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The Genius
by Margaret Horton Potter
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"You have deserved this; but I do not wish to see you."

The wish was obeyed. But the money, after some hesitation, Ivan spent.

Final success after long and bitter waiting is apt to prey curiously on the human character. Ivan took his oddly enough. His intimate friends—the only people to whom hitherto he had showed common civility, became first amazed, then chagrined, finally infuriated, by his sudden change of front. By swift degrees he ceased his intimacy with them all: Laroche, Kashkine, Balakirev, nay, Nicholas himself. And by mid-April he found himself scarcely on speaking terms with one of them.

Angered, hurt as these men were, they naturally put Ivan's behavior down to a sudden turning of the head. One only of them all, and he, had they but known it, the most deeply hurt, failed to censure, and guessed at something like the truth: that the young man, suddenly weary of his long term of unceasing labor at his profession, was seeking temporary playmates from another sphere.

In this spring of 1868, Ivan was nearly eight-and-twenty years of age. In knowledge of the gray and ugly sides of life, he was twice as old. Only in experience of the frivolities of existence was he deficient, his education there having been cut off in its heyday. It was towards this, then, towards young companionship and youthful pleasures, that his heart turned with irresistible longing. His former associates and their dry discussions and pursuits, the round of petty rivalries, the continual life of the shop, tortured his nerves. Music itself, his great goddess, became unworshipful, wearying to his very soul. Thus, repudiating her in a night, he set forth in all the glory of a cleansed record and a full pocket, to hunt for pleasure. His Conservatoire classes he changed from afternoon to morning; and, though he taught abominably, Nicholas kept the dire red notice from him by doing much of his work over after him, that he might be free for once to laugh with the spring.

The quarter to which Ivan turned for his recreation would have surprised his comrades not a little; and young Laroche would curtly have denied the truth that he had been responsible for his colleague's type of amusement. Nevertheless it was he who had been responsible for bringing Irina Petrovna and her brother to Ivan's rooms on the night of the opera, inspired, rather maliciously, by some faint memory of the old court-martial proceedings, and the long intrigue deduced by every one between Ivan and the girl. That night, after Ivan's recovery from his fainting-fit, Irina's brother, Sergius, had, on request of the young composer, given Ivan the address in the student quarter where he and his sister were living. Old Petrov was dead. Irina had freed herself long ago from her Petersburg connections; and now she was keeping up two rooms on ten roubles a month, while her brother finished his medical course at the university.

On the morning after the opera, brother and sister discussed the vague possibility of Ivan's visiting them. Irina had no difficulty in hiding from Sergius just how much the hope meant to her; but there was no idea of concealing the same thing from herself. As the days passed and Ivan did not come, she grew almost frightened at her own disappointment, discovering only now, perhaps, that there could never be any other man in her life who could make her feel the extremes of emotion. In two weeks she had gone through every stage from eager expectation to apathy; and then, suddenly, during the last, vague flicker of dying hope—he came; and her life grew red again. She was even content that he should evince most interest in men—her brother and the fellow-students that thronged their rooms at all hours. Of these, one and all regarded the visitor as a great and wealthy personage; and yet none could long remain unfriendly before the gay simplicity which speedily made Ivan as one of them. By rapid degrees their intercourse became intimate; and Ivan believed that their minds, their dreams, their trials, were as open to him as his to them. If they were not, if their secret hopes and the all-powerful reason for their community spirit remained sedulously concealed, this was, in truth, still greater proof of their friendship for him; for there were few of the hated upper class that they would have scrupled to use in their own way for their own purposes.

It was odd, perhaps, that Ivan never perceived how often his entrance into their rooms stopped or turned the conversation; though perhaps much personal sacrifice had been made for that meeting. They had all come to be proud of the young composer's fondness for them; and they held a tacit agreement that he should never, through them, be placed in danger. For, though Ivan saw it not, the shadow of the rope, or of the distant, frozen, Siberian mines, hung over this little band of youths by day and by night, sleeping and waking. He had fallen upon the very centre of the first students' brotherhood: an alliance formed a few years before, during that unique revolution of Russian youth which resulted in the birth of Nihilism.

It was about the year 1860, when the question of abolition was shaking the Bear from head to tail, that this unique movement began. By some obscure trait of national heritage, there sprang up, almost at the same hour, through the mediaeval gloom that still enveloped Peter's Empire, a thousand points of unwonted light. They were to be found burning at once in the twilight of isolated manors and the midnight of the serf's hut: in the city palace, and its neighboring tenement. Yet they sprang up among one class only—the young men and the young women of the race. The light was the light of intellectual desire for education, for science; and by it all Russia was presently set ablaze. In the history of mankind there is to be found no such tale of bloodless civil war as here. Young men and delicately nurtured girls were casting off every tradition of class, of custom, of convention, assuming the right to go forth freely to the universities, to study: willing, nay, glad, to renounce not only the luxuries but the comforts, almost the bare necessities of existence, they assumed the burden of dogged labor under almost unbearable poverty. Finally, bitterest of all, came the breaking of love-forged chains; the piteous, fruitless struggle of children to explain their position to their parents, members of that older generation who could not understand, who would not yield, who capped defeat by disinheritance.—Such were the battles of this war; such the sudden marvellous development of higher education in Russia.

Many were the virtues of this little army of youths and maidens. They worked together in perfect harmony of theory and practice. There was honor among the men; there was faith among the women. The wonderful history of Sonya Kovalevsky, delicate daughter of a noble house, who became the first woman to occupy a university professorship in Europe, was repeated a thousand times with humbler results. Nor have there failed to linger innumerable stories of those mariages de facilite—levers used simply to force the freedom of some too well-guarded aspirant for knowledge. And all of the young men married, in an hour, to girls whom they had never before seen, not ten, perhaps, failed in giving chivalrous protection, or ever took the possible, cruel advantage of this last, desperate ruse to escape the fettering guardianship of parentage.

But unhappily, though scandal scarcely raised its head among the sincere members of the youthful army, other ills as far-reaching and even more dangerous began soon to sow seeds of evil and of suffering among them. For out of the fermentation arising among these isolated bands, came the bitterest drink that Russia has had to swallow. Poverty, alienation, the common cause against a common enemy—how should it not breed socialism? That established, where find a lack of bolder spirits to take the short step into downright anarchy? Whether it was Turgeniev or Lermontoff who first interpreted this infant Credo, what matters it? As in a night, lo! on every lip was the dread word that was destined to be blazoned in bloody letters at the head of the next and grimmest chapter of all Russian history: Nihilism.

Indeed, indeed, had these young men and women found their little knowledge a deeply dangerous thing! Too quickly they perceived the imperfections of their government, the corruption rife among the officials of every class. And bitter was their reproach. The question to them seemed simple. To correct this, at once and forever, dig up the very soil in which the corruptive roots expanded—here was the way, the only way. And immediately there followed pamphlets and articles. Secret meetings, propagandist organizations, flooded the land. And the red flag was everywhere raised and acknowledged as the student symbol.

It was down upon the southern bank of the Moskva that the three or four thousand students of the Moscow University formed their colony, taking, as it were, communal possession of that narrow neighborhood. There Sergius and Irina dwelt, in circumstances a little better than those of their friends. They kept the rent of their rooms paid; and, moreover, it was a rare thing for a starving youth to drop in on them and find their samovar cold, or their welcome unready. Sergius was himself, indeed, the heart and soul of his branch of the brotherhood; and from him had emanated none knew how many screeds and pamphlets upon his favorite theme. Irina, relying on him as the last protector of her family, questioned none of his plans, but found in his manner of life much that delighted her Bohemian soul.

Now, into their unstable existence, came Ivan; and over him brother and sister had their first dispute: Irina her first victory. True, Sergius knew, and was to know, nothing of his sister's past acquaintance with the composer, or what a debt he, as a brother, owed Ivan. In his eyes Gregoriev was simply a man of the world, unknown to the police, and, therefore, a valuable tool. After that first visit to their rooms, Sergius unfolded to Irina his purpose for the use of her evident admirer, which, to his utter amazement, the girl vehemently opposed. By what tortuous way she managed in the end to reach his deeply hidden scruples, who can say? Suffice it that, shortly, word went round to the effect that this one guest of the Quarter, though he was to be accorded privileges of comradeship, must remain a stranger to the inner significance of the prevalent red flag. Whereupon Irina, breathing freely, entered, for a few weeks, into the Kingdom.

The brief chapter of Ivan's life in the student quarter proceeded merrily to its dramatic close; and, until that close, Ivan remained utterly oblivious of his or the others' danger.

It was in the first week of the queen of months—the May-time, that Gregoriev took it into his head to return the oft-repeated, meagre hospitality of the Akheskaia, by giving a birthday supper to Sergius, on the night of the 10th. The idea had been born in him through some mention of the date by Irina, and a casual regret that their recent contribution towards Burevsky's new chemical outfit must preclude any hope of even the simplest celebration. Whether her speech had been ingenuous or not, it did not occur to Ivan to inquire, so pleased was he at thought of an opportunity of doing something for his new friends at last. Certainly Irina's finished suggestion accomplished its purpose to perfection; for, within three days, the affair was under way and the invitations accepted to a man—and one damsel.

