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The Genius
by Margaret Horton Potter
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Kashkine read his letter with relief, with resentment, finally, with laughter. But Ivan's earnest invitation to him to spend the winter in Florence could not be accepted. He had already been absent far too long. Russia claimed him. And thus, when, at last, in the first days of the melancholy month, Ivan arrived at the gray capital of Tuscany where he was to make his temporary home, no friendly faces save those of his servants were at hand to welcome him.

Probably no city in all the world possesses so powerful an attraction for so many people of so many nations as does this grim stronghold of Medici and Borgia. Its society, like that of most Italian cities, is largely cosmopolitan. Its different "colonies" intermingle, however, with the greatest friendliness; and among these "Prince" Gregoriev was effusively received. It was less than a month before he was given to understand that, though a fine dilettantism in any of the arts is a charming fad, a professional career for a Prince with a fortune like his was not to be seriously considered for one moment. To the surprise even of Piotr, this attitude amused rather than angered Ivan; and, his summer's work polished and sent away, he smiled in his sleeve and urbanely donned his new garb, determined to play the part assigned him till ennui should tear away domino and mask.

By the time he arrived the "season" was already in a vigorous infancy. Daily, in the late afternoon, the Cascine became an international melee of magnificent equipages and Parisian toilettes. Then, the drive over, those Florentine leaders who owned palaces, and their foreign imitators who contented themselves with a "Mezzanine," seated themselves at well-provided tea-tables and entertained a regularly flowing throng of tea-drinking, scandal-mongering women, accompanied by a circle of men of some interest and distinction. In the evening, Florence did still more. By this time, the salons were suffocating and airless. Yet there were few nights in the week when, somewhere, the sober reception was not heightened to a ball, sometimes impromptu, more often formally prearranged. Morning found the indefatigable leisure world scattered through one or another of the great galleries, where, before the masterpieces of a by-gone Italy, they recounted all the questionable incidents of the preceding day. And never a woman but could tell the length of time that Countess X—— had remained in the conservatory; or the variety of rouge used by that preposterous Mademoiselle C——, whose mother should really adopt spectacles.

For a matter of four or five weeks Ivan, still living in the glamour of this land of the death-in-life, permitted himself to float, passively, round and round the fashionable whirlpool. It was a wonder he endured so long; for, from, the first, he was lionized unbearably, and was soon taken up by the very cream of Florentine society: (a little clique really difficult for foreigners to penetrate); till behold! the old Principessa, head of the lofty house of Contarini, reached a stage of liking and familiarity where she did not hesitate to tap her Prince on the arm with her fan, commanding his escort during her formal progress through her sparsely furnished but highly exclusive salons.

Signs of awakening were, however, plainly visible in Ivan's manner before the day of the accident which revolutionized his winter.

Gregoriev, like every other visitor to the city, had observed, and frequently stared at, a certain person who constantly haunted the best of the galleries and resorts—Pitti, Uffizi, Academia, the shop of Vecellio on Lung' Arno, and, finally, the Cascine. She was a woman of rather odd aspect, somewhere near middle age, who was always followed by a maid, but otherwise went alone, unspoken to. Despite her complete isolation, she was unquestionably a person of breeding, probably also, considering the appointments of her carriage, of wealth. More than once it had been on Ivan's tongue to ask about her; but the question was still unspoken when she was thrown forcibly upon his recognition. It was early upon a December afternoon; and Ivan was walking alone on the deserted driveway, his mind engrossed with a recalcitrant theme, when he was broke in upon by the sudden noise of pounding hoofs, rattling wheels, then, after three or four breathless seconds, a scream, interrupted by the thud of a falling horse, the snapping of a shaft, and the plunging of the second animal, who halted, trembling, a few yards away.

But half aware of what he did, Ivan rushed to the horse, caught him by the bridle and held him fast, while the coachmen, and a workman or two who had come up, busied themselves over the fallen beast, which, though bruised and bleeding, had broken no bones, and was declared able to finish the journey back to the apartment of "madame."

A few seconds later Ivan found himself standing bare-headed in the presence of the lonely woman of his imagination, who, herself pale, evidently shaken, and coughing violently, was, nevertheless, between her gasps, vigorously remonstrating with her terrified and hysterical maid. Astonished at the force demonstrated by one whom he now perceived to be seriously ill, Ivan accepted an eagerly proffered seat opposite the women, and accompanied them back, across the river, into the city.

The drive was memorable. On its termination Ivan, fascinated by certain observations, accepted further hospitality, and sat for half an hour over a samovar in a beautifully furnished little salon; finally saying au revoir not only with his lips but with his mind.

That evening, for next to the last time, a Florentine salon rang once more with the name of Alexandrine Alexievna Nikitenko, widow of the Prince of the name who was the younger brother of the head of one of the most famous families in Russia. The story of the runaway and the denouement which had brought two such well-known compatriots together, was in every one's mouth. Ivan was besieged with questions, to which his replies were so unsatisfactory that a general appeal was made to the authority of the Principessa Contarini. To her Ivan gave a brief account of the event, and then himself became an eager interlocutor. His first triple question also ended, for some time, his remarks. And when he had been fully answered, his mind was too full for further utterance.

"Who is this Princess Nikitenko? Why is she in Florence? And why is she not here to-night?"

A storm of comment, ejaculation, exclamations of wonder! Ivan closed his ears; and opened them again only for the young Contessa Contarini, who, at a nod from her mother-in-law, undertook enlightenment. Then—one half-hour in the dim-lit corner of an inner boudoir,—and Ivan found himself at last au courant of the great scandal of 1869, which, wonderful to relate, was still, after nearly eighteen years, almost as interesting as ever: the persistent presence of its heroine almost as astonishing as in the first days of her ostracism.

It was in the autumn of the year 1867, when the reign of the Liberator was in the fulness of its fame, that a certain scandal intime began, in St. Petersburg, to divide interest with the still engrossing topic of the freed serfs. Every one in society took sides, for or against, in the quarrel and separation of the young Prince and Princess Nikitenko: both of whom had been, since their marriage, high in the graces of the Grand-Ducal circle, and leaders of the fastest set in the capital. When the trouble between them became noticeable, gossip ran fast and furious; partly for the reason that no human being seemed to understand just where the cause of the difficulty lay. Whispered mention of the Grand-Duke Constantine, madcap-libertine, hero of a thousand escapades, tended in no way to lessen the interest, though of evidence there seemed none. The climax proved to be a fitting one, however; for, early in March, the Princess, with two maids, a valet, her entire wardrobe, and all save the hereditary jewels, disappeared from the ken of humankind.

Six weeks later she was heard from in Florence, where she remained in seclusion during the summer, but in the autumn opened a salon which, in point of brilliance, elegance, and distinction, eclipsed every other in the Tuscan capital.

The young Princess was a woman of remarkable education, and tremendous gifts.—So much was always admitted.—Her beauty was a moot point: her chic, never! She threw herself eagerly into the study of those arts which have made modern Italy what it is; and she rapidly gathered about her the most talented young men in that part of the country. In the January of 1869 this company was signally augmented by the arrival of one Vittorio Lodi, a young Roman tenor; over whose voice—one of those natural organs found only in that land of the sun—Florence speedily went mad.

