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Fall of giants, p.23
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       Fall of Giants, p.23

         Part #1 of The Century series by Ken Follett
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Chapter 23

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE - March 1917

  That winter in Petrograd was cold and hungry. The thermometer outside the barracks of the First Machine Gun Regiment stayed at minus fifteen degrees centigrade for a full month. Bakers stopped making pies, cakes, pastries, and anything else other than bread, but still there was not enough flour. Armed guards were posted at the barracks kitchen door because so many soldiers tried to beg or steal extra food.

  One bitterly cold day early in March Grigori got an afternoon pass and decided to go and see Vladimir, who would be with the landlady while Katerina was at work. He put on his army greatcoat and set off through icy streets. On Nevsky Prospekt he caught the eye of a child beggar, a girl of about nine, standing on a corner in an arctic wind. Something about her bothered him, and he frowned as he walked past. A minute later he realized what had struck him. She had given him a look of sexual invitation. He was so shocked that he stopped in his tracks. How could she be a whore at that age? He turned around, intending to question her, but she was gone.

  He walked on with a troubled mind. He knew, of course, that there were men who wanted sex with children: he had learned that when he and little Lev sought help from a priest, all those years ago. But somehow the picture of that nine-year-old pathetically imitating a come-hither smile wrenched at his heart. It made him want to weep for his country. We are turning our children into prostitutes, he thought: can it possibly get any worse?

  He was in a grim mood when he reached his old lodgings. As soon as he entered the house he heard Vladimir bawling. He went up to Katerina's room and found the child alone, his face red and contorted with crying. He picked him up and rocked him.

  The room was clean and tidy, and smelled of Katerina. Grigori came here most Sundays. They had a routine: they went out in the morning, then came home and made lunch, with food Grigori brought from the barracks when he could get any. Afterward, while Vladimir had his nap, they made love. On Sundays when there was enough to eat, Grigori was blissfully happy in this room.

  Vladimir's yelling became a droning discontented grizzle. With the child in his arms, Grigori went to look for the landlady, who was supposed to be watching Vladimir. He found her in the laundry, a low-built extension at the back of the house, running wet bedsheets through a mangle. She was a woman of about fifty with gray hair tied up in a scarf. She had been plump back in 1914 when Grigori left to go in the army, but now her throat was scraggy and her jowls hung loose. Even landladies were hungry these days.

  She looked startled and guilty when she saw him. Grigori said: "Didn't you hear the child crying?"

  "I can't rock him all day," she said defensively, and went on turning the handle of the wringer.

  "Perhaps he's hungry. "

  "He's had his milk," she said quickly. Her response was suspiciously rapid, and Grigori guessed she had drunk the milk herself. He wanted to strangle her.

  In the cold air of the unheated laundry he felt Vladimir's soft baby skin radiating heat. "I think he's got a fever," he said. "Didn't you notice his temperature?"

  "Am I a doctor, now, too?"

  Vladimir stopped crying and fell into a state of lassitude that Grigori found more worrying. He was normally an alert, busy child, curious and mildly destructive, but now he lay still in Grigori's arms, his face flushed, his eyes staring.

  Grigori put him back on his bed in the corner of Katerina's room. He took a jug from Katerina's shelf, left the house, and hurried to the next street, where there was a general store. He bought some milk, a little sugar in a twist of paper, and an apple.

  When he got back Vladimir was the same.

  He warmed the milk, dissolved the sugar in it, and broke a crust of stale bread into the mixture, then fed morsels of soaked bread to Vladimir. He recalled his mother giving this to baby Lev when he was sick. Vladimir ate as if he was hungry and thirsty.

  When all the bread and milk were gone, Grigori took out the apple. With his pocketknife he cut it into segments and peeled a slice. He ate the peel himself and offered the rest to Vladimir, saying: "Some for me, some for you. " In the past the boy had been amused by this procedure, but now he was indifferent, and let the apple fall from his mouth.

  There was no doctor nearby, and anyway Grigori could not afford the fee, but there was a midwife a few streets away. She was Magda, the pretty wife of Grigori's old friend Konstantin, the secretary of the Putilov Bolshevik Committee. Grigori and Konstantin played chess whenever they got the chance-Grigori usually won.

  Grigori put a clean diaper on Vladimir, then wrapped him in the blanket from Katerina's bed, leaving only his eyes and nose visible. They went out into the cold.

  Konstantin and Magda lived in a two-room apartment with Magda's aunt, who watched their three small children. Grigori was afraid Magda would be out delivering a baby, but he was in luck and she was at home.

  Magda was knowledgeable and kindhearted, though a bit brisk. She felt Vladimir's forehead and said: "He has an infection. "

  "How bad?"

  "Does he cough?"

  "No. "

  "What are his stools like?"

  "Runny. "

  She took off Vladimir's clothes and said: "I suppose Katerina's breasts have no milk. "

  "How did you know that?" Grigori said in surprise.

  "It's common. A woman cannot feed a baby unless she herself is fed. Nothing comes from nothing. That's why the child is so thin. "

  Grigori did not know Vladimir was thin.

  Magda poked Vladimir's belly and made him cry. "Inflammation of the bowels," she said.

  "Will he be all right?"

  "Probably. Children get infections all the time. They usually survive. "

  "What can we do?"

  "Bathe his forehead with tepid water to bring down his temperature. Give him plenty to drink, all he wants. Don't worry about whether he eats. Feed Katerina, so that she can nurse him. Mother's milk is what he needs. "

  Grigori took Vladimir home. He bought more milk on the way, and warmed it up on the fire. He gave it to Vladimir on a teaspoon, and the boy drank it all. Then he warmed a pan of water and bathed Vladimir's face with a rag. It seemed to work: the child lost the flushed, staring look and began to breathe normally.

  Grigori was feeling less anxious when Katerina came home at half past seven. She looked tired and cold. She had bought a cabbage and a few grams of pork fat, and Grigori put them in a saucepan to make stew while she rested. He told her about Vladimir's fever, the negligent landlady, and Magda's prescription. "What can I do?" Katerina said with weary despair. "I have to go to the factory. There is no one else to watch Volodya. "

  Grigori fed the child with the broth from the stew, then put him down to sleep. When Grigori and Katerina had eaten they lay on the bed together. "Don't let me sleep too long," Katerina said. "I have to join the bread queue. "

  "I'll go for you," Grigori said. "You rest. " He would be late back to the barracks, but he could probably get away with that: the officers were too fearful of mutiny, these days, to make a fuss about minor transgressions.

  Katerina took him at his word, and fell into a deep sleep.

  When he heard the church clock strike two, he put on his boots and greatcoat. Vladimir seemed to be sleeping normally. Grigori left the house and walked to the bakery. To his surprise there was already a long queue, and he realized he had left it a bit late. There were about a hundred people in line, muffled up, stamping their feet in the snow. Some had brought chairs or stools. An enterprising young man with a brazier was selling porridge, washing the bowls in the snow when they were done with. A dozen more people joined the queue behind Grigori.

  They gossiped and grumbled while they waited. Two women ahead of Grigori argued about who was to blame for the bread shortage: one said Germans at court, the other Jews hoarding flour. "Who rules?" Grigori said to them. "If a streetcar overturns, you blame the driver, because he was in charge. The Je
ws don't rule us. The Germans don't rule us. It's the tsar and the nobility. " This was the Bolshevik message.

  "Who would rule, if there was no tsar?" said the younger woman skeptically. She was wearing a yellow felt hat.

  "I think we should rule ourselves," said Grigori. "As they do in France and America. "

  "I don't know," said the older woman. "It can't go on like this. "

  The shop opened at five. A minute later the news came down the line that customers were rationed to one loaf per person. "All night, just for one loaf!" said the woman in the yellow hat.

  It took another hour to shuffle to the head of the queue. The baker's wife was admitting customers one at a time. The older of the two women ahead of Grigori went in, then the baker's wife said: "That's all. No more bread. "

  The woman in the yellow hat said: "No, please! Just one more!"

  The baker's wife wore a stony expression. Perhaps this had happened before. "If he had more flour, he'd bake more bread," she said. "It's all gone, do you hear me? I can't sell you bread if I haven't got any. "

  The last customer came out of the shop with her loaf under her coat and hurried away.

  The woman in the yellow hat began to cry.

  The baker's wife slammed the door.

  Grigori turned and walked away.

  {II}

  Spring came to Petrograd on Thursday, March 8, but the Russian empire clung obstinately to the calendar of Julius Caesar, so they called it February 23. The rest of Europe had been using the modern calendar for three hundred years.

  The rise in temperature coincided with International Women's Day, and the female workers from the textile mills came out on strike and marched from the industrial suburbs into the city center to protest against the bread queues, the war, and the tsar. Bread rationing had been announced, but it seemed to have made the shortage worse.

  The First Machine Gun Regiment, like all army units in the city, was detailed to help the police and the mounted Cossacks keep order. What would happen, Grigori wondered, if the soldiers were ordered to fire on the marchers? Would they obey? Or would they turn their rifles on their officers? In 1905 they had obeyed orders and shot workers. But since then the Russian people had suffered a decade of tyranny, repression, war, and hunger.

  However, there was no trouble, and Grigori and his section returned to barracks that evening without having fired a shot.

  On Friday more workers came out on strike.

  The tsar was at army headquarters, four hundred miles away at Mogilev. In charge of the city was the commander of the Petrograd Military District, General Khabalov. He decided to keep marchers out of the center by stationing soldiers at the bridges. Grigori's section was posted close to the barracks, guarding the Liteiny Bridge that led across the Neva River to Liteiny Prospekt. But the water was still frozen solid, and the marchers foiled the army by simply walking across the ice-to the delight of the watching soldiers, most of whom, like Grigori, sympathized with the marchers.

  None of the political parties had organized the strike. The Bolsheviks, like the other leftist revolutionary parties, found themselves following rather than leading the working class.

  Once again Grigori's section saw no action, but it was not the same everywhere. When he got back to barracks on Saturday night, he learned that police had attacked demonstrators outside the railway station at the far end of Nevsky Prospekt. Surprisingly, the Cossacks had defended the marchers against the police. Men were talking about the Comrade Cossacks. Grigori was skeptical. The Cossacks had never really been loyal to anyone but themselves, he thought; they just loved a fight.

