Category Archives: beautiful nihilist

Plot of a Beautiful Nihilist (Sophie Gunsberg, 1891)



To Make Her Lovers Kill the Czar—Her Failure and Trial—The Official’s Side of a Story Hitherto Told Differently.

No authentic account has yet been given of the late political trial—or rather condemnation—of Russian Nihilists for high treason; for trial, in the English sense of the word, there was none. I have just had a long conversation with one of the dignitaries who played the part of judge, jury, and counsel for the crown during the brief ceremony which began by accusation, was continued by voluntary confession, and ended in condemnation to death.

The ringleader of the conspirators, and now the chief of the prisoners, is—as is frequently the casse in Russian politics—a woman; in this instance a woman of excellent education, of iron will, of ravishing beauty and of undaunted courage; a woman in many respects superior to the celebrated Sophia Perovskaya. This person, Sophia Gunsburg by name, narrated the eventful story of her checkered life to her unsympathetic judges; and narrated it in a most calm, unimpassioned, objective way, which the most impartial of historians might well envy. She was a Jewess by birth, she said and had been brought up in the pale of settlement, outside or which Jews are not allowed to wander at large. Her parents had given her the best education that was to be had under the unfavorable public and private conditions in which their lot was cast. Natural aptitude, and the oppression that stimulates which it does not crush, effected the rest, and in time Sophia Gunsburg became a sort of Jewish Hypatia of the pale. After having graduated in the ordinary establishments of intermediate education, Sophia left her birthplace, to which she refuses the name of Fatherland, and went abroad to breath the bracing air of freedom. In Geneva her vague inclinations and tendencies were gradually molded into a perfect system of cruel, cold blooded revenge, which has scarcely its parallel in history. It was in that historic town that she meditated and brooded over the wrongs inflicted by Russia until at last she hatched a plot.

The means she intended to employ in order to attain it were to the full as abominable as the end in view. She resolved to gather together a select band of your men, and, dazzling them by the almost irresistible charms of her beauty, to administer to each, unknown to the other, a solemn oath binding him to do her behests, and to assassinate the emperor on a day and in the manner fixed by her. She was determined that, if one failed, another should take his place, and still another after him, until at last the foul deed should be done. The emperor’s successor, too, unless struck out a new line of policy, was to be stamped out of existence in the same ruthless way. Sophia Gunsburg had no difficulty in attracting a sufficient number of love sick young Russians who were smitten by her beauty and grace, and made enthusiastic by her eloquence. She sacrificed without hesitation or regret all that a pure woman holds dearest in life in order to maintain her hold over these young Catilines. She was not, however, wholly a monster, nor was she exempt from all human weaknesses. She herself fell in love, eperdument in love, with an educated young Russian, whose paramour she became, but whom she never initiated into her political plots, so that he continued down to the moment of his arrest in complete ignorance of the part she was playing as regicide. One of the unsuccessful attempts on the Czar’s life, chronicled in the Daily Telegraph in the early part of last year, was the work of one of Sophia Gunsburg’s body guards, and had she not been arrested when she was the present year of grace would probably have been the last of the of Alexander III.

When the prisoner had finished the impressive discourse containing the history of her life and crime, which had been occasionally interrupted by the questions and rebukes of the presiding dignitaries, the president asked her whether she felt no compunction for the abominable deed she had resolved and attempted to execute, no remorse for the cynical way in which she had divested herself of all feminine modesty. Her reply was an emphatic negative, which rang through the hall like the peal of a musical bell tolling for the death of a youthful bride, and was quickly followed by the solemn sing-song of the Judge pronouncing the sentence of ignominious death. Her companions were condemned to various terms of hard labor in the mines—a sentence surpassing in severity the most painful kind of death—all except one, her lover, who because perfectly ignorant of her criminal plans was finally released after having languished in solitary confinement for a length of time sufficient to make him wish for a release into the life of this sublunary world, or into the next. The emperor, when informed of the death sentence, commuted it to for life. The emperor refused to allow Sophia Gunsburg to go to the mines of Siberia, her heinous crime deserving a punishment far more terrible; she is therefore to be kept in close solitary confinement for the remainder of her life in the dreary fortress of gloomy Schlusselburg, on a bleak island near Lake Ladoga, where many another Nihilist has been lashed into madness or crushed out of existence in a comparatively short space of time.—[London Telegraph.

