "Yes, your excellency," the man who had spoken to Godfrey in the carriage sai_espectfully.
  • "Has he been searched?"
  • "No, your excellency, the distance was so short, and I feared that he migh_rench one of his hands loose. Moreover, I thought that you might prefer hi_eing searched in your presence."
  • "It is better so. Take off that disguise." As the hat and mask were remove_he officer sprang to his feet and exclaimed, "Why, who is this? This is no_he man you were ordered to arrest; you have made some confounded blunder."
  • "I assure you, your excellency," the official said in trembling accents, "thi_s the only man who was there in the disguise we were told of. There, you_xcellency, is the bunch of white and red ribbons on his cloak."
  • "And who are you, sir?" the general thundered.
  • "My name, sir, is Godfrey Bullen. I reside with Ivan Petrovytch, a merchan_iving in the Vassili Ostrov."
  • "But how come you mixed up in this business, sir?" the general exclaime_uriously. "How is it that you are thus disguised, and that you are wearin_hat bunch of ribbon? Beware how you answer me, sir, for this is a matte_hich concerns your life."
  • "So far as I am concerned, sir," Godfrey said, "I am absolutely ignorant o_aving done any harm in the matter, and have not the most remote idea why _ave been arrested. I may have behaved foolishly in allowing myself to tak_art in what I thought was a masquerade joke, but beyond that I have nothin_o blame myself for. I went to the Opera-house, never having seen a maske_all before. I was alone, and being young and evidently a stranger, I wa_poken to and joked by several masked ladies. Presently one of them came up t_e. I had no idea who she was; she was closely masked, and I could see nothin_f her face." He then repeated the request that had been made him.
  • "Do you expect me to believe this ridiculous nonsense about this Captai_resnovich and his colonel?"
  • "I can only say, sir, what I am telling you is precisely what happened, an_hat I absolutely believed it. It seemed to me a natural thing that a youn_fficer might come to a ball to see a lady who perhaps he had no othe_pportunity of meeting alone. I see now that I was very foolish to allo_yself to be mixed up in the affair; but I thought that it was a harmles_oke, and so I did as this woman asked me."
  • "Go on, sir," the general said in a tone of suppressed rage.
  • "There is little more to tell, sir. I went up with this woman to the box sh_ad pointed out, and there found this Captain Presnovich as I believed him t_e. I put on his hat, mask, and cloak, walked down the stairs, and was leavin_he Opera-house when I was arrested, and am even now wholly ignorant of havin_ommitted any offence."
  • "A likely story," the general said sarcastically. "And this woman, did you se_er face?"
  • "No, sir, she was closely masked. I could not even see if she were young o_ld; and she spoke in the same disguised, squeaking sort of voice that all th_thers that had spoken to me used."
  • "And that is your entire story, sir; you have nothing to add to it?"
  • "Nothing whatever, sir. I have told you the simple truth."
  • The general threw himself back in his chair, too exasperated to speak farther, but made a sign to the officer standing next to him to take up th_nterrogation. The questions were now formal. "Your name is Godfrey Bullen?"
  • he asked.
  • "It is."
  • "Your nationality?"
  • "British."
  • "Your domicile?"
  • Godfrey gave the address.
  • "How long have you been in Russia?"
  • "Four months."
  • "What is your business?"
  • "A clerk to Ivan Petrovytch."
  • "How comes it that you speak Russian so well?"
  • "I was born here, and lived up to the age of ten with my father, John Bullen, who was a well-known merchant here, and left only two years ago."
  • "That will do," the general said impatiently. "Take him to his cell and searc_im thoroughly."
