IT relieved me greatly to find that one of the broad handsome streets fanning out from the open place in front of the station was indeed the Myasnitskaya. It could not be very far to number 18. With energetic steps I started off with my bundles on my back, not even glancing at the street numbers.
Tall office buildings lined both sides of the street; of course, nobody could be living there. This must have been an important business section before the Revolution. Now the gray stone of the walls was scarred by bullet holes, sad evidence of the bloody street battles that occurred here in 1917. The stores at street level, spacious and once probably well appointed, were nothing but hollow shells, their empty windows either boarded up or plastered with revolutionary posters: "Down with the bourgeoisie!" "Workers of the world, unite!" "Long live the Revolution of Workers and Peasants!"
But where was number 18? Aghast, I discovered that the next numbers was 1120. So the numbers must start at the other end. Where? At the center of Moscow ? How far? The street led gently uphill. I walked on and on and my bundles became heavier until they seemed like lead. The evening was hot, with the kind of dry inland heat that sometimes strikes unexpectedly out of season. The sweat poured down my face, my knees shook from hunger and weariness, and I had to stop often to rest.
A terrible loneliness overwhelmed me. What if the prisoners were not being sent to Moscow after all, but to some other place far away? What if they had lied to us? How would I ever find Gleb again? I sank down on my bundles and sat there for a long while. What if I couldn't find Nikolai Leonidovich Grigoriev at Myasnit skaya 18? What would I do then? Where would I go? When Gleb was in Moscow two years ago on that near fatal trip, the Grigorievs were there. He had visited them. Much could have happened since then. My imagination refused to reach any further. How long was this street? How far to number 18?
Now the scenery began to change. There were churches and apartment houses with offices on the ground floor. Across the street I saw to my surprise the letters S. K. F. on a window. They were the initials of the famous Swedish ball-bearing company. The place did not look as if it were abandoned. Could there possibly be any of my countrymen still left in Moscow ? Again I stopped to catch my breath and to rest. A red streetcar crowded beyond limit rumbled noisily down the street. Clusters of people clung around the en trances.
I sat down on one of my bundles to look around. A man stumbled over the other one. Enraged, he yelled at me, accusing me of trip ping him. I was shocked into silence. The next number was 24. It could not be very far now. There was number 20 and there, just beyond it, number 18 blinked down at me from a small lantern- shaped entrance light. With a hollow sound my steps echoed under the vaulted passage into the yard. A man came toward me on his way out.
"Please, does Nikolai Leonidovich Grigoriev live here?" I asked timidly. He pointed at a back entrance across the courtyard, and I heaved a deep sigh of relief.
My heart pounded as I dragged myself and my bags up the narrow backstairs. Outside door number 7 I waited, nervous and excited. Finally I knocked.
Hurried footsteps sounded within and the next instant the door opened. A short woman in a light-gray dress confronted me. Her soft eyes looked tired. Her nearly white hair was brushed back, and little curls escaped to frame the upper part of her pale face. Her smooth skin lay in flaccid folds and her lips looked anemic. I asked for Nikolai Leonidovich.
"I'm his mother," she said. "He'll be home soon." She looked at me searchingly.
"I am Luisa Oskarovna Kirilina."
Her pale face suddenly lit up with motherly kindness. She must once have been very pretty.
"Come in, child," she said softly, and there was a warm welcome in her voice. "You are Gleb Nikolayevich's wife, aren't you? My son has often spoken of you. Your husband was here a few years ago. We heard nothing from him afterward and we have often worried about him, wondering what happened to him."
The room was dingy and overcrowded. A large oval table occupied most of the space and was set for supper. A cooking stove and a small sink were crowded into one corner; pails and boxes were ranged along the walls. Obviously the room was too full to be kept in order.
Anastasia Denisovna drew forth a chair. "Sit down," she said. "You look tired—you must be hungry. We will soon be having supper." She went about setting dishes on the table, attending to things at the stove.
What a haven of refuge! Without fuss, asking no questions, dirty, lousy, and half starved as I was, she simply accepted me, making me feel as if I belonged, as if I had come home.