It came as a surprise and an unpleasant one that news of this modest festivity should have gone abroad; but that the fact should be objected to, and that by persons unknown as well as known, was as annoying as it was preposterous. Four days before the affair, Ivan went through a highly unpleasant scene with old Nicholas Rubinstein, who came to beg him to give up his acquaintance in the Akheskaia, and remained to beseech, with an earnestness a trifle startling, that he would, at least, put off this supper. When finally his defeated friend had gone, though he had preserved towards him a courtesy that was as admirable as it had been cutting to old Nicholas, Ivan sat down to his piano feeling troubled at heart, uneasy in mind. Nor were either of these feelings lessened when, a quarter of an hour later, old Sosha, after some unintelligible parley at the door with a being unknown, came limping in to his master bearing two notes—notes that bore no post-mark, but were both tightly sealed. The first was clear enough:

"Let Ivan Gregoriev go to the records in his father's office and verify the day of Sergius Lihnoffs birth.—November 19, 1844. Let him also see whether the story of the attempted murder of Guttenrog, at Kiev, in July 1861, is not to be found upon the same, or the next, page. Monsieur Gregoriev should be better acquainted with the guests whom he honors by his invitations.

"ONE WHO KNEW SOPHIA IVANOVNA."

As his eyes traversed the last line, Ivan trembled a little, and grew suddenly faint. His mother's name!—How long ago since he had heard it.—His mother!—His mother's name used in a denunciation?—Faugh! It was a trap. Nevertheless he sat rigid, frowning, lost in thought, for many minutes before he lifted the other missive, addressed this time in a hand that seemed vaguely familiar.

"DEAR FRIEND,—You do too much for those who deserve nothing at your hands. Serge and I cannot repay you for your kindness; but we need not be too greatly indebted to you. It is my fault that you are to give this supper. It is I who ask you to give it up.—I implore you, Ivan Mikhailovitch, give it up; or, if it must be, change the date from Thursday to Sunday—and change it at the last minute. Also, if you pity me, do not show this to Serge, or to any one we know.

"Ivan, I wish to help you. Believe that, and accept the sincere compliments of

"IRINA PETROVNA."

Three times did Ivan read this curious note, meditating the while on the reason for the obvious fear in which it was written. Certainly the easiest way to discover her reason, was to talk to her alone. If he went down to the Quarter, could he manage a tete-a-tete?—If not, could he not take her for a walk—out for tea? Any of a hundred little ruses would serve him. Yes, he would go! And, springing up, he ran to his bedroom to dress.

Ten minutes later he opened the outer door of his apartment. As he stepped out upon the landing, he twisted his foot in a sudden effort to avoid stepping on a white envelope that had been pushed half-way under the door.

So there were more of them!

Laughing, a little sardonically, Ivan picked up the letter and turned back into his living-room again. The envelope of this missive, unlike the others, bore only his name, not the address. Within, it was undated, unsigned, and began abruptly:

"Monsieur Ivan Mikhailovitch Gregoriev, of whom, politically, the government as yet knows no wrong, is nevertheless respectfully warned against further association with the students of the brotherhood in the Akheskaia. Let Monsieur Gregoriev assure himself of the character of his associates before proceeding with an intimacy which the government will be unable long to overlook.

"K. by order of M.—O. G. I."

"M., Official Government Inspector!"—here, at last, was tangibility.—And yet—the seal? The great, red, double-eagle, so long familiar to him as dangling from the documents that were forever in the hands of his father:—where was it?—Besides, the whole thing was unofficial.—There was neither heading nor arms.—It was a hoax—a trick—possibly of Laroche, or Ostrovsky, or some other of that formal, jealous lot. They thought to drive him from his friendships by malicious, anonymous calumny, then? calumny of a body of poverty-stricken, half-starved men, working disinterestedly for the sake of science,—ah! That was a generous thing to do!—As for Irina's letter, well, she had all a woman's inconsistencies and whims. She had got some silly notion of pride in her now. By Heaven! He would not even go to see her. He would merely write a formal little note reminding her of the date and the hour of his supper—six o'clock on Thursday evening. And then, though all Russia, though the Czar himself forbade, he should give Sergius his festival, or go to prison before the day.

* * * * *

Punctually, then, at the hour named, on Thursday, May 10th, there sat down to the flower-strewn table in Ivan's rooms seven persons—six men and one woman, they being all but one of the company asked. The chair between Sergius and Feodor Lemsky was to have been occupied by Yevgeny Burevsky, the young man who had been the recipient of those "scientific instruments" for which the whole Quarter was still out of ready money. It was Sergius himself who explained to their host that, ever since he had received his outfit, Burevsky had been tirelessly working at his chemistry. Thus, that afternoon, when his friends called for him on their way to Ivan, they had found him just nearing the end of a long and difficult experiment which could not be left. It should, he said, be finished between half-past six and seven, upon which he would hasten into his clothes and take a droschky at once for the house of his host. If anything went wrong, however, he sent his sincere regrets and apologies to Ivan, begging him to excuse an unpolished workman for his seeming rudeness, and sending a thousand thanks for the kindness of the invitation.

Sergius gave the excuse so pleasantly, in a manner so engagingly frank, that Ivan readily accepted it, nor noticed how fixedly Irina was staring down into her plate, while the four other young men sat in moody silence, their faces—this their host did perceive—looking singularly pallid and drawn.

Calling out for more candles and champagne—which were brought by two footmen, hired, for the occasion, to serve the dishes which old Sosha and the neighboring pastry-shop between them had concocted,—Ivan, seconded by Sergius, who was in high spirits, set himself to bring life to his party. He found this unexpectedly easy. In fact, after a minute or two, one might almost have said that the hilarity became a little too boisterous, that the laughter almost bordered on the hysterical, that the humor seemed rather blurred for this stage of the evening. Then, presto! the room was in a nervous hush, while Irina lifted a quivering glass to the candle-light, and, in a voice not her own, proposed a toast:—The complete success of Yevgeny Burevsky's experiment, and—and his speedy appearance among his waiting friends.

Ivan heard a breath, indrawn, run round the table like a hiss, and he turned his eyes rather sharply on the girl as Sergius cried out:

"Come, are you all asleep?—Bottoms up—to Yevgeny's—success! May it fulfil his highest hopes—and—ours!"

"Thank you, your wish is answered," came a voice from the doorway.

Irina gave a hoarse scream, and her glass, with its untouched contents, dropped upon the table. Every man had started from his seat; but only Ivan went forward, hands out-stretched, to greet the young fellow who now came into the circle of light. He was carefully dressed, his blue coat buttoned tightly below a well-laundered shirt, a crush hat held in his hand, one lock of jet-black hair fallen over a forehead no more bloodless than his lips, while out of his ghastly face gleamed a pair of gray-green eyes that shone with a fixed brilliancy. One look at him, and Ivan was exclaiming, anxiously:

"Yevgeny Alexandrovitch,—you're ill! My God, man, you should be in bed!—come, sit down!"

But Burevsky laughed—hoarsely. "No, no. You will give me the best medicine: a meal—company—a glass of wine. I've—I've been working!—Sergius told you—?"

He broke off, waving a listless hand towards his friend. Ivan, touched with pity, asked no more questions but led him to the table and seated him; nor heeded, as he sent a servant for vodka, Burevsky's quick glance round the board, and his low-voiced "All well."

A moment later, and the room was echoing to the rattle of knives and forks and a conversation which, though lighter than before, was still fitful and rather feverish in its rapid change of topic. It was the talk of men keyed to an unbearable state of anticipation. Sergius presently called Irina to sing Marie's song of the stirrup-cup from "The Boyar"; and fourteen hands applauded wildly as she smilingly climbed upon her chair, and, holding the replenished glass in her right hand, began one of the most successful solos in Ivan's opera.

She sang unaccompanied; but accompaniment was not missed. Save for her voice, the room was absolutely still. Even Yevgeny, who had finished his zakouski and liqueur, pushed his broth away to listen undisturbed; and the footmen, with a change of plates, stole about the room on tiptoe. Irina's voice, nearing the climax of the solo, soared higher and fuller; while Ivan, with sparkling eyes, awaited the moment when he should lead the others into the rousing chorus that terminated the song. At that moment there came a sudden trampling of heavy feet on the stairs without, followed by a loud knock at the door, which, speedily thrown open by Sosha, disclosed an officer and three gendarmes who, following the sound of the singing, presently halted on the dining-room threshold, evidently surprised at the scene before them.

Irina's voice broke off on an upper note, but she remained on her chair, petrified by some powerful emotion that singularly resembled terror. Her brother and his friends were, less conspicuously, in the same state. But Ivan proved himself admirable. Rising, quietly, he went forward, and asked, in a voice of mingled surprise and dignity:

"Who are you, may I ask? and what can your errand be with me or with my guests?"

