Archangel Once Again
ON our arrival at Archangel we found the town outwardly unchanged. Crowds thronged the sidewalks of the Troitsky Prospekt, to all appearances ignoring the international politi cal byplays that had unexpectedly forced the government of northern Russia into the role of a hapless pawn. Except for the inordinately large number of ships riding at anchor on the river, a casual glance could detect nothing that might suggest any significant movement of troops prior to the imminent evacuation of the Allies.
Yet nervous tension was in the air. Without warning a guilty gleam in the eye of an Allied friend might suggest: "It isn't our fault, for Christ's sake don't blame us!" Or the sudden explosion of a Russian's loud cynical laughter: "It's happened before, hasn't it, but what the hell do we care?" Across the levity there was the ghost of panic. "Didn't you hear ... all very hush-hush? The Allies are dumping weapons and ammunition into the river. Didn't they tell you? Boxes and boxes of supplies are being destroyed. What for? Why?" All this was fine kindling for suspicion and fear—questions to which there were no answers. And then billboards appeared, bearing offers of safe evacuation at no expense to anyone wishing to leave with the Allies.
The morning of September 27,1919, presented a change as striking as it was momentous. Overnight all evidence of foreign intervention in support of the great counterrevolutionary adventure in the north of Russia vanished. Nowhere was the uniform of an Allied soldier to be seen, nowhere did a foreign flag float upon the breeze over buildings that had been flying them for months. In one short night the Allies had evaporated, as if ashamed of a retreat so closely resembling a flight. And on this significant morning Archangel awoke outwardly calm, almost indifferent, showing not even a sign of sur prise at its desertion.
Thus the White Russians of the north were left alone with their own land. Their choice had been voluntary. They had elected to remain, to accept victory or defeat. Was this choice forced upon them by a hopeless lack of vision on the part of their leaders? Or was it one of sublime courage and sacrifice? I thought of Natalia Ivanovna's words:
"We'd rather fight our own battles and perish than have others fight them for us."
Below the massive cathedral square the Dvina flowed quiet and peaceful. We stood there high above the river, looking out across the vast land now wholly our own, free at last from foreign intervention. Gleb straightened his shoulders and filled his lungs with a liberating breath of pure fresh air.
That evening we had dinner with the Kliuevs. Zinaida Andreyevna plied us with questions about Pinega. She hoped we would decide to stay in Archangel, because she was so keen on having me there to help her with the projected hospital. I hoped so too, and Gleb did not seem fit to go back to the front yet. But his insistence on returning to Pinega appeared like an insurmountable obstacle to any such plans.
"I've heard they want Gleb Nikolayevich as an instructor at the machine-gun school," she said in a deep contralto. "Don't forget, we need loyal and capable officers here too."
I sensed a minor intrigue being set afoot to keep Gleb in Archangel, and a wisp of hope came alive that something might actually come of it. But I had learned to take nothing for granted.
With the Allies gone, good accommodations were plentiful, so we decided to move to an apartment in the home of a rich merchant who had fled the insecurity of the north with his family. It consisted of two large, airy, comfortably furnished rooms and a breakfast corner. The taste of the merchant family ran overly much to painted statuettes and sculptured vases, but by the time we had got ourselves installed, the less appreciated objects were out of sight and the rest were arranged according to our own taste.
I was thrilled with our first real home. The bedroom windows looked out upon the tree-lined Troitsky Prospekt and the living room faced a walled-in garden, now at the beginning stages of autumnal decline. A goodly part of the space was taken up by an enormous heater of green tiles, fired with wood, which kept the whole apartment at an even temperature. From this heating system a tiny fireplace opened into the living room and made it into a warm and cozy place during the chilly evenings.
The house had been left in the care of a servant, Dunya, a homely, colorless woman with a hard thin-lipped mouth and flinty pale eyes. Her hair, combed into a knot on top of her head, was drawn so tightly back that the wrinkles on her forehead disappeared.
