Fall of Giants / Chapter 6

Chapter 6


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CHAPTER SIX  -  June 1914

At the beginning of June Grigori Peshkov at last had enough money for a ticket to New York. The Vyalov family in St. Petersburg sold him both the ticket and the papers necessary for immigration into the United States, including a letter from Mr. Josef Vyalov in Buffalo promising to give Grigori a job.

Grigori kissed the ticket. He could hardly wait to leave. It was like a dream, and he was afraid he might wake up before the boat sailed. Now that departure was so close, he longed even more for the moment when he would stand on deck and look back to watch Russia disappear over the horizon and out of his life forever.

On the evening before his departure, his friends organized a party.

It was held at Mishka's, a bar near the Putilov Machine Works. There were a dozen workmates, most of the members of the Bolshevik Discussion Group on Socialism and Atheism, and the girls from the house where Grigori and Lev lived. They were all on strike-half the factories in St. Petersburg were on strike-so no one had much money, but they clubbed together and bought a barrel of beer and some herrings. It was a warm summer evening, and they sat on benches in a patch of waste ground next to the bar.

Grigori was not a great party lover. He would have preferred to spend the evening playing chess. Alcohol made people stupid, and flirting with other men's wives and girlfriends just seemed pointless. His wild-haired friend Konstantin, the chairman of the discussion group, had a row about the strike with aggressive Isaak, the footballer, and they ended up in a shouting match. Big Varya, Konstantin's mother, drank most of a bottle of vodka, punched her husband, and passed out. Lev brought a crowd of friends-men Grigori had never met, and girls he did not want to meet-and they drank all the beer without paying for anything.

Grigori spent the evening staring mournfully at Katerina. She was in a good mood-she loved parties. Her long skirt whirled and her blue-green eyes flashed as she moved around, teasing the men and charming the women, that wide, generous mouth always smiling. Her clothes were old and patched, but she had a wonderful body, the kind of figure Russian men loved, with a full bust and broad hips. Grigori had fallen in love with her on the day he had met her, and he was still in love four months later. But she preferred his brother.

Why? It had nothing to do with looks. The two brothers were so alike that people sometimes mistook one for the other. They were the same height and weight, and could wear each other's clothes. But Lev had charm by the ton. He was unreliable and selfish, and he lived on the edge of the law, but women adored him. Grigori was honest and dependable, a hard worker and a serious thinker, and he was single.

It would be different in the United States. Everything would be different there. American landowners were not allowed to hang their peasants. American police had to put people on trial before punishing them. The government could not even jail socialists. There were no noblemen: everyone was equal, even Jews.

Could it be real? Sometimes America seemed too much of a fantasy, like the stories people told of South Seas islands where beautiful maidens gave their bodies to anyone who asked. But it must be true: thousands of immigrants had written letters home. At the factory a group of revolutionary socialists had started a series of lectures on American democracy, but the police had closed them down.

He felt guilty about leaving his brother behind, but it was the best way. "Look after yourself," he said to Lev toward the end of the evening. "I won't be here to get you out of trouble anymore."

"I'll be fine," Lev said carelessly. "You look after yourself."

"I'll send you the money for your ticket. It won't take long on American wages."

"I'll be waiting."

"Don't move house-we could lose touch."

"I'm not going anywhere, big brother."

They had not discussed whether Katerina, too, would eventually come to America. Grigori had left it to Lev to raise the subject, but he had not. Grigori did not know whether to hope or dread that Lev would want to bring her.

Lev took Katerina's arm and said: "We have to go now."

Grigori was surprised. "Where are you off to at this time of night?"

"I'm meeting Trofim."

Trofim was a minor member of the Vyalov family. "Why do you have to see him tonight?"

Lev winked. "Never mind. We'll be back before morning-in plenty of time to take you to Gutuyevsky Island." This was where the transatlantic steamers docked.

"All right," said Grigori. "Don't do anything dangerous," he added, knowing it was pointless.

Lev waved gaily and disappeared.

It was almost midnight. Grigori said his good-byes. Several of his friends wept, but he did not know whether it was from sorrow or just booze. He walked back to the house with some of the girls, and they all kissed him in the hall. Then he went to his room.

His secondhand cardboard suitcase stood on the table. Though small, it was half-empty. He was taking shirts, underwear, and his chess set. He had only one pair of boots. He had not accumulated much in the nine years since his mother died.

Before going to bed, he looked in the cupboard where Lev kept his revolver, a Belgian-made Nagant M1895. He saw, with a sinking feeling, that the gun was not in its usual place.