  • Naturally the most minute search revealed nothing of an incriminatin_haracter. At length Godfrey was left alone in the cell, which contained onl_ single chair and a rough pallet. "I have put my foot in it somehow," he sai_o himself, "and I can't make head nor tail of it beyond the fact that I hav_ade an ass of myself. Was the whole story a lie? Was the fellow's nam_resnovich? if not, who was he? By the rage of the general, who, I suppose, i_he chief of the police, it was evident he was frightfully disappointed that _asn't the man he was looking for. Was this Presnovich somebody that gir_atia knew and wanted to get safely away? or was she made a fool of just as _as? She looked a bright, jolly sort of girl; but that goes for nothing i_ussia, all sorts of people get mixed up in plots. If she was concerned i_etting him away I suppose she fixed on me because, being English and a new- comer here, it would be easy for me to prove that I had nothing to do wit_lots or anything of that sort, whereas if a Russian had been in my place h_ight have got into a frightful mess over it. Well, I suppose it will all com_ight in the end. It is lucky that the weather has got milder or I should hav_ad a good chance of being frozen to death; it is cold enough as it is."
  • Resuming his clothes, which had been thrown down on the pallet, Godfrey dre_he solitary rug over him, and in spite of the uncertainty of the position wa_oon fast asleep. He woke just as daylight was breaking, and was so bitterl_old that he was obliged to get up and stamp about the cell to restor_irculation. Two hours later the cell door was opened and a piece of dark- coloured bread and a jug of water were handed in to him. "If this is priso_are I don't care how soon I am out of it," he said to himself as he munche_he bread. "I wonder what it is made of! Rye!"
  • The day passed without anyone coming near him save the jailer, who brought _owl of thin broth and a ration of bread for his dinner.
  • "Can't you get me another rug?" he asked the man. "If I have got to stop her_or another night I shall have a good chance of being frozen to death."
  • Just as it was getting dark the man came in again with another blanket and _lat earthenware pan half full of sand, on which was burning a handful or tw_f sticks; he placed a bundle of wood beside it.
  • "That is more cheerful by a long way," Godfrey said to himself as the man, wh_ad maintained absolute silence on each of his visits, left the cell. "N_oubt they have been making a lot of inquiries about me, and find that I hav_ot been in the habit of frequenting low company. I should not have had thes_ndulgences if they hadn't. Well, it will be an amusement to keep this fir_p. The wood is as dry as a bone luckily, or I should be smoked out in n_ime, for there is not much ventilation through that narrow loophole."
  • The warmth of the fire and the additional blanket made all the difference, an_n a couple of hours Godfrey was sound asleep. When he woke it was broa_aylight, and although he felt cold it was nothing to what he had experience_n the previous morning. At about eleven o'clock, as near as he could guess, for his watch and everything had been removed when he was searched, the doo_as opened and a prison official with two warders appeared. By these he wa_onducted to the same room where he had been first examined. Neither of th_fficers who had then been there was present, but an elderly man sat at th_entre of the table.
  • "Godfrey Bullen," he said, "a careful investigation has been made into you_ntecedents, and with one exception, and that not, for various reasons, a_mportant one, we have received a good report of you. Ivan Petrovytch tells u_hat you work in his office from breakfast-time till five in the afternoon, and that your evenings are at your own disposal, but that you generally din_ith him. He gave us the names of the families with which you are acquainted, and where, as he understood, you spend your evenings when you are not at th_kating Club, where you generally go on Tuesdays and Fridays at least. W_earn that you did spend your evenings with these families, and we hav_earned at the club that you are a regular attendant there two or three time_ week, and that your general associates are:" and he read out a list whic_ncluded, to Godfrey's surprise, the names of every one of his acquaintance_here. "Therefore we have been forced to come to the conclusion that you_tory, incredible as it appeared, is a true one. That you, a youth and _oreigner, should have had the incredible levity to act in the way yo_escribe, and to assume the disguise of a person absolutely unknown to you, upon the persuasion of a woman also absolutely unknown to you, well-nig_asses belief. Had you been older you would at once have been sent to th_rontier; but as it is, the Czar, to whom the case has been speciall_ubmitted, has graciously allowed you to continue your residence here, th_estimony being unanimous as to your father's position as a merchant, and t_he prudence of his behaviour while resident here. But I warn you, Godfre_ullen, that escapades of this kind, which may be harmless in England, ar_ery serious matters here. Ignorantly, I admit, but none the less certainly, you have aided in the escape of a malefactor of the worst kind; and but fo_he proofs that have been afforded us that you were a mere dupe, th_onsequences would have been most serious to you, and even the fact of you_eing a foreigner would not have sufficed to save you from the hands o_ustice. You are now free to depart; but let this be a lesson to you, and _ost serious one, never again to mix yourself up in any way with persons o_hose antecedents you are ignorant, and in future to conduct yourself in al_espects wisely and prudently."
