Chapter 63622327

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter TitleVOWS OF VENGEANCE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63622327
Full Date1889-12-26
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count2378
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 XII.

Vows OF VENGEANCE.

The Count Stravensky rode homewards with a conflict of many harassing feelings stirring his

heart. He would have done much to save Anna Klosstock. Ever since he had met her on the road

to the old palace of the Government her face had been continually before him. Had he been a man of a stronger will, he would probably have pre- vented her from going to that fatal house. But he

knew his own weakness ; it was not so much want of courage as the knowledge that he was not a true subject of the Czar ; true to Russia, yes-but untrue to his oath of allegiance, untrue to his order, and would have been openly hostile if any good could

have come of it.

Meanwhile, however, he was one of the powers behind the popular movement of the time, and with the hope that the day would come when he might Btrike a blow for liberty in open daylight, and lay down his life, if need be, to some purpose, to sacri- fice himself now either to suspicion or to personal malice would be a useless waste of power and possibility.

Count Stravensky had already been able to help on the chances of the coming of that glorious f uture of which many patriots were dreaming, and he knew better than to forfeit his place and position volun- tarily, and to no good. But for the knowledge that he was already deeply compromised and might be charged at any moment, though he had every reason to believe his secret was well kept, he would have resisted the governor's arrogant order. It would have been an inopportune moment to have defied the administrative authority-the town on the eve of open revolt, the governor anxious to signalise the opening of his government.

The Count ground his teeth, and vowed to himself as speedy a vengeance as a calm discretion would permit him to take in the interest of the great cause to which he was secretly pledged. He had been publicly insulted ; but that was as nothing com- pared to the outrage. which had been committed upon the beautiful girl with whom he had spoken on the previous day upon the road he was now traversing. While he bit his lips and clenched his right hand with rage and indignation, the tears streamed down his rugged cheeks, as the two pictures of human misery rose up before him-the pale, lovely face of the Jew's daughter as he had seen her on the previous day, her great violet eyes full of mute appeal, her bronzed locks in picturesque masses about her face, her red lips and white teeth, her fine, noble figure, and the mad, bloodshot eyes that had met his gaze near the scaffold, to which she had been brutally and ruthlessly condemned.

' Are we men or fiends that we can do such deeds ? What sort of miserable cowards are we to stand by and see them done?'

His hand upon his sword, he turned his horse in the direction of the once happy but now wretched town of Czarovna,but only to wheel round again and continue his ride home. He resolved, however, if .the poor creature lived through her terrible punishment, and escaped Siberia, or were vouch- safed years enough to pass the ordeal of both knout and Siberia, he would do something towards making the remainder of her life bearable. And he recalled to mind the case of Madame Lapukin, who, some hundred years before, was flogged almost to dea^h, her tongue torn out, and then skillfully saved from death to be sent to Siberia, whence she was released by Peter the Third when she \yas an old woman.

This awful example gave the Count a passing hope that if Anna did not die, as he prayed she might, he would, in some way, be able to help her, if it were only to make her a witness of the down- fall and punishment of Petronovitch ; for of the governor's ultimate ruin and death he felt a moral certainty, and he humbly asked God to save him a red hand in this.

They all prayed, you will observe, on whichever side they were. Even Petronovitch knelt publicly and helped the priests to give thanks for the discovery of plots against the Czar, and the punishment of the instigators thereof.' If the Divine Power were one that could be influenced by these miscellaneous peti- tions, what a complication of investigation would be involved iu the answering of their conflicting requests? But God's laws against tyranny, per- secution, and murder are irrevocable ; they are often slow of operation, but in the end the wrongdoers

are punished. The end may seem to us long in . coming ; it is not so when we remember what atoms

we are, and that our lives are only as a moment in . the longevity of God and the great world.

Stravensky, among other things, came to the con- clusion that his life and work would be of more value to the cause of Liberty, and his chance of success against Petronovitch greater, if he lived in St. Petersburg ; and when he reached his estate and sat down to converse with his steward, he informed him that he had resolved to let his property in the province of Vilnavitch, the governorship of which

was no longer to his liking, and take up his abode , in St. Petersburg. He did not give his faithful servant any further information, but he had in his heart a big scheme of intrigue against Petronovitch, and in favour not only of the Jews, but of Holy Russia. Possessed of great wealth, he would devote it now in earnest to the great .cause; he would lay himself out for popularity; he would seem to be a Royalist of the Royalists ; he would win his way to the Czar's confidence; he would be a social and political power, in order that he might the easier swoop to his revenge, and be all the more able at the. right time to turn and rend the personages with whom he would make a pretence of friendship. How far the part which the Count proposed to himself was a noble one the reader must judge for himself;' how far he succeeded in his plans of patriotism and vengeance the narrator will inform the reader in due course.

If Andrea Ferrari had been the arch-fiend of evil himself, he felt that he could not have brought more calamities upon his friends than had befallen them, as he conceived, through his unconscious agency. While he upbraided himself, he, neverthe- less, could not but be conscious of the fact that

after all he had only hastened the troubles that were about to fall. upon Czarovna. Given Petronovitch for governor, and the agents of the false ukase in the town, something terrible must have happened sooner or later ; at the same time, but for him there might have been time to save Anna and the rabbi and Nathan Klosstock.

The├če thoughts raced through his mind even at the height of the rioting about the scaffold. His usual grip left him. He hesitated and was lost or rather saved ; for had he not hesitated he would have rushed into action, and to what purpose ? The knout, imprisonment, or death !

