The Secret of the Night
5. By Rouletabille's Order The General Promenades
"Good morning, my dear little familiar spirit. The general slept splendidly the latter part
of the night. He did not touch his narcotic. I am sure it is that dreadful mixture that gives
him such frightful dreams. And you, my dear little friend, you have not slept an instant. I
know it. I felt you going everywhere about the house like a little mouse. Ah, it seems
good, so good. I slept so peacefully, hearing the subdued movement of your little steps.
Thanks for the sleep you have given me, little friend."
Matrena talked on to Rouletabille, whom she had found the morning after the nightmare
tranquilly smoking his pipe in the garden.
"Ah, ah, you smoke a pipe. Now you do certainly look exactly like a dear little domovoi-
doukh. See how much you are alike. He smokes just like you. Nothing new, eh? You do
not look very bright this morning. You are worn out. I have just arranged the little guest-
chamber for you, the only one we have, just behind mine. Your bed is waiting for you. Is
there anything you need? Tell me. Everything here is at your service."
"I'm not in need of anything, madame," said the young man smilingly, after this
outpouring of words from the good, heroic dame.
"How can you say that, dear child? You will make yourself sick. I want you to
understand that I wish you to rest. I want to be a mother to you, if you please, and you
must obey me, my child. Have you had breakfast yet this morning? If you do not have
breakfast promptly mornings, I will think you are annoyed. I am so annoyed that you
have heard the secret of the night. I have been afraid that you would want to leave at once
and for good, and that you would have mistaken ideas about the general. There is not a
better man in the world than Feodor, and he must have a good, a very good conscience to
dare, without fail, to perform such terrible duties as those at Moscow, when he is so good
at heart. These things are easy enough for wicked people, but for good men, for good
men who can reason it out, who know what they do and that they are condemned to death
into the bargain, it is terrible, it is terrible! Why, I told him the moment things began to
go wrong in Moscow, 'You know what to expect, Feodor. Here is a dreadful time to get
through - make out you are sick.' I believed he was going to strike me, to kill me on the
spot. 'I! Betray the Emperor in such a moment! His Majesty, to whom I owe everything!
What are you thinking of, Matrena Petrovna!' And he did not speak to me after that for
two days. It was only when he saw I was growing very ill that he pardoned me, but he
had to be plagued with my jeremiads and the appealing looks of Natacha without end in
his own home each time we heard any shooting in the street. Natacha attended the
lectures of the Faculty, you know. And she knew many of them, and even some of those
who were being killed on the barricades. Ah, life was not easy for him in his own home,
the poor general! Besides, there was also Boris, whom I love as well, for that matter, as
my own child, because I shall be very happy to see him married to Natacha - there was
poor Boris who always came home from the attacks paler than a corpse and who could
not keep from moaning with us."