8 Chapter 8: One more sore disappointment and departure from Moscow
When we climbed out of the carriage, the whole crowd of various employees met us. Having lined up in one long row, with the names of the hotels on their uniforms or their ordinary caps, with the liveries or without them, they were inviting the travellers, offering them coaches, calashes, light carriages…
The first, as though looking round, was going Ananda, in the middle I was going with Florentian, while I. was following us. Our walk was ended by the porters with our suitcases.
Everything was so interesting – the harsh cries of the hotel names being called, the bargains between the travellers and the whole crowd of coach-men who were dressed in blue long-waisted coats, with the whips in their hands. Dozens of them were thronging round a traveller, so once again I forgot everything, I was only observing everything with amazement and I was already about to give a laugh and stop. Florentian pushed me slightly, I stopped gaping at sides instantly and noticed that one of the employees of the hotels separated from the crowd. On his cap there was a French hotel inscription “National”, he greeted Ananda like a familiar guest by raising with respect his hand to his cap.
In several minutes we were already sitting in an excellent landau and rolling towards the city centre.
I hadn’t seen Moscow for a long time and, having compared it to Petersburg, I could see only a dirty provincial city with rather low traffic. The streets along which we were driving were narrow, curved, most of the houses were wooden and low. Lots of orthodox churches and chapels with the sound of their bells echoing from all sides seemed to me to be patriarchal. I thought for a while unwillingly by looking at that great number of orthodox churches that Russian nation was very religious. I was asking myself if with its belief it could be so rudely fanatical like muslims were, who could only see their merit before God in their brutal behaviour.
Unwittingly, my thoughts turned towards myself – what God meant to me, how I was living with Him and within Him, my religion was impeding or helping me? With the whole secondary school going to an orthodox church once per week, I could see this only like a variation from our monotonous lives, I never tried to seek for a facilitation of my troubles there, I didn’t complain to God, but while being in an orthodox church I used to observe everything.
We were driving in silence, exchanging some insignificant remarks from time to time, but I was feeling instinctively that in everyone’s head the only thought was spinning – about my brother and Nal’s destiny.
Having entered the lobby of the hotel, we ordered our rooms as we had decided beforehand. Florentian asked if there was any correspondence in the name of the lord Benedict and, to my great amazement, a respectable and well-built porter gave him two telegrams and two letters.
“The letters for Your Lordship are waiting for two day, while one of the telegrams was received at night and another – just in this moment,” he added politely.
I was impatient. When we settled in the room, as soon as the servant finished dawdling with our things and finally left, I rushed at Florentian and asked him if the letter wasn’t from my brother, because it seemed to me that I recognized his handwriting on one of the envelopes. He gave a smile and
was astonished, because by being so absent-minded I could recognize the handwriting of my beloved brother from such a distance. Seeing my impatience, he took one of the letters, extended it to me and told me.
“When Ali was talking to you in the garden, he warned you that not only help for your brother, but also your, your brother’s and Nal’s lives depended on your courage, loyalty and self-control. Now, when you are reading the letter, think not about yourself, but only about that help which you can give to him.”
My heart was broken. My presentment was telling me that although I was hoping so much, I wouldn’t see my brother today.
I read the letter once, I read it one more time, but my thoughts were still scattered, I was unable to draw any conclusion.
My brother was writing that they managed to leave K. unnoticed, that their servants dressed themselves in Eastern women clothes, Nal – in European ones which were prepared by Ali, and that my brother himself was travelling in the suit of a civilian. They were travelling in separate carriages until they reached Moscow. Here they changed their clothes and kept together from that moment on.
In Moscow they changed their trains to Petersburg successfully, because their friends had warned them that they had to hurry, everything was already prepared, and the ship to London was leaving on Sunday. So we didn’t have time to see each other in Moscow.
My brother was sending me his love and asking me to forgive for those troubles and disappointments which he had given to me instead of a rest, he also was asking Florentian not to leave me if I miss the ship which he would be leaving with.
“Miss the ship,” I kept repeating this with sadness and vexation in my thoughts.
“Sunday – that’s today,” finally I uttered to Florentian.
Against my will, I uttered this phrase with such a tone, as though I had returned from the funeral and announced him about that.
“Yes, that’s today. They managed to make off only because Ananda’s and Ali’s friends were trying to distract the attention of the leaders of fanatics to deceptive tracks in every possible way,” Florentian answered me. “But here’s the letter from Ali and two telegrams. We are being pursued. Mullah and the leaders decided that you would certainly go to your brother, so they want to find your tracks even if they are at the end of the world. If there’s an opportunity to seize you, they will hold an inquest about your brother. By estimating your youth, they want to frighten and threaten you, and to find out everything what they need.”
“So, even if there was a possibility, I couldn’t come with my brother anyway. In this case there’s no need even to think about that,” I uttered, trying to drive away any outside thoughts and to think only about the danger threatening my brother. “Now what we, and specifically me, are going to do? I’m feeling great with you everywhere. Now all my life is only you. You will save my brother, I don’t have any doubts about that. Dispose of my life as it seems to be necessary to you. I repeat once again, everything in my life now – that’s you.”