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) no. (March 14, 1891): 3.

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A Nihilist Crime (1897)

A Nihilist Crime

PARIS, Sept. 3—The body of a beautiful woman, naked and frightfully mutilated, with her skull smashed in, has been found in the river Seine. In the middle of the woman’s back were tattooed the words, “Long live Poland,” and “Death to traitors.” The remains are supposed to be those of a Nihilist who incurred the suspicion of fellow Nihilists.

“A Nihilist Crime,” Los Angeles Herald 26 no. 339 (September 4, 1897): 1.

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“Another beautiful nihilist…” (1887)

Persons and Personages.

Another beautiful nihilist has been transported by Russian tyranny to Siberia. This sweet creature’s banishment is mourned by a large and interesting family of sixteen husbands.

Omaha World-Herald 3 no. 63 (November 5, 1887): 4.

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Sir Henry Parkes, “The Beauteous Terrorist” (Sophie Perovskaya, 1885)

“She was beautiful. It was not the beauty which dazzles at first sight, but that which fascinates the more, the more it is regarded.

“A blonde, with a pair of blue eyes, serious and penetrating, under a broad and spacious forehead. A delicate little nose; a charming mouth, which showed, when she smiled, two rows of very fine white teeth.

“It was, however, her countenance as a whole which was the attraction. There was something brisk, vivacious, and at the same time, ingenuous in her rounded face. She was girlhood personified. Notwithstanding her twenty-six years, she seemed scarcely eighteen. A small, slender, and very graceful figure, and a voice as charming, silvery, and sympathetic as could be, heightened the illusion. It became almost a certainty when she began to laugh, which very often happened. She had the ready laugh of a girl, and laughed with so much heartiness, and so unaffectedly, that she really seemed a young lass of sixteen.

“She gave little thought to her appearance. She dressed in the most modest manner, and perhaps did not even know what dress or ornament was becoming or unbecoming. But she had a passion for neatness, and in this was as punctilious as a Swiss girl.

“She was very fond of children, and was an excellent schoolmistress. There was, however, another office which she filled even better, that of nurse. When any of her friends fell ill, Sophia was the first to offer herself for this difficult duty, and she performed that duty with such gentleness, cheerfulness, and patience that she won the hearts of her patients for all time.

“Yet this woman, with such an innocent appearance and with such a sweet and affectionate disposition, was one of the most dreaded members of the Terrorist party.

“Sophia Perovskaia belonged, like Krapotkine, to the highest aristocracy of Russia. The Perovski are the younger branch of the family of the famous Rasumousky, the morganatic husband of the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, who occupied the throne of Russia in the middle of last century (1741-1762).

“Such was the family to which this woman belonged, who gave such a tremendous blow to Czarism.”— Underground Russia

The Beauteous Terrorist

Sir Henry Parkes


Soft as the morning’s pearly light,
Where yet may rise the thunder-cloud,
Her gentle face was ever bright
With noble thought and purpose proud.

Dreamt ye that those divine blue eyes,
That beauty free from pride or blame,
Were fashion’d but to terrorize
O’er Despot’s power of sword and flame?

Beware! Those beauteous lineaments
Of girlhood shrine a force sublime,
Which moulds to fearful use events,
And dares arraign Imperial crime.

A fear was in the peasants’ eyes,
A palsy smote both tongue and hand;
A network of police and spies
O’erspread the tyrant-tortured land.

The dungeons swallowed all our best—
Who next should perish none could say;
A thousand victims of arrest
Were torn from us one summer day.

The judges, sworn to guard the right,
Interpreted the tyrant’s bent;
Though cleared by witnesses of light,
‘Twas hard to save the innocent.