He unlatched the window so that he would not have to get out of bed to open it when Lev came in.

Lying awake, listening to the familiar thunder of passing trains, he wondered what it would be like, four thousand miles from here. He had lived with Lev all his life, and he had been a substitute mother and father. From tomorrow, he would not know when Lev was out all night and carrying a gun. Would it be a relief, or would he worry more?

As always, Grigori woke at five. His ship sailed at eight, and the dock was an hour's walk. He had plenty of time.

Lev had not come home.

Grigori washed his hands and face. Looking in a broken shard of mirror, he trimmed his mustache and beard with a pair of kitchen scissors. Then he put his best suit on. He would leave his other suit behind for Lev.

He was heating a pan of porridge on the fire when he heard a loud knocking at the door of the house.

It was sure to be bad news. Friends stood outside and shouted; only the authorities knocked. Grigori put on his cap, then stepped into the hall and looked down the staircase. The landlady was admitting two men in the black-and-green uniforms of the police. Looking more carefully, Grigori recognized the podgy moon-shaped face of Mikhail Pinsky and the small ratlike head of his sidekick, Ilya Kozlov.

He thought fast. Obviously someone in the house was suspected of a crime. The likeliest culprit was Lev. Whether it was Lev or another boarder, everyone in the building would be interrogated. The two cops would remember the incident back in February when Grigori had rescued Katerina from them, and they would seize the opportunity of arresting Grigori.

And Grigori would miss his ship.

The dreadful thought paralyzed him. To miss the ship! After all the saving and waiting and longing for this day. No, he thought; no, I won't let it happen.

He ducked back into his room as the two policemen started up the stairs. It would be no use to plead with them-quite the reverse: if Pinsky discovered that Grigori was about to emigrate he would take even more pleasure in keeping him incarcerated. Grigori would not even have a chance to cash his ticket and get the money back. All those years of saving would be wasted.

He had to flee.

He scanned the tiny room frantically. It had one door and one window. He would have to go out the way Lev came in at night. He looked out: the backyard was empty. The St. Petersburg police were brutal, but no one had ever accused them of being smart, and it had not occurred to Pinsky and Kozlov to cover the rear of the house. Perhaps they knew there was no exit from the yard except across the railway-but a railway line was not much of a barrier to a desperate man.

Grigori heard shouts and cries from the girls' room next door: the police had gone there first.

He patted the breast of his jacket. His ticket, papers, and money were in his pocket. All the rest of his worldly possessions were already packed in the cardboard suitcase.

Picking up his suitcase, he leaned as far as he could out of the window. He held the case out and threw it. It landed flat and seemed undamaged.

The door of his room burst open.

Grigori put his legs through the window, sat on the sill for a split second, then jumped to the roof of the washhouse. His feet slipped on the tiles and he sat down hard. He slid down the sloping roof to the gutter. He heard a shout behind him but he did not look back. He jumped from the washhouse roof to the ground and landed unhurt.

He picked up his suitcase and ran.

A shot rang out, scaring him into running faster. Most policemen could not hit the Winter Palace from three yards, but accidents sometimes happened. He scrambled up the railway embankment, conscious that as he climbed to the level of the window he was becoming an easier target. He heard the distinctive thud-and-gasp of a railway engine and looked to his right to see a goods train approaching fast. There was another shot, and he sensed a thump somewhere, but he felt no pain, and guessed the slug had hit his suitcase. He reached the top of the embankment, knowing his body was now outlined against the clear morning sky. The train was a few yards away. The driver sounded his klaxon loud and long. A third shot rang out. Grigori threw himself across the line just ahead of the train.

The locomotive howled past him, steel wheels clashing with steel rails, steam trailing as the klaxon faded. Grigori scrambled to his feet. Now he was shielded from gunfire by a train of open trucks loaded with coal. He ran across the remaining tracks. As the last of the coal wagons passed, he descended the far embankment and walked through the yard of a small factory into the street.

He looked at his suitcase. There was a bullet hole in one edge. It had been a near miss.

He walked briskly, catching his breath, and asked himself what he should do next. Now that he was safe-at least for the moment-he began to worry about his brother. He needed to know whether Lev was in trouble, and if so what kind.

He decided to start in the last place he had seen Lev, which was Mishka's Bar.

As he headed for the bar, he felt nervous about being spotted. It would be bad luck, but it was not impossible: Pinsky might be roaming the streets. He pulled his cap down over his forehead, not really believing it would disguise his identity. He came across some workers heading for the docks and attached himself to the group, but with his suitcase he did not look as if he belonged.

