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Title: Under Western Eyes
Author: Conrad, Joseph
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Under Western Eyes" ***

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UNDER WESTERN EYES

by JOSEPH CONRAD



“I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch a piece
of bread.” Miss HALDIN



PART FIRST



To begin with I wish to disclaim the possession of those high gifts of
imagination and expression which would have enabled my pen to create
for the reader the personality of the man who called himself, after the
Russian custom, Cyril son of Isidor--Kirylo Sidorovitch--Razumov.

If I have ever had these gifts in any sort of living form they have been
smothered out of existence a long time ago under a wilderness of words.
Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality. I have been for
many years a teacher of languages. It is an occupation which at length
becomes fatal to whatever share of imagination, observation, and insight
an ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of languages there comes
a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a
mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.

This being so, I could not have observed Mr. Razumov or guessed at his
reality by the force of insight, much less have imagined him as he was.
Even to invent the mere bald facts of his life would have been utterly
beyond my powers. But I think that without this declaration the
readers of these pages will be able to detect in the story the marks of
documentary evidence. And that is perfectly correct. It is based on
a document; all I have brought to it is my knowledge of the Russian
language, which is sufficient for what is attempted here. The document,
of course, is something in the nature of a journal, a diary, yet not
exactly that in its actual form. For instance, most of it was not
written up from day to day, though all the entries are dated. Some of
these entries cover months of time and extend over dozens of pages. All
the earlier part is a retrospect, in a narrative form, relating to an
event which took place about a year before.

I must mention that I have lived for a long time in Geneva. A whole
quarter of that town, on account of many Russians residing there,
is called La Petite Russie--Little Russia. I had a rather extensive
connexion in Little Russia at that time. Yet I confess that I have
no comprehension of the Russian character. The illogicality of their
attitude, the arbitrariness of their conclusions, the frequency of the
exceptional, should present no difficulty to a student of many grammars;
but there must be something else in the way, some special human
trait--one of those subtle differences that are beyond the ken of mere
professors. What must remain striking to a teacher of languages is the
Russians’ extraordinary love of words. They gather them up; they cherish
them, but they don’t hoard them in their breasts; on the contrary, they
are always ready to pour them out by the hour or by the night with an
enthusiasm, a sweeping abundance, with such an aptness of application
sometimes that, as in the case of very accomplished parrots, one can’t
defend oneself from the suspicion that they really understand what they
say. There is a generosity in their ardour of speech which removes it as
far as possible from common loquacity; and it is ever too disconnected
to be classed as eloquence.... But I must apologize for this
digression.

It would be idle to inquire why Mr. Razumov has left this record behind
him. It is inconceivable that he should have wished any human eye to see
it. A mysterious impulse of human nature comes into play here. Putting
aside Samuel Pepys, who has forced in this way the door of immortality,
innumerable people, criminals, saints, philosophers, young girls,
statesmen, and simple imbeciles, have kept self-revealing records from
vanity no doubt, but also from other more inscrutable motives. There
must be a wonderful soothing power in mere words since so many men have
used them for self-communion. Being myself a quiet individual I take
it that what all men are really after is some form or perhaps only some
formula of peace. Certainly they are crying loud enough for it at the
present day. What sort of peace Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov expected
to find in the writing up of his record it passeth my understanding to
guess.

The fact remains that he has written it.

Mr. Razumov was a tall, well-proportioned young man, quite unusually
dark for a Russian from the Central Provinces. His good looks would have
been unquestionable if it had not been for a peculiar lack of fineness
in the features. It was as if a face modelled vigorously in wax (with
some approach even to a classical correctness of type) had been
held close to a fire till all sharpness of line had been lost in
the softening of the material. But even thus he was sufficiently
good-looking. His manner, too, was good. In discussion he was easily
swayed by argument and authority. With his younger compatriots he took
the attitude of an inscrutable listener, a listener of the kind that
hears you out intelligently and then--just changes the subject.

This sort of trick, which may arise either from intellectual
insufficiency or from an imperfect trust in one’s own convictions,
procured for Mr. Razumov a reputation of profundity. Amongst a lot of
exuberant talkers, in the habit of exhausting themselves daily by ardent
discussion, a comparatively taciturn personality is naturally credited
with reserve power. By his comrades at the St. Petersburg University,
Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov, third year’s student in philosophy, was
looked upon as a strong nature--an altogether trustworthy man. This,
in a country where an opinion may be a legal crime visited by death or
sometimes by a fate worse than mere death, meant that he was worthy
of being trusted with forbidden opinions. He was liked also for his
amiability and for his quiet readiness to oblige his comrades even at
the cost of personal inconvenience.

Mr. Razumov was supposed to be the son of an Archpriest and to be
protected by a distinguished nobleman--perhaps of his own distant
province. But his outward appearance accorded badly with such humble
origin. Such a descent was not credible. It was, indeed, suggested that
Mr. Razumov was the son of an Archpriest’s pretty daughter--which, of
course, would put a different complexion on the matter. This theory also
rendered intelligible the protection of the distinguished nobleman. All
this, however, had never been investigated maliciously or otherwise. No
one knew or cared who the nobleman in question was. Razumov received
a modest but very sufficient allowance from the hands of an obscure
attorney, who seemed to act as his guardian in some measure. Now and
then he appeared at some professor’s informal reception. Apart from
that Razumov was not known to have any social relations in the town.
He attended the obligatory lectures regularly and was considered by the
authorities as a very promising student. He worked at home in the manner
of a man who means to get on, but did not shut himself up severely for
that purpose. He was always accessible, and there was nothing secret or
reserved in his life.

I

The origin of Mr. Razumov’s record is connected with an event
characteristic of modern Russia in the actual fact: the assassination
of a prominent statesman--and still more characteristic of the moral
corruption of an oppressed society where the noblest aspirations of
humanity, the desire of freedom, an ardent patriotism, the love of
justice, the sense of pity, and even the fidelity of simple minds are
prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear, the inseparable companions of
an uneasy despotism.

The fact alluded to above is the successful attempt on the life of Mr.
de P---, the President of the notorious Repressive Commission of some
years ago, the Minister of State invested with extraordinary powers. The
newspapers made noise enough about that fanatical, narrow-chested figure
in gold-laced uniform, with a face of crumpled parchment, insipid,
bespectacled eyes, and the cross of the Order of St. Procopius hung
under the skinny throat. For a time, it may be remembered, not a month
passed without his portrait appearing in some one of the illustrated
papers of Europe. He served the monarchy by imprisoning, exiling, or
sending to the gallows men and women, young and old, with an equable,
unwearied industry. In his mystic acceptance of the principle of
autocracy he was bent on extirpating from the land every vestige of
anything that resembled freedom in public institutions; and in his
ruthless persecution of the rising generation he seemed to aim at the
destruction of the very hope of liberty itself.

It is said that this execrated personality had not enough imagination
to be aware of the hate he inspired. It is hardly credible; but it is a
fact that he took very few precautions for his safety. In the preamble
of a certain famous State paper he had declared once that “the thought
of liberty has never existed in the Act of the Creator. From the
multitude of men’s counsel nothing could come but revolt and disorder;
and revolt and disorder in a world created for obedience and stability
is sin. It was not Reason but Authority which expressed the Divine
Intention. God was the Autocrat of the Universe....” It may be that
the man who made this declaration believed that heaven itself was bound
to protect him in his remorseless defence of Autocracy on this earth.

No doubt the vigilance of the police saved him many times; but, as a
matter of fact, when his appointed fate overtook him, the competent
authorities could not have given him any warning. They had no knowledge
of any conspiracy against the Minister’s life, had no hint of any plot
through their usual channels of information, had seen no signs, were
aware of no suspicious movements or dangerous persons.

Mr. de P--- was being driven towards the railway station in a two-horse
uncovered sleigh with footman and coachman on the box. Snow had been
falling all night, making the roadway, uncleared as yet at this early
hour, very heavy for the horses. It was still falling thickly. But the
sleigh must have been observed and marked down. As it drew over to the
left before taking a turn, the footman noticed a peasant walking
slowly on the edge of the pavement with his hands in the pockets of
his sheepskin coat and his shoulders hunched up to his ears under the
falling snow. On being overtaken this peasant suddenly faced about and
swung his arm. In an instant there was a terrible shock, a detonation
muffled in the multitude of snowflakes; both horses lay dead and mangled
on the ground and the coachman, with a shrill cry, had fallen off the
box mortally wounded. The footman (who survived) had no time to see the
face of the man in the sheepskin coat. After throwing the bomb this last
got away, but it is supposed that, seeing a lot of people surging up on
all sides of him in the falling snow, and all running towards the scene
of the explosion, he thought it safer to turn back with them.

In an incredibly short time an excited crowd assembled round the sledge.
The Minister-President, getting out unhurt into the deep snow, stood
near the groaning coachman and addressed the people repeatedly in his
weak, colourless voice: “I beg of you to keep off: For the love of God,
I beg of you good people to keep off.”

It was then that a tall young man who had remained standing perfectly
still within a carriage gateway, two houses lower down, stepped out into
the street and walking up rapidly flung another bomb over the heads of
the crowd. It actually struck the Minister-President on the shoulder
as he stooped over his dying servant, then falling between his feet
exploded with a terrific concentrated violence, striking him dead to the
ground, finishing the wounded man and practically annihilating the empty
sledge in the twinkling of an eye. With a yell of horror the crowd broke
up and fled in all directions, except for those who fell dead or dying
where they stood nearest to the Minister-President, and one or two
others who did not fall till they had run a little way.

The first explosion had brought together a crowd as if by enchantment,
the second made as swiftly a solitude in the street for hundreds of
yards in each direction. Through the falling snow people looked from
afar at the small heap of dead bodies lying upon each other near the
carcases of the two horses. Nobody dared to approach till some Cossacks
of a street-patrol galloped up and, dismounting, began to turn over the
dead. Amongst the innocent victims of the second explosion laid out on
the pavement there was a body dressed in a peasant’s sheepskin coat; but
the face was unrecognisable, there was absolutely nothing found in the
pockets of its poor clothing, and it was the only one whose identity was
never established.

That day Mr. Razumov got up at his usual hour and spent the morning
within the University buildings listening to the lectures and working
for some time in the library. He heard the first vague rumour of
something in the way of bomb-throwing at the table of the students’
ordinary, where he was accustomed to eat his two o’clock dinner. But
this rumour was made up of mere whispers, and this was Russia, where
it was not always safe, for a student especially, to appear too much
interested in certain kinds of whispers. Razumov was one of those
men who, living in a period of mental and political unrest, keep an
instinctive hold on normal, practical, everyday life. He was aware
of the emotional tension of his time; he even responded to it in an
indefinite way. But his main concern was with his work, his studies, and
with his own future.

Officially and in fact without a family (for the daughter of the
Archpriest had long been dead), no home influences had shaped his
opinions or his feelings. He was as lonely in the world as a man
swimming in the deep sea. The word Razumov was the mere label of
a solitary individuality. There were no Razumovs belonging to him
anywhere. His closest parentage was defined in the statement that he
was a Russian. Whatever good he expected from life would be given to or
withheld from his hopes by that connexion alone. This immense parentage
suffered from the throes of internal dissensions, and he shrank mentally
from the fray as a good-natured man may shrink from taking definite
sides in a violent family quarrel.

Razumov, going home, reflected that having prepared all the matters of
the forthcoming examination, he could now devote his time to the subject
of the prize essay. He hankered after the silver medal. The prize was
offered by the Ministry of Education; the names of the competitors would
be submitted to the Minister himself. The mere fact of trying would be
considered meritorious in the higher quarters; and the possessor of the
prize would have a claim to an administrative appointment of the better
sort after he had taken his degree. The student Razumov in an access of
elation forgot the dangers menacing the stability of the institutions
which give rewards and appointments. But remembering the medallist of
the year before, Razumov, the young man of no parentage, was sobered. He
and some others happened to be assembled in their comrade’s rooms at the
very time when that last received the official advice of his success.
He was a quiet, unassuming young man: “Forgive me,” he had said with a
faint apologetic smile and taking up his cap, “I am going out to order
up some wine. But I must first send a telegram to my folk at home. I
say! Won’t the old people make it a festive time for the neighbours for
twenty miles around our place.”

Razumov thought there was nothing of that sort for him in the world. His
success would matter to no one. But he felt no bitterness against
the nobleman his protector, who was not a provincial magnate as was
generally supposed. He was in fact nobody less than Prince K---, once
a great and splendid figure in the world and now, his day being over,
a Senator and a gouty invalid, living in a still splendid but more
domestic manner. He had some young children and a wife as aristocratic
and proud as himself.

In all his life Razumov was allowed only once to come into personal
contact with the Prince.

It had the air of a chance meeting in the little attorney’s office.
One day Razumov, coming in by appointment, found a stranger standing
there--a tall, aristocratic-looking Personage with silky, grey
sidewhiskers. The bald-headed, sly little lawyer-fellow called out,
“Come in--come in, Mr. Razumov,” with a sort of ironic heartiness. Then
turning deferentially to the stranger with the grand air, “A ward
of mine, your Excellency. One of the most promising students of his
faculty in the St. Petersburg University.”