Someone came leaping up the stairs outside. "Here is my son now!"
The door opened and there was Nikolai Leonidovich, looking exactly as I remembered him at Horserod. The same round- shouldered figure, the egg-shaped, almost bald head, the plain face with the thick horn-rimmed glasses behind which his eyes were hardly visible. One was vaguely aware that something was wrong with them. Oh, yes, now I remembered, the left one was a glass eye but the right one, acting for two, was doubly keen and alert. Nothing of all this was changed, only the color of his cheeks was of the same pallor as his mother's.
The sight of him brought Horserod back to my mind with overwhelming vividness, the green beech woods, my little room in the tar-scented barracks, those happy, happy days. How remote it all seemed to me now, far away in another world!
"Do you recognize her?" asked Anastasia Denisovna smilingly.
"Luisa Oskarovna!" he cried incredulously, and grasped my hands.
"Gleb's wife now," I said.
"Yes, yes, I knew that! Gleb Nikolayevich t-told me when he was here t-two years ago that he was going to marry you." He stuttered slightly, speaking in jerky sentences. How well I remembered that too! It was so good to see him, good to talk with him. His manner was quiet and his voice as warmly welcoming as his mother's.
The family was gathering for supper. Besides the mother and the son, there was Leonid Semyonovich, the father, a big-framed, stooped man with a sad look in his eyes, who seemed to have aged prematurely. With them was also Anna Petrovna, a tiny vivacious spinster. A certain frivolity was reflected in the sparse frizzy bangs falling over her high white forehead, instantly contradicted by her prudishly floor-length skirts and the prim blouse that was fastened under her chin with an old cameo brooch. She had lived with the Grigorievs since the Bolsheviks had come to power in order to occupy the surplus floor space of the modest apartment. As an old friend and delightful company, she was, of course, much to be preferred as a co-tenant to any stranger the House Committee might have foisted upon them.
The meal was of utmost simplicity, a watery soup made of dried vegetables, potatoes, black bread without butter, tea without sugar or milk. The supper seemed sumptuous to me, I had not eaten for so long, and my hosts' readiness to share the little they had with me touched me to the bottom of my heart.
They wanted to hear all about Gleb. I told them how he had been caught here in Moscow , how he had escaped into Finland and to me, about our marriage and the long journey to Archangel . I told them of our life there in the north on the other side, of the whole mad adventure, of the front collapsing like a flimsy card house, about our flight, how we were intercepted by the Reds, and about our surrender. They listened in silence.
When I had finished, Anastasia Denisovna said, "Poor Gleb Nikolayevich!"
"But," I said, "they are coming here tomorrow, and don't you think that shows they are not in any danger? Why else would the Bolsheviks bring them here? Doesn't that prove that they are intending to live up to the terms of the surrender?" In vain I scanned their faces for confirmation.
They sat silently around the table, sipping their amber tea, smoking their hand-rolled cigarettes. The samovar's simmering was slowly dying out. They had seen so many things happen during the perilous years since the outbreak of the Revolution. They had come through the first days of bloody revolts, the years of merciless reprisals and persecution. So far they had come through the awful suspense of the Red Terror, which had left few families unscathed. Though their son was a former officer, they had managed to survive, partly by sheer luck, partly by the force of their will, by adhering rigidly to a strictly nonpartisan course. It had not been easy, but they had succeeded in adjusting their lives to the demands and sacrifices the new socialistic society imposed upon them, suffering insecurity and privation in silence, but preserving their integrity, living without interruption in their work, and making their cultural contribution too.
"But don't you think—don't you think their being brought here means that they will be released?" I went on, anxiously trying to solicit their confirmation. "Don't you think they will fulfill the terms of the surrender? I am here now—I am Swedish and they still have respect for foreigners. I will find my way into the Kremlin, if I have to, to help Gleb!" In vain I looked into their expression less faces for the smallest sign of reassurance.