However, he reached Mishka's without incident. The bar was furnished with homemade wooden benches and tables. It smelled of last night's beer and tobacco smoke. In the morning Mishka served bread and tea to people who had nowhere at home to make breakfast, but business was slow because of the strike, and the place was almost empty.

Grigori intended to ask Mishka if he knew where Lev had been headed when he left, but before he could do so he saw Katerina. She looked as if she had been up all night. Her blue-green eyes were bloodshot, her fair hair was awry, and her skirt was crumpled and stained. She was visibly distressed, with shaking hands and tear streaks on her grimy cheeks. Yet that made her more beautiful to Grigori, and he longed to take her in his arms and comfort her. Since he could not, he would do the next best thing, and come to her aid. "What's happened?" he said. "What's the matter?"

"Thank God you're here," she said. "The police are after Lev."

Grigori groaned. So his brother was in trouble-today of all days. "What has he done?" Grigori did not bother to consider the possibility that Lev was innocent.

"There was a mess-up last night. We were supposed to unload some cigarettes from a barge." They would be stolen cigarettes, Grigori assumed. Katerina went on: "Lev paid for them, then the bargeman said it wasn't enough money, and there was an argument. Someone started shooting. Lev fired back, then we ran away."

"Thank heaven neither of you got hurt!"

"Now we don't have the cigarettes or the money."

"What a mess." Grigori looked at the clock over the bar. It was a quarter past six. He still had plenty of time. "Let's sit down. Do you want some tea?" He beckoned to Mishka and asked for two glasses of tea.

"Thank you," said Katerina. "Lev thinks one of the wounded must have talked to the police. Now they're after him."

"And you?"

"I'm all right, no one knows my name."

Grigori nodded. "So what we have to do is keep Lev out of the hands of the police. He'll have to lie low for a week or so, then slip out of St. Petersburg."

"He hasn't got any money."

"Of course not." Lev never had any money for essentials, though he could always buy drinks, place a bet, and entertain girls. "I can give him something." Grigori would have to dip into the money he had saved for the journey. "Where is he?"

"He said he would meet you at the ship."

Mishka brought their tea. Grigori was hungry-he had left his porridge on the fire-and he asked for some soup.

Katerina said: "How much can you give Lev?"

She was looking earnestly at him, and that always made him feel he would do anything she asked. He looked away. "Whatever he needs," he said.

"You're so good."

Grigori shrugged. "He's my brother."

"Thank you."

It pleased Grigori when Katerina was grateful, but it embarrassed him too. The soup came and he began to eat, glad of the diversion. The food made him feel more optimistic. Lev was always in and out of trouble. He would slip out of this difficulty as he had many times before. It did not mean Grigori had to miss his sailing.

Katerina watched him, sipping her tea. She had lost the frantic look. Lev puts you in danger, Grigori thought, and I come to the rescue, yet you prefer him.

Lev was probably at the dock now, skulking in the shadow of a derrick, nervously looking out for policemen as he waited. Grigori needed to get going. But he might never see Katerina again, and he could hardly bear the thought of saying good-bye to her forever.

He finished his soup and looked at the clock. It was almost seven. He was cutting things too fine. "I have to go," he said reluctantly.

Katerina walked with him to the door. "Don't be too hard on Lev," she said.

"Was I ever?"

She put her hands on his shoulders, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him briefly on the lips. "Good luck," she said.

Grigori walked away.

He went quickly through the streets of southwest St. Petersburg, an industrial quarter of warehouses, factories, storage yards, and overcrowded slums. The shameful impulse to weep left him after a few minutes. He walked on the shady side, kept his cap low and his head down, and avoided wide open areas. If Pinsky had circulated a description of Lev, an alert policeman might easily arrest Grigori.

But he reached the docks without being spotted. His ship, the Angel Gabriel, was a small, rusty vessel that took both cargo and passengers. Right now it was being loaded with stoutly nailed wooden packing cases marked with the name of the city's largest fur trader. As he watched, the last box went into the hold and the crew fastened the hatch.

A family of Jews were showing their tickets at the head of the gangplank. All Jews wanted to go to America, in Grigori's experience. They had even more reason than he did. In Russia there were laws forbidding them to own land, to enter the civil service, to be army officers, and countless other prohibitions. They could not live where they liked, and there were quotas limiting the number who could go to universities. It was a miracle any of them made a living. And if they did prosper, against the odds, it would not be long before they were set upon by a crowd-usually egged on by policemen such as Pinsky-and beaten up, their families terrified, their windows smashed, their property set on fire. The surprise was that any of them stayed.

