|Newspaper Title||The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Mystery of Karina Donimirska|
THE S TOE Y-TELLE H
THE MYSTERY OF KARINA
M. de Fayette accompanied two officers, who went directly to the dwelling-place «f* the sisters. Arrived at the house they were admitted by a middle-aged man, f whot/in answer to the inquiry for the
IfUet. Donimirsks, ' sent them Jto tbo second stage. They quickly ascended the two flights of stairs and knocked at tile first door. ,A woman's voice said " Entrez." On entering they found the owner of the voice* reclining on a divan. She wore a loose black dressing-gown, ead her hair huog in a braid. Some medicines were on the table at her side. This, together with the fever colour in her cheeks, confirmed Karina's statement to Hine, de Montrieu that her sister was "really AL"
On seeing strangers at her door she sat i up hastily. "Oh, pardon, messieurs; I
theughtit was the maid or I should not have bade you enter," but observing their ¿urasual manner and appearance she added. " Whom do you wish to see ?"
" Wetseok Kerina Donimirska," replied the detective, who at the same time was observiog every feature in the apartment.
"My sister is in her room," and she indicated the communicating door, " b "' why de you come so unceremoniously, an'< what is the object of your call P"
They did not answer or even hear the last sentence, but rushed to the door indi- cated, ead after knocking once they entered Sjirina's room. Katherine clasped her healf for this excitement had brought on mere pain. Bat she was not long alone. The searchers came out of the room unsatisfied.
"Your sister is not there, Mademoi- selle; can yon tell us where she is ?"
"Net there !" exclaimed Katherine, .witbxsurprise, "butehe must be there
she went in and has not come out 1 Didn't
ejreply when you knocked ?"
" No, we received no answer/'
" Well, if you entered unbidden I do ot blame her for hiding," Katherine
with some reason and evident exation. " She was probably as mnch in egligee as I am. If you will kindly xphun to me your errand I will go in
d tell her."
The detectives hesitated a moment and then answered deliberately: "There has been a terrible crime committed this day, ami Kerina Donimirska is the criminal." ; "Katherine turned white at these wordst > She fstood up quickly. " What do you
mean^-what crime ?"
*"iMurder by poison," he replied quickly. , ¿t,,What murder P Who has been ranr
dered ? I mest know ali, for there is a : terrible mistake here somewhere P"
^Ihe-yjctim of your sister's awful deed is Count d'Omar."
At this name the girl trembled.
" Count d'Omar, a Russian ! But what reason have you-how dare you suspect my sister P Do you suppose a criminal Would come quietly to her own room, and change her dress as my sister has done?"
" But, Mademoiselle, yonr sister is not in her own room, and I must beg you not to waste words about the matter, for of her guilt there is no doubt. Here is her ring which contained the poison."
Katherine stared at this astonishing evidence in silent amazement ; then she impulsively ran to the adjoining room, eallin^ at the same time her sister's name
"Kenna! Kerina!" But there was no one in the room. Its appearance betrayed the owner's recent presence and sudden sight. Her Bable trimmed gown was thrown on the bed, slippers, silk stockings, a fan and lace kerchief were on the fleer. The air was laden with a soft
perjfuine; and it seemed as though the epirit of the f agitive was still present. Katherine was dumbfounded at the sight of ' the empty room. She opened the
different closets and looked behind furni- ture, bnt in vain.
"Where does this lead to?" inquired H* de Fayette, as he touched the knob of a small door which Katherine had not opened.
- - "I don't know-it is always locked."
" Bat it can be easily 'unlocked," sug "geeted the officer, who soon managed to "-K y^grjejaj^opeh, and then followed a small -< passage aud'' stairway which led to the
< cool and attic Here Ms suspicions were
confirmed .by finding the roof dooran* fastened.' As the houses on this street were ef uniform height, Karina Doni ; minka must have escaped by descending
throngb spme,pther, building. She prob- ably badián accomplice-perhaps several.
The twe men were alone during this part of tfieir investigations, and the detec- tive was now staggered by a surpising * suggestion from M. de Fayette.
"ion have never seen Sarina Doni mirska, I believe ! Allow me to mention thai thejeung lady below bears a striking resemblance to the person we seek."
The detective looked at him sharply
"The idea persistently comes to me that Katherine and Karina instead of i being twin sisters, are one and the¿ same
person!! Í may be mistaken. I hope so. Bat nevertheless I thought it best to inform yoa of my suspicion."
It is needless to give in detail all the detective work of this extraordinary case. Katherine was soon placed nnder arrest as an accomplice, bat her grief and pro- testations were so intense Aa/ to almost carry conviction of her JwHPianae' about the whole affair. She contení» her own
belief thai Carina was % J^fnflfst, but in / théjace oí all evidence she persistently - aadnchildishly refused 'to admit that her
sister was guilty ^of murder.
