The Secret of the Night HTML version

3. The Watch
She went out to caution the servants to a strict watch, armed to the teeth, before the gate
all night long, and she crossed the deserted garden. Under the veranda the schwitzar was
spreading a mattress for Ermolai. She asked him if he had seen the young Frenchman
anywhere, and after the answer, could only say to herself, "Where is he, then?" Where
had Rouletabille gone? The general, whom she had carried up to his room on her back,
without any help, and had helped into bed without assistance, was disturbed by this
singular disappearance. Had someone already carried off "their" Rouletabille? Their
friends were gone and the orderlies had taken leave without being able to say where this
boy of a journalist had gone. But it would be foolish to worry about the disappearance of
a Journalist, they had said. That kind of man - these journalists - came, went, arrived
when one least expected them, and quitted their company - even the highest society -
without formality. It was what they called in France "leaving English fashion." However,
it appeared it was not meant to be impolite. Perhaps he had gone to telegraph. A
journalist had to keep in touch with the telegraph at all hours. Poor Matrena Petrovna
roamed the solitary garden in tumult of heart. There was the light in the general's window
on the first floor. There were lights in the basement from the kitchens. There was a light
on the ground-floor near the sitting-room, from Natacha's chamber window. Ah, the night
was hard to bear. And this night the shadows weighed heavier than ever on the valiant
breast of Matrena. As she breathed she felt as though she lifted all the weight of the
threatening night. She examined everything - everything. All was shut tight, was
perfectly secure, and there was no one within excepting people she was absolutely sure of
- but whom, all the same, she did not allow to go anywhere in the house excepting where
their work called them. Each in his place. That made things surer. She wished each one
could remain fixed like the porcelain statues of men out on the lawn. Even as she thought
it, here at her feet, right at her very feet, a shadow of one of the porcelain men moved,
stretched itself out, rose to its knees, grasped her skirt and spoke in the voice of
Rouletabille. Ah, good! it was Rouletabille. "Himself, dear madame; himself."
"Why is Ermolai in the veranda? Send him back to the kitchens and tell the schwitzar to
go to bed. The servants are enough for an ordinary guard outside. Then you go in at once,
shut the door, and don't concern yourself about me, dear madame. Good-night."
Rouletabille had resumed, in the shadows, among the other porcelain figures, his pose of
a porcelain man.
Matrena Petrovna did as she was told, returned to the house, spoke to the schwitzar, who
removed to the lodge with Ermolai, and their mistress closed the outside door. She had
closed long before the door of the kitchen stair which allowed the domestics to enter the
villa from below. Down there each night the devoted gniagnia and the faithful Ermolai
watched in turn.
Within the villa, now closed, there were on the ground-floor only Matrena herself and her
step-daughter Natacha, who slept in the chamber off the sitting-room, and, above on the