The ship's hooter sounded for "All aboard."

He could not see his brother. What had gone wrong? Had Lev changed plans again? Or had he been arrested already?

A small boy tugged at Grigori's sleeve. "A man wants to talk to you," the boy said.

"What man?"

"He looks like you."

Thank God, thought Grigori. "Where is he?"

"Behind the planks."

There was a stack of timber on the dock. Grigori hurried around it and found Lev hiding behind it, nervously smoking a cigarette. He was fidgety and pale-a rare sight, for he usually remained cheerful even in adversity.

"I'm in trouble," Lev said.

"Again."

"Those bargemen are liars!"

"And thieves, probably."

"Don't get sarcastic with me. There isn't time."

"No, you're right. We need to get you out of town until the fuss dies down."

Lev shook his head in negation, blowing out smoke at the same time. "One of the bargemen died. I'm wanted for murder."

"Oh, hell." Grigori sat down on a shelf of timber and buried his head in his hands. "Murder," he said.

"Trofim was badly wounded and the police got him to talk. He fingered me."

"How do you know all this?"

"I saw Fyodor half an hour ago." Fyodor was a corrupt policeman of Lev's acquaintance.

"This is bad news."

"There's worse. Pinsky has vowed to get me-as revenge on you."

Grigori nodded. "That's what I was afraid of."

"What am I going to do?"

"You'll have to go to Moscow. St. Petersburg won't be safe for you for a long time, maybe forever."

"I don't know that Moscow is far enough, now that the police have telegraph machines."

He was right, Grigori realized.

The ship's hooter sounded again. Soon the gangplanks would be withdrawn. "We only have a minute left," said Grigori. "What are you going to do?"

Lev said: "I could go to America."

Grigori stared at him.

Lev said: "You could give me your ticket."

Grigori did not want even to think about it.

But Lev went on with remorseless logic. "I could use your passport and papers for entering the United States-no one would know the difference."

Grigori saw his dream fading, like the ending of a motion picture at the Soleil Cinema in Nevsky Prospekt, when the house lights came up to show the drab colors and dirty floors of the real world. "Give you my ticket," he repeated, desperately postponing the moment of decision.

"You'd be saving my life," Lev said.

Grigori knew he had to do it, and the realization was like a pain in his heart.

He took the papers from the pocket of his best suit and gave them to Lev. He handed over all the money he had saved for the journey. Then he gave his brother the cardboard suitcase with the bullet hole.

"I'll send you the money for another ticket," Lev said fervently. Grigori made no reply, but his skepticism must have shown on his face, for Lev protested: "I really will, I swear it. I'll save up."

"All right," Grigori said.

They embraced. Lev said: "You always took care of me."

"Yes, I did."

Lev turned and ran for the ship.

The sailors were untying the ropes. They were about to pull up the gangplank, but Lev shouted and they waited a few seconds more for him.

He ran up onto the deck.

He turned, leaned on the rail, and waved to Grigori.

Grigori could not bring himself to wave back. He turned and walked away.

The ship hooted, but he did not look back.

His right arm felt strangely light without the burden of the suitcase. He walked through the docks, looking down at the deep black water, and the odd thought occurred to him that he could throw himself in. He shook himself: he was not prey to such foolish ideas. All the same he was depressed and bitter. Life never dealt him a winning hand.

He was unable to cheer himself up as he retraced his steps through the industrial district. He walked along with his eyes cast down, not even bothering to keep an eye open for the police: it hardly mattered if they arrested him now.

What was he going to do? He felt he could not summon the energy for anything. They would give him back his job at the factory, when the strike was over: he was a good worker and they knew it. He should probably go there now, and find out whether there had been any progress in the dispute-but he could not be bothered.

After an hour he found himself approaching Mishka's. He intended to go straight past but, glancing inside, he saw Katerina, sitting where he had left her two hours ago, with a cold glass of tea in front of her. He had to tell her what had happened.

He went inside. The place was empty except for Mishka, who was sweeping the floor.

Katerina stood up, looking scared. "Why are you here?" she said. "Did you miss your boat?"

"Not exactly." He could not think how to break the news.

"What, then?" she said. "Is Lev dead?"

"No, he's all right. But he's wanted for murder."

She stared at him. "Where is he?"

"He had to go away."

"Where?"

There was no gentle way to put it. "He asked me to give him my ticket."

"Your ticket?"

"And passport. He's gone to America."