- They were unable to trace the fugitive fr« -farther tkan the roof of her own house.
g; B[very ^Duïlding which could have been £* «failable^ras searched from attic to cellar. k ;^veriU.|¡aft^es^were arrested, but after a h .vigorous cross^questiouingreleased. The I proprietor of - the house in which the
p1' -Slaters Bad li^ed testified that Katherine £ hfâlieerï-th&ré'pnoweek: She was quiet P " and<unas8jttni|ngs in her manners, but she H, practised a^great'deal on the piano. The Xevéaing Jbefore tlie 'crime ~ her expected Jl ^ter^jftrivcd&SJBe ^did Jiot see her that
li- e,veainsÍ4fó he happened to be away when'
BJ, '-'alto'-?>-."?? "->»?«?«? A - . *.» >_j,_«."."..J !."_ ._"
l^qutte-Aïer "Tbeíiext morning
|"fivas>in4ispoaedîJbiit "Karina practised her "/singing off and .OB nearly alLday^.He I «aw her when she started to the reception
and also when she returned. She seemed to walk in as calmly as ehe had walked out. This was all he could tell.
In the meantime Katherine was kindly imprisoned in (he house of M. de Fayette,
but she was still unconscious of that gentleman's Suspicion and minute surveil- lance. The girl's anguish and grief were pitiful to behold. She roamed about the great house like a tortured spirit. The only consolation she could resort to was her music-her wonderful music ! She would sometimes play for hours at a time, desperately, one piece after another sonatas, concertos, nocturnes, fantasie pieces-from composers old and new. Her reportoire was as astonishing as her performance, and the longer she remained near Mme. de Fayetto the greater grew that lady's wonder at the genius of her prisoner.
As day after day passed with no light thrown on the mystery, M. de Fayette's theory grew in probability. One strange
f set to be noted was that no one would
swear to having seen the sisters together ! Things bogan to look dark for Katherine.
Bnt wheu she was at last informed of these suspicions her manner and tone of voice were .surprisingly indifferent. " Why did you not tell me of this sooner P I could have disproted the charge long ago and you wonld not have diverted in your search for Kerina. You must find her J-You will find her ! I entreat yon, ¡Messieurs, never to reflux your endeav- ours. She will defend herself and explain
jail, for I am sure she is the victim and
»riot the perpetrator of this terrible plot. Your suggestion that we were never seen together is of no importance whatever. My «i8ter|was only with me «ne day. I was ill, and we did not wish to be dis- turbed."
" But how do you intend to prove your identity ?" was eagerly asked. Katherine raised her eyes with a look of genuine surprise that he should ask such a ques- tion. " Why, Monsieur, I am a pianist my sister is a singer ! Ah, 1 see you smile and consider this a weak defence, which shows that you are not a musician, M. de Fayette. But I promise you to play before all the musicians of the world -bring together whom you will-»Rubin- stein, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Planto, all of them-and they will assare you that it would be impossible to play as I do and still sing as does my sister. I know my powers, Messieurs, and have no fear but what my art will save me."
Without another word she stepped by them and left the room, with a carriage and poise of the head that was splendidly
Unprecedented as it was, Katherine's proposition was nevertheless to be carried into effect. The case had attracted snch widespread notoriety that many well known musicians expressed eagerness to take this audacious prisoner at her word. Those persons who had attended the now celebrated reception and heard Kerina sing were equally anxious to exert their judgement in the matter. And so one morning a week later this original trial took place.
The Palazio Yecchio, which formerly belonged to the Medici, but is now used by the law courts, is still magni- ficent in its mediaeval achitecture. The Sand corridors re-echo to every foot
LI and the rooms are all of great di- mensions, very high and richly frescoed. The. floors are of inlaid polished wood. Every corner of the building seems to whisper of past tragedies and romance. But of all the tales told and scenes enacted within its grey walls» perhaps none was more passing strange than that which occurred at the trial of Katherine Doni- mirska.
When the prisoner entered the great hall there was a moment of^ profound silence; for her manner and appearance were strangely improssive. She was elad in her usual costume of plain black silk, but her face was paler and her eyes darker than before. This was not surprising, Jor the girl had practised fifty hours in the past week, preparing for this ordeal.
She walked forward alone and firmly, and then seated herself at one of the two
grand pianos, which were standing side
by side. The audience was composed of I
masicians and critics, besides the long-1 ¡
robed laywers and judges. It was a> group that munt have made her heart quake bad she recognised them all.
The first composition she was re- quested to perform was the symphonic etudes by Schumann. There was an expectant hush throughout the hall.
The player glanced for a moment at the keys, and then she plunged into those mighty etdues like a direr into the sea.
The slender girl seemed to be suddenly transformed into a Titan.
Her chords were sonorous and clear, and the grand theme kept ringing out through all the rapids aud whirlpools of
It was a thrilling and inspiring per- formance, but as the listeners were there to judge instead of enjoy they soon asked for something else.
She then presented to her audience like the unfolding of a great panorama, Grieg's concerto for piano and orchestra. _ Mon Dieu i how she plsyed it ! It was
like an electric storm. Never were scales more crystalline or octaves more crisp every ehord seemed to snap fire, v
This girl was playing for her life. The audience sat motionless as statues excepting one musician who rushed im- pulsively to the second piano and supplied the orchestral accompaniment.
The soloist never failed so much as a
thirty-second beat in coming in with her part. She could have played with the Lamoureux orchestra sans rehearsal.
