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i i 1 CHAPTER I. N 1his country charity covers no sins!" The speaker finished his re mark with a short laugh. He was a big, stout man. His name was Karl Steinmetz, and it is a name well known in the government of Tver to this day. He spoke jerkily, as stout men do when they ride, and when he had laughed his good natured, half cynical laugh he closed his lips be neath a huge gray mustache. So far as one could judge from the action of a square and deeply indented chin, his mouth was expressive at that time and possibly at all timesof a humor ous resignation. No reply was vouch safed to him, and Karl Steinmetz bumped along on his little Cossack horse, which was stretched out at a gallop. Evening was drawing on. It was late in October, and a cold wind was driving from the northwest across a plain which for sheer dismalness or aspect may give points to Sahara and beat that abode of mental depression without an effort. Steinmetz looked round oxer this theerless prospect with a twinkle of amused resignation in his blue eyes, as if this creation were a little practi cal joke, which he, Karl Steinmetz, ap preciated at its proper worth. The whole scene was suggestive of immense distance, of countless miles in all di rections. The land through which these men were riding is the home of great distancesRussia. They rode, moreover, as if they knew it, as if they had ridden for days and were aware of more days in front of them. The companion of Karl Steinmetz looked like an Englishman. He was young and fair and quiet. He looked like a youthful athlete from Oxford or Cambridge. This young man's name was Paul Howard Alexis, and fortune had made him a Russian prince. If, however, any one, even Steinmetz, called him prince, he blushed and became con fused. This terrible title had brooded over him while at Eton and Cambridge. But no one had found him out. He re mained Paul Howard Alexis so far as England and his friends weie concern ed. In Russia, however, he was known (by name only, for he avoided Slavon ic society) as Prince Pavlo Alexis. This plain was his. Half the govern ment of Tver was his. The great Vol ga rolled through his possessions. Six ty miles behind him a grim stone cas tle bore his name, and a vast tract of land was peopled by humble minded persons who cringed at the mention of his excellency. All this because thirty years earlier a certain Princess Natasha Alexis had fallen in love with plain Mr. Howard of the British embassy St. Peters burg With Slavonic enthusiasm (for the Russian is the most romantic race on earth) she informed Mr. Howard of the fact and duly married him. Both these persons were now dead, and Paul Howard Alexis owed it to his mother's influence in high regions that the responsibilities of princedom were his, but he entirely failed to recognize the enviability of his position as he rode across the plains of Tver toward the yellow Volga by the side of Karl Steinmetz. "This is great nonsense," he said suddenly. "I feel like a nihilist or some theatrical person of that sort. I do not think it can be necessary, Stein- metz." "Not necessary," answered Steinmetz in thick guttural tones, "but prudent." This man spoke with the soft con sonants of a German. "Prudent, my dear prince." "Oh, drop that!" "When we sight the Volga I will drop it with pleasure. Good heavens! I wish I were a prince. I should have it marked on my linen and sit up in bed to read it on my nightshirt." "No, you wouldn't, Steinmetz," an swered Alexis, with a vexed laugh. "You would hate it just as much as I do, especially if it meant running away from the best bear shooting in Eu- rope." Steinmetz shrugged his shoulders. "Then you should not have been charitable. Charity, I tell you, Alexis, covers no sins in this country." "Who made me charitable? Besides, no decent minded fellow could be any thing else here. Who told me of the League of Charity, I should like to know? Who put me into it? Who aroused my pity for these poor beg gars? Who but a stout German cynic called Steinmetz." "Stout, yes cynic, if you will Ger man, no!" The words were jerked out of him by the galloping horse. "Then what are you?" Steinmetz looked straight in front of him with a meditation in his quiet eyes which made a dreamy man him. "That depends." Alexis laughed. "Yes, I know. In Germany you are German, in Russia a Slav, in Poland Pole and In England anything the ment suggests." 'Exactly so. But to return to yon You must trust to me In this matter, know this country. I know what league of Charity was. It was a big aim sf SOWER S Henry Seton Merriman Copyright, 1895. by HARPER BROTHERS of mo- 1 ^^^fp5^"%!