"No!" she screamed.

Grigori just nodded.

"No!" she yelled again. "He wouldn't leave me! Don't you say that, never say it!"

"Try to stay calm."

She slapped Grigori's face. She was only a girl, and he hardly flinched. "Swine!" she screeched. "You've sent him away!"

"I did it to save his life."

"Bastard! Dog! I hate you! I hate your stupid face!"

"Nothing you say could make me feel any worse," Grigori said, but she was not listening. Ignoring her curses, he walked away, her voice fading as he went out through the door.

The screaming stopped, and he heard footsteps running along the street after him. "Stop!" she cried. "Stop, please, Grigori, don't turn your back on me, I'm so sorry."

He turned.

"Grigori, you have to look after me now that Lev's gone."

He shook his head. "You don't need me. The men of this city will form a queue to look after you."

"No, they won't," she said. "There's something you don't know."

Grigori thought: What now?

She said: "Lev didn't want me to tell you."

"Go on."

"I'm expecting a baby," she said, and she began to weep.

Grigori stood still, taking it in. Lev's baby, of course. And Lev knew. Yet he had gone to America. "A baby," Grigori said.

She nodded, crying.

His brother's child. His nephew or niece. His family.

He put his arms around her and drew her to him. She was shaking with sobs. She buried her face in his jacket. He stroked her hair. "All right," he said. "Don't worry. You'll be okay. So will your baby." He sighed. "I will take care of you both."

{II}

Traveling on the Angel Gabriel was grim, even for a boy from the slums of St. Petersburg. There was only one class, steerage, and the passengers were treated as so much more cargo. The ship was dirty and unsanitary, especially when there were huge waves and people were seasick. It was impossible to complain because none of the crew spoke Russian. Lev was not sure what nationality they were, but he failed to get through to them with either his smattering of English or his even fewer words of German. Someone said they were Dutch. Lev had never heard of Dutch people.

Nevertheless the mood among the passengers was high optimism. Lev felt he had burst the walls of the tsar's prison and escaped, and now he was free. He was on his way to America, where there were no noblemen. When the sea was calm, passengers sat on the deck and told the stories they had heard about America: the hot water coming out of taps, the good-quality leather boots worn even by workers, and most of all the freedom to practise any religion, join any political group, state your opinion in public, and not be afraid of the police.

On the evening of the tenth day Lev was playing cards. He was dealer, but he was losing. Everyone was losing except Spirya, an innocent-looking boy of Lev's age who was also traveling alone. "Spirya wins every night," said another player, Yakov. The truth was that Spirya won when Lev was dealing.

They were steaming slowly through a fog. The sea was calm, and there was no sound but the low bass of the engines. Lev had not been able to find out when they would arrive. People gave different answers. The most knowledgeable said it depended on the weather. The crew were inscrutable as always.

As night fell, Lev threw in his hand. "I'm cleaned out," he said. In fact he had plenty more money inside his shirt, but he could see that the others were running low, all except Spirya. "That's it," he said. "When we get to America, I'm just going to have to catch the eye of a rich old woman and live like a pet dog in her marble palace."

The others laughed. "But why would anyone want you for a pet?" said Yakov.

"Old ladies get cold at night," he said. "She would need my heating appliance."

The game ended in good humor, and the players drifted away.

Spirya went aft and leaned on the rail, watching the wake disappear into the fog. Lev joined him. "My half comes to seven rubles even," Lev said.

Spirya took paper currency from his pocket and gave it to Lev, shielding the transaction with his body so that no one else could see money changing hands.

Lev pocketed the notes and filled his pipe.

Spirya said: "Tell me something, Grigori." Lev was using his brother's papers, so he had to tell people his name was Grigori. "What would you do if I refused to give you your share?"

This kind of talk was dangerous. Lev slowly put his tobacco away and put the unlit pipe back into his jacket pocket. Then he grabbed Spirya by the lapels and pushed him up against the rail so that he was bent backward and leaning out to sea. Spirya was taller than Lev but not as tough, by a long way. "I would break your stupid neck," Lev said. "Then I would take back all the money you've made with me." He pushed Spirya farther over. "Then I would throw you in the damn sea."

Spirya was terrified. "All right!" he said. "Let me go!"

Lev released his grip.

"Jesus!" Spirya gasped. "I only asked a question."

Lev lit his pipe. "And I gave you the answer," he said. "Don't forget it."

Spirya walked away.

When the fog lifted they were in sight of land. It was night, but Lev could see the lights of a city. Where were they? Some said Canada, some said Ireland, but no one knew.

