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Had, therefore, Felicyan been taken from her by one of those unforeseen accidents that wreck some lives, had he been swept away by illness, struck dead by lightning even,-the blow would have been terrible, crushing, yet as nothing compared to this. Any death, even the most unlooked for, would have been merciful, peaceful, happy almost, in comparison to this unnatural way of losing him. She could have accepted her widowhood from the hand of God, she thought, had such been decreed, but she could not accept it at the hand of an unjust tyrannical fellow - creature. Death is less cruel than man. It does not rob us so utterly of our beloved ones. It leaves us their graves to be wept over, their last words to be treasured up in tender memory.

Their last words! What a sharp thrill of agony there was in the thought! The remembrance of her last conversation with Felicyan tortured the unhappy wife like the consciousness of a crime. She had spoken bitter, unkind words,-under a misapprehension, it is true, but not the less unbearable to think of now.

Domestic tiffs will occur between the most united couplesit cannot be otherwise. The intimate nature of the bond renders friction unavoidable, and only such persons never disagree as are never wholly united. Conjugal quarrels mostly pass by without leaving a trace behind, they are written in sand, in water; and, where true affection exists, a smile, a caress, are sufficient to destroy even their memory.

But the memory of this quarrel, of this misunderstanding, may never be driven away. In her bitter self-reproach it seems to Hala as if each of those hasty

words was now engraved in marble, as though every passing frown had been cast in bronze.

These thoughts, Hala is thinking them for the hundred - thousandth time, as she walks to and fro in the large empty room. She will go on thinking them as long as life and reason last; and it is the maddening pressure of that revolving train of thought that has bleached her hair, and is threatening to craze her brain.

The first mirror gives back her reflection, a short stout woman clad in mourning, with white hair and black despairing eyes; then the picture goes out of the glass, and the second mirror, catching it up, reproduces it in different fashion. A tall thin woman it is this time, but her hair too is white and her black eyes full of despair.

No news of Felicyan has come to Stara-Wola since his transportation nearly four months ago. The journey to Siberia, performed partly on foot, lasts several months, and perhaps he has not even yet reached his destination. Will he be able to write at all from the mines? Hala does not know; and she hardly knows either whether to hope or fear for a letter. For what news can a letter bring? What can it tell her except that he is living? And living, in his case, is but another word for toiling-suffering.

She walks to the window and looks out mechanically. It is rapidly getting dark. A flight of crows traverses the frosty grey of the sky; the frozen river glitters coldly in the twilight; the outlines of the fir-trees yonder are beginning to grow shadowy and indistinct. Very shadowy and indistinct, likewise, is the form of a sledge coming along the road; it is not even possible to distinguish

whether it is a peasant sledge or a better style of conveyance.

Hala turns away from the window, and resumes her weary walk up and down the room, accompanied always by a ghostly figure alongside a short ghost and a tall one, who relieve each other in monotonous alternation.

The house door opens and closes with a loud bang, but the tall ghost never checks its restless walk there are hurried footsteps in the corridor outside, and the dogs begin to bark excitedly, yet the short ghost does not pause to listen.

But now the tall ghost is again alongside of Hala, and both she and it have stopped abruptly, a new expression dawning in their eyes, an expression that is no longer despair, yet not quite hope. Yearningly, tremulously, incredulously two pairs of arms are stretched out towards a figure in the doorway.

A man clad in the coarse grey cloth dress of a Siberian convict stands there. His head is shaved in a semicircle from ear to ear,1 his face is aged and worn, and around him the great rough dogs are leaping joyfully, licking his hands and fondling his knees, his ankles, and behind him come Luba and the children-the servants and all are talking together..

Can miracles happen? Can the grave give back its dead? God, be merciful! Can a weak human heart bear the pain of so much happiness?

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'My husband! My husband! and with a great cry Hala is by his side, in his arms, at his feet, and it seems wellnigh impossible

that she should survive the agony, the ecstasy of this moment.

