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Hlad, therefore, Felicyan been words
engraved in taken from her by one of those marble, as though every passing unforeseen accidents that wreck frown had been cast in bronze. some lives,—had he been swept These thoughts, Hala is thinkaway by illness, struck dead by ing them for the hundred - thoulightning even,—the blow would sandth time, as she walks to and have been terrible, crushing, yet fro in the large empty room. She as nothing compared to this. Any will go on thinking them as long death, even the most unlooked for, as life and reason last; and it is would have been merciful, peace- the maddening pressure of that ful, happy almost, in comparison revolving train of thought that has to this unnatural way of losing bleached her hair, and is threatenhim. She could have accepted her ing to craze her brain. widowhood from the hand of God, The first mirror gives back her she thought, had such been de- reflection, a short stout woman creed, but she could not accept clad in mourning, with white hair it at the hand of an unjust ty- and black despairing eyes; then rannical fellow - creature. Death the picture goes out of the glass, is less cruel than man. It does and the second mirror, catching not rob us so utterly of our be- it up, reproduces it in different loved ones. It leaves us their fashion. A tall thin woman it is graves to be wept over, their last this time, but her hair too is words to be treasured up in ten- white and her black eyes full of der memory
despair. Their last words! What a sharp No news of Felicyan has come thrill of agony there was in the to Stara-Wola since his transportathought! The remembrance of her tion nearly four months ago. The last conversation with Felicyan journey to Siberia, performed parttortured the unhappy wife like the ly on foot, lasts several months, consciousness of a crime. She had and perhaps he has not even yet spoken bitter, unkind words,-un- reached his destination. Will he der a misapprehension, it is true, be able to write at all from the but not the less unbearable to mines ? Hala does not know; and think of now.
she hardly knows either whether Domestic tiffs will occur be- to hope or fear for a letter. For tween the most united couples-- what news a letter bring? it cannot be otherwise. The inti- What can it tell her except that mate nature of the bond renders he is living ? And living, in his friction unavoidable, and only case, is but another word for toilsuch persons never disagree as are ing-suffering. never wholly united. Conjugal She walks to the window and quarrels mostly pass by without looks out mechanically. It is leaving a trace behind-they are rapidly getting dark. A flight of written in sand, in water; and, crows traverses the frosty grey of where true affection exists, a smile, the sky; the frozen river glitters à caress, are sufficient to destroy coldly in the twilight; the outlines memory
of the fir-trees yonder are beginBut the memory of this quarrel, ning to grow shadowy and indisof this misunderstanding, may tinct. Very shadowy and indisnever be driven away. In her tinct, likewise, is the form of a bitter self - reproach it seems to sledge coming along the road ; it Tlala as if each of those hasty is not even possible to distinguish
whether it is a peasant sledge or a that she should survive the agony, better style of conveyance. the ecstasy of this moment.
Hala turns away from the window, and resumes her weary walk But she does not die of happiup and down the room, accom- ness, and an hour later she is panied always by a ghostly figure kneeling by Felicyan's side as he sits alongside - a short ghost and a in the familiar shabby arm-chair, tall one, who relieve each other in deserted since summer : she is still monotonous alternation.
gazing at him with all the conThe house door opens and closes centrated intensity of despair that with a loud bang, but the tall has lately changed to joy. But ghost never checks its restless few words have passed between walk : there are hurried footsteps them as yet: speech will come by. in the corridor outside, and the and-by, when the first emotion has dogs begin to bark excitedly, yet subsided. the short ghost does not pause to My husband! My husband ! ” listen.
these are all the words she can But now the tall ghost is again speak just at first, and she needs alongside of Hala, and both she no others. The lingering tenderand it have stopped abruptly, a ness with which they are spoken new expression dawning in their says more than volumes of speech eyes, - an expression that is no could do. She cannot say them often longer despair, yet not quite hope. enough. My husband! My husYearningly, tremulously, incred- band !”. It is sufficient happiness ulously two pairs of
to be able to say these words, to stretched out towards a figure in touch him, to feel him near; to the doorway.
