Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XXX

I Plead With Ouritzky

Next day, August 1st/14th, after a uight of insomnia and tears spent in Marianne's study in which she had installed a bed for me, I telephoned to my girls at Tsarskoe not to expect me that day, but that the following day we should be back at home. As Ouritzky was to receive me at one o'clock I started well before the time with the Grand Duke's lunch all prepard. I made my way up without any difficulty to the great dining-hall adjoining the Red room in which Ouritzky received, and also the Blue room, in which one presented one's permit and in which several typists were at work on their machines. - The dining-room was full of people. I handed the Graud Duke's luuch to an overseer and after a few moments he brought me back, wrapped up in a napkin, the plates and the dish-cover of the day before. He said to me in a low voice:

"Your husband is well. He sends you his greetings and begs you to obtain permission for Dr. Obnissky to come and see him as he was not able to sleep last night."

Some moments later Dr. Obnissky came in. This devoted man kissed my hand with emotion and, while we awaited our turn, we seated ourselves in a corner and I told him of all I had gone through on the day before. More people kept arriving; from time to time the door which led in to Ouritzky opened and a man or a woman came out; an official overseer then at once called out a name and a new visitor was shown in. One hour, two hours, three hours passed. I saw that not only those who had arrived before me but several who had arrived after me had gone in. I went up to the overseer and asked him when my turn would come. He shrugged his shoulders:

"I have no idea, Madame! Comrade Ouritzky always calls out the name of the person he wishes to see. I sat down again beside the doctor, distressed at having deprived him of his lunch and at making him lose his whole day. Four o'clock, five o'clock! At half-past five a feeling of rage began to take possession of me. I perceived that this odious creature was doing it on purpose, to make a fool of me and torment and scout me. At last, at a quarter past six, when there was no longer anyone else there, the man called out:

"Citizeness Paley and Citizen Obnissky! "

We went into the Red Room where, seated at a table, Ouritzky was writing. He raised his head and, addressing the doctor, said in hard, crushing tones:

"What do you want? What brings you here? "

The doctor, holding his head erect, replied:

"I come to ask permission to see my patient, Paul Alexandrovitch, who is ill."

"He has no need of you, there is a doctor attached to the Extraordinary Commission."

"But- "

" It is useless, do not persist. Doctor."

Then, turning to me, he said:

"As for you, Madame, be seated. I shall attend to you in an instant."

He pressed a button and a man appeared with a tray, which he placed on the writing-table. I was sitting opposite him on the other side of it. Ouritzky began to eat his soup, a plate-full of it. He ate hungrily, gluttonously, throwing into it big pieces of bread, which he chewed noisily. He poured himself out a big glass of red wine, which he swallowed at one draught. When he had finished the soup, he took a plate filled with slices of veal and potatoes, flavoured with tomato sauce. A profound silence reigned, broken only by the noise of the peasant masticating his food. Despite my grief and anguish and fatigue and hunger I watched this odious being and was seized with a wild desire to laugh. I reflected:

"You think you are humiliating me by behaving like the vulgar clod you are! If ouly you knew how little that matters to me and how profoundly I despise you! "

I waited certainly twenty-five minutes before the ogre had appeased his hunger. He devoured something else  - an apple-tart, I think- and then, wiping his thick, fleshy lips, he said:

"And now, Madame, I can hear you."

" I come first of all," I replied, "to ask you why you have arrested my husband. What have you against him?

"I have arrested your husband to save his life," he replied in rough, hurried tones; "for the workers of Tsarskoe wanted to kill him."

"The workers of Tsarskoe!" I exclaimed. "But everyone saluted him when he passed, even since the Revolution, even when he wore civilian clothes! Having been born there, he was a son of Tsarskoe, he was surrounded by respect and affection. "

"I know the truth of what I state. . .." And then: "What else do you want? "

" Iwant you to give him back his freedom! " He laughed bitterly:

"His freedom, no, Madame. This evening he will be transferred to the prison of the Schpalernaia, where his cousins are already; he will remain three or four months there. Then I shall send him to the Urals."

I gasped for breath - I must have become deathly pale. " What is the matter with you? " he asked. "What you are doing is abominable," I cried out. "What have you against him? "

"Against him, personally, nothing, but they shall all pay for the three hundred oppression by the Romanoffs."

"But my husband is innocent," I replied, now beyond myself. "He was banished from Russia for twelve years on account of his marriage with me because I was not a Princess of royal blood."

"That doesn't matter to us, you are a noble, you are not of the people; and then, three months quickly pass; in the Urals he will enjoy a certain liberty and you can rejoin him there as you love him so muc h " You have already sent my son to the Urals, what did you do with him? " I exclaimed. He did not reply at once. " If anything has happened to your son," he replied, "it was his own fault. I suggested to him- "

"That he should renounce his own father! " I cried. "Tell me, would you renounce your parents? And when you say, 'if anything has happened to your son,' you do so out of spite, for the pleasure of seeing me suffer. I know that my son is saved and out of your grasp."

He made no reply. Perhaps there was a moment's glimmering of pity even in this monster. After a silence he went on:

"It was the same thing with the ex-Grand Duke Michael. You think he escaped. Well, I tell you that he was killed at Perm."

"Listen! " I interrupted again. "Don't torment me any more like that! I know that my son is saved - let us leave that. Give me a permit to see my husband every day."

"I cannot allow you to see him every day. Y au shall see him twice a week - on Tuesdays and Fridays. I shall let you have a permanent permit. You can bring him his food every second day, and as he is to be transferred to the prison this evening at nine o'clock I shall give you a permit for this evening. You will see how good I am!"

His horrible face attempted a smile. He rang for his secretary, the Jew YesseIievitch, and gave orders for the two permits to be typed out. Then, calling back his secretary, he said:

"Has Gabriel been arrested? "

On receiving a reply in the negative, he became angry:

"But I ordered his arrest. Let it take place to-morrow and let him be taken direct to the Schpalernaia, without coming here." He gave me the two permits, and I went out slowly, without looking at him or thanking him. In the corridor I met the fair-haired man.

"You have got them!" he remarked, on seeing the papers. "I am glad. He told me yesterday he would keep you waiting the whole day and that you would get nothing from him."

I returned to Marianne's, worn out from fatigue and hunger, and I ate hurriedly. It was a quarter past seven and I had to be at the Schpalernaia before nine; it was a forty minutes' walk, and I had to carry bed-clothes, a bed-cover, and a pillow.

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