The Secret of the Night
19. The Tsar
"I have escaped by remarkable luck," cried Rouletabille, as he found himself, in the
middle of the night, at the corner of the Katharine and the Aptiekarski Pereoulok Canals,
while the mysterious carriage which had brought him there returned rapidly toward the
Grande Ecurie. "What a country! What a country!"
He ran a little way to the Grand Morskaia, which was near, entered the hotel like a bomb,
dragged the interpreter from his bed, demanded that his bill be made out and that he be
told the time of the next train for Tsarskoie-Coelo. The interpreter told him that he could
not have his bill at such an hour, that he could not leave town without his passport and
that there was no train for Tsarskoie-Coelo, and Rouletabille made an outcry that woke
the whole hotel. The guests, fearing always "une scandale," kept close to their rooms. But
Monsieur le directeur came down, trembling. When he found all that it was about he was
inclined to be peremptory, but Rouletabille, who had seen "Michael Strogoff" played,
cried, "Service of the Tsar!" which turned him submissive as a sheep. He made out the
young man's bill and gave him his passport, which had been brought back by the police
during the afternoon. Rouletabille rapidly wrote a message to Koupriane's address, which
the messenger was directed to have delivered without a moment's delay, under the pain of
death! The manager humbly promised and the reporter did not explain that by "pain of
death" he referred to his own. Then, having ascertained that as a matter of fact the last
train had left for Tsarskoie-Coelo, he ordered a carriage and hurried to his room to pack.
And he, ordinarily so detailed, so particular in his affairs, threw things every which way,
linen, garments, with kicks and shoves. It was a relief after the emotions he had gone
through. "What a country!" he never ceased to ejaculate. "What a country!"
Then the carriage was ready, with two little Finnish horses, whose gait he knew well, an
evil-looking driver, who none the less would get him there; the trunk; roubles to the
domestics. "Spacibo, barine. Spacibo." (Thank you, monsieur. Thank you.)
The interpreter asked what address he should give the driver.
"The home of the Tsar."
The interpreter hesitated, believing it to be an unbecoming pleasantry, then waved
vaguely to the driver, and the horses started.
"What a curious trot! We have no idea of that in France," thought Rouletabille. "France!
France! Paris! Is it possible that soon I shall be back! And that dear Lady in Black! Ah, at
the first opportunity I must send her a dispatch of my return - before she receives those
ikons, and the letters announcing my death. Scan! Scan! Scan! (Hurry!)"
The isvotchick pounded his horses, crowding past the dvornicks who watched at the
corners of the houses during the St. Petersburg night. "Dirigi! dirigi! dirigi! (Look out!)"