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The Vagrant Duke

George Gibbs

  Produced by Barbara Tozier, Barbara Kosker, Bill Tozierand the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




  The Vagrant Duke The Splendid Outcast The Black Stone The Golden Bough The Secret Witness Paradise Garden The Yellow Dove The Flaming Sword Madcap The Silent Battle The Maker of Opportunities The Forbidden Way The Bolted Door Tony's Wife The Medusa Emerald

  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY Publishers New York








  Copyright, 1920, by The Story Press Corporation PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA













  X "HAWK" 153

















  _At the piano a man sat playing the "Revolutionary Etude" of Chopin. Theroom was magnificent in its proportions, its furnishings were massive,its paneled oak walls were hung with portraits of men and women in thecostumes of a bygone day. Through the lofty windows, the casements ofwhich were open to the evening sky there was a vista of forest andmeadow-land stretching interminably to the setting sun. The mosquelikecupola of a village church, a few versts distant, glimmered like a pearlin the dusky setting of wooded hills, and close by it, here and there,tiny spirals of opalescent smoke marked the dwellings of Zukovovillage._

  _But the man at the piano was detached, a being apart from this scene ofquiet, absorbed in his piano, which gave forth the turbulence which hadbeen in the soul of the great composer. The expression upon the darkface of the young musician was rapt and eager, until he crashed thechords to their triumphant conclusion when he sank back in his chairwith a gasp, his head bent forward upon his breast, his dark gaze fixedupon the keys which still echoed with the tumult._

  _It was at this moment that a door at the side of the room was openedand a white-haired man in purple livery entered and stood in silenceregarding rather wistfully the man at the piano, who raised his headabruptly like one startled from a dream._

  _"What is it, Vasili?" asked the musician._

  _The servant approached softly a few steps._

  _"I did not wish to intrude, Highness, but----"_

  _As the old servant hesitated, the young man shrugged and rose,disclosing a tall, straight figure, clad in a dark blue blouse, loosetrousers and brown boots liberally bespattered with mud. The glow of thesun which shot across his face as he came forward into the light, showedswarthy features, level brows, a straight nose, a well turned chin, asmall mustache and a generous mouth which revealed a capacity for humor.He was quite calm now, and the tones of his voice were almost boyish intheir confidence and gayety._

  _"Well, what is it, Vasili?" he repeated. "You have the air of one withmuch on your conscience. Out with it. Has Sacha been fighting with youagain?"_

  _"No, Master, not Sacha," said the old man clearing his throatnervously, "it is something worse--much worse than Sacha."_

  _"Impossible!" said the other with a laugh as he took up a cigarettefrom the table. "Nothing could be worse than a Russian cook when shegets into a rage----"_

  _"But it is, Master--something worse--much worse----"_

  _"Really! You alarm me." The Grand Duke threw himself into an armchairand inhaled luxuriously of his cigarette. And then with a shrug,"Well?"_

  _The old man came a pace or two nearer muttering hoarsely, "They'vebroken out in the village again," he gasped._

  _The Grand Duke's brow contracted suddenly._

  _"H-m. When did this happen?"_

  _"Last night. And this morning they burned the stables of PrinceGalitzin and looted the castle."_

  _The young man sprang to his feet._

  _"You are sure of this?"_

  _"Yes, Master. The word was brought by Serge Andriev less than tenminutes ago."_

  _He took a few rapid paces up and down the room, stopping by the openwindow and staring out._

  _"Fools!" he muttered to himself. Then turning to the old servitor,"But, Vasili--why is it that I have heard nothing of this? To-dayConrad, the forester, said nothing to me. And the day before yesterdayin the village the people swept off their caps to me--as in the olddays. I could have sworn everything would be peaceful at Zukovo--atleast, for the present----" he added as though in an afterthought._

