Extracts, A man to end all wars
Bayonne Station, 1914
"The great glass canopy of the station, joining the south of the city with the border and the north with the capital, reverberated with a great hum of activity as it always did at a quarter past three. At that moment, always on time, the train for Paris, ready to leave, was making way for the train returning on the same line from Hendaye, the two locomotives requesting and acknowledging in turn, permission to pass by, exchanging brief whistles between them. The operator of the Paris locomotive pulling six carriages, opened the train's vents and let out long jets of steam which spread across the platform, swirling and accumulating in great blasts of white cloud. The Express lurched forward clumsily, leaving behind it a riot of shouted orders, clashes of steel and a hubbub of human clamour and emotional goodbyes. Before changing lines, the Hendaye train expelled small streams of vapour from its star valves like coarse, overheated worms, while it awaited orders from the sub master to pull into the station. The pointsman's red lamp went out, the white lamp was lit and the sub stationmaster lifted the lamp for the driver to see. With a fresh whistle, he opened the throttle and the train moved forward slowly, practically unnoticed by the passengers within."
Bayonne Military Club, 1914
"The Military Club was in a lamentable state of shabby grandeur redolent of former glory days, of the time of the Empire, long gone but not forgotten by its military members. The damp, creeping up its stone façade and gradually eroding away by rain and wind, left traces of mucous green, almost black, giving it a sad and disfigured appearance. The roof of one of its turrets with its castle windows was in such a sorry state of deterioration and instability that a moderate breeze from the Adour would have been enough to bring it tumbling down, tiles, beams and all. The inside of the building was in stark contrast to the outside. Upon passing through the solid wooden door with iron bar reinforcings, the splendor of the interior was not unlike a fragile old lady with age withered skin, no teeth and fading eyes but who is still capable of showing how her mind still shone with intelligence when she talked, a strength unaffected by the passing of time. The wood-panelled walls, the tall bookshelves, the great chandeliers, the painted ceilings, the solid, well-worn floors; standards, armour, sabres and paintings of bloody and heroic battles all jostled together and mingled with the smell of cloth and polish, to make up the Chateau Vieux Military Club.
Commissioner Gilbert Abeberry took small sips of port in the Library, a place in which, quite surprisingly, a great gabble of raised voices always filled the room, where the distinguished members of the club were in the habit of holding heated discussions, half hidden in dense clouds of smoke, on all manner of subjects that happened to be reported in the newspapers they were reading, be they local or national matters. Political matters such as the weaknesses of the III Republic, the suspicious inclination of Poincaré towards everything Russian, that dangerous socialist Jean Jaurès whom they criticised and crucified with vehemence, or military matters such as the much awaited vengeance for Imperial Germany's violation of Alsace and Loraine, and even matters as frivolous as the ballerina's legs at the Mairie et Theatre. It was rare for these gentlemen to cast an eye over the volumes of military history and geography that lay under decades of thick dust and ash. At night, when silence finally fell over those rooms, the floor was a mess of newspapers, crumpled, bashed, trodden on and ripped, over which the present and future of the nation had been judged."
Belmont Park, New York, 1914
" "Well, gentlemen," J P Morgan began, taking advantage of the moment of silence, "shall we get to the grain?"
room was well lit thanks to the two vast windows which looked straight down
onto the finishing line of the hippodrome racecourse. It was perhaps too bright, given the matter
that had brought them together around that great oval table. Morgan approached the windows and closed the
wooden blinds. The room was at once
thrown into semi darkness, save for the odd ray of light slashing the gloom
like the blades of a guillotine and shadows flickered over the faces of those
present. Herbert, Bush, Harriman and
Schiff lit cigarettes; Rockefeller, Morgan and Du Pont, thick cigars and
Stillman, his pipe. The gathering smoke
danced, blue as it wafted over the rays of sunlight. "
In the French countryside, Bayonne, 1914
"When the milkman reached the house of Agathe Larronde, on the outskirts of town, she was waiting in the doorway of her house with the milk pail by her feet, nervous at Monsieur Gillon's strange delay. As soon as he rounded the last corner at the top of the hill, the milkman strained with anticipation to catch sight of the lovely Agathe. In her own way, despite her great age, the old lady was still a beautiful woman, with her long white hair gathered in a high bun, partially showing her long white neck, like a curtain half hiding a magnificent stage set. Both were widowed, both spoke only enough to maintain order and tradition, and both had the right to once again feel passion in their lives again before age scratched out such frivolous feelings forever. She tried to hide her feelings and emotions at Fabrice's casual, brushed touches, but he was incapable of doing the same, much as he tried. His eyes watered, his lips became dry and his entire face would rearrange itself into a quite ridiculous grimace of happiness. Neither of them had dared to make a further move during their brief morning encounters beyond the exchange of a few words to comment on the weather or the state of the season's crops.