^'^^^,.iJF ger thing than any dream of. It was a power in Russia, the greatest of all above nihilism, above the emperor himself. Ach Gott! It was a wonder ful organization, spreading over this country like sunlight over a field. It would have made men of our poor peasant's. It was God's work, if there is a God, which some young men deny, because God fails to recognize their importance, I imagine. And now it is all done. It is crumbled uy by the scurrilous treachery of some miscre ant. Ach! I should like to have him out here on the plain. I would choke him. For money, too! The devilit must have been the devilto sell that secret to the government!" "I can't see what the government wanted it for," growled Alexis mood ily. "No, but I can. It is not the emper or. Ho is a gentleman, although he has the misfortune to wear the purple. No, it is those about him. They want to stop education they want to crush the peasant. They are afraid of being found out. They live in their grand houses and support their grand names on the money they crush out of the starving peasant." "So do I, so far as that goes." "Of course you do! And I am your steward, your crusher. We do not deny it we boast of it, but we exchange a wink with the angelseh?" Alex's rode in silence for a few mo ments. "I wish," he said abruptly, "that I had never attempted to do any good. Doing good to mankind doesn't pay. Here I am running away from my own home as if I were afraid of the police! The position is impossible." Steinmetz shook his shaggy head. "No. No position is impossible in this countryexcept the czar'sif one only keeps cool. For men such as you and I any position is quite easy. But these Russians are too romantic they give way to a morbid love of martyr dom they think they can do no good to mankind unless they are uncom fortable." Alexis turned in his saddle and look ed keenly into his companion's face. "Do you know," he said, "I believe you founded the Charity league?" Steinmetz laughed in his easy, stout way. "It founded itself," he said. "The angels founded it in heaven. I hope a committee of them will attend to the eternal misery of the dog who be trayed it." "I trust they will, but in the mean time I stick to my opinion that it is unnecessary for me to leave the coun try. What have I done? I do not be long to the league. It is composed en tirely of Russian nobles. I don't ad mit that I am a Russian noble." "But," persisted Steinmetz quietly, "you subscribe to the league. Four hundred thousand rublesthey do not grow at the roadside." "But the rubles have not my name on them." "That may be, but we allthey all know where they are likely to come from. My dear Paul, you cannot keep up the farce any longer. You are not It dragged its dead master along the ground. an English gentleman who comes across here for sporting purposes. You do not live in the old castle of Osterno three months in the year because you have a taste for mediaeval fortresses. You are a Russian prince, and your estates are the happiest, the most en lightened, in the empire. That alone is suspicious. You collect your rents yourseir. *ou "nave no German agents no German vampires about you. "There are a thousand things suspi cious about Prince Pavlo Alexis if those that be in high places only come to think about it. They have not come to think about it, thanks to our care and to your English independence. But that is only another reason why we should redouble our care. You must not be in Russia when the Charity league is picked to pieces. There will be trouble. Half the nobility in Rus sia will be in it. There will be con fiscations and degradations. There will I be imprisonment and Siberia for some. You are better out of it, for you are not an Englishman. You have not even a foreign office passport.' Your pass port is yo^r patent of nobility, and that is Russian. No, you are better out of it." "And youwhat about you?" asked Paul, with a little laughthe laugh that one brave man gives when he sees another do a plucky thing. "I! Oh, I am all right! I am no body. I am hated of all the peasants because I am your steward and so hard, so cruel. That is my certificate of harmlessness with those that are about the emperor." "Then you turn back at Tver?" in quired Paul, at length breaking a long silence. "Yes I must not leave Osteino just now. Perhaps later, when the winter has come, I will follow. Russia is quiet during the winter, very quiet Ha, ha!" He shrugged his shoulders and shiv ered. But the shiver was inteirupted. He raised himself in his saddle and peered forward into the gathering darkness. "What is that," he asked sharply, "on the road in front?" Paul had already seen it. "It looks like a horse," he answered, "a strayed horse, for it has no rider." They were going west, and what lit tle daylight there was lived on the western horizon. The form of the horse, cut out in black relief against the sky, was weird and ghostlike. It was standing by the side of the road, apparently grazing. As they approach ed it its outlines became more defined. "It has a saddle," said Steinmetz r.