When Anna was captured he was borne away with the retreating crowd to the ghetto, pressed upon by the soldiers, and presently hustled and struck by the gathering rioters and agents of the false ukase, who were already assembling in the streets of the Jewish quarter.

With a deep vow of vengeance against Petrono- vitch, he hurried on to the assistance of Grunstein, and with a view to reach the good old Jew's hiding place.

Pushing open the front door, leading through the porch into the house, he found Grunstein, torn, tattered, and bleeding, his wife bathing his temples.

The threatening cry of the mob could be heard from far away. It was like the first booming of the coming storm. It would come nearer and nearer every minute, until it fell with a crash, and with lightning and sudden death in it.

Ferrari locked and bolted every door behind him. ' Bloodhounds,' he growled between his teeth,

' wait a while !'

' I am not hurt ; it is nothing,' said Moses Grun- stein, rising as he spoke. ' Deborah was alarmed, but it is nothing ; would that I might have died to save that poor victim of our neighbour Klosstock !'

' We are indeed a cursed race,' exclaimed

Ferrari.

' Ferrari locked and bolted every door behind him.'

' To-day, it is true, our Father Abraham is on the side of the Philistines,' said Moses Grunstein. ' ' ' And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee ; and thou shalt fear day and night and shalt have 'hone assurance of thy life." The curse is upon us.'

' But He shall yet bring us to the' land which our fathers possessed,' said Deborah, '' and do us good, and we shall be blessed.' " . '

Deborah not only comforted her husband with plaster for his body, but with plaster for his per-

turbed mind.

'That will do,' said Ferrari. . 'I expect, the truth being known, the Lord has nothing whatever to do with it ; the trouble is somehow in ourselves; but, mistress, where is your servant ?'

' She is in my chamber, packing my jewels.' ' Call her down. .

Deborah called the maid, who came with a small box in her hand and a bundle bf rich silk shawls on her arm.

' Listen,'.said Ferrari ; ' listen, all of you ! . The wolves are without, there is no time to. lose. Is all prepared for our retreat ?' '

' All,' said Grunstein.

' Then let us waste no time.'

For the moment there was a lull ' outside ; it seemed as if the mob had passed on.

'As if,' said the old man", divining Ferrari's thoughts, 'they have seen the ancient sign, and we are saved.' : -

' Did anyone see you enter ?'

* When?' asked the old man. .

' When we were separated, and you made for

home.'

' I think not.'.

' A stranger followed me,' said Ferrari : ' one of the agents of the rising-an Eastern man; I'll swear. I had nearly stabbed him on the doorstep ; but he can wait. Come, dear friends.'

' I heard thee bar the doors ; we are safe, my son$ at present ; let us refresh ourselves ; thou art pale ; thy lips are dry.'

At a nod Deborah, his wife, brought wine and

oakes from a little cabinet.

' I like your courage, old friend,' said Ferrari, 'it rebukes me ; my nerves are shaken.'

' I know how easy it is to retire to those chambers within,' said G-runstein, ' and there is no need to

run now.'

' Would to heaven we might have stood yonder by the scaffold,' said Ferrari ; ' surely, after all, it would have been best to die like the idiot, who atoned nobly for his betrayal of Losinski.'

' That did he,' said the old man.

' It is hard for me to persuade myself that I am not as guilty of Losinski's death as the suborned witness was,' said Ferrari. ' It was I who brought the police spy upon the house of Klosstock ; my in- tention was to warn and save-instead of that. I was the trail the bloodhounds followed ; the face of Anna Klosstock will haunt me to my dying day ; I only consent to live that I may stab Petronovitch to death with the same ghastly memory uppermost in his black heart. Hush ! did you not hear a noise

in the outer hall ?'

As he spoke there was a hurrying of feet in the street outside, then the crash of a window, followed by the report of firearms.

' They are coming,' said Deborah, creeping to the

side of the old man.

' Yes,' he said, ' have no fear ; all will be well.' ' Pray God it may,' Deborah answered.

' Go forward with the shawls and jewels,' Baid the old man, addressing the girl ; ' and be not

afraid.'

' I am not afraid,' said the maid, now thatj/bur guest has come.'

' Ferrari smiled and bowed. ' Madame,' he said, turning to the mistress, ' I hope .my sojourn under your roof will bring you better fortune than my

presence at the Klosstocks has brought to them and

theirs.' . .

' You blame yourself without a cause, my generous Moses says, and I can well believe it.'

' You may trust to my good intentions,' Ferrari replied ; * you shall also find me grateful.'

'We are in the hands of God,' she answered. ' Amen !' said the old man.

A thundering at the outer door was the defiant reply of the mob to these pious ejaculations.

' Come,' said Ferrari, and they followed him at

once.

'Now, my friends,' continued the guest, 'we will escort the women to safety.'

rlhe old man rose and led the way. Ferrari locked and bolted each door as they went along ; intending, nevertheless, to return and unbolt some of them, for it was not in human nature to slink away and not strike one blow for his friends and the bleeding cause of Freedom.

Arrived at the well, the women were soon placed beyond danger. '

' And now, good friend,' said Ferrari, ' do thou await me here ; descend, keep watch at the entrance below, and I will join you anon.'

Grunstein begged him to run no further risk, but rather make good his retreat and safety.

. Ferrari made no answer, but, laying aside his Jewish gabardine and the wig and beard of the Moscow banker, turned up his sleeves to the elbow.