Up to the middle of the ensuing February, the prestige of the Nikitenko steadily increased in brilliance. Then, suddenly, as it were in a night, the shadows began to gather round her. Whence the first rumor rose, none ever knew. But it ran round the salons, down the Cascine, through the town, like a circle of fire. Immediately the watch was set: and immediately the reports began to come in.

Yes, unquestionably it was true. The Princess and Lodi were constantly together. In the morning he was unfailingly to be found in her boudoir, practising, perhaps, his role or his songs for the evening. In the afternoon he had a place in her victoria, and they paid their calls together, or he sat beside her at her own tea-table. Every evening that he was free Lodi spent in her salon. And on those evenings when he sang, people found Madame Nikitenko "not at home till twelve."

Soon, inevitably, the world began to draw a little away from the woman, while it courted the man. Immediately, to the general indignation, she withdrew herself, positively, from the world; and Vittorio refused most of his invitations. Then, as the season drooped and died, and spring swept up from the south, the beautiful Alexandrine became invisible to every eye but that of the devoted tenor.

Thenceforth it is a stupid tale. "For her sins," the Russian lady made a long retreat in a neighboring convent; whence she did not emerge until November was sweeping the leaves down the Cascine, and the world was once more at home. When she returned to the city of her former triumph, it was to find every door shut against her, every face averted as she passed. As for the Lodi, he was now in Milan, at La Scala, at a phenomenal salary.

That, behold, was eighteen years ago! Still, inexplicably, Alexandrine returned, winter after winter, to the city of her loneliness. There continued to be stories of regular visits to the convent outside the walls, where, in the odor of sanctity, was growing up a little girl with Nikitenko eyes of purple-blue, and the darkest of waving, Italian hair. None had ever heard of any attempt either at divorce or at reconciliation on the part of the husband, now a man high in the councils of the Reactionary party. Nor was scandal ever again able to couple any name with that of the solitary woman, upon whom a change had been gradually creeping. Many had heard her cough, and perceived the nature of it. A few charitable souls would have relaxed towards her now, had she herself permitted it; but her door remained obstinately closed against all women and every man save her compatriot, Ivan. He, without apparent effort, broke in at once upon her solitude. So, indeed, had the young Contessa prophesied, in sprightly conclusion. Then, yawning behind her fan, she laughed, and commanded the sombre-eyed Russian to take her back to the dining-room and her own circle of adorers.

Ivan himself finished the evening properly. But, as he walked out into the night chill, his heart and brain alike were overflowing with interest, with pity, nay, with a kind of fellow-feeling, for this woman whose bravery was of the greatest known to humanity. Even to-night he had looked into the hearts of women of her own former class; and he shuddered at their conscienceless inconsistency. For the moment, probably, he forgot the sage maxim concerning "safety in numbers." The woman who yields herself to a single great passion and will neither hide it nor cap it with another, is surely lost in the world of to-day—or yesterday!

* * * * *

Two weeks. Two little weeks; and the new intrigue of Alexandrine Alexievna Nikitenko, now in her forty-first year, was the great subject of the Florentine world. For, at the dusty wheels of her battered chariot, she dragged a new captive.—And such an one!—Their lion: the lion!—The nobleman of the hour, and a genius to boot!—Incredible.—Nauseating. Finally, resignation; and covert murmurs about green bay-trees. All doors, of course, were still open to Prince Gregoriev. He should have every opportunity for repentance. Only, apparently, Prince Gregoriev cared naught for their high consideration; and seemed to have taken a vow to darken only one doorway in the city beside his own: that hitherto lonely entrance to the apartment of Madame Nikitenko!

As for Ivan, people might chatter and beckon as they would, his interest in them was gone. On the other hand, he had become completely absorbed in the personality of this other, once heart and centre of the gayest set in civilized society; now dwelling in the fastnesses of an isolation such as he himself, connoisseur of solitude, had not dreamed of. For in all existence there can be no such isolation as that of the woman cast out from among her kind, yet too much one of them to endure the companionship of others. At the same time, since no brave fight can leave either man or woman as it found them, so, through the dreary years of her disgrace, Alexandrine Nikitenko, buoyed up by her unbreakable pride, had gathered from her blackened fields no small harvest of broad-mindedness, philosophy, and courage. The Alexandrine of old, acknowledged priestess of frivolity, was not a tenth so well worth knowing as the faded, jaded woman, long since numbed to the pain of slights and insults, who had, through the long years, persistently made her dwelling-place in the city of her downfall. She was no saint: affected no martyr's pose: had never, since her departure from the convent within whose walls she left her babe, sought the consolation of religion. Child of the world, in a sense, she must always be; but she was also a woman, softened far more than she herself dreamed. Cynicism was the cloak of her defence; but Ivan, early in their acquaintance, unconsciously folded it back, and beheld the beautiful robe beneath. Thenceforward, throughout the last months of his stay in Italy, their friendship increased by leaps and bounds. The woman began to feel that at last the mysterious Arbiter of human fate had lifted His iron hand, and was looking upon her with forgiveness written in merciful eyes.

On the very day after his first dramatic meeting with the Princess, Ivan had written to Nathalie, in Petersburg, to gather, at first-hand, the details of the Russian part of the Nikitenko drama. Princess Feodoreff replied with her habitual promptness; but the story contained in her letter was rather disappointing. Apparently Florence knew as much as Petersburg. The deserted husband, who had climbed far up the ladder of diplomacy, was celebrated for his morose reticence about his personal affairs. Nathalie's words were almost an exact repetition of those of the little Contessa. Ivan was obliged to wait until, one day, he learned the whole story from the lips of its heroine herself, who told it to him unasked.

Early in their friendship, as soon, indeed, as she perceived that he ranged himself absolutely with her, Ivan learned how scrupulously honest Madame Nikitenko was. With manlike exactness she gave him to understand that friendship with him grown purely out of liking would be a godsend to her; but of kindness from compassion she would have none. Cut and gibe had little power to sting. Pity infuriated her. Gallantly she was fighting a disease which every day gained a little ground; and which she well knew to be mortal. But her very maid, the one person whom she deeply loved, dared no more to look at her with understanding of her pain, than she would have bared her back voluntarily to the knout. When, therefore, Ivan, adopting the Princess' own tone, told her frankly that she alone had power to keep away from him that ennui which must otherwise drive him out of Florence, she proceeded to tell him openly which subjects must thenceforth remain closed between them. Of these, the principal was her illness, which should, before Eastertide, free her forever from the eyes of the gaping world.

She had had her first hemorrhage in October, immediately after her return from Trouville, where she spent her summers. Christmas Day brought the second—a severe one, which was stopped barely in time. After that followed a long and peaceful interlude: weeks which Ivan afterwards looked back on with wonder; for the glamour of her personality, her magnetism, remained about that memory till the day of his death. His intercourse with her combined the best features of masculine comradeship and feminine Platonism before the mawkish stage is reached. She had the ability, so rare in men, to draw out the best that was in her companion. And Ivan would often find himself displaying qualities of eloquence and brilliancy of which he had never suspected the existence. But the woman never revealed to him their source. She herself was more than rewarded by the originality and the depth of the ideas which she merely taught him to express. For, though rhetoric may be cultivated, the most wonderful of tacticians cannot put individual ideas into the brains of a pupil.