-t length, "What have we here?" The beast was evidently famishing," for, as they came near, it never ceased its occupation of dragging the wizened tufts of grass up, root and all. "What have we here?" repeated Steinmetz. And the two men clapped spurs to their tired horses. The solitary waif had a rider, but he was not in the saddle. One foot was caught in the stirrup, and as the horse moved on from tuft to tuft it dragged its dead master along the ground CHAPTER II THE PRINCETON UNION THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 1905. HIS is going to be unpleasant," muttered Steinmetz as ho cumbrously left the saddle. "That man is deadhas been dead some days he's stiff. And the horse has been dragging him face downward. God in heaven, this will be unpleasant." Paul had leaped to the ground and was already loosening the dead man's foot from the stirrup. He did it with a certain sort of skill, despite the stiff ness of the heavy riding boot, as if he had walked a hospital in his time. Very quickly Steinmetz came to his assistance, tenderly lifting the dead man and laying him on his back. "Ach!" he exclaimed. "We are unfor tunate to meet a thing like this There was no need of Paul Alexis' medical skill to tell that this man was dead a child would have known it. Before searching the pockets Stein metz took out his own handkerchief and laid it over a face which had be come unrecognizable. Paul was unbuttoning the dead man's clothes. He inserted his hand within the rough shirt. "This man," he said, "was starving. He probably fainted from sheer ex haustion and rolled out of the saddle It is hunger that killed him." "With his pocket full of money," added Steinmetz, withdrawing his hand from the dead man's pocket and displaying a bundle of notes and SOIDP silver. There was nothing in any of the oth er pocketsno paper, no clew of any sort to the man's identity. The two finders of this silent tragedy stood up and looked around them. It was almost dark. They were ten miles from a habitation. Steinmetz had pushed his fur cap to the back of his head, which he was scratching pensively. He had a habit of scratching his forehead with one finger, which denoted thought. "Now, what are we to do?" he mut tered. "Can't bury the poor chap and say nothing about it. I wonder where his passport is? We have here a trage- dy." Paul was still examining the dead man with that callousness which de notes one who for love or convenience has become a doctor. He was a doctor, an amateur. He was a graduate of an English medical school. Steinmetz looked down at him with a little laugh. He noticed the tender ness of the touch, the deft fingering which had something of respect in it. Paul Alexis was visibly one of those men who take mankind seriously and have that in their hearts which for want of a better word we call sympa thy. "Mind you do not catch some infec tious disease," said Steinmetz gruffly. "I should not care to handle any stray moujik one finds dead about the road Bide unless, of course, you think there !s more money about him. It would be a pity to leave that for the police." Paul did not answer. He was exam ining the limp, dirty hands of the dead man. The fingers were covered with soil, the nails were broken. He had ev idently clutched at the earth and at every tuft of grass after his fall from the saddle. "Look here at these hands," said Paul suddenly. "This is an English man. You never see fingers this shape in Russia." Steinmetz stooped down. He held out his own square tipped fingers in comparison. Paul rubbed the dead hand with his sleeve as if it were a piece of statuary. "Look here," he continued, "the dirt rubs off and leaves the hand quite a gentlemanly color. This"he paused and lifted Steinmetz's handkerchief, dropping it again hurriedly over the mutilated face"this thing was once a gentleman." "It certainly has seen better days,' ^^gyj|^^^|^^^^^^^i admitted Sneinmetz, with a grim hu-' mor which was sometimes his. "Come, let us drag him beneath that pine tree and ride on to Tver. We shall do no good, my dear Alexis, wasting our time over the possible antecedents of a gen tleman who for reasons of his own is silent on the subject." Paul rose from the ground. His movemeuts were those of a strong and supple man, one whose muscles had ne\er had time to' giow stiff. He was an active man, who ne\er hurried. Standing thus upright he was very tall, nearly a giant. Only in St. Petersburg, of all the cities of the world, could he expect to pass unnoticed, the city of tall men and plain women. He rubbed his two hands together in a singularly professional manner which sat amiss on him. "What do you propose doing?" he asked. "You know the laws of this countiy better than I do." Steinmetz scratched his forehead with his