  _"I pray God that may be true," muttered Vasili uncertainly. And thenwith unction, "In their hearts, they still love you, Highness. They arechildren--your children, their hearts still full of reverence for theGrand Duke Peter Nicholaevitch in whom runs the same blood as that whichran in the sacred being of the Little Father--but their brains! They aredrunk with the poison poured into their minds by the Committeemen fromMoscow."_

  _"Ah," eagerly, "they returned?"_

  _"Last night," replied the old man wagging his head. "And your peopleforgot all that you had said to them--all that they owe to you. They aremad," he finished despairingly, "mad!"_

  _The Grand Duke had folded his arms and was staring out of the windowtoward the white dome of the church now dyed red like a globule of bloodin the sunset._

  _The old man watched him for a moment, all the fealty of his many yearsof service in his gaze and attitude._

  _"I do not like the look of things, Highness. What does it matter howgood their hearts are if their brains are bad?"_

  _"I must go and talk with them, Vasili," said the Grand Duke quietly._

  _The old man took a step forward._

  _"If I might make so free----"_


  _"Not to-night, Master----"_

  _"Why not?"_

  _"It will be dangerous. Last night their voices were raised even againstyou."_

  _"Me! Why? Have I not done everything I could to help them? I am theirfriend--because I believe in their cause: and they will get their rightstoo but not by burning and looting----"_r />
  _"And murder, Master. Two of Prince Galitzin's foresters were killed."_

  _The Grand Duke turned. "That's bad. Murder in Zukovo!" He flicked hisextinguished cigarette out of the window and made a gesture with hishand._

  _"Go, Vasili. I want to think. I will ring if I need you."_

  _"You will not go to Zukovo to-night?"_

  _"I don't know."_

  _And with another gesture he waved the servant away._

  _When Vasili had gone, the Grand Duke sat, his legs across the chair bythe window, his arms folded along its back while his dark eyes peeredout, beyond the hills and forests, beyond the reddened dome of thevillage church into the past where his magnificent father NicholasPetrovitch held feudal sway over all the land within his vision and hisfather's fathers from the time of his own great namesake held all Russiain the hollow of their hands._

  _The Grand Duke's eyes were hard and bright above the slightly prominentcheek bones, the vestiges of his Oriental origin, but there wassomething of his English mother too in the contours of his chin andlips, which tempered the hardness of his expression. The lines at hisbrows were not the savage marks of anger, or the vengefulness that hadcharacterized the pitiless blood which ran in his veins, but rather werethey lines of disappointment, of perplexity at the problem thatconfronted him, and pity for his people who did not know where to turnfor guidance. He still believed them to be his people, a heritage fromhis lordly parent, his children, who were responsible to him and to whomhe was responsible. It was a habit of thought, inalienable, the productof the ages. But it was the calm philosophy of his English mother thathad first given him his real sense of obligation to them, her teachings,even before the war began, that had shown him how terrible were theproblems that confronted his future._

  _His service in the Army had opened his eyes still wider and when Russiahad deserted her allies he had returned to Zukovo to begin the work ofreconstruction in the ways his awakened conscience had dictated. He hadvisited their homes, offered them counsel, given them such money as hecould spare, and had, he thought, become their friend as well as theirhereditary guardian. All had gone well at first. They had listened tohim, accepted his advice and his money and renewed their fealty underthe new order of things, vowing that whatever happened elsewhere inRussia, blood and agony and starvation should not visit Zukovo._

  _But the news that Vasili brought was disquieting. It meant that theminds of his people were again disturbed. And the fact that PrinceGalitzin had always been hated made the problems the Grand Duke facednone the less difficult. For his people had burned, pillaged and killed.They had betrayed him. And he had learned in the Army what fire and thesmell of blood could do...._

  _With a quick nod of resolution he rose. He would go to them. He knewtheir leaders. They would listen to him. They_ must _listen...._