The sergeant, after another long look around the room, consulted a paper in his hand and asked, slowly:

"You are Monsieur Ivan Gregoriev?"

"I am."

"There are others here?"

"You see them."

"These are all, then?"

"I have two hired waiters and my own old servant in the kitchen."

"It's not them we want.—What are the names of these persons?"

"What right have you to ask? This house—"

"I am an officer in the service of the Czar. If you refuse to answer me I must take you forcibly before the court.—Give me the names of these men."

Ivan turned a piteous face towards his friends, and, in an instant, Sergius said, quietly: "Certainly give our names, Ivan. There is no reason for withholding them." Nor did either Ivan or the officer perceive that this young man was holding Irina, now lying back in her seat, from unconsciousness simply by the power of his eyes, or that he had grasped Burevsky's hand under the cloth and was keeping him from self-betrayal by the pure force of contact.

Meantime the officer was writing the names, occupations, and domiciles, of every one present, at Ivan's dictation; and, as each was given, he looked it out from a list in his small, black note-book, and checked it off. This over, he resumed his general questions:

"At what hour did these students arrive in your rooms?"

"I am not certain.—A few minutes—perhaps fifteen—before six."

"Before the hour?"

"Oh yes. We had to wait for Ivan Veliki to stop striking as I was calling out an order to my servant."

"Are you sure that they were all here then?"

Only now, for the first time, a thought that was like a dagger-thrust shot through Ivan. He wondered if the officer saw the color leave his face. Nevertheless his hesitation had been imperceptible when he said, quietly: "They all came in together."

The sergeant turned to his men and shook his head slightly. A few muttered words passed between them, the men seeming to agree with their superior. Then the officer once more faced Ivan, who stood waiting: "Thank you, sir. You have saved your friends from suspicion. Nevertheless I was forced to ask, because the entire Quarter is being searched for the man who, at twelve minutes past six to-night, shot and instantly killed Major Ternoff, assistant secretary of police, as he was driving, in his open droschky, through the Pretchishlensky Boulevard, from the public offices of justice towards his home." And, with a stiff salute, the sergeant, followed by his three men, turned and left the room and the apartment.

Mechanically Ivan closed the door upon them, and then stood staring from the white-faced Sergius to Irina, now supported by a neighbor, who was wetting her face with water from a goblet.

Presently, as if his thoughts had broken unconsciously into words, Ivan muttered, in a low, expressionless voice: "Anarchy!—Murder!—Good God—why didn't they make it my father?"

Then Burevsky rose slowly to his feet. "We all rejoice, Ivan, for and with you, that it was not your father.—And you have saved me—from—from a serious difficulty. If you had told them that I—that I did not come with the others—"

Ivan gave the spectre of a laugh. "Your chemistry should have served you, Yevgeny Alexandrovitch. Still—the lie—probably prevented—annoyance—to you all. Ah, these Nihilists! What remarkable fellows they—"

"Ivan, we will go now. Irina is recovering," interrupted Sergius, gravely. To Ivan's dull surprise, the young fellow's eyes met his full and honestly. Involuntarily Ivan shuddered; but a little of the convulsive bitterness in his heart faded away. Nevertheless, he took a curious advantage of the situation. Far from permitting the now restlessly eager students to leave his rooms, he kept them there, and, with them, the miserable Irina, till past midnight. Uncomfortable, shame-stricken, afraid, as they were, they continued to sit at the table of the man they had used, and to eat his food and drink his wine. Only once Sergius ventured to turn to him, saying; "You do not eat.—This vol-au-vent is perfect."

But Ivan, turning his grave, black eyes on those of the speaker, made answer:

"Pietr Ternoff was my mother's second cousin. He has dandled me on his knee when I was a baby. Till I was too old for it, I drank my milk out of the gold mug he sent me at my birth.—And Pietr Ternoff has been murdered.—Am I to break bread—with you—to-night?"



CHAPTER XIV

THE THIRD SECTION

It was a quarter to one o'clock before Ivan finally shut the door upon his guests—the hand of none of whom had he touched in farewell. And they, as they went out into the May night, knew that they had left their friendship behind forever; but only one of them would let a little heavy-heartedness melt away in tears. Irina, hanging on her brother's arm, wept, quietly, all the way back to the Alkheskaia.

In spite of all their genuine regret, however, there was not one of them who carried Ivan's bitterness to bed with him that night. They believed in the righteousness of their act. He saw it as it was: cowardly and cold-blooded murder. Here, then, was a little more faith lost; one more tradition gone; another shred of his remnant of faith in humanity torn from him and flung into the mud. During the whole of the following week he carried his load silently about with him. The papers were filled with the story of the assassination, the details of the public funeral, the condition of his widow, and the incomprehensible escape and continued liberty of the assassin. It had been still light when the man—all were agreed that it had been a man,—halted in the shadow of a doorway till his victim's vehicle was in the road opposite him. Then he had shot the fatal bullet, stepped calmly out of the doorway, and, mingling with the quickly gathering crowd, passed at once from the sight of the one or two who believed they had seen him shoot. And now he had disappeared into the wilderness of the city. Though a reward of three thousand roubles was offered for his capture, none had, as yet, brought so much as a clew.

Ivan spent the week absorbing these reiterated facts, and trying, vaguely, to resolve them into some sort of order: to come to some sort of decision regarding his own course of action. Certain he was that he knew where to lay hands upon Ternoff's assassin. Certain also was he that, if he gave Burevsky up to justice—his father's "justice," the responsibility of Burevsky's execution or exile would be on his conscience forevermore.

What to do?

Burevsky and his companions had used him ruthlessly, as their shield.—Ivan had no idea of how slight had been the advantage they took in comparison with predecessors of his.—Why should he hesitate to visit them with his ideas of right?—But, though he came forever to this point he always left it again, unanswered, and went reluctantly back to the beginning of his syllogism. The men had been his friends. He had liked them more than he had known. He had broken their bread. Could he deliver them up to their fearful retribution?—God help him, he could not: criminals, menacing society, though they were.

It took Ivan an entire week to come to the simple and obvious decision of a middle course, so harassed and over-excited had his brain become. But when, on the morning of May 17th, it suddenly occurred to him to go to Sergius and make a clean breast of his doubt and his self-reproach, he could hardly constrain himself to wait till his classes were over and a mouthful of luncheon swallowed before he betook himself, in a swift droschky along the bank of the river, till he came to the bridge across which lay the Student Quarter. Thence he proceeded, on foot, through the maze of ugly little streets, wherein the spring sunshine only showed up all the more pitilessly their meanness, and filth, and ugliness. Once at the house in which the brother and sister lodged, he went up the rickety stairs unheeding any of the customary sights and sounds, till, arriving at Sergius' door, he started a little to find it wide open. Five minutes later he returned to that door in a state of yet greater bewilderment; for both rooms were empty of occupants.

Sergius and Irina were gone; but, as their belongings were scattered about in the usual untidiness, Ivan argued return. Throwing off his hat, then, he filled and lighted a pipe, seated himself at the battered piano—sole remaining relic of old Petrov Lihnoff, and now too dilapidated for sale—and yielded himself for an hour to that most dangerous luxury of the serious composer: improvisation.

Interested in the little theme he had developed, Ivan lost count of time, and nearly two hours passed before he was interrupted. There was a sound of feet running rapidly up-stairs, and then there burst into the room Burevsky: bare-headed, leaden-hued, eyes aflame, his left hand hanging, crushed and bloody, at his side, in his right a pistol, its barrel glinting in the light.

Ivan was on his feet, facing the other, who stared at him as he gasped, between his quick breaths:

"You, Gregoriev!—You!—Go, instantly!—Leave the house at the back;—there may be time!—You—"

"But for God's sake, Burevsky, what's the matter?—Where are Sergius and Irina?"

"Irina got away, thank God!—We managed that, last night.—See here, Ivan, she's at—"

The next word was drowned in the sharp report of a pistol-shot, which was instantly followed by another. Afterwards came a wild rush on the stairs, a low, hoarse cry, the screams of some women in the lower rooms, and then the room was invaded by Tronsky and Stassov, who were followed by Sergius and Feodor Lemsky dragging between them Lemsky's brother, Boris. Him they laid at once upon a sofa, dripping as he was with the blood which still gushed from a wound under his heart. He was murmuring, incoherently. Perhaps he was conscious of receiving his brother's kiss. But it was his last mortal impression. Immediately afterwards his jaw fell, his eyes stared wide. One of them, at least, would not see Siberia.

And now, without a word, the five—Lemsky, stunned and silent, with them, began hurriedly to pile furniture before the closed and bolted door. Ivan, still standing motionless by the window, transfixed with horror, watched, as piano, table, chairs, finally a bed, were built into a barricade. Already, however, their movements were accompanied by the sound of voices and the trampling of feet in the hall outside. Ivan realized that the combat was about to recommence; and he was moving vaguely towards the group of students when Sergius seized him by the shoulder and drew him across to the door of the other room. As they went he sketched, in three or four vivid sentences the events following the shooting of Ternoff: the finding of the pistol-dealer, who had put the police upon the assassin's track; Burevsky's fugitive week; Irina's escape; the sudden discovery of the arrangements for Burevsky's departure an hour ago; then the return flight from the station to their own quarter, ending in this final stand. Now they were in the back room, and Ivan listened, dully, while Sergius explained that he might escape even yet, by means of the rear window and a rope, which he drew from behind the porcelain stove and put into Ivan's hands. Then came one word of regret and farewell. The door was slammed upon him and he heard the bolt upon the other side shot home.