To his intense surprise Razumov saw a white shapely hand extended to
him. He took it in great confusion (it was soft and passive) and heard
at the same time a condescending murmur in which he caught only the
words “Satisfactory” and “Persevere.” But the most amazing thing of all
was to feel suddenly a distinct pressure of the white shapely hand
just before it was withdrawn: a light pressure like a secret sign. The
emotion of it was terrible. Razumov’s heart seemed to leap into his
throat. When he raised his eyes the aristocratic personage, motioning
the little lawyer aside, had opened the door and was going out.

The attorney rummaged amongst the papers on his desk for a time. “Do you
know who that was?” he asked suddenly.

Razumov, whose heart was thumping hard yet, shook his head in silence.

“That was Prince K---. You wonder what he could be doing in the hole of
a poor legal rat like myself--eh? These awfully great people have their
sentimental curiosities like common sinners. But if I were you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch,” he continued, leering and laying a peculiar emphasis on
the patronymic, “I wouldn’t boast at large of the introduction. It would
not be prudent, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Oh dear no! It would be in fact
dangerous for your future.”

The young man’s ears burned like fire; his sight was dim. “That man!”
 Razumov was saying to himself. “He!”

Henceforth it was by this monosyllable that Mr. Razumov got into
the habit of referring mentally to the stranger with grey silky
side-whiskers. From that time too, when walking in the more fashionable
quarters, he noted with interest the magnificent horses and carriages
with Prince K---‘s liveries on the box. Once he saw the Princess get
out--she was shopping--followed by two girls, of which one was nearly a
head taller than the other. Their fair hair hung loose down their backs
in the English style; they had merry eyes, their coats, muffs, and
little fur caps were exactly alike, and their cheeks and noses were
tinged a cheerful pink by the frost. They crossed the pavement in front
of him, and Razumov went on his way smiling shyly to himself. “His”
 daughters. They resembled “Him.” The young man felt a glow of warm
friendliness towards these girls who would never know of his existence.
Presently they would marry Generals or Kammerherrs and have girls and
boys of their own, who perhaps would be aware of him as a celebrated old
professor, decorated, possibly a Privy Councillor, one of the glories of
Russia--nothing more!

But a celebrated professor was a somebody. Distinction would convert the
label Razumov into an honoured name. There was nothing strange in
the student Razumov’s wish for distinction. A man’s real life is that
accorded to him in the thoughts of other men by reason of respect or
natural love. Returning home on the day of the attempt on Mr. de P---‘s
life Razumov resolved to have a good try for the silver medal.

Climbing slowly the four flights of the dark, dirty staircase in the
house where he had his lodgings, he felt confident of success. The
winner’s name would be published in the papers on New Year’s Day. And at
the thought that “He” would most probably read it there, Razumov stopped
short on the stairs for an instant, then went on smiling faintly at his
own emotion. “This is but a shadow,” he said to himself, “but the medal
is a solid beginning.”

With those ideas of industry in his head the warmth of his room was
agreeable and encouraging. “I shall put in four hours of good work,”
 he thought. But no sooner had he closed the door than he was horribly
startled. All black against the usual tall stove of white tiles gleaming
in the dusk, stood a strange figure, wearing a skirted, close-fitting,
brown cloth coat strapped round the waist, in long boots, and with a
little Astrakhan cap on its head. It loomed lithe and martial. Razumov
was utterly confounded. It was only when the figure advancing two paces
asked in an untroubled, grave voice if the outer door was closed that he
regained his power of speech.

“Haldin!... Victor Victorovitch!... Is that you?... Yes. The
outer door is shut all right. But this is indeed unexpected.”

Victor Haldin, a student older than most of his contemporaries at the
University, was not one of the industrious set. He was hardly ever seen
at lectures; the authorities had marked him as “restless” and “unsound
“--very bad notes. But he had a great personal prestige with his
comrades and influenced their thoughts. Razumov had never been intimate
with him. They had met from time to time at gatherings in other
students’ houses. They had even had a discussion together--one of those
discussions on first principles dear to the sanguine minds of youth.

Razumov wished the man had chosen some other time to come for a chat. He
felt in good trim to tackle the prize essay. But as Haldin could not be
slightingly dismissed Razumov adopted the tone of hospitality, asking
him to sit down and smoke.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch,” said the other, flinging off his cap, “we are not
perhaps in exactly the same camp. Your judgment is more philosophical.
You are a man of few words, but I haven’t met anybody who dared to
doubt the generosity of your sentiments. There is a solidity about your
character which cannot exist without courage.”

Razumov felt flattered and began to murmur shyly something about being
very glad of his good opinion, when Haldin raised his hand.

“That is what I was saying to myself,” he continued, “as I dodged in the
woodyard down by the river-side. ‘He has a strong character this young
man,’ I said to myself. ‘He does not throw his soul to the winds.’ Your
reserve has always fascinated me, Kirylo Sidorovitch. So I tried to
remember your address. But look here--it was a piece of luck. Your
dvornik was away from the gate talking to a sleigh-driver on the other
side of the street. I met no one on the stairs, not a soul. As I came up
to your floor I caught sight of your landlady coming out of your rooms.
But she did not see me. She crossed the landing to her own side, and
then I slipped in. I have been here two hours expecting you to come in
every moment.”

Razumov had listened in astonishment; but before he could open his mouth
Haldin added, speaking deliberately, “It was I who removed de P--- this
morning.” Razumov kept down a cry of dismay. The sentiment of his life
being utterly ruined by this contact with such a crime expressed itself
quaintly by a sort of half-derisive mental exclamation, “There goes my
silver medal!”

Haldin continued after waiting a while--

“You say nothing, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I understand your silence. To be
sure, I cannot expect you with your frigid English manner to embrace
me. But never mind your manners. You have enough heart to have heard the
sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth this man raised in the land. That
would be enough to get over any philosophical hopes. He was uprooting
the tender plant. He had to be stopped. He was a dangerous man--a
convinced man. Three more years of his work would have put us back fifty
years into bondage--and look at all the lives wasted, at all the souls
lost in that time.”

His curt, self-confident voice suddenly lost its ring and it was in a
dull tone that he added, “Yes, brother, I have killed him. It’s weary
work.”

Razumov had sunk into a chair. Every moment he expected a crowd of
policemen to rush in. There must have been thousands of them out looking
for that man walking up and down in his room. Haldin was talking again
in a restrained, steady voice. Now and then he flourished an arm,
slowly, without excitement.

He told Razumov how he had brooded for a year; how he had not slept
properly for weeks. He and “Another” had a warning of the Minister’s
movements from “a certain person” late the evening before. He and that
“Another” prepared their “engines” and resolved to have no sleep till
“the deed” was done. They walked the streets under the falling snow with
the “engines” on them, exchanging not a word the livelong night. When
they happened to meet a police patrol they took each other by the arm
and pretended to be a couple of peasants on the spree. They reeled and
talked in drunken hoarse voices. Except for these strange outbreaks they
kept silence, moving on ceaselessly. Their plans had been previously
arranged. At daybreak they made their way to the spot which they
knew the sledge must pass. When it appeared in sight they exchanged a
muttered good-bye and separated. The “other” remained at the corner,
Haldin took up a position a little farther up the street....

After throwing his “engine” he ran off and in a moment was overtaken
by the panic-struck people flying away from the spot after the second
explosion. They were wild with terror. He was jostled once or twice. He
slowed down for the rush to pass him and then turned to the left into a
narrow street. There he was alone.

He marvelled at this immediate escape. The work was done. He could
hardly believe it. He fought with an almost irresistible longing to lie
down on the pavement and sleep. But this sort of faintness--a drowsy
faintness--passed off quickly. He walked faster, making his way to one
of the poorer parts of the town in order to look up Ziemianitch.

This Ziemianitch, Razumov understood, was a sort of town-peasant who had
got on; owner of a small number of sledges and horses for hire. Haldin
paused in his narrative to exclaim--

“A bright spirit! A hardy soul! The best driver in St. Petersburg. He
has a team of three horses there.... Ah! He’s a fellow!”

This man had declared himself willing to take out safely, at any time,
one or two persons to the second or third railway station on one of the
southern lines. But there had been no time to warn him the night before.
His usual haunt seemed to be a low-class eating-house on the outskirts
of the town. When Haldin got there the man was not to be found. He was
not expected to turn up again till the evening. Haldin wandered away
restlessly.

He saw the gate of a woodyard open and went in to get out of the wind
which swept the bleak broad thoroughfare. The great rectangular piles of
cut wood loaded with snow resembled the huts of a village. At first the
watchman who discovered him crouching amongst them talked in a friendly
manner. He was a dried-up old man wearing two ragged army coats one over
the other; his wizened little face, tied up under the jaw and over the
ears in a dirty red handkerchief, looked comical. Presently he grew
sulky, and then all at once without rhyme or reason began to shout
furiously.

“Aren’t you ever going to clear out of this, you loafer? We know all
about factory hands of your sort. A big, strong, young chap! You aren’t
even drunk. What do you want here? You don’t frighten us. Take yourself
and your ugly eyes away.”

Haldin stopped before the sitting Razumov. His supple figure, with
the white forehead above which the fair hair stood straight up, had an
aspect of lofty daring.

“He did not like my eyes,” he said. “And so...here I am.”

Razumov made an effort to speak calmly.

“But pardon me, Victor Victorovitch. We know each other so little....
I don’t see why you....”

“Confidence,” said Haldin.

This word sealed Razumov’s lips as if a hand had been clapped on his
mouth. His brain seethed with arguments.

“And so--here you are,” he muttered through his teeth.

The other did not detect the tone of anger. Never suspected it.

“Yes. And nobody knows I am here. You are the last person that could
be suspected--should I get caught. That’s an advantage, you see. And
then--speaking to a superior mind like yours I can well say all the
truth. It occurred to me that you--you have no one belonging to you--no
ties, no one to suffer for it if this came out by some means. There
have been enough ruined Russian homes as it is. But I don’t see how my
passage through your rooms can be ever known. If I should be got hold
of, I’ll know how to keep silent--no matter what they may be pleased to
do to me,” he added grimly.

He began to walk again while Razumov sat still appalled.

“You thought that--” he faltered out almost sick with indignation.

“Yes, Razumov. Yes, brother. Some day you shall help to build. You
suppose that I am a terrorist, now--a destructor of what is, But
consider that the true destroyers are they who destroy the spirit of
progress and truth, not the avengers who merely kill the bodies of the
persecutors of human dignity. Men like me are necessary to make room for
self-contained, thinking men like you. Well, we have made the sacrifice
of our lives, but all the same I want to escape if it can be done. It
is not my life I want to save, but my power to do. I won’t live idle. Oh
no! Don’t make any mistake, Razumov. Men like me are rare. And, besides,
an example like this is more awful to oppressors when the perpetrator
vanishes without a trace. They sit in their offices and palaces and
quake. All I want you to do is to help me to vanish. No great matter
that. Only to go by and by and see Ziemianitch for me at that place
where I went this morning. Just tell him, ‘He whom you know wants a
well-horsed sledge to pull up half an hour after midnight at the seventh
lamp-post on the left counting from the upper end of Karabelnaya. If
nobody gets in, the sledge is to run round a block or two, so as to come
back past the same spot in ten minutes’ time.’”

Razumov wondered why he had not cut short that talk and told this man to
go away long before. Was it weakness or what?

He concluded that it was a sound instinct. Haldin must have been seen.
It was impossible that some people should not have noticed the face and
appearance of the man who threw the second bomb. Haldin was a noticeable
person. The police in their thousands must have had his description
within the hour. With every moment the danger grew. Sent out to wander
in the streets he could not escape being caught in the end.

The police would very soon find out all about him. They would set about
discovering a conspiracy. Everybody Haldin had ever known would be in
the greatest danger. Unguarded expressions, little facts in themselves
innocent would be counted for crimes. Razumov remembered certain words
he said, the speeches he had listened to, the harmless gatherings he
had attended--it was almost impossible for a student to keep out of that
sort of thing, without becoming suspect to his comrades.

Razumov saw himself shut up in a fortress, worried, badgered, perhaps
ill-used. He saw himself deported by an administrative order, his life
broken, ruined, and robbed of all hope. He saw himself--at best--leading
a miserable existence under police supervision, in some small, faraway
provincial town, without friends to assist his necessities or even
take any steps to alleviate his lot--as others had. Others had fathers,
mothers, brothers, relations, connexions, to move heaven and earth on
their behalf--he had no one. The very officials that sentenced him some
morning would forget his existence before sunset.

He saw his youth pass away from him in misery and half starvation--his
strength give way, his mind become an abject thing. He saw himself
creeping, broken down and shabby, about the streets--dying unattended
in some filthy hole of a room, or on the sordid bed of a Government
hospital.