  On Sunday morning Grigori was awakened at five, long before first light. At breakfast there was a rumor that the tsar had instructed General Khabalov to put a stop to strikes and marches using whatever force was necessary. That was an ominous phrase, Grigori thought: whatever force was necessary.

  After breakfast the sergeants were given their orders. Each platoon was to guard a different point in the city: not just bridges but intersections, railway stations, and post offices. The pickets would be connected by field telephones. The nation's capital was to be secured like a captured enemy city. Worst of all, the regiment was to set up machine guns at likely trouble spots.

  When Grigori relayed the instructions to his men, they were horrified. Isaak said: "Is the tsar really going to order the army to machine-gun his own people?"

  Grigori said: "If he does, will soldiers obey him?"

  Grigori's mounting excitement was paralleled by fear. He was heartened by the strikes, for he knew the Russian people had to defy their rulers. Otherwise the war would drag on, the people would starve, and there was no prospect that Vladimir might live a better life than Grigori and Katerina. It was this conviction that had caused Grigori to join the party. On the other hand, he cherished a secret hope that if soldiers simply refused to obey orders the revolution might go off without too much bloodshed. But when his own regiment was ordered to set up machine-gun emplacements on Petrograd street corners he began to feel that his hope had been foolish.

  Was it even possible that the Russian people could ever escape from the tyranny of the tsars? Sometimes it seemed like a pipe dream. Yet other nations had had revolutions, and overthrown their oppressors. Even the English had killed their king once.

  Petrograd was like a pan of water on the fire, Grigori thought: there were wisps of steam and a few bubbles of violence, and the surface shimmered with intense heat, but the water seemed to hesitate, and the proverbial watched pot did not boil.

  His platoon was sent to the Tauride Palace, the vast summer town house of Catherine II, now home to Russia's toothless parliament, the Duma. The morning was quiet: even starving people liked to sleep late on Sunday. But the weather continued sunny, and at midday they started to come in from the suburbs, on foot and in streetcars. Some gathered in the large garden of the Tauride Palace. They were not all factory workers, Grigori noticed. There were middle-class men and women, students, and a few prosperous-looking businessmen. Some had brought their children. Were they on a political demonstration, or just going for a walk in the park? Grigori guessed they themselves were not sure.

  At the entrance to the palace he saw a well-dressed young man whose handsome face was familiar from photographs in the newspapers, and he recognized the Trudovik deputy Alexander Fedorovich Kerensky. The Trudoviks were a moderate breakaway faction from the Socialist Revolutionaries. Grigori asked him what was going on inside. "The tsar formally dissolved the Duma today," Kerensky told him.

  Grigori shook his head in disgust. "A characteristic reaction," he said. "Repress those who complain, rather than address their discontents. "

  Kerensky looked at him sharply. Perhaps he had not been expecting such an analysis from a soldier. "Quite," he said. "Anyway, we deputies are ignoring the tsar's edict. "

  "What will happen?"

  "Most people think the demonstrations will peter out as soon as the authorities manage to restore the supply of bread," Kerensky said, and he went inside.

  Grigori wondered what made the moderates think that was going to happen. If the authorities were able to restore the supply of bread, would they not have done so, instead of rationing it? But moderates always seemed to deal in hopes rather than facts.

  Early in the afternoon Grigori was surprised to see the smiling faces of Katerina and Vladimir. He normally spent Sunday with them, but had assumed he would not see them today. Vladimir looked well and happy, much to Grigori's relief. Evidently the boy had got over the infection. It was warm enough for Katerina to wear her coat open, showing her voluptuous figure. He wished he could caress her. She smiled at him, making him think of how she would kiss his face as they lay on the bed, and Grigori felt a stab of yearning that was almost unbearable. He hated to miss that Sunday afternoon embrace.

  "How did you know I would be here?" he asked her.

  "It was a lucky guess. "<
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  "I'm glad to see you, but it's dangerous for you to be in the city center. "

  Katerina looked at the crowds strolling through the park. "It seems safe enough to me. "

  Grigori could not dispute that. There was no sign of trouble.

  Mother and child went off to walk around the frozen lake. Grigori's breath caught in his throat as he watched Vladimir toddle away and almost immediately fall over. Katerina picked him up, soothed him, and walked on. They looked so vulnerable. What was going to happen to them?

  When they returned, Katerina said she was taking Vladimir home for his nap.

  "Go by the back streets," Grigori said. "Keep away from crowds. I don't know what might happen. "

  "All right," she said.

  "Promise. "

  "I promise. "

  Grigori saw no bloodshed that day, but at the barracks in the evening he heard a different story from other groups. In Znamenskaya Square soldiers had been ordered to shoot demonstrators, and forty people had died. Grigori felt a cold hand on his heart. Katerina might have been killed just walking along the street!

  Others were equally outraged, and in the mess hall feelings were running high. Sensing the mood of the men, Grigori stood on a table and took charge, calling for order and inviting soldiers to speak in turn. Supper turned rapidly into a mass meeting. He called first on Isaak, who was well known as the star of the regimental soccer team.

  "I joined the army to kill Germans, not Russians," Isaak said, and there was a roar of approval. "The marchers are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers-and their only crime is to ask for bread!"

  Grigori knew all the Bolsheviks in the regiment, and he called on several of them to speak, but he was careful to point to others too, not to seem overly biased. Normally the men were cautious about expressing their opinions, for fear their remarks would be reported and they would be punished; but today they did not seem to care.

  The speaker who made the greatest impression was Yakov, a tall man with shoulders like a bear. He stood on the table beside Grigori with tears in his eyes. "When they told us to fire, I didn't know what to do," he said. He seemed unable to raise his voice, and the room went quiet as the other men strained to hear him. "I said: 'God, please guide me now,' and I listened in my heart, but God sent me no answer. " The men were silent. "I raised my rifle," Yakov said. "The captain was screaming: 'Shoot! Shoot!' But who should I shoot at? In Galicia we knew who our enemies were because they were firing at us. But today in the square no one was attacking us. The people were mostly women, some with children. Even the men had no weapons. "

  He fell silent. The men were as still as stones, as if they feared that any movement might break the spell. After a moment Isaak prompted him. "What happened next, Yakov Davidovich?"

  "I pulled the trigger," Yakov said, and the tears ran from his eyes into his bushy black beard. "I didn't even aim the gun. The captain was screaming at me and I fired just to shut him up. But I hit a woman. A girl, really; about nineteen, I suppose. She had a green coat. I shot her in the chest, and the blood went all over the coat, red on green. Then she fell down. " He was weeping openly now, speaking in gasps. "I dropped my gun and tried to go to her, to help her, but the crowd went for me, punching and kicking, though I hardly felt it. " He wiped his face with his sleeve. "I'm in trouble, now, for losing my rifle. " There was another long pause. "Nineteen," he said. "I think she must have been about nineteen. "

  Grigori had not noticed the door opening, but suddenly Lieutenant Kirillov was there. "Get off that damn table, Yakov," he shouted. He looked at Grigori. "You, too, Peshkov, you troublemaker. " He turned and spoke to the men, sitting on benches at their trestle tables. "Return to your barracks, all of you," he said. "Anyone still in this room one minute from now gets a flogging. "

  No one moved. The men stared surlily at the lieutenant. Grigori wondered if this was how a mutiny started.

  But Yakov was too lost in his misery to realize what a moment of drama he had created; he got down clumsily from the table, and the tension was released. Some of the men close to Kirillov stood up, looking sullen but scared. Grigori remained defiantly standing on the table a few moments longer, but he sensed that the men were not quite angry enough to turn on an officer, so in the end he got down. The men started to leave the room. Kirillov remained where he was, glaring at everyone.

  Grigori returned to barracks and soon the bell rang for lights-out. As a sergeant, he had the privilege of a curtained niche at the end of his platoon's dormitory. He could hear the men speaking in low voices.

  "I won't shoot women," said one.

  "Me neither. "

  A third voice said: "If you don't, some of these bastard officers will shoot you for disobedience!"

  "I'm going to aim to miss," said another voice.

  "They might see. "

  "You only have to aim a bit above the heads of the crowd. No one can be sure what you're doing. "

  "That's what I'm going to do," said another voice.

  "Me, too. "

  "Me, too. "

  We'll see, Grigori thought as he drifted off to sleep. Brave words came easily in the dark. Daylight might tell a different story.

  {III}

  On Monday Grigori's platoon was marched the short distance along Samsonievsky Prospekt to the Liteiny Bridge and ordered to prevent demonstrators crossing the river to the city center. The bridge was four hundred yards long, and rested on massive stone piers set into the frozen river like stranded icebreakers.

  This was the same job they had had on Friday, but the orders were different. Lieutenant Kirillov briefed Grigori. He spoke these days as if he was in a constant bad temper, and perhaps he was: officers probably disliked being lined up against their own countrymen just as much as the men did. "No marchers are to cross the river, either by the bridge or on the ice, do you understand? You will shoot people who flout your instructions. "

  Grigori hid his contempt. "Yes, Excellency!" he said smartly.

  Kirillov repeated the orders, then disappeared. Grigori thought the lieutenant was scared. Doubtless he feared being held responsible for what happened, whether his orders were obeyed or defied.

  Grigori had no intention of obeying. He would allow the leaders of the march to engage him in discussion while their followers crossed the ice, exactly as it had played out on Friday.

  However, early in the morning his platoon was joined by a detachment of police. To his horror, he saw that they were led by his old enemy Mikhail Pinsky. The man did not appear to be suffering from the shortage of bread: his round face was fatter than ever, and his police uniform was tight around the middle. He was carrying a loud-hailer. His weasel-faced sidekick, Kozlov, was nowhere in sight.

  "I know you," Pinsky said to Grigori. "You used to work at the Putilov factory. "

  "Until you had me conscripted," Grigori said.

  "Your brother is a murderer, but he escaped to America. "

  "So you say. "

  "No one is going to cross the river here today. "

  "We shall see. "

  "I expect full cooperation from your men, is that understood?"

  Grigori said: "Aren't you afraid?"

