The faithful servant uttered some explanation in Russian, which the young man did not understand, or, rather, Rouletabille understood perfectly from his manner that henceforth the door of the villa was closed to him. In vain he insisted on seeing the general, Matrena Petrovna and Mademoiselle Natacha. Ermolai made no reply but "Niet, niet, niet."
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.
On all-fours he ran like a beast, rapidly and silently, and rose behind the wall of the villa, where he made a turn, reached the gate, aroused the dvornicks and demanded Ermolai, who opened the gate for him. "The Barinia?" he said. Ermolai pointed his finger to the bedroom floor. "Caracho!"
But Rouletabille was not to be found, and the flask of vodka and the glasses from which they had drunk were gone also. Ermolai was near-by, and he inquired of the servant for the young Frenchman. Ermolai replied that he had just gone away, carrying the flask and the glasses. Koupriane swore.
Leave it to me; I have a plan." "What?" "I have time to execute it, but not to tell you about it. They have already waited too long. I shall have to go upstairs, though. Ermolai will need to go with me, as with a friend of the family." "I'll go too." "That would give the whole show away, if they saw you, the Prefect of Police." "Why, no.
He shook Ermolai and even started to give him a blow with the fist for permitting such a thing to happen before his eyes without making a protest.
She did not drink until after him. The heroic woman must have exerted superhuman force to go herself to find the saving antidote in her medicine-chest, even while the agony pervaded her vitals. Some minutes later both could be considered saved. The servants, Ermolai at their head, were clustered about.
Feodor and Ermolai were deep in conversation about the Orel country. The young man did not disturb them. Then, soon, Matrena reappeared. He saw her come in quite radiant. He handed back her keys, and she took them mechanically. She was overjoyed and did not try to hide it. The general himself noticed it, and asked what had made her so.
The orderlies wished to have camp-beds prepared for them right here in the general's house, by a natural devotion to him; but I opposed it, in order to keep them both from Natacha, in whom, of course, I have the most complete confidence, but one cannot be sure about the extravagance of men nowadays." Ermolai came to announce the petit-dejeuner.
How in the world could he dine if he did not prepare for that important act by the rapid absorption of two or three little glasses of white wine, between two or three sandwiches of caviare! "Ermolai must have left it in the wine-chest," said Matrena. The wine-closet was in the dining-room.