From Double Eagle To Red Flag
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From Double Eagle To Red Flag

General P. N. Krassnoff, Erik Law-Gisiko

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eBook - ePub

From Double Eagle To Red Flag

General P. N. Krassnoff, Erik Law-Gisiko

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About This Book

Pyotr Nikolayevich Krasnov (1869-1947) was Lieutenant General of the Russian army when the revolution broke out in 1917 and one of the leaders of the counterrevolutionary White movement afterward. According to its introduction, From Double Eagle to Red Flag "was born of the debris of Imperial Russia, conceived in the shadow of Leo Tolstoy's historical narrative, by a Russian General with exceptional opportunities." This "monumental" novel "has a naked, a terrible fascination."

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Storia russa



PAVEL IVANOVITCH GRITZENKO, the C. O. of the 2nd squadron, had arranged an evening in his bachelor apartments to which were invited the officers of his regiment, some of his friends from other units and two demimondaines, rising stars of the Petrograd horizon, Katerina Filipovna Fisher and Vladislava Ignatievna Pankratova—Kitty and Vladia. They were sisters, but had adopted different names for convenience. Both were young—Kitty twenty-two and Vladia only nineteen, both handsome, tall, elegantly dressed. They had begun as artists’ models and then had somehow entered the Petersburg demimonde where they had great success among the youthful guardsmen. They had finished at high school, could write a note correctly and spoke fluent French. They quickly learned to understand wine and horses and adorned by their presence many a merry meeting of bachelors.
The spring had just begun at Petersburg and the white nights were full of the fragrance of the opening buds.
Dawn was already breaking in the east lighting the whitish sky. The streets were deserted and quiet. From the Neva came the peculiar smell of water and coal and from time to time were heard the sirens of steamers.
Before the door of the officers’ wing stood a closed carriage for Kitty and Vladia, and several night cabs had assembled before the lighted windows.
The rooms of Gritzenko were full of tobacco smoke. The host had opened the windows and through them could be heard loud conversation, laughter and constantly interrupted singing and music. The supper was already finished and two orderlies were busy clearing the wine-stained table covered with old family plate. Some of the guests were still sitting at the table, some were settled near the windows, others were walking backwards and forwards.
Gritzenko, a young cavalry captain, was carelessly stretched on a sofa, twanging a guitar. He was a handsome dark man with black slightly curling hair, big gypsy eyes and a long drooping moustache. He was dressed in trousers, small patent leather shoes and unbuttoned tunic under which a red silk shirt was seen.
Kitty in a blue silk evening gown and Vladia in a similar pink one were reclining near him. Vladia had drunk too much that evening and felt ill, but Kitty who had just reached high spirits, sang in a low voice and her large blue eyes were greedily scanning the guests.
They were all officers and all more or less known to her. Conspicuous among them was Stepan Alexeievitch Vorobieff, a short middle aged colonel, permanent member of all bachelor meetings and a passionate card player. He had a brown unhealthy looking face, as if the smoke of countless cigars and cigarettes had coloured his skin. His hair was brown and thick and he had a long moustache. He was dressed in a long tunic buttoned up to the top, long blue trousers and old boots much worn.
He walked up and down the room and kept throwing longing glances through the opened doors into the study of the host where card tables with unsealed packets of cards on them were prepared.
Captain Ivan Sergeievitch Matzneff had thrown back the curtains and was dreamily looking on the deserted boulevard and the pale sky. He was about thirty years of age, bald, clean shaven and with the reputation of a cynic and philosopher.
Lieutenant Manotskoff of the Cossack Guards was engaged in a heated dispute about the merits of his horse. He was sitting in a corner surrounded by young officers with glasses of champagne before them, and nervously smoked cigarette after cigarette.
In all there were about fourteen guests.
The moment had come when it was necessary either to go home or find something new to do. Vorobieff thought that it was time to proceed to the card tables—the chief reason for his presence. Drive the ladies home, entrusting them to some youngster, and then settle down to makao or chemin de fer.
But the youngsters wanted to talk and sing a little more. A considerable amount of wine had already been drunk but all were more or less sober. Less sober than any one was the host himself. He usually got merry quickly, but once having leached that state, could drink unlimited quantities and remain on the same level of loose turbulent happiness, noisy songs, violent gestures and universal amiability.
He threw aside the guitar, jumped up and shouted, his merry voice echoing through the flat.
“Zahar! Wine!”
Zahar, Gritzenko’s orderly, a young, tall, handsome recruit, typically Russian, wearing a white shirt, dashed towards him with a bottle of red wine and a big glass.
A resounding smack made everyone start and turn round. Gritzenko had hit the soldier on the face.
“Animal! How long have you served me and yet you don’t know the names of things!” shouted Gritzenko. “What did I ask for?”
“Wine, Your Honour,” perplexedly answered the soldier, his face growing pale.
“And you, animal, brought me pigwash! Wine means champagne, you idiot!”
“Pavel Ivanovitch,” a young voice full of sincere indignation rang from the other end of the room, “you should not hit a soldier. It is abominable, and conduct unworthy of a man of birth and an officer!”
A tall youth came forward. His ruddy face with a hardly noticeable moustache was ablaze with indignation. His large dark eyes flashed angrily. His elegant figure was dad in a tunic buttoned to the very top and in tight fitting breeches. Coming up he stood before Gritzenko separating him from the completely disconcerted orderly.
“Lieutenant Sablin! You forget yourself! You are mad!” exclaimed Gritzenko stammering with anger. “How dare you criticize my conduct!” His face had become purple.
“What is it, gentlemen?” asked Colonel Vorobieff, swiftly and noiselessly approaching Sablin.
“Lieutenant Sablin!” he said “You are wrong! You have no right to make such remarks to your squadron commander. Captain Gritzenko, you acted hotheadedly when you hit your orderly. Yes, yes, but there is no reason for a quarrel. It is your own fault, Captain...And, gentlemen!...Peace...Well...peace in the name of the honour of our regiment. Shake hands...Well...”
“I cannot,” said Sablin, quietly but firmly, “if he had offended me, it would have been different, but he has offended a soldier. It is himself he has offended.”
But Gritzenko was resourceful.
“Zahar, come here,” he said. “I hit you, I hit you lovingly, do you understand? I will kiss you,—lovingly kiss you.”
And taking Zahar’s cheeks in both hands he bent his head and kissed him on the lips. Then slightly pushing him away he shook his finger at him and reproachfully said:
“Ah, Zahar, Zahar. You are very trying! Remember: only champagne is called wine, everything else is pigwash. Have I not taught you this? Have I? What is tea?”
“Pigwash, Your Honour,” quickly answered the soldier.
“Well, you know...,” Gritzenko kissed the soldier again and said—“Go now.”
But as soon as he turned round he shouted out.
“The singers, Zahar, and quick!”...
“Pavel Ivanovitch,” said Vorobieff, “it is four o’clock now. The men are still sleeping and will soon have to rise for the morning work. Leave the singers alone!”
Gritzenko only smiled merrily.
“I want! I wish—I want to show this jackanapes that the men love me and that it’s nothing,” he made a gesture with the hand, “they do not mind as long as they are loved and not ill-treated. That is so, dear Stepochka, and do not interfere with me. Two songs. You understand? Two songs. And he will sing to us,” he laughed,—“Leo Tolstoi!”
Sablin shrugged his shoulders and strolled away. He could not be angry with Gritzenko.