  "Of the rabble? Don't be stupid. "

  "No, I mean of the future. Suppose the revolutionaries get their way. What do you think they will do to you? You've spent your life bullying the weak, beating people up, harassing women, and taking bribes. Don't you fear a day of retribution?"

  Pinsky pointed a gloved finger at Grigori. "I'm reporting you as a damned subversive," he said, and he walked away.

  Grigori shrugged. It was not as easy as it used to be for the police to arrest anyone they liked. Isaak and others might mutiny if Grigori was jailed, and the officers knew it.

  The day started quietly, but Grigori noted that few workers were on the streets. Many factories were closed because they could not get fuel for their steam engines
and furnaces. Other places were on strike, the employees demanding more money to pay inflated prices, or heating for ice-cold workshops, or safety rails around dangerous machinery. It looked as if almost no one was actually going to work today. But the sun rose cheerfully, and people were not going to stay indoors. Sure enough, at midmorning Grigori saw, coming along Samsonievsky Prospekt, a large crowd of men and women in the ragged clothes of industrial workers.

  Grigori had thirty men and two corporals. He had stationed them in four lines of eight across the road, blocking the end of the bridge. Pinsky had about the same number of men, half on foot and half on horseback, and he placed them at the sides of the road.

  Grigori peered anxiously at the oncoming march. He could not predict what would happen. On his own he could have prevented bloodshed, by offering only token resistance then letting the demonstrators pass. But he did not know what Pinsky was going to do.

  The marchers came nearer. There were hundreds of people-no, thousands. They were men and women in the blue tunics and ragged coats of industrial workers. Most wore red armbands or red ribbons. Their banners read Down with the Tsar and Bread, Peace, and Land. This was no longer merely a protest, Grigori concluded: it had become a political movement.

  As the leaders came nearer, he sensed the tightening anxiety among his waiting men.

  He walked forward to meet the marchers. At their head, to his surprise, was Varya, the mother of Konstantin. Her gray hair was tied up in a red scarf, and she carried a red flag on a hefty stick. "Hello, Grigori Sergeivich," she said amiably. "Are you going to shoot me?"

  "No, I'm not," he replied. "But I can't speak for the police. "

  Although Varya stopped, the others came on, pressed from behind by thousands more. Grigori heard Pinsky urge his mounted men forward. These horseback policemen, called Pharaohs, were the most hated section of the force. They were armed with whips and clubs.

  Varya said: "All we want is to make a living and feed our families. Isn't that what you want too, Grigori?"

  The marchers were not confronting Grigori's soldiers, or attempting to get past them onto the bridge. Instead they were spreading out along the embankment on both sides. Pinsky's Pharaohs nervously walked their horses along the towpath, as if to bar the way to the ice, but there were not enough of them to form a continuous barrier. However, no marcher wanted to be the first to make a dash for it, and there was a moment of stalemate.

  Lieutenant Pinsky put his megaphone to his mouth. "Go back!" he shouted. The instrument was no more than a piece of tin shaped like a cone, and made his voice only a little louder. "You may not enter the city center. Return to your workplaces in orderly fashion. This is a police command. Go back. "

  Nobody went back-most people could not even hear-but the marchers started to jeer and boo. Someone deep in the crowd threw a stone. It struck the rump of a horse, and the beast started. Its rider, taken by surprise, almost fell off. Furious, he pulled himself upright, sawed on the reins, and lashed the horse with his whip. The crowd laughed, which made him angrier, but he brought his horse under control.

  A brave marcher took advantage of the diversion, dodged past a Pharaoh on the embankment, and ran onto the ice. Several more people on both sides of the bridge did the same. The Pharaohs deployed their whips and clubs, wheeling and rearing their horses as they lashed out. Some of the marchers fell to the ground, but more got through, and others were emboldened to try. In seconds, thirty or more people were running across the frozen river.

  For Grigori, that was a happy outcome. He could say that he had attempted to enforce the ban, and he had in fact kept people off the bridge, but the number of demonstrators was too great and it had proved impossible to stop people crossing the ice.

  Pinsky did not see it that way.

  He turned his megaphone to the armed police and said: "Take aim!"

  "No!" Grigori shouted, but it was too late. The police took up the firing position, on one knee, and raised their rifles. Marchers at the front of the crowd tried to go back, but they were pushed forward by the thousands behind them. Some ran for the river, braving the Pharaohs.

  Pinsky shouted: "Fire!"

  There was a crackle of shots like fireworks, followed by shouts of fear and screams of pain as marchers fell dead and wounded.

  Grigori was taken back twelve years. He saw the square in front of the Winter Palace, the hundreds of men and women kneeling in prayer, the soldiers with their rifles, and his mother lying on the ground with her blood spreading on the snow. In his mind he heard eleven-year-old Lev scream: "She's dead! Ma's dead, my mother is dead!"

  "No," Grigori said aloud. "I will not let them do this again. " He turned the safety knob on his Mosin-Nagant rifle, unlocking the bolt, then he raised the gun to his shoulder.

  The crowd was screaming and running in all directions, trampling the fallen. The Pharaohs were out of control, lashing out at random. The police fired indiscriminately into the crowd.

  Grigori aimed carefully at Pinsky, targeting the middle of the body. He was not a very good shot, and Pinsky was sixty yards away, but he had a chance of hitting him. He pulled the trigger.

  Pinsky continued to yell through his megaphone.

  Grigori had missed. He lowered his sights-the rifle kicked up a little when fired-and squeezed the trigger again.

  He missed again.

  The carnage went on, police shooting wildly into the crowd of fleeing men and women.

  There were five rounds in the magazine of Grigori's rifle. He could usually hit something with one of the five. He fired a third time.

  Pinsky gave a shout of pain that was amplified by his megaphone. His right knee seemed to fold under him. He dropped the megaphone and fell to the ground.

  Grigori's men followed his example. They attacked the police, some firing and some using their rifles as clubs. Others pulled the Pharaohs off their horses. The marchers drew courage and joined in. Some of those on the ice turned around and came back.

  The fury of the mob was ugly. For as long as anyone could remember, the Petrograd police had been sneering brutes, undisciplined and uncontrolled, and now the people took their revenge. Policemen on the ground were kicked and trampled, those on their feet were knocked down, and the Pharaohs had their horses shot from under them. The police resisted for only a few moments, then those who could fled.

  Grigori saw Pinsky struggle to his feet. Grigori took aim again, eager now to finish the bastard off, but a Pharaoh got in the way, heaved Pinsky up onto his horse's neck, and galloped off.

  Grigori stood back, watching the police run away.

  He was in the worst trouble of his life.

  His platoon had mutinied. In direct contravention of their orders, they had attacked the police, not the marchers. And he had led them, by shooting Lieutenant Pinsky, who had survived to tell the tale. There was no way to cover this up, no excuse he could offer that would make any difference, and no escape from punishment. He was guilty of treason. He could be court-martialed and executed.

  Despite that, he felt happy.

  Varya pushed through the crowd. There was blood on her face, but she was smiling. "What now, Sergeant?"

  Grigori was not going to resign himself to his punishment. The tsar was murdering his people. Well, his people would shoot back. "To the barracks," Grigori said. "Let's arm the working class!" He snatched her red flag. "Follow me!"

  He strode back along Samsonievsky Prospekt. His men came after him, marshaled by Isaak, and the crowd fell in behind them. Grigori was not sure exactly what he was going to do, but he did not feel the need of a plan: as he marched at the head of the crowd he had the sense that he could do anything.

  The sentry opened the barracks gates for the soldiers, then was unable to close them on the marchers. Feeling invincible, Grigori led the procession across the parade ground to the arsenal. Lieutenant Kirillov came out of the headquarters building, saw the crowd, and turne
d toward them, breaking into a run. "You men!" he shouted. "Halt! Stop right there!"

  Grigori ignored him.

  Kirillov came to a standstill and drew his revolver. "Halt!" he said. "Halt, or I shoot!"

  Two or three of Grigori's platoon raised their rifles and fired at Kirillov. Several bullets struck him and he fell to the ground, bleeding.

  Grigori went on.

  The arsenal was guarded by two sentries. Neither of them tried to stop Grigori. He used the last two rounds in his magazine to shoot out the lock on the heavy wooden doors. The crowd burst into the arsenal, pushing and shoving to get at the weapons. Some of Grigori's men took charge, opening wooden cases of rifles and revolvers and passing them out along with boxes of ammunition.

  This is it, Grigori thought. This is a revolution. He was exhilarated and terrified at the same time.

  He armed himself with two of the Nagant revolvers that were issued to officers, reloaded his rifle, and filled his pockets with ammunition. He was not sure what he intended to do, but now that he was a criminal he needed weapons.

  The rest of the soldiers in the barracks joined in the looting of the arsenal, and soon everyone was armed to the teeth.

  Carrying Varya's red flag, Grigori led the crowd out of the barracks. Demonstrations always went toward the city center. With Isaak, Yakov, and Varya he marched across the bridge to Liteiny Prospekt, heading for the affluent heart of Petrograd. He felt as if he were flying, or dreaming, as if he had drunk a large mouthful of vodka. For years he had talked about defying the authority of the regime, but today he was doing it, and that made him feel like a new man, a different creature, a bird of the air. He remembered the words of the old man who had spoken to him after his mother was shot dead. "May you live long," the man had said, as Grigori walked away from Palace Square with his mother's body in his arms. "Long enough to take revenge on the bloodstained tsar for the evil he has done this day. " Your wish may come true, old man, he thought exultantly.

  The First Machine Guns were not the only regiment to have mutinied this morning. When he reached the far side of the bridge he was even more elated to see that the streets were full of soldiers wearing their caps backward or their coats unbuttoned in merry defiance of regulations. Most sported red armbands or red lapel ribbons to show they were revolutionaries. Commandeered cars roared around, erratically driven, rifle barrels and bayonets sticking out of the windows, laughing girls sitting on the soldiers' knees inside. The pickets and checkpoints of yesterday had vanished. The streets had been taken over by the people.