Sour and exceptionally lazy, Dunya regarded our presence as a distinct nuisance foisted upon her and the master's premises under the duress of a political edict. All my efforts to make friends with her foundered miserably. Her unwillingness to cooperate bore strik ing resemblance to that of a mule, and she demanded payment for the smallest service. Whenever I dared set foot in the kitchen, she let me know that she regarded us as insufferable interlopers.
We had still ten days left of our leave. Happily I went about keeping house, pushing far from me all thought of a return to Pinega, nourishing the hope that something would happen to prevent it. In the mornings I went to market down by the river. There shaggy men and noisy, gesticulating women swathed in layers of shawls haggled over the price of milk and butter and sour cream. Here I also bought salmon caught in the Pechora and Dvina rivers, lightly smoked and marinated and recognized widely as a special delicacy. I served the fish raw, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, and the pink flesh was so tender it melted in one's mouth.
At my insistence Gleb agreed to submit to a physical examination and I heaved a sigh of relief. But I had not expected that his rigid sense of duty would prevent him from staying at home.
"No, Lisa," he said with determination, "I'm not staying at home. If I need medical treatment I'll go to the military hospital. We're not here to play together. I'm a soldier first and last."
I was shocked and aghast. As a nurse and his wife, didn't I have the right to take care of him?
"I'm not going to stay at home like a baby." He looked at me sternly. "Ridiculous. I must submit to military discipline the same as everybody else, and that requires hospitalization for a complete physical."
His tone offended me. Such obstinacy seemed inconceivable, and all this for what I regarded as an exaggerated principle. Surely he could walk across the street for his tests and X rays.
While he packed a few things I stood there, refusing to help. "Won't you come and visit me, Lisa?" he pleaded wistfully, his voice very soft and loving. He got no answer. "Please come!" I'll be so lonesome without you."
My ears were deaf and stubbornly I refused to return the kiss he pressed on my cheek as he left. For the passion of love is perversely self-centered, and even in its most ennobling forms fundamentally powered by the natural all-pervading impulse of self-protection and self-preservation.
The following two days passed by miserably. I was still too painfully hurt to accept the situation. Finally I could keep it up no longer. At the hospital the strong odor of disinfectants irritated me and I noticed with disgust the soiled gowns of the orderlies. I asked for Gleb and found him among several officers in a large bare ward. He lay there smiling and patient on the dismal hospital cot, with none of the comforts I yearned to lavish upon him at home. The sight of him caused resentment to surge up within me anew. Inwardly and in self-defense, I cursed the patient resignation with which he mastered every situation. Against my will I envied him his incorruptible spirit.
I could hardly bear the look of unconcealed happiness that came into his eyes at the sight of me.
"You came at last," he whispered with no trace of reproach. "I've waited so long!"
He turned toward me, moving closer in a vain attempt to conjure a sense of privacy, and pressed my hand to his lips. Full of conflicting feelings, I could not speak.
He told me that he was coming home soon, that they had given him extended leave, that nothing was wrong with his lungs, and that he had to have another X ray.
"Is it nice at home—warm and cozy?" He had been dreaming of the comforts of home. I sat there until the end of the visiting time, speaking little, but gradually regaining my composure and peace of mind.
A few days later Gleb came home from the hospital. Meanwhile, he had received the proposal that he become an instructor at the machine-gun school, but he said very little about it.
One evening he complained of a bad headache. His face was flushed. I felt his pulse; it was racing. He told me that he had had chills during the afternoon while I had been away at the market.
The doctor came, the same one who had looked after him at the hospital. He was a tall, slightly bowed man with a serious, deeply furrowed face. With slow measured movements he gave Gleb a thorough examination. Then he stood there, pensively stroking his Vandyke beard. "Typhoid, I'm afraid. But we'll know in a couple of days."
Filled with anxiety, I asked if my husband would have to be taken to the hospital. Couldn't I look after him here?