The Senate, in its ordered state,
Might free — its voice inspired no awe
Acquittal did not liberate —
The Autocrat annulled the law.

The tender, sweet Enthusiast,
The bright-eyed maid with hero’s soul,
Had watched the thickening shadow cast
O’er all the land, in death and dole.

Her girlhood’s secret studies, late
And early, in her princely home;
Her converse with the good and great,
The lessons taught by Greece and Rome,

Had nerved her heart to action strong ;
She joined the few who dared the worst,
Resolved to strike the monster Wrong —
To wrestle with the Thing accurst!

Pale Freedom’s devotees, whose creed
Was vengeance, who in silent trust
Prepared themselves to bear and bleed,
And bravely die — if die they must.

What matter’d, so the Despot’s doom
And Freedom’s advent, nearer drew ?
Their chosen path was through the gloom —
The perils of their choice they knew.

To give their all, even life, were sweet —
Not half, as Ananias gave —
So they might see the work complete,
Or feel it finished in the grave.

The early rose of womanhood
Had scarce illumed her angel face,
When ‘mongst conspirators she stood —
The bravest in the darkest place.

In danger, failure, suffering, she
Cheer’d on with her unchanging smile,
Still looking forth to victory,
As free from doubt as far from guile.

Stern men pursued the work of death —
No war-cry raised, no flag, unfurled —
They laid the mine whose nitric breath
Should blow the tyrant from the world.

Dark warfare! — oh, how pitiless!
What else for them? — no right of speech,
No right of meeting for redress,
No right the rights of man to teach:

How plead their cause in burning words?
How arm’d in just rebellion rise? —
Where gleam a million servile swords,
Where Drown for prey a million spies.

To counsel, organize, sustain,
To plan escape, to lead attack,
Her steady hand and luminous brain
Were ever Onward — never Back!

Her voice was like a holy bell,
Calling to highest sacrifice;
When black disaster heaviest fell,
She stood all smiles to pay the price!

Baffled surprise and bold escape,
Endurance long, at last are o’er;
The Monster’s jaws insatiate gape,
Whose cry for blood is ever “More!”

The hunters close around her path,
Her forfeit life is in their hands;
She neither bends before their wrath,
Nor braves her captor’s hireling bands.

She meets her fate serene and still,
Above all earthly hopes and fears;
If once her eyes the teardrops fill,
Her mother’s grief unlocks the tears.

The mockery of trial came,
And follow’d swift the words of doom;
But ignominy, woe, and shame
Were far from her — her dungeon-tomb

Held spiritual companions; there
A light, which others could not see,
Shone in her heart, and everywhere —
To die was only to be free!

Six days no friendly face came near,
No sister’s clinging arm, no word
From all the loved ones reach’d her ear —
Her mother’s voice no more was heard.

Six days the weeping mother sought
To see her sentenced child in vain;
Their eyes ne’er met till she was brought
Forth in the daylight — to be slain!

She stood beneath the felon rope —
Her beauty felt the hangman’s hand;
But, steadfast in her life-long hope,
She only saw “the promised land!”

The promised land of Truth and Right —
The holy cause of Freedom won!
She only saw the far-off Light,
And heard the People marching on!

She stood — her cheek rose-lighted still —
A moment, calm and iron-willed;
Then all of her which Power could kill
Was mercilessly crushed and killed.

The scaffold had its radiant prey,
The Despot’s minions breathed secure —
The proud and haughty went their way,
Spurning the dead so young and pure.

But souls like her’s survive the fate
Which tyrants in their might decree,
And ever live to animate
The nations struggling to be free.

Purged of the dross of earth, the fire
Of one great spirit’s holocaust
Will thousands wake to patriot ire —
Will raise to life a patriot host!

Sir Henry Parkes, “The Beauteous Terrorist,” The Beauteous Terrorist and Other Poems,” (Melbourne: George Robertson: 1885): 1.

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Beautiful Nihilist Girl (Olga Gontcharenko, 1890)


Implicated in the Plot Against the Czar’s Life, Shoots a Policeman and Then Herself.