He shuddered. Then the peace of bitter calmness came over him. It was
best to keep this man out of the streets till he could be got rid of
with some chance of escaping. That was the best that could be done.
Razumov, of course, felt the safety of his lonely existence to be
permanently endangered. This evening’s doings could turn up against
him at any time as long as this man lived and the present institutions
endured. They appeared to him rational and indestructible at that
moment. They had a force of harmony--in contrast with the horrible
discord of this man’s presence. He hated the man. He said quietly--

“Yes, of course, I will go. ‘You must give me precise directions, and
for the rest--depend on me.”

“Ah! You are a fellow! Collected--cool as a cucumber. A regular
Englishman. Where did you get your soul from? There aren’t many like
you. Look here, brother! Men like me leave no posterity, but their souls
are not lost. No man’s soul is ever lost. It works for itself--or else
where would be the sense of self-sacrifice, of martyrdom, of conviction,
of faith--the labours of the soul? What will become of my soul when I
die in the way I must die--soon--very soon perhaps? It shall not perish.
Don’t make a mistake, Razumov. This is not murder--it is war, war. My
spirit shall go on warring in some Russian body till all falsehood is
swept out of the world. The modern civilization is false, but a new
revelation shall come out of Russia. Ha! you say nothing. You are a
sceptic. I respect your philosophical scepticism, Razumov, but don’t
touch the soul. The Russian soul that lives in all of us. It has a
future. It has a mission, I tell you, or else why should I have been
moved to do this--reckless--like a butcher--in the middle of all these
innocent people--scattering death--I! I!... I wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

“Not so loud,” warned Razumov harshly.

Haldin sat down abruptly, and leaning his head on his folded arms burst
into tears. He wept for a long time. The dusk had deepened in the room.
Razumov, motionless in sombre wonder, listened to the sobs.

The other raised his head, got up and with an effort mastered his voice.

“Yes. Men like me leave no posterity,” he repeated in a subdued tone,
“I have a sister though. She’s with my old mother--I persuaded them to
go abroad this year--thank God. Not a bad little girl my sister. She has
the most trustful eyes of any human being that ever walked this earth.
She will marry well, I hope. She may have children--sons perhaps. Look
at me. My father was a Government official in the provinces, He had a
little land too. A simple servant of God--a true Russian in his way. His
was the soul of obedience. But I am not like him. They say I resemble
my mother’s eldest brother, an officer. They shot him in ‘28. Under
Nicholas, you know. Haven’t I told you that this is war, war.... But
God of Justice! This is weary work.”

Razumov, in his chair, leaning his head on his hand, spoke as if from
the bottom of an abyss.

“You believe in God, Haldin?”

“There you go catching at words that are wrung from one. What does it
matter? What was it the Englishman said: ‘There is a divine soul in
things...’ Devil take him--I don’t remember now. But he spoke the
truth. When the day of you thinkers comes don’t you forget what’s
divine in the Russian soul--and that’s resignation. Respect that in your
intellectual restlessness and don’t let your arrogant wisdom spoil its
message to the world. I am speaking to you now like a man with a rope
round his neck. What do you imagine I am? A being in revolt? No. It’s
you thinkers who are in everlasting revolt. I am one of the resigned.
When the necessity of this heavy work came to me and I understood that
it had to be done--what did I do? Did I exult? Did I take pride in
my purpose? Did I try to weigh its worth and consequences? No! I was
resigned. I thought ‘God’s will be done.’”

He threw himself full length on Razumov’s bed and putting the backs of
his hands over his eyes remained perfectly motionless and silent. Not
even the sound of his breathing could be heard. The dead stillness
or the room remained undisturbed till in the darkness Razumov said
gloomily--

“Haldin.”

“Yes,” answered the other readily, quite invisible now on the bed and
without the slightest stir.

“Isn’t it time for me to start?”

“Yes, brother.” The other was heard, lying still in the darkness as
though he were talking in his sleep. “The time has come to put fate to
the test.”

He paused, then gave a few lucid directions in the quiet impersonal
voice of a man in a trance. Razumov made ready without a word of answer.
As he was leaving the room the voice on the bed said after him--

“Go with God, thou silent soul.”

On the landing, moving softly, Razumov locked the door and put the key
in his pocket.

II

The words and events of that evening must have been graven as if with
a steel tool on Mr. Razumov’s brain since he was able to write his
relation with such fullness and precision a good many months afterwards.

The record of the thoughts which assailed him in the street is even more
minute and abundant. They seem to have rushed upon him with the greater
freedom because his thinking powers were no longer crushed by Haldin’s
presence--the appalling presence of a great crime and the stunning force
of a great fanaticism. On looking through the pages of Mr. Razumov’s
diary I own that a “rush of thoughts” is not an adequate image.

The more adequate description would be a tumult of thoughts--the
faithful reflection of the state of his feelings. The thoughts in
themselves were not numerous--they were like the thoughts of most human
beings, few and simple--but they cannot be reproduced here in all
their exclamatory repetitions which went on in an endless and weary
turmoil--for the walk was long.

If to the Western reader they appear shocking, inappropriate, or even
improper, it must be remembered that as to the first this may be the
effect of my crude statement. For the rest I will only remark here that
this is not a story of the West of Europe.

Nations it may be have fashioned their Governments, but the Governments
have paid them back in the same coin. It is unthinkable that any young
Englishman should find himself in Razumov’s situation. This being so it
would be a vain enterprise to imagine what he would think. The only safe
surmise to make is that he would not think as Mr. Razumov thought at
this crisis of his fate. He would not have an hereditary and personal
knowledge or the means by which historical autocracy represses ideas,
guards its power, and defends its existence. By an act of mental
extravagance he might imagine himself arbitrarily thrown into prison,
but it would never occur to him unless he were delirious (and perhaps
not even then) that he could be beaten with whips as a practical measure
either of investigation or of punishment.

This is but a crude and obvious example of the different conditions of
Western thought. I don’t know that this danger occurred, specially, to
Mr. Razumov. No doubt it entered unconsciously into the general dread
and the general appallingness of this crisis. Razumov, as has been seen,
was aware of more subtle ways in which an individual may be undone by
the proceedings of a despotic Government. A simple expulsion from
the University (the very least that could happen to him), with an
impossibility to continue his studies anywhere, was enough to ruin
utterly a young man depending entirely upon the development of his
natural abilities for his place in the world. He was a Russian: and for
him to be implicated meant simply sinking into the lowest social depths
amongst the hopeless and the destitute--the night birds of the city.

The peculiar circumstances of Razumov’s parentage, or rather of his lack
of parentage, should be taken into the account of his thoughts. And he
remembered them too. He had been lately reminded of them in a peculiarly
atrocious way by this fatal Haldin. “Because I haven’t that, must
everything else be taken away from me?” he thought.

He nerved himself for another effort to go on. Along the roadway sledges
glided phantom-like and jingling through a fluttering whiteness on the
black face of the night. “For it is a crime,” he was saying to
himself. “A murder is a murder. Though, of course, some sort of liberal
institutions....”

A feeling of horrible sickness came over him. “I must be courageous,”
 he exhorted himself mentally. All his strength was suddenly gone as
if taken out by a hand. Then by a mighty effort of will it came back
because he was afraid of fainting in the street and being picked up by
the police with the key of his lodgings in his pocket. They would find
Haldin there, and then, indeed, he would be undone.

Strangely enough it was this fear which seems to have kept him up to the
end. The passers-by were rare. They came upon him suddenly, looming up
black in the snowflakes close by, then vanishing all at once-without
footfalls.

It was the quarter of the very poor. Razumov noticed an elderly woman
tied up in ragged shawls. Under the street lamp she seemed a beggar off
duty. She walked leisurely in the blizzard as though she had no home to
hurry to, she hugged under one arm a round loaf of black bread with
an air of guarding a priceless booty: and Razumov averting his glance
envied her the peace of her mind and the serenity of her fate.

To one reading Mr. Razumov’s narrative it is really a wonder how he
managed to keep going as he did along one interminable street after
another on pavements that were gradually becoming blocked with snow.
It was the thought of Haldin locked up in his rooms and the desperate
desire to get rid of his presence which drove him forward. No rational
determination had any part in his exertions. Thus, when on arriving at
the low eating-house he heard that the man of horses, Ziemianitch, was
not there, he could only stare stupidly.

The waiter, a wild-haired youth in tarred boots and a pink shirt,
exclaimed, uncovering his pale gums in a silly grin, that Ziemianitch
had got his skinful early in the afternoon and had gone away with a
bottle under each arm to keep it up amongst the horses--he supposed.

The owner of the vile den, a bony short man in a dirty cloth caftan
coming down to his heels, stood by, his hands tucked into his belt, and
nodded confirmation.

The reek of spirits, the greasy rancid steam of food got Razumov by the
throat. He struck a table with his clenched hand and shouted violently--

“You lie.”

Bleary unwashed faces were turned to his direction. A mild-eyed ragged
tramp drinking tea at the next table moved farther away. A murmur of
wonder arose with an undertone of uneasiness. A laugh was heard too, and
an exclamation, “There! there!” jeeringly soothing. The waiter looked
all round and announced to the room--

“The gentleman won’t believe that Ziemianitch is drunk.”


From a distant corner a hoarse voice belonging to a horrible,
nondescript, shaggy being with a black face like the muzzle of a bear
grunted angrily--

“The cursed driver of thieves. What do we want with his gentlemen here?
We are all honest folk in this place.”

Razumov, biting his lip till blood came to keep himself from bursting
into imprecations, followed the owner of the den, who, whispering “Come
along, little father,” led him into a tiny hole of a place behind
the wooden counter, whence proceeded a sound of splashing. A wet and
bedraggled creature, a sort of sexless and shivering scarecrow, washed
glasses in there, bending over a wooden tub by the light of a tallow
dip.

“Yes, little father,” the man in the long caftan said plaintively. He
had a brown, cunning little face, a thin greyish beard. Trying to light
a tin lantern he hugged it to his breast and talked garrulously the
while.

He would show Ziemianitch to the gentleman to prove there were no lies
told. And he would show him drunk. His woman, it seems, ran away from
him last night. “Such a hag she was! Thin! Pfui!” He spat. They were
always running away from that driver of the devil--and he sixty years
old too; could never get used to it. But each heart knows sorrow after
its own kind and Ziemianitch was a born fool all his days. And then he
would fly to the bottle. “‘Who could bear life in our land without the
bottle?’ he says. A proper Russian man--the little pig.... Be pleased
to follow me.”

Razumov crossed a quadrangle of deep snow enclosed between high walls
with innumerable windows. Here and there a dim yellow light hung within
the four-square mass of darkness. The house was an enormous slum, a hive
of human vermin, a monumental abode of misery towering on the verge of
starvation and despair.

In a corner the ground sloped sharply down, and Razumov followed the
light of the lantern through a small doorway into a long cavernous place
like a neglected subterranean byre. Deep within, three shaggy little
horses tied up to rings hung their heads together, motionless and
shadowy in the dim light of the lantern. It must have been the famous
team of Haldin’s escape. Razumov peered fearfully into the gloom. His
guide pawed in the straw with his foot.

“Here he is. Ah! the little pigeon. A true Russian man. ‘No heavy hearts
for me,’ he says. ‘Bring out the bottle and take your ugly mug out of my
sight.’ Ha! ha! ha! That’s the fellow he is.”

He held the lantern over a prone form of a man, apparently fully dressed
for outdoors. His head was lost in a pointed cloth hood. On the other
side of a heap of straw protruded a pair of feet in monstrous thick
boots.

“Always ready to drive,” commented the keeper of the eating-house. “A
proper Russian driver that. Saint or devil, night or day is all one to
Ziemianitch when his heart is free from sorrow. ‘I don’t ask who you
are, but where you want to go,’ he says. He would drive Satan himself to
his own abode and come back chirruping to his horses. Many a one he has
driven who is clanking his chains in the Nertchinsk mines by this time.”

Razumov shuddered.

“Call him, wake him up,” he faltered out.

The other set down his light, stepped back and launched a kick at the
prostrate sleeper. The man shook at the impact but did not move. At the
third kick he grunted but remained inert as before.

The eating-house keeper desisted and fetched a deep sigh.

“You see for yourself how it is. We have done what we can for you.”

He picked up the lantern. The intense black spokes of shadow swung
about in the circle of light. A terrible fury--the blind rage of
self-preservation--possessed Razumov.

“Ah! The vile beast,” he bellowed out in an unearthly tone which made
the lantern jump and tremble! “I shall wake you! Give me...give
me...”

He looked round wildly, seized the handle of a stablefork and rushing
forward struck at the prostrate body with inarticulate cries. After a
time his cries ceased, and the rain of blows fell in the stillness and
shadows of the cellar-like stable. Razumov belaboured Ziemianitch with
an insatiable fury, in great volleys of sounding thwacks. Except for the
violent movements of Razumov nothing stirred, neither the beaten man
nor the spoke-like shadows on the walls. And only the sound of blows was
heard. It was a weird scene.

Suddenly there was a sharp crack. The stick broke and half of it flew
far away into the gloom beyond the light. At the same time Ziemianitch
sat up. At this Razumov became as motionless as the man with the
lantern--only his breast heaved for air as if ready to burst.