The doctor gave me a penetrating look that lasted half a minute. "Sisteritsa," he said finally, "you shall nurse him here—by my orders."
I was unspeakably relieved. Later I understood that this arrangement also solved the doctor's problem of quarantine in the most practical way.
When I returned after seeing the doctor to the door, Gleb had fallen into a fitful sleep punctuated by jerking movements and incoherent mutterings. For a long while I stood watching him, and I realized from experience that a hard battle for his life lay ahead.
Confirmation of the doctor's diagnosis came the next day. After the precipitate climb on the first day, characteristic of a severe case of typhoid fever, Gleb's temperature remained typically high. With all the anxiety of one whose love is mercilessly drawn into the battle of life and death, I nursed him with detached skill and resolute tenderness.
The dim room was oppressively quiet, the hours trailed, the days passed, and there was no change. For hours he would sink into an unmoving torpor. His heavy quietude might easily have been mistaken for restoring sleep had it not been for the deep unnatural flush upon his cheeks. And then, feeling my hand on his, he might awaken and smile up at me feebly. He would make an effort to speak, but his words would trail off into delirious mutterings, sometimes turning into excited shouts. I whispered soothing words to ease his restlessness. Unheeding, he would fight me until exhaustion at last forced him back against his crumpled pillow.
Dunya watched the regular comings and goings of the doctor and my elaborate precautions against the spread of contagion with hostile and suspicious eyes. All the used linen, everything we touched in the sickroom I plunged into a large tub. And when, after the appropriate period of soaking in disinfectant, I called to her to come and pick up the linen to get it washed, I could see the unspoken protest forming on her bloodless lips: This is an outrage! In the pesthouse this man should be, not here infecting my master's house! But she dared utter no word against the doctor's authority. Or perhaps I failed to hear her mutterings, wrapped as I was in a defensive silence, absorbed in the fight for Gleb's life.
Days dragged into weeks. Gradually I could no longer visualize the possibility of a recovery from so virulent and protracted an onslaught. My hopes that he would pull through dwindled.
I sat there beside him, tense, watching his breathing, and the suspense of waiting for an unknown outcome banished weariness. The lamp shed its shaded light upon the green cloth of the night table and the book in front of me. Except for Gleb's breathing, the room was deathly still. Was there in that hard, slightly staccato rhythm a dreaded stertorous sound? Rooted to the spot, I stared at his heaving chest in a paroxysm of fear.
Many minutes passed. Gleb stirred, flung his arm over his head. "Lisa?"
I bent over him, my knees trembling.
"What are you reading?" His words came in a whisper. What strange lucidity!
"Anna Karenina." I had difficulty getting the words past the lump in my throat.
"Tolstoi." He sighed happily. "I love Tolstoi. Read 'loud—for me." He closed his eyes.
I began to read aloud haltingly, with an effort. Was this a new phase of the illness leading toward the end? Was it possible his life was slipping away before my eyes? I dared not look for fear of seeing the signs of death gathering upon his face. He lay so strangely still. My heart beat suffocatingly, drummed in my ears. I could not control my voice, but I kept on reading. He doesn't hear me any more, I thought. The words stuck...
"Why did you stop? Go on, Lisa." He looked up as I bent over him and smiled.
"How do you feel?" I touched his hand and it was cool.
"Fine. Just tired. I'd like to listen some more—then sleep."
I went on reading, and gradually my anxiety disappeared. The fever obviously had left him. A peaceful calm fell over the dim room. All was quiet and I read on, and the relief that came from these thoughts was so great that weariness sank over me like a pall. My head came to rest on the open pages of the book. When I looked up again, Gleb was sleeping quietly.
His convalescence stretched into many weeks. Regaining the strength the high fever had drained from him became a long uphill struggle. On many occasions jagged peaks of high temperature appeared on his chart, filling me with fears of a relapse. Long before he was able to hold the book in his own hands we had reached the end of Anna Karenina.