  • "It will certainly be a lesson to me, sir. I am heartily sorry that I was s_oolish as to allow myself to be mixed up in such an affair, and think I ca_romise you that henceforth there will be no fault to be found in my conduct."
  • In the ante-room Godfrey's watch, money, and the other contents of his pocke_ere restored to him. A carriage was in waiting for him at the outer door, an_e was driven rapidly to the house of the merchant.
  • "This is a nice scrape into which you have got yourself, Godfrey," Iva_etrovytch said as he entered. "It is lucky for you that you are not _ussian. But how on earth have you got mixed up in a plot? We know nothin_bout it beyond the fact that you had been arrested, for, although a thousan_uestions were asked me about you, nothing was said to me as to the charg_rought against you. We have been in the greatest anxiety about you. All sort_f rumours were current in the city as to the discovery of a plot t_ssassinate one of the grand-dukes at the Opera-house, and there are rumour_hat explosive bombs had been discovered in one of the boxes. It is said tha_he police had received information of the attempt that was to be made, an_hat every precaution had been taken to arrest the principal conspirator, bu_hat in some extraordinary manner he slipped through their fingers. But surel_ou can never have been mixed up in that matter?"
  • "That is what it was," Godfrey said, "though I had no more idea of havin_nything to do with a plot than I had of flying. I see now that I behaved lik_n awful fool." And he told the story to Petrovytch and his wife as he ha_old it to the head of the police. Both were shocked at the thought that _ember of their household should have been engaged, even unwittingly, in suc_ treasonable affair.
  • "It is a wonder that we ever saw you again," the merchant's wife exclaimed.
  • "It is fortunate that we are known as quiet people or we might have bee_rrested too. I could not have believed that anyone with sense could be sill_nough to put on a stranger's mantle and hat!"
  • "But I thought," Godfrey urged, "that at masked balls people did play al_orts of tricks upon each other. I am sure I have read so in books. And it di_eem quite likely—didn't it now?—that an officer should have come up to meet _oung lady masked whom he had no chance of meeting at any other time. I_ertainly seemed to me quite natural, and I believe almost any fellow, if h_ere asked to help anyone to get out of a scrape like that, would do it."
  • "You may do it in England or in France, but it doesn't do to take part i_nything that you don't know for certain all about here. The wonder is the_ade any inquiries at all. If you had been a Russian the chances are that you_amily would never have heard of you again from the time you left to go to th_pera. Nothing that you could have said would have been believed. Your stor_ould have been regarded by the police as a mere invention. They would hav_onsidered it as certain that in some way or other you were mixed up in th_onspiracy. They would have regarded your denials as simple obstinacy, and yo_ould have been sent to Siberia for life."
  • "I should advise you, Godfrey," Ivan Petrovytch said, "to keep an absolut_ilence about this affair. Mention it to no one. Everyone knows that somethin_as happened to you, as the police have been everywhere inquiring; but ther_s no occasion to tell anyone the particulars. Of course rumours get about a_o the action of the Nihilists and of the police, but as little is said a_ossible. It is, of course, a mere rumour that a plot was discovered at th_pera-house. Probably there were an unusual number of police at all th_ntrances, and a very little thing gives rise to talk and conjecture. Peopl_hink that the police would not have been there had they not had suspicio_hat something or other was going to take place, and as everything in our day_s put down to the Nihilists, it was naturally reported that the police ha_iscovered some plot; and as two of the grand-dukes were there, people mad_ure it was in some way connected with them.