The lights came nearer, and the ship slowed. They were going to make landfall. Lev heard someone say they had arrived in America already! Ten days seemed quick. But what did he know? He stood at the rail with his brother's cardboard suitcase. His heart beat faster.

The suitcase reminded him that Grigori should have been the one arriving in America now. Lev had not forgotten his vow to Grigori, to send him the price of a ticket. That was one promise he ought to keep. Grigori had probably saved his life-again. I'm lucky, Lev thought, to have such a brother.

He was making money on the ship, but not fast enough. Seven rubles went nowhere. He needed a big score. But America was the land of opportunity. He would make his fortune there.

Lev had been intrigued to find a bullet hole in the suitcase, and a slug embedded in a box containing a chess set. He had sold the chess set to one of the Jews for five kopeks. He wondered how Grigori had come to be shot at that day.

He was missing Katerina. He loved to walk around with a girl like that on his arm, knowing that every man envied him. But there would be plenty of girls here in America.

He wondered if Grigori knew about Katerina's baby yet. Lev suffered a pang of regret: would he ever see his son or daughter? He told himself not to worry about leaving Katerina to raise the child alone. She would find someone else to look after her. She was a survivor.

It was after midnight when at last the ship docked. The quay was dimly lit and there was no one in sight. The passengers disembarked with their bags and boxes and trunks. An officer from the Angel Gabriel directed them into a shed where there were a few benches. "You must wait here until the immigration people come for you in the morning," he said, demonstrating that he did, after all, speak a little Russian.

It was a bit of an anticlimax for people who had saved up for years to come here. The women sat on the benches and the children went to sleep while the men smoked and waited for morning. After a while they heard the ship's engines, and Lev went outside and saw it moving slowly away from its mooring. Perhaps the crates of furs had to be unloaded elsewhere.

He tried to recall what Grigori had told him, in casual conversation, about the first steps in the new country. Immigrants had to pass a medical inspection-a tense moment, for unfit people were sent back, their money wasted and their hopes dashed. Sometimes the immigration officers changed people's names, to make them easier for Americans to pronounce. Outside the docks, a representative of the Vyalov family would be waiting to take them by train to Buffalo. There they would get jobs in hotels and factories owned by Josef Vyalov. Lev wondered how far Buffalo was from New York. Would it take an hour to get there, or a week? He wished he had listened more carefully to Grigori.

The sun rose over miles of crowded docks, and Lev's excitement returned. Old-fashioned masts and rigging clustered side by side with steam funnels. There were grand dockside buildings and tumbledown sheds, tall derricks and squat capstans, ladders and ropes and carts. To landward, Lev could see serried ranks of railway trucks full of coal, hundreds of them-no, thousands-fading into the distance beyond the limit of his vision. He was disappointed that he could not see the famous Liberty statue with its torch: it must be out of sight around a headland, he guessed.

Dockworkers arrived, first in small groups, then in crowds. Ships departed and others arrived. A dozen women began to unload sacks of potatoes from a small vessel in front of the shed. Lev wondered when the immigration police would come.

Spirya came up to him. He seemed to have forgiven the way Lev had threatened him. "They've forgotten about us," he said.

"Looks that way," Lev said, puzzled.

"Shall we take a walk around-see if we can find someone who speaks Russian?"

"Good idea."

Spirya spoke to one of the older men. "We're going to see if we can find out what's happening."

The man looked nervous. "Maybe we should stay here as we were told."

They ignored him and walked over to the potato women. Lev gave them his best grin and said: "Does anyone speak Russian?" One of the younger women smiled back, but no one answered the question. Lev felt frustrated: his winning ways were useless with people who could not understand what he was saying.

Lev and Spirya walked in the direction from which most of the workers had come. No one took any notice of them. They came to a big set of gates, walked through, and found themselves in a busy street of shops and offices. The road was crowded with motorcars, electric trams, horses, and handcarts. Every few yards Lev spoke to someone, but no one responded.

Lev was mystified. What kind of place allowed anyone to walk off a ship and into the city without permission?

Then he spotted a building that intrigued him. It was a bit like a hotel, except that two poorly dressed men in sailors' caps were sitting on the steps, smoking. "Look at that place," he said.

"What about it?"

"I think it's a seamen's mission, like the one in St. Petersburg."

"We're not sailors."

"But there might be people there who speak foreign languages."

They went inside. A gray-haired woman behind a counter spoke to them.

Lev said in his own tongue: "We don't speak American."