  _He closed the piano carefully, putting away the loose sheets of music,picked up his cap and heavy riding crop from the divan, on his way tothe door, pausing, his hand on the bell-rope as a thought brought adeeper frown to his brow.... Why had Conrad Grabar, his chief forester,said nothing to-day? He must have known--for news such as this travelsfrom leaf to leaf through the forest. Conrad! And yet he would havesworn by the faithfulness of his old friend and hunting companion.Perhaps Conrad had not known...._

  _The Grand Duke pulled the bell-rope, then went to the window again andstood as though listening for the voices of the woods. Silence. The sunhad sunk, a dull red ball, and the dusk was falling swiftly. The aspensbelow his window quivered slightly, throwing their white leaves upwardsas though in pain. The stately pines that he loved, mute, solemn,changeless, filled the air with balsam, but they gave no answer to hisproblem. It was difficult to believe that, there, in the restless soulsof men war could rage. And yet...._

  _He peered out more intently. Beyond the pine forest, a murky cloud wasrising. A storm? Hardly. For the sun had set in a clear sky. But therewas a cloud surely, growing in darkness and intensity. He could see itmore clearly now, billowing upward in grim portent._

  _The Grand Duke started and then stared again. The cloud was of smoke.Through the woods, tiny lights were sparkling, picked out with ominousbrilliancy against the velvet dusk. Peter Nicholaevitch leaned far outof the window, straining his ears to listen. And now he seemed to hearthe crackle of flames, the distant sound of hoarse voices, shouting andsinging._

  _And while he still listened, aware that a great crisis had come intohis life, there was a commotion just below him, the sound of voicesclose at hand and he saw a man come running from the woods, approachingthe gateway of the Castle._

  _He recognized him by the gray beard and thickset figure. It was BorisRylov, the Huntsman, and as he ran he shouted to some one in thecourtyard below. The Grand Duke made out the words:_

  _"They're burning the Hunting Lodge--where is the Master----?"_

  _Peter Nicholaevitch waited at the window no longer, but ran out of theroom and down the flight of stairs into the great hall below. For heknew what had happened now. The Red Terror had come to Zukovo._

  _He went out to the garden terrace, crossing quickly to the courtyardwhere he met the frightened group of servants that had assembled._

  _Boris, the Huntsman, much out of breath was waving his arms excitedlytoward the cloud of smoke rising above the pine trees, now tinged adirty orange color from beneath._

  _"They came from all directions, Master," he gasped, "like the blackflies upon a dead horse--hundreds--thousands of them from the villageand all the country round. I talked with the first that came, AntonLensky, Gleb Saltykov, Michael Kuprin and Conrad Grabar----"_

  _"Conrad----!" gasped the Grand Duke._

  _"Yes, Highness," muttered Boris, his head bowed, "Conrad Grabar. Theytried to restrain me. Michael Kuprin I struck upon the head with astick--and then I fled--to warn your Highness--that they mean to comehither."_

  _The face of the Grand Duke, a trifle pale under its tan, was set instern lines, but there was no fear in his manner as he quicklyquestioned, his eyes eagerly scrutinizing the frightened men and womenabout him while he spoke to them with cool decision._

  _"Thanks, Friend Rylov--you have done me a service I shall not forget."Then to the others, "If there are any of you who fear to remain with me,you may go. I cannot believe that they will come to Zukovo Castle, butwe will close the gate to the courtyard at once. I will talk with themfrom the terrace wall."_

  _"Master! Highness!" broke in the Huntsman violently, "you do notunderstand. You cannot stay here. They are mad. They will kill you. Itis for that they come----"_

  _"Nevertheless--I mean to stay----"_

  _"It is death----"_

  _"Go thou, then, and Vasili, and Ivan. For before they burn Zukovo, Imean to talk with them----"_

  _"It is madness----!"_

  _"Come, Highness," broke in Leo Garshin, the head-groom, eagerly, "Iwill put the saddle upon Vera, and you can go out of the iron gate fromthe stable-yard into the forest. Nothing can catch you and you can reachthe river----"_