Instantly Ivan, roused too late, sprang after his friend and began beating furiously upon the door, calling to be admitted. In vain. His words were completely drowned in the furious clamor now rising from the hall beyond. Shot after shot rang out, punctuating sharply the fierce, steady pounding at the barricade, and the low, dull, but intensely penetrating murmur of the crowd gathering about the house in street and alley. Once again, listening, calculating possibilities, Ivan stood motionless, horror in his eyes, chaos in his brain. How long the fight beyond him endured he had no idea. Very suddenly, however, the clamor ceased, and, out of the silence, rose the tones of a deep, official voice, repeating the formal sentences of accusation and arrest. These were given but three times; and the names were those of Lihnoff, Stassov, and Feodor Lemsky. In his heart Ivan realized at once the reason for this; but the pangs of grief in him came as no surprise. What he now did seemed natural to him. To the prisoners in the outer room it was wanton madness. They, and the policemen who were still working upon the ruins of the barricade, heard the sound of sharp rapping on the inner door. An officer, uttering an exclamation, ran to it and unfastened the bolt. The next instant Ivan walked quietly into the wrecked room, and gazed about him at the ruin, where, in the midst of splinters and scraps of wood, empty cartridges, and greasy blood-streaks, lay three bodies: Lemsky, the first sacrifice; Burevsky the assassin; and Vladimir Tronsky, a gentle, beardless boy. Empty window-frames, splintered glass, and the ends of two ladders on the sills, showed how an entrance had finally been effected; for old Petrov's piano, now a mass of splintered wood and twisted wire, had served its owner to the last.

There was some manifestation of surprise at Ivan's appearance; but he was at once seized, handcuffed, and provided likewise with ankle-chains, which permitted of a step of about eight inches. Then he was ranged beside the other three, who noticed him in no way. And, though he knew that the lack of recognition was for his own safety, it hurt, unaccountably. The anger, the repulsion for these youths, was gone from him now; and at heart he sided fanatically with them against their captors. But it had not as yet occurred to him that his own plight was far from pleasant.

There was an interminable, official wait. Little by little the crowd outside was broken up by police, who feared a possible attempt to liberate the prisoners when they should emerge. The golden light of the May afternoon was fading softly into the silvery white night of the north. A chill had crept into the air. Inward discomfort began to remind Ivan that a day had passed since he had eaten substantially; for at noon he had been too full of the prospective interview to linger over luncheon. But there was small hope of speedy refreshment now; and the hunger of prisoners is traditional.

By degrees, however, he drifted into one of his customary reveries, which was hardly broken by the termination of their wait. Under a guard of flattering size, the "politicals" were escorted down the silent, empty stairs and into the street, where two ordinary carriages awaited them. On emerging from the smoke-filled, blood-spattered house into the clean, cold evening air, Sergius looked keenly about him for some sign of deliverance or of sympathy. None came. The street was like that of an abandoned city. On penalty of fine, every inhabitant was within doors. One moment, and the world was shut away from the prisoners, perhaps for the rest of their lives. The four of them were divided and placed two in a carriage, facing two guards who sat with loaded pistols on their knees: on the box an armed driver and a sergeant of police. The windows were closely curtained, and, during the long drive, not one glimpse was to be caught of street or building. Nevertheless, Ivan knew that they had not crossed the river. That meant that they were not at once to go to the "politicals'" prison nor to the formal offices of the police. But one house in this part of the town seemed likely to be their destination. That was the gubernatorial palace: surely an unusual destination, Ivan thought, even considering the crime for which they were to suffer.

It was as they were finally alighting from the vehicle that Ivan's companion, Stassov, managed at last to speak, in a whisper so rapid and so low that Ivan barely caught it:

"We get our trial now. This examination will be all we'll have.—Be careful."

Then, for the first time, Ivan's heart sank, terribly. Another instant, and it was in his throat. Their destination had not been the palace of the Governor; but that of the chief of the Moscow Third Section. Ivan was entering his boyhood home!

* * * * *

An hour had passed. Ivan, Sergius, and four guards were sitting silently in the antechamber to Prince Michael's inner room. They alone were left; for, Stassov first, then Lemsky, had been led away into that dreaded chamber, and had not returned. Of what passed at their examinations, Ivan could only guess. But his imagination being now on fire, he felt that the crossing of that threshold would be little less awful than that of a doomed heretic into the torture-chamber of the Spanish Inquisition. Of the memories, realizations, and foreboding of those sixty minutes, it is difficult to speak, clearly. From the stunned calm of the first moment of shock, Ivan had drifted gradually into a fever of acutest feeling. To him, now, his situation assumed monstrous and distorted proportions; for he expected no jot or tittle of favor from the father who had cast him so completely out of his life. Moreover, back of all the melodrama of the present, lay a black shadow of haunting memory: memory of the house in which he sat; of his impressionable, childish days within it; of Nathalie; of Ludmillo; finally, above all, her image enveloped in a shining aura of passionate appreciation, his mother: of the sorrow of her tender life; and the poignant bitterness of her death. It was to this tapestry of the past that he added now his vivid mental pictures of present events; the revelations concerning the character of his new friends; of Irina, her treachery and her remorse; and finally, incongruity that made the fantasy perfect, over all, through all, there wound, caressingly, the notes of the little melody that had that afternoon flowed from his fingers on to Sergius' battered piano:—the melody which now forms the principal theme of the weirdest of his tone poems; the "Saturnalia of the Red Death," taken from Poe's wild tale.

At length, while he sat drearily working his numbed fingers, Piotr entered for the third time and summoned Sergius, away into the inner room. Before he went, Irina's brother turned his face to his companion and looked at him; and in that look Ivan read all that the student had tried to express in it: his remorse, his anguish, his sorrow for the treachery that had ruined his friend. It was strange how, by that look, the hearts of both were lightened.

Ivan waited long alone, under the curious eyes of the guard who saw in him a type very different from that of the usual "political." Even these men, uneducated as they were, believed, in their hearts, that there was a mistake somewhere about this fellow. And yet, as for his chances of release with the great Chief within there—bah! They were not worth the price of a rusty nail.

In the end it was with an air dogged, half-sullen, half-resentful, that Ivan, concealing his face by keeping his head bent down, followed his father's old servitor along the short passage to the closed door of Prince Michael's cabinet. Immediately there came a word of command from within. The door was opened, and Ivan was pushed into the room.

It contained only one man, seated at a great work-table covered with orderly piles of documents. At first sight, the years seemed to have passed over Michael's head leaving him untouched; but, as Ivan stepped into the light of a low-hanging lamp, his father gave a sudden start, a hoarse gasp, and then fell back into his chair again—an old man. Ivan, though he had been gripping himself for the ordeal, felt himself turn slowly white, closed his eyes for an instant, and reopened them to meet the diamond-bright glare of his father's look. At that, moved by a combination of emotional strain, physical exhaustion, and nervous tension, he suddenly began to laugh. It was his father who brought him back to himself again: his father, who sat slowly rubbing one hand across his brows, and muttering, as one in a daze:

"Toi!—Toi, Ivan!—Dieu! Dieu!"

Words, tone, appearance, moved the son intensely; for never before had man beheld Michael Gregoriev show such stress of emotion. Never had any hour so clearly revealed the ravages of mad living and secret unhappiness.

True, the fierce eyes could flash as of old; the voice would presently once more ring harsh and servant and equal alike would cringe before him; for still he held half Moscow in the iron grip of his terrible omniscience. But Ivan noted the color of his hair—that dead white that is not the snow of years but the ashen colorlessness borne of continuous nervous strain. And there was the unexpected stoop of the powerful shoulders, the occasional unavoidable trembling of the hands, and in his face, which repeated the livid tone of the hair, were graven lines, many and deep, born of the repressed disappointment and increasing loneliness that had insensibly humanized the harsh visage. To the eyes of the son, looking on his father for the first time in years, there lay on face and figure, everywhere, the marks of that dread instrument which no member of the Third Section can put away or destroy: the evidences of relentless experience.

Eye to eye they faced each other, father and son. One minute passed.—Two.—Three. Never before had Ivan felt himself a thing of evil. But under those terrible eyes, that had searched hearts as others searched printed texts for interlinear meanings, he began to feel himself drawn into the wild waters between a Scylla of shame and a Charybdis of terror. Alas! Would this man believe his wretched tale of the trickery of others; of wanton, stubborn stupidity on the part of himself?

