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pile of loose saman, or chopped under-strappers were still at straw, in a corner that would work, and that several of her keep the nags fed for a day girl friends had been forced or two.
to work in that very department Then she explained that they of State. were in a part of the grounds After a small mouthful of of the university. The stu- food and a drink, she would go dents were enjoying a vaca- herself straight to the War tion, and no one was likely Ministry, bluff an
, entrance, to interfere there unless sus- and find out the two points picion was aroused. This was
This was vital to them-namely, the so much to the good, but bigger whereabouts of the Red leader news was that next door was who had taken the Plan from the Red Ministry of War. It the Ataman, and what he had was likely that the clerks and done with it.
Three hours later Xenia re- supposed to keep his mistresses, turned to them as they lay saving your presence ? I refevered with anxiety in the member hearing about it when corners of the dirty shed. A I was here before.” Red commissar named Wig- “Yes,” she answered. “The ramin, so she learnt from the white house is empty; the Red Deputy Chief of the Staff's infantry that were billeted in typist, had come in that morn- it have been sent up to the ing with a strong patrol from northern front in that very the north-west. He had de relief train.” manded to see the War Min- The subaltern had an idea. ister himself, but both the “Wasn't he supposed to have Minister and the President were had passages made between the absent in their special train, houses ?” and would not be back till late You are right; James the next night. This gave Jamesovitch, it is so." them twenty-four hours to think The next step then obviously out a plan; meanwhile Wig- was to find their way into the ramin was sleeping in the house white house, and try to disthat was the headquarters of cover one of the passages by the Contro - Svietka, the for- which to penetrate into the mer residence of an Imperial house of the Contro-Svietka. Grand Duke.
It took a couple of hours to “Do you mean, the sub- discuss the details and to make altern asked her, “ the red villa some arrangements. At length where the exiled Alexis Pavlo. Xenia and the subaltern set vitch used to live? The house out by themselves, leaving the with the straggling white build rest in the garden supplied ing next door, where he was with a counter-sign. They VOL. CCXV.-NO, MOCC.
could not go through any First, the subaltern took his street in view of the certainty three-hour watch, and munched of being seized by a patrol of the crusts he had brought in the Milizie that would fire at his pocket, whilst his comany one out after dark. They panion slept. had therefore to cross gardens, It filled him with horror to dodging amongst busbes, and look into that room through to climb walls, looking about the crack where the paper had them everywhere, and finally dried and split, for the room dash across a street to the had been papered in European garden of that drear white fashion. He recalled tales of house, whilst a cloud hid the the devilries of the Contromoon.
Svietka, and of how this very They scrambled gingerly in Wigramin had butchered six through a broken French win brother commissars in cold dow. All through the night blood after his guard had they searched desperately for dragged them through the some passage, and at length, streets to him, with their spines when dawn was already break- and breast-bones broken by ing, the back of an old cup- rifle-butts. As the light grew, board sounded hollow, and to his astounded gaze he saw swung round to a push at the bullet-marks on the opposite side. They crept cautiously wall and the brown staing of forward and very slowly, amidst old blood, just where his narmasses of cobwebs and the rator had described the slaughscurryings of rats. At last ter. This monster Wigramin they felt their way hand over slept in the very chamber, and hand to where light showed his eyes opened in the morning through cracks. The subaltern to see the blood of his victims. peered through a chink into His sight swam as the figure a big bedroom, lit by a dull, on the bed slowly rose, pulled blackened, electric bulb. A on uncleaned boots, and shouted gross, thick-necked, blue-chinned for various people. He seemed man sprawled in a huge four- to do most of his work in his poster bed. He seemed to be bedroom amongst a litter of almost fully dressed. The first papers. The subaltern strained light of dawn was already his eyes in hopes of seeing the flooding the room, and it was book, but without result. At the too late to go forward. They same time, from the remarks decided to sleep in turns through of various unseen individuals, the day in the least noisome there was no doubt that this part of that passage, whilst was Wigramin, and that the the other watched at the chink. Plan was not far off. He reThey did not dare to go back membered that Wigramin was into the white house, in case a peculiarly noisome form of it should be reoccupied during beast, who was formerly an the day.
Imperial officer of the General This rug
Staff. He had turned traitor the paper round the door so for his own advancement. that it would open easily when
Then it was Xenia's turn to the time came. This took watch: he hated to wake her, nearly two hours of infinite but as Wigramin continued to care, niggling inch by inch. conduct his affairs in the room, The bolt on their side was she would be likely to over- already freed, and it was with hear matters of import.
huge relief that he found he He fell to sleeping as one could push the door open an dead, almost the instant he inch or two, with only a rug laid himself down on the floor hung on the wall inside it to of the passage.
Exhaustion hinder it further. was too great for any anxieties, luckily seemed to hide most of fears, or hopes to stay the call the joints in the paper. for sleep.
Somewhat after nine he It seemed to him that he roused Xenia, and they had not slumbered a minute watched together, munching before Xenia was gently shak- some more fragments of flaping his shoulder, and whisper- jacks from their pockets. The ing that it was now six in the commissar did not return till evening. What she had over- after ten. His pasty face heard confirmed his own con- seemed flushed as with liquor, clusions, and she added that and he hurled himself to his there was good reason to think bed, boots and all, with a that the Plan was in that very pistol still at his belt. The vital room. They agreed that noth- hour had arrived on which all ing could be done till after their fates depended. What nine, so that Xenia might with the curfew and night have another spell of desper- patrols, the coast would be ately needed sleep. Their clear at eleven.