WHILE everyone waited for the singers, Stepochka cast annoyed glances at the ladies. They had not decided to leave at the right moment, and now the card playing was disarranged. No one wanted to play in their presence.
“Sing something, Katerina Filipovna,” he said, “what is the use of sitting like this.”
“Good, I will accompany on the guitar,” said Gritzenko sitting down by the ladies, “Well?”
Kitty shook herself. Young, well formed, with a blush on her cheeks, she appeared very beautiful.
“Shall I sing ‘The letter?’” she said.
“Good,” exclaimed Gritzenko and swaying from side to side with the guitar began to play.
Kitty sang the first verse and an improvised chorus picked up its last lines.
“Excellent, bravo, bravo,” shouted Stepochka.
Gritzenko, flashing his gypsy eyes, sang falsetto but very musically and correctly the second verse.
Everyone laughed and Kitty and Vladia more than anyone.
“Now let Sablin sing the Cadet song,” shouted Rotbek and pulled Sablin by the sleeve towards the piano in the corner of the room.
Sablin touched several chords and the officers gathered round the piano.
The merry song rang through the room and Kitty’s clear voice was distinctly heard above the deep tones of the men where the words were most risqué and suggestive.


THE singers arrived. There were twenty-five of them and a stout decorated sergeant-major. The soldiers were dressed in clean white shirts with elk-skin belts, new breeches and highly polished top boots with spurs. The sergeant was in a tunic embroidered with gold and silver chevrons, medals were on his breast and neck and a silver chain of diminutive rifles for good marksmanship hung from one of the buttons of his tunic. They brought with them the aroma of lime-trees, morning, spring and a strong smell of boot polish.
Stepochka greeted them. The choir-leader, the squadron clerk, a short young soldier with a clever malicious face, stepped forward, put his hands behind his back and put one foot forward. He had a very good tenor voice, had received a musical education and knew what he was worth. He glanced malignantly round the dining room, at the wine and the women and began to sing in a clear ringing voice which seemed to grip at one’s heart. Having finished the first verse he waved his hand, turned to the choir and the clear melody speaking of the gallant deeds of old days and the glory of the regiment in many a battle, softly rang through the room.
“Now,” said Gritzenko when they had finished, growing softer from the proud consciousness that they were his singers, his squadron, “you must hear a duet that our fierce Sasha Sablin will sing with Lubovin. It is as good as an opera.”
“Sing Sablin.”
“Sasha, sing,” voices were heard.
Sablin came forward. A good musician, accustomed as a Cadet to sing in a choir, Sablin was now greatly attracted by the choir leader, Lubovin, and hoped to arrange for him to enter the Conservatoire and go on the stage. Lubovin taught him new songs.
“Let us have yours, Lubovin.”
“Yes, sir.”
Two voices blended together and told the sad tale of the wretched life of a peasant.
Kitty sitting next to Stepochka, languidly stretching herself and half closing her blue eyes, fixed them on Sablin entranced by his youth, beauty and strength.
“Stepochka, dear,” she whispered to Vorobieff, “it can’t be true that Sablin—never, not a single time?”
“Yes, it is,” said Stepochka examining the rings on her soft burning fingers.
“No? How nice! He does not know at all. Has not seen?”
“I assure you.”
“What rapture, Stepochka dear, arrange this....Arrange that I...should be the first.”
“Well, I will try.”
“You darling!”
“Tss...” hissed someone.
Sablin and Lubovin were finishing their song.
Stepochka had enough of singing. It was already six o’clock. The rays of the sun were penetrating the drawn curtains and church bells were heard tolling.

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