The first, hot wave of mortification had not passed when Prince Michael suddenly straightened, and lifted his head. His two hands were fast clinched; but their trembling was still plainly visible. He seemed, for an instant, about to break into one of his old torrents of abuse; but suddenly, with an effort, he restrained himself, paused, and then said, slowly:

"I have been misinformed. I did not know you had entered the university."

"I have not. I am the second Professor of harmony and orchestration in the new Conservatoire of Music."

"Then, by God, what are you—" The words were shot out by a furious impulse, and as suddenly ceased. Again a pause, and Michael began, quietly: "What have you been arrested for, then? How did you get into that nest of murderers: the brains and the soul of anarchy in central Russia:—especially the creature Petrovitch, or Lihnoff?"

Ivan gave a weary sigh. "Because I have been an unspeakable fool: because I was tired; and had been working long, and hard. I chose some new companions;—and now I find I entertained assassins unawares."

At this, the reflected gleam of a smile flickered across Michael's face. His hands relaxed. "Tell me the story—all of it," he said. Nor would the prisoners waiting for their comrade, nor yet the guards that attended them, have believed their ears could they have heard the tone of the tyrant's voice.

Without preface, and without apology, Ivan began his story, which he told baldly, with harsh stress upon his own deliberate folly. Only one omission did he make: and that was one demanded of him by the past. Irina's name never appeared in the narrative; and, as he went on, the hope that she might be successfully shielded throughout, grew large within him. Again, however, he underrated the man to whom he spoke. He had finished, and silence had reigned for perhaps ten seconds, when Gregoriev said, a little impatiently:

"But the woman!—Lihnoff's sister, Irina, who has managed to get away from my fools for the moment? Where is she, Ivan? You owe her one turn for dragging you into your disgrace six years ago. Give me the information, and—you shall go."

Ivan's lip curled. "Spy's wages!—I am no informer," he jerked out, his heart sinking within him, nevertheless.

Gregoriev leaped to his feet in fury. Almost as quickly he was back in his chair again. This conflict to retain his temper was so new to him and his repeated outbreaks were so characteristic, that one might have laughed had the situation been different. However, when he spoke again, Michael's voice was quiet enough, though touched with irony:

"So—actually—you are in love with her still!"

"Neither now nor ever," Ivan answered, steady-eyed.

Michael, inwardly relieved, shrugged. "Where is she, Ivan?"

"Thank God, I don't know!"

"Why don't you know?"

"Burevsky was shot with the name of the place on his lips—unspoken."

Michael's brows were drawn and frowning. "You swear ignorance?" he demanded.

"So help me God."

"Humph!—Well, well,—it merely delays the affair a day or two. She's known in every town in the Moscow district, and in every big city from Odessa to Petersburg by this time.—Frontiers all waiting for her."

"Father!"

At the sudden title, Michael trembled. "What is it?"

"Father, it is that I want Irina's pardon.—Listen! Sergius Lihnoff has been her undoing. Freed from his fanaticism, his fascination, she will be as dangerous as a baby.—She always hated the treachery.—Before that supper she even begged me to give it up, or to postpone it to Sunday—a day when Ternoff wouldn't leave the offices at his hour.—I am willing to give myself as guarantee for her. If ever again she involves herself in a plot, I will come here and surrender."

He was interrupted by his father's harsh laugh. "Useful act!" he said.

Ivan flushed, but nevertheless repeated, steadily:

"Give her her pardon!—I've not asked much of you in my life. Do this thing for me.—I won't want another."

Gregoriev frowned, but seemed to ponder the question. Finally, leaning across the table, he growled: "Don't you know that never, in my life as a Russian official, have I done such a thing as you ask? In all the years of my service, a criminal hunted has been a criminal sentenced."

"And now I ask you to prove your rule by this one exception.—I swear to you that the only person Irina is dangerous to, is—herself."

There ended Ivan's fight for the girl. The rest of the struggle, and it was a fierce one, passed silently within his father's breast. Ten unbearable minutes, and then, Michael raised his hand.

* * * * *

That conference with the last of the four prisoners, ended in one of the profoundest sensations ever experienced by Prince Michael's entourage. For the young man, a Nihilist "political" of the type the Chief hated with a hatred undying, emerged from the cabinet alone, unguarded, bearing a pass of complete freedom, signed, "Michael." Two of the men, examining it, rushed back to the inner cabinet to discover if their Chief had been foully murdered, as he had so often been warned would happen when he persisted in interviewing, unattended, desperadoes of the lowest class. But to-night the Prince was not only alive, but also, Ossa upon Pelion, in a good humor!

The guards in-doors had by no means finished gaping over this fact, when one of the soldiers who, on examination nights, stood at the outer gate, came hurrying in with a fresh item. The freed "political," so evidently under the special protection of all the saints, had paused as he reached the bottom of the entrance stairs of the palace, and burst into a fit of uncontrollable, hysterical laughter.



CHAPTER XV

ENGULFMENT

It was this laugh, or, rather, the chaos of emotions which produced it as their synthetic culmination, that Ivan carried away from his father's house. So peculiar had been its tone, that even the soldiers at the gate who heard it were enabled to surmise something of its meaning. But only Ivan himself was fully conscious of how perfectly it epitomized the final disillusionment that had swept away from him the last of his youth. By that laugh, also, was engendered the mood that now rode him for many months, and was only thrown at last by means of a desperate strategy. Nor is that devil-haunted period to be reviewed in a single phrase.

Anger, disappointment, bitter regret, had driven him back to a mechanical performance of neglected duties. Thus, presently, his discarded comrades drew once more about him. Perhaps all save Nicholas Rubinstein returned at first out of a malicious curiosity; for Moscow still buzzed about the death of Ternoff; and Ivan's name had got itself mysteriously coupled with the affair. After their first visit to him five of his old friends, Laroche, Balakirev, Ostrovsky, Kashkine, and, inevitably, Nicholas, met together by common impulse to discuss their brilliant contemporary and the question of their relations with him. The five of them secretly admired, openly liked him, still. Two of them loved him, one confessedly. Of the remaining three, one was to become the closest companion of his famous years. Naturally, then, the decision arrived at was, that Gregoriev's nature was not to be forced. Theirs would be the loss should they repudiate him now. When he desired them, he would find them within call:—this last delicacy being the suggestion of Rubinstein.

Meantime, Ivan's nature, even in unhappiness, called aloud for solitude. He must struggle alone through his deep waters: waters of the soul, wherein float neither life-preserver nor raft, rope or even light; neither coral reef nor oozy grave, for such as he. Darkness and struggle alike lasted till the end of his strength; but, with exhaustion and the coming of dawn, came at last one mighty breaker, by which Ivan was thrown high upon the strand of a new country.

During the summer of this spiritual woe, Ivan was at Vevey: had proceeded thither as usual at the beginning of his vacation. He carried in his pocket a plentiful sum of royalties; and in his brain a hundred floating ideas. Moreover, the pretty town held two good friends of his: Kashkine and Balakirev, each one hard at his own work; but delighted at the opportunity of drawing Ivan a little out of his melancholy. In time, indeed, they came to think it banished, and the young man at peace. He was merely gathering strength to renew his battle: that intangible fight against circumstance and his own nature that has been waged by every fine and sensitive soul since the world began, and Abel bethought him of his lamb-offering. Meantime, Ivan's secret but ardent desire to work again worthily was fulfilled on a day that was to become one of the vividest of his memories.

It was a morning of mid-July, sweet-aired, hot-sunned, the waters of the lake just feathered with a breath that turned the pulsating satin to a white-sheened, crinkly azure velvet. About eight of the morning the three men, each brain teeming with its own ambitions and its peculiar appreciation of the mysterious Mother, started off for one of their habitual rambles. Ivan was in a mood whimsically frank, but changeful; and he blew the conversation this way and that out of sheer wantonness, till presently it touched a point on which Balakirev suddenly laid a detaining hand. Gregoriev had been analyzing the character of Ophelia—the delicate, fantastic disorder of her pathetic mentality; and something, some specially delicate comprehension of this particular conception of the greatest poet, caused the burly Russian to say, softly:

"She is abstract enough—elusive, rainbow-hued enough, for your harmonies, Ivan Mikhailovitch. Behold a tone-poem ready to your hand!"

Ivan halted, quickly lifting his head, as an animal who scents something: "You think so?—An entire tone-poem?" The tone was alive with attentiveness.

"Why not?"

"Ah—a little too fragile—too—wanting in discord." A moment's pause. Then he broke out in another voice: "But you, Balakirev,—it is your idea: your theme. You felt it, therefore it belongs to you. Subjects borrowed—mechanically worked up—bah! It is the worst prostitution of art." And Ivan tried hard for conviction. Indeed it was quite true that he had no faith in other men's ideas for his own use. Yet within sixty seconds of contemplation, this theme had suddenly taken possession of him in a manner joyously well-known. Already the necessary contrast, the shadow-background of Ophelia's silver brightness—the melancholy of her Prince-repudiator, was tingling through him. Could he really relinquish it to the other?

