Chapter 63622299

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleAN ESCAPE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63622299
Full Date1889-11-28
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3105
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleBy Order of the Czar. The Tragic Story of Anna Klosstock, The Queen of the Ghetto
article text

CHAPTER IV.

AN ESCAPE.

If" TI" IS teeth set, his red knife

'lYF firmly grasped, Ferrari I Ol sped through the narrow

streets, clown strange ç passages, now crouching

out of the moonlight, now dashing through its beams, until he found himself on the bank of the river that skirted the settle- ment. Here, in the shadow of a bridge, he rested, and hoped Losinski's prayer had indeed been heard, and half believed it had, his escape so far having been nothing less than miraculous ; and breathless as he was, panting

for very life, he rejoiced that the . spy Negrusz had been delivered

into his hands.

Presently he looked back to- wards the village. Lights were appearing in the previously darkened windows. He thought

ne neara tue lunn of voices.

No doubt the whole place was up in arms. He feared for the safety of Anna, and for the lives of his dear friends. What would happen ? Could he be of use to the Klosstocks, upon whom it seemed to him he had brought disaster and ruin ? How could he hope to escape ? He was now known to the police, denounced by Negrusz-a sleuth hound of the St. Petersburg detective force, who had found reason to suspect Ferrari about the time of the murder of the Czar. While, however, he was making up his mind to act, Ferrari, in the very house where Negrusz thought he had him safe, had managed to disappear, which was sufficient * evidence to satisfy Negrusz if ever he again en-

countered him. From that moment Ferrari had assumed one of his various disguises, which he had only laid aside on his way to Czarovna, and this was the last visit he had intended to pay to

his friends in Southern Russia.

Ferrari had, for several years, been associated with the propagandists ; but until this night his hand had shed no blood in the Nihilistic cause, and now that he had whetted his knife he felt a thirst for more.

fyffij// What should he do? Take ad" tf.'if'y/ vantage of the disturbance and sen" >;'. ?/ sation of the affair at the Klosstocks

'/(< to sneak back into the G-hetto and find shelter

' there ? Or make his way to some distant

village? Or seek refuge for a time in the adjacent woods ?

There was a certain Count Stravensky, a land- owner near Czarovna, of whom Ferrari had in secret conclave heard as ' one of us.' If he only knew whether he might trust the Count ! If he only knew where to find his place !

This Count Stravensky was one of the old nobility, who had been grossly insulted by the Pristav of the district during a search for secret printing presses, and piqued at the treatment his complaint had received, and nettled at his exclusion from Court, he had indeed joined the forces of that vast agitation which was shaking

the social order of Russia to its foundations. As the Count is destined to figure in these columns, it may be well to refer to the peculiar kind of persecution to which even the highest as well as the lowliest of the land are subjected-Jew and Gentile, noble and peasant, men and women, gentle and simple.

'Ferrari's yuille lifted his lamp high above his head, and pointed onward.'

During the periods of what Stepniak calls ' the White Teiror/ which generally follows on great attempts or detected idiots, when searches are made by the hundred, there is hardly a family belonging to the edxicated classes who, on retir- ing to rest, do not tremble at the thought that before morning they may be roused from their sleep by the emissaries of the Czar. The Count Stravensky, during one of these general raids, felt thoroughly entitled to sleep in peace. But as it turned out, he had offended the Procurator of the district, who had some personal sores to settle with the local nobility. The Count was not one of the most amiable of human beings, it is true ; but he was faithful to the dynasty, and had inherited from his jjrogenitors a love of home and country. He was a widower, and his only son had died fighting for the Czar in Central Asia. One day, Avith drums beating and banners flying, the Procurator marched into the woodland country beyond Czarovna, and invested the house and grounds of the Count. No one was permitted to leave and none to enter, until the officer and his men had ransacked the place for a secret printing press or for incriminating papers. They

found neither ; but a few versts away they dis- covered, in the library of the Count's nearest neighbour, a newspaper calling upon the Czar to give the country a Constitution. The editor and proprietor of the journal had already been im- prisoned for this offence. The Count's neighbour could not say how the paper came into Iiis room ; he vowed he had not only not read it, but had never seen it until it was taken from his desk ; and it afterwards was clearly shown that he spoke the truth-a discharged servant confessed that he had placed it where it was found, and afterwards given information to the police. Nevertheless, the Count's neighbour, who had been carried off to prison, was not released upon this evidence, but died on his way to Siberia. The Count was forcibly confined to his house for several days, and though he escaped the fate of his neighbour he was sub- jected to much annoyance until the Procurator was dismissed from his office for a glaring offence against a more favoured individual. When the local noble's name occurred to Ferrari, he had just previously received an official token of the Imperial favour, and at the same time a large acquisition of wealth. But all this was too late so far as his allegiance to the Czar was concerned.