She replied with a single word in the same language: "Russian?"

Lev nodded.

She made a beckoning sign with her finger, and Lev's hopes rose.

They followed her along a corridor to a small office with a window overlooking the water. Behind the desk was a man who looked, to Lev, like a Russian Jew, although he could not have said why he thought that. Lev said to him: "Do you speak Russian?"

"I am Russian," the man said. "Can I help you?"

Lev could have hugged him. Instead he looked the man in the eye and gave him a warm smile. "Someone was supposed to meet us off the ship and take us to Buffalo, but he didn't show up," he said, making his voice friendly but concerned. "There are about three hundred of us..." To gain sympathy he added: "Including women and children. Do you think you could help us find our contact?"

"Buffalo?" the man said. "Where do you think you are?"

"New York, of course."

"This is Cardiff."

Lev had never heard of Cardiff, but at least now he understood the problem. "That stupid captain set us down in the wrong port," he said. "How do we get to Buffalo from here?"

The man pointed out of the window, across the sea, and Lev had a sick feeling that he knew what was coming.

"It's that way," the man said. "About three thousand miles."

{III}

Lev inquired the price of a ticket from Cardiff to New York. When converted to rubles it was ten times the amount of money he had inside his shirt.

He suppressed his rage. They had all been cheated by the Vyalov family, or the ship's captain-or both, most probably, since it would be easier to work the scam between them. All Grigori's hard-earned money had been stolen by those lying pigs. If he could have got the captain of the Angel Gabriel by the throat, he would have squeezed the life out of the man, and laughed when he died.

But there was no point in dreams of vengeance. The thing was not to give in. He would find a job, learn to speak English, and get into a high-stakes card game. It would take time. He would have to be patient. He must learn to be a bit more like Grigori.

That first night they all slept on the floor of the synagogue. Lev tagged along with the rest. The Cardiff Jews did not know, or perhaps did not care, that some of the passengers were Christian.

For the first time in his life he saw the advantage of being Jewish. In Russia Jews were so persecuted that Lev had always wondered why more of them did not abandon their religion, change their clothes, and mix in with everyone else. It would have saved a lot of lives. But now he realized that, as a Jew, you could go anywhere in the world and always find someone to treat you like family.

It turned out that this was not the first group of Russian immigrants to buy tickets to New York and end up somewhere else. It had happened before, in Cardiff and other British ports; and, as so many Russian migrants were Jewish, the elders of the synagogue had a routine. Next day the stranded travelers were given a hot breakfast and got their money changed to British pounds, shillings, and pence, then they were taken to boardinghouses where they were able to rent cheap rooms.

Like every city in the world, Cardiff had thousands of stables. Lev studied enough words to say he was an experienced worker with horses, then went around the city asking for a job. It did not take people long to see that he was good with the animals, but even well-disposed employers wanted to ask a few questions, and he could not understand or answer.

In desperation he learned more rapidly, and after a few days he could understand prices and ask for bread or beer. However, employers were asking complicated questions, presumably about where he had worked before and whether he had ever been in trouble with the police.

He returned to the seamen's mission and explained his problem to the Russian in the little office. He was given an address in Butetown, the neighborhood nearest the docks, and told to ask for Filip Kowal, pronounced "cole," known as Kowal the Pole. Kowal turned out to be a ganger who hired out foreign labor cheap and spoke a smattering of most European languages. He told Lev to be on the forecourt of the city's main railway station, with his suitcase, on the following Monday morning at ten o'clock.

Lev was so glad that he did not even ask what the job was.

He showed up along with a couple of hundred men, mostly Russian, but including Germans, Poles, Slavs, and one dark-skinned African. He was pleased to see Spirya and Yakov there too.

They were herded onto a train, their tickets paid for by Kowal, and they steamed north through pretty mountain country. Between the green hillsides, the industrial towns lay pooled like dark water in the valleys. A feature of every town was at least one tower with a pair of giant wheels on top, and Lev learned that the main business of the region was coal mining. Several of the men with him were miners; some had other crafts such as metalworking; and many were unskilled laborers.

After an hour they got off the train. As they filed out of the station Lev realized this was no ordinary job. A crowd of several hundred men, all dressed in the caps and rough clothes of workers, stood waiting for them in the square. At first the men were ominously silent, then one of them shouted something, and the others quickly joined in. Lev had no idea what they were saying but there was no doubt it was hostile. There were also twenty or thirty policemen present, standing at the front of the crowd, keeping the men behind an imaginary line.

Spirya said in a frightened voice: "Who are these people?"