  Grigori saw a wine shop with its windows broken and its door battered down. A soldier and a girl came out, bottles in both hands, trampling over broken glass. Next door a cafe proprietor had put plates of smoked fish and sliced sausage on a table outside, and stood beside it with a red ribbon in his lapel, smiling nervously and inviting soldiers to help themselves. Grigori guessed he was trying to make sure his place was not broken into and looted like the wine shop.

  The carnival atmosphere grew as they neared the center. Some people were already quite drunk, although it was only midday. Girls seemed happy to kiss anyone with a red armband, and Grigori saw a soldier openly fondling the large breasts of a smiling middle-aged woman. Some girls had dressed in soldiers' uniforms, and swaggered along the streets in caps and oversize boots, evidently feeling liberated.

  A shiny Rolls-Royce car came along the street and the crowd tried to stop it. The chauffeur put his foot on the gas but someone opened the door and pulled him out. People shoved one another trying to get into the car. Grigori saw Count Maklakov, one of the directors of the Putilov works, scramble out of the backseat. Grigori recalled how Maklakov had been so entranced with Princess Bea the day she visited the factory. The crowd jeered but did not molest the count as he hurried away, pulling his fur collar up around his ears. Nine or ten people crammed into his car and someone drove it off, honking blithely.

  At the next corner a handful of people were tormenting a tall man in the trilby hat and well-worn greatcoat of a middle-class professional. A soldier poked him with his rifle barrel, an old woman spat at him, and a young man in worker's overalls threw a handful of rubbish. "Let me pass!" the man said, trying to sound commanding, but they just laughed. Grigori recognized the thin figure of Kanin, supervisor of the casting section at the Putilov works. His hat fell off, and Grigori saw that he had gone bald.

  Grigori pushed through the little crowd. "There's nothing wrong with this man!" he shouted. "He's an engineer, I used to work with him. "

  Kanin recognized him. "Thank you, Grigori Sergeivich," he said. "I'm just trying to make my way to my mother's house, to see if she's all right. "

  Grigori turned to the crowd. "Let him pass," he said. "I vouch for him. " He saw a woman carrying a reel of red ribbon-looted, presumably, from a haberdashery-and asked her for a length. She cut some off with a pair of scissors, and Grigori tied it around Kanin's left sleeve. The crowd cheered.

  "Now you'll be safe," Grigori said.

  Kanin shook his hand and walked away, and they let him pass.

  Grigori's group came out onto Nevsky Prospekt, the broad shopping street that ran from the Winter Palace to Nikolaevsky Station. It was full of people drinking from bottles, eating, kissing, and firing guns into the air. Those restaurants that were open had signs reading "Free food for revolutionaries!" and "Eat what you like, pay what you can!" Many shops had been broken into, and there was smashed glass all over the cobblestones. One of the hated streetcars-priced too high for workers to use-had been overturned in the middle of the road, and a Renault automobile had crashed into it.

  Grigori heard a rifle shot, but it was one of many, and he thought nothing of it for a second; but then Varya, by his side, staggered and fell down. Grigori and Yakov knelt either side of her. She seemed unconscious. They turned the heavy body over, not without difficulty, and saw immediately that she was beyond help: a bullet had entered her forehead, and her eyes stared up sightlessly.

  Grigori did not allow himself to feel sorrow, either on his own account or for Varya's son, his best friend, Konstantin. He had learned on the battlefield to fight back first and grieve later. But was this a battlefield? Who could possibly want to kill Varya? Yet the wound was so exactly placed that he could hardly believe she was the victim of a stray bullet fired at random.

  His question was answered a moment later. Yakov keeled over, bleeding from his chest. His heavy body hit the cobbles with a thump.

  Grigori stepped away from the two bodies, saying: "What the hell?" He dropped into a crouch, making himself a smaller target, and rapidly looked around for somewhere he could take cover.

  He heard another shot, and a passing soldier with a red scarf around his cap fell to the ground clutching his stomach.

  There was a sniper, and he was targeting revolutionaries.

  Grigori ran three paces and dived behind the overturned streetcar.

  A woman screamed, then another. People saw the bleeding bodies and began to run away.

  Grigori lifted his head and scanned the surrounding buildings. The shooter had to be a police rifleman, but where was he? It seemed to Grigori that the crack of the rifle had come from the other side of the street and less than a block away. The buildings were bright in the afternoon sunlight. There was a hotel, a jewelry store with steel shutters closed, a bank, and on the corner, a church. He could see no open windows, so the sniper had to be on a roof. None of the roofs offered cover-except that of the church, which was a stone building in the baroque style with towers, parapets, and an onion dome.

  Another shot rang out, and a woman in the clothes of a factory worker screamed and fell clutching her shoulder. Grigori felt sure the sound had come from the church, but he saw no smoke. That must mean the police had issued their snipers with smokeless ammunition. This really was war.

  A whole block of Nevsky Prospekt was now deserted.

  Grigori ai
med his rifle at the parapet that ran along the top of the side wall of the church. That was the firing position he would have chosen, commanding the whole street. He watched carefully. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two more rifles pointing in the same direction as his, held by soldiers who had taken cover nearby.

  A soldier and a girl came staggering along the street, both drunk. The girl was dancing a jig, raising the skirt of her dress to show her knees, while her boyfriend waltzed around her, holding his rifle to his neck and pretending to play it like a violin. Both wore red armbands. Several people shouted warnings, but the revelers did not hear. As they passed the church, happily oblivious to the danger, two shots rang out, and the soldier and his girl fell down.

  Once again Grigori saw no wisp of smoke, but all the same he fired angrily at the parapet above the church door, emptying his magazine. His bullets chipped the stonework and sent up puffs of dust. The other two rifles cracked, and Grigori saw that they were shooting in the same direction, but there was no sign that either of them had hit anything.

  It was impossible, Grigori thought as he reloaded. They were firing at an invisible target. The sniper must be lying flat, well back from the edge, so that no part of his gun needed to poke through the bars.

  But he had to be stopped. He had already killed Varya, Yakov, two soldiers, and an innocent girl.

  There was only one way to reach him, and that was to get up on the roof.

  Grigori fired at the parapet again. As he expected, that caused the other two soldiers to do the same. Assuming the sniper must have put his head down for a few seconds, Grigori stood up, abandoning the shelter of the overturned streetcar, and ran to the far side of the street, where he flattened himself up against the window of a bookshop-one of the few stores that had not been looted.

  Keeping within the afternoon shadow cast by the buildings, he made his way along the street to the church. It was separated by an alley from the bank next door. He waited patiently for several minutes, until the shooting started again, then darted across the alley and stood with his back to the east end of the church.

  Had the sniper seen him run, and guessed what he was planning? There was no way to tell.

  Staying close to the wall, he edged around the church until he came to a small door. It was unlocked. He slipped inside.

  It was a rich church, gorgeously decorated with red, green, and yellow marble. There was no service taking place at that moment, but twenty or thirty worshippers stood or sat with bowed heads, holding their own private devotions. Grigori scanned the interior, looking for a door that might lead to a staircase. He hurried down the aisle, fearful that more people were being murdered every minute he delayed.

  A young priest, dramatically handsome with black hair and white skin, saw his rifle and opened his mouth to voice a protest, but Grigori ignored him and hurried past.

  In the vestibule he spotted a small wooden door set into a wall. He opened it and saw a spiral staircase leading up. Behind him, a voice said: "Stop there, my son. What are you doing?"

  He turned to see the young priest. "Does this lead to the roof?"

  "I am Father Mikhail. You can't bring that weapon into the house of God. "

  "There's a sniper on your roof. "

  "He is a police officer!"

  "You know about him?" Grigori stared at the priest with incredulity. "He's killing people!"

  The priest made no reply.

  Grigori ran up the stairs.

  A cold wind was coming from somewhere above. Clearly Father Mikhail was on the side of the police. Was there any way the priest could warn the sniper? Not short of running out into the street and waving-which would probably get him shot.

  After a long climb in near-darkness, Grigori saw another door.

  When his eyes were on a level with the bottom of the door, so that he presented a very small target, he opened it an inch, using his left hand, keeping his rifle in his right. Bright sunlight shone through the gap. He pushed it wide.

  He could not see anyone.

  He screwed up his eyes against the sun to scan the area visible through the small rectangle of doorway. He was in the bell tower. The door opened south. Nevsky Prospekt was on the north side of the church. The sniper was on the other side-unless he had moved to ambush Grigori.

  Cautiously, Grigori ascended one step, then another, and put his head out.

  Nothing happened.

  He stepped through the door.

  Under his feet the roof sloped gently to a gutter that ran alongside a decorative parapet. Wooden duckboards permitted workmen to move around without treading on the roof tiles. At his back the tower rose to a belfry.

  Gun in hand, he edged around the tower.

  At the first corner he found himself looking west the length of Nevsky Prospekt. In the clear light he could see the Alexander Garden and the Admiralty at the far end. In the middle distance the street was crowded, but nearby it was empty. The sniper must still be at work.

  Grigori listened, but heard no shots.

  He sidled farther around the tower until he could look around the next corner. Now he could see all along the north wall of the church. He had felt sure he would find the sniper there, flat on his belly, shooting between the uprights of the parapet-but there was no one in sight. Beyond the parapet he could see the wide street below, with people crouching in doorways and skulking around corners, waiting to see what would happen.

  A moment later, the sniper's rifle rang out. A scream from the street told Grigori the man had hit his target.

  The shot had come from above Grigori's head.

  He looked up. The bell tower was pierced by glassless windows and flanked by open turrets placed diagonally at the corners. The shooter was up there somewhere, firing out of one of the many available openings. Fortunately, Grigori had remained hard up against the wall, where he could not have been seen by the sniper.

  Grigori went back inside. Within the confined space of the stairwell his rifle felt big and clumsy. He put it down and took out one of his pistols. He knew by its weight that it was empty. He cursed: loading the Nagant M1895 was slow. He took a box of cartridges from the pocket of his uniform coat and inserted seven of them, one by one, through the revolver's awkward loading gate into the cylinder. Then he cocked the hammer.

  Leaving the rifle behind, he went up the spiral stairs, treading softly. He moved at a steady pace, not wanting to exert himself so much that his breathing would become audible. He kept his revolver in his right hand pointing up the stairs.

  After a few moments he smelled smoke.