He had long since lent Iiis secret'aid to the general agitation, but with a secrecy which defied the keenest eye.

Ferrari, unfortunately, had no knowledge of these details, and so keenly did the Count protect himself that it is possible, had the Italian sought refuge on his estate, he would have given him up to the police. That would have entirely depen- ded on circumstances ; for Stravensky was a man of moods, and of late he had given the new Pro- curator every reason to believe that he was active

in the interests of the Czar and his officers.

While Ferrari was holding within himself a council of war, there issued from the village a dozen troopers, no doubt from the local barracks, who came sweeping across the jilain in the direc- tion of the spot where he lay concealed in the shadow of the bridge.

At first blush lie gave himself up for lost, but determined to die hard. Sheathing his knife, he drew Iiis revolver, and crouched behind the timbers of the bridge, that he might, at least, empty every barrel before he was taken, But the horsemen dashed across the bridge and disappeared over the plain and away into the

woods beyond, on their way, no doubt, to the residence of Petronovitch, the old palace of the

Provincial Government.

The Italian, with an involuntary prayer of thankfulness, now crept from his retreat and made his way back to the Grhetto. If he could only find shelter he knew that he could rely upon his fellow Jews to conceal him. He had such words of brotherly responsibility for them, such tokens of strength and power in the rings he wore upon his fingers, that he had only to find a corner to put his head into to be sure that he might keep it there so long as it pleased God not to guide the hunters to his hiding-place.

Changing his appearance in various little ways, in the hope of being able to pass the scrutinising eyes of the policeman who had seen him, and taking out his knife with a determined resolu- tion of using it if necessary, he managed to reach the back streets of the Pale of Settlement without being observed. He could hear the sound of many voices in the distance, and there were lights in some of the humblest of the half mud and »vholly thatched homes of his fellow religionists.

Beneath a heavy archway he noticed at a corner of one of the streets a more than usually spacious house, the door open, a lamp burning in the outer hall, and he entered. It was evidently the home of poverty, large as was the house, unless it was one of those instances of opulence which often in Jewish quarters hides itself in back rooms behind squalid exteriors.

Passing through the outer room, ill-furnished and of evil smell, Ferrari heard someone speak- ing in the next apartment, Laying his head to the ground, he came to the conclusion that two persons were in the room, a man and a woman. Going back to the entrance to the house, he closed the dooor, drew the bolt behind him, passed through the outer hall, then boldly lifted the latch of the further room and entered.

Raising his right hand with an eloquent bene- diction, he invited, nay commanded, aid and

sympathy, both of which he received, and at

once.

The home he had entered was the house of Moses Grunstein, who lived with his young wife and one servant in the \itmost seclusion that was possible in the Ghetto. He had married a second time, had no children, was rich in this world's goods, and was honoured and respected. He carried on a large general business, and had made money by dint of saving his profits and lending them at fair usance to his Russian neighbours, and to the landowners of the district,

?ffp.w nftrsons-never a Christian if he could heh)

it-ever saw the inner glories of his house, where he lived in good style, surrounded Avith valuable articles of furniture and decora-

tion, which rejoiced the heart of his young wife, Deborah, AVIIO was content to Avear her jewels on high days and holidays, and

in the intervals for her own

pleasure in the private rooms

of her husband's house.

' A fugitive,' said Moses, re- peating Ferrari's explanation ; ' the friend of Joel Straekosch, of St. Petersburg, Avith a mission to the Rothschilds, in London, and the victim of a conspiracy of the Russian police, lt were enough that thou art the es- teemed guest of our brother

Klosstock. For I have seen thee there.'

' Do you not knoAV, then, what has happened ? ' asked the

Italian.

' Where ? When ? '

' Now - in tiie villiage - almost in the next

street ! '

'No,' answered the old man, his young wife clinging to him in an attitude of alarm.

' Have you not heard the report of firearms ? '

' No ; we-spend our nights in prayer and con- templation.'

' Where are your servants ? '

' Wc have only one. Where is Esther ? ' ile turned and addressed his wife, who at once went forth to find the servant. Returning, she said Esther was not in the house, and yet the doors

were barred.

Ferrari explained how he had found the pince open and how he had himself bolted the doors after him. ' No doubt,' he said, ' your servant heard the noise, and has gone out to see what is the matter.' Then he related what had happened, whereupon his host said, ' My son, this is of serious moment ; surely it is the breaking up of the peace of Czarovna ; every house will be searched, but thou couldst not have entered one where thy secret is so safe. The Ghetto has not always been the abode of security. Deborah, do

thou undo tho doora and await thy handmaid's coming. Our brother Ferrari's secret is our secret," and we pledge ourselves to that before

^Deborah bowed her head, and as she lifted up

her face the old man kissed her upon her fore-

head.

