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Austria, and late of the old even as the inchoate medley of Austrian army.
This would the so-called Indian army. It permit him to walk about with would help the subaltern to be comparative safety amongst able to point to this bow, exthe thousands of Magyar, Aus-cept that there was a danger trian, and German war pris that some too effusive Rouoners who thronged the streets, manian ally might burst inand would even save him from opportunely into welcome. The having to answer questions. possibility needed forethought ;
Ostensibly he could speak the subaltern could only sugRoumanian, English with a gest an extemporised gumboil Chicago flavour, and only a and bandage. smattering of Russian or Ger The uniform and papers had man. He might, thus equipped, to be fetched from the dwellemploy the “idiot-boy" method ing of a brother “Falcon," to when questioned by Red patrols whom they had been beand so make his way with luck queathed, and who kept them to the Sart's farm.
as a sheet - anchor. Xenia's Xenia's case was more diffi- plans had necessarily to be cult, for Bielschapska, their amorphous. The subaltern inguardian angel, had decided sisted on seeing her safely out that she should carry the Plan. of Beshkent before he would
They talked over the matter, make his own bow to the Reds. weighing the pros and cons of For the moment she was to many plans, for a number of be equipped with two or three hours, and discovered by dis- alternative disguises provided cussion and thought insuper- by sister “Falcons." They able objections to all these suc- hoped most from the white cessive proposals.
burqa 1 and stiff rectangular Well on towards the day they black chasband 2 of horsehair were visited by another “Fal- of a Sartianka, below which con," also a Polish girl, who would peep tiny knee-boots of was to provide the Austrian soft crinkled Persian leather uniform, documents, and other embroidered in the green-anddetails. These would include a red tracery and love-knots of bow of the Roumanian national old Kashmir. The ample folds colours to be worn above the of the ankle-long burqa gave “F. J. I.” (Franz Josef Impe- room for papers and the like. rator) on the field-grey shako. At last a plan of sorts, which This sporting of national col- still gave plenty of chinks for ours had become the usual disaster to creep in by, shaped thing amongst the heterogen- itself out. eous mass of nationalities that Iwwaz Bai was an important made up the old Austrian army, adjunct; he knew Beshkent
1 White cotton cloth, covering head and face.
3 Sart lady.
2 Musalman woman's veil.
well, so arrangements were made made to be overcome. They to fetch him in.
rested, slept, and ate during Xenia, garbed as a lass once the day, and Iwwaz Bai premore, was to go to the railway pared a ragged-looking bundle station that evening, plant her- wherein was some Musalman self inconspicuously in a car- bread and a gourd of water. riage whilst the north-bound Xenia sorted her papers : she train was being marshalled on was supposed to be a school a siding, and trust to dodging teacher, transferred to the eleany one who seemed to want mentary school at Semitubinsk. to inspect passes or tickets. It The train would leave at halfshould be remembered that any past eight. one who wished to travel by Before seven, then, they clamtrain had to have a pass from bered out of the attic window the Soviet, as no one was sup- for the last time after a sorrowposed to use the railway except ful leave-taking. on Soviet business. This pass The subaltern made his own they could not obtain. The way towards the station, deapproaching of the right bureau- termined to see Xenia safely crat in the right way was too off before making for the Sart's long a business for them in farm himself. the day.
Everything and every one Iwwaz Bai would accompany seemed suspicious, and he her disguised as a native ser- walked along the streets with vant. Once the train was well his heart in his mouth. He out on the steppe, towards the was glad to lie down in the station of Semitubinsk or there- tangle of a shrubbery alongabouts, they might jump off it side the station buildings, from in the dark. It slowed down whence he could watch the to a footpace every now and siding. Xenia, he could see, , then for many reasons.
was already in her carriage, Once clear of the train, and Iwwaz Bai was there atIwwaz Bai would secure a tending to her in a most countercouple of ponies from some revolutionary way. chance encampment of wan Then in the feeble light dering Kirghiz, and they would there slouched up a slantride back to the Sart's farm shouldered, round-backed figure together. There were two great in tight breeches and highdangers in this. Firstly, Xenia heeled knee-boots, a peaked might be caught before the cap askew on his head. He train started from Beshkent stopped as he caught sight of Station ; secondly, they might Xenia, who, as ill-luck would find no Kirghiz on the steppe, have it, happened to glance and wander about hopelessly out of the window of the high till they dropped from thirst flat-sided carriage. and exhaustion.
The subaltern cursed and Obstacles, however, were seethed with impotent rage as
he realised that the new-comer lounging and spitting about it. had recognised her. He waited Their rifles—ancient and unfor an arrest. Rather to his tended Vetterlis and Berdans surprise this did not come. - stood in a rack. The man instead talked oilily A little circle gathered round to her, smirking and preening the four. They were confronted himself. Gradually the sub- by some one who was evidently altern realised that this was a Red official. The subaltern one of the jelly-fish breed of slunk in through the door, and ci-devant officer who drifted jammed himself into the crowd with the tide, putting up with of onlookers, fingering a hipwhatever the Reds might choose. pocket tenderly. He had known Xenia in former The ex-officer was disposed days, and was now trying to of at once, and hustled out renew a most unwelcome ac- with a kick into the paved quaintance. Xenia bore the station - yard and the outer trial well, but nothing she could dark. The commissar glowered do could rid her of the man, at Xenia and Iwwaz Bai, and who seemed to imagine a con- started, after a few blood-curdquest.