  The sniper was having a cigarette. But the pungent smell of burning tobacco could travel a long way, and Grigori could not be sure how close the man was.

  Ahead and above he saw reflected sunlight. He crept upward, ready to fire. The light was coming through a glassless window. The sniper was not there.

  Grigori climbed farther and saw light again. The smell of smoke grew stronger. Was it his imagination, or could he sense the presence of the sniper just a little farther around the curve of the stairwell? And, if so, could the man sense him?

  He heard a sharp intake of breath. It shocked him so much that he almost pulled the trigger. Then he realized it was the noise a man made when inhaling smoke. A moment later he heard the softer, satisfied sound of the smoker blowing out.

  He hesitated. He did not know which way the sniper was looking or where his gun might be pointing. He wanted to hear the rifle fire again, for that would tell him that the sniper's attention was directed outward.

  Waiting might mean another death, another Yakov or Varya bleeding on the cold cobblestones. On the other hand, if Grigori failed now how many more people would be brought down by the sniper this afternoon?

  Grigori forced himself to be patient. It was like being on the battlefield. You did not rush to save a wounded comrade and thereby sacrifice your life. You took chances only w
hen the reasons were overwhelming.

  He heard another intake of breath, followed by a long exhalation, and a moment later a crushed cigarette stub came down the staircase, bouncing off the wall and landing at his feet. There was the sound of a man shifting position in a confined space. Then Grigori heard a low muttering, the words sounding mostly like imprecations: "Swine. . . revolutionaries. . . stinking Jews. . . diseased whores. . . retards. . . " The sniper was winding himself up to kill again.

  If Grigori could stop him now it would save at least one life.

  He went up a step.

  The muttering continued: "Cattle. . . Slavs. . . thieves and criminals. . . " The voice was vaguely familiar, and Grigori wondered if this was a man he had met before.

  He took another step, and saw the man's feet, shod in shiny new police-pattern black leather boots. They were small feet: the sniper was a diminutive man. He was down on one knee, the most stable position for shooting. Grigori could now see that he had positioned himself inside one of the corner turrets, so that he could fire in three different directions.

  One more step, Grigori thought, and I will be able to shoot him dead.

  He took another step, but tension caused him to miss his footing. He stumbled, fell, and dropped his gun. It hit the stone step with a clang.

  The sniper uttered a loud, frightened curse and looked around.

  With astonishment, Grigori recognized him as Pinsky's sidekick, Ilya Kozlov.

  Grigori grabbed for his dropped gun and missed. The revolver fell down the stone staircase with agonizing slowness, one step at a time, until it came to rest well out of reach.

  Kozlov began to turn, but he could not do so quickly from his kneeling position.

  Grigori regained his balance and went up another step.

  Kozlov tried to swing his rifle around. It was the standard Mosin-Nagant, but with a telescope attached. It was well over a yard long even without the bayonet, and Kozlov could not bring it to bear fast enough. Moving quickly, Grigori got close, so that the barrel of the rifle struck his left shoulder. Kozlov pulled the trigger uselessly, and a bullet ricocheted around the curved inside wall of the stairwell.

  Kozlov sprang to his feet with surprising agility. He had a small head and a mean face, and some part of Grigori's mind guessed he had become a sniper to get revenge on all the bigger boys-and girls-who had ever pushed him around.

  Grigori got his hands on the rifle and the two men struggled for possession, face to face in the cramped little turret, next to the glassless window. Grigori heard excited shouting, and guessed they must be visible to people on the street.

  Grigori was bigger and stronger, and knew that he would win possession of the gun. Kozlov realized it too, and suddenly let go. Grigori staggered back. In a flash the policeman drew his short wooden club and struck out, hitting Grigori on the head. For a moment Grigori saw stars. In a blur, he saw Kozlov raise the club again. He lifted the rifle and the club landed on the barrel. Before the policeman could strike again, Grigori dropped the gun, grabbed the front of Kozlov's coat with both hands, and lifted him.

  The man was slight and his weight was little. Grigori held him off the floor for a moment. Then, with all his might, he threw him out of the window.

  Kozlov seemed to fall through the air very slowly. The sunlight picked out the green facings of his uniform as he sailed over the parapet of the church roof. A long scream of pure terror rang out in the silence. Then he hit the ground with a thump that could be heard in the bell tower, and the scream was abruptly cut off.

  After a moment of quiet, a huge cheer went up.

  Grigori realized the people were cheering him. They could see the police uniform on the ground and the army uniform in the turret, and they had worked out what had happened. As he watched, they came out of doorways and around corners and stood in the street, looking up at him, shouting and applauding. He was a hero.

  He did not feel comfortable about that. He had killed several people in the war, and was no longer squeamish about it, but all the same he found it hard to celebrate another death, much as Kozlov had deserved to die. He stood there a few moments longer, letting them applaud but feeling uneasy. Then he ducked back inside and went down the spiral staircase.

  He picked up his revolver and his rifle on the way down. When he emerged into the church, Father Mikhail was waiting, looking scared. Grigori pointed the revolver at him. "I ought to shoot you," he said. "That sniper you allowed onto your roof killed two of my friends and at least three other people, and you're a murdering devil for letting him do it. " The priest was so shocked to be called a devil that he was lost for words. But Grigori could not bring himself to shoot an unarmed civilian, so he grunted in disgust and went outside.

  The men of his platoon were waiting for him, and roared their approval as he stepped into the sunshine. He could not stop them lifting him onto their shoulders and carrying him in procession.

  From his elevated viewpoint he saw that the atmosphere in the street had changed. People were more drunk, and on every block there were one or two passed out in doorways. He was startled to see men and women doing a lot more than just kissing in the alleyways. Everyone had a gun: clearly the mob had raided other arsenals and perhaps arms factories too. At every intersection there were crashed cars, some with ambulances and doctors attending to the injured. Children as well as adults were on the streets, the small boys having a particularly good time, stealing food and smoking cigarettes and playing in abandoned automobiles.

  Grigori saw a fur shop being looted with an efficiency that appeared professional, and he spotted Trofim, a former associate of Lev's, carrying armfuls of coats out of the store and loading them onto a handcart, watched by another crony of Lev's, the dishonest policeman Fyodor, now wearing a peasant-style overcoat to hide his uniform. The city's criminals saw the revolution as an opportunity.

  After a while Grigori's men put him down. The afternoon light was growing dim, and several bonfires had been lit in the street. People gathered around them, drinking and singing songs.

  Grigori was appalled to see a boy of about ten take a pistol from a soldier who had passed out. It was a long-barreled Luger P08 machine pistol, a gun issued to German artillery crew: the soldier must have taken it from a prisoner at the front. The boy held it in both hands, grinning, and pointed it at the man on the ground. As Grigori moved to take the gun away, the boy pulled the trigger, and a bullet thudded into the drunk soldier's chest. The boy screamed, but in his fright he kept the trigger pulled back, so that the machine pistol continued firing. The recoil jerked the boy's arms upward, and he sprayed bullets, hitting an old woman and another soldier, until the eight-round magazine was empty. Then he dropped the gun.

  Before Grigori could react to this horror he heard a shout, and turned. In the doorway of a closed hat shop, a couple were having full sexual intercourse. The woman had her back to the wall and her skirt up around her waist, her legs spread apart and her booted feet firmly planted on the ground. The man, who wore the uniform of a corporal, stood between her legs, knees bent, trousers unbuttoned, thrusting. Grigori's platoon stood around them cheering.

  The man appeared to reach his climax. He withdrew hastily, turned away, and buttoned his fly, while the woman pushed her skirts down. A soldier called Igor said: "Wait a minute-my turn!" He pulled up the woman's skirts, showing her white legs.

  The others cheered.

  "No!" the woman said, and tried to push him away. She was drunk, but not helpless.

  Igor was a short, wiry man of unexpected strength. He pushed her up against the wall and grabbed her wrists. "Come on," he said. "One soldier's as good as another. "

  The woman struggled, but two other soldiers grabbed her and held her still.

  Her original partner said: "Hey, leave her alone!"

  "You've had your turn, now it's mine," said Igor, unbuttoning.

  Grigori was revolted by this scen
e. "Stop it!" he shouted.

  Igor gave him a challenging look. "Are you giving me an order as an officer, Grigori Sergeivich?"

  "Not as an officer-as a human being!" Grigori said. "Come on, Igor, you can see she doesn't want you. There are plenty more women. "

  "I want this one. " Igor looked around. "We all want this one-don't we, boys?"

  Grigori stepped forward and stood with his hands on his hips. "Are you men, or dogs?" he cried. "The woman said no!" He put his arm around the angry Igor. "Tell me something, comrade," he said. "Is there anywhere around here where a man can get a drink?"

  Igor grinned, the soldiers cheered, and the woman slipped away.

  Grigori said: "I see a small hotel across the street. Shall we ask the proprietor whether, by any chance, he has any vodka?"

  The men cheered again, and they all went into the hotel.

  In the lobby a frightened proprietor was serving free beer. Grigori thought he was wise. It took men longer to drink beer than vodka, and they were less likely to become violent.

  He accepted a glass and drank a mouthful. His elation had vanished. He felt as if he had been drunk and sobered up. The incident with the woman in the doorway had appalled him, and the small boy firing the machine pistol had been horrendous. Revolution was not a simple matter of throwing off your chains. There were dangers in arming the people. Allowing soldiers to commandeer the cars of the bourgeoisie was almost as lethal. Even the apparently harmless freedom to kiss anyone who took your fancy had led, in a few hours, to Grigori's platoon attempting a gang rape.

  It could not go on.

  There had to be order. Grigori did not want to go back to the old days, of course. The tsar had given them bread queues, brutal police, and soldiers without boots. But there had to be freedom without chaos.

  Grigori mumbled an excuse about needing to piss and slipped away from his men. He walked back the way he had come along Nevsky Prospekt. The people had won today's battle. The tsar's police and army officers had been defeated. But if that led only to an orgy of violence, it would not be long before people clamored for a return of the old regime.

  Who was in charge? The Duma had defied the tsar and refused to close, according to what Kerensky had told Grigori yesterday. The parliament was more or less impotent, but at least it symbolized democracy. Grigori decided to go to the Tauride Palace and see if anything was happening there.

