The Secret of the Night
"And now it's between us two, Natacha," murmured Rouletabille as soon as he was
outside. He hailed the first carriage that passed and gave the address of the datcha des
Iles. When he got in he held his head between his hands; his face burned, his jaws were
set. But by a prodigious effort of his will he resumed almost instantly his calm, his self-
control. As he went back across the Neva, across the bridge where he had felt so elated a
little while before, and saw the isles again he sighed heavily. "I thought I had got it all
over with, so far as I was concerned, and now I don't know where it will stop." His eyes
grew dark for a moment with somber thoughts and the vision of the Lady in Black rose
before him; then he shook his head, filled his pipe, lighted it, dried a tear that had been
caused doubtless by a little smoke in his eye, and stopped sentimentalizing. A quarter of
an hour later he gave a true Russian nobleman's fist-blow in the back to the coachman as
an intimation that they had reached the Trebassof villa. A charming picture was before
him. They were all lunching gayly in the garden, around the table in the summer-house.
He was astonished, however, at not seeing Natacha with them. Boris Mourazoff and
Michael Korsakoff were there. Rouletabille did not wish to be seen. He made a sign to
Ermolai, who was passing through the garden and who hurried to meet him at the gate.
"The Barinia," said the reporter, in a low voice and with his finger to his lips to warn the
faithful attendant to caution.
In two minutes Matrena Petrovna joined Rouletabille in the lodge.
"Well, where is Natacha?" he demanded hurriedly as she kissed his hands quite as though
she had made an idol of him.
"She has gone away. Yes, out. Oh, I did not keep her. I did not try to hold her back. Her
expression frightened me, you can understand, my little angel. My, you are impatient!
What is it about? How do we stand? What have you decided? I am your slave. Command
me. Command me. The keys of the villa?"
"Yes, give me a key to the veranda; you must have several. I must be able to get into the
house to-night if it becomes necessary."
She drew a key from her gown, gave it to the young man and said a few words in Russian
to Ermolai, to enforce upon him that he must obey the little domovoi-doukh in anything,
day or night.
"Now tell me where Natacha has gone."
"Boris's parents came to see us a little while ago, to inquire after the general. They have
taken Natacha away with them, as they often have done. Natacha went with them readily
enough. Little domovoi, listen to me, listen to Matrena Petrovna - Anyone would have
said she was expecting it!"