forefinger. "Our theatrical friends, the police," he said, "are going to enjoy this. Sup pose we prop him up sitting against that treeno one will run away with himand lead Ms horse into Tver. I will give notice to the police, but I will not do so until you are in the St. Pe tersburg train. I will, of course, give them to understand that your princely mind could not be bothered by such details as this that you have proceed ed on our journey." "I do not like leaving the poor beg gar alone all night," said Paul. "There may be wolvesthe crows in the early morning." "Bah! That is because you are so soft hearted. My dear fellow, what business is it of ours if the universal laws of nature are illustrated upon this unpleasant object? We all live on each other. The wolves and the crows have the last word. Come, let us carry him to that tree." The two living men carried the name less, unrecognizable dead to a resting place beneath a stunted pine a few paces removed from the road. They laid him decently at full length, cross ing his soil begrimed hands over his breast, tying the handkerchief down over his face. Then they turned and left him alone in that luminous nighta waif that had fallen by the great highway without a word, without a sign a half run race, a story cut off in the middle, for he was a young man still. His hair, all dusty, draggled and blood stained, had no streak of gray his hands Avere smooth and youthful. There was a vague sus picion of sensual softness about his body, as if this might have been a man who loved comfort and ease, who had always chosen the primrose path, had never learned the salutary lesson of self denial. The incipient stoutness of limb contrasted strangely with the drawn meagerness of his body, which was contracted by want of food. Paul Alexis was right. This man had died of starvation within ten miles of the great Volga, within nine miles of the outskirts of Tver, a city second to Moscow and' once her rival. Therefore it could only be that he had purposely avoided the dwellings of men, that he was a fugitive of some sort or another. Paul's theory that this was an English man had not been received with en thusiasm by Steinmetz, but that phi losopher had stooped to inspect the narrow, telltale fingers. Steinmetz, be it noted, had an infinite capacity for holding his tongue. They mounted their horses and rode away without looking back, but they did not speak, as if each were deep in his own thoughts. Material had indeed been afforded them, for who could tell who this featureless man might be? They were left in a state of hopeless curiosity, as who having picked up a page with "Finis" written upon it falls to wondering what the story may have been. Steinmetz had thrown the bridle of the straying horse over his arm, and the animal trotted obediently by the side of the fidgety little Cossacks. "That was bad luck," exclaimed the elder man at length "bad luck. In this country the less you find the less you see the less you understand the simpler is your existence. Those ni hilists, with their mysterious ways and their reprehensible love of explosives, have made honest men's lives a burden to them." "Their motives were originally good." put in Paul. "That is possible, but a good motive is no excuse for a bad means. They wanted to get along too quickly. They are pigheaded, exalted, unpractical to a man. I do not mention the women, because when women meddle in poli tics they make fools of themselves, even in England. These nihilists would have been all very well if they had been content to sow for posterity. But they wanted to see the fruits of their labors in one generation. Education does not grow like that. It requires a couple of generations to germinate. It has to be manured by the brains ot fools before it is of any use. In Eng land it has reached this stage. Here in Russia the sowing has only begun. Now, we were doing some good. The Charity league was the thing. It be gan by training their starved bodies to be ready for the education when it came. And very little of it wouir have come in our time. If you educate a hungry man you set a devil loose upon the "world. Fill their stomachs before you feed their brains or you will give them mental indigestion." "That is just what I want to do fill their stomachs. I don't care about the rest. I'm not responsible for the progress of the world or the good of humanity," said Paul. rode on in silence, then he burst out again in the curt phraseology of a man whose feeling is stronger than he cares to admit. "I've got no grand ideas about the human race," he said. "A very little contents me. A-little piece of Tver, i few thousand peasants, are goof enough for me. It seems rather hard that a fellow can't give away of his surplus money in charity if he is such a fool as to want to." Steinmetz was riding stubbornly