  He walked north to the river, then east to the Tauride Gardens. Night had fallen by the time he got there. The classical façade of the palace had dozens of windows, and they were all lit up. Several thousand people had had the same idea as Grigori, and the broad front courtyard was crammed with soldiers and workers milling around.

  A man with a megaphone was making an announcement, repeating it over and over again. Grigori worked his way to the front so that he could hear.

  "The Workers' Group of the War Industry Committee has been released from the Kresty Prison," the man shouted.

  Grigori was not sure who they were, but their name sounded good.

  "Together with other comrades, they have formed the provisional executive committee of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies. "

  Grigori liked that idea. A soviet was a council of representatives. There had been a St. Petersburg soviet in 1905. Grigori had been only sixteen at the time, but he knew the soviet had been elected by factory workers and had organized strikes. It had had a charismatic leader, Leon Trotsky, since exiled.

  "All of this will be officially announced in a special edition of the newspaper Izvestiia. The executive committee has formed a food supply commission to ensure that workers and soldiers are fed. It has also created a military commission to defend the revolution. "

  There was no mention of the Duma. The crowd was cheering, but Grigori wondered whether soldiers would take orders from a self-elected military commission. Where was the democracy in all this?

  His question was answered by the final sentence of the announcement. "The committee appeals to workers and soldiers to elect representatives to the soviet as quickly as possible, and to send their representatives here to the palace to take part in the new revolutionary government!"

  That was what Grigori had wanted to hear. The new revolutionary government-a soviet of workers and soldiers. Now there would be change without disorder. Full of enthusiasm, he left the courtyard and headed back toward the barracks. Sooner or later, the men would come back to their beds. He could hardly wait to tell them the news.

  Then, for the first time, they would have an election.

  {IV}

  On the morning of the next day, the First Machine Gun Regiment gathered on the parade ground to elect a representative to the Petrograd soviet. Isaak proposed Sergeant Grigori Peshkov.

  He was elected unopposed.

  Grigori was pleased. He knew what life was like for soldiers and workers, and he would bring the machine-oil smell of real life to the corridors of power. He would never forget his roots and put on a top hat. He would make sure that unrest led to improvements, not to random violence. Now he had a real chance to make a better life for Katerina and Vladimir.

  He walked quickly across the Liteiny Bridge, alone this time, and headed for the Tauride Palace. His urgent priority had to be bread. Katerina, Vladimir, and the other two and a half million inhabitants of Petrograd had to eat. And now, as he assumed responsibility-at least in his imagination-he began to feel daunted. The farmers and the millers in the countryside had to send more flour to the Petrograd bakers immediately-but they would not do so unless they were paid. How was the soviet going to make sure there was enough money? He began to wonder whether overthrowing the government might have been the easy part.

  The palace had a long central façade and two wings. Grigori discovered that both the Duma and the soviet were in session. Appropriately, the Duma-the old middle-class parliament-was in the right wing and the soviet in the left. But who was in charge? No one knew. That would have to be resolved first, Grigori thought impatiently, before they could start on the real problems.

  On the steps of the palace Grigori spotted the broomstick figure and bushy black hair of Konstantin. He realized with a shock that he had not made any attempt to tell Konstantin of the death of Varya, his mother. But he saw immediately that Konstantin knew. As well as his red armband, Konstantin was wearing a black scarf tied around his hat.

  Grigori embraced him. "I saw it happen," he said.

  "Was it you who killed the police sniper?"

  "Yes. "

  "Thank you. But her real revenge will be the revolution. "

  Konstantin had been elected as one of two deputies from the Putilov works. During the afternoon more and more deputies arrived until, by early evening, there were three thousand of them crammed into the huge Catherine Hall. Nearly all were soldiers. Troops were already organized into regiments and platoons, and Grigori guessed it had been easier for them to arrange elections than for the factory workers, many of whom were locked out of their workplaces. Some deputies had been elected by a few dozen people, others by thousands. Democracy was not as simple as it seemed.

  Someone proposed that they should rename themselves the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, and the idea was approved by thunderous applause. There seemed to be no procedure. There was no agenda, no proposing or seconding of resolutions, no voting mechanism. People just stood up and spoke, often more than one at a time. On the platform, several suspiciously middle-class-looking men were scribbling notes, and Grigori guessed these were the members of the executive committee formed yesterday. At least someone was taking minutes.

  Despite the worrying chaos, there was tremendous excitement. They all felt they had fought a battle and won. For better or worse, they were making a new world.

  But no one was talking about bread. Frustrated by the inaction of the soviet, Grigori and Konstantin left the Catherine Hall during a particularly chaotic moment and wal
ked across the palace to find out what the Duma was up to. On the way they saw troops with red armbands stockpiling food and ammunition in the hallway as if for a siege. Of course, Grigori thought, the tsar is not simply going to accept what has happened. At some point he will try to regain control by force. And that would mean attacking this building.

  In the right wing they came across Count Maklakov, a director of the Putilov works. He was a delegate for a right-of-center party, but he spoke to them politely enough. He told them that yet another committee had been formed, the Temporary Committee of Duma Members for the Restoration of Order in the Capital and the Establishment of Relations with Individuals and Institutions. Despite its ludicrous title, Grigori felt it was an ominous attempt by the Duma to take control. He became more worried when Maklakov told him the committee had appointed a Colonel Engelhardt as commandant of Petrograd.

  "Yes," said Maklakov with satisfaction. "And they have instructed all soldiers to return to barracks and obey orders. "

  "What?" Grigori was shocked. "But that would destroy the revolution. The tsar's officers would regain control!"

  "The members of the Duma do not believe there is a revolution. "

  "The members of the Duma are idiots," Grigori said angrily.

  Maklakov put his nose in the air and walked away.

  Konstantin shared Grigori's anger. "This is a counterrevolution!" he said.

  "And it must be stopped," said Grigori.

  They hurried back to the left wing. In the big hall, a chairman was attempting to control a debate. Grigori leaped onto the platform. "I have an emergency announcement!" he shouted.

  "Everyone has," said the chairman wearily. "But what the hell, go ahead. "

  "The Duma is ordering soldiers to return to barracks-and to accept the authority of their officers!"

  A shout of protest went up from the delegates.

  "Comrades!" Grigori shouted, trying to quiet them. "We are not going back to the old ways!"

  They roared their agreement.

  "The people of the city must have bread. Our women must feel safe on the streets. The factories must reopen and the mills must roll-but not in the same old way. "

  They were listening to him now, unsure where he was going.

  "We soldiers must stop beating up the bourgeoisie, stop harassing women on the street, and stop looting wine shops. We must return to our barracks, sober up, and resume our duties, but"-he paused dramatically-"under our own conditions!"

  There was a rumble of assent.

  "What should those conditions be?"

  Someone shouted: "Elected committees to issue orders, instead of officers!"

  Another said: "No more 'Your Excellency' and 'Most High Radiance'-they should be called Colonel and General. "

  "No saluting!" cried another.

  Grigori did not know what to do. Everyone had his own suggestion. He could not hear them all, let alone remember them.

  The chairman came to his rescue. "I propose that all those with suggestions should form a group with Comrade Sokolov. " Grigori knew that Nikolai Sokolov was a left-wing lawyer. That's good, he thought, we need someone to draft our proposal in correct legal terms. The chairman went on: "When you have agreed what you want, bring your proposal to the soviet for approval. "

  "Right. " Grigori jumped off the platform. Sokolov was sitting at a small table to one side of the hall. Grigori and Konstantin approached him, along with a dozen or more deputies.

  "Very well," said Sokolov. "Who is this addressed to?"

  Grigori was baffled again. He was about so say To the world. But a soldier said: "To the Petrograd Garrison. "

  Another said: "And all the soldiers of the guard, army, and artillery. "

  "And the fleet," said someone else.

  "Very good," said Sokolov, writing. "For immediate and precise execution, I presume?"

  "Yes. "

  "And to the workers of Petrograd for information?"

  Grigori became impatient. "Yes, yes," he said. "Now, who proposed elected committees?"

  "That was me," said a soldier with a gray mustache. He sat on the edge of the table directly in front of Sokolov. As if giving dictation, he said: "All troops should set up committees of their elected representatives. "

  Sokolov, still writing, said: "In all companies, battalions, regiments. . . "

  Someone added: "Depots, batteries, squadrons, warships. . . "

  The gray mustache said: "Those who have not yet elected deputies must do so. "

  "Right," said Grigori impatiently. "Now. Weapons of all kinds, including armored cars, are under the control of the battalion and company committees, not the officers. "

  Several of the soldiers voiced their agreement.

  "Very good," said Sokolov.

  Grigori went on: "A military unit is subordinate to the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and its committees. "

  For the first time, Sokolov looked up. "That would mean the soviet controls the army. "

  "Yes," said Grigori. "The orders of the military commission of the Duma are to be followed only when they do not contradict the decisions of the soviet. "

  Sokolov continued to look at Grigori. "This makes the Duma as powerless as it always was. Before, it was subject to the whim of the tsar. Now, every decision will require the approval of the soviet. "

  "Exactly," said Grigori.

  "So the soviet is supreme. "

  "Write it down," said Grigori.

  Sokolov wrote it down.

  Someone said: "Officers are forbidden to be rude to other ranks. "

  "All right," said Sokolov.

  "And must not address them as tyi as if we were animals or children. "

  Grigori thought these clauses were trivial. "The document needs a title," he said.

  Sokolov said: "What do you suggest?"

  "How have you headed previous orders by the soviet?"

  "There are no previous orders," said Sokolov. "This is the first. "

  "That's it, then," said Grigori. "Call it 'Order Number One. ' "

  {V}

  It gave Grigori profound satisfaction to have passed his first piece of legislation as an elected representative. Over the next two days there were several more, and he became deeply absorbed in the minute-by-minute work of a revolutionary government. But he thought all the time about Katerina and Vladimir, and on Thursday evening he at last got a chance to slip away and check on them.