"I am so sorry about the delay, Madame Larronde. It was old La Rousse," he apologised from up on his cart.
"I was wondering what could possibly have happened. You are always as punctual as a cathedral clock". Both lowered their eyes as the milkman began to pour the milk into Agathe's pail. "So what happened to your mare?"
"She died," sentenced Fabrice emphatically and added, "of old age".
"Poor animal," replied the old woman.
"It's been a while now since I've been aware that she just wasn't pulling with her normal strength," explained the milkman and added with some satisfaction, "maybe I'll buy a lorry."
"A lorry? You're very daring and so brave!" exclaimed Madame Larronde brightly.
The man cut the bright, dense stream of milk. Agathe always had exactly the right change, gathered together during the previous day. It was her subconscious way of thinking at every instant of the day about Fabrice. She paid him and they said their farewells until the next day. The woman went back into the house but not without a quick glance back at the bent figure of the milkman moving across the green fields and driving his cart towards the sun."
The church ofNotre Dame du Pilier, Ustaritz, France, 1914
"About thirty relatives and friends had gathered at the hermitage, beneath its mossy walls and between the wide oaks and beech trees, forming a retreat of great beauty. The bride and groom, resplendent in the bright midday sunshine, emerged arm in arm, smiling like naughty children who had just committed a mischievous prank in the shadows of the hermitage and got away with it. As soon as they emerged, the newly-weds were showered with a snowfall of petals and rice. The simple chime of a single tin bell sounded above them. The men were wearing dark suits, starched white shirts and black ties, the same outfits they used for funerals and Sunday mass. Many were wearing traditional txapela berets, slightly tilted on the head. Others held them in large, rough hands, watching with tanned, weather-worn faces, their hair neatly brushed back, flattened and shining with brilliantine. The women, with pallid faces and gathered hair, wore simple but clean dresses, restitched and adjusted for the occasion and decorated with silk flowers. They proudly showed off their well worn silver and gold jewellery, passed down through the family for generations.
Pierre wore the same three-piece suit he used for work, but he had replaced his usual tie for a fawn coloured bow-tie for a more festive look and a touch of distinction. That morning Pierre had regained his smile, having detoxed from the events of the previous night and encouraged by the air of happiness, so pure and honourable, that emanated from the young couple, their families and friends.
The women, emboldened by the ever-more festive atmosphere, had not stopped chatting since the moment the priest had pronounced the couple husband and wife. They made their way along the little footpath lined with red ferns to the top of the hill, to where the Mignon family had lived for several generations, working the land and more recently, running a productive pig farm. Here, below the bright blue dome of the sky, one could see Mount Larrun to the right and the Mondarrain peak to the left. Below, to the north, the vast French plains stretched out before them. In a field close to the house and as far away as they were able from the pigs, Emile's mother had set out a long table, with the help of the other women in the family, with benches stretching along the length of each side. The table began to fill up with pork chops, sausages and black puddings stuffed with onion, the result of the slaughter of two pigs. To follow were dishes of roast pork and beef casseroles. Bottles of wine, cider and brandy were distributed across the table and washed down with a three tier Saboya cake upon which stood two little porcelain figures, albeit rather coarse and badly painted, the groom with fair hair and a crude, child-like smile, the bride serious and pensive."