No necessity for this, fortunately. Balakirev, bigger, perhaps, in generosity than any other musician of any time, known purveyor of ideas for men even smaller than he in accomplishment, forced Gregoriev's eyes to meet his. All was said in that look, though presently, with a slow smile, these words were added:

"I call you to witness, Kashkine, that our Ivan herewith weds the Lady Ophelia for the space of one month; the condition being that we listen to the manuscript on the night of its completion.—Nay, you shall not refuse me, Gregoriev. I tell you no subjects but those connected with Russia can fire me. You are bigger—universal. Take this tragedy, then, and write it again for us in music."

It was thus that the young man gained the most congenial of the subjects that were to fill his summer months. The second, something bigger, though hardly more complex, was another opera—already bespoken by several impresarii, and founded on a translation of Keats's "Isabella." Into this subject he grew, slowly, but strongly and with full interest, till by August the tone-poem was nearly done, and the opera well under way: he having worked his six hours a day assiduously. And these hours of occupation gave him courage to bear the other eighteen, in which he was constantly forced to face—himself.

Ivan had, indeed, been badly bitten by the snake of the world. The poison, entering his system long since, had spread, slowly, till his present weariness brought him wholly under its malign spell. Disillusion, disappointment, distrust—they worked in him till he was in a fever of pessimism, denying the good of the world. The newest maggot in his brain was a bitter over-appreciation of the fact that, while, after long years of scoffing and revilement, his work had finally come to some little success, that success was only popular, hardly in any way professional. This fact every critic in great Russia had taken pains to impress upon the public and upon him; so that, while solvency was now his, the butterfly of lasting power seemed farther away than ever. Ay, truly, the bad blood that ran in his veins was his only inheritance! Family had he none. This appalling solitude must, plainly, be henceforth his portion: neither man nor woman should he trust again.

So ran the black reveries; for he was in the throes of his second severe attack of "Tosca"—the Herzeleide of the Russians: that national melancholy, borne of barren steppe and dreary waste, to which every giant intellect that race has known, has sooner or later become a prey, from the great Peter down to the littlest Romanoff; and from which more than the first Alexander have actually died.

Ivan knew it young enough, and long. Moreover, it had now come upon him at a critical time, just as he was emerging into broadened manhood. His salvation probably lay in the fact that for his work, only, could he throw off the black mantle; for much of the time he was wont to labor at the white heat of what is called inspiration. His meditations, his analyses, were those of a mature mind, replete with human knowledge of evil and good. But because his belief in the power of evil had become tainted with morbidness, and because he governed the kingdom of his own soul with a rigid purity, the friction of the two forces produced in him an abiding melancholy: a melancholy abstract, almost impersonal, thoroughly Russian, and yet, because he was a type of the universal, all-comprehensive. By unhappy degrees his whole life, his every act, became leavened and tinctured with this melancholy, till it had risen to the height of his soul's acropolis, and invaded and overflowed—his work. Thus did it come about that the labors of the lonely soul given into the keeping of a yearning, lonely woman one New Year's night of long ago, came at last to reproduce for the world, in sound, the burden of the world. For who will deny that Gregoriev's music cries out with the dread cry of humanity in pain? It has come to be known as the Herzeleide of the Creation: the sorrow of the great, throbbing world-soul. And technique and conception had worked well together; for in this year both came to their fulness in him who used both wonderfully, artistically, yet always with the restraint that can come only through absolute self-mastery. It is the great reward of him who has made complete sacrifice of all things else: the act without which genius comes not into its own.

In the last week of August, the three artists left Vevey together: Kashkine on his way to Germany, for a concert tour; Balakirev to Kiev, the holy city of the Slavs, for inspiration; Ivan back to Moscow and the Conservatoire.

Throughout the ensuing winter he taught all morning six days in the week, reserving his composing for the hours of early morning and evening. After his midday meal, he came into the habit of taking long tramps through the streets of the poorer quarters, resting himself in little traktirs, finding unhealthy companionship in the patent discontent, poverty, and misery of the laboring class. By five o'clock he was in his own rooms again, and from then till ten he worked at piano and desk, a samovar bubbling at his elbow. Promptly at the hour, the new manuscript pages, beautifully finished, were locked away; and the piano closed. Then, in the shadowy corners of his bedroom, devils began to stir, and creep about, uneasily, waiting for their victim's nightly attendance at his own torture, where he was set upon in some one of their hundred ways. Fevered brain, weary body, tumbled bed; loneliness, regret, heart-hunger, unsated ambition; most of all a longing for loving arms to close about him, words of comfort and courage to come through the darkness that thrilled only to his own stifled sighs—thus the night, with its long dance of horned, fire-eyed beings, who held captive all his angels of mental health, faith, hope, joyous life. And so at last the presage of morning, when, for an hour or two, sleep would free him from the bondage of his inner life—that ugly prison, whose black walls were unbeautified by time, unsoftened by the clinging vines of memory; whose stones were but made darker by the shadow of the banner floating over all: the black flag of that "Tosca" that has unfurled itself above so many of the world's great.

Autumn bursts of rain had whitened into snow. Moscow was now a city of dazzling purity topped by steep roofs and domes of gold and azure and water-green, so filling the air with brightness that one minded less the persistent leaden gray of the vault overhead. But cold and grayness are bad companions for the morbid-melancholic; and Ivan took his tone from the clouds, steadily repulsing the gentle efforts of his friends to draw him from his dim retreat into sunny mental climes.

The holidays went by, and Ivan began to realize that a few more weeks would bring about a necessary farewell to two more of his brain-children. It was the 2d of February before the Ophelia tone-poem lay before him finished, polished to the last point of perfection. Another week and "Isabella"—Kashkine's translation, his own score—would receive its last stroke of the pen. Ivan waited till that moment came, then laid his two beloved companions side by side in their cabinet, turned the key, and left them there, while he fared forth into the frozen night, his brain at last as empty as his heart.

There remained, however, the fierce desire to place his children well. The Ophelia he carried to Balakirev and Nicholas Rubinstein, who sat over it one whole night examining, discussing, rejoicing at its splendor, its delicacy, the perfection of the reconceived masterpiece. Next morning Nicholas sent its composer word that he would play it at the fifth concert of his regular series, on the afternoon of March 4th. And Ivan was satisfied; for these concerts were the musical events of Moscow; and the new work was assured of a performance as perfect as he could desire: an audience as distinguished as it was ably critical.

This arranged, and one rehearsal—at which technical difficulties loomed large before both men and conductor—impatiently endured, all Ivan's mind was given up to considerations for the placing of his opera. Merelli, he knew well, was thirsting for it: would make it his feature of the next year's season. Should he insist, it would even be rushed through during the spring. But he was not in haste. Moreover, folly though it was, he had already, some time ago, begun to desire a petty triumph: a piece of retribution for the man who had more than once brought him dire suffering. He wanted unstinted praise for a new work from his old master, the implacable Zaremba. Since the success of "The Boyar" he could certainly not be put off with a hasty reading and a damning criticism of the new score. His peculiar style, many a time torn and ridiculed by Zaremba and the great virtuoso, had now been applauded by the entire Russian musical world: was beginning to be recognized beyond the frontier. Certainly it was no longer within range of one man's malice. So far, no ear but Ivan's had heard "Isabella"; no eye but his had beheld the pages of that score which, by the after-judgment of five nations, remains unsurpassed in the history of opera save by the music-dramas of one Richard of Bayreuth. Already, in his heart, Ivan knew the value of his work. But his nature, ever prone to self-depreciation, never wholly believing in his own power till another had assured him of it, cried out for confirmation of his secret hope. With the stamp of Zaremba's approval, Petersburg, first city in the land, would crowd to hear his work; and it would come to Moscow, to his father, with a double reputation.—In fine, on the morning of February 15th, a letter and a registered parcel left Moscow for the north, addressed to the Director of the Petersburg Conservatoire:—who was at present in a condition of nervous irritability that kept his every pupil in a state of petrified wretchedness throughout the working day.

Miserable Ivan! Zaremba too—even Zaremba, was in the throes of composition! He was attempting a work as far beyond his creative powers as are the harmonies of Wagner beyond the quaint simplicities of olden-time Scarlatti. Wretched Ivan! Relentless circumstance!—To this monster of vanity, vain ambition, malicious jealousy, went the masterpiece of an offending pupil.

However, happily, Ivan was not clairvoyant. The satisfactory close of his long period of labor brought with it a state of passive languor. A quiet numbness replaced the acute sensitiveness of his nerves, and made him for the nonce impervious to his devils, though it could not prevent his inner sense of loss. For the creator who has lived for many months in daily communion with the living creature of his imagination, cannot, if he work as artists must, but come into a state of great and secret love for his dream-images. The feeling is sacred, indeed; for what dweller in Philistia but would scoff at such a sentimentality as love for work, and unhappiness at its conclusion? Nevertheless it is true that, when the hour of triumph, the finishing of a long, successful creation is accomplished, and eager Philistia waits clamoring to enjoy it, its master knows well that his hour is over: that his good-bye must be said. His child, stared at, listened to, conned by ten thousand eyes, ears, or tongues, is his no more; cannot return to him; for it is of the world, and the dream between them is dissolved.