  His heart was full of foreboding as he walked to the southwest suburbs. Katerina had promised to stay away from trouble, but the women of Petrograd believed this was their revolution as much as the men's. After all, it had started on International Women's Day. This was nothing new. Grigori's mother had died in the failed revolution of 1905. If Katerina had decided to go into the city center with Vladimir on her hip to see what was going on, she would not have been the only mother to do so. And many innocent people had died-shot by the police, trampled in crowds, run over by drunk soldiers in commandeered cars, or hit by stray bullets. As he entered the old house, he dreaded being met by one of the tenants, with a solemn face and tears in her eyes, saying Something terrible has happened.

  He went up the stairs, tapped on her door, and walked in. Katerina leaped from her chair and threw herself into his arms. "You're alive!" she said. She kissed him eagerly. "I've been so worried! I don't know what we would do without you. "

  "I'm sorry I couldn't come sooner," Grigori said. "But I'm a delegate to the soviet. "

  "A delegate!" Katerina beamed with pride. "My husband!" She hugged him.

  Grigori had actually impressed her. He had never done that before. "A delegate is only a representative of the people who elected him," he said modestly.

  "But they always choose the cleverest and most reliable. "

  "Well, they try to. "

  The room was dimly lit by an oil lamp. Grigori put a parcel on the table. Wit
h his new status he had no trouble getting food from the barracks kitchen. "There are some matches and a blanket in there too," he said.

  "Thank you!"

  "I hope you've been staying indoors as much as you can. It's still dangerous on the streets. Some of us are making a revolution, but others are just going wild. "

  "I've hardly been out. I've been waiting to hear from you. "

  "How's our little boy?" Vladimir was asleep in the corner.

  "He misses his daddy. "

  She meant Grigori. It was not Grigori's wish that Vladimir should call him Daddy, but he had accepted Katerina's fancy. It was not likely that any of them would ever see Lev again-there had been no word from him for almost three years-so the child would never know the truth, and perhaps that was better.

  Katerina said: "I'm sorry he's asleep. He loves to see you. "

  "I'll talk to him in the morning. "

  "You can stay the night? How wonderful!"

  Grigori sat down, and Katerina knelt in front of him and pulled off his boots. "You look tired," she said.

  "I am. "

  "Let's go to bed. It's late. "

  She began to unbutton his tunic, and he sat back and let her. "General Khabalov is hiding out in the Admiralty," he said. "We were afraid he might recapture the railway stations, but he didn't even try. "

  "Why not?"

  Grigori shrugged. "Cowardice. The tsar ordered Ivanov to march on Petrograd and set up a military dictatorship, but Ivanov's men became mutinous and the expedition was canceled. "

  Katerina frowned. "Has the old ruling class just given up?"

  "It seems that way. Strange, isn't it? But clearly there isn't going to be a counterrevolution. "

  They got into bed, Grigori in his underwear, Katerina with her dress still on. She had never stripped naked in front of him. Perhaps she felt she had to hold something back. It was a peculiarity of hers that he accepted, not without regret. He took her in his arms and kissed her. When he entered her she said: "I love you," and he felt he was the luckiest man in the world.

  Afterward she said sleepily: "What will happen next?"

  "There's going to be a constituent assembly, elected by what they called the four-tail suffrage: universal, direct, secret, and equal. Meanwhile the Duma is forming a provisional government. "

  "Who will be its leader?"

  "Lvov. "

  Katerina sat upright. "A prince! Why?"

  "They want the confidence of all classes. "

  "To hell with all classes!" Indignation made her even more beautiful, bringing color to her face and a sparkle to her eyes. "The workers and soldiers have made the revolution-why do we need the confidence of anyone else?"

  This question had bothered Grigori, too, but the answer had convinced him. "We need businessmen to reopen factories, wholesalers to recommence supplying the city, shopkeepers to open their doors again. "

  "And what about the tsar?"

  "The Duma is demanding his abdication. They have sent two delegates to Pskov to tell him so. "

  Katerina was wide-eyed. "Abdication? The tsar? But that would be the end. "

  "Yes. "

  "Is it possible?"

  "I don't know," said Grigori. "We'll find out tomorrow. "

  {VI}

  In the Catherine Hall of the Tauride Palace on Friday, the debate was desultory. Two or three thousand men and a few women packed the room, and the air was full of tobacco smoke and the smell of unwashed soldiers. They were waiting to hear what the tsar would do.

  The debate was frequently interrupted for announcements. Often they were less than urgent-a soldier would stand up to say that his battalion had formed a committee and arrested the colonel. Sometimes they were not even announcements, but speeches calling for the defense of the revolution.

  But Grigori knew something was different when a gray-haired sergeant jumped onto the platform, pink-faced and breathless, with a sheet of paper in his hand, and called for silence.

  Slowly and loudly he said: "The tsar has signed a document. . . "

  The cheering began after those few words.

  The sergeant raised his voice: ". . . abdicating the crown. . . "

  The cheer rose to a roar. Grigori was electrified. Had it really happened? Had the dream come true?

  The sergeant held up his hand for quiet. He had not yet finished.

  ". . . and because of the poor health of his twelve-year-old son, Alexei, he has named as his successor the grand duke Mikhail, the tsar's younger brother. "

  The cheers turned to howls of protest. "No!" Grigori shouted, and his voice was lost among thousands.

  When after several minutes they began to quieten, a greater roar was heard from outside. The crowd in the courtyard must have heard the same news, and were receiving it with the same indignation.

  Grigori said to Konstantin: "The provisional government must not accept this. "

  "Agreed," said Konstantin. "Let's go and tell them so. "

  They left the soviet and crossed the palace. The ministers of the newly formed government were meeting in the room where the old temporary committee had met-indeed, they were to a worrying degree the same men. They were already discussing the tsar's statement.

  Pavel Miliukov was on his feet. The monocled moderate was arguing that the monarchy had to be preserved as a symbol of legitimacy. "Horseshit," Grigori muttered. The monarchy symbolized incompetence, cruelty, and defeat, but not legitimacy. Fortunately, others felt the same way. Kerensky, who was now minister of justice, proposed that Grand Duke Mikhail should be told to refuse the crown, and to Grigori's relief the majority agreed.

  Kerensky and Prince Lvov were mandated to go to see Mikhail immediately. Miliukov glared through his monocle and said: "And I should go with them, to represent the minority view!"

  Grigori assumed this foolish suggestion would be trodden upon, but the other ministers weakly assented. At that point Grigori stood up. Without forethought he said: "And I shall accompany the ministers as an observer from the Petrograd soviet. "

  "Very well, very well," said Kerensky wearily.

  They left the palace by a side door and got into two waiting Renault limousines. The former president of the Duma, the hugely fat Mikhail Rodzianko, also came. Grigori could not quite believe this was happening to him. He was part of a delegation going to order a crown prince to refuse to become tsar. Less than a week ago he had meekly got down from a table because Lieutenant Kirillov had ordered him to. The world was changing so fast it was hard to keep up.

  Grigori had never been inside the home of a wealthy aristocrat, and it was like entering a dream world. The large house was stuffed with possessions. Everywhere he looked there were gorgeous vases, elaborate clocks, silver candelabra, and jeweled ornaments. If he had grabbed a golden bowl and run out of the front door, he could have sold it for enough money to buy himself a house-except that right now no one was buying golden bowls, they just wanted bread.

  Prince Georgy Lvov, a silver-haired man with a huge bushy beard, clearly was not impressed by the decor, nor intimidated by the solemnity of his errand, but everyone else seemed nervous. They waited in the drawing room, frowned upon by ancestral portraits, shuffling their feet on the thick rugs.

  At last Grand Duke Mikhail appeared. He was a prematurely balding man of thirty-eight with a little mustache. To Grigori's surprise he appeared to be more nervous than the delegation. He seemed shy and bewildered, despite a haughty tilt to his head. He eventually summoned enough courage to say: "What do you have to tell me?"

  Lvov replied: "We have come to ask you not to accept the crown. "

  "Oh, dear," said Mikhail, and seemed not to know what to do next.

  Kerensky retained his presence of mind. He spoke clearly and firmly. "The people of Petrograd have reacted with outrage to the decision of His Majesty the tsar," he said. "Already a huge contingent of soldiers is marching on the Tauride Palace. Th
ere will be a violent uprising followed by a civil war unless we announce immediately that you have refused to take over as tsar. "

  "Oh, my goodness," said Mikhail mildly.

  The grand duke was not very bright, Grigori realized. Why am I surprised? he thought. If these people were intelligent they would not be on the point of losing the throne of Russia.

  The monocled Miliukov said: "Your Royal Highness, I represent the minority view in the provisional government. In our opinion, the monarchy is the only symbol of authority accepted by the people. "

  Mikhail looked even more bewildered. The last thing he needed was a choice, Grigori thought; that only made matters worse. The grand duke said: "Would you mind if I had a word alone with Rodzianko? No, don't all leave-we will just retire to a side room. "

  When the dithering tsar-designate and the fat president had left, the others talked in low voices. No one spoke to Grigori. He was the only working-class man in the room, and he sensed they were a bit frightened of him, suspecting-rightly-that the pockets of his sergeant's uniform were stuffed with guns and ammunition.

  Rodzianko reappeared. "He asked me whether we could guarantee his personal safety if he became tsar," he said. Grigori was disgusted but not surprised that the grand duke was concerned about himself rather than his country. "I told him we could not," Rodzianko finished.

  Kerensky said: "And. . . ?"

  "He will rejoin us in a moment. "

  There was a pause that seemed endless, then Mikhail came back. They all fell silent. For a long moment, no one said anything.

  At last Mikhail said: "I have decided to decline the crown. "

  Grigori's heart seemed to stop. Eight days, he thought. Eight days ago the women of Vyborg marched across the Liteiny Bridge. Today the rule of the Romanovs has ended.

  He recalled the words of his mother on the day she died: "I will not rest until Russia is a republic. " Rest now, Mother, he thought.

  Kerensky was shaking the grand duke's hand and saying something pompous, but Grigori was not listening.

  We have done it, he thought. We made a revolution.

  We have deposed the tsar.

  {VII}

  In Berlin, Otto von Ulrich opened a magnum of the 1892 Perrier-Jouet champagne.