Late February found the world, even down to Ivan's own servants, in a state of hot resentment against the Prince's desertion of his class. Ivan, however, cared not a whit. Daily he grew more absorbed: daily he found some newly admirable thing about her in whom he had reawakened the desire and the power to attract. True, their intercourse was purely intellectual. Yet Ivan had long ago perceived, even in the midst of wreck and disease, what this woman must have been in the heyday of her indiscretion; and he realized how helpless he should have been in her hands twenty years before. It is possible that, in time, the physical might have come to life in him. He might have forgotten the years, the emaciation, even the rouge and the careless efforts at concealing gray hairs with badly-put-on dye. All this, perhaps, in time. But, well or ill, fate had determined, long before, that this, her one true friendship, was to be but episodic. It was the prologue to a drama undreamed of as yet; the last act of which was to take place many years after the apparent end, now so near at hand.

Upon the morning of March 15th, a soft and sunny day of the treacherous Italian spring, Ivan, presenting himself at the familiar door, was informed that Princess Nikitenko was indisposed, and begged him to excuse her till the morrow. Thus the wording of the message, which produced no more effect than a little disappointment. Ivan loitered about the streets for an hour, and then suddenly decided to go up to Fiesole and spend his day upon the pleasant height that overlooks the "smokeless city" and the valley of the winding Arno. As he rode up, and up, through the sunshine, past fields just touched with the first, faint, exquisite green, a slow intoxication began to tingle through his veins; and lo! the creative instinct came trembling through him once again.

From that moment, time ceased. The hours passed dreamwise. And, at the falling of the day, when the blood-splashed glory of the western sky was balanced in the east by the soft radiance of the low-swinging moon, his latest inspiration swelled towards its culmination. Long and long he sat alone on the little terrace before the gray, stone church, his mind wandering through space to the accompaniment of wondrous harmonies, himself oblivious of time and men.

It was after one o'clock when at last he reached his apartment and entered the antechamber where, to his astonishment, stood Piotr, anxiety written on his wrinkled face. As the door shut behind Ivan, and he stepped into the light of the hanging lantern, Piotr started forward, crying:

"Excellency!—At last!"

"Who else could it have been?—What are you waiting for?"

"It might have been one of Madame Nikitenko's men.—At four this afternoon her major-domo came saying that the Princess is believed to be dying. She—"

"Good God!—Dying!"

"There was a hemorrhage early in the morning; and—"

"She has sent for me?"

"They have come three times, Excellency; but I could not reach you. I had no idea where you—"

Ivan cut him short with a nod, clapped on his hat again, and ran hurriedly out into the peaceful, moonlit night.

Fifteen minutes later he was standing at the door of her apartment. He had not yet knocked; for his heart was beating, tumultuously, and he knew that he was afraid of the word that might greet him. Still—every window visible from below had been ablaze. Surely it could not have happened—yet.

He knocked, quietly, at last; and, after a little wait, was admitted to the antechamber by a person who was strange to him. This was a young girl, sixteen or seventeen years old, her head crowned by a coronal of heavy braids; her eyes, of a deep, purplish tint, rimmed with jet-black lashes, exact replicas of the Princess' own. Meeting those eyes, Ivan gave a sudden, comprehensive start. Then he said, a little confusedly:

"My name is Gregoriev. I understand that the Princess Nikitenko sent for me some hours ago. I received the message only within the last half-hour. Can you tell me if she is easier?"

The girl shook her head, slowly. She was very quiet, but seemed dazed. "No. It is impossible that my mother can live. I came at six o'clock. She saw me, and knew me, then. The priest is with her now; and the Signor Dottore is waiting, in the sala. Please to come in, Eccellenze. If she should be able, after receiving absolution and the unction, she—she may see you, monsignor.—Ecco!"

Speaking in a low, wonderfully rich voice, Vittoria Lodi led the way into the familiar little salon, where a young man, known to most of the foreign colony in Florence, sat reading a medical paper. At Ivan's entrance the Englishman rose, and the two talked in whispers, the doctor giving Ivan a resume of this last seizure: the fearful hemorrhage which had continued for half an hour, and had started up again at intervals throughout the day; and the marvellous vitality which had upheld her, even though her body was nearly bloodless, and her two lungs almost solidly filled.

As he finished speaking, Dr. Tremont looked at his watch. "A quarter to two.—She may possibly hold out till daylight. But from now on the vitality ebbs, and it is more than likely that she will go, quietly, at any moment.—I trust you can see her, Prince. But I hardly dare interrupt the priest, who came to her at her special request."

"Certainly not. My great regret is that, not dreaming the attack was serious, I left town for the day.—I shall never forgive myself."

A few words more of reassurance and sorrow, and then the two men seated themselves, the doctor returning to his paper, while Ivan sank into an arm-chair, and stared at the fire that burned in the tiny grate. Vittoria, thoroughly Italian in her habits, had withdrawn from this, and crouched on a little tabouret, leaning forward to rest her elbows on a chair in front of her, her chin propped upon her palms. The silence was absolute. The light of lamp and fire mingled and cast flickering shadows and fingers of light into the dark recesses of the antechamber. The air was tainted with the smell of iodine, carbolic, and various antiseptics; but the door leading into the Princess' bedroom was closed, and the portiere also drawn across it. Young Tremont, whose thoughts had wandered from his reading, guessed rightly that Ivan's mind was fixed on what was passing beyond that door. Of the meditations of the girl, the daughter of his patient, who had arrived in the afternoon in the company of the priest now absolving the Princess, he was not so sure. And, as he thought, he began unconsciously to study her slender figure and half-hidden face.

How beautiful—how very beautiful—she was! Ah! Was it beauty? Was it not rather a kind of chic diablerie, that is so much more attractive, so much more dangerous, than mere perfection of feature and proportion?—Good Heavens! What a destiny, too, for such a personality! The mother dying; the father long since lost in the dreary throng of forgotten failures; not a relation in the world who could possibly acknowledge her left-handed relationship to one of the most powerful families in Europe:—what was left her but the veil? Instinctively he perceived that she must be intended for this. And yet, to put that creature into a convent! Set the Venus de Milo in a cathedral crypt!—What sort of nun would she make, this child of temperament and unholy passion? Could they manage to keep her consecrated to the hush of prayer, the eventless, endless routine of the mechanical religion of her order?

Again and again these thoughts revolved through the young man's brain; but he did not note that Ivan's gaze was fixed on Vittoria with the same expression; that his own thoughts were echoed in Gregoriev's mind. Ivan, indeed, was undergoing rather a startling dream, or hallucination, or waking-vision:—call it what one might.