  • "As nothing came of it, and no one was, as far as was known, arrested, i_ould be supposed that the culprit, whoever he was, managed to evade th_olice. Such rumours as these are of very common occurrence, and it is quit_ossible that there is not much more truth in them this time than there i_enerally; however, of one thing you may be sure, the police are not fonde_han other people of being outwitted, and whether the man for whom they wer_n search was a Nihilist or a criminal of some other sort you certainly aide_im to escape. You are sure to be watched for some time, and it will be know_o the police in a very few hours if you repeat this story to you_cquaintances; if they find you keep silence about it, they will give yo_redit for discretion, while it would certainly do you a good deal of harm, and might even now lead to your being promptly sent across the frontier, wer_t known that you made a boast of having outwitted them.
  • "There is another reason. You will find that for a time most of your friend_ere will be a little shy of you. People are not fond of having as thei_ntimates persons about whom the police are inquiring, and you will certainl_ind for a time that you will receive very few invitations to enter the house_f any Russians. It would be different, however, if it were known that th_rouble was about something that had no connection with politics; therefore, _hould advise you, when you are asked questions, to turn it off with a laugh.
  • Say you got mixed up in an affair between a young lady and her lover, an_hat, like many other people, you found that those who mingle in such matter_ften get left in the lurch. You need not say much more than that. You migh_o anything here without your friends troubling much about it provided it ha_othing to do with politics. Rob a bank, perpetrate a big swindle, run awa_ith a court heiress, and as long as the police don't lay hands on you nobod_lse will trouble their heads about the affair; but if you are suspected o_eing mixed up in the most remote way with politics, your best friends wil_hun you like the plague."
  • "I will take your advice certainly," Godfrey said, "and even putting aside th_anger you point out, I should not be anxious to tell people that I suffere_yself to be entrapped so foolishly."
  • For some time, indeed, Godfrey found that his acquaintance fell away from him, and that he was not asked to the houses of any of the Russian merchants wher_e had been before made welcome. Cautious questions would be asked by th_ounger men as to the trouble into which he got with the police; but he turne_hese off with a laugh. "I am not going to tell the particulars," he said,
  • "they concern other people. I can only tell you that I was fool enough to b_umbugged by a pretty little masker, and to get mixed up in a love intrigue i_hich a young lady, her lover a captain in the army, and an irascible colone_ere concerned, and that the young people made a cat's-paw of me. I am no_oing to say more than that, I don't want to be laughed at for the next si_onths;" and so it became understood that the young Englishman had simply go_nto some silly scrape, and had been charged by a colonel in the army wit_unning away with his daughter, and he was therefore restored to his forme_ooting at most of the houses that he had before visited.
  • Two days after his release a note was slipped into Godfrey's hand by a boy a_e went out after dinner for a walk. It was unsigned, and ran as follows:—
  • "Dear Godfrey Bullen, my cousin is in a great state of distress. She wa_eceived by a third person, and in turn deceived you. She has heard since tha_he story was an entire fiction to enable a gentleman for whom the police wer_n search to escape. She only heard last night of your arrest and release, an_s in the greatest grief that she should have been the innocent means of thi_rouble coming upon you. You know how things are here, and she is overwhelme_ith gratitude that you did not in defence give any particulars that migh_ave enabled them to trace her, for she would have found it much mor_ifficult than a stranger would have done to have proved her innocence. Sh_nows that you did say nothing, for had you done so she would have bee_rrested before morning; not improbably we might also have found ourselve_ithin the walls of a prison, since you met her at our room, and the mer_cquaintanceship with a suspected person is enough to condemn one here. By th_ay, we have moved our lodging, but will give you our new address when we mee_ou, that is, if you are good enough to continue our acquaintance in spite o_he trouble that has been caused you by the credulity and folly of my cousin."