They had troubles seemed to have less- thought out their plan, and ened, and there were rays of gazed breathlessly at the minutehope to be seen. As she lay hand that crept upward with down she whispered smilingly, such infinite slowness. At the “Yestli porokh prokhovnietsa ?” hour they shook hands, and a Cossack saying like that of the subaltern slowly pushed ours about a shot in the locker. the door open a fraction of an
The subaltern had hardly inch at a time. When he had watched for half an hour before not yet made good a foot the the commissar went out. As hinge had creaked and the rug he left he glanced round at inside fell off its nails to the a heavy box on the floor floor. The sleeping figure mereof the room of which the ly fidgeted in its coma. At clamped lid could just be seen. last he could slip through. . This gave the watcher cause The light still glowed, but red to think. It seemed a good and dim. He crept to the time to cut carefully through other door, and very carefully
bolted it on the inside, and fingers through the hair of the noted the heavy chest on the prone figure. “It will be a floor.
He returned to Xenia, long time before he murders who took an oblong packet any one again,” he whispered, from inside her rubashka. All with a glance at the horrid was still.
The door was now splashes on the wall behind but two inches open. He struck him. a match, shielding it from the They shut the door behind room, and applied it to the end them, concealing the cracks in of the packet. Soon the soft the paper as best they might. mass spluttered and gave out Then through the ghostly, sparks and coils of greasy rambling, white house. They smoke.
dodged a frowzy patrol of the Xenia opened the door again, Milizie, and were back in half an and he threw it under the vic- hour in the dirty cowshed with tim's bedstead. They waited, their comrades. But danger keyed up, whilst the fumes still threatened in many forms. filled the fusty room, obscuring Early in the night the Prikthe feeble lamp. Then the aznik, as he scouted around commissar lurched to his feet, corners of their water-garden, cursing, rubbing his eyes, and had overheard a Red patrol, stumbling from side to side. in the street outside, talking
With an oath he croaked of the suspected presence in “Fire, Fire !” but his choked the city of a party of Whites, voice did not carry. Fumbling and the measures taken to smell in a pocket he staggered, half- them out. He gathered that falling, to the chest. The sub- the principal step was the altern took a deep breath and tightening the cordon sprang at him, pulling out a around the suburbs, with extra black object, like a long soft examining posts and patrols. sausage.
By good chance the party The perjured man turned they had left at the Sart's and opened his yellow-toothed farm was well outside this cormouth for a shout. He was don. This all needed thought too late. The sandbag curled and a discussion of ways and round his head with a thud, means to circumvent their eneand he sank without a groan. mies' plannings. The subaltern His assailant seized the chain decided that Afzal and the of keys that half out Cossacks should set out at once from pocket and, Xenia to break their way through behind him, almost to the cordon, and rejoin the the chest. It opened at once. party at the Sart's farm. The In it, to their joy, above drunken Cossack ruse would a mass of papers, lay the not answer again. Plan. They replaced the rug, They must ride cautiously and before switching off the out, fall upon a small Red light, the subaltern ran his patrol at some lonely spot,
seize their caps and Red star Here they climbed to an attic badges, and take if possible suffi- so high that few Red visitations cient papers to get them past reached there. Moreover, its the posts. In the rambling own door that gave on to an straggling outskirts of the north upper corridor was plastered side there were many planta- over, and one entered, after tions filled with thick under certain knocks on a certain growth which would help this spot, by gymnastic feats from plan. It was the best that another room. This was done could be thought out for the from window-sill to window-sill moment. If the attack failed, after dark, by the aid of a wire, they must scatter, and each pulled up into place in answer man arrive alone as best he to those knocks. Xenia exmight at the Sart's farm. The plained all this in whispers as Plan could not be given to they crept up the stairs. Rokhalski's party : there was was a very safe retreat, since too much risk of loss in the no one would suspect the extra rough and tumble that lay window from below; in any case before them. Xenia had an it looked down on to a littleidea for this.
used courtyard. The attic was Rokhalski's party had to the meeting-place of a secret start at once. The darkness society called the “Falcon." of the very small hours would Its members were nearly all help them ; sentries would be Poles, Slovaks, and Czechs, at their sleepiest, and patrols and it could be relied upon to numbed with the cold. If help Allied subjects in trouble. they were for any reason driven Here, after the necessary from the farm, they were to display of secrecy and agility, leave a message in an appointed they found the “General Secreplace.
tary," a capable woman, daughSoon Xenia and the sub- ter of a Polish father, who altern were alone once more spoke English without a trace with their precious Plan. of accent. She had worked as
There was no time to be a teacher for several years in lost. Rokhalski had been told Edinburgh. the main outline of its contents, Not only did she afford the but the mass of figures, times, fugitives a haven in her attic, and dates were too much for but commenced at once to any man's memory to carry. organise a means for them to
Every day that elapsed be- get out of Beshkent with their fore the Plan could be handed all-important Plan. The subto the Ataman's successor was altern she arranged for very a misfortune. Xenia once more soon. He was to acquire the led her comrade through the uniform, documents, and the rank growths of many neglected identity of a Roumanian officer gardens to what proved to be prisoner of war-a Roumanian, the university main building. be it understood, born in