Up around him, blotting out all the room save the little space where Vittoria sat, there rose a silvery white mist wherein she was framed. Then, gradually, her seated form faded from sight and reappeared again, changed in costume, and in attitude. And again she faded and reappeared, and again, and yet once more. He saw her in many pictures, in familiar places, in the company of persons known to him in the long ago. She was in Russia, in Petersburg. De Windt, not now young, his temples silvered, his eyes grown weary, was at her side. He was succeeded by others, men and women of exalted rank, many of them seeming oddly familiar to Ivan, who sat entranced, watching and wondering at the vividness of the dream. And while he gazed down the strange future of this girl, he seemed to realize, intangibly, that she whom he watched was in some way bound up with his own fate: connected with him by some powerful chain of circumstance.

The pictures, continuing, began to grow hazy. Little by little his sensations became less acute. He was yielding to the influence of intense fatigue. Tremont saw his head droop forward to his breast, and his eyes close. Darkness descended. Oblivion trembled over him. Then, suddenly, there was a creak, a movement, the sound of moaning. The mists dropped away. Tremont and the girl sprang to their feet; for the door of the Princess' room had opened and the priest emerged.

On the father's white face were traces of emotion. His right hand was uplifted, two of his fingers stretched out in benediction. As he spoke, his old voice trembled:

"Let us give thanks to God for His mercy. A sinful soul, repentant and shriven, has been gathered home."

Vittoria, with a low cry, fell upon her knees. Ivan, gone deathly white, stepped forward.

"The Princess Nikitenko is dead?" he asked, dully.

"In the odor of sanctity, my son."

* * * * *

In one brief hour, the shattered illusion of these last weeks of Ivan's Italian existence had crumbled utterly away. As one walks in some unhappy dream, he endured the double ceremonies of funeral and burial. A great crowd was present at the first of these, in the Santo Espirito; and their eyes were glued neither on coffin nor on priest, but every one upon the crape-shrouded figure of a girl, who knelt between Ivan and Madame Nikitenko's heart-broken maid, Marie Latour. Next day the great subject of the salons was this girl's identity, and the reason for the tears which every one declared had flowed so copiously from the purple eyes that might have been stolen from the dead woman who lay upon the high, violet-strewn catafalque, surrounded by a ring of twinkling lights. Yet no one in that eagerly sacrilegious throng had the luck to perceive the most dramatic figure in the church: the shabbily dressed, middle-aged man who, hidden in the shadow of a chapel-pillar, stood watching his daughter, her escort, and the throng of familiar people who had once received him, the outcast, as one of themselves.—Even Gregoriev never suspected this last touch to the finished story. And, had he known it, it could in no way have lightened the weight that lay on his heart when, upon his return to his lonely rooms, he called Piotr to him, in the twilight, and spoke to the man who was afraid to show the joy caused by his master's wearily-spoken command.

"In two days, Piotr, we shall leave for Russia.—Make things ready; and come to me for the necessary money.—Great God! How hideous the world can be!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE HERMIT

The issue of the Moscow Journal for March 26, 1887, announced the return of Prince Ivan Gregoriev to Russia after a thirty-month absence abroad; adding that he was in Moscow for a few days only, before proceeding to his country-place of Maidonovo, near Klin. As a matter of fact, Ivan, after a railway journey of sixty hours, arrived in Moscow on the evening of one day, and remained at the Slaviansky Bazaar until the afternoon of the next. During this brief period, he was besieged by visitors of every description, from the barest acquaintances, to men like Balakirev and Ostrovsky; and, to the general chagrin, all were alike refused. Ivan was in his blackest mood. When, three hours before the departure of the Klin train, Piotr, taking his life in his hands, did admit Kashkine, it was half an hour before that rarest of diplomatists could bring the gleam of one faint smile across his old friend's face. In his memoirs the admirable Constantine has left a picture of Gregoriev as he was at this period—in his forty-eighth year:

"A figure lean, not very tall, giving the dual impression of wiry fortitude, and a delicacy that was rather spiritual than physical, Gregoriev's body formed a marked contrast to his face—at sight of which, on the day of his return, I confess to having been shocked, so changed had it become since my last view of it. From black, with a slight silvering only at the temples, his hair and beard were now almost pure white. The lines of care in his face had deepened incredibly. The skin had something of that parchment look that I had supposed to be the special mark of the recluse; but Ivan told me he had been a good deal out-of-doors in the last months. Without asking, I perceived at once that he was under his special morbid scourge; and when I learned that he intended retiring to Klin for a period of complete isolation, I was less astonished than dismayed. I think I had even a momentary presentiment that from this retirement he was destined never to emerge; though I knew that he was still some years removed from his fiftieth birthday. However, with Ivan Mikhailovitch, time was never a thing to be considered. He was a man of eternity."

Into their two hours together on that last Moscow day, the friends crowded much important conversation. Ivan unfolded his plans for the future; and discussed those manuscripts he had brought back, and which he afterwards intrusted to Kashkine to be delivered to his publishers. Immediately upon the first printing, they were to be sent to the Musical Society, to be passed or rejected for the next season's concert series. This business finished, Ivan plunged into an impulsive account of the bizarre history of his last months in Florence. But when he had reached a half-way point, he as suddenly halted; and, Piotr a moment later announcing that the carriage waited to drive him to his train, Ivan bade his friend a hurried farewell. Kashkine only learned the end of the tale that interested him so deeply, some fourteen months later.

Once more, as on the first day of his possession, Ivan reached his hermitage in the late afternoon of a spring day. But this home-coming was not like the first; for, among the little throng of servants gathered in the hall to meet their Prince, one face was missing. After hasty greetings, Ivan, with a sudden sense of the truth, asked haltingly for the old servitor whom he had sent back to Russia, nine months before, from Naples. The reply, anticipated by but one moment, was a great shock to him. Old Sosha had been buried yesterday; his last words being a greeting to the master he had so longed to see again.—And Ivan might have been present at the funeral of this dearly-loved old man!—But he made no rebuke; for he knew that the humility of these poor creatures would never have permitted them to disturb his pleasure for one of themselves.

It was, perhaps, only morbidness that Ivan should have allowed the death of Sosha, a man of eighty-four, to affect him as it did. Yet the following weeks taught him that all his recent gloomy meditations and self-analyses had had in them an element of affectation incompatible with real grief. Was it not real grief, then, that he was suffering now? For weeks he lived in the blackness that was horrible to those who watched him. And finally Piotr, who dared anything for his master, sent, secretly, for Kashkine—whom he believed endowed with miraculous powers wherever his Prince was concerned. But for once Kashkine's presence seemed powerless to rouse the composer from his lassitude: a feat which was eventually accomplished by one who knew him more intimately than any man.

It was now many years since his cousin and true companion first began to make her deeply affectionate study of Ivan's moods. In May, according to a former custom, Nathalie came down to Maidonovo, unaccompanied by her daughters. And Kashkine, after watching her during one day and night, retreated, gallantly leaving the field to her. It was one of the few times on which she came alone to Ivan's home; and her excuse for the act was one newly characteristic of her:

"My dear Ivan, I am forty-four years old: a safe age, if ever woman is to attain to one. I now, therefore, insist upon the comfort of personal freedom. It is the one compensation permitted for the loss of the youth which can make freedom dangerous."