  • Godfrey, who had begun to learn prudence, did not open the letter until h_eturned home, and as soon as he had read it dropped it into the stove. He wa_leased at its receipt, for he had not liked to think that he had been dupe_y a girl. From the first he had believed that she, like himself, had bee_eceived, for it had seemed to him out of the question that a young musi_istress, who did not seem more than twenty years old, could have been mixe_p in the doings of a desperate set of conspirators; however, he quit_nderstood the alarm she must have felt, for though his story might have bee_elieved owing to his being a stranger, and unconnected in any way with me_ho could have been concerned in a Nihilist plot, it would no doubt have bee_astly more difficult for her to prove her innocence, especially as it wa_nown that there were many women in the ranks of the Nihilists.
  • It was a fortnight before he met either of the students, and he then ra_gainst them upon the quay just at the foot of the equestrian statue of Pete_he Great, opposite the Isaac Cathedral. They hesitated for a moment, but h_eld out his hand cordially.
  • "Where have you been, and how is it I have not seen you before?"
  • "We were afraid that you might not care to know us further," Akim said, "afte_he trouble that that foolish cousin of mine involved you in."
  • "That would have been ridiculous," Godfrey said. "If we were to blame ou_riends for the faults of persons to whom they introduce us, there would be a_nd to introductions."
  • "Everyone wouldn't think as you do," Akim said. "We both wished to meet you, and thank you for so nobly shielding her. The silly girl might be on her wa_o Siberia now if you had given her name."
  • "I certainly should not have done that in any case. It is not the way of a_nglishman to betray his friend, especially when that friend is a woman; but _hought even before I got your letter that she must in some way or other hav_een misled herself."
  • "It was very good of you," Petroff said. "Katia has been in great distres_ver it. She thinks that you can never forgive her."
  • "Pray tell her from me, Petroff, that I have blamed myself, not her. I ough_ot to have let myself be persuaded into taking any part in the matter. _ntered into it as a joke, thinking it would be fine fun to see the ol_olonel's face, and also to help a pair of lovers out of a scrape. It woul_ave been a good joke in England, but this is not a country where jokes ar_nderstood. At any rate it has been a useful lesson to me, and in future youn_adies will plead in vain to get me to mix myself up in other people'_ffairs."
  • "We are going to a students' party to-night," Petroff said. "One of our numbe_ho has just passed the faculty of medicine has received an appointment a_obolsk. It is a long way off; but it is said to be a pleasant town, and th_ay is good. He is an orphan, and richer than most of us, so he is going t_elebrate it with a party to-night before he starts. Will you come with us?"
  • "I should like it very much," Godfrey said; "but surely your friend would no_ish a stranger there on such an occasion."
  • "Oh, yes, he would! he would be delighted, he is very fond of the English. _ill answer for it that you will be welcome. Meet us here at seven o'cloc_his evening; he has hired a big room, and there will be two or three dozen o_s there—all good fellows. Most of them have passed, and you will see the arm_nd navy, the law and medicine, all represented."
  • Godfrey willingly agreed to go. He thought he should see a new phase o_ussian life, and at the appointed hour he met the two students. Th_ntertainment was held in a large room in a traktar or eating-house in a smal_treet. The room was already full of smoke, a number of young men were seate_long two tables extending the length of the room, and crossed by one at th_pper end. Several were in military uniform, and two or three in that of th_avy. Akim and Petroff were greeted boisterously by name as they entered.
  • "I will talk to you presently," Akim shouted in reply to various invitation_o take his seat. "I have a friend whom I must first introduce to Alexis." H_nd Petroff took Godfrey up to the table at the end of the room. "Alexis,"
  • Akim said, "I have brought you a gentleman whom I am sure you will welcome. H_as proved himself a true friend, one worthy of friendship and honour. Hi_ame is Godfrey Bullen."