The day came at last when he was able to sit up on the sofa id front of the fire. With the return of his strength a great urge came over him to set thoughts into form and images into words. An impulse to create in whatever form, music or drawing or writing, drove him. For the first time in his life circumstances provided the necessary leisure and tranquility to formulate and to carry out the great projects of his dreams.
Gleb began writing a novel. Plans for this story about life in Russia before the Revolution had occupied his mind during the tedious pain-ridden years of enforced idleness at the prison camp in Germany and later at Horserod. Parts of it had already taken form during the time we spent at Vonga. Now he worked on it throughout the days and evenings. He read parts of it to me while we sat before the fire. In his absorption he almost forgot his mission as a soldier.
These were memorable evenings when, through Gleb's sensitive interpretation on the pages of his growing manuscript, he imparted to me his own native understanding of Russia. More significantly he rendered Russia, now no longer wrapped in obscurity, acceptable to me as a reality unalterable in substance, evolved naturally from the constitution of the land, the people, their culture and history.
When this happy intermission far too soon came to an end and we were once again swept into the mainstream of events, Gleb's novel was well advanced.
The question of our return to Pinega was no longer discussed.
Gleb gave up the idea, not without regret. The advance on the Pinega front initiated at the time of his exhausting patrol behind the lines continued. It spread like wildfire and included a major advance on all fronts from Pinega to the Murman Railway. Hard- pressed on the Kotlas front in the south, which threatened the way to Moscow, and to prevent a breakthrough there, the Bolsheviks withdrew part of their forces from the Pinega front, and the decreased Red resistance allowed our troops to make significant advances across vast empty territories in the direction of the Urals and Siberia. Simultaneously Admiral Kolchak succeeded in reaching the Urals. In the south General Wrangel, who had taken over the command of the White armies there, was advancing upon Moscow , and in the west Yudenich stood at the gates of Tsarskoe Selo. Under the concerted pressure of these encircling White armies, the Reds were being pushed back gradually and relentlessly.
Had the departure of the Allies in the north actually been of little military significance? So it would seem. And might it not also have acted as an incentive to secure our position and to unite the divided people? Had the political prospect of replacing the dictatorial autocracies of the old regime as well as of the Communists with a healthy and just democracy exercising lessened pressure and spilling less blood actually gained enough in appeal to rekindle morale?
Wishing with all his heart that he could take an active part in these exciting events, Gleb followed the march of the white pins on the map with shining eyes. His enthusiasm was contagious. Indeed, the whole of Archangel was caught in a mood of high spirits and expectancy. Everybody exultantly talked of victory. It was assured, it was inevitable. Brief notes came from Sergei in Pinega. And then, quite unexpectedly, he appeared in person. He had been posted to Murmansk and was on his way there. He remarked sarcastically on the general euphoria. In his opinion, it was premature. And the arguments raged long into the night for and against ultimate success.
But the advance continued. Now the lakes and the rivers lay hard frozen and secure underfoot and the forests stood deep in snow, facilitating the maneuvers of our well-supplied and well-fed troops. Starvation among the enemy was an ally on the side of the Whites, demoralizing the adversary and in some localities causing wholesale surrender. The condition of the prisoners was appalling. On wintry trails criss-crossing the wilderness, relief supplies were distributed. The hour of Russia 's deliverance seemed imminent and inescapable.
Then, without warning, the advance on all fronts ground to a halt. The long curving front lines froze in complete inaction. The news shocked us. Why? What had happened? Had the victory been too easy? Had we pushed ahead too fast and too far?
Gleb came up with an explanation. Here in the north the vast, thinly populated areas recently conquered presented grave economic problems. The people were in a state of utter destitution. There were disease, despair, and death to be dealt with, and the reorganization of these enormous territories was obstructed by the deepening winter and the consequent difficulties of and transportation across the great distances. So, Gleb army had to entrench and regroup. Just wait, when spring the offensive can be resumed on all fronts! And his allayed my apprehensions.