Ivan's reply to the theory was a smile. For neither by him nor by herself could the graceful, beautifully groomed, chic little woman possibly have been regarded as she chose to describe herself. At the same time, it would have been a person utterly beyond the pale who would have admitted the possibility of impropriety in the behavior of the Princess Feodoreff, one of the greatest ladies of Petersburg. She had long since recovered any ground lost during the few months of her separation from her dissolute Prince. And within the last eighteen months rather a signal honor had been offered her in the intimate friendship of the Grand-Duchess Catharine:—most irreproachable, unapproachable, and, at the same time, most popular, of the imperial women of Russia. Perhaps her friendship with this Princess was the more genuine and the more truly sympathetic in that, as she was well aware, her own history and that of her Imperial Highness bore many points of resemblance. For the great-granddaughter of Constantine the Abdicator was the wife of one of the most dissolute of the Grand-Dukes, whose abuses of manhood no ingenuity of his proud wife was able to conceal. Hence Nathalie, herself so intimately acquainted with this poignant form of suffering, was just now very full of her friendship with the beautiful Princess; and she poured into Ivan's half-listening ears all that she knew of this exquisite woman, married at seventeen, left alone in her cold and unapproachable state, to learn all the dire details of a state marriage: and now mother of a son who, in very boyhood, was already believed to be gazing with interest down the path his father had trod. Even Nathalie herself could not guess the anguish with which this secret dread had already filled the mother's heart; nor the struggle she was prepared to make before her motherhood should be dishonored as her wifehood had always been.

In time the story of this Princess, told, day by day, in semi-accidental snatches, laid hold of Ivan's imagination. By degrees he began to enter into the life that was being laid bare before him with all the intimate understanding that is part of the Creator's gift. For many weeks after the departure of his cousin, indeed, Ivan mused upon the subject of the royal lady, dowered, apparently, with every enviable possession of wealth and power, and yet one of the most truly unfortunate of humankind. The immediate result of this was the writing of the "Three Studies," unnamed, so long left in manuscript, and so persistently misunderstood. It is only, indeed, within the last five years that they have been discovered to bear a direct relationship to the last three movements of his greatest symphony. To-day they form the treasure of that small but expanding cult who have been so mocked at for their serious study of the connection between various harmonies and the mental emotions, from which has grown the dream of establishing a perfect musical law.

It was the spring of 1889 before Ivan at last began to work seriously upon his "Sixth Symphony": that which had been growing in his mind for more than ten years; and which, while it forms, perhaps, his greatest claim to immortality, was the first to open the eyes of Philistia to the splendors of his powers. Like all of those few artistic masterpieces that approach perfection, the "Tosca Symphony" is popular alike with the many and with the few; because it contains something of the essence of all humanity: strikes a chord that must find some echo in the breast of every man and woman that has known the meaning of pain. But, superb as was the height attained in this work, Ivan paid dearly for its accomplishment. For, from the nervous breakdown that marked its conclusion, he never fully recovered.

In the weeks dividing New Year's Day from the April of 1890, Gregoriev seldom left his bed. He was attended night and day by Piotr and Piotr's son; who saw, with growing alarm, how slowly the strength seemed to come back to him, and how little increase of vitality arrived with that quickening of the year to which Ivan had always heretofore responded so eagerly.

Through the long days during which he alternated between fever and debility, Ivan sank into a hell of the senses; and daily gazed with longing upon the still closed gates of life. He had heard the low-calling voices of departed Shades. He had been given misty glimpses of the Elysian land that lay beyond those high black bars. Long and long was it before he could turn his face from that vision back to the grays and glooms of his worn routine. And when at last it became patent to him that this must be, he still clung to the erratic and feverish fancies for the abnormal, that had come to him in his illness. By May the Maidonovo household stood aghast at the incomprehensible manner of their silent master's renewed life. Those who knew him well surmised his mental condition; but even Kashkine could not fathom the depth to which his thoughts had sunk. Certainly none but a Russian could, or can, comprehend the terrible reality of what must, to the inhabitants of the sunshine lands, seem the mere wilful depression of a hypochondriac. But those men and women who have dwelt all their lives beneath a sky of leaden gray, in an horizonless space of desolate, unbroken steppe; whose children and children's children must come into a heritage even heavier than their own, handed down from those first, hunted creatures who began the age-long battle with ice and snow and frozen hurricanes—these, alas! know well that the disease of Ivan was no pretence, but a reality, as grim, as terrible, as sullen, as the temperament of their peasant-brethren. And not one of them but had felt, to some degree, the same, deep, passionless, revulsive anger that was working in him, and turning him from the old, secret habits of spiritual meditation and high thought, into passions of blasphemy and atheism which burned ever deeper into his brain.

It was in this final phase of inward revolt against the submissive religions that are permitted to govern the world, that Ivan, nearly recovered from bodily weakness, took up the history of religion and began to search, diligently, through all the forms of anthropomorphism, for that one which should display the most artistic beauty and formal grace. It was impossible to hesitate long. There is no paganism of obscure antiquity that can compare, in poetic beauty, with the scarce-forgotten rites of the Hellenic Pantheon. Fired by an unlooked-for enthusiasm in his chosen task of apostasy, he finally took for his protective deity that least divine, weakest, and most exquisite of the gods of the Greeks:—Aphrodite.

Mad Ivan! Far indeed went he in his bitter defiance of High God! His attendants looked on in frightened mystification at the changes now preparing in the inner of the two up-stairs rooms in which their master had been wont to work. Some simple carpentry; a large number of unusual articles commanded from Moscow: one, more expensive than all the others, brought in a coffin-like box from France; the transferrence of all his paraphernalia of work into the outer room; and behold the fane of Ivan's new goddess!—a semicircular chamber hung in deep violet; in the centre of the jut a low, circular pedestal, draped in black, and flanked on either side by two high church candlesticks of wrought silver, containing painted candles kept always alight, the windowless room containing, beside these, only one, silver lamp hanging from the centre of the sombre ceiling. Opposite the altar-pedestal, stood the single piece of furniture in this strange room: a long, low couch of Spanish leather, violet in color, placed so that the occupant could gaze directly upon the figure finally lifted to the pedestal prepared for her: an exquisite modern statue of Aphrodite of old, which had won a young Frenchman the Prix de Rome, and was compared by those authorities not inimical to the sculptor, to be worthy of the chisel of Praxiteles. Ivan had taken advantage of the quarrel among the committee who were considering it for purchase for the Luxembourg, and had bought it from its affronted creator for one hundred thousand francs.