“You are the real brother, the real son of your brother-father. Believe me, you will be repaid with great fortune in your life for this moment of heroism. The one who can act by forgetting himself, wins the victory in the battle,” Florentian answered, embracing me tenderly. “In the letter, Ali warns us through
his friend who is living in Moscow that he would let us know via telegram if you are pursued. And indeed, the first telegram is about that, while the second one informs us who are following us. That’s two young traders who are ostensibly going to Moscow for goods. One of them doesn’t know any foreign language except Russian, while the other one knows German and English. Ali is writing that both of them are friends of Nal’s groom. One can predict their future actions and goals. Those things which Ali Machmed has given to Nal through you are not just things, and we must give them to her as soon as possible. I propose the following plan for you. I myself will bring Nal’s things to her; today I will board the express Moscow – Paris and I will be in London sooner than they will be. Right now, in a couple of hours, I propose you with Euclid to go to Sevastopol, so you could come by sea to Constantinople and then you could travel to India, to Ali’s estate. I want to propose Ananda to justify himself with work and stay here for entire month, so he could keep the connection with all of us and watch the enemy. I myself will be useful and even needful for your brother and Nal who might get into a helpless situation without an experienced friend in the surroundings completely unknown to them. Besides, everyone needs to be convinced of your brother’s death, so that the danger of pursuit wouldn’t threaten his life all the time. I also will come to India in three or four months, and after some time all of us will come to Paris where I intend to settle our fugitives when everything will settle down.”
I was listening to him in silence. No, that wasn’t even a petrification. It was rather similar to that feeling which I had experienced in my brother’s room by the fireside, it was similar to what people experience when their beloved die. I was as though standing by the deep grave and watching a coffin in it.
I rose automatically, opened the suitcase where Nal’s things were placed and I started taking out my own things – every one of them was hurting me like a knife.
“In all likelihood, you will want to take everything like Ali himself had put it. He gave this money to me. I don’t need it, because it’s not enough that much money for such a distant journey which you are sending me to. Let it be the present to my brother. Buy a great case, a golden or silver little box in Paris for the money and put his note-book in it, which I had forgotten in Ali’s house so carelessly,” I told Florentian by giving him the wonderful note-book of my brother with the peacock. I’m ready for the journey already. Only let me go as the servant of I., so I could earn my bred which I was eating from my brother’s hands up to now.”
“My dear boy,” Florentian answered me, “when you come to India, you’ll be learning there. You will know a lot and you will understand. Rely upon me up to then. Be not Euclid’s servant, but his friend. Your talents for mathematics and music – that’s not everything what is hiding in you. You are feeling a talent of a writer within you, aren’t you?”
I blushed so that I even began to sweat. I never thought that he would notice my most sacred and hidden wish, too.
There was no time for any further conversation. Ananda and I. came in, and Florentian told them about his further plan. I was very surprised, because they didn’t utter a word, both of them accepted his proposal as not worthy of any discussion.
Ananda called the servant of the hotel and asked him to order two tickets to Sevastopol and to take care of two people to get them to the train, and to bring breakfast to the room for everybody.
“And get one ticket for the evening train to Paris, too,” he added.
All of us put my things to Florentian’s travelling-bag which he gave as a gift to me.
“Here you will find a surprise from me,” he was explaining to me merrily. “As soon as you start feeling a burial mood, then start looking for the surprise. And here’s my last precept: remember that joy is an invincible power, while melancholy and denial will destroy everything whatever you would set to do.”
Our breakfast was served, and the porter came, too. He told us that he had two tickets left to Sevastopol in the international carriage, which he was about to return already when he heard about our order. We took the tickets at once, passed our things to the servant and sat down to have our breakfast. In half an hour I and I. had to go to the station already.
I was fighting against myself as hard as I could, but I couldn’t swallow anything, although I hadn’t eaten anything from yesterday’s evening. My heart was aching. I became so attached to Florentian that now, parting with him, I was as though burying my second father-brother. Everybody was trying not to notice my sadness. A thought was spinning in my head – from where these people had so much selflessness and self-control? Why they were so restrained by helping so resolutely a totally stranger to them, my brother? Where the axis of their lives was hiding, where that confident peace of them was coming from?
And again a thought pierced my heart – what was “his own” and what was “a stranger” for a man. Florentian’s words were flashing that all people’s blood was of the same red colour and therefore, all of them were brothers, everybody had to try to carry beauty, peace and help.
In the kaleidoscope of my thoughts I didn’t even notice how our breakfast ended. Florentian stroked my head and uttered.
“Lovushka, live in joy that your brother is alive, that you are sound and you can reflect. A thought-creation – that’s the only people’s happiness. Man who carries creation into his daily routine is everything. With your heroic love to your brother you’ve built the bridge not only to my heart, but here are two more of your loyal friends – that’s Ananda and Euclid.”
I looked at him, but I couldn’t hold back my tears. I twined myself round his neck, he took me like a kid on his arms and whispered to me.
“The lessons of life aren’t easy for anybody. But here’s the first lesson to those who want to win a victory – learn to smile carelessly while you are among people, although your heart is being pricked by needles. We will see each other, and Ananda will send you the news about me.”
He let me go by answering the knock at the door merrily. That was the porter who came to invite us to go to the station.
I and I. said good-bye to Florentian and Ananda by squeezing their hands sincerely, we followed the porter down-stairs, climbed into the coach and rolled towards the station. We were driving in silence. Only when the coach stopped due to some event, I. asked the coach-man if we weren’t to be late. Instead of an answer, he only lashed the horses. As soon as we stepped into the carriage, the train was off.