St. Petersburg, Jan 11.—In following up the plots of the Nihilists in Warsaw the secret police discovered evidence implicating in the conspiracy against the life of the Czar, Olga Goutsehaunko, a young and beautiful girl, connected with prominent Russian families. Yesterday the chief of police went to her house to arrest her, when the girl, suddenly drawing a revolver, shot him dead. She then turned the pistol upon herself and blew out her own brains.

Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg, Canada) 16 no. 164 (January 13, 1890): 2.

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The Beautiful Nihilist (Sophie Perovskaya, 1889)


“She was beautiful.” Those are the three words with which a Russian writer, who was intimately acquainted with her, commences his personal description of Sophie Perovsky. “Hers was not,” he continues, “the beauty which dazzles at first sight, but that which fascinates the more it is regarded. A blonde, with a pair of blue eyes, serious and penetrating, under a broad and spacious forehead. A delicate little nose, a charming mouth,. which showed, when she smiled, two rows of very fine white teeth. It was, however, her countenance as a whole which was the attraction. There was something brisk, vivacious, and at the same time ingenuous, in her rounded face. She was girlhood personified. Notwithstanding her twenty-six years, she seemed scarcely eighteen. A small, slender, and very graceful figure, and a voice as charming, silvery, and sympathetic as could be, heightened this illusion. It became almost a certainty when she began to laugh, which very often happened. She had the ready laugh of a girl, and laughed with so much heartiness, and so unaffectedly, that she really seemed a young lass of sixteen.”

Who, it is likely to be asked, was this fascinating Russian girl? Surely, it will be thought, she could not be a very terrible revolutionist. We shall see.

Sophie Perovsky was a member of the highest aristocracy of Russia, her ancestors having been connected by marriage with the imperial family of Romanoff. Her father was Governor-General of St. Petersburg, in which city she was born in 1554. Count Perovsky was a domestic tyrant, before whom his wife and daughters were taught to quail; and to this circumstance may be ascribed Sophie’s early development of a hatred of oppression and sympathy with the downtrodden which she retained throughout her brief and stormy life. Always tender and affectionate in her disposition, she possessed a strong mind, an iron will, and a temperament full of enthusiasm.

She had just entered her fifteenth year when she caught the contagion of the desire for higher education which was then passing like a wave over the young womanhood of Russia. Many ladies of the highest families, finding no colleges open to them in their own country, proceeded to Zurich to study there, in free Switzerland. Sophie wished to join them, but her father refused his consent. Following the example of many others, she left her home, and repaired secretly to the house of a friend, from which she negotiated with her father, who, after vain endeavours during several weeks to discover her retreat by means of the police, gave a reluctant; consent to the course she wished to pursue, and sent her a passport. Her mother provided her with a small sum of money, and she found herself free to study.

There were other things to be learned in Zurich besides medicine, to which most of the girl student’s from Russia at first devoted themselves. That little Swiss town was at that time one of the chief centres of the Socialist refugees of Germany. Gradually Sophie Perovsky and her young friends forsook the study of medicine for that of political economy, which they read in the works of Marx and Proudhon. These studies were interrupted, however, by the imperial decree of 1871, ordering all subjects of the Czar to leave Zurich and return home, under the penalty of outlawry. The result, was the return of some scores of j young persons of both sexes, with their heads full of Socialism and Democracy, to disseminate among all with whom they came in contact the ideas they had imbibed in the free West.

Unfortunately, everything which is done in Russia, if at variance with the absolute system of the Czar, has to be done in secret. Sophie Perovsky, with some other students of both sexes, formed the nucleus of a propagandist circle, which was gradually enlarged by the adhesion of others until it became strong enough to send out lecturers to spread their principles among the working classes of St. Petersburg. This movement was mainly due to the initiative of Sophie Perovsky, who was always endeavouring to find new means of activity and to open new channels for the diffusion of the political and social opinions which she had embraced so ardently.

