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!"….