  The von Ulrichs had invited the von der Helbards to lunch. Monika's father, Konrad, was a graf, or count, and her mother was therefore a grafin, or countess. Grafin Eva von der Helbard was a formidable woman with gray hair piled in an elaborate coiffure. Before lunch she cornered Walter and told him that Monika was an accomplished violin player and had been top of her school class in all subjects. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his father talking to Monika, and guessed she was getting a school report about him.

  He was irritated with his parents for persisting in foisting Monika on him. The fact that he found himself strongly attracted to her made matters worse. She was intelligent as well as beautiful. Her hair was always carefully dressed, but he could not help imagining her unpinning it at night and shaking her head to liberate her curls. Sometimes, these days, he found it hard to picture Maud.

  Now Otto raised his glass. "Good-bye to the tsar!" he said.

  "I'm surprised at you, Father," said Walter irritably. "Are you really celebrating the overthrow of a legitimate monarch by a mob of factory workers and mutinous soldiers?"

  Otto went red in the face. Walter's sister, Greta, patted her father's arm soothingly. "Take no notice, Daddy," she said. "Walter just says these things to annoy you. "

  Konrad said: "I got to know Tsar Nicholas when I was at our embassy in Petrograd. "

  Walter said: "And what did you think of him, sir?"

  Monika answered for her father. Giving Walter a conspiratorial grin, she said: "Daddy used to say that if the tsar had been born to a different station in life he might, with an effort, have become a competent postman. "

  "This is the tragedy of inherited monarchy. " Walter turned to his father. "But you must surely disapprove of democracy in Russia. "

  "Democracy?" said Otto derisively. "We shall see. All we know is that the new prime minister is a liberal aristocrat. "

  Monika said to Walter: "Do you think Prince Lvov will try to make peace with us?"

  It was the question of the hour. "I hope so," said Walter, trying not to look at Monika's breasts. "If all our troops on the eastern front could be switched to France we could overrun the Allies. "

  She raised her glass and looked over its rim into Walter's eyes. "Then let's drink to that," she said.

  Fall of Giants

  In a cold, wet trench in northeastern France, Billy's platoon was drinking gin.

  The bottle had been produced by Robin Mortimer, the cashiered officer. "I've been saving this," he said.

  "Well, knock me down with a feather," said Billy, using one of Mildred's expressions. Mortimer was a surly beggar and had never been known to buy anyone a drink.

  Mortimer splashed liquor into their mess tins. "Here's to bloody revolution," he said, and they all drank, then held out their tins for refills.

  Billy had been in high spirits even before drinking the gin. The Russians had proved it was still possible to overthrow tyrants.

  They were singing "The Red Flag" when Earl Fitzherbert came limping around the traverse, splashing through the mud. He was a colonel now, and more arrogant than ever. "Be quiet, you men!" he shouted.

  The singing died down gradually.

  Billy said: "We're celebrating the overthrow of the tsar of Russia!"

  Fitz said angrily: "He was a legitimate monarch, and those who deposed him are criminals. No more singing. "

  Billy's contempt for Fitz went up a notch. "He was a tyrant who murdered thousands of his subjects, and all civilized men are rejoicing today. "

  Fitz looked more closely at him. The earl no longer wore an eye patch, but his left eyelid had a permanent droop. However, it did not seem to affect his eyesight. "Sergeant Williams-I might have guessed. I know you-and your family. "

  And how, Billy thought.

  "Your sister's a peace agitator. "

  "So's yours, sir," said Billy, and Robin Mortimer laughed raucously, then shut up suddenly.

  Fitz said to Billy: "One more insolent word out of you and you'll be on a charge. "

  "Sorry, sir," said Billy.

  "Now calm down, all of you. And no more singing. " Fitz walked away.

  Billy said quietly: "Long live the revolution. "

  Fitz pretended not to hear.

  Fall of Giants

  In London, Princess Bea screamed: "No!"

  "Try to stay calm," said Maud, who had just told her the news.

  "They cannot!" Bea screamed. "They cannot make our beloved tsar abdicate! He is the father of his people!"

  "It may be for the best-"

  "I don't believe you! It's a wicked lie!"

  The door opened and Grout put his head in, looking worried.

  Bea picked up a Japanese bottle-vase containing an arrangement of dried grasses and hurled it across the room. It hit the wall and smashed.

  Maud patted Bea's shoulder. "There, there," she said. She was not sure what else to do. She herself was delighted that the tsar had been overthrown, but all the same she sympathized with Bea, for whom an entire way of life had been destroyed.

  Grout crooked a finger and a maid came in, looking frightened. He pointed at the broken vase, and the maid began to pick up the pieces.

  The tea things were on a table: cups, saucers, teapots, jugs of milk and cream, bowls of sugar. Bea swept them all violently to the floor. "Those revolutionaries are going to kill everyone!"

  The butler knelt down and began to clear up the mess.

  "Don't excite yourself," Maud said.

  Bea began to cry. "The poor tsaritsa! And her children! What will become of them?"

  "Perhaps you should lie down for a while," Maud said. "Come on, I'll
walk you to your room. " She took Bea's elbow, and Bea allowed herself to be led away.

  "It's the end of everything," Bea sobbed.

  "Never mind," said Maud. "Perhaps it's a new beginning. "

  Fall of Giants

  Ethel and Bernie were in Aberowen. It was a sort of honeymoon. Ethel was enjoying showing Bernie the places of her childhood: the pithead, the chapel, the school. She even showed him around Tŷ Gwyn-Fitz and Bea were not in residence-though she did not take him to the Gardenia Suite.

  They were staying with the Griffiths family, who had again offered Ethel Tommy's room, which saved disturbing Gramper. They were in Mrs. Griffiths's kitchen when her husband, Len, atheist and revolutionary socialist, burst in waving a newspaper. "The tsar have abdicated!" he said.

  They all cheered and clapped. For a week they had been hearing of riots in Petrograd, and Ethel had been wondering how it would end.

  Bernie asked: "Who's took over?"

  "Provisional government under Prince Lvov," said Len.

  "Not quite a triumph for socialism, then," said Bernie.

  "No. "

  Ethel said: "Cheer up, you men-one thing at a time! Let's go to the Two Crowns and celebrate. I'll leave Lloyd with Mrs. Ponti for a while. "

  The women put on their hats and they all went to the pub. Within an hour the place was crammed. Ethel was astonished to see her mother and father come in. Mrs. Griffiths saw them too, and said: "What the 'ell are they doing here?"

  A few minutes later, Ethel's da stood on a chair and called for quiet. "I know some of you are surprised to see me here, but special occasions call for special actions. " He showed them a pint glass. "I haven't changed my habits of a lifetime, but the landlord has been kind enough to give me a glass of tap water. " They all laughed. "I'm here to share with my neighbors the triumph that have took place in Russia. " He held up his glass. "A toast-to the revolution!"

  They all cheered and drank.

  "Well!" said Ethel. "Da in the Two Crowns! I never thought I'd see the day. "

  Fall of Giants

  In Josef Vyalov's ultramodern prairie house in Buffalo, Lev Peshkov helped himself to a drink from the cocktail cabinet. He no longer drank vodka. Living with his wealthy father-in-law, he had developed a taste for Scotch whisky. He liked it the way Americans drank it, with lumps of ice.

  Lev did not like living with his in-laws. He would have preferred for him and Olga to have a place of their own. But Olga preferred it this way, and her father paid for everything. Until Lev could build up a stash of his own he was stuck.

  Josef was reading the paper and Lena was sewing. Lev raised his glass to them. "Long live the revolution!" he said exuberantly.

  "Watch your words," said Josef. "It's going to be bad for business. "

  Olga came in. "Pour me a little glass of sherry, please, darling," she said.

  Lev suppressed a sigh. She loved to ask him to perfom little services, and in front of her parents he could not refuse. He poured sweet sherry into a small glass and handed it to her, bowing like a waiter. She smiled prettily, missing the irony.

  He drank a mouthful of Scotch and savored the taste and the burn of it.

  Mrs. Vyalov said: "I feel sorry for the poor tsaritsa and her children. What will they do?"

  Josef said: "They'll all be killed by the mob, I shouldn't wonder. "

  "Poor things. What did the tsar ever do to those revolutionaries, to deserve this?"

  "I can answer that question," Lev said. He knew he should shut up, but he could not, especially with whisky warming his guts. "When I was eleven years old, the factory where my mother worked went on strike. "

  Mrs. Vyalov tutted. She did not believe in strikes.

  "The police rounded up all the children of the strikers. I'll never forget it. I was terrified. "

  "Why would they do a thing like that?" said Mrs. Vyalov.

  "The police flogged us all," Lev said. "On our bottoms, with canes. To teach our parents a lesson. "

  Mrs. Vyalov had gone white. She could not bear cruelty to children or animals.

  "That's what the tsar and his regime did to me, Mother," said Lev. He clinked ice in his glass. "That's why I toast the revolution. "

  Fall of Giants

  "What do you think, Gus?" said President Wilson. "You're the only person around here who's actually been to Petrograd. What's going to happen?"

  "I hate to sound like a State Department official, but it could go either way," said Gus.

  The president laughed. They were in the Oval Office, Wilson behind the desk, Gus standing in front of it. "Come on," Wilson said. "Take a guess. Will the Russians pull out of the war or not? It's the most important question of the year. "

  "Okay. All the ministers in the new government belong to scary-sounding political parties with socialist and revolutionary in their names, but in fact they're middle-class businessmen and professionals. What they really want is a bourgeois revolution that gives them freedom to promote industry and commerce. But the people want bread, peace, and land: bread for the factory workers, peace for the soldiers, and land for the peasants. None of that really appeals to men like Lvov and Kerensky. So, to answer your question, I think Lvov's government will try for gradual change. In particular, they will carry on fighting the war. But the workers will not be satisfied. "

  "And who will win in the end?"

  Gus recalled his trip to St. Petersburg, and the man who had demonstrated the casting of a locomotive wheel in a dirty, tumbledown foundry at the Putilov factory. Later, Gus had seen the same man in a fight with a cop over some girl. He could not remember the man's name, but he could picture him now, his big shoulders and strong arms, one finger a stump, but most of all his fierce blue-eyed look of unstoppable determination. "The Russian people," Gus said. "They will win in the end. "

 
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