Lev said: "Short, muscular men with hard faces and clean hands-I'd say they are coal miners on strike."

"They look as if they want to kill us. What the hell is going on?"

"We're strikebreakers," Lev said grimly.

"God save us."

Kowal the Pole shouted: "Follow me!" in several languages, and they all marched up the main street. The crowd continued to shout, and men shook their fists, but no one broke the line. Lev had never before felt grateful to policemen. "This is awful," he said.

Yakov said: "Now you know what it's like to be a Jew."

They left the shouting miners behind and walked uphill through streets of row houses. Lev noticed that many of the houses appeared empty. People still stared as they went by, but the insults stopped. Kowal started to allocate houses to the men. Lev and Spirya were astonished to be given a house to themselves. Before leaving, Kowal pointed out the pithead-the tower with twin wheels-and told them to be there tomorrow morning at six. Those who were miners would be digging coal, the others would be maintaining tunnels and equipment or, in Lev's case, looking after ponies.

Lev looked around his new home. It was no palace, but it was clean and dry. It had one big room downstairs and two up-a bedroom for each of them! Lev had never had a room to himself. There was no furniture, but they were used to sleeping on the floor, and in June they did not even need blankets.

Lev had no wish to leave, but eventually they became hungry. There was no food in the house so, reluctantly, they went out to get their dinner. With trepidation they entered the first pub they came to, but the dozen or so customers glared angrily at them, and when Lev said in English: "Two pints of half-and-half, please," the bartender ignored him.

They walked downhill into the town center and found a cafe. Here at least the clientele did not appear to be spoiling for a fight. But they sat at a table for half an hour and watched the waitress serve everyone who came in after them. Then they left.

It was going to be difficult living here, Lev suspected. But it would not be for long. As soon as he had enough money he would go to America. Nevertheless, while he was here he had to eat.

They went into a bakery. This time Lev was determined to get what he wanted. He pointed to a rack of loaves and said in English: "One bread, please."

The baker pretended not to understand.

Lev reached across the counter and grabbed the loaf he wanted. Now, he thought, let him try to take it back.

"Hey!" cried the baker, but he stayed his side of the counter.

Lev smiled and said: "How much, please?"

"Penny farthing," the baker said sulkily.

Lev put the coins on the counter. "Thank you very much," he said.

He broke the loaf and gave half to Spirya, then they walked down the street eating. They came to the railway station, but the crowd had dispersed. On the forecourt, a news vendor was calling his wares. His papers were selling fast, and Lev wondered if something important had happened.

A large car came along the road, going fast, and they had to jump out of the way. Looking at the passenger in the back, Lev was astonished to recognize Princess Bea.

"Good God!" he said. In a flash, he was transported back to Bulovnir, and the nightmare sight of his father dying on the gallows while this woman looked on. The terror he had felt then was unlike anything he had ever known. Nothing would ever scare him like that, not street fights nor policemen's nightsticks nor guns pointed at him.

The car pulled up at the station entrance. Hatred, disgust, and nausea overwhelmed Lev as Princess Bea got out. The bread in his mouth seemed like gravel and he spat it out.

Spirya said: "What's the matter?"

Lev pulled himself together. "That woman is a Russian princess," he said. "She had my father hanged fourteen years ago."

"Bitch. What on earth is she doing here?"

"She married an English lord. They must live nearby. Perhaps it's his coal mine."

The chauffeur and a maid busied themselves with luggage. Lev heard Bea speak to the maid in Russian, and the maid replied in the same tongue. They all went into the station, then the maid came back out and bought a newspaper.

Lev approached her. Taking off his cap, he gave a deep bow and said in Russian: "You must be the princess Bea."

She laughed merrily. "Don't be a fool. I'm her maid, Nina. Who are you?"

Lev introduced himself and Spirya and explained how they came to be there, and why they could not buy dinner.

"I'll be back tonight," Nina said. "We're only going to Cardiff. Come to the kitchen door of Tŷ Gwyn, and I'll give you some cold meat. Just follow the road north out of town until you come to a palace."

"Thank you, beautiful lady."

"I'm old enough to be your mother," she said, but she simpered just the same. "I'd better take the princess her paper."

"What's the big story?"

"Oh, foreign news," she said dismissively. "There's been an assassination. The princess is terribly upset. The archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was killed at a place called Sarajevo."

"That's frightening, to a princess."

"Yes," Nina said. "Still, I don't suppose it will make any difference to the likes of you and me."

"No," said Lev. "I don't suppose it will."


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