In the autumn of 1873, while engaged in the work of propagandism in the great industrial quarter of the Alexander Nevsky, in conjunction with Prince Peter Krapotkine, our young lady was arrested and lodged in prison, where, though there was no evidence upon which she could be convicted of treason, or even sedition, and though she was not placed on trial, she was detained for a year. She was then released on her father becoming bail for her, but was obliged to leave the capital and reside in the Crimea, where the family possessed an estate. There she remained for three years, under strict surveillance, and was then ordered to go up for trial with 192 other members of the propagandist circle which she had assisted to form on her return from Zurich. She was acquitted, but not released, the Czar’s method of dealing with political offenders being, when they cannot be convicted, to have them removed by the police to some distant town, which they are not allowed to leave without permission.

From this time, however, Sophie Perovsky resolved to set the will of the Czar at defiance. In 1878, after four years’ enforced sojourn in a northern town, she succeeded in evading the (surveillance of the police, without any assistance, or even communication with her friends, and returned to St. Petersburg. The Terrorist phase of the Nihilist movement had then commenced, consequent upon the severities of the Government. General Trepoff had a political prisoner severely flogged, and he was shot by Vera Zassulitch, whom the Czar strove to arrest a second time, after she had been tried and acquitted. This startling event was followed, a few months afterwards, by another—General Mezentsoff was shot dead in the street. Sophie Perovsky threw herself, with all her energy, her iron will, and her fertility in resources, into this new and terrible phase of the movement to which she had devoted herself. She again took up the work of propagandism among the working classes of the capital, and was one of the founders of the society to which Professor Michailoff belonged, implicated in the plot for the assassination of Alexander II.

Once embarked on this dangerous course, all who knew Sophie Perovsky knew that she was not one who would turn back from it. Henceforth she played a prominent part in all the most desperate undertakings of the revolutionists. The first of these in which she participated was the attempt to rescue Voinaralsky, which failed. In the plot to blow up the imperial train at Moscow the duty was assigned to her by the Revolutionary Committee of exploding the deposit of nitro-glycerine, so as to destroy the house and everyone in it in the event of the police coming to arrest the conspirators. This will be remembered as the plot with which Hartmann was connected. Plots against the life of the Czar followed each other rapidly about this time. The blowing up of the stone bridge over the Neva was not accomplished, owing to one of the conspirators failing to keep his appointment, and the plot to blow up the imperial steamer was discovered by the police, the only Nihilist plot they ever succeeded in discovering.

Then came the fearful tragedy of the 13th March, 1881, when a grenade charged with nitro-glycerine was thrown at the Czar, and, exploding at his feet, inflicted such dreadful injuries that he died shortly afterwards. On this dreadful occasion it was Sophie Perovsky who directed the arrangements and had charge of the signals. Geliaboff, who had been concerned in the Moscow attempt, with Michailoff and others, were under her direction. No arrests were made on the spot. The authorities seemed paralysed by mingled fear and horror.

Four days after the tragedy a lady waited upon the Russian writer whose nom de plume is “Stepniak,” with a request that he would go to Sophie Perovsky. He was unaware that she had participated in the crime of the 13th, but he knew the part she had played in the Moscow conspiracy, and concluded that she wished for his assistance in getting out of the country. He found her pale and excited, but without any intention of leaving the city. Full of hope and enthusiasm, she said it was impossible to leave at such a crisis; there was so much to do, so many persons to be seen. She wanted information of “the enemy.” Several arrests had been made, and one of the suspected had committed suicide. The man she loved, too, was compromised, though he had not directly participated in the Killing of Alexander.