,' To know well a single concerto is much, but this Russian girl had most of the celebrated ones at her command. Her memory was prodigious-not once during all that great trial did it fail her.
The judges were almost inclined to .doubt their own ears. They tested her in all imaginable ways, but she had mastered every difficulty they presented.
Wonderful I wonderful ! ,was the uni- versal exclamation. After three hours of
constant playing Katherine arose, pale
~P Messieurs, you are musicians-you must know how I have worked, and I am sure yon can judge whether it is possible for one person to do this and at the same time so master the technique of singing as Ao render the great soprano aria from The Magic Flute, which Js one of the numbers my sister sang at -Mme? de Montriea's reception."
That waa all she'said before leavingthe hall, bnt it was an effective speech. That
aria from The Magic Finte is one of the most difficult ever written, and in mefe*i tioning this piece she hadTwith one word informed them of her sister's attainments.
The trial was to be resumed on the
following day, and in' the meantime the musician« announced their opinion OB all sides. Without preference or prejudice they unanimously agreed that Katherine Donimirska had never had time for any- thing besides her piano.
" No amount of genius will teach yon a Beethoven sonato or any other composi- tion, without many months of work/* asserted one far-famed artist. " I worked a wlrole year on those symphonic etudes myself-four honre every day on that composition alone. To suppose that «he has also been able to practise her voice into the proficiency reqnirel for that T Magien Flute * aria is ridiculous. It requires seven years of the wisest train- ing before a singer has sore control of her voice, and the younger they begin the better. Patti, Atbani, Malibran-they all commenced young, and they usually go still further back and have mothers who were great singers." It suddenly occnrred to the speaker that he was now trading on uncertain territory, for of Katherine's mother, and, in fact, her whole past life,
very little was known. She was expected^ to relate all this on the second day of the trial. The sympathy and admiration for this gifted prisoner had so increased that when she appeared the next morning a round of applause betokened her triumph. Bnt Katherine was unmindful of this honour. Her spirit seemed entirely changed. She looked haggard and weary, excepting the burning brilliancy of her
When arrived 'before the Chief Judge she bowed deferentially.
" Yon are here summoned before us to
faithfully recount your own past life and that of yonr sister Karma."
" I shall; do this, Messieurs, to your full satisfaction, but kindly permit me to tell it in my own way and if possible without interruption."
This permission was granted, and after a moment's hesitation, as though te plan her narrative meet concisely, she began :
",My father wee well to do. He owned a chateau not many leagues from Kiev, and there we lived alone and undisturbed, the happiest and most idyllic life. I have no memory of my mother, but father fulfilled every need of affection and care. Ho was a rare mnsiciao, arid to him is due all I have attained in this art. He gave me my first lesson when 1 was four years old, and thereafter my work was regular and systematic, but never wearisome, for my dear, patient father was always beside me and listened to every tone. You mnst understand, Messieurs, that what I relate~of myself tells you at the same time of Karina, for she was brought up with the same loving care that was bestowed on me. Thns
were passed sixteen years of tranquil, happy work-but our dream Was suddenly
" It was one afternoon in April, ' eight years ago, that three strangers 'drove to Our door. Father and I were in the music-room working at the first movement of Chopin's F minor concerto, whose pathetic harmonies were sadly ap- propriate. The strangers asked for my father, who left me a few moments to see them. He, presently returned« looking, I noticed, rather troubled. ' My presence is needed in Kiev,' he said, * to explain some misunderstanding-I don't know its exact nature-but these gentle- men assure mo it will not take long, so I will go with them at once. You practice that first page till I return, dear ; perhaps you will understand it by that time.' He kissed me goodbye and then hastened away. I watched from the window as the carriage drove off and then rushed back to my concerto, determined to master that page before he returned."
The narrator sighed as she added :
" But I need not have hurried-there was plenty of time. For two hours-three hours-I worked on, but listed in vain for the sonnd of carriage wheels. My father never returned !" Katherine Dom mirska was silent a moment, but then with apparent effort she mastered herself and spoke on in steady tones.
.* After long investigation we learned the facts and cause of father's arrest. It all resulted from the simple act of giving
away an old coat which had haag for years in An unused closet. The servant promptly disposed of this garment- to a dealer in Kiev, who afterwards found in one of the pockets a letter, which he saw fit to hand over to the police. This letter was written by a former associate of my father. But their acquaintance never amounted to friendship, and for many years father had not seen or heard, or, I dare say, thought of him. But the writer had in later years embraced Nihil- istic sentiments, sod was actually impli- cated, in one of the bomb ontrages. His name was frequently in the papers, but my poor father; who paid little attention to anything besides music, probably never observed the name or remembered. Nevertheless, this letter was ample proof to the police that he had corresponded with a Nihilist, for which reason he was promptly arrested, unwarned and unsuspecting the gentle« manly assurances of the officers who invited him to accompany them. I must add that the 'Contents of that letter were thoroughly innocent and trivial in character* bat a doable meaning can be applied to anything, and in this instance the few words of protestation and self defence allowed the prisoner were of no avail. He was sentenced to Siberian exile for life. ~
(To be concluded on Wednesday.)