  _"No, Leo----" put in the Grand Duke kindly. "I shall stay."_

  _The servants glanced at one another, appalled at the Master's attitude.Some of them, had already disappeared into the Castle but others, lesstimorous, had already rushed to close the courtyard gate._

  _"You say they are many, Friend Rylov?" he asked again._

  _"As the hairs of your head, Master--from Ivanovna,Jaroslav--everywhere--and women, Highness, more terrible than themen----"_

  _"And the leaders----?"_

  _"Dmitri Sidorov of the Zemstvo and Michael Kositzin and Anton Lensky.See, yonder! Where the road turns from the clearing--they come!"_

  _The keen eyes of Boris saw further through the forest than those ofmost men but in a moment those of the Grand Duke Peter confirmed him.Figures were moving in the twilight, along the roads and bypaths._

  _To Peter Nicholaevitch they seemed like a great river which had floodedover its banks seeking new levels. Behind them the flames from thewooden
hunting lodge roared upward painting a lurid sky. He saw that theflood came rapidly, and above the roar of the flames came the sound ofvoices singing the Russian version of the "Marseillaise." The Grand Dukestood at the terrace wall watching their approach. He knew that if theymeant to attack the Castle the gate could not hold long, but he had hopethat he might still be able to prevail upon them to listen to him. In amoment they saw him and began running forward toward the courtyard gate.He recognized individuals now--Anton Lensky, Michael Kuprin, with hishead tied in a dirty handkerchief--and Conrad Grabar. The defection ofhis old instructor in wood-lore disturbed him. Conrad must have knownwhat was to happen and he had said nothing. If Conrad had turned againsthim, what hope had he of prevailing against the others?_

  _The singing died away and in its place, shouts and cries burst forth ina bedlam. "Open the gate!" "Let us in!"_

  _The Grand Duke had heard that note in men's voices in the Carpathianpasses, and he knew what it meant, but while his gaze sought out the fatfigure of Michael Kositzin who was the leader of the uprising, he heldup his hand for silence._

  _There was a roar of voices._

  _"Peter Nicholaevitch wishes to speak."_

  _"It is our turn to speak now."_

  "Nasha pora prishla," (_our time has come_).

  _"Let the little master speak."_

  _"We know no little masters here!"_

  _"No, nor old ones!"_

  "Smiert Bourjouiam" (_Death to the bourgeoisie_).

  _But as the young Grand Duke began to speak the voices of the most rabidof the peasants were hushed for a moment by the others._

  _"My friends and my children" he began, "one word before you dosomething that you will forever regret. I am your friend. I am young--ofthe new generation. I have kept abreast of the new thought of the timeand I believe in the New Life that is for you and for us all. I haveproved it to you by bringing the New Life to Zukovo by peaceful means,by friendliness and brotherhood while other parts of Russia near by arein agony and darkness." (Cries of "That is true.") "It was in my heartthat I had brought the Revolution to Zukovo, a Revolution against theold order of things which can be no more, implanting in you the strongseeds of Peace and Brotherhood which would kill out the ugly weeds ofviolence and enmity."_

  _Here a hoarse voice rang out: "Fire--only fire can clean." Then thereply of a woman, "Yes,_ Tovaristchi, _it is the only way."_

  _Peter Nicholaevitch tried to seek out the speakers with his gaze. Oneof them was Michael Kuprin whom when a child the Grand Duke had seenflogged in this very courtyard._

  _"There are sins of the past," he went on, raising his voice against thelow murmur of the mob, "many sins against you, but one sin does not washout another. Murder, rapine, vengeance will never bring peace toZukovo. What you do to-day will be visited on you to-morrow. I praythat you will listen to me. I have fought for you and with you--withGleb Saltykov and Anton Lensky, against the return of Absolutism inRussia. The old order of things is gone. Do not stain the new with crimein Zukovo. I beseech you to disperse--return to your homes and I willcome to you to-morrow and if there are wrongs I will set them right. Youhave believed in me in the past. Believe in me now and all may yet bewell in Zukovo. Go, my friends, before it is too late----"_