There was a police official of high rank with whom “Stepniak” had been acquainted for some years previously, and upon whom he waited at once, after making an appointment with Sophie for the evening. From him he learned that the fate of all the accused was sealed; there would be a trial, but it would only be a form. On meeting Sophie in the evening, he again entreated her to escape from the country; but. she was on that point immovable. She appears, however, to have been much less hopeful of the future than she had been in the morning. They parted a little before midnight, with the intention of meeting again on the following afternoon; but Sophie arrived first at the appointed place, and hurried away again without waiting for her friend’s arrival. Two days afterwards she was arrested. The Countess Perovsky, who travelled in haste from the Crimea on hearing of her arrest, was not allowed to see her until the day on which the trial terminated with a sentence of death upon all the accused. Six days elapsed between the sentence and the execution, and on each day the Countess Perovsky presented herself at the portals of her daughter’s prison, begging to be permitted to see her again, and on the fifth day was told she should see her on the morrow. The unhappy lady went, but only to see Sophie in the fatal cart on the way to execution.

“Sophie Perovsky,” said the St. Petersburg correspondent of the Kolnische Zeitung, in narrating the execution of the conspirators, “displayed extraordinary moral strength. Her cheeks oven preserved their rose colour, while her face, always serious, without the slightest trace of parade, was full of true courage and endless abnegation. Her look was calm and peaceful; not the slightest sign of ostentation could be discerned in it.”

“The Beautiful Nihilist,” New Zealand Herald 30 no. 9416 (July 13, 1889): 2.

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Beautiful Nihilist Slays; Weds; Tracked, Is Caught (Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz, 1907)


Woman Who Killed Governor Genera of Warsaw Pleads She Has Become Austrian by Marriage

By Associated Press.

VIENNA, Nov. 23.—Wanda Dobroczieka, the woman who threw a bomb at Gen. Skalon of Warsaw and, aided by confederates, disappeared has been brought from Cracow to Vienna, where her trial on the demand of the Russian government for her extradition will take place.

The prisoner is a strikingly pretty woman of the Polish type and is as intelligent as she is pretty.

After her crime she fled to Cracow. There her beauty attracted many admirers, one of whom, an Austrian, she married. The secret police tracked her, and her arrest followed, in spite of a plea that by marriage she had become an Austrian subject.

“Beautiful Nihilist Slays; Weds; Tracked, Is Caught,” Los Angeles Herald 35 no. 53 (November 24, 1907): 2.

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A Beautiful Nihilist (Vera Figner, 1892)

A Beautiful Nihilist

Boston Advertiser

Vera Figner is one of the Nihilists lately condemned to death at St. Petersburg. She is described as of rare beauty. She is 27 years of age, and has been active in all nihilistic conspiracies since 1878. It was she who with Sophie Perowskaya succeeded in starting the propaganda in the army, and organized terrorist societies in several regiments, including the 16th Grenadiers. It is believed that the Czar will commute the death sentence.

The Daily Commonwealth (Topeka, Kansas) no. 4860 (November 27, 1884): 3.


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A Hunt to Death (1892)


A Beautiful Nihilist’s Contrivance to Elude Justice.

I had settled myself in my corner and the train was already swinging at a good pace down the “Golden Valley” before I noticed, first, that I was not alone, and, second, that I was not in a smoking compartment.

My fellow-traveler was a lady, clothed from head to foot in a traveling ulster with a deep cape, and closely veiled. I wanted a smoke very badly, and so I ventured to ask her if she had any objection.

Imagine my astonishment when, instead of replying to my question, she sobbed out something utterly incoherent and burst into tears. This was startling enough, but when I saw that she made no attempt to take out a handkerchief to dry her eyes, but simply sat still with her hands folded under her cape, surprise very quickly gave place to bewilderment.

In such a situation a man does not reason; he simply acts on instinct

In a moment I was at the other end of the carriage begging her in a clumsy, masculine fashion to tell me what was the matter with her. For an answer she suddenly parted her cape, and held up two tiny clasped and daintily-gloved hands. As she did so, I heard the clink of steel, and something bright shone in the lamplight

My fair traveling companion was handcuffed!

Before she attempted any explanations, she opened her right hand, and showed me one of the regulation screw-keys which alone will open the steel bracelets that restrain the exuberance of the unruly or dangerous criminal.