Some dull sensation of pain must have penetrated at last the consoling
night of drunkenness enwrapping the “bright Russian soul” of Haldin’s
enthusiastic praise. But Ziemianitch evidently saw nothing. His eyeballs
blinked all white in the light once, twice--then the gleam went out.
For a moment he sat in the straw with closed eyes with a strange air of
weary meditation, then fell over slowly on his side without making the
slightest sound. Only the straw rustled a little. Razumov stared wildly,
fighting for his breath. After a second or two he heard a light snore.

He flung from him the piece of stick remaining in his grasp, and went
off with great hasty strides without looking back once.

After going heedlessly for some fifty yards along the street he walked
into a snowdrift and was up to his knees before he stopped.

This recalled him to himself; and glancing about he discovered he had
been going in the wrong direction. He retraced his steps, but now at a
more moderate pace. When passing before the house he had just left he
flourished his fist at the sombre refuge of misery and crime rearing its
sinister bulk on the white ground. It had an air of brooding. He let his
arm fall by his side--discouraged.

Ziemianitch’s passionate surrender to sorrow and consolation had baffled
him. That was the people. A true Russian man! Razumov was glad he had
beaten that brute--the “bright soul” of the other. Here they were: the
people and the enthusiast.

Between the two he was done for. Between the drunkenness of the peasant
incapable of action and the dream-intoxication of the idealist incapable
of perceiving the reason of things, and the true character of men. It
was a sort of terrible childishness. But children had their masters.
“Ah! the stick, the stick, the stern hand,” thought Razumov, longing for
power to hurt and destroy.

He was glad he had thrashed that brute. The physical exertion had left
his body in a comfortable glow. His mental agitation too was clarified
as if all the feverishness had gone out of him in a fit of outward
violence. Together with the persisting sense of terrible danger he was
conscious now of a tranquil, unquenchable hate.

He walked slower and slower. And indeed, considering the guest he had
in his rooms, it was no wonder he lingered on the way. It was like
harbouring a pestilential disease that would not perhaps take your life,
but would take from you all that made life worth living--a subtle pest
that would convert earth into a hell.

What was he doing now? Lying on the bed as if dead, with the back of his
hands over his eyes? Razumov had a morbidly vivid vision of Haldin on
his bed--the white pillow hollowed by the head, the legs in long boots,
the upturned feet. And in his abhorrence he said to himself, “I’ll kill
him when I get home.” But he knew very well that that was of no use.
The corpse hanging round his neck would be nearly as fatal as the living
man. Nothing short of complete annihilation would do. And that was
impossible. What then? Must one kill oneself to escape this visitation?

Razumov’s despair was too profoundly tinged with hate to accept that
issue.

And yet it was despair--nothing less--at the thought of having to live
with Haldin for an indefinite number of days in mortal alarm at every
sound. But perhaps when he heard that this “bright soul” of Ziemianitch
suffered from a drunken eclipse the fellow would take his infernal
resignation somewhere else. And that was not likely on the face of it.

Razumov thought: “I am being crushed--and I can’t even run away.”
 Other men had somewhere a corner of the earth--some little house in
the provinces where they had a right to take their troubles. A material
refuge. He had nothing. He had not even a moral refuge--the refuge of
confidence. To whom could he go with this tale--in all this great, great
land?

Razumov stamped his foot--and under the soft carpet of snow felt the
hard ground of Russia, inanimate, cold, inert, like a sullen and tragic
mother hiding her face under a winding-sheet--his native soil!--his very
own--without a fireside, without a heart!

He cast his eyes upwards and stood amazed. The snow had ceased to fall,
and now, as if by a miracle, he saw above his head the clear black sky
of the northern winter, decorated with the sumptuous fires of the stars.
It was a canopy fit for the resplendent purity of the snows.

Razumov received an almost physical impression of endless space and of
countless millions.

He responded to it with the readiness of a Russian who is born to an
inheritance of space and numbers. Under the sumptuous immensity of the
sky, the snow covered the endless forests, the frozen rivers, the plains
of an immense country, obliterating the landmarks, the accidents of
the ground, levelling everything under its uniform whiteness, like a
monstrous blank page awaiting the record of an inconceivable history.
It covered the passive land with its lives of countless people like
Ziemianitch and its handful of agitators like this Haldin--murdering
foolishly.

It was a sort of sacred inertia. Razumov felt a respect for it. A
voice seemed to cry within him, “Don’t touch it.” It was a guarantee of
duration, of safety, while the travail of maturing destiny went on--a
work not of revolutions with their passionate levity of action and their
shifting impulses--but of peace. What it needed was not the conflicting
aspirations of a people, but a will strong and one: it wanted not the
babble of many voices, but a man--strong and one!

Razumov stood on the point of conversion. He was fascinated by its
approach, by its overpowering logic. For a train of thought is never
false. The falsehood lies deep in the necessities of existence, in
secret fears and half-formed ambitions, in the secret confidence
combined with a secret mistrust of ourselves, in the love of hope and
the dread of uncertain days.

In Russia, the land of spectral ideas and disembodied aspirations, many
brave minds have turned away at last from the vain and endless conflict
to the one great historical fact of the land. They turned to autocracy
for the peace of their patriotic conscience as a weary unbeliever,
touched by grace, turns to the faith of his fathers for the blessing
of spiritual rest. Like other Russians before him, Razumov, in conflict
with himself, felt the touch of grace upon his forehead.

“Haldin means disruption,” he thought to himself, beginning to walk
again. “What is he with his indignation, with his talk of bondage--with
his talk of God’s justice? All that means disruption. Better that
thousands should suffer than that a people should become a disintegrated
mass, helpless like dust in the wind. Obscurantism is better than the
light of incendiary torches. The seed germinates in the night. Out of
the dark soil springs the perfect plant. But a volcanic eruption
is sterile, the ruin of the fertile ground. And am I, who love my
country--who have nothing but that to love and put my faith in--am I
to have my future, perhaps my usefulness, ruined by this sanguinary
fanatic?”

The grace entered into Razumov. He believed now in the man who would
come at the appointed time.

What is a throne? A few pieces of wood upholstered in velvet. But a
throne is a seat of power too. The form of government is the shape of
a tool--an instrument. But twenty thousand bladders inflated by the
noblest sentiments and jostling against each other in the air are a
miserable incumbrance of space, holding no power, possessing no will,
having nothing to give.

He went on thus, heedless of the way, holding a discourse with himself
with extraordinary abundance and facility. Generally his phrases came
to him slowly, after a conscious and painstaking wooing. Some superior
power had inspired him with a flow of masterly argument as certain
converted sinners become overwhelmingly loquacious.

He felt an austere exultation.

“What are the luridly smoky lucubrations of that fellow to the clear
grasp of my intellect?” he thought. “Is not this my country? Have I not
got forty million brothers?” he asked himself, unanswerably victorious
in the silence of his breast. And the fearful thrashing he had given
the inanimate Ziemianitch seemed to him a sign of intimate union, a
pathetically severe necessity of brotherly love. “No! If I must suffer
let me at least suffer for my convictions, not for a crime my reason--my
cool superior reason--rejects.”

He ceased to think for a moment. The silence in his breast was complete.
But he felt a suspicious uneasiness, such as we may experience when we
enter an unlighted strange place--the irrational feeling that something
may jump upon us in the dark--the absurd dread of the unseen.

Of course he was far from being a moss-grown reactionary. Everything was
not for the best. Despotic bureaucracy... abuses... corruption...
and so on. Capable men were wanted. Enlightened intelligences. Devoted
hearts. But absolute power should be preserved--the tool ready for the
man--for the great autocrat of the future. Razumov believed in him. The
logic of history made him unavoidable. The state of the people demanded
him, “What else?” he asked himself ardently, “could move all that mass
in one direction? Nothing could. Nothing but a single will.”

He was persuaded that he was sacrificing his personal longings of
liberalism--rejecting the attractive error for the stern Russian truth.
“That’s patriotism,” he observed mentally, and added, “There’s no
stopping midway on that road,” and then remarked to himself, “I am not a
coward.”

And again there was a dead silence in Razumov’s breast. He walked with
lowered head, making room for no one. He walked slowly and his thoughts
returning spoke within him with solemn slowness.

“What is this Haldin? And what am I? Only two grains of sand. But a
great mountain is made up of just such insignificant grains. And the
death of a man or of many men is an insignificant thing. Yet we combat
a contagious pestilence. Do I want his death? No! I would save him if I
could--but no one can do that--he is the withered member which must be
cut off. If I must perish through him, let me at least not perish
with him, and associated against my will with his sombre folly that
understands nothing either of men or things. Why should I leave a false
memory?”

It passed through his mind that there was no one in the world who
cared what sort of memory he left behind him. He exclaimed to himself
instantly, “Perish vainly for a falsehood!... What a miserable fate!”

He was now in a more animated part of the town. He did not remark the
crash of two colliding sledges close to the curb. The driver of one
bellowed tearfully at his fellow--

“Oh, thou vile wretch!”

This hoarse yell, let out nearly in his ear, disturbed Razumov. He shook
his head impatiently and went on looking straight before him. Suddenly
on the snow, stretched on his back right across his path, he saw Haldin,
solid, distinct, real, with his inverted hands over his eyes, clad in a
brown close-fitting coat and long boots. He was lying out of the way a
little, as though he had selected that place on purpose. The snow round
him was untrodden.

This hallucination had such a solidity of aspect that the first movement
of Razumov was to reach for his pocket to assure himself that the key of
his rooms was there. But he checked the impulse with a disdainful curve
of his lips. He understood. His thought, concentrated intensely on
the figure left lying on his bed, had culminated in this extraordinary
illusion of the sight. Razumov tackled the phenomenon calmly. With a
stern face, without a check and gazing far beyond the vision, he walked
on, experiencing nothing but a slight tightening of the chest. After
passing he turned his head for a glance, and saw only the unbroken track
of his footsteps over the place where the breast of the phantom had been
lying.

Razumov walked on and after a little time whispered his wonder to
himself.

“Exactly as if alive! Seemed to breathe! And right in my way too! I have
had an extraordinary experience.”

He made a few steps and muttered through his set teeth--

“I shall give him up.”

Then for some twenty yards or more all was blank. He wrapped his cloak
closer round him. He pulled his cap well forward over his eyes.

“Betray. A great word. What is betrayal? They talk of a man betraying
his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond
first. All a man can betray is his conscience. And how is my conscience
engaged here; by what bond of common faith, of common conviction, am
I obliged to let that fanatical idiot drag me down with him? On the
contrary--every obligation of true courage is the other way.”

Razumov looked round from under his cap.

“What can the prejudice of the world reproach me with? Have I provoked
his confidence? No! Have I by a single word, look, or gesture given him
reason to suppose that I accepted his trust in me? No! It is true that
I consented to go and see his Ziemianitch. Well, I have been to see him.
And I broke a stick on his back too--the brute.”

Something seemed to turn over in his head bringing uppermost a
singularly hard, clear facet of his brain.

“It would be better, however,” he reflected with a quite different
mental accent, “to keep that circumstance altogether to myself.”

He had passed beyond the turn leading to his lodgings, and had reached
a wide and fashionable street. Some shops were still open, and all the
restaurants. Lights fell on the pavement where men in expensive fur
coats, with here and there the elegant figure of a woman, walked with an
air of leisure. Razumov looked at them with the contempt of an austere
believer for the frivolous crowd. It was the world--those officers,
dignitaries, men of fashion, officials, members of the Yacht Club. The
event of the morning affected them all. What would they say if they knew
what this student in a cloak was going to do?

“Not one of them is capable of feeling and thinking as deeply as I can.
How many of them could accomplish an act of conscience?”

Razumov lingered in the well-lighted street. He was firmly decided.
Indeed, it could hardly be called a decision. He had simply discovered
what he had meant to do all along. And yet he felt the need of some
other mind’s sanction.

With something resembling anguish he said to himself--

“I want to be understood.” The universal aspiration with all its
profound and melancholy meaning assailed heavily Razumov, who, amongst
eighty millions of his kith and kin, had no heart to which he could open
himself.

The attorney was not to be thought of. He despised the little agent of
chicane too much. One could not go and lay one’s conscience before the
policeman at the corner. Neither was Razumov anxious to go to the chief
of his district’s police--a common-looking person whom he used to see
sometimes in the street in a shabby uniform and with a smouldering
cigarette stuck to his lower lip. “He would begin by locking me up most
probably. At any rate, he is certain to get excited and create an awful
commotion,” thought Razumov practically.

An act of conscience must be done with outward dignity.

Razumov longed desperately for a word of advice, for moral support. Who
knows what true loneliness is--not the conventional word, but the naked
terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable
outcast hugs some memory or some illusion. Now and then a fatal
conjunction of events may lift the veil for an instant. For an instant
only. No human being could bear a steady view of moral solitude without
going mad.

Razumov had reached that point of vision. To escape from it he embraced
for a whole minute the delirious purpose of rushing to his lodgings
and flinging himself on his knees by the side of the bed with the dark
figure stretched on it; to pour out a full confession in passionate
words that would stir the whole being of that man to its innermost
depths; that would end in embraces and tears; in an incredible
fellowship of souls--such as the world had never seen. It was sublime!