By this time Gleb was well enough to take up his duties as instructor at the machine-gun school, and the work interested him. Zinaida Andreyevna's Red Cross hospital was being organized, and she put me in charge of the officers' wards.
The hospital was located in a magnificent private home, recently evacuated by its owners, just across the street from our house. The job of turning these spacious rooms into wards for our sick and wounded was interesting and rewarding. Along the ornate and mir rored walls we placed the comfortable hospital beds left by the Allies, and upon the shiny parquet floors I rolled my rubber-wheeled stretchers and surgical dressing tables. Supplies were plentiful. It must have been heavenly for the patients, after the hardships of midwinter warfare, to be taken into these halls of luxurious comfort and warmth.
Zinaida Andreyevna moved among us in her simple brown cotton frock, the red crest emblazoned upon the black apron and the immaculate veil encircling her rosy, matronly face. The sick men adored her. They clung to her warm hands as she sat down beside them, listening to their troubles and in her deep husky voice speaking to them of the stresses and anxieties she too had suffered and bringing them consolation and renewed courage.
Christmas came. During the short hours of daylight the noondays dazzled with their crisp and frosty luminosity and the nights sparkled with stars. Sometimes, when the moon bathed the landscape in its cold luster or the aurora's resplendent colors spread across the wide heavens, the nights dared compete with the snowy sparkle of the sun-bright days. In the middle of January the Russian New Year was ushered in with peaceable celebrations. Snow was falling, and with every new fall the plowed streets of Archangel had the appear ance of deep ditches between the rising walls of snow. The relax ation of tensions obscured the fact that we were actually living in the rear of a fighting army.
My duties at the hospital were generally light because few wounded were brought in. A man with a frozen foot might require treatment with baths, or a case of acute bronchitis or pneumonia might need careful attention. I learned to apply suction cups, a surprisingly effective treatment for chest conditions. A small cotton-tipped wooden stick was dipped in alcohol, set briefly afire, and then quickly swished inside the cup before it was pressed down on the bare skin. A vacuum was created that made the cup stick to the desired spot, drawing the blood to the seat of infection. Eight or ten cups might be applied for ten or fifteen minutes, leaving the area a mass of rich coloration. The days of antibiotics were at that time still far away.
We spent the evenings quietly with the firelight playing softly upon the shadows of the room, Gleb absorbed in his writing or reading aloud from the growing manuscript. Friends dropped by for a glass of tea. Among these was Musmann, one of Gleb's fellow instructors at the machine-gun school. He was a giant of a man with a full ruddy face, an ample brown moustache, and the clumsy movements of an enthusiastic puppy. He showed an appealing en joyment and trust in Gleb's friendship. His need for companionship became his admission into our home every night of the week.
Occasionally a sharp reminder of the fleeting nature of our peace interrupted our everyday preoccupations. Muffled drums sounded in the distance, approaching, and the compelling dirge drew us to the window to watch the slow, hesitating march of soldiers with reversed rifles, an open coffin carried high on the shoulders of the bearers. The cold still face upon the white satin pillow belonged to one of Gleb's fellow officers.
In the night the report of a gun sounded close by our window and brought Gleb out of bed, tense and alert. But it was only a party of carousing soldiers. Gleb crept back to bed and tucked his revolver under the pillow.
To inspire confidence, our crack regiment, the First Archangel Reserves, was often ostentatiously shown off, marching up and down the Troitsky Prospekt. Their ankle-length greatcoats flapped against their high polished boots, their arms swung smartly in time with their full-toned singing. These troops looked good and their loyalty was unquestionable. Revolts and riots? With troops like these there was no reason for fear. When spring came—ah, then the final march upon Petrograd would take place! Anything less than success was unthinkable.
One day at the end of January, an unexpectedly large number of wounded was brought into the hospital. Curiously, nearly all of them were officers. Before evening my wards were filled to over flowing. They came in shocked silence, not a moan to be heard, not an anguished cry of pain. Their faces were drawn. One man with a bullet wound in the back of his neck needed no words to explain from where that shot had been fired. Another, a tall dark fellow with his arm torn to shreds, whispered apologetically, "A shot from behind ..." as if to excuse himself for not having been quick enough to face it.