At length Anastasia Denisovna said quietly, "Yes, it is better for Gleb Nikolayevich to be here in Moscow . Those who are sent out of Moscow are lost." She fell into a thoughtful silence, but only for a moment; then she smiled. "But now, of course, you are going to stay with us. Anna Petrovna will put you up on the couch in her room."
My most pressing problem was thereby solved, and my relief was as deep as my gratitude. "But what about the House Committee?"
"Don't worry, Luisa Oskarovna, my husband is on the committee and he will be able to arrange it."
Not until much later, when I had lived longer in Soviet Russia, did I fully appreciate the extent of the Grigorievs' spontaneous hospitality, the risk they ran of having their patiently and carefully achieved mode of living severely upset by taking me in.
That night for the first time in two long months I slept undressed between clean white sheets. I had never imagined that being able to use a clean toilet with running water could be so unparalleled a treat. But to get rid of the lice was another matter. Three weeks of washing, laundering, and shampooing elapsed before finally I was able to crush the last louse to death.
The next day Olga Stepanovna told me over the telephone that through her brother-in-law, who held a high position in the Commissariat of Communications, she had obtained official confirmation that the transport carrying the prisoners from Vologda would arrive that night at the Nikolayevsky Station. "And don't worry, I have found out plenty," she concluded enigmatically.
At dusk the three of us met at the station. I was amazed at the well-dressed appearance of my two companions, but said nothing. Far out by a siding we found the platform where Olga had been told the prisoners were to detrain. There, away from the crowds, we sat down to wait. In her rasping voice Olga Stepanovna proceeded to entertain us with a detailed description, liberally salted with witticisms, of her visit to the infamous Lubyanka 2, the headquarters of the feared and merciless Moscow Cheka. Zinaida Vasi lievna, who had been with her, listened with a half-smile while she carefully applied the last touch of makeup to her pretty face.
"Well, Luisa, we did find out who is going to handle their case. Prosecutor Chidnov is the name, a redheaded Jew. Room Thirty- nine. Don't forget! They say he is one of the worst. He told us to come back tomorrow at eleven, he would then be able to tell us which concentration camp our husbands would be in. You had better come with us so you can get your visiting permit. Besides, it's good to know these devils personally and where to find them. Are they ever a sweet crowd! Ha-ha-ha!" She slapped her knee so that her satin slip rustled under her blue serge suit.
Against all expectations, we did not have to wait long for the arrival of the train. Soon the long row of boxcars rolled noisily in on the siding, and there was Gleb. He slipped down to the plat form and came with long strides toward me, bareheaded and eager. The same detachment of soldiers that had guarded the prisoners on the way from Petrozavodsk to Vologda was still with them. They smiled at us and made no attempt to prevent us from approaching the prisoners.
Gleb's face was thinner but he had lost none of his serenity. We stood slightly aside from the others and spoke in whispers. We had only a short moment to be together, and there was so much to say, so much to plan. As the prisoners were being lined up on the plat form, Gleb hastily ran to fetch his bundle and put it at his feet. He was delighted to know that I had found the Grigorievs and was staying with them. It was a great load off his mind. We talked of the chances of his ultimate release. It was then that I became aware of a peculiar change in him. Was it in his manner? Or in his voice or in the way he spoke? I could not tell, but it frightened me. Gleb's level eyes looked down upon me and he smiled, an expres sion of utter tranquility and great tenderness on his face. Suddenly a violent, unreasoned anger consumed me—anger against fate, against Russia the archenemy, against the Bolsheviks, against all those that seemed to claw like vultures at the life of my Gleb.
"What cowards they were, all of them up there in Archangel !" I burst out in French. "Sneaking cowards, Miller and his staff! They knew well ahead of time their position was hopeless, just as well as you and I knew. They knew—yet they sent us on that insane errand to defend a front that was already collapsing while they made sure of their own escape. They left us to be caught like rats in a trap. We could have been saved on those icebreakers. Fools—cowards— goddamn fools!"
"Lisa!" I heard the catch in his voice. The anger evaporated as suddenly as it had overwhelmed me.
