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The Safety Match
by [?]


On the morning of October 6, 1885, in the office of the Inspector of Police of the second division of S—- District, there appeared a respectably dressed young man, who announced that his master, Marcus Ivanovitch Klausoff, a retired officer of the Horse Guards, separated from his wife, had been murdered. While making this announcement the young man was white and terribly agitated. His hands trembled and his eyes were full of terror.

“Whom have I the honor of addressing?” asked the inspector.

“Psyekoff, Lieutenant Klausoff’s agent; agriculturist and mechanician!”

The inspector and his deputy, on visiting the scene of the occurrence in company with Psyekoff, found the following: Near the wing in which Klausoff had lived was gathered a dense crowd. The news of the murder had sped swift as lightning through the neighborhood, and the peasantry, thanks to the fact that the day was a holiday, had hurried together from all the neighboring villages. There was much commotion and talk. Here and there, pale, tear-stained faces were seen. The door of Klausoff’s bedroom was found locked. The key was inside.

“It is quite clear that the scoundrels got in by the window!” said Psyekoff as they examined the door.

They went to the garden, into which the bedroom window opened. The window looked dark and ominous. It was covered by a faded green curtain. One corner of the curtain was slightly turned up, which made it possible to look into the bedroom.

“Did any of you look into the window?” asked the inspector.

“Certainly not, your worship!” answered Ephraim, the gardener, a little gray-haired old man, who looked like a retired sergeant. “Who’s going to look in, if all their bones are shaking?”

“Ah, Marcus Ivanovitch, Marcus Ivanovitch!” sighed the inspector, looking at the window, “I told you you would come to a bad end! I told the dear man, but he wouldn’t listen! Dissipation doesn’t bring any good!”

“Thanks to Ephraim,” said Psyekoff; “but for him, we would never have guessed. He was the first to guess that something was wrong. He comes to me this morning, and says: ‘Why is the master so long getting up? He hasn’t left his bedroom for a whole week!’ The moment he said that, it was just as if some one had hit me with an ax. The thought flashed through my mind, ‘We haven’t had a sight of him since last Saturday, and to-day is Sunday’! Seven whole days–not a doubt of it!”

“Ay, poor fellow!” again sighed the inspector. “He was a clever fellow, finely educated, and kind-hearted at that! And in society, nobody could touch him! But he was a waster, God rest his soul! I was prepared for anything since he refused to live with Olga Petrovna. Poor thing, a good wife, but a sharp tongue! Stephen!” the inspector called to one of his deputies, “go over to my house this minute, and send Andrew to the captain to lodge an information with him! Tell him that Marcus Ivanovitch has been murdered. And run over to the orderly; why should he sit there, kicking his heels? Let him come here! And go as fast as you can to the examining magistrate, Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch. Tell him to come over here! Wait; I’ll write him a note!”

The inspector posted sentinels around the wing, wrote a letter to the examining magistrate, and then went over to the director’s for a glass of tea. Ten minutes later he was sitting on a stool, carefully nibbling a lump of sugar, and swallowing the scalding tea.

“There you are!” he was saying to Psyekoff; “there you are! A noble by birth! a rich man–a favorite of the gods, you may say, as Pushkin has it, and what did he come to? He drank and dissipated and–there you are–he’s murdered.”

After a couple of hours the examining magistrate drove up. Nicholas Yermolaiyevitch Chubikoff–for that was the magistrate’s name–was a tall, fleshy old man of sixty, who had been wrestling with the duties of his office for a quarter of a century. Everybody in the district knew him as an honest man, wise, energetic, and in love with his work. He was accompanied to the scene of the murder by his inveterate companion, fellow worker, and secretary, Dukovski, a tall young fellow of twenty-six.