But she does not die of happiness, and an hour later she is kneeling by Felicyan's side as he sits in the familiar shabby arm-chair, deserted since summer: she is still gazing at him with all the concentrated intensity of despair that has lately changed to joy. But few words have passed between them as yet: speech will come byand-by, when the first emotion has subsided.


My husband! My husband!" these are all the words she can speak just at first, and she needs no others. The lingering tenderness with which they are spoken says more than volumes of speech could do. She cannot say them often enough. My husband! My husband!" It is sufficient happiness to be able to say these words, to touch him, to feel him near; to pass her fingers across his poor shaved head; to caress his large rough hand, the fingers all red and frost-bitten; the wrist still bruised and galled, from the recent friction of iron rivets.

But presently Hala, still kneeling, raises her face to his.

"God is good after all, Felciu. I had almost begun to doubt it, but He is good. He would not let you suffer for your brother's fault."

Felicyan's face contracts with a sharp spasm of pain.

Hush, hush!" he says, putting his hand over her mouth to check the words, " 'you do not understand-Roman is a hero, a saint, and we owe to him our happiness. He has taken my place he has gone to Siberia !

1 Siberian convicts are shaved in this fashion in order to facilitate detection in case of escape.



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Unknown to Biruta, Roman had applied for his demission from the German army. His request had at first been received with astonished incredulity. It was inconceivable that so brilliant, so successful an officer should think of giving up his career just yet. He was given to understand that any reasonable concession would be made in order to retain him. If his health had suffered, an extensive leave of absence would be granted. If his present post were not to his liking, there might be found other more congenial employments. The position of military attaché at Paris would soon be vacant, and perhaps it was not impossible, &c., &c.

But persuasion and hints were alike thrown away on Major Starowolski (he had received his promotion within the last few weeks). He gave no reasons, he asked for neither favours nor distinctions, but he adhered to his resolution of laying down the sword at once, and irrevocably.

He was impatient to be rid of this odious livery; to regain possession of his own conscience; to be free once more to act as an honest man, unhampered by political considerations; to divorce from each other two irreconcilable characters.

The growing conviction that his moral position was an untenable one, because he could not serve two masters at once, had culminated that day in the picture gallery, and the following night had brought him the long-sought answer to the riddle.

Henceforth his resolve was

fixed. If the dress he wore, the oath he had sworn, did not permit him to follow the dictates of his conscience, why, then, that dress must be discarded, he must be released from that oath, no matter at what cost,-at the price of his happiness, or even of hers.

He had intended to go to Biruta, and, in hand the paper containing his demission, to say farewell; he had meant to tell her that he preferred death to dishonour, and that even in her arms he should never have been able to stifle the gnawing pangs of remorse. He would have begged her to forgive the pain he was causing, and asked her to forget the unhappy man who had not been strong enough, or base enough, to bear the consequences of his actions.

All this he had meant to say, and had entered the hotel with the intention of saying it, but the words had remained unspoken. There had intervened the incident with Gogo, of which Roman, standing behind the group of terrified waiters, had been spectator; and in the blind unresisting submission of the sullen bear-cub, he had seen, as in a mirror, what would be the issue of the interview he was seeking. When the woman is so terribly strong, and the man so fatally weak, the result is a foregone conclusion.

This seemingly trifling incident had fixed his destiny, by making him realise, as he had never realised before, the full power of this woman whom he was fated to adore as a lover and obey as a slave.

How beautiful, how majestic she had looked at that moment, as, standing at the head of the staircase, she had imperiously summoned to her feet the rebellious bear! A queen! a goddess! A woman fit to govern the world! Yet even as he gazed in spellbound admiration, before Roman's eyes there rose up another vision obscuring the first-the vision of a small pale woman with black despairing eyes. She too had looked majestic. She too had been sublime, as with burning impassioned words she had called upon him to restore the happiness of which he had robbed her!

His reason told him that he must not, dare not, see Biruta again. If he saw her once more, if he felt her arm round his neck, her lips upon his, he must succumb to her will. His honour, his conscience, would be powerless to act. Had she not said that she would make him happy in spite of himself? She would-she could do so, he felt convinced of it, and it was of this happiness that he felt afraid. His only course was to flee from a bliss he dared not enjoy. He must not see her again.