Montparnasse Station, Paris, 1914
"The south east express, charred and blackened by coal dust and pulling several carriages, made its way into the Gare de Montparnasse in the early morning as a flow of passengers, brought in on various local lines, poured into the city in dark waves. Every time a train pulled in, the opening and closing of doors resounded like an intense, but brief hailstorm. In the distance, the prolonged sound of the horns of other approaching locomotives could be heard, requesting permission to pull into the station. Passengers walking along the platforms disappeared and reappeared in clouds of steam expelled by the engines, forming twisting, white coils, rising up into the cathedral-like canopy of the station roof. Most of the new arrivals were office workers who, aloof to the presence of others, consulted their watches and adjusted their pace accordingly, skillfully avoiding carts loaded with heavy luggage and station workers routinely pushing carriage heaters or extinguishing gas lamps, which, intermingled with more modern electric lights, were still lit for the retreating darker hours of night.
Pierre Etcheberry climbed down from the train as the locomotive exhaled its last steamy breath, as if exhausted from the effort of almost a whole day of motion. The size of everything around him seemed shocking; a huge crowd made their way in a sea of ordered lines along the platforms, seemingly with no beginning and no end, lost in the last mists of the morning, a great mosaic of anonymous humanity, its sounds and smells, of fuel oil and tar, as if it were all a part of one colossal machine, recently lubricated with the sole purpose of feeding the city with men, merchandise, ambitions and perspiration. The sun, with the youthful strength of a newly fledged summer, slipped stealthily though the huge windows to the east and bore down in great golden columns on the iron and steam below."
Entrance to a residence in central Paris, 1914
"The delivery boy of the Belle Fleur florists thoroughly enjoyed delivering to the residence of Mademoiselle Karsavina, something which happened, luckily for him, with blissful frequency, sometimes two or three times a day. What motivated the carefree steps of the child with the green bow tie and black braces over a cheap, smutty white shirt was the possibility with each visit of bumping into the daughter of the owners of 134 Boulevard Haussmann, a scrawny, sickly looking girl with pallid lips, grubby cheeks and green-grey eyes who, despite her physical weaknesses, was in the habit of casting the sweetest, most endearing glances in the direction of the boy that a girl in love could possibly conjure.
On this occasion the errand boy danced and pirouetted his way through the passers-by, carrying in his arms a bunch of four dark red roses with no note or envelope to identify the sender. He reached the doorway and there, in the inner courtyard, in the only corner where the damp shadows gave way to a perfect rectangle of sunlight, the daughter of the porter sat, her chestnut hair almost completely hiding her sad face, resigned to a life of melancholy. The boy took up position at her side, leaning with one elbow against the wall and began to tell the young girl the latest local gossip, until the girl's father appeared at the door of the coal house, black as charred wood and sweating from his exertions, scattering the errand boy's bold stories with a single stare and reminding him that he had work to do."
Montmartre, Paris, 1914
" "Please will you allow me to invite you, and your daughter, to have a hot drink and we can have a chat?"
She seemed to like that proposal and, still on her guard, she followed Pierre to the inn. Inside, the smell of food and sweat blended with that of wine and liquor, resulting in a pungent, repellent concoction which induced a sense of nausea. It was still early and there were not many clients, just the occasional sluggish labourer spending what pay he had and the inevitable drunkard who occupied a corner of the bar day in, day out, along with the cockroaches, fleas and mice. And those few punters cast suspicious glances in Pierre's direction; a well dressed gentleman with elegant mannerisms with "La Boiteuse" and her little troupe?
