MICHAEL STROGOFF was not, had never been, blind. A purely human
phenomenon, at the same time moral and physical, had neutralized the action of
the incandescent blade which Feofar's executioner had passed before his eyes.
It may be remembered, that at the moment of the execution, Marfa Strogoff was
present, stretching out her hands towards her son. Michael gazed at her as a son
would gaze at his mother, when it is for the last time. The tears, which his pride in
vain endeavored to subdue, welling up from his heart, gathered under his
eyelids, and volatiliz-ing on the cornea, had saved his sight. The vapor formed by
his tears interposing between the glowing saber and his eyeballs, had been
sufficient to annihilate the action of the heat. A similar effect is produced, when a
workman smelter, after dipping his hand in vapor, can with impunity hold it over a
stream of melted iron.
Michael had immediately understood the danger in which he would be placed
should he make known his secret to anyone. He at once saw, on the other hand,
that he might make use of his supposed blindness for the accomplishment of his
designs. Because it was believed that he was blind, he would be allowed to go
free. He must therefore be blind, blind to all, even to Nadia, blind everywhere,
and not a gesture at any moment must let the truth be suspected. His resolution
was taken. He must risk his life even to afford to all he might meet the proof of
his want of sight. We know how perfectly he acted the part he had determined
His mother alone knew the truth, and he had whispered it to her in Tomsk itself,
when bending over her in the dark he covered her with kisses.
When Ogareff had in his cruel irony held the Imperial letter before the eyes which
he believed were destroyed, Michael had been able to read, and had read the
letter which disclosed the odious plans of the traitor. This was the reason of the
wonderful resolution he exhibited during the second part of his journey. This was
the reason of his unalterable longing to reach Irkutsk, so as to perform his
mission by word of mouth. He knew that the town would be betrayed! He knew
that the life of the Grand Duke was threatened! The safety of the Czar's brother
and of Siberia was in his hands.
This story was told in a few words to the Grand Duke, and Michael repeated
also--and with what emotion!--the part Nadia had taken in these events.
"Who is this girl?" asked the Grand Duke.
"The daughter of the exile, Wassili Fedor," replied Michael.
"The daughter of Captain Fedor," said the Grand Duke, "has ceased to be the
daughter of an exile. There are no longer exiles in Irkutsk."
Nadia, less strong in joy than she had been in grief, fell on her knees before the
Grand Duke, who raised her with one hand, while he extended the other to
An hour after, Nadia was in her father's arms. Michael Strogoff, Nadia, and
Wassili Fedor were united. This was the height of happiness to them all.