  • There was general silence as Akim spoke, and an evident curiosity as to th_tranger their comrade had introduced. The host, who had risen to his feet, grasped Godfrey's hand warmly.
  • "I am indeed glad to meet you, Godfrey Bullen," he said.
  • "My friends, greet with me the English friend of Akim and Petroff."
  • There was a general thumping of glasses on the table, and two or three o_hose sitting near Alexis rose from their seats and shook hands with Godfrey, with a warmth and cordiality which astonished him. Room was made for him an_is two friends at the upper end of one of the side tables, and when he ha_aken his seat the lad was able to survey the scene quietly.
  • Numbers of bottles were ranged down the middle of the tables, which were o_are wood without cloth. These contained, as Petroff told him, wines fro_arious parts of Russia. There were wines similar to sherry and Bordeaux, fro_he Crimea; Kahetinskoe, strongly resembling good burgundy, from the Caucasus; and Don Skoe, a sparkling wine resembling champagne, from the Don. Beside_hese were tankards of Iablochin Kavas, or cider; Grushevoi Kavas, or perry; Malovinoi, a drink prepared from raspberries; and Lompopo, a favourite drin_n the shores of the Baltic. The conversation naturally turned on studen_opics, of tricks played on professors, on past festivities, amusements, an_uarrels. No allusion of any kind was made to politics, or to the matters o_he day. Jovial songs were sung, the whole joining in chorus with grea_nimation. At nine o'clock waiters appeared with trays containing th_ndispensable beginning of all Russian feasts. Each tray contained a larg_umber of small dishes with fresh caviar, raw herrings, smoked salmon, drie_turgeon, slices of German sausage, smoked goose, ham, radishes, cheese, an_utter. From these the guests helped themselves at will, the servants handin_ound small glasses of Kümmel Liftofka, a spirit flavoured with the leaves o_he black-currant, and vodka.
  • Then came the supper. Before each guest was placed a basin of stehi, a cabbag_oup, sour cream being handed round to be added to it; then came rastiga_atties, composed of the flesh of the sturgeon and isinglass. This wa_ollowed by cold boiled sucking pig with horse-radish sauce. After this cam_oast mutton stuffed with buck-wheat, which concluded the supper. When th_able was cleared singing began again, but Godfrey stayed no longer, excusin_imself to his host on the ground that the merchant kept early hours, and tha_nless when he had specially mentioned that he should not be home until late, he made a point of being in between ten and eleven.
  • He was again surprised at the warmth with which several of the guests spoke t_im as he said good-night, and went away with the idea in his mind that amon_he younger Russians, at any rate, Englishmen must be much more popular tha_e had before supposed. One or two young officers had given him their cards, and said that they should be pleased if he would call upon them.
  • "I have had a pleasant evening," he said to himself. "They are a jolly set o_ellows, more like boys than men. It was just the sort of thing I could fanc_ big breaking-up supper would be if fellows could do as they liked, only n_ead-master would stand the tremendous row they made with their choruses.
  • However, I don't expect they very often have a jollification like this. _uppose our host was a good deal better off than most of them. Petroff sai_hat he was the son of a manufacturer down in the south. I wonder what h_eant when he laughed in that quiet way of his when I said I wondered that a_is father was well off he should take an appointment at such an out-of-the- way place as Tobolsk. 'Don't ask questions here,' he said, 'those fellow_anding round the meat may be government spies.' I don't see, if they were, what interest they could have in the question why Alexis Stumpoff should go t_obolsk.
  • "However, I suppose they make a point of never touching on private affair_here any one can hear them, however innocent the matter may be. It must b_ateful to be in a country where, for aught you know, every other man you com_cross is a spy. I daresay I am watched now; that police fellow told me _hould be. It would be a lark to turn off down by-streets and lead the spy, i_here is one, a tremendous dance; but jokes like that won't do here. I got of_nce, but if I give them the least excuse again they may send me off to th_rontier. I should not care much myself, but it would annoy the governo_orribly, so I will walk back as gravely as a judge."