When he saw her walk he understood why she had her nickname. Chloé Henri limped on her right leg which was shorter than her left. They sat down at the dim table, well away from the bar in order to talk without being overheard. Pierre ordered hot chicken broth, bread and a jug of water. For him, brandy. The girl, sitting next to her mother, looked up at her with sorrowful eyes and then at the Inspector, then back to her mother. She had a bare forehead and her straw-coloured hair, which she pushed back on occasions, was unbrushed, like a nest of muddled string. Her cheeks were two little pink clouds and her lips were thin but well curved and, unlike her mother, were so red they looked as if they had been coloured using blood. There was something in her look that was not child-like, perhaps due to a lack of natural expression or maybe it was her flat, thinned eyebrows, or perhaps because she looked not at his eyes, but at his mouth. When the barman slapped the plates of food onto the table, an instant of light shone in her face and she immediately began eating frantically and impulsively. The baby looked on, sucking on a dark nipple, struggling to extract a few drops of milk. "
Montmartre, Paris, 1914
"One hour later, Tamara Karsavina left the building, walked up the Boulevard Haussmann and turned onto Avenue de Messine. She was beautiful, captivating, wearing a marble coloured sleeveless silk dress, gathered under the bust and cascading freely to the height of her ankles with bright, embroidered borders in gold and silver. It was a piece designed by her favorite fashion designer, Paul Poiret, knowing that it complemented the dazzlingly slender silhouette of her ballerina's figure. She wore a straw hat with flowers and tiny cloth and net fruits which matched her white parasol and contrasted perfectly with her mane of black hair that shone with flecks of red. She had recently started using make-up, a frivolity only permitted amongst theatrical women. Her days of using arsenic or lead to whiten her face and accentuate the blue veins in her skin were long over, thought the ballerina happily. Her lips were long and thin, but rose in shapely playful curves in the middle as if permanently about to kiss. It was a natural detail of her face that she had used to her advantage since adolescence to make herself more attractive and enticing. Karsavina's beauty caught the attention of men and women alike as they passed by, and many would often look back and whisper - "La Karsavina!" "
On the Orient Express, June 1914
"The French Basque Inspector's compartment was in the centre of the third carriage from the end, and in no time he heard voices coming from the end of his carriage. He opened his door ajar and peered into the corridor. At the end he saw one of the men. He was knocking on the doors of the compartments and when the doors were opened he introduced himself as border control police. Once he had inspected their passports he offered his apologies for the inconvenience, wished them a safe journey and went on to the next compartment. Pierre ventured into the corridor stealthily and made his way in the opposite direction. He had to gain time to think about how he could evade the two Austrian policemen. His first thought was to jump off the train, but he immediately rejected that, as the train was now travelling at speed and such an action would be suicidal. He moved into the restaurant carriage. A waiter was collecting up glasses left by the passengers who had been latest to bed. The waiter indicated that the bar and restaurant were now closed, but Pierre paid him no attention. He passed through to the next carriage. He had to think of something right now, as at any moment the other man, the one who had climbed onto the train from the front end, would make an appearance right in front of him. He heard the sound of doors opening and closing, and thought it must be the one from his end coming through the restaurant carriage. He was trapped. At that moment the door of a compartment behind him opened, a hand grabbed his shoulder and Pierre was pulled inside.
Despite the semi darkness, Pierre could make out a sweet, fresh and recognisably female aroma, followed by the female herself. The train momentarily passed a shaft of light from outside and Pierre was able to see, to his dismay, that it was that of the Russian ballerina. He wanted to protest, but the woman put her hand over his mouth and literally tore off his jacket. She was wearing a salmon-pink nightgown and her hair was loose over her shoulders, as dark as the blackness around them, fusing with the shadows. She pushed Pierre backwards onto the bed. With a serious face, she looked into his eyes and kissed him passionately, just at the moment the two policemen knocked at the door. The young woman turned and without looking at them, let out a shocked screech.
"So sorry," one of them said in bad French.
"Get out!" Pierre shouted with an exquisite German accent, the language he had learnt from his mother.
The two men closed the door of the compartment and moved towards the restaurant carriage."
A house in Sarajevo, June 1914
"Gavro was still pointing the Browning at the bedroom door when it opened suddenly. A young man in his twenties with intensely blue eyes and leather tinted skin, looked at Gavro with surprise and alarm.
"Put that gun down!" Danilo Ilic growled. Gavro obeyed him and put the gun down. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I was trying it out."
"Not in my mother's house you don't!" Ilic closed the door. "I thought I was the fool in all this madness."
"Sorry, my friend."
"Put it away," ordered Ilic. Then, more calmly, he added, "God, we are all so on edge."
"It's normal," Princip replied as he put the weapon back and replaced the bag under the bed.
Ilic walked to the window and peered out at the street. Night was quickly closing in on the mosques, churches and synagogues of Sarajevo and the rain, that had been constant all day, was clinging to the window panes in tiny blister-like droplets, reflecting hundreds of times the cold, silent sadness of the city.
