1. CHAPTER I.
Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one
morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was
approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so
damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the
day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish
anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows.
Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning
from abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled,
chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and
degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of
them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a
shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared
to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.
When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class
carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young
fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable
faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation.
If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were
both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at
the strange chance which had set them down opposite to one
another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.
One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall,
with black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose
was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips
were constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might
almost be called a malicious--smile; but his forehead was high
and well formed, and atoned for a good deal of the ugliness of
the lower part of his face. A special feature of this physiognomy
was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an
indescribably emaciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and
at the same time a sort of passionate and suffering expression
which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and
keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
astrachan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his
neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian
November night entirely unprepared. His wide sleeveless mantle
with a large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon
travellers during the winter months in Switzerland or North
Italy--was by no means adapted to the long cold journey through
Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.