It was not now a very cold night.
There were fleecy clouds thrown like puffs of smoke
against the western sky. The moon, on the wane, a
small crescent lying on its back, was lowering
toward the horizon. The thermometer had risen
since sunset, as it often does in March. There
was a suggestion of spring in the air. It seemed
that at last the long winter was drawing to a close;
that the iron grip of frost was relaxing.
Paul went out and inspected the harness
by the light of a stable lantern held in the mittened
hand of a yemschick. He had reasons of his own
for absenting himself while Catrina bade her mother
farewell. He was rather afraid of these women.
The harness inspected, he began reckoning
how many hours of moonlight might still be vouchsafed
to him. The stableman, seeing the direction of
his gaze, began to talk of the weather and the possibilities
of snow in the near future. They conversed in
low voices together.
Presently the door opened and Catrina
came quickly out, followed by a servant carrying a
Paul could not see Catrina’s
face. She was veiled and furred to the eyelids.
Without a word the girl took her seat in the sleigh,
and the servant prepared the bear-skin rugs.
Paul gathered up the reins and took his place beside
her. A few moments were required to draw up the
rugs and fasten them with straps; then Paul gave the
word and the horses leaped forward.
As they sped down the avenue Catrina
turned and looked her last on Thors.
Before long Paul wheeled into the
trackless forest. He had come very carefully,
steering chiefly by the moon and stars, with occasional
assistance from a bend of the winding river. At
times he had taken to the ice, following the course
of the stream for a few miles. No snow had fallen;
it would be easy to return on his own track. Through
this part of the forest no road was cut.
For nearly half an hour they drove
in silence. Only the whistle of the iron-bound
runners on the powdery snow, the creak of the warming
leather on the horses, the regular breathing of the
team, broke the stillness of the forest. Paul
hoped against hope that Catrina was asleep. She
sat by his side, her arm touching his sleeve, her
weight thrown against him at such times as the sleigh
bumped over a fallen tree or some inequality of the
He could not help wondering what thoughts
there were behind her silence. Steinmetz’s
good-natured banter had come back to his memory, during
the last few days, in a new light.
“Paul,” said the woman
at his side quite suddenly, breaking the silence of
the great forest where they had grown to life and sorrow
almost side by side.
“I want to know how this all
came about. It is not my father’s doing.
There is something quick, and practical, and wise which
suggests you and Herr Steinmetz. I suspect that
you have done this you and he for
“No,” answered Paul; “it
was mere accident. Your father heard of our trouble
in Kiew. You know him always impulsive
and reckless. He never thinks of the danger.
He came to help us.”
Catrina smiled wanly.
“But it is for our happiness,
is it not, Paul? You know that it is that
is why you have done it. I have not had time yet
to realize what I am doing, all that is going to happen.
But if it is your doing, I think I shall be content
to abide by the result.”
“It is not my doing,”
replied Paul, who did not like her wistful tone.
“It is the outcome of circumstances. Circumstances
have been ruling us all lately. We seem to have
no time to consider, but only to do that which seems
best for the moment.”
“And it is best that I should
go to America with my father?” Her voice was
composed and quiet. In the dim light he could
not see her white lips; indeed, he never looked.
“It seems so to me, undoubtedly,”
he said. “In doing this, so far as we can
see at present, it seems certain that you are saving
your father from Siberia. You know what he is;
he never thinks of his own safety. He ought never
to have come here to-night. If he remains in Russia,
it is an absolute certainty that he will sooner or
later be rearrested. He is one of those good
people who require saving from themselves.”
Catrina nodded. At times duty
is the kedge-anchor of happiness. The girl was
dimly aware that she was holding to this. She
was simple and unsophisticated enough to consider
Paul’s opinion infallible. At the great
cross-roads of life we are apt to ask the way of any
body who happens to be near. Catrina might perhaps
have made a worse choice of counsel, for Paul was
“As you put it,” she said,
“it is clearly my duty. There is a sort
of consolation in that, however painful it may be
at the time. I suppose it is consolatory to look
back and think that at all events one did one’s
“I don’t know,” answered Paul simply;
“I suppose so.”
Looking back was not included in his
method of life, which was rather characterized by
a large faith and a forward pressure. Whenever
there was question of considering life as an abstract,
he drew within his shell with a manlike shyness.
He had no generalities ready for each emergency.
“Would father have gone alone?”
she asked, with a very human thrill of hope in her
“No,” answered Paul steadily,
“I think not. But you can ask him.”
They had never been so distant as
they were at this moment so cold, such
mere acquaintances. And they had played together
in one nursery.
“Of course, if that is the case,”
said the girl, “my duty is quite clear.”
“It required some persuasion
to make him consent to go, even with you,” said
A rough piece of going for
there was no road debarred further conversation
at this time. The sleigh rolled and bumped over
one fallen tree after another. Paul, with his
feet stretched out, wedged firmly into the sleigh,
encouraged the tired horses with rein and voice.