"But it's true, isn't it?" I said. An odd shine came into his eyes and he bit his lip to keep it from trembling. A storm of guilt swept over me. Defenseless, powerless, a prisoner, and I had hurt him! Holding his hand tightly I said, "Forgive me, darling!" But he was silent.
Nothing mattered but that he should be safe. Nothing! I tried breathlessly to reassure him, to encourage him: "I'll beg them—force them—persuade them to release you. There's no limit to what I will do to save you!"
Gleb swallowed hard. "Lisa, this you must never forget, and you must never try to change it. I shall never abandon my comrades. Their fate will be mine." Then he added, "I am a soldier, Lisa."
Once again Gleb had pronounced sentence upon himself. He had burned all his bridges, while I stood helpless and impotent. My heart filled with bitterness. Yet I realized that his supreme loyalty to Russia and to his comrades was the vital substance that allowed him to preserve his equanimity.
The prisoners were falling in line and we were permitted to walk through the streets beside our husbands. Gleb held my hand tightly in his. A guard with his bayonetted rifle slung over his shoulder marched next to us. There was no sound except the soft monotonous thuds of marching feet. We were held in a silence more eloquent than words.
"It is time for you to go now, darling. Courage, cherie, for my sake." He pressed my hand lovingly before I slipped past the guard and out of the prisoners' ranks. For a while I stood in the middle of the vast empty street looking after Gleb and his comrades until I could no longer see them or hear the measured beat of their weary feet.
Two days later I sat with Olga Stepanovna and Zinaida Vasilievna on the curb outside the gates of the Ivanovsky monastery, not far from the Myasnitskaya, waiting for visiting hour. The venerable monastery had been turned into a concentration camp for political prisoners. Prosecutor Chidnov, a short man with sharp vindictive eyes, had informed us that our husbands were being held here for the time being. My impression of the man was less than reassuring. All the same, any misgivings my contact with Chidnov might have inspired were at least temporarily dispelled when somebody told me afterward that only prisoners whose cases were not considered hope less and who were scheduled for an early interrogation were im prisoned in the Ivanovsky camp. In times like these, when secrecy shrouded every act of government, when subversion was rife and people lived day and night on the edge of disaster, rumors spread like wildfire and became an indispensable and often quite dependable source of information.
We had allowed ourselves plenty of time. It was only eleven now and the gates would not open until one. We wanted to be among the first to get in, but when we arrived the queue was already form ing. As more mothers and wives and relatives and friends quietly joined the line, the end of it was soon out of sight around the corner of the monastery wall. Each of us carried a basket of food that was to last our men until Friday, the next visiting day.
At this time at least half the population of Moscow belonged to the vast throng of regular prison visitors. There were few who had not known in one way or another the inside of a Soviet prison or a concentration camp. Gaunt and in tattered clothes, their bodies trembling from anxiety and malnutrition, they stood there waiting, waiting to be allowed to extend to the loved one within, if only the a short hour, the warm supporting grasp of love and friendship. No sacrifice of time and strength and effort seemed to them too great to sustain the slender bond between those without and those within. For should it break, heaven help the prisoner!
Two days earlier, in the office behind the window bearing the letters S. K. F., I had found one of my countrymen. It had been a good visit with Mr. Hellman, with whom I could speak freely and who immediately offered to help me.
I had pulled from my hair the brown package with the remaining trinkets wrapped in the ?100 note. He had suggested exchanging the note for gold rubles. They were not subject to the general inflation of the Soviet currency. Afterward, when I needed cash, he would gladly sell them for me at current rates, one by one.
So it happened that I was sitting there this morning on the dirty sidewalk outside Gleb's prison with our whole fortune banked upon my person, sewn securely into the hem of my corselet. Whatever happened now, I would be able to support the two of us until Gleb was released. After that, his wages would probably be far from sufficient to provide us with a decent living, but being a worker or a soldier would entitle him to rations. He who works eats. Special ists, men trained in some skills, were at this time at a premium, good military instructors Eke Gleb especially. There were rumors that war might soon break out between Russia and Poland . Such an event might well hasten Gleb's release. When he got out we would keep strictly out of politics. We would live and work like everybody else, like Nikolai Leonidovich and his father, insisting on nothing, going through the motions. For us, however difficult life might become, being together would make it endurable.