“Please unlock these horrible things for me, and thou I will tell you everything,” she said, and the request vas supplemented by a beseeching glance from a pair of tear-dewed eyes to whoso witchery many an older man than myself would have succumbed.

I took the key, and after a little fumbling about the strangely-contrived locks, set free the dainty little hands that were stretched so appealingly towards me.

Not knowing exactly what to do with the handcuffs, I slipped them for the time being into the side pocket of my ulster.

As soon as she got her hands free she unbuttoned her ulster, and threw it back a little. As she did so, I noticed that she wore a strikingly curious brooch at the neck of her dress. It was formed of two thick gold serpents, coiled as if ready to spring, with their heads thrust forward side by side, and their emerald eyes gleaming with an unpleasantly life-like expression.

It was a pitiful tale, and to a great extent one which the newspapers have of late years made all too commonplace. Forced by social and pecuniary considerations into a marriage with a man old enough to be her father, and possessing no single taste in common with her, she had, under sore temptation, broken her forced troth, and fled from his house.

Too proud to follow her himself, and yet mean enough to punish her by making her submit to an unheard-of-indignity, be had put a private detective on her track, told him she was tainted with a dangerous mania, and given him strict orders to bring her back to London, when caught, handcuffed like a felon.

The detective, when he overtook her at Hereford, had given her a letter from her husband in which ho told her that if she did not submit to his instructions he would prosecute her for stealing one or two articles of jewelry—the brooch that she was wearing among them—which she had unwittingly taken away with her in the hurry of her flight To avoid the disgrace and public shame, she had submitted to the brutal but private tyranny of his revenge.

At Gloucester her escort had got out to telegraph to her husband to meet them, and had lost the train through a porter telling him that the stop was five minutes instead of three, and she had just seen him run on to the platform as the train left the station.

As she looked round the carriage in which she now found herself free, but shackled, she saw the key of her handcuffs, which must have fallen from his ticket-pocket as he jerked his overcoat on. She tried hard to open the locks, but of course had been unable to do so.

Didcot and Swindon were passed as she told her tale; we conversed upon the strange occurrences of the night, and the only stop before Paddington was now Reading. Here my traveling companion decided to leave the train, as by no other means could she avoid running into her husband’s arms at the terminus.

Despite her gentle, winning manner, I felt instinctively that persuasions would be useless, and so I opened the door, got out, and helped her to alight from the carriage, and with a few murmured words of repeated thanks she was gone.

When I got back into the carriage I lit a cigar and lay back on the cushions to think over my adventure. By the time the train drew into Paddington I had exalted my beautiful unknown into a heroine of romance, and, I regret to say, myself into something like a knight errant of the days of chivalry.


“This is it, twelve-ninety. Are you there, Fred?” The train had stopped, and a lamp flashing into the carriage woke me up from my day dream to hear these strange words, and to see a couple of men in police uniform and a railway inspector peering into the compartment.

“Hullo! This must be wrong; they aren’t hero, and yet this is the right number. Excuse me, Sir; how far have you come in this carriage?”

“From Stroud,” I replied, a bit dazed by drowsiness and my strange reception.

“Have you come all the way alone?”

Some mad idea connected in a confused way with the beautiful woman whose soft, clinging clasp I could still feel on my hand, stopped the truth that rose to my lips, and instead uttered the foolish lie:

“Yes; I have been alone in the carriage all the way.”

A moment later I would have given all I possessed to have recalled my words; for, as I uttered them, the railway inspector turned his lamp under the seat opposite to me, and said in a hoarse whisper:

“Good heavens! what’s that?”

My eyes followed the glare of the lamp, and I saw the too of a man’s boot on the floor of the carriage a few inches back from the front of the seat

A minute later and the corpse of a somewhat undersized man, whose face was still drawn in the agony of a violent death, was dragged out, lifted up, and laid upon the seat

Of course I spent the night in the cells; for if I could have procured bail to any amount it would not have been accepted.

Not only was I charged with the most terrible of all crimes, but the charge was supported by prima facie evidence that looked practically conclusive. The handcuffs had been found in my pocket, and I was accused of procuring the escape from justice of the notorious Marie S——-, the wife of a member of the Nihilist Inner Circle, then serving a life sentence in Siberia.