Catrina was compelled to steady herself with both hands
on the bar of the apron; for the apron of a Russian
sleigh is a heavy piece of leather stretched on a
“Then you think my duty is quite
clear?” repeated the girl at length.
Paul did not answer at once.
“I am sure of it,” he said.
And there the question ended.
Catrina Lanovitch, who had never been ruled by those
about her, shaped her whole life unquestioningly upon
They did not speak for some time,
and then it was the girl who broke the silence.
“I have a confession to make
and a favor to ask,” she said bluntly.
Paul’s attitude denoted attention, but he said
“It is about the Baron de Chauxville,”
“I am a coward,” she went
on. “I did not know it before. It is
rather humiliating. I have been trying for some
weeks to tell you something, but I am horribly afraid
of it. I am afraid you will despise me. I
have been a fool worse, perhaps. I
never knew that Claude de Chauxville was the sort
of person he is. I allowed him to find out things
about me which he never should have known my
own private affairs, I mean. Then I became frightened,
and he tried to make use of me. I think he makes
use of every-body. You know what he is.”
“Yes,” answered Paul, “I know.”
“He hates you,” she went
on. “I do not want to make mischief, but
I suppose he wanted to marry the princess. His
vanity was wounded because she preferred you, and
he wanted to be avenged upon you. Wounds to the
vanity never heal. I do not know how he did it,
Paul, but he made me help him in his schemes.
I could have prevented you from going to the bear
hunt, for I suspected him then. I could have prevented
my mother from inviting him to Thors. I could
have put a thousand difficulties in his way, but I
did not. I helped him. I told him about the
people and who were the worst who had been
influenced by the Nihilists and who would not work.
I allowed him to stay on here and carry out his plan.
All this trouble among the peasants is his handiwork.
He has organized a regular rising against you.
He is horribly clever. He left us yesterday,
but I am convinced that he is in the neighborhood still.”
She stopped and reflected. There
was something wanting in the story, which she could
not supply. It was a motive. A half-confession
is almost an impossibility. When we speak of
ourselves it must be all or nothing preferably,
“I do not know why I did it,”
she said. “It was a sort of period I went
through. I cannot explain.”
He did not ask her to do so.
They were singularly like brother and sister in their
mental attitude. They had driven through twenty
miles of forest which belonged to one or other of
them. Each was touched by the intangible, inexplicable
dignity that belongs to the possession of great lands to
the inheritance of a great name.
“That is the confession,” she said.
He gave a little laugh.
“If none of us had worse than
that upon our consciences,” he answered, “there
would be little harm in the world, De Chauxville’s
schemes have only hurried on a crisis which was foreordained.
The progress of humanity cannot be stayed. They
have tried to stay it in this country. They will
go on trying until the crash comes. What is the
favor you have to ask?”
“You must leave Osterno,”
she urged earnestly; “it is unsafe to delay
even a few hours. M. de Chauxville said there
would be no danger. I believed him then, but
I do not now. Besides, I know the peasants.
They are hard to rouse, but once excited they are
uncontrollable. They are afraid of nothing.
You must get away to-night.”
Paul made no answer.
She turned slowly in her seat and
looked into his face by the light of the waning moon.
“Do you mean that you will not go?”
He met her glance with his grave, slow smile.
“There is no question of going,” he answered.
“You must know that.”
She did not attempt to persuade.
Perhaps there was something in his voice which she
as a Russian understood a ring of that which
we call pig-headedness in others.
“It must be splendid to be a
man,” she said suddenly, in a ringing voice.
“One feeling in me made me ask you the favor,
while another was a sense of gladness at your certain
refusal. I wish I was a man. I envy you.
You do not know how I envy you, Paul.”
Paul gave a quiet laugh such
a laugh as one hears in the trenches after the low
hum of a passing ball.
“If it is danger you want, you
will have more than I in the next week,” he
answered. “Steinmetz and I knew that you
were the only woman in Russia who could get your father
safely out of the country. That is why I came
The girl did not answer at once.
They were driving on the road again now, and the sleigh
was running smoothly.
“I suppose,” she said
reflectively at length, “that the secret of the
enormous influence you exercise over all who come in
contact with you is that you drag the best out of
every one the best that is in them.”
Paul did not answer.
“What is that light?”
she asked suddenly, laying her hand on the thick fur
of his sleeve. She was not nervous, but very watchful.
“There straight in front.”
“It is the sleigh,” replied
Paul, “with your father and Steinmetz. I
arranged that they should meet us at the cross-roads.
You must be at the Volga before daylight. Send
the horses on to Tver. I have given you Minna
and The Warrior; they can do the journey with one hour’s
rest, but you must drive them.”
Catrina had swayed forward against
the bar of the apron in a strange way, for the road
was quite smooth. She placed her gloved hands
on the bar and held herself upright with a peculiar
“What?” said Paul.
For she had made an inarticulate sound.
“Nothing,” she answered.
Then, after a pause, “I did not know that we
were to go so soon. That was all.”