IN THE COMPANY
Chapter 1: KIEV, July 1914
Just a few days after
her twentieth birthday, Katherine Kazakova rode in a closed carriage
down Shevchenko Boulevard toward the railroad station. There was a glow
on her face as she looked out across the gardens and flowering chestnut
trees sweeping down to the Dnieper River and she realized that there
could be no city more beautiful than Kiev. For a while she was content
with this summer scene and the clattering hooves, but then the domed
roof of the station came into view, and with sudden clarity she understood
that by getting on the train to St. Petersburg, she could be making
a terrible mistake: leaving friends, leaving home, leaving her father.
She sat back to think it through, but hardly a moment had passed before
she reminded herself that a Royal Appointment was the opportunity of
a lifetime, and not something one could defer.
She watched her father check his vest
pocket watch before reaching up to rap on the roof. “There’s
plenty of time, Papa,” she said, staying his hand. “Let’s
enjoy it. Do you like my new suit?”
“Perfect,” he said with a
quiet smile. “Navy blue, almost obligatory for business . . .
and it shows off golden hair so well.”
Katya held his hand until the carriage
pulled up to the main entrance. A porter opened the door and Papa stepped
out quickly. “I must get a paper, Katya. Meet me at the gate.”
Katya watched him hurry toward a kiosk
while the porter took her bags. She frowned at the headlines: ASSASSINATION
IN SARAJEVO! FANATIC SHOOTS ARCHDUKE FERDINAND AND WIFE.
Recent tensions had taken a nasty turn.
She knew that Archduchess Sophia was with child. Tragic! Nevertheless,
she tightened her lips determinedly and followed the porter into a waiting-room
busy with soldiers carrying kit bags toward the gate to the far platform.
A clock high on the wall showed five minutes past eight as she worked
her way toward the marble counter. With a nod she accepted her ticket
before pushing back through the crowd to the first-class entrance.
There was her father waiting beside a
chalkboard bearing the message: EXPRESS TO ST. PETERSBURG. FRIDAY, JULY
29, 1914. 8:15 a.m. He looked wonderful in his smartly tailored clothes
she thought, but she could also see his anguish. His eyes squinted with
worry as he broke the silence, “I wish you would reconsider, Katya.
War is very close.”
With a shake of her head, Katya presented
her ticket to the attendant then moved through the gate to the platform
and the waiting train. “We’ve planned this for too long,
Papa. I won’t let a career slip away just because Germany and
Austria rattle sabers at the rest of Europe.”
It was cooler as they walked under the
platform’s arched roof. Glass panes, high above and stained with
soot, must have diminished the power of the sun which speckled down
onto flat-bed cars loaded with artillery pieces.
“It was a marvel how you ever arranged
the appointment . . . and to have Grand Duchess Marie as my confidante–
A flicker of pleasure crossed his face.
“Never forget the power of connections,” he advised while
watching the porter stow the luggage.
“They’ll see what I can do
He nodded. “I wish your mother were
“I know. I miss her too.”
Katya said as she slipped the porter some money.
“I would prefer you to leave the
gratuity to me,” he complained.
She brushed his lapels. “Sometimes
bankers don’t give enough,” she said softly. “When
will I see you again? We’re both alone now.”
Her father’s emotions welled up
as a whistle blew. “In God’s good time,” he managed
to say. “Young men will crowd your day.”
“Not until I establish myself.”
“Your Mother would be so proud .
. . the first woman to serve in the Czar’s Treasury. What a singular
honor.” His eyes shone with tears.
Not wanting to see him break down in public,
Katya kissed him quickly, then stepped into the compartment just as
doors all up and down the platform began to slam shut. When the whistle
blew again and the train crept slowly away, she waved until he was out
of sight, then she pulled on the leather strap to close the window.
Looking out through her reflection she
watched a tear thread its way down her cheek. “I’ll get
you to Petersburg, Papa,” she whispered. “It’s where
we both belong.”
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dimensions: 6” x 9”
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