  _The crowd wavered, murmuring. But just then a shot rang out and the capof the Grand Duke twitched around on his head._

  _A roar went up from near the gate,_ "Nasha pora prishla! _Break in thegate!" cried the voices and there were those of women among themshouting_ "Tovaristchi! _Forward!"_

  _Over the heads of those in the front ranks, Peter Nicholaevitch sawsome men bringing from the forest the heavy trunk of a felled pine tree.They meant to break down the gate. He knew that he had failed but stillhe stood upright facing them. Another shot, the bullet this time grazinghis left arm. The sting of it angered him._

  _"Cowards!" he yelled, shaking his fist at them. "Cowards!"_

  _A volley followed but no other bullets struck him. Behind him in theCastle doorway he heard the voice of Boris Rylov, calling to himhoarsely._

  _"Come, Master. For the love of God! There is yet time."_

  _There was a crash of the heavy timbers at the gate._

  _"Come, Master----"_

  _With a shrug Peter Nicholaevitch turned and walked across the terracetoward the Castle._ "Bolvany!" _he muttered. "I've finished withthem."_

  _Boris and Vasili stood just within the door, pleading with him tohurry, and together they made their way through the deserted kitchensand over past the vegetable gardens to the stables, where Leo Garshinawaited them, the saddles on several horses. Behind them they could nowhear the triumphant cries as the courtyard gate crashed in._

  _"Hurry, Master!" cried Garshin eagerly._

  _"Where are the others?" asked the Grand Duke._

  _"Gone, Highness. They have fled."_

  _Boris Rylov was peering out past an iron door into the forest._

  _"There is no one there?" asked Garshin._

  _"Not yet. They have forgotten."_

  _"Come then, Highness."_

  _But the Grand Duke saw that the aged Vasili was mounted first and thenthey rode out of the iron gate into a path which led directly into theforest. It was not until they were well clear of the buildings that ashout at one side announced that their mode of escape had beendiscovered. Men came running, firing pistols as they ran. Boris Rylov,bringing up the rear, reined in his horse and turning emptied a revolverat the nearest of their pursuers. One man fell and the others halted._

  _Until they found the other horses in the stables pursuit wasfruitless._

  _Peter Nicholaevitch rode at the head of the little cavalcade, down thefamiliar aisles of the forest, his head bowed, a deep frown on hisbrows. It was Vasili who first noticed the blood dripping from hisfinger ends._

  _"Master," he gasped, "you are wounded."_

  _"It is nothing," said the Grand Duke._

  _But Vasili bound the arm up with a handkerchief while Leo Garshin andBoris Rylov watched the path down which they had come. They could hearthe crackling of the flames at the Hunting Lodge to the southward andthe cries of the mob at the Castle, but there was no sign of pursuit.Perhaps they were satisfied to appease their madness with pillage andfire. Half an hour later Boris pointed backward. A new glow had risen, aredder, deeper glow._

  _"The Castle, Master----" wailed Vasili._

  _Peter Nicholaevitch drew rein at a cross-path, watched for a moment andthen turned to his companions, for he had reached a decision._

  _"My good friends," he said gently, "our ways part here."_

  _"Master! Highness!"_

  _But he was resolute._

  _"I am going on alone. I will not involve you further in my misfortunes.You can do nothing for me--nor I anything for you except this. Vasiliknows. In the vault below the wine-cellar, hidden away, are some objectsof value. They will not find them. When they go away you will return.The visit will repay you. Divide what is there into equal parts--silver,plate and gold. As for me--forget me. Farewell!"_

  _They saw that he meant what he said. He offered these few faithfulservitors his hand and they kissed his fingers--a last act of fealty anddevotion and in a moment they stood listening to the diminishinghoof-beats of Vera as the young master went out of their lives._

  _"May God preserve him," muttered Vasili._

  _"Amen," said Boris Rylov and Leo Garshin._