Three workmen and Piotr had, during its preparation, gained glimpses of this room. Afterwards Piotr entered it once or twice in the month for the purpose of cleaning. But, barring this, once the door was shut on the completed shrine, no one save Ivan beheld it; though he soon knew it to be the chief reason why he was spoken of with bated breath by his own servants; and called by the inhabitants of Klin a madman. And, truly, there were days when his appearance and behavior might have brought that thought to other minds than those of illiterate peasants. But these were only the hours when he was dominated by the fantastic spirit inherent in the pungent paste which he kept in a golden, jewel-studded tube at the feet of the goddess. For, when the black butterfly of his melancholy now danced before his eyes, Ivan reverted remorselessly to that opium which he had for years abstained from. These days were irregular, however, and the act voluntary, being not as yet compelled by physical craving. And, in the intervals, he pursued his ordinary occupations of reading and composing, to which he had now added the transcribing of his own memoirs and a self-instituted office of beauty-worship at the statue-shrine, inaugurated in a fit of angry repudiation of Christian rites, and continued in that spirit of half-ironical defiance that was now his most salient characteristic. So, month by month, he dwelt alone, withdrawing daily more and more within himself, and by degrees lessening personal contact as much as possible even with his servants. Nevertheless he retained one means of communication with the world beyond, in a correspondence maintained with half a dozen representatives of as many different grades of life: Nathalie, of whom he constantly demanded further details of the story of the Grand-Duchess Catharine; Balakirev, now long since in Zaremba's chair at the Petersburg Conservatoire; Avelallement in Hamburg; an odd little Parisian journalist—through whom he had eventually obtained the Thebaud Venus; and, lastly, there departed from Maidonovo, twice a month, letters addressed to the inmate of a certain convent in the Arno Valley near Florence, whence replies as regularly arrived, giving quaintly monotonous accounts of the life and welfare of one Vittoria Lodi, at present merely a dependant in the convent and the special penitent of the writer: a little old priest, the only man ever allowed within those sacred walls.

In every one of these people Ivan, despite his distaste for personal contact with men, took the keenest interest. Their welfare was of genuine moment to him; though wherefore, he could not himself have said. Probably this form of communion with his fellow-beings satisfied the hunger for social intercourse without which man cannot exist as man. And by degrees his memoirs—the continuation of a sporadic journal long kept up, which was, however, merely a mass of disconnected thoughts, flashes of perception, remarks on personal events, and endless reflections on the unrevealed Alpha and Omega of life—began to be filled with other matter: chapter after chapter containing nothing but accounts of and speculations concerning two beings as far apart as the poles of the earth, and bearing no such similarity: the history and surmised character of Nathalie's beloved patroness, the Grand-Duchess Catharine, and those of the child of the wild romance of Alexandrine Nikitenko and Vittorio Lodi.

As to the mental atmosphere in which Ivan passed these strange days and nights of his, it was indescribable, but peculiarly powerful. For, just as there are certain incidents or periods in our lives which, for no perceptible reason, stand out in our memory with marked vividness, so these last weeks of Ivan's were so fraught with nervous electricity that each smallest incident took on the importance of an event. And Ivan, considering, became gradually convinced that these were the last days of his life.

Gregoriev was fifty years old; a man ordinarily normal, robust, unweakened by excesses of any description or by any irregularities of life. High-strung nervously though he was, there was still no doctor but would have given him many years yet to live. Nevertheless, his hallucination of approaching death remained unshaken; and he looked forward to the end quite calmly, as the sure conclusion of a prescribed term of study and work: the beginning of a rest of undetermined duration.

Unnatural as his life had become, the months from May to October were nevertheless fertile in production. All the works of this time, however, are so peculiar in style that they remained in manuscript long after his death, and the general public are still unfamiliar with that which is probably the greatest, though no doubt the strangest of them all: the "Pagan Fantasia," after the first reading of which Kashkine and Balakirev, who were alone together, looked angrily from each other to the fire, from which nothing but the memory of their friend's dead face saved that composition which afterwards came to exercise so powerful a fascination over both of them. At the same time, the spell which those unparalleled harmonies casts over the auditor is considered so unhealthy, that this flower of Ivan's madness is not yet in print. Others of the works of this time, the "Songs of the Herzeleide," the "House of Life," and the "Hymn to Pan" (both these last written for organ and orchestra), together with the "Serenade to Death," are gradually acquiring a public who listen in disorganized astonishment to these records of a soul in the strangest travail ever revealed to fellow-men.—But enough! Another paragraph, and Gregoriev is lost forever to Philistia!

Not only Kashkine, but all those who heard of Ivan at this time, believed that, behind his eccentricities, there still lurked a sardonic grin at his own behavior; than which there can surely be no healthier sign! Yet, towards the very end, he committed an act which once more plunged the most indulgent of his friends into exasperated anger with his folly.

Since his passing, the baton of Nicholas the well-beloved had been wielded by Brodsky, who had acquitted himself through two seasons of symphony concerts with considerable credit. The date of the first concert of the series of 1890-1891, had been set for October 9th; and its piece de resistance was the "Sixth Symphony" of Gregoriev, whose fiftieth birthday was to be celebrated by the playing of this, his greatest work, with whose praises Moscow was already mysteriously a-murmur; and afterwards by a supper, to be given that evening by his old confreres of the Conservatoire. It was really Russia's capitulation to her greatest musician, in whose universal acclaim there was to be not one dissentient voice.

On the first day of the month Ivan received a letter from Kashkine, explaining these things, giving a minute plan of the arrangements, and eagerly congratulating Ivan on his assured triumph. For, well as he knew his friend's instability, Constantine never for an instant doubted that Ivan would consent to appear at a reunion for which, as Kashkine knew, he had been longing, bitterly, ever since the sudden accession to his father's wealth and title had barred him from the old-time fellowship.—Wherefore Constantine's letter was couched not in terms of pleading, but in sentences of joyous satisfaction at the prospect of Ivan's delight. This was the reply:

"MAIDONOVO, October 2nd.

"MY DEAR CONSTANTINE CONSTANTINOVITCH,—Many thanks. Unfortunately, I have now endured about thirty years of concerts; and I fear that the thousand-and-first will hardly tempt me to Moscow. Appropriate all applause to yourself; for verily I think you are the man who has kept me at it for the past ten years. Also, do not give up your festa afterwards. It will be far better than if I were present to silence the mirth with my morose presence. Drink me one toast, if you will; for it is borne in upon me that that day will be one of transformation for me. Therefore wish me, while I wish you

"Success and happiness!

"IVAN BLASHKOV-GREGORIEV."

And Kashkine, crushing the letter savagely into a ball, muttered, between his teeth: "Ah! 'transformation'! we'll all drink to that! But, by God, it'll never come to him now!"

* * * * *

By a quarter before two o'clock on the afternoon of October 9, 1890, the Symphony Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire was filled to the doors. The winter season had doubly begun; for, outside, sleighs were flying joyously through the first snow-storm. All the inhabitants of the Kremlin and Equerries' quarters were back from estate and resort; and most of the ladies of their families were seated in the wreath of boxes that crowned the amphitheatre of the hall. Indeed, from a fashionable and musical point of view, it was an audience such as has seldom been surpassed in the old Russian city; and, to mondaine and musician alike, the Gregoriev symphony was the event of the afternoon. For was not its composer a Prince, a millionaire, and his composition the masterpiece of Russian musical literature?