Inwardly he wept and trembled already. But to the casual eyes that were
cast upon him he was aware that he appeared as a tranquil student in
a cloak, out for a leisurely stroll. He noted, too, the sidelong,
brilliant glance of a pretty woman--with a delicate head, and covered
in the hairy skins of wild beasts down to her feet, like a frail and
beautiful savage--which rested for a moment with a sort of mocking
tenderness on the deep abstraction of that good-looking young man.

Suddenly Razumov stood still. The glimpse of a passing grey whisker,
caught and lost in the same instant, had evoked the complete image of
Prince K---, the man who once had pressed his hand as no other man had
pressed it--a faint but lingering pressure like a secret sign, like a
half-unwilling caress.

And Razumov marvelled at himself. Why did he not think of him before!

“A senator, a dignitary, a great personage, the very man--He!”

A strange softening emotion came over Razumov--made his knees shake a
little. He repressed it with a new-born austerity. All that sentiment
was pernicious nonsense. He couldn’t be quick enough; and when he got
into a sledge he shouted to the driver--“to the K--- Palace. Get
on--you! Fly!” The startled moujik, bearded up to the very whites of
his eyes, answered obsequiously--

“I hear, your high Nobility.”

It was lucky for Razumov that Prince K--- was not a man of timid
character. On the day of Mr. de P---‘s murder an extreme alarm and
despondency prevailed in the high official spheres.

Prince K---, sitting sadly alone in his study, was told by his alarmed
servants that a mysterious young man had forced his way into the hall,
refused to tell his name and the nature of his business, and would not
move from there till he had seen his Excellency in private. Instead of
locking himself up and telephoning for the police, as nine out of ten
high personages would have done that evening, the Prince gave way to
curiosity and came quietly to the door of his study.

In the hall, the front door standing wide open, he recognised at once
Razumov, pale as death, his eyes blazing, and surrounded by perplexed
lackeys.

The Prince was vexed beyond measure, and even indignant. But his humane
instincts and a subtle sense of self-respect could not allow him to
let this young man be thrown out into the street by base menials.
He retreated unseen into his room, and after a little rang his bell.
Razumov heard in the hall an ominously raised harsh voice saying
somewhere far away--

“Show the gentleman in here.”

Razumov walked in without a tremor. He felt himself invulnerable--raised
far above the shallowness of common judgment. Though he saw the Prince
looking at him with black displeasure, the lucidity of his mind, of
which he was very conscious, gave him an extraordinary assurance. He was
not asked to sit down.

Half an hour later they appeared in the hall together. The lackeys stood
up, and the Prince, moving with difficulty on his gouty feet, was helped
into his furs. The carriage had been ordered before. When the great
double door was flung open with a crash, Razumov, who had been standing
silent with a lost gaze but with every faculty intensely on the alert,
heard the Prince’s voice--

“Your arm, young man.”

The mobile, superficial mind of the ex-Guards officer, man of showy
missions, experienced in nothing but the arts of gallant intrigue
and worldly success, had been equally impressed by the more obvious
difficulties of such a situation and by Razumov’s quiet dignity in
stating them.

He had said, “No. Upon the whole I can’t condemn the step you ventured
to take by coming to me with your story. It is not an affair for police
understrappers. The greatest importance is attached to.... Set
your mind at rest. I shall see you through this most extraordinary and
difficult situation.”

Then the Prince rose to ring the bell, and Razumov, making a short bow,
had said with deference--

“I have trusted my instinct. A young man having no claim upon anybody
in the world has in an hour of trial involving his deepest political
convictions turned to an illustrious Russian--that’s all.”

The Prince had exclaimed hastily--

“You have done well.”

In the carriage--it was a small brougham on sleigh runners--Razumov
broke the silence in a voice that trembled slightly.

“My gratitude surpasses the greatness of my presumption.”

He gasped, feeling unexpectedly in the dark a momentary pressure on his
arm.

“You have done well,” repeated the Prince.

When the carriage stopped the Prince murmured to Razumov, who had never
ventured a single question--

“The house of General T---.”

In the middle of the snow-covered roadway blazed a great bonfire.
Some Cossacks, the bridles of their horses over the arm, were warming
themselves around. Two sentries stood at the door, several gendarmes
lounged under the great carriage gateway, and on the first-floor
landing two orderlies rose and stood at attention. Razumov walked at the
Prince’s elbow.

A surprising quantity of hot-house plants in pots cumbered the floor of
the ante-room. Servants came forward. A young man in civilian clothes
arrived hurriedly, was whispered to, bowed low, and exclaiming
zealously, “Certainly--this minute,” fled within somewhere. The Prince
signed to Razumov.

They passed through a suite of reception-rooms all barely lit and one
of them prepared for dancing. The wife of the General had put off
her party. An atmosphere of consternation pervaded the place. But the
General’s own room, with heavy sombre hangings, two massive desks, and
deep armchairs, had all the lights turned on. The footman shut the door
behind them and they waited.

There was a coal fire in an English grate; Razumov had never before seen
such a fire; and the silence of the room was like the silence of the
grave; perfect, measureless, for even the clock on the mantelpiece
made no sound. Filling a corner, on a black pedestal, stood a
quarter-life-size smooth-limbed bronze of an adolescent figure, running.
The Prince observed in an undertone--

“Spontini’s. ‘Flight of Youth.’ Exquisite.”

“Admirable,” assented Razumov faintly.

They said nothing more after this, the Prince silent with his grand air,
Razumov staring at the statue. He was worried by a sensation resembling
the gnawing of hunger.

He did not turn when he heard an inner door fly open, and a quick
footstep, muffled on the carpet.

The Prince’s voice immediately exclaimed, thick with excitement--

“We have got him--_ce miserable_. A worthy young man came to me--No!
It’s incredible....”

Razumov held his breath before the bronze as if expecting a crash.
Behind his back a voice he had never heard before insisted politely--

“_Asseyez-vous donc_.”

The Prince almost shrieked, “_Mais comprenez-vous, mon cher!
L’assassin_! the murderer--we have got him....”

Razumov spun round. The General’s smooth big cheeks rested on the stiff
collar of his uniform. He must have been already looking at Razumov,
because that last saw the pale blue eyes fastened on him coldly.

The Prince from a chair waved an impressive hand.

“This is a most honourable young man whom Providence itself... Mr.
Razumov.”

The General acknowledged the introduction by frowning at Razumov, who
did not make the slightest movement.

Sitting down before his desk the General listened with compressed lips.
It was impossible to detect any sign of emotion on his face.

Razumov watched the immobility of the fleshy profile. But it lasted only
a moment, till the Prince had finished; and when the General turned to
the providential young man, his florid complexion, the blue, unbelieving
eyes and the bright white flash of an automatic smile had an air of
jovial, careless cruelty. He expressed no wonder at the extraordinary
story--no pleasure or excitement--no incredulity either. He betrayed no
sentiment whatever. Only with a politeness almost deferential suggested
that “the bird might have flown while Mr.--Mr. Razumov was running about
the streets.”

Razumov advanced to the middle of the room and said, “The door is locked
and I have the key in my pocket.”

His loathing for the man was intense. It had come upon him so unawares
that he felt he had not kept it out of his voice. The General looked up
at him thoughtfully, and Razumov grinned.

All this went over the head of Prince K--- seated in a deep armchair,
very tired and impatient.

“A student called Haldin,” said the General thoughtfully.

Razumov ceased to grin.

“That is his name,” he said unnecessarily loud. “Victor Victorovitch
Haldin--a student.”

The General shifted his position a little.

“How is he dressed? Would you have the goodness to tell me?”

Razumov angrily described Haldin’s clothing in a few jerky words. The
General stared all the time, then addressing the Prince--

“We were not without some indications,” he said in French. “A good woman
who was in the street described to us somebody wearing a dress of the
sort as the thrower of the second bomb. We have detained her at the
Secretariat, and every one in a Tcherkess coat we could lay our hands
on has been brought to her to look at. She kept on crossing herself
and shaking her head at them. It was exasperating....” He turned to
Razumov, and in Russian, with friendly reproach--

“Take a chair, Mr. Razumov--do. Why are you standing?”

Razumov sat down carelessly and looked at the General.

“This goggle-eyed imbecile understands nothing,” he thought.

The Prince began to speak loftily.

“Mr. Razumov is a young man of conspicuous abilities. I have it at heart
that his future should not....”

“Certainly,” interrupted the General, with a movement of the hand. “Has
he any weapons on him, do you think, Mr. Razumov?”

The General employed a gentle musical voice. Razumov answered with
suppressed irritation--

“No. But my razors are lying about--you understand.”

The General lowered his head approvingly.

“Precisely.”

Then to the Prince, explaining courteously--

“We want that bird alive. It will be the devil if we can’t make him sing
a little before we are done with him.”

The grave-like silence of the room with its mute clock fell upon the
polite modulations of this terrible phrase. The Prince, hidden in the
chair, made no sound.

The General unexpectedly developed a thought.

“Fidelity to menaced institutions on which depend the safety of a
throne and of a people is no child’s play. We know that, _mon Prince,_
and--_tenez_--” he went on with a sort of flattering harshness, “Mr.
Razumov here begins to understand that too.”

His eyes which he turned upon Razumov seemed to be starting out of his
head. This grotesqueness of aspect no longer shocked Razumov. He said
with gloomy conviction--

“Haldin will never speak.”

“That remains to be seen,” muttered the General.

“I am certain,” insisted Razumov. “A man like this never speaks....
Do you imagine that I am here from fear?” he added violently. He felt
ready to stand by his opinion of Haldin to the last extremity.

“Certainly not,” protested the General, with great simplicity of tone.
“And I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Razumov, that if he had not come
with his tale to such a staunch and loyal Russian as you, he would
have disappeared like a stone in the water... which would have had a
detestable effect,” he added, with a bright, cruel smile under his stony
stare. “So you see, there can be no suspicion of any fear here.”

The Prince intervened, looking at Razumov round the back of the
armchair.

“Nobody doubts the moral soundness of your action. Be at ease in that
respect, pray.”

He turned to the General uneasily.

“That’s why I am here. You may be surprised why I should....”

The General hastened to interrupt.

“Not at all. Extremely natural. You saw the importance....”

“Yes,” broke in the Prince. “And I venture to ask insistently that mine
and Mr. Razumov’s intervention should not become public. He is a young
man of promise--of remarkable aptitudes.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” murmured the General. “He inspires
confidence.”

“All sorts of pernicious views are so widespread nowadays--they taint
such unexpected quarters--that, monstrous as it seems, he might suffer
...his studies...his...”

The General, with his elbows on the desk, took his head between his
hands.

“Yes. Yes. I am thinking it out.... How long is it since you left him
at your rooms, Mr. Razumov?”

Razumov mentioned the hour which nearly corresponded with the time of
his distracted flight from the big slum house. He had made up his mind
to keep Ziemianitch out of the affair completely. To mention him at all
would mean imprisonment for the “bright soul,” perhaps cruel floggings,
and in the end a journey to Siberia in chains. Razumov, who had beaten
Ziemianitch, felt for him now a vague, remorseful tenderness.

The General, giving way for the first time to his secret sentiments,
exclaimed contemptuously--

“And you say he came in to make you this confidence like this--for
nothing--_a propos des bottes_.”

Razumov felt danger in the air. The merciless suspicion of despotism had
spoken openly at last. Sudden fear sealed Razumov’s lips. The silence
of the room resembled now the silence of a deep dungeon, where time does
not count, and a suspect person is sometimes forgotten for ever. But the
Prince came to the rescue.

“Providence itself has led the wretch in a moment of mental aberration
to seek Mr. Razumov on the strength of some old, utterly misinterpreted
exchange of ideas--some sort of idle speculative conversation--months
ago--I am told--and completely forgotten till now by Mr. Razumov.”

“Mr. Razumov,” queried the General meditatively, after a short silence,
“do you often indulge in speculative conversation?”

“No, Excellency,” answered Razumov, coolly, in a sudden access of
self-confidence. “I am a man of deep convictions. Crude opinions are
in the air. They are not always worth combating. But even the silent
contempt of a serious mind may be misinterpreted by headlong utopists.”

The General stared from between his hands. Prince K--- murmured--

“A serious young man. _Un esprit superieur_.”

“I see that, _mon cher Prince_,” said the General. “Mr. Razumov is quite
safe with me. I am interested in him. He has, it seems, the great and
useful quality of inspiring confidence. What I was wondering at is why
the other should mention anything at all--I mean even the bare fact
alone--if his object was only to obtain temporary shelter for a few
hours. For, after all, nothing was easier than to say nothing about it
unless, indeed, he were trying, under a crazy misapprehension of your
true sentiments, to enlist your assistance--eh, Mr. Razumov?”

It seemed to Razumov that the floor was moving slightly. This grotesque
man in a tight uniform was terrible. It was right that he should be
terrible.

“I can see what your Excellency has in your mind. But I can only answer
that I don’t know why.”

“I have nothing in my mind,” murmured the General, with gentle surprise.