"What were you doing?" asked Ilic, staring at the text books open on the table.
"I was studying."
"You were studying?" Ilic asked, incredulously. "Why?"
"I don't know," replied Princip. "I felt guilty."
Ilic studied Gavro's face, which seemed paler and more sickly than normal, his eyes engulfed in dark, greenish, sunken circles, his head disproportionately large for his skinny body with sticking out ears, a ludicrous moustache, and he carried that ever present sense of sadness about him.
"Guilty about what?"
"About being on the point of giving up my life without first having got myself a degree."
"It's a bit late for that now, but if that's how you want to waste your time.." observed Ilic with indifference.
"It helps me forget that in a few hours we will have assassinated <<Verdinanda>> and we will become the new martyrs of our country." Princip's voice had a certain air of the messiah about it. A feeling of fear disguised as bravado and a sense of destiny about to be fulfilled, hung over the two young men who stared blankly into the room stacked with books and pamphlets. "
A street in Sarajevo, June 1914
a bunch of idiots" grumbled the Archduke.
Sophie took his hand to calm him.
She looked at her belly and felt comforted by her coming maternity. From the pavement the people observed them
knew that this would be the only opportunity remaining. He reminded himself that he was not standing
before a man, but a figure who represented everything he had hated in the last
few years, the Austrian domination of his homeland. The moment had come to face his destiny. He threw away his cigarette and reached for
the Browning in his pocket. Fear spread
over his body like a creeping, poisonous plant and he felt his limbs become
limp from his legs to the tops of his fingers.
Pierre took in the whole scene before him with incredulity. He looked around the crowd, scanning the faces and suddenly recognized that of the pale faced youth with deep set eyes and a ridiculous moustache who had spoken to him the night before at the tavern. At that very moment Princip took out his gun and with a trembling, outstretched arm, aimed it at the Archduke. Pierre screamed, "No!" and lurched towards Princip. The Austro Hungarian heir looked back, dazed and startled by the cry, and saw a child, or perhaps he was a very thin man with a sickly look, pointing what looked like a gun at him. He saw how he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger, once, then a second time. Pierre fell on top of Princip just as he was pointing the gun at his own head. But he had achieved his objective.
Franz Ferdinand felt a light stinging on his neck and felt Sophie, who was sitting to his right between himself and the gunman, fall onto his lap. Blood red stains began to appear on her white dress like a bunch of red grapes.
"Sopherl, Sopherl, don't die!" cried the Archduke as he searched for signs of life in his wife. "Live for the children!"
But the Duchess of Hoheberg was already dead. Blood began to spurt from the collar of Franz Ferdinand's blue coat. Count von Harrach, sitting in the co-pilot's seat, leaned over the heir and asked him if he was alright.
"It's nothing, nothing, it's nothing..." replied the Archduke while his voice, and with it his whole being, drowned in his own blood.
Markus heard the shots from the other side of the river as he fled the city in a taxi. He immediately asked the driver to stop. A dismal silence fell over the city. After about a minute, a boy on the Latenier bridge called out, "They've shot <<Verdinanda>>, they've killed the heir!" The German agent did not react. He had not celebrated the death of his victims for many years now. His work was over. "
Verdun, May 1916
down" shouted the Lieutenant. The troop
was still half asleep and confused when the first shell exploded three metres
from the trench, lifting a thick curtain of earth into the air that came back down
and then several dozen more, raining shells and destruction until the night seemed
to be permanently lit and the German artillery became a deafening and
continuous pandemonium over the heads of Pierre's men. They buried themselves and their tense faces
in the loose earth of the trenches and waited for their orders from grand-père. Pierre cursed Abeberry for not having sent
through any orders yet. He's probably
been paralised by fear, he thought, contemptuously. To hell with his orders! The Germans had worked out that they had
taken up position in the old trenches and it was only a matter of adjusting the
precision of their aim before a simple 360 or a 210 destroyed half of everyone
and everything in that disgusting cesspit that reeked of excrement and
gunpowder. Mangin had sent them to the knackers'
yard for sure and the Captain had done nothing to avoid the certain destruction
of his entire company.
was covering his ears like a small child taking refuge under the sheets of his
bed to protect himself from the strange sounds of the night. Emile covered his mouth to stop earth getting
in. With each explosion the ground shook
violently, the reverberations shaking the very bones of the soldiers and
jolting their organs. Those moments
paralysed their brains for a second, unable to function and incapable of clear
thought, the instinct to survive their only reaction. Where the hell was the counter artillery that
that bloody Mangin had promised! Pierre
swore to himself with total fury.