In the left-hand stage-box were gathered a little group of his own, old circle, about the empty chair which had been reserved, in case—faintly possible—the erratic one should suddenly appear. Kashkine, Laroche, Ostrovsky, and Ivan's passionate young admirer Rimsky-Korsakow, sat there in silence, all of them thinking the same half-bitter, half-resentful thoughts. In their own minds they were persuaded that the success of the symphony meant more to them than to any other persons either in the audience or in the city. But they were oddly wrong. Near them were seated two women, one in a box, amid a little group of people of the extreme of fashion; the other by herself, in a stall in the parquet. Both of them were secretly and nervously afire. Both looked anxiously for Ivan's appearance, longing eagerly for a sight of his face. And the two of them were at opposite ends of the feminine world; for one was the Princess Nathalie Feodoreff; the other, a white-faced, worn-looking, plainly dressed woman, seemingly of the lower middle-class, was Irina Petrovna; finished, now, with the active degradations of her life; living in a great silence, upon the scanty savings of her years of mad extravagance. For her, this was to have been a day of days: a daring expense, to be paid for by the sacrifice of luncheon and supper, little missed in the joys of anticipation and memory. Her worn-out emotions had fired again at the dream of meeting the one man who had for years remained the unshattered idol of her heart. Her comprehension of his music—life-music as it was—was fuller, perhaps, than that of the delicate Princess; to whom Ivan's unexpected absence was but a passing disappointment. She had come down from Petersburg to hear the symphony; and, since he was evidently not to be present, she suddenly decided to be the first to carry him the news of his triumph. As she considered the plan, her excitement grew; and she resolved to take the train which left at six o'clock for Klin: daring her cousin to turn her from his inhospitable door in the late evening.

Every one knows what happened at the concert, when, for the first time, the notes of that matchless symphony fell upon the ears of the world: when the supreme desolation of the magnificent, crashing retrogression of the finale held a thousand people in breathless, trembling stillness; the tears of Ivan's boundless yearning: the passions of the true Weldschmerz glazing every eye. Accounts of the mad storm of applause which finally rose into a chorus of shouts for Ivan, are still preserved in the scrap-books of those who were there. And, though Ivan came not and the noise was finally stilled, two hours later, when the audience trooped out into the snowy darkness, but one name was on every lip: one regret in every heart. Had he but known it, Ivan's act in not coming was an unconscious but complete revenge for his years of neglect.

At the entrance to the hall the Princess Feodoreff parted from her astonished hostess, saying that she intended passing the night at the house of the Grand-Duchess—wife of the Governor-General. And, leaving her friends appeased by this sufficient but rather unexpected excuse, Nathalie hurried into a public droschky, and was presently flying through the streets towards the Petersburg station—and Ivan.

* * * * *

Thus was Ivan finally, and for all time, established in his own land. Thenceforward, while music shall endure, his name must be written among those who have advanced their most perfect of the arts to a higher standard. His work was done: his battle over. His name was blazoned for eternity on the roster of the Russian Great.

But the man? Where was he, what was he doing, upon this, his day?

It was half-past three when the first movement of the "Tosca Symphony" ended in the concert-hall. At that hour Ivan returned to his house from a long walk through the whitened fields, and, donning dressing-gown and slippers, went up to his work-room and shut the door. Moved by a most unusual impulse, he seated himself at the piano and began to play, from memory, some strains from the last act of "die Goetterdaemmerung." At the point where Brunhild, carried beyond herself and her abhorred mortality back to the heights of immortal perception and abnegation, sings, with divine calm, the words: "Ruhe, Ruhe, du Gott!"—Ivan paused. The phrase caught him up. The majesty of the chords in which the great German has framed it, suddenly fired him with longing: "Rest thee, Rest thee, thou God!" He played it over and over, meditatively, humming the words in the rich, low notes of the score. And in those moments his final hour was ushered in.

All day, struggle as he would, Ivan had been keyed to a pitch of nervous excitement by speculations concerning the concert in Moscow. Finally, at noon, he had gone out, determined upon attaining an animal fatigue which would rest his brain. His struggle with the wind and snow accomplished the first end, but not the second. Now, however, those words of the dying goddess—she who stood quietly awaiting her chosen death, brought a great calm to his mind. As he lingered over them his face changed, and a new look came into those eyes which had striven so many times, of late, to pierce the shadows that enshroud the future.

"Rest thee, oh God!"

Rest—for him! How often had he demanded it, in vain? Now, at last, he was enjoined to take it—for himself.

Rising from the piano he went to the door which led into the outer hall, locked it, and drew the bolt fast. Then, in the wall on the right, he pressed the spring which opened the invisible door to the room of the goddess. Entering there, he lighted the two candles at the flame of the burning lamp, and filled the little golden censer that swung before the statue, with incense; noting, the while, with his customary delight, the delicate transparency of the pure Carrara against the soft violet of the hangings behind her and the shadowy black at her feet. Finally, when the thin, fragrant smoke had begun to fill the room with its soft haze, he took the golden tube from its place on the pedestal, and prepared for himself the largest dose of the narcotic that he had ever dreamed of taking. After that he returned, quietly, to his piano.

Darkness had nearly come, and the unlighted music-room was lapped in a pleasant twilight, broken only by the faint gleam from the candles, which entered through the open doorway. The odor of the incense was everywhere; and the mystic scent and warmth of the inner air contrasted well with the shrieking of the demon-ridden wind outside the house. The atmosphere perfectly suited Ivan's state of mind. All anxiety about the concert had gone. Some inkling of success floated through his brain; but the matter now seemed infinitesimally small. The world, with its struggling millions of unknown men and women, was farther away from him now than the shadowland of the departed. For he was almost face to face with the problem of Eternity.

Alas! In the life he knew, how small a part did justice, that law innate in every human heart, play? How much less seemed the justice of God towards his creatures, good and bad, than the justice, or the pity, of these creatures for one another? It was this feeling which had generated that deep, all-pervading sense of injury, that anger with and distrust of the Almighty, that had thrown Ivan into his revolt. And who was to explain why we are left in the world without any knowledge of whence and whither; knowing only that from birth till death we are surrounded by evil:—evil rewarded; good defiled, disgraced; yet mankind still under the command of man and of God to walk straightly, in fear of promised damnation? It was the question he had asked in his "Tosca Symphony": that symphony of helpless, human wonder and sorrow. And the question, repeated for the last time in the great motif of the finale, was still unanswered.

He sat, now, drearily playing fragments of various works, his brain teeming with memories: of his mother, in her sweetness and purity, bound for life to the brute force that had crushed her youth away in the first days of her married life; of Nathalie and her husband, the husband who had been the—admirer—of her own mother; of that shadowy Princess whose grave eyes he beheld overflowing with her secret woe, as they overlooked the vast and misty throng of mismated womanhood; lastly of the daughter of a woman who had rebelled against her lot; the nameless child of Alexandrine Nikitenko, who, filled as she was with the vivid life of her passionate heritage, was about to be shrouded away from the world she loved in the coif and robe of the cloistered nun. Gentle women: pure men; God's world! Why are the two first so unfitted for the last? To God we apply the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. If these attributes be true, whence the evil that rules the world?—Is our God a demon? It is the logical inference.

