Very different again was the young man Boris Nicolaievitch Grogoff. No relation of the family, he seemed to spend most of his time in the Markovitch flat. A handsome young man, strongly built, with a head of untidy curly yellow hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones, long hands with which he was for ever gesticulating. Grogoff was an internationalist Socialist and expressed his opinions at the top of his voice whenever he could find an occasion. He would sit for hours staring moodily at the floor, or glaring fiercely upon the company. Then suddenly he would burst out, walking about, flinging up his arms, shouting. I saw at once that Markovitch did not like him and that he despised Markovitch. He did not seem to me a very wise young man, but I liked his energy, his kindness, sudden generosities, and honesty. I could not see his reason for being so much in this company.
During the autumn of 1916 I spent more and more time with the Markovitches. I cannot tell you what was exactly the reason. Vera Michailovna perhaps, although let no one imagine that I fell in love with her or ever thought of doing so. No, my time for that was over. But I felt from the first that she was a fine, understanding creature, that she sympathised with me without pitying me, that she would be a good and loyal friend, and that I, on my side could give her comprehension and fidelity. They made me feel at home with them; there had been as yet no house in Petrograd whither I could go easily and without ceremony, which I could leave at any moment that I wished. Soon they did not notice whether I were there or no; they continued their ordinary lives and Nina, to whom I was old, plain, and feeble, treated me with a friendly indifference that did not hurt as it might have done in England. Boris Grogoff patronised and laughed at me, but would give me anything in the way of help, property, or opinions, did I need it. I was in fact by Christmas time a member of the family. They nicknamed me “Durdles,” after many jokes about my surname and reminiscences of “Edwin Drood” (my Russian name was Ivan Andreievitch). We had merry times in spite of the troubles and distresses now crowding upon Russia.
And now I come to the first of the links in my story. It was with this family that Henry Bohun was to lodge.
Some three years before, when Ivan Petrovitch had gone to live with the Markovitches, it had occurred to them that they had two empty rooms and that these would accommodate one or two paying guests. It seemed to them still more attractive that these guests should be English, and I expect that it was Ivan Petrovitch who emphasised this. The British Consulate was asked to assist them, and after a few inconspicuous clerks and young business men they entertained for a whole six months the Hon. Charles Trafford, one of the junior secretaries at the Embassy. At the end of those six months the Hon. Charles, burdened