along. Suddenly he gave a little chucklea guttural sound expressive of a somewhat Germanic satisfaction. "I don't see how they can stop us," he said. "The league, of course, is done it will crumble away in sheer panic. But here in Tver they cannot stop us." He clapped his great hand on his thigh with more glee than one would have expected him to feel, for this man posed as a cynic, a despiser of men, a scoffer at charity. "They'll find it very difficult to stop me," mutteied Paul Alexis. It was now darkas dark as ever it would be. Steinmetz peered through the gloom toward him with a little laugh, half tolerance, half admiration. Far ahead of them a great white streak bounded the horizon. "The Volga!" said Steinmetz. "We are almost there. And there, to the right, is the Tversha. It is like a great catapult. Gott, what a wonder ful night! Ah, there are the lights of Tver!" They rode on without speaking through the squalid townthe whilom rival and the victim of brilliant Mos cow. They rode straight to the sta tion, where they dined in, by the way, one of the best railway refreshment rooms in the world. At 1 o'clock the night express from Moscow to St. Pe tersburg, with its huge American loco motive, rumbled into the station. Paul secured a chair in the long saloon car and then return to the platform. The train waited twenty minutes for re freshments, and he still had much to say to Steinmetz, for one of these men owned a principality and the other governed it. They walked up and down the long platform, smoking end less cigarettes, talking gravely. Steinmetz stood on the platform and watched the train pass slowly away into the night. Then he went .toward a lamp and, taking a pocket handker chief from his pocket, examined each corner of it in succession. It was a small pocket handkerchief of fine cam bric. In one corner were the initials S. S. B., worked neatly in whitesuch embroidery as is done in St. Peters burg. "Ach!" exclaimed Steinmetz shortly. "Something told me that that was he/' He turned the little piece of cambric over and over, examining it slowly with a heavy Germanic cunning. He had taken this handkerchief from the body of the nameless rider who was now ly ing alone on the steppe twelve miles away Then he went toward the large black stove which stands in the railway res taurant at Tver. He opened the'door with the point of his boot The wood was roaring and crackling within. He threw the handkerchief in and closed the door. "It is as well, my prince," he mut tered, "that I found this, and not you!" CHAPTER III. ft LL that there is of the most brilliant and least truthful in Europe," M. Claude de Chaux ville had said to a lady ear lier in the evening apropos of the great gathering at the French embassy, and the mot had gone the round of the room. In society a little mot will go a long way. M. le Baron de Chauxville was, moreover, a manufacturer of mots. By calling he was attache to the French embassy in London by profession he was an epigrammatistthat is to say, he was a sort of social revolver. He went off if one touched him con\ersa tionally, and, like others among us, he frequently missed fire. Of course he had but little real re spect for the truth. If one wishes to be epigrammatic one must relinquish the hope of being either agreeable or veracious. M. de ChauxAille did not really intend to convey the idea that any of the persons assembled in the great guest chambers of the French embassy that evening were anything but what they seemed. Now, it is not our business to go round the rooms of the French embas sy picking holes in the earthly robes of society's elect. Suffice it to say that every one was there all those who have had greatness thrust upon them and the others, those who thrust them selves upon the greatthose, in a word, who reach such as are above them by doing that which should be beneath them. There were music and the refresh ments. It was, in fact, a reception. Gaul's most lively sons bowed before Albion's fairest daughters and dis played that fund of verve and esprit which they rightly pride themselves upon possessing and which, of course, leave mere Englishmen so far behind In the paths of love and chivalry. It is, however, high time to explain the reason of our own presence, of our own reception by France's courteous representative. We are here to meet Mrs. Sydney Bamborough and, more over, to confine our attention to the persons more or less implicated in the present history. Mrs. Sydney Bamborough was un doubtedly the belle of the evening. She had only to look in one of the many mirrors to make sure of that fact. And if she wanted further assurance a hun dred men in the room would have been ready to swear to it. This lady had re cently dawned on London societya young widow. -She rarely mentioned her husband it was understood to be a painful subject. He