His conduct was weak, unmanly, stern judges of character may say perhaps; but what, after all, is weakness? and what is strength? And may not the truest strength sometimes lie in the very recognition of our own weakness?

That same day Roman left Berlin, and forty-eight hours later Countess Massalowska received from him a letter bearing a Russian postmark.

He had gone straight to St Petersburg, where he gave himself up to the authorities. Being now no longer a German officer, he became a Russian subject, and as such pleaded guilty to the crime of high treason.

His brother was innocent. He and he alone, for his own private motives, had drawn the plans, had taken the photographs that had caused Felicyan to be condemned and transported.

He had no difficulty in proving his case. It requires but small rhetoric to convince a wolf of the expediency of devouring a lamb that offers itself as holocaust: the facsimiles of some of the photographs that had been found at Stara-Wola, and the identification of Roman's handwriting, were sufficient to establish Felicyan's innocence and his own guilt. Besides, by this time the fact of his engagement to Countess Massalowska had penetrated to Russia, on hearing which General Vassiljef-who meanwhile had been dismissed in deep disgrace-had not hesitated to come forward and attempt to clear his character by affirming his conviction that Biruta had robbed the portfolio.

All these circumstances, taken collectively, rendered doubt impossible. Roman was condemned to lifelong deportation to the mines, and simultaneously was signed the warrant for his brother's release.

Early in November the ci-devant Major Starowolski quitted Europe as member of a convict convoy bound for Siberia, but his journey ended differently from what had been anticipated.



"Long is the way and hard That out of hell leads up to light."

The closing scene of this narrative is played out at daybreak on a desolate Siberian steppe.

The days are at their shortest, and in order to utilise the brief span of light, the convicts prepare to resume the march with the first faint streak that shows itself in the east.

They had halted last night on the outskirts of a wretched hamlet, where a deserted barn offered adequate accommodation for the prisoners. Like a flock of sheep they had been driven into the building, where, huddled together on the cold earth-floor, they were left to pass the night as best they could the Cossack guards meanwhile keeping watch outside, each one armed with a bayonet and a brandy-flask.

Escape is impossible, for the convicts are linked together in batches of five or six-each left hand riveted to a chain, which leaves just sufficient space between two men to enable them all to march in single file. Thus the movement of each man affects his neighbour, and at night the rest less slumber of one imparts itself perforce to the other.

When the time for starting has come, the sentries enter the barn and rouse the prisoners by a few vigorous curses, emphasised and diversified by some equally vigorous kicks.

Roman, who happens to be the last on a chain of five convicts, staggers to his feet, awakened by the tug of his companions, and looks around him in dazed fashion.

Has he just been dreaming? Of


Biruta perhaps? Of the joys of love? The thrills of gratified ambition? Of all he had possessed a little while ago, and by his own act had renounced? Does he repent his sacrifice as he wakens to the consciousness of his actual position?

Before his eyes there stretches, melting away into the distance, a vast field of snow, seemingly endless-its immensity, its monotony, enhanced by the frosty mist which envelops everything with a semitransparent veil. Not a tree as landmark anywhere on which to fasten the eye; not a beast or bird to enliven the vast solitude: the rising sun, just beginning to show its crimson disc on the horizon, struggles to break through the brooding fog. It succeeds in casting a streak of ruddy light across the plain, which looks like a bloody path prepared to conduct the convicts to their living tomb.

The air catches his breath as he steps outside the barn. Cold is not the word to express the biting intensity of the atmosphere. It attacks the windpipe like a rush of boiling steam; it pierces the ear, the nostrils, with the force of a corrosive acid. It has begun to snow as the convicts are being formed into order for the march. But the snow here, too, is not as other snow. In our countries the flakes descend softly, noiselessly: they feel at most like chilly kisses, like cold caresses to the touch. The Siberian flakes are hard, aggressive; they deal out blows, not kisses, each one armed with an invisible sting that pricks like a pointed stiletto. Nor are they

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