ling remarks, to search the Soon a blowsy Red guard small trunk which she had. lurched up with rifle and fixed “Now comes the time," bayonet. He tackled both the thought the subaltern. “This ex-officer and Xenia, demanded is the big crisis : the Plan is who they were and their papers. probably in that box." A locomotive pushed the car All that heart-in-the-mouth riage and the little group al- feeling had gone from him ; most out of the subaltern's he felt quite calm, as if nothing sight. An altercation seemed now mattered very much. He to arise; the Red hauled the patted his hip-pocket again, knock-kneed one towards the which gave him a snug feeling, guardroom, and then clam- and glanced at the position of oured for Xenia, whom he the rifle-rack. Fortunately, it addressed as “my pigeon," to was in a corner, and the subcome along as well. Iwwaz altern determined that he Bai followed humbly, carrying should be between it and his a trunk and a bundle.
opponents when the lead began The four disappeared into to fly. the guard-room of the station ; Meanwhile the pompous sourthe subaltern followed cau- faced official, who seemed to tiously, and peered through the be a commisar of the Controdirty cracked window. The Svietka itself, was rummaging room had in pre-revolutionary through the trunk. Through times been the station buffet. all this Xenia Dimitrievna stood It was now bare except for a and faced her death without a battered counter and a score quiver and without a change of unclean Red soldiers of sorts, of colour. Garment after frilly
garment came out, the soldiers thought the subaltern, was the gibed lewdly, and it was half Plan! empty when a big unshaven He could hardly believe his man elbowed his way in. He eyes and ears when he saw the was incongruously dressed in pair likewise hustled into the European clothes of grubby empty courtyard. He slipped grey flannel. He looked, out like an eel in a bucket of paused, and spoke to the com- oil, and met them in the missar. As far as the subaltern black shadow under a tree, could follow his quick speech, The train was still in the he was that bureaucrat's chief station. He whispered a few assistant.
sentences to them and darted There were some important off running, regardless of every papers waiting in the bureau one, along the side of the to be signed. The pompous line. man looked still more pompous He stumbled through the and bureaucratically important sheds of the goods-yard and behind his round spectacles. amongst countless points and The big man offered to com- switches. Well clear of everyplete the search so that his thing, he came to a signal-lamp superior might go to sign those that showed green in a round papers.
white metal disc that turned This caused a little diversion. atop of a five-foot steel pillar. The superior at last stalked off, He kicked and tore at a rusty and the search continued. It iron pin: he could hear the seemed less thorough in the train starting. At last the pin hands of the big man, but the fell out. As the engine rumelbowing Red soldiers missed bled slowly towards him he little. One emptied the trunk, turned the red light towards jabbing a knife in to find a it, and vanished into a culvertpossible double bottom; an- pipe. other snatched Iwwaz Bai's With groans and screechings little bundle. He held up the of brakes and shouts, the train quilted cotton abbah 1 that came to a standstill. People wrapped it, and ran his fingers jumped out and a little crowd down the seams, throwing it formed, whilst the engineman down with a curse at finding and brakesman and a gang of nothing.
conductors walked jabbering The big man commanded the to the signal. He saw Xenia replacement of everything in and Iwwaz Bai mingle with the trunk, and went on to a that little crowd. After ten little homily on the wickedness minutes' vociferation and cursof trying to trick the officials ing of signalmen the engine of the Revolution. Luck seemed staff replaced the pin, judging to be turning again, but where, that it had fallen out by acci
VOL. CCXV.-NO. MCCC.
dent. The subaltern saw the had noticed had not worried train start with his two com- about an odd Austrian more or rades on board. A sudden less. impulse seized him, and he He had lost his bearings sprang at an open doorway. pretty completely. After a
No one seemed to see him, search he came to a verstand soon he found the two post of the railway. It showed looking happy amongst a huddle a huge figure giving the disof sheep-skinned Kirghiz and tance from Moscow. He racked long-cloaked Sart farmers. His his brains trying to remember Austrian uniform forbade him the verstage to Beshkent, and the train, but no official could after a severe mental struggle see him for the moment; the decided that he was about fivecarriage was almost dark, but and-twenty versts outside. He for a woollen wick spluttering hoped that this meant he was in a tin tray of sheep's fat. through the cordon, and that Xenia quickly indicated that he would merely have to go the Plan was safe : Iwwaz Bai across country eastward for a had sewn it into the lining of the few miles to find the Sart's cotton cloak that covered his farm. bundle ; the Red soldier's fin It was farther than he exgers must have passed within pected, and the way was hard an inch of it. The subaltern to find. For hours he blundered marvelled at Xenia's courage as through irrigation ditches and she had looked at this without patches of snow in unfamiliar a blench, or a flutter of the eye- surroundings. Once he lay in lid.
the big furrows of a vineyard He dared not stay for long: to escape a patrol. At last, his uniform would betray them in the open country, he struck all if a conductor walked down the path they had first used to the carriage ; hidden amongst reach the farm. He noticed the loyal Muhammedans they tracks leading north along it. were safe until the time came Another mile of groping found for the jump. He left them, him at its mud walls. Slowly and as the train passed a soft- he pushed open the rough unlooking level patch of under- painted doorway to find it growth where trees gave a deserted. black shadow, jumped for it, Further search showed fresh thinking as he did it of the bullet-marks on the walls, and London buses tearing down blood-stains. He searched for past No. 96 Piccadilly. That a certain rafter in a cowtrain was not going so fast as byre. Pulling it out towards those buses, and he landed him, from its recess in the soft. Hidden amongst the trees mud wall, he found a piece he watched the train rumble of homespun cotton cloth like into the darkness ; no one a handkerchief.
a handkerchief. Two sides of had noticed him, or if they it were hemmed, and the