To-day, for the hundredth time, Ivan cast away his defences of sarcasm, mockery, sophistry, and faced that question that has gone unanswered from generation to generation. As he meditated, his face lost its recently acquired harshness; his deep eyes grew sadder even than their wont; the look of a vast, ineffaceable weariness settled upon him. With face uplifted he continued to play, drifting through his own many forms of that unanswered question into final silence. Then, rising, he passed, a little unsteadily, into the inner room, and ate once more of the thick black paste in its golden tube.

Twilight had now long since merged into darkness. In the work-room Ivan lighted two lamps, and then, going to the fireplace, which he had here substituted for the traditional stove, and wherein a low fire burned, he threw on half a dozen blocks of peat. Then, turning to the high bookcase near at hand, he drew down, with fumbling hands, the sixteen red-leather books that constituted his journal and newly-written memoirs. Standing there, he read certain passages of this transcription of his mental life. Finally, with a straightening of his figure, he took the books one by one, tore off the covers, and stuffed the closely written sheets into the flames. Afterwards, like one in a daze, he returned to the piano.

It was his own, strange "Invocation to Death" to which his half-numbed fingers turned. The sound of the notes reached his ears as if from a great distance. Also, he was conscious of a feeling of nausea which told him that the fatal narcotic was working, powerfully. After a time, his fingers fell from the keys. Out of the enclosing mists he heard a voice calling: the clear, sweet voice of one distant, but coming nearer. It was the voice of Sophia, his mother.

His face was uplifted, and he smiled as he echoed her words:

"Rest thee, Rest thee, thou God!"

With some difficulty he rose to his feet, and stumbled, heavily, into the inner room, where Aphrodite gleamed through her incense cloud. Here, with the air of one tired unto death, he sank down upon the leathern couch. And so the heavy eyelids closed over his weary, weary eyes.



EPILOGUE

THE TRANSLATION

An hour went by. The form upon the couch had neither moved nor given any sign of life; yet body and soul still held together. The mind was only sunk into a stupor of complete unconsciousness. When it was that the change began, none could have determined. After a few moments of a faintly visible fluttering of the breath, a wider parting of the lips, the feeble movement of a finger, Ivan's eyes suddenly flew wide open, his jaw relaxed and dropped. He was immediately sensible that all the heaviness of the opiate had passed from him; and that his being was possessed by a singular lightness and freedom. Then he perceived that, at his side, in close contact, indeed, with his new self, was his mother: tenderness incarnate, as of old, yet with undoubted anxiety about her.

"Smile for me, mother! Welcome me home!" he cried; filled now with a deep, expanding joy, wholly new and wonderful.

Sophia, looking down upon him, smiled, indeed, but pitifully, and with less of joy than of anxiety in her gentle look. Starting back from this, he turned to look about him, and found himself surrounded by shadow-shapes of many that he had known of old: Madame Dravikine, Nicholas, Zaremba, and old Sosha: ay, even pallid Joseph, too, lurking behind a little group of brethren of the spirit: in life unknown; in death beloved. There was Mozart the beautiful; Beethoven, of lion-mien; Schumann, Schubert, Wagner the tempestuous, and the melancholy Pole. But none of them approached him closely, yearn as he might for welcome from them, his familiars. Nor did Sophia's sweet seriousness brighten.

"Mother, what is it?" he whispered. "Why are we waiting?"

"For a decision, Ivan. You have come to us before your time."

"But not without reason," he answered, quietly, with a dignity that seemed to her adequate. "There is a question I have died to ask."

"It shall be heard, then," said a voice: a voice inexplicable; resonant; divine.

Immediately Sophia and all the silent throng melted away. Ivan, no longer bound to the empty shell upon the couch, prostrated himself, instinctively, before the figure that appeared, framed in the oaken doorway of the outer room: the figure of a man white-robed, whose face, luminous and gently strong, was turned to him in tranquil majesty.

"Ask thy question, O Mortal," repeated the Christ-voice.

So Ivan, lifting his head, replied: "I came to ask it; being unable longer to reconcile myself to a life inconsistent with all logic.

"O King! Tell me how it is that a world, God-conceived, therefore inevitably perfect, became corrupt, filled with, and governed by, evil? wherein great burdens are borne by the good; and wickedness, vice, injustice, flourish unrebuked and unpunished. Whence comes this evil, and why?"

The question was spoken bravely and unfalteringly, for Ivan could perceive no sign of displeasure in the thoughtful countenance of the Man Divine. There was an impressive pause; and Ivan had his answer.

"You have demanded a knowledge that is far beyond your present mortal understanding. But be assured that he who asks this question shall receive, in due time, its answer.—Yet know you so little of divine law that you desire truth without a struggle to gain it? that you demand the most priceless boon of creation as a favor, thinking to give naught in return? Nay, more: you have broken a law written at creation in the heart of every man; and thus, by the destruction of your earthly fetters, have sought a good end by evil means. This, then, shall be my judgment of your sin: In the punishment for your act of suicide, you shall obtain the truth, the knowledge, that you have died to seek.

"And let this be your appointed task, whereby you may reach that season of rest given each soul in the intervals between its experiences: Take first four years among your fellows here. Then return to the world of mortals where, in mortal guise, yet not in true confinement within the bounds of the flesh, you shall find a path appointed you to travel. There shall you cross the lives of two women, both of whom shall be known to you: the secrets of their hearts and souls laid bare to your transmortal mind. To these twain, dwellers in the provinces of good and of evil, you shall seek to give what aid your wisdom can devise for them. And in that attempt—the attempt to swerve them from the paths dictated by their own temperaments, you shall learn the reason for the ills you deprecate.—I have spoken. Obey the word; and in this labor find thy reward."

"Master, I will obey!—But—the four years—"

The trembling question halted; for, heeding his voice no longer, the Divine Figure passed beyond sight. And presently Ivan, lost in new meditation, perceived that he was floating softly upward, through space. About him, close as in his long-past babyhood, were clasped his mother's arms; which drew him at last into that peace that passeth understanding.

* * * * *

It was nine o'clock when the little household of Maidonovo was thrown into a ferment over the unexpected arrival of Princess Feodoreff, who came without either luggage or maid. After she had entered the little library, Piotr and young Ivan held a hurried conference in the hall, the question of which the Princess herself speedily solved. Coming out of the room, she bade the young man conduct her, without ceremony, to the retreat of her ogre.

Five minutes later she ceased to bruise her knuckles upon that locked, unyielding door.—What in the world was Ivan about?—Never, truly, had man slept through such noise as this!—And Ivan's sleep was notably light!

With a chill of premonition, she ran down the hall to call the men.

When at last Piotr, young Ivan, and Makar, working in a frenzy of dread, had torn the door from its hinges, Nathalie passed through, alone, into that inner room over which Ivan reigned no longer. She was the first to look upon his dead face, illumined by the candle-light—and by something more. It was also she—the one great love of his loveless life—who closed, at last, those staring, questioning eyes.

THE END

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