A third one, a powerful athletic man, came in with his jaw shattered. The self-inflicted wound from a weapon awkwardly aimed at a moment of appalling shock had felled him without killing him, and he was saved only to become the prey of a numbing hysteria that robbed him of the power or the will to speak when he regained consciousness. He lay there mute, lacking words to tell exactly what had happened to him; only his eyes expressed deeply and wildly the anguish he had endured.
At the end of that awful day we knew that the Third Fusiliers, stationed at the Kotlas front, had turned upon their officers in revolt.
I returned home exhausted. Gleb was not there. At last I heard his footsteps in the hall. He came in silently. I waited for him to speak. At length I could not stand his silence any longer.
"What is happening?"
A long minute passed before he answered, "This, Lisa, is the beginning of the end." He spoke quietly, as if a different course of events could never have been imagined.
The end? What did lie mean? I have often wondered if at that very moment what actually was going to happen suddenly stood before him crystal clear, as a shadowy contour emerges sharply when a dark cloud slips off the face of the full moon. "But everything was going so well!"
"What we took for strategic retreats on the other fronts turned out to be routs. Kolchak in the east and Wrangel in the south are withdrawing as fast as they can. Yudenich too, and we don't know the reason. But without their support, what chances have we here in the north to succeed? It is fate," he added. The emergency demanded a solution. "What can we do?" "Nothing." He sounded very tired. "We can do nothing but wait."
So we waited. Everybody around us remained unruffled, as if what had happened at the front did not concern us here at the rear. It was, they said, nothing but an isolated incident. But the seething beneath the surface? Did no one realize the tremors of the pre carious foundation upon which rested the existence of the government of northern Russia and its White army, ruled by Miller and his old-fashioned generals? No one but the officers at the front knew, those who had seen it happen, who had encountered the opposition with their own flesh and blood; only they knew and understood the under currents of revolt and hatred, the stark irresistible power of the Revolution and its triumph.
And they did not talk. What could we do? Gleb and I carried on as usual, working at our posts during the day, returning home to spend the evenings before the fire. All was as it had been, except that the carefree insouciance that had blossomed in other days was gone now. The music was muted.
One day as we went for a walk after Sunday service in the cathedral, we noticed that all the icebreakers that regularly shuttled between Archangel and Murmansk had disappeared. Not a single one could be seen at the moorings along the river, nothing but the yacht Yaroslav and a destroyer. What was the reason for this? If Archangel should fall, these ships were our only means of escape. Was it possible that our military leaders were not at this critical moment planning for an orderly evacuation of their loyal officers and men? To us this was a shocking discovery, and we returned home filled with dire forebodings.
On my arrival at the hospital in the morning a few days later, somebody told me that Zinaida Andreyevna had left. I was aghast, I couldn't believe it. She the faithful, the shining example of loyalty and duty, deserting her hospital!
"She left by sleigh during the night to join her husband," someone whispered. That explained it. She had told me some time ago that the general had been sent on a diplomatic mission to Karelia. I had felt sorry for her, having to be separated from him. But my disappointment persisted.
I found the hospital in a state of total dissolution. Officials and staff officers came and went. They spoke to some of the men, then left. During the forenoon those of the wounded and the staff who wished to be evacuated were taken aboard the Yaroslav. By noon half the hospital was empty and I went home for dinner.
Gleb was walking restlessly around the apartment, waiting for me. He said calmly, "Lisa, you must leave with your Red Cross unit. The front has collapsed. The Reds will be here in Archangel in one or two days."
"I'm leaving tonight by sleigh with the machine-gun school and what's left of the garrison." He spoke casually, as if talking of an ordinary journey. "Our orders are to get to the Murman Railroad, to hold the front there."
