A railway carriage full of people was discussing the mysterious murderer who had been targeting travellers for the past two years. Everyone shared their own stories of encounters with criminals and how they had managed to outsmart them. A physician then shared a story about a Russian woman, Comtesse Marie Baranow, who had a strange encounter on a train journey.
Marie was travelling alone to Mentone for her health, as advised by her doctor. One night, while counting her money, a wounded man suddenly entered her compartment. Fearing that he was a criminal, she tried to escape, but the man assured her that he was not a criminal and needed her help to cross the border. He then collected her scattered money and returned it to her.
I am not a criminal, Madame. This I swear to you. I cannot tell you more.
At the last Russian station, Marie dismissed her servant Ivan and gave his cap and cloak to the stranger, telling him that he was now her servant. They managed to cross the border without any issues, and the man left her at a German station. However, he continued to follow her and watch her from a distance, never speaking to her.
These things are for you, Monsieur—you are Ivan, my servant. I make only one condition to what I am doing: that is, that you shall not speak a word to me, neither to thank me, nor for anything whatsoever.
One day, the man visited the physician to ask about Marie's health. The physician informed him that she was not well and would not be returning to Russia. The man was heartbroken and continued to watch over Marie from a distance. Marie, aware of his presence, appreciated his devotion but refused to learn his name or speak to him.
As Marie's health deteriorated, she often looked out her window to see the man sitting on a bench, watching her. She eventually passed away, and the man, devastated, asked the physician if he could see her one last time. He was allowed to do so, and after kissing her hand, he left, never to be seen again.