had been attach ed to several embassies, she said he had a brilliant career before him, and suddenly he had died abroad. And then she gave a little sigh and a bright smile, which, being interpreted, meant "Let us change the subject." There was never any doubt about Mrs. Sydney Bamborough. She was aristocratic to the tips of her dainty -.a-* E fVfe 3 -&e ^JS&st^^NgC-J M*-**^ white fingers, composed, gentle and! quite sure of herselfquite the grand lady. As a matter of fact, Etta Syd ney Bamborough came from excellent ancestry and could claim an uncle here, a cousin there and a number of distant relatives everywhere should it be worth the while. It was safe to presume that she was rich from the manner in which she dressed, the number of servants and horses she kept, the general air of wealth which pervaded her existence. That she was beautiful any one could see for himselfnot in the shop win dows, among the presumably self se lected types of English beauty, but in the proper placenamely, in her own nnd other aristocratic drawing rooms. She was talking to a tall, fair French man in perfect French and was her self nearly as tall as he. Bright brown hair waved prettily back from a white forehead, clever, dark gray eyes and a lovely complexionone of those com plexions which, from a purity7 of con science or a steadiness of nerve, never changecheeks of a faint pink, an ex pressive, mobile mouth, a neck of daz zling whitesuch was Mrs. Sydney Bamborough in the prime of her youth. "And you maintain that it is five years since we met," she was saying to the tall Frenchman. "Madame, it is so. Witness these gray hairs. Ah, those were happy days in St. Petersburg!" Mrs. Sydney Bamborough smiled, a pleasant society smile, not too pro nounced and just sufficient to suggest "Perhaps you will sit down." pearly teeth. At the mention of St. Petersburg she glanced round to see that they Avere not overheard. She gaA-e a little shiver. "Don't speak of Russia," she plead ed. "I hate to hear it mentioned. I was so happy. It is painful to remem- ber." Even while she spoke the expression of her face changed to one of gay de light. She nodded and smiled toAvard a tall man who was evidently looking for her, and took no notice of the Frenchman's apologies. "Who is that?" asked the young man. "I see him everywhere lately." "A mere English gentleman, Mr. Paul Howard Alexis," replied the lady. The Frenchman raised his eyebrows. He knew better. This was no plain English gentleman. He bowed and took his leave. M. de Chauxville of the French embassy AA-as watching eAr ery mo\oment, every change of ex pression, from across the room. In evening dress the man whom we last saw on the platform of the rail way station at Tver did not look so unmistakably English. It was more evident that he had inherited certain,, characteristics from his Russian moth* er, notably his great height, a physical advantage enjoyed by many aristocrat ic Russian families. His hair was fair and inclined to curl, and there the for eign suggestion suddenly ceased. His face had the quiet concentration, the unobtrusive self absorption, which one sees more strongly marked in English faces than in any others. His manner of moving through the well dressed crowd somewhat belied the tan of his skin. Here was an out of door, ath letic youth who knew IIOAV to move in drawing rooms, a big man who did not look much too large for his sur roundings. It Avas ev^lent that he did not know many people and also that he Avas indifferent to his loss. He had come to see Mrs. Sydney Bambor ough, and that lady was not insensible to the fact. To prove this she diverged from the path of veracity, as is the way of some women. "I did not expect to see you here," she said. "You told me you were coming," he answered simply. The inference would have been enough for some women, but not for Etta Sydney Bamborough. "Well, is that a reason why yov should attend a diplomatic soiree ana force yourself to bow and smirk to a number of white handed little dandies whom you despise?" "The best reason," he answered quietly, with an honesty which some how touched her as nothing else had touched this beautiful woman since she had become aware of her beauty. "Then yon think it worth the bow ing and the smirking?" she asked, looking past him with innocent eyes. She made an imperceptible movement toward him as if she expected him to whisper She was of that school. But he was not. His was not the sort of mind to conceive any thought that required whispering. Some persons, in fact, went so far as to say that he was hopelessly dull, that he had no sub tlety of thought, no brightness, no con versation. These persons were no doubt ladies upon whom he had failed to lavish the exceedingly small change of compliment. "It is worth that and more," he re-^" plied, with his ready smile. "After all.