"Then I'm leaving with you tonight!"
There was a pause. "Is that your decision?" he asked at length. His question implied simply his acceptance of a foregone conclusion, and I had no feeling of having made a significant decision. "I'll be back in the evening. Pack a few things, especially warm clothes. Make it light so we can carry it on our backs. Pack as if we were going on a picnic." He gave a single shout of laughter at his flippancy, but instantly had himself under control again. Action at last. I felt elated and very confident. Back at the hospital I found no need to stay at my post any longer. The wards were nearly empty. Only a few officers and a nurse remained. They had refused to leave.
At home I brought out the seven trunks and began packing the various trivia gathered during the happy time now at an end, all the little things that make a home warm and dear. I gazed a long time at the beautiful Royal Danish tea service before wrapping each piece carefully and putting it away. All my dresses and Gleb's clothes that we would have no need for on the "picnic" I also packed away.
In a light suitcase and a brown duffel bag I put together warm shirts, socks, blankets, a few toiletries, cans of food. On the writing table by the window was my father's large portfolio of finely worked leather, now Gleb's possession. It contained our love letters. Beside it were Gleb's notebooks, his manuscripts. I could not bring myself to destroy them, and they must not be left behind, so I emptied the duffel bag and put the portfolio and the notebooks at the bottom. Then I folded a few trinkets, two rings and a gold chain studded with baroque pearls, Tante Jessy's last gift, into a ?100 note we had bought recently for an emergency. This I sewed tightly into the brown cover of a first-aid dressing and then I pinned the whole thing into the knot of my hair.
Dunya was in the kitchen, and then I saw her sneaking up close to my half-open door. There was an ugly sneer on her pale sallow face. Treacherous Red cat!
I closed the trunks, locked them, and pushed the suitcase and the duffel bag into the hall. Then I sat down by the fire and gazed at the empty room, waiting for Gleb. At last he came.
"You're to travel with the chief's wife, Nina Aleksandrovna," he told me. "Your sleigh will be here about nine. We'll be following. Just go on, don't stop! At the first village on the other side of the river we'll meet again."
It was curious that at this moment, when we were about to start out on our momentous flight from Archangel separately, I did not feel the slightest anxiety about Gleb's safety. There would be many hours before we would be together again. For a moment we held each other close. And then without another word he was gone.
Dunya stood leaning against the kitchen door. She had seen what had passed between us, heard what was said. I caught her derisory glance at the trunks, and my temper mounted. I realized that as soon as I was out of the door she would take covetous possession of them. Oh, no, I would rob her of the perverse pleasure of acquiring them by default! In a white rage I swept up the keys from the table, and there must have been plain hatred in my eyes as I glared at her. I threw the keys at her.
"Oh, no, Dunya, you're not going to take them! I'm giving them to you!" I shouted at her. My vehemence startled her, but the fine point of my intended checkmate ricocheted disappointingly against her dour wits.
The sleigh was at the door. Without a backward glance I walked out of the house. The chief's pretty wife motioned me to the seat beside her. Nina Aleksandrovna's dainty person almost disappeared in an abundance of furs, and I caught the fleeting whiff of expensive perfume. Her dark eyes glinted with subdued excitement in her rosy face. The soldier coachman stuffed my baggage under the wolf skin robe at our feet. Slowly and deliberately he headed the single horse out into the Troitsky Prospekt.
A fierce blizzard swept the snow around the corners of the houses and the wind stung our faces. The street was almost empty. Only one or two dark figures were hurrying along the sidewalk, huddled deep into the collars of their greatcoats. The fall of Archangel into the hands of the Bolsheviks still seemed a hallucination mocking reality.
The horse picked its way down the embankment step by step and out on the snow-covered river. Not another living soul was to be seen. We were alone on a crazy flight into the vast white emptiness. Our straining horse plodded through the trackless snow. Presently the whirling mass, swept high before the hissing gale, swallowed the last twinkling light of Archangel. And there was nothing.