No fewer than four murders had been traced to her, and now I was charged with complicity in a fifth, that of well known English detective who had sought to make a brilliant coup by taking her alone.

She seemed to have the power of fascinating men with her beauty till they became her slaves, and then striking them dead by some terrible and mysterious agency that loft no trace save death behind it

Once she had actually been seen to use this horrible power, whatever it was. A wealthy young Frenchman, whom she had enslaved in Paris for political purposes, escorted her home from the theater one evening, and was seen by her maid to lean forward to admire a curious brooch she wore as he took his leave of her in the salon.

As he did so Marie drew herself up a little, and suddenly the man uttered a choking scream and foil back writhing to the floor. The horrified girl fell down in a fit, and when she recovered the murderess had vanished and left no trace behind her.

There is no need to dwell on the horrors of the time that followed my arrest. Everything that money and skill could do for me was done, but I was committed for trial on the circumstantial evidence to answer the charge of murder. While I lay in jail awaiting my trial the search for Marie S—— became an absolute hunt to death.

Despite all this, so perfect was her skill in disguise and so unlimited her fertility of resource that she might have evaded pursuit, after all, had it not been for one of those slips that the cleverest of criminals seem to make sooner or later.

A smart young chemist’s assistant at a fashionable watering-place one evening on the pier made the acquaintance of a very pretty girl, who said that she was studying chemistry for the science and art examinations.

This turned the conversation on chemicals, and she ended by asking him to get her a quantity of a very poisonous substance, which she wanted for an experiment, and which she could not buy because she was a stranger in the town.

The chemist’s assistant was a sharp young fellow, and he saw the chemical she asked for was not in the syllabus of the science und art department

He told his employer of the occurrence the next day, and in the evening took the girl some crystals of a harmless salt, which resembled what she had wanted somewhat closely.

“This is not what I asked you for,” she said as soon as she looked into the packet.

“No, you can’t make prussic acid out of that, miss, but it’s safer to play with,” coolly replied the youth, and as he spoke, a man who had been leaning over the rail of the pier a few yards away moved silently up behind the girl, pinioned her arms to her side and held her down to the seat.

The detective called a cab on the esplanade, and the three got in and drove to the police station, pulling up the windows to avoid any possible observation as they went through the streets.

When the cab reached the station there was no sign or sound of movement inside it. The cabman got down and opened the door, and as ho did so ho staggered back, and fell gasping for breath to the pavement

Inside the cab, Marie S——- sat with her two would-be captors—dead, and on the face of each corpse there was the same expression that there was on the features of the dead man who was taken out of the carriage at Paddington.

When the clothing of Marie S—— came to be searched, the mystery was solved by the discovery of one of the most infernally ingenious contrivances that over served the purpose of murder. Inside the dress, just above the waistband on the right-hand side, were found two small rubber-ball pumps, such as are used for ordinary spray producers. From these two tubes led up to a bottle suspended around the neck.

This had two compartments, and two necks closed by rubber corks, through which ran thin tubes, which ouded in the mouths of the two golden serpents coiled in the form of a brooch.

The horrible apparatus was so arranged that, on working the ball-pumps by pressing the right arm against the side two jets of vapor could be projected from the serpents’ mouths. These jets when united formed what was practically a vapor of prussic acid, which would be blown directly in the face of any one within a couple of foot of the brooch, and would of course kill them almost instantly.

To the wearer of the brooch there would be little or no danger, provided she held her breath for a couple of minutes and moved quickly away, as the gas mixes very rapidly with the air, and is soon lost. In a confined space like the cab the atmosphere could soon be so saturated that it would be death to breathe it

All this was, of course, told to me after my release, which was effected immediately after the mystery was cleared up.

The National Tribune (Washington, DC) 11 no. 50 (Thursday, July 14, 1892): 3.

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Filed under 1892, beautiful nihilist, fiction