“I am his prey--his helpless prey,” thought Razumov. The fatigues and
the disgusts of that afternoon, the need to forget, the fear which he
could not keep off, reawakened his hate for Haldin.

“Then I can’t help your Excellency. I don’t know what he meant. I only
know there was a moment when I wished to kill him. There was also a
moment when I wished myself dead. I said nothing. I was overcome. I
provoked no confidence--I asked for no explanations--”

Razumov seemed beside himself; but his mind was lucid. It was really a
calculated outburst.

“It is rather a pity,” the General said, “that you did not. Don’t you
know at all what he means to do?” Razumov calmed down and saw an opening
there.

“He told me he was in hopes that a sledge would meet him about half an
hour after midnight at the seventh lamp-post on the left from the upper
end of Karabelnaya. At any rate, he meant to be there at that time. He
did not even ask me for a change of clothes.”

“_Ah voila_!” said the General, turning to Prince K with an air of
satisfaction. “There is a way to keep your _protege_, Mr. Razumov, quite
clear of any connexion with the actual arrest. We shall be ready for
that gentleman in Karabelnaya.”

The Prince expressed his gratitude. There was real emotion in his voice.
Razumov, motionless, silent, sat staring at the carpet. The General
turned to him.

“Half an hour after midnight. Till then we have to depend on you, Mr.
Razumov. You don’t think he is likely to change his purpose?”

“How can I tell?” said Razumov. “Those men are not of the sort that ever
changes its purpose.”

“What men do you mean?”

“Fanatical lovers of liberty in general. Liberty with a capital L,
Excellency. Liberty that means nothing precise. Liberty in whose name
crimes are committed.”

The General murmured--

“I detest rebels of every kind. I can’t help it. It’s my nature!”

He clenched a fist and shook it, drawing back his arm. “They shall be
destroyed, then.”

“They have made a sacrifice of their lives beforehand,” said Razumov
with malicious pleasure and looking the General straight in the face.
“If Haldin does change his purpose to-night, you may depend on it that
it will not be to save his life by flight in some other way. He would
have thought then of something else to attempt. But that is not likely.”

The General repeated as if to himself, “They shall be destroyed.”

Razumov assumed an impenetrable expression.

The Prince exclaimed--

“What a terrible necessity!”

The General’s arm was lowered slowly.

“One comfort there is. That brood leaves no posterity. I’ve always said
it, one effort, pitiless, persistent, steady--and we are done with them
for ever.”

Razumov thought to himself that this man entrusted with so much
arbitrary power must have believed what he said or else he could not
have gone on bearing the responsibility.

“I detest rebels. These subversive minds! These intellectual
_debauches_! My existence has been built on fidelity. It’s a feeling.
To defend it I am ready to lay down my life--and even my honour--if
that were needed. But pray tell me what honour can there be as against
rebels--against people that deny God Himself--perfect unbelievers!
Brutes. It is horrible to think of.”

During this tirade Razumov, facing the General, had nodded slightly
twice. Prince K---, standing on one side with his grand air, murmured,
casting up his eyes--

“_Helas!_”

Then lowering his glance and with great decision declared--

“This young man, General, is perfectly fit to apprehend the bearing of
your memorable words.”

The General’s whole expression changed from dull resentment to perfect
urbanity.

“I would ask now, Mr. Razumov,” he said, “to return to his home. Note
that I don’t ask Mr. Razumov whether he has justified his absence to his
guest. No doubt he did this sufficiently. But I don’t ask. Mr. Razumov
inspires confidence. It is a great gift. I only suggest that a more
prolonged absence might awaken the criminal’s suspicions and induce him
perhaps to change his plans.”

He rose and with a scrupulous courtesy escorted his visitors to the
ante-room encumbered with flower-pots.

Razumov parted with the Prince at the corner of a street. In the
carriage he had listened to speeches where natural sentiment struggled
with caution. Evidently the Prince was afraid of encouraging any hopes
of future intercourse. But there was a touch of tenderness in the voice
uttering in the dark the guarded general phrases of goodwill. And the
Prince too said--

“I have perfect confidence in you, Mr. Razumov.”

“They all, it seems, have confidence in me,” thought Razumov dully. He
had an indulgent contempt for the man sitting shoulder to shoulder with
him in the confined space. Probably he was afraid of scenes with his
wife. She was said to be proud and violent.

It seemed to him bizarre that secrecy should play such a large part in
the comfort and safety of lives. But he wanted to put the Prince’s
mind at ease; and with a proper amount of emphasis he said that, being
conscious of some small abilities and confident in his power of work, he
trusted his future to his own exertions. He expressed his gratitude for
the helping hand. Such dangerous situations did not occur twice in the
course of one life--he added.

“And you have met this one with a firmness of mind and correctness
of feeling which give me a high idea of your worth,” the Prince said
solemnly. “You have now only to persevere--to persevere.”

On getting out on the pavement Razumov saw an ungloved hand extended to
him through the lowered window of the brougham. It detained his own in
its grasp for a moment, while the light of a street lamp fell upon the
Prince’s long face and old-fashioned grey whiskers.

“I hope you are perfectly reassured now as to the consequences...”

“After what your Excellency has condescended to do for me, I can only
rely on my conscience.”

“_Adieu_,” said the whiskered head with feeling.

Razumov bowed. The brougham glided away with a slight swish in the
snow--he was alone on the edge of the pavement.

He said to himself that there was nothing to think about, and began
walking towards his home.

He walked quietly. It was a common experience to walk thus home to bed
after an evening spent somewhere with his fellows or in the cheaper
seats of a theatre. After he had gone a little way the familiarity of
things got hold of him. Nothing was changed. There was the familiar
corner; and when he turned it he saw the familiar dim light of the
provision shop kept by a German woman. There were loaves of stale bread,
bunches of onions and strings of sausages behind the small window-panes.
They were closing it. The sickly lame fellow whom he knew so well by
sight staggered out into the snow embracing a large shutter.

Nothing would change. There was the familiar gateway yawning black with
feeble glimmers marking the arches of the different staircases.

The sense of life’s continuity depended on trifling bodily impressions.
The trivialities of daily existence were an armour for the soul. And
this thought reinforced the inward quietness of Razumov as he began to
climb the stairs familiar to his feet in the dark, with his hand on the
familiar clammy banister. The exceptional could not prevail against the
material contacts which make one day resemble another. To-morrow would
be like yesterday.

It was only on the stage that the unusual was outwardly acknowledged.

“I suppose,” thought Razumov, “that if I had made up my mind to blow out
my brains on the landing I would be going up these stairs as quietly
as I am doing it now. What’s a man to do? What must be must be.
Extraordinary things do happen. But when they have happened they are
done with. Thus, too, when the mind is made up. That question is done
with. And the daily concerns, the familiarities of our thought swallow
it up--and the life goes on as before with its mysterious and secret
sides quite out of sight, as they should be. Life is a public thing.”

Razumov unlocked his door and took the key out; entered very quietly and
bolted the door behind him carefully.

He thought, “He hears me,” and after bolting the door he stood still
holding his breath. There was not a sound. He crossed the bare outer
room, stepping deliberately in the darkness. Entering the other, he felt
all over his table for the matchbox. The silence, but for the groping of
his hand, was profound. Could the fellow be sleeping so soundly?

He struck a light and looked at the bed. Haldin was lying on his back as
before, only both his hands were under his head. His eyes were open. He
stared at the ceiling.

Razumov held the match up. He saw the clear-cut features, the firm
chin, the white forehead and the topknot of fair hair against the white
pillow. There he was, lying flat on his back. Razumov thought suddenly,
“I have walked over his chest.”

He continued to stare till the match burnt itself out; then struck
another and lit the lamp in silence without looking towards the bed any
more. He had turned his back on it and was hanging his coat on a peg
when he heard Haldin sigh profoundly, then ask in a tired voice--

“Well! And what have you arranged?”

The emotion was so great that Razumov was glad to put his hands against
the wall. A diabolical impulse to say, “I have given you up to the
police,” frightened him exceedingly. But he did not say that. He said,
without turning round, in a muffled voice--

“It’s done.”

Again he heard Haldin sigh. He walked to the table, sat down with the
lamp before him, and only then looked towards the bed.

In the distant corner of the large room far away from the lamp, which
was small and provided with a very thick china shade, Haldin appeared
like a dark and elongated shape--rigid with the immobility of death.
This body seemed to have less substance than its own phantom walked over
by Razumov in the street white with snow. It was more alarming in its
shadowy, persistent reality than the distinct but vanishing illusion.

Haldin was heard again.

“You must have had a walk--such a walk,...” he murmured
deprecatingly. “This weather....”

Razumov answered with energy--

“Horrible walk.... A nightmare of a walk.”

He shuddered audibly. Haldin sighed once more, then--

“And so you have seen Ziemianitch--brother?”

“I’ve seen him.”

Razumov, remembering the time he had spent with the Prince, thought it
prudent to add, “I had to wait some time.”

“A character--eh? It’s extraordinary what a sense of the necessity of
freedom there is in that man. And he has sayings too--simple, to the
point, such as only the people can invent in their rough sagacity. A
character that....”

“I, you understand, haven’t had much opportunity....” Razumov
muttered through his teeth.

Haldin continued to stare at the ceiling.

“You see, brother, I have been a good deal in that house of late. I used
to take there books--leaflets. Not a few of the poor people who live
there can read. And, you see, the guests for the feast of freedom must
be sought for in byways and hedges. The truth is, I have almost lived in
that house of late. I slept sometimes in the stable. There is a
stable....”

“That’s where I had my interview with Ziemianitch,” interrupted
Razumov gently. A mocking spirit entered into him and he added, “It was
satisfactory in a sense. I came away from it much relieved.”

“Ah! he’s a fellow,” went on Haldin, talking slowly at the ceiling. “I
came to know him in that way, you see. For some weeks now, ever since I
resigned myself to do what had to be done, I tried to isolate myself. I
gave up my rooms. What was the good of exposing a decent widow woman
to the risk of being worried out of her mind by the police? I gave up
seeing any of our comrades....”

Razumov drew to himself a half-sheet of paper and began to trace lines
on it with a pencil.

“Upon my word,” he thought angrily, “he seems to have thought of
everybody’s safety but mine.”

Haldin was talking on.

“This morning--ah! this morning--that was different. How can I explain
to you? Before the deed was done I wandered at night and lay hid in the
day, thinking it out, and I felt restful. Sleepless but restful. What
was there for me to torment myself about? But this morning--after! Then
it was that I became restless. I could not have stopped in that big
house full of misery. The miserable of this world can’t give you peace.
Then when that silly caretaker began to shout, I said to myself,
‘There is a young man in this town head and shoulders above common
prejudices.’”

“Is he laughing at me?” Razumov asked himself, going on with his
aimless drawing of triangles and squares. And suddenly he thought: “My
behaviour must appear to him strange. Should he take fright at my manner
and rush off somewhere I shall be undone completely. That infernal
General....”

He dropped the pencil and turned abruptly towards the bed with the
shadowy figure extended full length on it--so much more indistinct than
the one over whose breast he had walked without faltering. Was this,
too, a phantom?

The silence had lasted a long time. “He is no longer here,” was the
thought against which Razumov struggled desperately, quite frightened at
its absurdity. “He is already gone and this...only...”

He could resist no longer. He sprang to his feet, saying aloud, “I am
intolerably anxious,” and in a few headlong strides stood by the side
of the bed. His hand fell lightly on Haldin’s shoulder, and directly
he felt its reality he was beset by an insane temptation to grip that
exposed throat and squeeze the breath out of that body, lest it should
escape his custody, leaving only a phantom behind.

Haldin did not stir a limb, but his overshadowed eyes moving a little
gazed upwards at Razumov with wistful gratitude for this manifestation
of feeling.

Razumov turned away and strode up and down the room. “It would have been
possibly a kindness,” he muttered to himself, and was appalled by the
nature of that apology for a murderous intention his mind had found
somewhere within him. And all the same he could not give it up. He
became lucid about it. “What can he expect?” he thought. “The halter--in
the end. And I....”

This argument was interrupted by Haldin’s voice.

“Why be anxious for me? They can kill my body, but they cannot exile my
soul from this world. I tell you what--I believe in this world so much
that I cannot conceive eternity otherwise than as a very long life. That
is perhaps the reason I am so ready to die.”

“H’m,” muttered Razumov, and biting his lower lip he continued to walk
up and down and to carry on his strange argument.

Yes, to a man in such a situation--of course it would be an act of
kindness. The question, however, was not how to be kind, but how to be
firm. He was a slippery customer.

“I too, Victor Victorovitch, believe in this world of ours,” he said
with force. “I too, while I live.... But you seem determined to haunt
it. You can’t seriously...mean...”

The voice of the motionless Haldin began--

“Haunt it! Truly, the oppressors of thought which quickens the world,
the destroyers of souls which aspire to perfection of human dignity,
they shall be haunted. As to the destroyers of my mere body, I have
forgiven them beforehand.”