'Follow me,' he said, taking up a lamp and addressing Ferrari, who followed him straight, the old man leading the way through various passages and lavishly furnished rooms, into what appeared to be a cloth warehouse, and thence into a narrow courtyard, shut in by the tall front of the warehouse «and overhanging rock. In a corner of the dark and gruesome cul de sac was what appeared to be a well, by the dark side of which the old man paused as if they had arrived at their destination.

' Be not afraid, my son, I mean thee well,' said tho old man; 'a wary correspondent of mine, two days ago, gave a me note of warning that trouble was falling upon Elizabethgrad, and that the blast of persecution might even blow in this direction, but although I showed my wife this refuge yesterday for the first time I did not think I might have to use it, and I take thy coming as a sign from God.'

' But where is the retreat, my father ? ' asked Ferrari, the damp mouldy odour of the place promising anything but a comfortable sanctuary.

fIt is at hand. "Wouldst thou have it easy of access? They who made this refuge were thoughtful of their fugitives and of their lives ; follow mc.'

Tho old man, handing Ferrari the lamp, pro- ceeded to descend the well, not with the aid of rope or bucket, but by steps which he sought with his feet while clinging to the side. He knelt down, then feet foremost literally went into the well. His head resting on the coping stone, he said, ' Thou wilt feel niches on the right and

left for thy feet ; the Avater would not drown thee if thou Avert to fall, which is impossible ; Deborah decendcd yesterday ; loAver thy- self by means of the niches for thy feet, and I Avili conduct thee further ; give me the lamp.'

ParrarC following these in- structions, presently entered a small subterranean passage, now lighted by the lamp of his host, who stood xipright at the further end, Avhence a door SAVung open at Iiis touch, and closed upon them with a spring that seemed to clutch the rock through Avhich the place had been excavated. They were within the outer halls of an immense natural cave, their way marked by stalactite and stalagmite, their footsteps awakening echoes that Avere accompanied by the distant sound of falling waters.

Suddenly coming to a stand- still, Ferrari's guide lifted his lamp high above his head and pointed oivward, where streaks of daylight seemed to penetrate the gloom afar oil*. They paused here to make a turning to the right, tli rough a narroAV Avay, . where th e darkness Avas so intense

that the lamp fairly blinked at it. Then suddenly they Avere obstructed by Avhat appeared to be solid rock. The aged JCAV stooped and apparently turned a key, and the next moment a heavy door SAvung sloAvly upon its hinges and disclosed a lighted chamber, fairly Avell furnished, with comfortable rugs and skins, cupboards and cabinets, the latter roughly made but strong and evidently tilled Avith treasures.

'I have made these,' said Moses Grunstein, ' with my oAvn hands,' pointing to the furniture ;

' it has been va labour of love for twenty years, and here you may rest and be secure. My wife has been here, but without my aid, no person could discover this sanctuary, nor finding the passage could suspect the door, nor finding the door could open it except by siege, and besieging it could not prevent the inmates' escape, as I will show thee when thou hast refreshed thyself and surveyed thy new abiding place/

Ferrari found his curiosity as well as his gratitude excited to the utmost, and was as anxious to know the story of the cavern as Moses Grunstein was to know the details of

what had passed at the house of his dear friend

Klosstock.

' First be seated,' said Grunstein, ' and I will disclose to thee thy store of wine and food.'

Ferrari's kindly host lighted another lamp and produced candles from a spacious cupboard, where there were stores of biscuits in tins, unleavened bread, dried fish, jars of honey and fruits; beneath this cupboard was a lower one containing wines and medicines ; while close by were various cooking utensils, and wood and

charcoal.

'It is rarely cold here,5 said Grunstein, 'and I am disposed to believe there is a natural warmth in this part of the cave arising from a hot spring ; for there is a warm mist always rising beyond the further compartment, and I hear a bubbling of waters; but I have madt a cheerful fire, and with perfect security. At firsl I feared that the smoke thereof might betray me but it has not; it seems to me that this cavern is almost endless ; five and twenty years ago I dis covered it, and I have spent days within its hilh and valleys but have never found any ending o: it. Did the Russian law enable a Jew to buj land I would have purchased this estate and mach money by exhibiting this wonder of Czarovna, ai money is made in other parts of the world b} similar exhibitions. I know the history of even known cavern in the world, so far as thei: histories aro related in books. And while I tremble lest thou shouldst deceive me, '.

feel a glow of pleasure in showing thee my

treasures.5

' I have sworn to thee, Moces Grunstein, and that binds me ; but a very devil might be trusted out of his gratitude to be true to thy secret, if thou hadst saved him from a Christian saint as thou hast saved me from Christian devils. And I say saved, with a kind of revelation that it is so ; for know, dear friend, that I am master of so many disguises that with thy aid I need not remain here longer than is necessary for thee to provide me with the means to make myself someone else, and happily I have more than one passport which I can fit with more than one

disguise.