"Emile!" Pierre shouted across to the Corporal. Despite him being right by his side the noise from the German bombardment was too intense to hear anything else. "Tell the other corporals to try their best to keep their observation positions!" Pierre was concerned that after the bombardment, the German infantry would launch a surprise offensive to retake the trenches.
The bright yellow light of the detonations illuminated the clouds of orange dust that had been lifted into the atmosphere after each explosion, dressing the night in a confusion of colour. The sound of the vast sweeps of grapeshot and the unnerving whistle of the rockets united in an uneasy symphony of terror. The air had become hot and smelt of churned-up earth and explosives. The soldiers adjusted the straps on their helmets until they practically suffocated, as the sky above them continued to groan and belch fire.
"Where is God now?" Marcel asked Emile, whose lips were brown with the earth of the Meuse.
"I don't know," he responded, his lips close to his colleague's ear, "but you can be sure that tonight heaven is empty." Emile froze as a powerful rocket fell close to their location. Then he took his face out of the earth and added, "As empty as a corpse."
"Arm your bayonets!" shouted the Lieutenant.
"Please tell me we aren't going out there with this rain of fire, Grand-père?" asked Emile.
"It's to be ready when the Boche come to see us."
The order was passed on from corporal to corporal along the length of the trench. The soldiers took out their bayonets and fixed them onto the barrels of their guns with trembling hands. In the dark it was hard to get them on and more than one was panicking. Some recited the Our Father several times over while others wondered what sin they had committed to be put through all of this horror. Others, with quiet whispers, prayed to their mothers to take them away from that hell. "
In the French countryside, Bayonne 1917
"Pierre clenched his fists tightly. Destiny was sweet, offering him a second
chance. But the thought of Annais swept
aside all his desires for revenge like a freak, cold gust of wind. The Pierre of today, he thought reluctantly,
was not the same person who had once run across the whole of Europe to prevent
an assassination. Now he had someone who
loved him and whose love he reciprocated and he was no longer in a position to
make decisions alone. Which would be
strongest? Which of the two would
triumph, Pierre thought, perturbed. Love
was impetuous and new and a feeling that he knew over time would calm, losing
its strength and passion. Quite the
opposite of revenge, which grew stronger as time went by, entrenching itself in
the soul, forming a hard, painful lump within, the cause of hours of nocturnal
wakefulness, the controller of dreams, loneliness and reproach for the rest of
one's life. Love is shared, revenge
consumes a person as it is not something one can confess; love adds to one's
wholeness, revenge drains away one's life-force; love gives one a reason to
stay alive, revenge just keeps one ticking over, reminding one constantly of
the mediocrity of being human..."
Zurich, March 1917
"Bronksi ascended the well-worn, wooden staircase four steps at a time at 14 Spiegelgasse. Nadya opened the door to him.
"I need to speak to Lenin!"
The woman looked at him apprehensively. She had never seen him in such a state of agitation, his eyes fiery red and his whole body heaving from a combination of physical exertion and the intense cold. Lenin had heard the urgent knocking at the door and had made his way cautiously towards the door - one never knew when he might get a visit from the damn shpiks from the Okhrana.
"What's up, Miecyslaw Bronski?" he asked.
"The Tsar!" Bronski managed to bellow out breathlessly.
"Pull yourself together, you crazy young Pole!" Lenin shouted, impatiently.
"The Tsar... has... Abdicated.... The Revolution... has begun in Russia!" Those few tremulous words, addled by emotion, were the words he had been waiting to hear for years, words he had only dreamt of hearing, so many sleepless nights thinking about them, and now he was hearing the sound of those words resounding in his ears. He stood stunned, unable to let out any feelings, not even able to process his thoughts. Nadya had exactly the same reaction, although she immediately let out her perturbation by discharging a rapid stream of tears from her eyes.