This had come to Ivan. His two friends were gone from him to other men. His whole being cried out for rest; but his heart was empty.

A week's desultory waiting, however, suddenly brought an episode that turned his mind in another direction. Nicholas Rubinstein sent him a troubled missive, asking his presence at the next rehearsal of Ophelia. Anxiety stared from every line of the brief note; and, after some hesitation, and a very bad half-day, Ivan presented himself at the Grand Theatre; where he instantly found himself the centre of an uproar. The new tone-poem was impossible. Concertmeister, head of second violins, all the heads of the other bodies, swarmed to him, each pointing out the various passages deemed by them either unplayable or unmusical; and, finally, the whole number came to an agreement of scorn regarding one fantastical episode—an analysis of Hamlet's yearning to know the mind of his father, and a suggestion of his own indecision and unbalanced mentality. This, a passage of some thirty bars, was universally declared to be contrary to every known law or license possible to composition.

To this superior, scoffing company of weaklings Ivan, always gentle-mannered, shrinking from argument or petty conflict as other men from a nagging woman's tongue, undertook, by rehearsing, to explain his heart's work. Had it not been for Nicholas, he would soon have left the field to his opponents. Upborne by the conductor, he did manage to endure two rehearsals. The evening after the second, however, found him, haggard and white-faced, in the old apartment, pleading with Rubinstein, in the presence of Laroche, to give the whole thing up, to strike his name from the programme.

Rubinstein stoutly refused; and, the more he was entreated, the more stubborn did he grow, till he had actually argued himself from a position of doubt into a mulish insistence that if they played nothing else that day, Ophelia should be properly rendered. Indeed by his yielding, Ivan had unconsciously brought about the thing he had in his own heart desperately desired.

At a little past midnight he left his former home, somewhat comforted in heart and mind. However, he went to no more rehearsals; and speedily gave his associates to understand that he wished the subject avoided; though he failed to notice that his wishes were also Rubinstein's. Nicholas, however, was harassed to a point of fury with all the world. Never in his life had he encountered such insubordination among his men. He set out to quell it persistently but tactlessly, regardless alike of the temper of his prospective audience, and of the highest interests of the boy whom he had taught, protected, and now unselfishly admired. He was perhaps more wretched than Ivan. For that youth had temporarily thrust this subject away from him and was dreaming day and night of his opera, and of the word that was to come from Zaremba; that word of absolute capitulation that should make the performance of Ophelia a mere episode, barely worth considering.

All too speedily for the unhappy conductor came the afternoon of his fifth symphony concert. By two o'clock pit and stalls were black with people. By half-past, even the boxes were noticeably full; and at that hour Nicholas Rubinstein appeared, bowed to the tumult of applause, lifted his baton, and drew forth the opening notes of the second "Lenore" overture. Ivan, very still and pale, troubled and apprehensive, sat in one of the stalls near the front, between Balakirev and Laroche, with Kashkine just behind: both of his Vevey companions having journeyed a thousand miles to hear their joint tone-poem. Never afterwards, however, could Ivan remember a single incident of the early afternoon. The "Italian Symphony," something of Glinka's, one of Anton Rubinstein's short orchestral commonplaces, were played with the usual brilliant finish. With the intermission came palpitation, a dry mouth, and a vague impression of Laroche's biting truths anent Anton's stupidity as a composer, and his strange influence over hard-headed Nicholas. Then there was one, last, terrible moment of dread, as the conductor remounted his dais and paused. Obviously he was addressing his men. More than that, he was pleading and admonishing; for yesterday's rehearsal had been a piece of wanton cruelty. But now the baton must go up, happen what might. And immediately the twenty-minute practical joke began.[1]

The orchestra played their tone-poem faultlessly as to notes. Like so many machines, the instruments performed each its allotted part. But, oh, Heavens!—the effect! Expression: fire, poetry, understanding—piano, fortissimo, crescendo, rubato—there was absolutely none. Never had thing so dead, so stiff, so hideous, so discordant, been heard in that opera-house. People stared, looked at one another, frowned for an instant, smiled; at length, tittered, openly. In all that great building, but one little group sat silent. Ivan and the three gathered close at his side, were like men dead. Long before it was over, Nicholas had flung his baton to the floor and left the stage; but still the orchestra went on—and on. In the silence following on the last chord—a silence broken by no demonstration, either of applause or of hissing—Ivan the composer rose, pushed his way to an aisle, and hurried blindly out into the streets. Thus he knew nothing of the remarkable sequel of the affair: how Rubinstein, an instant after the cessation of the horror, had rushed back upon the stage, addressed a dozen wild phrases of explanation to the house, and then, at the end of a sudden clamor demanding Ivan, turned to his men, audibly fined every one of them a month's pay, after which, once again rapping the desk with his broken baton, he drove them, cowed and shamed, into a twenty minutes with Ophelia that was destined to fix Ivan's orchestral fame forever with the Moscow public; for it was a quarter of an hour after the piece ended for the second time, before the people would accept Kashkine's frantic assurances that the young man was not in the house.

Utterly oblivious of the turning of the tables, wrapped, as by a shroud, in that dire silence, Ivan was walking—walking—out into Moscow, through the frozen streets, under the leaden sky, the terrible anger and rebellion in him fading slowly to a numbing stillness—a stillness as of death. Was it really by accident that, on his homeward way, he passed the post-office to which his letters went? Without hesitation he had gone into the building. When he came out again there was an expression of fear in his eyes, and his heart was beating wildly. Nor were his steps any longer aimless. Taking the nearest droschky, he directed it first to a chemist's shop, then to his own room, where Sosha opened to his knock, and noted, as he passed, the envelope in his hand, across which sprawled Zaremba's old, familiar writing. But the pink package with its crimson danger-label lay hidden in a pocket.

Ivan sat at his bedroom window for twenty minutes before he found courage to open his communication. For the first time, doubt of his opera began to stir in his heart; and the memory of that other long-past day of disappointment, when Nicholas had found him in this very room, and had tried to hearten him, came to him as a premonition of doom. How was he to be heartened now—after so many more years of failure? Nay—with a half-smile, Ivan laid his recent purchase on the window-ledge, and slowly drew the letter from its envelope:

"ST. PETERSBURG, Monday, March 10th.

"MY DEAR PUPIL:—Despite the fact that your manuscript score arrived at a time most inopportune, I having recently renounced all but my most pressing lessons to plunge myself entirely into an atmosphere of profound creation, I have conscientiously performed the task you imposed upon me. That this task proved very little worth while, I write with double regret—my own time being of considerable value to our world;—though it should not greatly surprise you, since it is thoroughly evident that 'Isabella' is a hasty, ill-thought-out, unfinished composition.—You will remember my constant reproaches of your excessive carelessness, even when you were directly under my own eye. And you will not expect me to think you very serious in your work when, on the very first page of your overture, I discover two unpardonable blemishes—an empty fifth (the first error of harmony mentioned in all text-books), and one of those monstrosities called, I believe, chords of the ninth diminished—a license actually tolerated, I believe, by a certain preposterous German school. Need I have read further to learn that, as a composer, you can never achieve a succes d'estime, and that your classical ideals are gone?

"To be brief, my dear Gregoriev, your 'opera'—I give it your own grandiloquent appellation, is unworthy the signature of a pupil of mine; and, after a careful reading, I feel that the greatest service I can do you is to keep the score pigeon-holed here till you are able to laugh at your wild idea of its possible performance.

"Accept, my dear pupil, the remembrances of,

"E. ZAREMBA."

Slowly at first, then with more rapidity, Ivan read the letter through. Even after he had noted the signature, he continued to hold the sheet in his hands, while his eyes fixed themselves on some distant object. Two, three, five minutes passed. Then he placed the paper carefully on the table, dropped into a chair by its side, and seemed to meditate.

After a time, there came a clamor at the door of the living-room; and Ivan recognized friendly voices. Instantly he glided to the door, turned the key, drew the bolt, and returned noiselessly to his place just as Sosha knocked. After a pause, the knock was repeated. Then the door was tried, shaken, and pulled. In vain. There came no sound from within. Ivan heard his servitor inform the would-be condolers that his master had evidently gone out again. There were muffled good-byes and so—silence.

Twenty minutes later Sosha, dozing in his tiny kitchen, was roused by his master commanding tea at once, and enjoining him to let no one into the rooms that night. At the acknowledgment of this command, Ivan returned to his bedroom, to wait. Ten minutes passed. Then Sosha came, set down the samovar and a plate of food, prepared his bed, and hobbled off to a quiet evening, a pipe, and the companionship of the old concierge who came up to sit with him nightly.