At last the gates opened and the long weary queue sprang to life. Two sour-faced unshaven guards admitted the visitors, searched their parcels, and, when no suspicions were aroused, let them pass into the monastery garden.
As I got through and looked up, I saw Gleb on the slight incline in front of the buildings. Catching sight of me, he came smiling to meet me. He put his arm around me and tenderly led me away from the crowd to a secluded spot by the high monastery wall, now no longer sequestering but shielding and protecting us. We sat down on a richly carved stone bench under the drooping branches of a venerable horse chestnut tree. Pyramids of sticky buds covered the tree and spread a faint fragrance. At our feet fat yellow spears of lily leaves pierced the black soil. In this peaceful place fear seemed to fall away.
At my next visit a week later Gleb had plenty of news to tell me. The promised interrogations of the Archangel prisoners had actually begun. Detailed questionnaires had been distributed and with cautious care Gleb had finally completed his. The need for officers in the army, he said, might well speed up the process. The happy prospect of his being set free played insistently in our minds. The newspapers, I told him, were full of the imminence of war, highly glorifying the opportunity to defend communism on the field of battle. Would this turn out to be the freedom-producing lucky break for us? A war? But as an instructor Gleb would of course not be sent on active duty.
Life in the Ivanovsky camp was quite tolerable; it was in fact both interesting and enlightening. In fantasy Gleb imagined himself being immersed in the actual life of a monk. He loved the old cells and the ancient flagstone-floored passages and dining halls. An atmosphere of high scholarship permeated the place, contrasting oddly with its present function, yet upheld by the type of prisoner segre gated within its walls. Among them were educated and intellectual people. Some were socialists of moderate political conviction, old revolutionaries like Tolstoi, whose views on the methods and goals of the Revolution differed fundamentally from the Bolshevik ideas and who deplored the terror and the ruthless persecution of the intel lectuals. All the prisoners were free to move in and out of the buildings and to associate with one another. Gleb had taken part in long conversations and discussions. He had set himself the task of studying political science and philosophy, with the goal of finding an intelligent solution to Russia 's social ills. The monastery had a large library run by one of the monks, who still remained there—whether as a voluntary or involuntary prisoner Gleb did not know. He spent many hours each day studying in the library. He had also joined the bookbinding workshop. Working with books was one of his greatest interests, and mastering a book craft, he felt, might someday prove valuable.
Among the prisoners he had come across was one of his father's old friends, General Yuri Sasonov, an elderly gentleman with gray hair and a military bearing, whose only crime was being a general. He had been in this camp for fourteen months. He and Gleb had withdrawn into a corner to reminisce about happier days in Tsarskoe Selo. As children Gleb and his brothers had played with the general's daughter, Marya Yurievna. She lived in Moscow and could now look after the old man's most urgent needs.
We met them at the gates. Marya Yurievna was a pretty dark-eyed young woman whose freshness was already beginning to fade. Against her father's wishes—he had wanted her to marry an officer— she had chosen a chinovnik, a civil servant. Her husband now worked in the Narkomindyel, the Commissariat of the Interior. They lived in an apartment on the Nikitskaya, not far from the Myasnitskaya. Would I come home with them to see their baby?
On my next visit to Gleb I could tell him that I was now living in my own small room on the top floor of Myasnitskaya 18, facing the street. I had taken advantage of the Grigorievs' hospitality too long. So when Leonid Semyonovich had been able to arrange with the House Committee for me to have this room, I had moved in. I was now doing my own cooking on a small Primus stove, a priceless apparatus. There was only one drawback to the house: the plumbing was blocked solid. After the October Revolution, when the house was taken over by the proletariat, they had, through carelessness, plugged toilets and sinks to overflowing. And today, two years later, nothing had been done. So I had to run down four flights of stairs to fetch water from a tap and use the outdoor privies in the yard.
"Isn't it a piece of good luck—a place to go to when you come out, a home?" What comfort would it not be to live together in that little room!