"The exiles are gathering in Bellevue Square."
Lenin suddenly burst into action, racing down the staircase. Bronski followed close behind, and Nadya, quickly throwing on a coat, went chasing after the two men. When Lenin reached the banks of Lake Zurich, the sun was already low in the sky, casting long strips of gold across the water and impairing his sight, a sight which, full of emotion, Lenin was finally witnessing, the moment he had been waiting for, for so long. Dozens of men and women of all ages and of diverse nationalities were embracing, laughing, crying, as they exchanged congratulations amongst each other as if they had just become parents for the first time. In a way that is exactly what they felt they were, and the newborn, full of optimism and apprehension, was none other than the Revolution, the Revolution that had finally achieved its objective, to topple the ominous, authoritarian Tsar from his high throne."
Finland Station, St Petersburg, April 1917
"Pierre watched the platform clock with increasing agitation. At last, at ten minutes past eleven, someone pointed towards a place where the rails disappeared into the intense darkness of the night and a deathly silence fell over the gathered crowd, as they heard a distant whistle. At that very instant, a faint point of light appeared in the misty darkness, as distant as a star, gradually growing in size, until it was metamorphosised into the glowing lamp of the steam locomotive.
When the passengers on the train caught sight of the reception awaiting them, no one was able to utter a single word, choking with emotion, words unable to describe what they were feeling inside. For the first time in many months, emotion was also clearly visible on Lenin's face, a mixture of surprise and admiration and tears welled up in his tired, narrow, reddened eyes. Nadya, by his side, looked at him with a turbulent mix of remorse and happiness. "And you thought we might have problems finding a taxi at such a late hour to get to Ana and Mark's house," she scolded him. But Lenin could not take his eyes off that mass of Russian souls, comrades, revolutionary brothers and sisters who were already cheering over the sound of the La Marseillaise.
"We'll have to teach the musicians the International," shouted Kamenev excitedly as he leaned out of the other window.
The train finally came to a halt at the platform, but no one moved from their positions at the windows.
"They're waiting for you," Kamenev said. "They're anxious to hear your voice at last, to see you in the flesh for the first time in their lives, the leader who must lead us to a socialist revolution."
Those words were enough to put their differences behind them. From that moment on they would fight side by side for the same end, thought Lenin, overcome with feeling. He had at last achieved the first objective of their journey."
In a dacha in the countryside near Petrograd
" Another six hours went by before Pierre once again opened his eyes. This time, they opened without spasms, without fear, free of tension on his brow. He was awoken by the gentle, affectionate caress of a hand on his naked chest, and he saw they were the fingers of Tamara Karsavina. Tamara, leaning over the injured man, was staring at him intently, trying to work out how she would explain to him all the things, one after another, that had been going on around him. The room smelled of chicken broth and chervil.
"Don't move. Try not to talk ..." The ballerina moved a finger to Pierre's lips and she immediately reached for a tin cup of water which tasted deliciously of metal. "Drink," she ordered him, as she slipped a hand behind his neck to support his head. "They told me you had come round a few hours ago. By the time I got here you had already fallen back into one of those horrid nightmares you have been having for the last four days." Four days!
tried to open his mouth to show his surprise and to shower the ballerina with
questions. But she asked him not to
talk, as if predicting his thoughts. "I
will explain how you got here...." "
In a fishing boat at dawn, Petrograd
"The small fishing boat floated away slowly through
the pinky-blue icebergs scattered around the Bay of Neva. As they approached the open sea these became
less and less frequent and their path became easier. From the stern Pierre watched as one by one
the domes and turrets of the city began to shine, illuminated by the rising
sun, under a yellow and orange sky, crisscrossed with shards of light as they
brushed away the last lingering mists of the night. The light danced playfully, casting the
colours of dawn over the shifting waters of the sea. It was a most beautiful
site to see for a man who had found that city as enigmatic as the women who
lived in it, a city he was now slipping away from forever, and he already felt
the pain of parting and the nostalgia of its absence."