Razumov had stopped apparently to listen, but at the same time he was
observing his own sensations. He was vexed with himself for attaching so
much importance to what Haldin said.

“The fellow’s mad,” he thought firmly, but this opinion did not mollify
him towards Haldin. It was a particularly impudent form of lunacy--and
when it got loose in the sphere of public life of a country, it was
obviously the duty of every good citizen....

This train of thought broke off short there and was succeeded by a
paroxysm of silent hatred towards Haldin, so intense that Razumov
hastened to speak at random.

“Yes. Eternity, of course. I, too, can’t very well represent it to
myself.... I imagine it, however, as something quiet and dull. There
would be nothing unexpected--don’t you see? The element of time would be
wanting.”

He pulled out his watch and gazed at it. Haldin turned over on his side
and looked on intently.

Razumov got frightened at this movement. A slippery customer this fellow
with a phantom. It was not midnight yet. He hastened on--

“And unfathomable mysteries! Can you conceive secret places in Eternity?
Impossible. Whereas life is full of them. There are secrets of birth,
for instance. One carries them on to the grave. There is something
comical...but never mind. And there are secret motives of conduct. A
man’s most open actions have a secret side to them. That is interesting
and so unfathomable! For instance, a man goes out of a room for a walk.
Nothing more trivial in appearance. And yet it may be momentous. He
comes back--he has seen perhaps a drunken brute, taken particular notice
of the snow on the ground--and behold he is no longer the same man. The
most unlikely things have a secret power over one’s thoughts--the grey
whiskers of a particular person--the goggle eyes of another.”

Razumov’s forehead was moist. He took a turn or two in the room, his
head low and smiling to himself viciously.

“Have you ever reflected on the power of goggle eyes and grey whiskers?
Excuse me. You seem to think I must be crazy to talk in this vein at
such a time. But I am not talking lightly. I have seen instances. It has
happened to me once to be talking to a man whose fate was affected by
physical facts of that kind. And the man did not know it. Of course, it
was a case of conscience, but the material facts such as these brought
about the solution.... And you tell me, Victor Victorovitch, not to
be anxious! Why! I am responsible for you,” Razumov almost shrieked.

He avoided with difficulty a burst of Mephistophelian laughter. Haldin,
very pale, raised himself on his elbow.

“And the surprises of life,” went on Razumov, after glancing at the
other uneasily. “Just consider their astonishing nature. A mysterious
impulse induces you to come here. I don’t say you have done wrong.
Indeed, from a certain point of view you could not have done better. You
might have gone to a man with affections and family ties. You have
such ties yourself. As to me, you know I have been brought up in an
educational institute where they did not give us enough to eat. To talk
of affection in such a connexion--you perceive yourself.... As
to ties, the only ties I have in the world are social. I must get
acknowledged in some way before I can act at all. I sit here working....
And don’t you think I am working for progress too? I’ve got to find
my own ideas of the true way.... Pardon me,” continued Razumov, after
drawing breath and with a short, throaty laugh, “but I haven’t inherited
a revolutionary inspiration together with a resemblance from an uncle.”

He looked again at his watch and noticed with sickening disgust that
there were yet a good many minutes to midnight. He tore watch and chain
off his waistcoat and laid them on the table well in the circle of
bright lamplight. Haldin, reclining on his elbow, did not stir. Razumov
was made uneasy by this attitude. “What move is he meditating over so
quietly?” he thought. “He must be prevented. I must keep on talking to
him.”

He raised his voice.

“You are a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin--I don’t know what--to no
end of people. I am just a man. Here I stand before you. A man with a
mind. Did it ever occur to you how a man who had never heard a word of
warm affection or praise in his life would think on matters on which
you would think first with or against your class, your domestic
tradition--your fireside prejudices?... Did you ever consider how a
man like that would feel? I have no domestic tradition. I have nothing
to think against. My tradition is historical. What have I to look back
to but that national past from which you gentlemen want to wrench away
your future? Am I to let my intelligence, my aspirations towards a
better lot, be robbed of the only thing it has to go upon at the will of
violent enthusiasts? You come from your province, but all this land is
mine--or I have nothing. No doubt you shall be looked upon as a martyr
some day--a sort of hero--a political saint. But I beg to be excused. I
am content in fitting myself to be a worker. And what can you people do
by scattering a few drops of blood on the snow? On this Immensity. On
this unhappy Immensity! I tell you,” he cried, in a vibrating, subdued
voice, and advancing one step nearer the bed, “that what it needs is not
a lot of haunting phantoms that I could walk through--but a man!”

Haldin threw his arms forward as if to keep him off in horror.

“I understand it all now,” he exclaimed, with awestruck dismay. “I
understand--at last.”

Razumov staggered back against the table. His forehead broke out in
perspiration while a cold shudder ran down his spine.

“What have I been saying?” he asked himself. “Have I let him slip
through my fingers after all?”

“He felt his lips go stiff like buckram, and instead of a reassuring
smile only achieved an uncertain grimace.

“What will you have?” he began in a conciliating voice which got steady
after the first trembling word or two. “What will you have? Consider--a
man of studious, retired habits--and suddenly like this.... I am not
practised in talking delicately. But...”

He felt anger, a wicked anger, get hold of him again.

“What were we to do together till midnight? Sit here opposite each other
and think of your--your--shambles?”

Haldin had a subdued, heartbroken attitude. He bowed his head; his hands
hung between his knees. His voice was low and pained but calm.

“I see now how it is, Razumov--brother. You are a magnanimous soul, but
my action is abhorrent to you--alas....”

Razumov stared. From fright he had set his teeth so hard that his whole
face ached. It was impossible for him to make a sound.

“And even my person, too, is loathsome to you perhaps,” Haldin added
mournfully, after a short pause, looking up for a moment, then fixing
his gaze on the floor. “For indeed, unless one....”

He broke off evidently waiting for a word. Razumov remained silent.
Haldin nodded his head dejectedly twice.

“Of course. Of course,” he murmured.... “Ah! weary work!”

He remained perfectly still for a moment, then made Razumov’s leaden
heart strike a ponderous blow by springing up briskly.

“So be it,” he cried sadly in a low, distinct tone. “Farewell then.”

Razumov started forward, but the sight of Haldin’s raised hand checked
him before he could get away from the table. He leaned on it heavily,
listening to the faint sounds of some town clock tolling the hour.
Haldin, already at the door, tall and straight as an arrow, with his
pale face and a hand raised attentively, might have posed for the statue
of a daring youth listening to an inner voice. Razumov mechanically
glanced down at his watch. When he looked towards the door again Haldin
had vanished. There was a faint rustling in the outer room, the feeble
click of a bolt drawn back lightly. He was gone--almost as noiseless as
a vision.

Razumov ran forward unsteadily, with parted, voiceless lips. The outer
door stood open. Staggering out on the landing, he leaned far over the
banister. Gazing down into the deep black shaft with a tiny glimmering
flame at the bottom, he traced by ear the rapid spiral descent of
somebody running down the stairs on tiptoe. It was a light, swift,
pattering sound, which sank away from him into the depths: a fleeting
shadow passed over the glimmer--a wink of the tiny flame. Then
stillness.

Razumov hung over, breathing the cold raw air tainted by the evil smells
of the unclean staircase. All quiet.

He went back into his room slowly, shutting the doors after him. The
peaceful steady light of his reading-lamp shone on the watch. Razumov
stood looking down at the little white dial. It wanted yet three minutes
to midnight. He took the watch into his hand fumblingly.

“Slow,” he muttered, and a strange fit of nervelessness came over him.
His knees shook, the watch and chain slipped through his fingers in an
instant and fell on the floor. He was so startled that he nearly fell
himself. When at last he regained enough confidence in his limbs to
stoop for it he held it to his ear at once. After a while he growled--

“Stopped,” and paused for quite a long time before he muttered sourly--

“It’s done.... And now to work.”

He sat down, reached haphazard for a book, opened it in middle and began
to read; but after going conscientiously over two lines he lost his hold
on the print completely and did not try to regain it. He thought--

“There was to a certainty a police agent of some sort watching the house
across the street.”

He imagined him lurking in a dark gateway, goggle-eyed, muffled up in a
cloak to the nose and with a General’s plumed, cocked hat on his head.
This absurdity made him start in the chair convulsively. He literally
had to shake his head violently to get rid of it. The man would be
disguised perhaps as a peasant... a beggar.... Perhaps he would
be just buttoned up in a dark overcoat and carrying a loaded stick--a
shifty-eyed rascal, smelling of raw onions and spirits.

This evocation brought on positive nausea. “Why do I want to bother
about this?” thought Razumov with disgust. “Am I a gendarme? Moreover,
it is done.”

He got up in great agitation. It was not done. Not yet. Not till
half-past twelve. And the watch had stopped. This reduced him to
despair. Impossible to know the time! The landlady and all the people
across the landing were asleep. How could he go and... God knows
what they would imagine, or how much they would guess. He dared not
go into the streets to find out. “I am a suspect now. There’s no use
shirking that fact,” he said to himself bitterly. If Haldin from
some cause or another gave them the slip and failed to turn up in the
Karabelnaya the police would be invading his lodging. And if he were not
in he could never clear himself. Never. Razumov looked wildly about as
if for some means of seizing upon time which seemed to have escaped
him altogether. He had never, as far as he could remember, heard the
striking of that town clock in his rooms before this night. And he was
not even sure now whether he had heard it really on this night.

He went to the window and stood there with slightly bent head on the
watch for the faint sound. “I will stay here till I hear something,”
 he said to himself. He stood still, his ear turned to the panes. An
atrocious aching numbness with shooting pains in his back and legs
tortured him. He did not budge. His mind hovered on the borders of
delirium. He heard himself suddenly saying, “I confess,” as a person
might do on the rack. “I am on the rack,” he thought. He felt ready to
swoon. The faint deep boom of the distant clock seemed to explode in his
head--he heard it so clearly.... One!

If Haldin had not turned up the police would have been already here
ransacking the house. No sound reached him. This time it was done.

He dragged himself painfully to the table and dropped into the chair.
He flung the book away and took a square sheet of paper. It was like the
pile of sheets covered with his neat minute handwriting, only blank. He
took a pen brusquely and dipped it with a vague notion of going on with
the writing of his essay--but his pen remained poised over the sheet.
It hung there for some time before it came down and formed long scrawly
letters.

Still-faced and his lips set hard, Razumov began to write. When he wrote
a large hand his neat writing lost its character altogether--became
unsteady, almost childish. He wrote five lines one under the other.
History not Theory. Patriotism not Internationalism. Evolution not
Revolution. Direction not Destruction. Unity not Disruption.

He gazed at them dully. Then his eyes strayed to the bed and remained
fixed there for a good many minutes, while his right hand groped all
over the table for the penknife.

He rose at last, and walking up with measured steps stabbed the paper
with the penknife to the lath and plaster wall at the head of the bed.
This done he stepped back a pace and flourished his hand with a glance
round the room.

After that he never looked again at the bed. He took his big cloak down
from its peg and, wrapping himself up closely, went to lie down on
the hard horse-hair sofa at the other side of his room. A leaden
sleep closed his eyelids at once. Several times that night he woke up
shivering from a dream of walking through drifts of snow in a Russia
where he was as completely alone as any betrayed autocrat could be; an
immense, wintry Russia which, somehow, his view could embrace in all its
enormous expanse as if it were a map. But after each shuddering start
his heavy eyelids fell over his glazed eyes and he slept again.


III


Approaching this part of Mr. Razumov’s story, my mind, the decent mind
of an old teacher of languages, feels more and more the difficulty of
the task.

The task is not in truth the writing in the narrative form a _precis_
of a strange human document, but the rendering--I perceive it now
clearly--of the moral conditions ruling over a large portion of this
earth’s surface; conditions not easily to be understood, much less
discovered in the limits of a story, till some key-word is found; a word
that could stand at the back of all the words covering the pages; a word
which, if not truth itself, may perchance hold truth enough to help the
moral discovery which should be the object of every tale.

I turn over for the hundredth time the leaves of Mr. Razumov’s record, I
lay it aside, I take up the pen--and the pen being ready for its office
of setting down black on white I hesitate. For the word that persists in
creeping under its point is no other word than “cynicism.”

For that is the mark of Russian autocracy and of Russian revolt. In its
pride of numbers, in its strange pretensions of sanctity, and in the
secret readiness to abase itself in suffering, the spirit of Russia is
the spirit of cynicism. It informs the declarations of her statesmen,
the theories of her revolutionists, and the mystic vaticinations of
prophets to the point of making freedom look like a form of debauch, and
the Christian virtues themselves appear actually indecent.... But I
must apologize for the digression. It proceeds from the consideration
of the course taken by the story of Mr. Razumov after his conservative
convictions, diluted in a vague liberalism natural to the ardour of his
age, had become crystallized by the shock of his contact with Haldin.