Gleb was very pleased. How he longed for the day! Many of the prisoners had already been questioned and they were expecting to be released any day. Gleb had seen Prosecutor Chidnov. He was in the camp every day. The prisoners were being called in alphabetical order and we figured Gleb's turn would come perhaps in a week or two at the latest.
I also told him that Mr. Hellman had brought me in contact with a Mrs. Linder, a Swedish Red Cross worker. She had just arrived from Samara (now Kuibyshev ), where she had worked on the repatriation of German and Austrian prisoners of war. She was some thing of a heroine. Several months earlier she had broken her ankle and it had not been properly set. All the same, while the battles between the Bolsheviks and hordes of liberated Czechs raged, she had stuck to her post alone. At last she had been persuaded to leave. She had arrived in Moscow hobbling miserably, her face gaunt from suffering and overwork, accompanied by Else Lehmann, a German girl she had adopted. Hellman had found them a room not far from his office. It might be weeks before they could get their papers to continue home to Sweden . When visas were to be legally procured and passports officially stamped, Red officialdom almost stalled in its tracks. Mrs. Linder knew my family. She was a charming person, and the longer they stayed in Moscow , the better it was for me.
May Day 1920 broke upon Moscow with an orgy of revolutionary revelry. The streets were hung with bunting, and red banners floated on the gentle breezes of a perfect day. White sheets imprinted with rousing slogans in huge lettering were festooned upon the walls of all public buildings and strung across the streets. Since early morning squads of demonstrators had been marching through the streets from all corners of the city, converging upon Red Square, outside the walls of the Kremlin. As they marched past, bands playing, the "Internationale" reechoed with the beating of the drums.
Everyone who held a job was forced to take part in the demonstrations. For hours the people marched, all day they stood listening to their leaders, past masters of inflammatory revolutionary oratory, until many of them dropped. In their frantic enthusiasm, real or feigned, they shouted themselves hoarse, while some speechlessly drowned their antipathy in the revolutionary din. Nikolai Leonido vich returned home physically and emotionally exhausted.
On this day those of us who were saved from compulsory participation by unemployment stayed behind closed doors in our homes. For us the forced element in the uproarious celebration only accentuated the jarring discord. I wondered if the din reached Gleb in his secluded monastery garden.
A few days later Olga Stepanovna burst unexpectedly into my room while I was preparing Gleb's parcel for the next day's visit.
"Luisa, have you heard the latest?" she rasped, the faint odor of ether perceptibly on her breath, brown eyes dancing. "They have moved a bunch of them to the Pokrovsky camp—the Smirnovs and Boris, but not Gleb. He is still in the Ivanovsky."
I had awakened that morning with a headache and a dull ache in my legs. In fact, I felt ill. And now this! I feared and hated news of sudden changes, and Olga's announcement upset me. What did this mean? Why wasn't Gleb moved with the others? Was this good or bad? Would they now stop the interrogations? I sat down on the bed and began to cry.
"What's the matter, Luisa?" Olga sat down beside me. Suddenly her voice was full of tender solicitude. And it revealed to me a new side of her character, one of warm understanding and loyalty, usually kept concealed under the brash manner she so successfully assumed. Her sympathy only made me cry harder.
"Now, now, Luisa, you haven't heard all the news! Some of the men have been released and they brought a message to Zinaida Vasilievna from her husband. Buck up, girl, things aren't that bad! Soon they will all be released, you'll see!"
I managed to tell her that I was not feeling well, some kind of fever, legs aching, head aching.
"So that's it!" she said. "I'm going to take you right now to see a doctor. I know one not far from here. And then you go off to Chidnov and get special permission to visit Gleb today to tell him that you're not well. After that you go to bed for a few. days and I'll come to see you. And if you have to stay in bed, I'll take care of Gleb's food parcel next week. Now let's get going!"
I felt too miserable to object. While Olga kept up a stream of gruff advice, she bustled about getting my parcel ready. She took my arm and led me down the stairs, out into the street.
The doctor was a swarthy undersized man who immediately subjected me to a thorough examination, plying me with questions. Had I been in contact with lice lately? When? For how long? Under what circumstances?
