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Chapter 4

  • It should be obvious enough then that they hailed their approaching separatio_ith relief. Bohun had been promised by one of the secretaries at the Embass_hat rooms would be found for him. Jerry intended to "hang out" at one of th_otels. The "Astoria" was, he believed, the right place.
  • "I shall go to the 'France' for to-night," Bohun declared, having lived, i_ould seem, in Petrograd all his days. "Look me up, old man, won't you?"
  • Jerry smiled his slow smile. "I will," he said. "So long."
  • We will now follow the adventures of Henry. He had in him, I know, a tiny,
  • tiny creature with sharp ironical eyes and pointed springing feet who watche_is poses, his sentimentalities and heroics with affectionate scorn. This sam_reature watched him now as he waited to collect his bags, and then stood o_he gleaming steps of the station whilst the porters fetched an Isvostchick,
  • and the rain fell in long thundering lines of steel upon the bare and desolat_treets.
  • "You're very miserable and lonely," the Creature said; "you didn't expec_his."
  • No, Henry had not expected this, and he also had not expected that th_svostchick would demand eight roubles for his fare to the "France." Henr_new that this was the barest extortion, and he had sworn to himself long ag_hat he would allow nobody to "do" him. He looked at the rain and submitted.
  • "After all, it's war time," he whispered to the Creature.
  • He huddled himself into the cab, his baggage piled all about him, and tried b_ulling at the hood to protect himself from the elements. He has told me tha_e felt that the rain was laughing at him; the cab was so slow that he seeme_o be sitting in the middle of pools and melting snow; he was dirty, tired,
  • hungry, and really not far from tears. Poor Henry was very, very young….
  • He scarcely looked at the Neva as he crossed the bridge; all the length of th_uay he saw only the hunched, heavy back of the old cabman and the spurting,
  • jumping rain, the vast stone grave-like buildings and the high grey sky. H_rove through the Red Square that swung in the rain. He was thinking about th_ight roubles…. He pulled up with a jerk outside the "France" hotel. Here h_ried, I am sure, to recover his dignity, but he was met by a large, stout,
  • eastern-looking gentleman with peacock feathers in his round cap who smile_ently when he heard about the eight roubles, and ushered Henry into the dar_all with a kindly patronage that admitted of no reply.
  • The "France" is a good hotel, and its host is one of the kindest of mortals,
  • but it is in many ways Russian rather than Continental in its atmosphere. Tha_ught to have pleased and excited so sympathetic a soul as Henry. I am afrai_hat this moment of his arrival was the first realisation in his life of tha_tern truth that that which seems romantic in retrospect is only too ofte_npleasantly realistic in its actual experience.
  • He stepped into the dark hall, damp like a well, with a whirring snarlin_lock on the wall and a heavy glass door pulled by a rope swinging an_hifting, the walls and door and rack with the letters shifting too. In thi_ocking world there seemed to be no stable thing. He was dirty and tired an_umiliated. He explained to his host, who smiled but seemed to be thinking o_ther things, that he wanted a bath and a room and a meal. He was promise_hese things, but there was no conviction abroad that the "France" had gone u_n the world since Henry Bohun had crossed its threshold. An old man with _rey beard and the fixed and glittering eye of the "Ancient Mariner" told hi_o follow him. How well I know those strange, cold, winding passages of the
  • "France," creeping in and out across boards that shiver and shake, with wall_ressing in upon you so thin and rocky that the wind whistles and screams an_he paper makes ghostly shadows and signs as though unseen fingers moved it.
  • There is that smell, too, which a Russian hotel alone, of all the hostelrie_n the world, can produce, a smell of damp and cabbage soup, of sunflowe_eeds and cigarette-ends, of drainage and patchouli, of, in some odd way, th_ea and fish and wet pavements. It is a smell that will, until I die, b_resented to me by those dark half-hidden passages, warrens of intricat_umbling ways with boards suddenly rising like little mountains in the path;
  • behind the wainscot one hears the scuttling of innumerable rats.
  • The Ancient Mariner showed Henry to his room and left him. Henry was depresse_t what he saw. His room was a slip cut out of other rooms, and its one windo_as faced by a high black wall down whose surface gleaming water trickled. Th_are boards showed large and gaping cracks; there was a washstand, a bed, _hest of drawers, and a faded padded arm-chair with a hole in it. In th_orner near the window was an Ikon of tinsel and wood; a little round marble-
  • topped table offered a dusty carafe of water. A heavy red-plush bell-rop_apped the wall.
  • He sat down in the faded arm-chair and instantly fell asleep. Was the roo_ypnotic? Why not? There are stranger things than that in Petrograd…. I mysel_m aware of what walls and streets and rivers, engaged on their own secre_ife in that most secret of towns, can do to the mere mortals who interfer_ith their stealthy concerns. Henry dreamt; he was never afterwards able t_ell me of what he had dreamt, but it had been a long heavy cobwebby affair,
  • in which the walls of the hotel seemed to open and to close, black littl_igures moving like ants up and down across the winding ways. He sa_nnumerable carafes and basins and beds, the wall-paper whistling, the rat_cuttling, and lines of cigarette-ends, black and yellow, moving in trail_ike worms across the boards. All men like worms, like ants, like rats and th_leaming water trickling interminably down the high black wall. Of course h_as tired after his long journey, hungry too, and depressed…. He awoke to fin_he Ancient Mariner watching him. He screamed. The Mariner reassured him wit_ toothless smile, gripped him by the arm and showed him the bathroom.
  • " _Pajaluista!_ " said the Mariner.
  • Although Henry had learnt Russian, so unexpected was the pronunciation of thi_amiliar word that it was as though the old man had said "Open Sesame!"….