pass her fingers across his poor A man clad in the coarse grey shaved head ; to caress his large cloth dress of a Siberian convict rough hand, the fingers all red and stands there. His head is shaved frost-bitten; the wrist still bruised in a semicircle from ear to ear, and galled, from the recent friction his face is aged and worn, and of iron rivets. around him the great rough dogs But presently Hala, still kneelare leaping joyfully, licking his ing, raises her face to his. hands and fondling his knees, his “God is good after all, Felciu. ankles, and behind him
I had almost begun to doubt it, Luba and the children—the ser- but He is good. He would not vants and all are talking to- let you suffer for your brother's gether.
fault." Can miracles happen? Can the Felicyan's face contracts with a grave give back its dead ?
O sharp spasm of pain. God, be merciful! Can a weak “Hush, hush !” he says, putting human heart bear the pain of so his hand over her mouth to check much happiness?
the words, “you do not under“My husband! My husband !” stand—Roman is a hero, a saint, and with a great cry Hala is by and we owe to him our happiness. his side, in his arms, at his feet, He has taken my place—he has and it seems wellnigh impossible gone to Siberia !”
1 Siberian convicts are shaved in this fashion in order to facilitate detection in case of escape.
F VOL. CXLIX. NO. DCCCCIII.
Unknown to Biruta, Roman fixed. If the dress he wore, the had applied for his demission oath he had sworn, did not perfrom the German army.
mit him to follow the dictates of quest had at first been received his conscience, why, then, that with astonished incredulity. It dress must be discarded, he must was inconceivable that so brilliant, be released from that oath, no so successful officer should matter at what cost, —at the price think of giving up his career just of his happiness, or even of hers. yet. He was given to understand He had intended to go to
reasonable concession Biruta, and, in hand the paper would be made in order to retain containing his demission, to say him. If his health had suffered, farewell; he had meant to tell
extensive leave of absence her that he preferred death to would be granted. If his present dishonour, and that even in her post were not to his liking, there arms he should never have been might be found other more con- able to stifle the gnawing pangs genial employments. The position of
He would have of military attaché at Paris would begged her to forgive the pain soon be vacant, and perhaps it he was causing, and asked her was not impossible, &c., &c. :. to forget the unhappy man who
But persuasion and hints were had not been strong enough, or alike thrown away Major base enough, to bear the conseStarowolski (he had received his
quences of his actions. promotion within the last few All this he had meant to say, weeks). He gave no reasons, he and had entered the hotel with asked for neither favours nor dis- the intention of saying it, but the tinctions, but he adhered to his words had remained unspoken. resolution of laying down the There had intervened the incident sword at once, and irrevocably. with Gogo, of which Roman,
He was impatient to be rid of standing behind the group of this odious livery ; to regain pos- terrified waiters, had been spectasession of his own conscience; to tor; and in the blind unresisting be free once more to act as an submission of the sullen bear-cub, honest man, unhampered by po- he had seen, as in a mirror, what litical considerations; to divorce would be the issue of the interfrom each other two irreconcilable view he was seeking. When the characters.
woman is so terribly strong, and The growing conviction that his the man so fatally weak, the remoral position was
an untenable sult is a foregone conclusion. one, because he could not serve This seemingly trifling incident two masters at once, had cul- had fixed his destiny, by making minated that day in the picture- him realise, as he had never realgallery, and the following night ised before, the full power of this had brought him the long-sought woman whom he was fated to answer to the riddle.
adore as a lover and obey as a Henceforth his resolve slave.
How beautiful, how majestic she He had gone straight to St had looked at that moment, as, Petersburg, where he gave himself standing at the head of the stair- up to the authorities. Being now case, she had imperiously sum- no longer a German officer, he bemoned to her feet the rebellious a Russian subject, and as bear! A queen! a goddess ! A such pleaded guilty to the crime woman fit to govern the world ! of high treason.