"Madame, you have contracted a mild form of fever," he said when he had finished. He did not mention the word typhus. "You are to go to bed and stay there until your temperature is back to normal. Light diet, of course, mostly fluids. No need for anxiety. Let me know if you need me again." I slipped him a thousand rubles. Satisfied, Olga Stepanovna now left me, saying she would be back that night to see how I was getting along.
Later that day I was shown into Chidnov's office at Lubyanka 2. He listened to my request with a bland half-mocking smile. To my surprise, he quickly wrote an order that I was to be admitted to the camp at once for a two-hour visit with my husband. Encouraged, I ventured to ask about the prospects of Gleb's release, but he was noncommittal.
Tired and trembling slightly from excitement and exertion, I walked slowly the few blocks to the Ivanovsky camp. These two hours I would give myself completely to the bliss of being with Gleb. It was the fifteenth of May, a lovely spring day. Through a light- blue haze the sun shone softly. It was warm. The many trees growing inside the white-walled gardens, their tender green foliage spreading exquisite fragrance into the air, turned the crooked old street into a pleasantly parklike thoroughfare.
On this remarkable day even the guard at the gate regarded me with an amiable expression. When he had read Chidnov's note, he sent another guard to find Gleb. Within minutes Gleb came down the sloping path toward the gate, slightly perturbed to see me so unexpectedly.
"Lisa, cherie, this is a surprise!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter, darling?" He looked into my face searchingly and his eyes clouded slightly. "Come to our bench under the chestnut tree and tell me all about it."
I reminded him that I had been a bit out of sorts at the last visit, and I told him the whole story. "Now we have two priceless hours together. Let's forget everything else!''
The monastery garden was enchantingly beautiful and peaceful and private. The chestnut tree stood in full bloom. The branches were laden with pyramids of fragrant white stars. Rays of sunlight penetrated between the new leaves and fell upon the path. The entire walled-in monastery court belonged to us two alone. Gently and with infinite tenderness Gleb began to make love to me. There was no aggressive crushing passion in his lovemaking. It was a finely tempered and delicately adjusted affirmation of devotion, a devotion severely tested and gloriously enduring.
The visit ended. Alone I walked slowly down toward the gate. I turned and saw him standing there tall in his khaki outfit, a figure framed within the fine old arches of the monastery. His hair lay sleek upon his head. A thoughtful man of quality and courage, he seemed at this moment supremely master of himself and his life. He waved to me and I waved to him. I walked through the gates filled with joy and pride that he was mine and I was his. And the heavy monastery gates closed creaking behind me.
I remember little of the following week. The high temperature often made me delirious. In clearer moments I felt only a gnawing ache of head and body. In a vain attempt to get back on my feet I devoured aspirin until my heart thumped against my breastbone, and with heavy feelings of premonition I worried despairingly over my inability to go to Gleb. Anastasia Denisovna trudged valiantly up the four steep flights of stairs to my room, bringing me food she thought I might be persuaded to eat. But the very sight of it made me sick and I could not touch it. Never mind, she said, she would be back again tomorrow.
Else Lehmann took over the responsibility of preparing Gleb's food parcels. Towheaded and placid, she went to the black market, ignoring the dangers of imminent arrest during surprise raids. She prepared dainty dishes for him, far tastier and better than I had cooked. For hours she stood in line to deliver them to him. With difficulty I wrote tiny notes of love and encouragement, which we hid inside the bread, telling him not to worry, that I would soon be able to come and see him, and for heaven's sake to take good care of himself. Back came his answers, tender, sweet, perturbed notes, ingeniously secreted in the empty basket.
"Darling, I am so worried about you! Do get well soon. Longing
to see your face again. Interrogation going on, but at a slow pace,
now at letter B. Wish so that I were free and able to take care of
you. Do not try to get up and come to see me until you are well "
A second week passed, and a third. The next Monday Else came back from the camp with the parcel. She had not been able to deliver it. My head in a whirl, heart pounding from apprehension, I sat up.
