The shy northern sun had already set by teatime when three of the Tsar's gendarmes took up positions at the gates of the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls. The end of the term at the finest girls' boarding school in St. Petersburg was no place for policemen but there they were, unmistakable in their smart navy-blue tunics with white trimming, shiny sabers, and lambskin helmets with sultan-spikes. One clicked his fingers impatiently, another opened and closed the leather holster of his Mauser revolver and the third stood stolidly, legs wide, with his thumbs stuck into his belt. Behind them waited a traffic jam of horse-drawn sleighs, emblazoned gold and crimson with family crests and a couple of gleaming limousines. The slow, slanting snow-fall was visible only in the flickering halo of streetlights and the amber lamps of touring cars.
- From Shashenka (Volume One in The Moscow Trilogy) by Simon Sebag Montefiore