Yet even as he gazed in spell- His brother was innocent. He bound admiration, before Roman's and he alone, for his own private eyes there rose up another vision motives, had drawn the plans, had obscuring the first—the vision of taken the photographs that had a small pale woman with black caused Felicyan to be condemned despairing eyes. She too had and transported. looked majestic. She too had He had no difficulty in proving been sublime, as with burning im- his case. It requires but small passioned words she had called rhetoric to convince a wolf of the upon him to restore the happiness expediency of devouring a lamb of which he had robbed her !
that offers itself as holocaust: the His reason told him that he facsimiles of some of the photomust not, dare not, see Biruta graphs that had been found at again. If he saw her once more, Stara-Wola, and the identification if he felt her arm round his neck, of Roman's handwriting, were sufher lips upon his, he must suc- ficient to establish Felicyan's innocumb to her will. His honour, his cence and his own guilt. Besides, conscience, would be powerless to by this time the fact of his engageact. Had she not said that she ment to Countess Massalowska would make him happy in spite had penetrated to Russia, on hearof himself ? She would—she could ing which General Vassiljef—who do so,— he felt convinced of it, meanwhile had been dismissed in and it was of this happiness that deep disgrace—had not hesitated he felt afraid. His only course to come forward and attempt to was to flee from a bliss he dared clear his character by affirming his not enjoy. He must not see her conviction that Biruta had robbed again.
the portfolio. His conduct was weak, un- All these circumstances, taken manly, stern judges of character collectively, rendered doubt imposmay say perhaps; but what, after sible. Roman was condemned to all, is weakness ? and what is lifelong deportation to the mines, strength ?
And may not the and simultaneously was signed truest strength sometimes lie in the warrant for his brother's rethe very recognition of our own lease. weakness ?
Early in November the ci-devant That same day Roman left Ber- Major Starowolski quitted Europe lin, and forty-eight hours later as member of a convict convoy Countess Massalowska received bound for Siberia, but his journey from him a letter bearing a Rus- ended differently from what had sian postmark,
“ Long is the way and hard That out of hell leads up to light.”.
The closing scene of this narra- Biruta perhaps ? Of the joys of tive is played out at daybreak on love? The thrills of gratified ama desolate Siberian steppe.
bition? Of all he had possessed a The days are at their shortest, little while ago, and by his own act and in order to utilise the brief had renounced? Does he repent his span of light, the convicts prepare sacrifice as he wakens to the conto resume the march with the first sciousness of his actual position ? faint streak that shows itself in the Before his eyes there stretches, east.
melting away into the distance, a They had halted last night on vast field of snow, seemingly endthe outskirts of a wretched ham- less—its immensity, its monotony, let, where a deserted barn offered enhanced by the frosty mist which adequate accommodation for the envelops everything with a semiprisoners. Like a flock of sheep transparent veil.
Not a tree as they had been driven into the landmark anywhere on which to building, where, huddled together fasten the eye; not a beast or on the cold earth-floor, they were bird to enliven the vast solitude : left to pass the night as best they the rising sun, just beginning to could—the Cossack guards mean- show its crimson disc on the horwhile keeping watch outside, each izon, struggles to break through one armed with a bayonet and a the brooding fog. It succeeds in brandy-flask.
casting a streak of ruddy light Escape is impossible, for the across the plain, which looks like convicts are linked together in a bloody path prepared to conduct batches of five or six-each left the convicts to their living tomb. hand riveted to a chain, which The air catches his breath as he leaves just suflicient
between steps outside the barn. Cold is two men to enable them all to not the word to express the biting march in single file. Thus the intensity of the atmosphere. It movement of each man affects his attacks the windpipe like a rush neighbour, and at night the rest of boiling steam; it pierces the less slumber of one imparts itself ear, the nostrils, with the force perforce to the other.
of a corrosive acid. It has begun When the time for starting has to snow as the convicts are being come, the sentries enter the barn formed into order for the march. and rouse the prisoners by a few But the snow here, too, is not as vigorous curses, emphasised and other snow. In our countries the diversified by some equally vigor- flakes descend softly, noiselessly : ous kicks.
they feel at most like chilly kisses, Roman, who happens to be the like cold caresses to the touch. last on a chain of five convicts, The Siberian flakes are hard, agstaggers to his feet, awakened by gressive; they deal out blows, not the tug of his companions, and kisses, each one armed with an looks around him in dazed fashion. invisible sting that pricks like a
Has he just been dreaming? Of pointed stiletto. Nor are they