"An escape," she explained. "Some got away, apparently, but most got'caught as they tried to scale the wall. And all the prisoners have been moved to the Pokrovsky camp. No visiting or food parcels allowed. For a few days."
Terrible, worse than terrible! What was going to happen now? Olga Stepanovna had just told me the night before that her husband had been released and appointed instructor at the military school on the outskirts of Moscow. They were moving out there today. If only Gleb had been released before this crazy stupid dash for freedom at this most sensitive time! Now the interrogations would be interrupted, and heaven only knew what other reprisals and punishment would be imposed! What fools, what utter fools to risk their own chances of liberty, to risk the lives of both themselves and their fellow prisoners by such an irrational attempt!
Else tried her best to comfort me, and she succeeded temporarily. Tomorrow she would be back, and she would go to Pokrovsky camp and find out when parcels could be delivered again. She smiled, gently dosed the door—and I was left with dread gnawing at my heart, numbing every reasonable thought.
The next day one of the released men brought another note from Gleb. It was full of encouraging news. Several of the men were expected to be released shortly. The Pokrovsky camp was not too bad, though not beautiful like the Ivanovsky. The rations were smaller, but working as a bookbinder, Gleb earned an extra half pound of bread a day. Best of all, they were again allowed to receive parcels on Thursdays and Sundays. Now he had only one desire, to know I had recovered and would come to him soon.
But the fever still lingered. My legs refused to support me when I tried to stand, and the temperature, down during the day, rose again at night. I tried to concentrate every thought on becoming strong enough to crawl, if need be, to the camp.
A few days later Anastasia Denisovna brought me another note from Gleb. "A man came with this," she said, and her eyes looked worried. "He guarantees safe delivery of your notes to your husband. Seems parcels and visits are again forbidden. Be careful Luisa Oskarovna," she warned, "don't trust him! But here is his address."
As I read the note, my heart sank. "Darling, if you are well again, I don't know. By now you probably know that parcels and visits are forbidden again. I am sending the note with this man, otherwise communication with you would be impossible. Everything here is the same, I have not yet been questioned, they are only at the letter D, and unless they do it out of turn, as they have with some, it will not be soon. It is hard to stay locked up like this without anything to do and without knowing anything about you. I need all my courage. Only one thought supports me—that you are close —waiting as I do for the day of our reunion. When—oh, when? I hate to see the best days of spring pass by without even being able to go outside. My darling, be strong and let us hope the days of separation will soon end, as happened last year when you came to Archangel . Send your reply, and something to eat if you have it, with this man. If visits are not allowed on Sunday I will send you another message. Please give him a thousand rubles for me and be sure you make a list of all that you send me. There are rumors that all infantry officers will be sent to the Kochechovo camp, twelve miles outside Moscow . If true, it would be inconvenient for us. How I long to see you, my dearest! I kiss you a thousand times! Your own Gleb."
That night worrisome thoughts crowded in upon me. Sometimes they made me sit up in bed with heart pounding as I imagined the worst. A voiceless shout relieved the tension, discharged the pent-up fears, and momentarily calm returned. Why was he locked up inside the camp? If they were moved to that camp outside Moscow , inter rogations would again be interrupted. Why, why? In any case, it appeared now that the best we could hope for was prolonged imprisonment. Incidents of "forgotten" prisoners were not uncommon, but as long as his life was spared, even that idea seemed tolerable. I would find out about this other camp and arrange to live close by. Others before me had followed wherever their husbands had been taken. Even Siberia could not frighten me. Supporting each other, sharing whatever life brought ... I loved him so! And at last I fell into a troubled sleep.
Else had gone to the strange man with a note and a parcel for Gleb and I was waiting for her return.
When she came her face was strangely disturbed. She was pale and looked at me with eyes full of sympathy. She handed me back my note and parcel.
"They are all gone." She pronounced the words with difficulty. "Last night. The man thought they had been taken to the station."
An icy chill settled upon me. A frantic scream gathered in my throat. One single thought pounded endlessly in my mind:
"Those who are sent out of Moscow are lost—lost—lost!"