Meantime, Sosha's master had not yet moved, but sat at the table where the water in the copper pot now bubbled merrily, his eyes still fixed on some far-off vision of night. There was about his appearance and his occasional slight movements that mechanical unconsciousness that is a strong signal of danger. For, when burdens grow unbearable, when one is taxed beyond that point at which nature sets her limit of endurance, there comes a condition of mental numbness in which men are apt for deeds quite transcending their normal natures. And this was the condition to which, by a long series of mistakes and accidents all similar in effect, Ivan had been reduced. Many years had passed since the time when, by the folly of a fortnight, he had been stripped of youth, gayety, wealth. Since then, balanced only by his little success of the previous winter, had come a countless string of disappointments and misfortunes, which, striking him always in one spot, had rendered him exquisitely sensitive. Now, in one afternoon, he had lost the fruits of eight months of sincere and careful labor. In his heart he knew that it was at last too much; and he felt himself driven, with a wild rush, down towards the valley of the shadow.

Tea had come; Sosha was gone; he was alone with the night. The samovar hissed and steamed, comfortably; and to its accompaniment the man filled a glass with the amber liquid, tore the wrapper from his chemist's package, and poured into one hand a dozen yellowish pills. In the other hand he grasped the tea-glass. There was an instant's pause. He smiled and his lips moved. Then, suddenly, he lifted his hand to his face, gulped down the morphia pellets, following them with the steaming tea.—In that instant all his chains, loosened, rattled down about him to the floor. Brave man or coward, he felt a sudden mighty wave of relief over-sweep him. The set, strained look left his face. His eyes softened. Once or twice he paced across the room. Then he went to his arm-chair, threw himself into it, and leaned back with closed eyes.

The period of waiting seemed long. He remembered so much that he ought to have done: papers that should have been destroyed.—Still, it was too late for that.—After all, this languor was very pleasant. He was glad his eyes were closed. Back of them—behind sight—there appeared to be a most charming country.—What was it he must see there? Out of the silver mist there was surely a form emerging?—a creature slender, delicate, crowned with a weight of fragrant hair! Clothed in rose-red, she; and her lips were smiling, her arms out-stretched to him:—Nathalie!—Naturally he went forth to meet her, to melt with her into that radiant light. And there came a great roaring in his ears—the noise of many waters rushing. Ay, they were closing now above his head. He was down.—And so—night.—Oblivion.

* * * * *

There passed an endless time. In the darkness the soul of Ivan, ready poised, waited for the summons. No summons came. Must it indeed return within itself, unfreed? Yes, for the senses were stirring even now. Out of the void came a vague murmur of human voices—a sharp exclamation. Then blackness once more; this time complete.

* * * * *

Complete though it had seemed, when Ivan opened his eyes again upon the scanty furniture of his bedroom, it was with the sense of many days gone by. His head was iron-bound; his tongue dry and swollen; life a series of horrible retchings. After a time his dull eyes travelled slowly round the room. Kashkine was near, and Rubinstein, and two strange men. On every face was an expression of relief, of joy. Ivan marvelled at the reason. Then his eye encountered the table, and he thought he knew. For there, in a pile, lay the manuscript pages of his opera; to recover which, indeed, Balakirev had, during the five-day battle with death, journeyed to Petersburg and told his tale to the frightened Zaremba. But this and certain other things—the fact that there were men in the world who loved him, and a place in the world that demanded him, Ivan was to learn by faint degrees, and with some sardonic humiliation.

[Footnote 1: The incident here recounted, like that of Ivan's failure to conduct his symphony, is not imaginary. It occurred in Moscow, in the winter of 1865, with one of the early works of Peter Illich Tchaikowsky.]



CHAPTER XVI

JOSEPH

It was in the November of that same year—1870—that "Isabella" had its initial performance, in Moscow, under Merelli. The original intention had been to open the season with the new work. But, at the last moment, the leader, despite his memories of "The Boyar," repudiated his promise, deeming the honor too great for a Russian, and chose instead to present his other novelty, Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette." Ivan, resenting the act, promptly removed the score of "Isabella" to his own rooms; and it cost the impresario six weeks of persuasion and apology, besides a thousand roubles' damages, before he could come to terms again with the young composer, who, under Rubinstein's advice, was rapidly becoming worldly wise.

In the end, the premiere of the new opera was made under highly auspicious circumstances; but, to the amazement of every one concerned,—it being a far finer work than its predecessor,—"Isabella" made only a moderate success. Ivan's style was still a matter of endless discussion among the critics; and in the new opera he had let himself out fully, repudiating all those Italian traditions which, at the time of the composition of "The Boyar," still largely governed him. Time has proved his wisdom, however; for, while to-day "The Boyar" is seldom given, "Isabella" is a standard work in the repertoire of every opera-house of note in the white empire, besides having won laurels both popular and critical in Paris and at Covent Garden.

Gregoriev bore this little disappointment far better than his friends had feared. The long fit of depression, thoroughly broken by his attempt at suicide, had not yet returned. The summer had been spent on a walking tour through Finland, with Lechetizsky and Serov and he came home full of animal vigor. On his way back he had had a fortnight in Petersburg, and there spent two evenings in the company of Nathalie and his aunt, who was now suffering from a secret but probably incurable malady. The ladies, while keeping him at rather formal distance, had none the less shown genuine interest in him and his work; and he carried away one or two very precious memories of her who still remained the one woman in the world for him.

During the autumn he had done some excellent work; and confided to Rubinstein his decision that opera was, after all, not his metier, but that henceforth he should spend his time on orchestral forms, with the exception of an occasional group of songs, for which he had a special gift. Finland, with its stretches of pine forest and gray waterways, had made a powerful appeal to his peculiar imagination; and the "Songs of the North" form the first of his many tone-pictures of that country.

A week or two after his return to Moscow, he began to find himself haunted by the memory of his aunt's face, which brought up inexplicably vivid pictures of his beloved mother in the last year of her life. Moreover, he had, in her presence, read upon the face of his beloved lines of a soul-tragedy that was to bear him glorious fruit. For it was actually at this time, through these means, when he was barely past twenty-nine, that there was born in him the seed of that final effort of his genius, to be dreamed over for twenty years, and finished only as the shadow of death lengthened over him: his first faint vision of the master-work to be known to the music-loving world as the Tosca Symphony.

Autumn, and the first fortnight of December, proved a busy, fruitful, pleasant period to the workman, who was now well out of the heyday of his twenties and glad to settle down to the steady harness-work of man in his prime. He was beginning to be satisfied with the simple fact that he himself was sure of his own powers; and it was more than he asked when some incident showed how fully the outer world was beginning to acknowledge him as one not to be judged by ordinary standards. Surely he who has come to this at thirty has small right of complaint!

It was not often now that Monsieur Gregoriev, the professor who appeared so worshipfully experienced to his pupils, allowed himself to reflect upon the episode of the previous spring, when he had swallowed what he believed to be a death-dose. Yet, in his inner consciousness, hovered always the knowledge that he possessed a sure and unfailing refuge from that terrible "Tosca" whence escape was certain only through extremest measures.—Nor did the exquisite vision of the young Nathalie—his last living remembrance of that black night—often leave him, sitting through solitary evenings with pipe and samovar, quite unchallenged. Indeed there were already times when it seemed as if he need hardly wait for the excuse of the "Tosca" to turn refuge into indulgence.

Thus come we to the afternoon of the 18th of the holiday month: a gray day, and a windy; and bitter, bitter cold; when all dreams of Christmas cheer were frozen in the forming and replaced by some breath of the shrivelling air. Ivan came in from his morning's work, partook of a solitary luncheon, and was standing at his window, puffing at his pipe and absently staring into the street, reluctant to turn to work. He had been calculating, rather cynically, during his meal, on the meagre returns paid by the world for any labor requiring the cream of thought and talent: work priceless, indeed, so far as roubles went, but comparing badly in actual recompense with mere, mechanical labor. The subject still occupied him in its way, when his attention was drawn from it to the behavior of the only person to be seen in that little-frequented thoroughfare. This was a young man, clad in much-worn sheepskins of the cheapest variety. His hands were uncovered—actually bare, in an atmosphere of thirty degrees below zero! Little wonder that Ivan's eye was caught by, and that it remained fixed on, that figure of poverty. The stranger's gait was slow, and perceptibly unsteady. More than once he halted, looking about him, vaguely, as if for some resting-place. And yet, under his left arm, he was carrying, unwrapped, a good-sized canvas.—Was he delivering it?—Or was he—Impossible! No such person could be glorified by the title of artist! The questions passed swiftly through Ivan's mind, and then were suddenly broken off. As the youth came into line with Ivan's window, he reeled slightly, caught himself, and then dropped upon the frozen walk, letting his burden fall at his side, as his head sank into his arms.

Bah!—Only vodka, then. Some drunken artisan, who faced discharge on the morrow. Ivan turned from the window; but quickly returned to it. Vulgarly drunk the man might be. But even the fires of alcohol form scant protection against such cold as reigned to-day. The man might be frozen ere an officer perceived him. Moreover, as Ivan looked again, something in the recumbent figure suggested the abandon rather of despair than of debauchery.—An instant's hesitation. Then the watcher caught up his own fur coat and cap, ran from the rooms, and, a moment later, was bending over the lonely figure and placing a friendly hand upon his shoulder.

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