Razumov woke up for the tenth time perhaps with a heavy shiver. Seeing
the light of day in his window, he resisted the inclination to lay
himself down again. He did not remember anything, but he did not think
it strange to find himself on the sofa in his cloak and chilled to the
bone. The light coming through the window seemed strangely cheerless,
containing no promise as the light of each new day should for a young
man. It was the awakening of a man mortally ill, or of a man ninety
years old. He looked at the lamp which had burnt itself out. It stood
there, the extinguished beacon of his labours, a cold object of brass
and porcelain, amongst the scattered pages of his notes and small
piles of books--a mere litter of blackened paper--dead matter--without
significance or interest.

He got on his feet, and divesting himself of his cloak hung it on the
peg, going through all the motions mechanically. An incredible dullness,
a ditch-water stagnation was sensible to his perceptions as though life
had withdrawn itself from all things and even from his own thoughts.
There was not a sound in the house.

Turning away from the peg, he thought in that same lifeless manner that
it must be very early yet; but when he looked at the watch on his table
he saw both hands arrested at twelve o’clock.

“Ah! yes,” he mumbled to himself, and as if beginning to get roused
a little he took a survey of his room. The paper stabbed to the wall
arrested his attention. He eyed it from the distance without approval or
perplexity; but when he heard the servant-girl beginning to bustle about
in the outer room with the _samovar_ for his morning tea, he walked up
to it and took it down with an air of profound indifference.

While doing this he glanced down at the bed on which he had not slept
that night. The hollow in the pillow made by the weight of Haldin’s head
was very noticeable.

Even his anger at this sign of the man’s passage was dull. He did not
try to nurse it into life. He did nothing all that day; he neglected
even to brush his hair. The idea of going out never occurred to him--and
if he did not start a connected train of thought it was not because he
was unable to think. It was because he was not interested enough.

He yawned frequently. He drank large quantities of tea, he walked about
aimlessly, and when he sat down he did not budge for a long time. He
spent some time drumming on the window with his finger-tips quietly. In
his listless wanderings round about the table he caught sight of his own
face in the looking-glass and that arrested him. The eyes which returned
his stare were the most unhappy eyes he had ever seen. And this was the
first thing which disturbed the mental stagnation of that day.

He was not affected personally. He merely thought that life without
happiness is impossible. What was happiness? He yawned and went on
shuffling about and about between the walls of his room. Looking
forward was happiness--that’s all--nothing more. To look forward to
the gratification of some desire, to the gratification of some passion,
love, ambition, hate--hate too indubitably. Love and hate. And to escape
the dangers of existence, to live without fear, was also happiness.
There was nothing else. Absence of fear--looking forward. “Oh! the
miserable lot of humanity!” he exclaimed mentally; and added at once in
his thought, “I ought to be happy enough as far as that goes.” But he
was not excited by that assurance. On the contrary, he yawned again as
he had been yawning all day. He was mildly surprised to discover himself
being overtaken by night. The room grew dark swiftly though time had
seemed to stand still. How was it that he had not noticed the passing of
that day? Of course, it was the watch being stopped....

He did not light his lamp, but went over to the bed and threw himself on
it without any hesitation. Lying on his back, he put his hands under his
head and stared upward. After a moment he thought, “I am lying here like
that man. I wonder if he slept while I was struggling with the blizzard
in the streets. No, he did not sleep. But why should I not sleep?” and
he felt the silence of the night press upon all his limbs like a weight.

In the calm of the hard frost outside, the clear-cut strokes of the town
clock counting off midnight penetrated the quietness of his suspended
animation.

Again he began to think. It was twenty-four hours since that man left
his room. Razumov had a distinct feeling that Haldin in the fortress was
sleeping that night. It was a certitude which made him angry because
he did not want to think of Haldin, but he justified it to himself by
physiological and psychological reasons. The fellow had hardly slept for
weeks on his own confession, and now every incertitude was at an end
for him. No doubt he was looking forward to the consummation of his
martyrdom. A man who resigns himself to kill need not go very far for
resignation to die. Haldin slept perhaps more soundly than General T---,
whose task--weary work too--was not done, and over whose head hung the
sword of revolutionary vengeance.

Razumov, remembering the thick-set man with his heavy jowl resting on
the collar of his uniform, the champion of autocracy, who had let no
sign of surprise, incredulity, or joy escape him, but whose goggle eyes
could express a mortal hatred of all rebellion--Razumov moved uneasily
on the bed.

“He suspected me,” he thought. “I suppose he must suspect everybody. He
would be capable of suspecting his own wife, if Haldin had gone to her
boudoir with his confession.”

Razumov sat up in anguish. Was he to remain a political suspect all his
days? Was he to go through life as a man not wholly to be trusted--with
a bad secret police note tacked on to his record? What sort of future
could he look forward to?

“I am now a suspect,” he thought again; but the habit of reflection and
that desire of safety, of an ordered life, which was so strong in him
came to his assistance as the night wore on. His quiet, steady, and
laborious existence would vouch at length for his loyalty. There were
many permitted ways to serve one’s country. There was an activity that
made for progress without being revolutionary. The field of influence
was great and infinitely varied--once one had conquered a name.

His thought like a circling bird reverted after four-and-twenty hours to
the silver medal, and as it were poised itself there.

When the day broke he had not slept, not for a moment, but he got up
not very tired and quite sufficiently self-possessed for all practical
purposes.

He went out and attended three lectures in the morning. But the work in
the library was a mere dumb show of research. He sat with many volumes
open before him trying to make notes and extracts. His new tranquillity
was like a flimsy garment, and seemed to float at the mercy of a casual
word. Betrayal! Why! the fellow had done all that was necessary to
betray himself. Precious little had been needed to deceive him.

“I have said no word to him that was not strictly true. Not one word,”
 Razumov argued with himself.

Once engaged on this line of thought there could be no question of doing
useful work. The same ideas went on passing through his mind, and he
pronounced mentally the same words over and over again. He shut up all
the books and rammed all his papers into his pocket with convulsive
movements, raging inwardly against Haldin.

As he was leaving the library a long bony student in a threadbare
overcoat joined him, stepping moodily by his side. Razumov answered his
mumbled greeting without looking at him at all.

“What does he want with me?” he thought with a strange dread of the
unexpected which he tried to shake off lest it should fasten itself
upon his life for good and all. And the other, muttering cautiously with
downcast eyes, supposed that his comrade had seen the news of de P---‘s
executioner--that was the expression he used--having been arrested the
night before last....

“I’ve been ill--shut up in my rooms,” Razumov mumbled through his teeth.

The tall student, raising his shoulders, shoved his hands deep into his
pockets. He had a hairless, square, tallowy chin which trembled slightly
as he spoke, and his nose nipped bright red by the sharp air looked like
a false nose of painted cardboard between the sallow cheeks. His whole
appearance was stamped with the mark of cold and hunger. He stalked
deliberately at Razumov’s elbow with his eyes on the ground.

“It’s an official statement,” he continued in the same cautious mutter.
“It may be a lie. But there was somebody arrested between midnight and
one in the morning on Tuesday. This is certain.”

And talking rapidly under the cover of his downcast air, he told Razumov
that this was known through an inferior Government clerk employed at
the Central Secretariat. That man belonged to one of the revolutionary
circles. “The same, in fact, I am affiliated to,” remarked the student.

They were crossing a wide quadrangle. An infinite distress possessed
Razumov, annihilated his energy, and before his eyes everything appeared
confused and as if evanescent. He dared not leave the fellow there. “He
may be affiliated to the police,” was the thought that passed through
his mind. “Who could tell?” But eyeing the miserable frost-nipped,
famine-struck figure of his companion he perceived the absurdity of his
suspicion.

“But I--you know--I don’t belong to any circle. I....”

He dared not say any more. Neither dared he mend his pace. The
other, raising and setting down his lamentably shod feet with exact
deliberation, protested in a low tone that it was not necessary for
everybody to belong to an organization. The most valuable personalities
remained outside. Some of the best work was done outside the
organization. Then very fast, with whispering, feverish lips--

“The man arrested in the street was Haldin.”

And accepting Razumov’s dismayed silence as natural enough, he assured
him that there was no mistake. That Government clerk was on night duty
at the Secretariat. Hearing a great noise of footsteps in the hall and
aware that political prisoners were brought over sometimes at night from
the fortress, he opened the door of the room in which he was working,
suddenly. Before the gendarme on duty could push him back and slam the
door in his face, he had seen a prisoner being partly carried, partly
dragged along the hall by a lot of policemen. He was being used very
brutally. And the clerk had recognized Haldin perfectly. Less than half
an hour afterwards General T--- arrived at the Secretariat to examine
that prisoner personally.

“Aren’t you astonished?” concluded the gaunt student.

“No,” said Razumov roughly--and at once regretted his answer.

“Everybody supposed Haldin was in the provinces--with his people. Didn’t
you?”

The student turned his big hollow eyes upon Razumov, who said
unguardedly--

“His people are abroad.”

He could have bitten his tongue out with vexation. The student
pronounced in a tone of profound meaning--

“So! You alone were aware,...” and stopped.

“They have sworn my ruin,” thought Razumov. “Have you spoken of this to
anyone else?” he asked with bitter curiosity.

The other shook his head.

“No, only to you. Our circle thought that as Haldin had been often heard
expressing a warm appreciation of your character....”

Razumov could not restrain a gesture of angry despair which the other
must have misunderstood in some way, because he ceased speaking and
turned away his black, lack-lustre eyes.

They moved side by side in silence. Then the gaunt student began to
whisper again, with averted gaze--

“As we have at present no one affiliated inside the fortress so as
to make it possible to furnish him with a packet of poison, we have
considered already some sort of retaliatory action--to follow very
soon....”

Razumov trudging on interrupted--

“Were you acquainted with Haldin? Did he know where you live?”

“I had the happiness to hear him speak twice,” his companion answered in
the feverish whisper contrasting with the gloomy apathy of his face and
bearing. “He did not know where I live.... I am lodging poorly with
an artisan family.... I have just a corner in a room. It is not very
practicable to see me there, but if you should need me for anything I am
ready....”

Razumov trembled with rage and fear. He was beside himself, but kept his
voice low.

“You are not to come near me. You are not to speak to me. Never address
a single word to me. I forbid you.”

“Very well,” said the other submissively, showing no surprise whatever
at this abrupt prohibition. “You don’t wish for secret reasons...
perfectly... I understand.”

He edged away at once, not looking up even; and Razumov saw his gaunt,
shabby, famine-stricken figure cross the street obliquely with lowered
head and that peculiar exact motion of the feet.

He watched him as one would watch a vision out of a nightmare, then he
continued on his way, trying not to think. On his landing the landlady
seemed to be waiting for him. She was a short, thick, shapeless woman
with a large yellow face wrapped up everlastingly in a black woollen
shawl. When she saw him come up the last flight of stairs she flung both
her arms up excitedly, then clasped her hands before her face.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch--little father--what have you been doing? And such
a quiet young man, too! The police are just gone this moment after
searching your rooms.”

Razumov gazed down at her with silent, scrutinizing attention. Her puffy
yellow countenance was working with emotion. She screwed up her eyes at
him entreatingly.

“Such a sensible young man! Anybody can see you are sensible. And
now--like this--all at once.... What is the good of mixing yourself
up with these Nihilists? Do give over, little father. They are unlucky
people.”

Razumov moved his shoulders slightly.

“Or is it that some secret enemy has been calumniating you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch? The world is full of black hearts and false denunciations
nowadays. There is much fear about.”

“Have you heard that I have been denounced by some one?” asked Razumov,
without taking his eyes off her quivering face.

But she had not heard anything. She had tried to find out by asking
the police captain while his men were turning the room upside down. The
police captain of the district had known her for the last eleven years
and was a humane person. But he said to her on the landing, looking very
black and vexed--

“My good woman, do not ask questions. I don’t know anything myself. The
order comes from higher quarters.”

And indeed there had appeared, shortly after the arrival of the
policemen of the district, a very superior gentleman in a fur coat and
a shiny hat, who sat down in the room and looked through all the papers
himself. He came alone and went away by himself, taking nothing with
him. She had been trying to put things straight a little since they
left.

Razumov turned away brusquely and entered his rooms.

All his books had been shaken and thrown on the floor. His landlady
followed him, and stooping painfully began to pick them up into her
apron. His papers and notes which were kept always neatly sorted (they
all related to his studies) had been shuffled up and heaped together
into a ragged pile in the middle of the table.

This disorder affected him profoundly, unreasonably. He sat down
and stared. He had a distinct sensation of his very existence being
undermined in some mysterious manner, of his moral supports falling away
from him one by one. He even experienced a slight physical giddiness and
made a movement as if to reach for something to steady himself with.

The old woman, rising to her feet with a low groan, shot all the
books she had collected in her apron on to the sofa and left the room
muttering and sighing.

It was only then that he noticed that the sheet of paper which for one
night had remained stabbed to the wall above his empty bed was lying on
top of the pile.

When he had taken it down the day before he had folded it in four,
absent-mindedly, before dropping it on the table. And now he saw it
lying uppermost, spread out, smoothed out even and covering all the
confused pile of pages, the record of his intellectual life for the
last three years. It had not been flung there. It had been placed
there--smoothed out, too! He guessed in that an intention of profound
meaning--or perhaps some inexplicable mockery.

He sat staring at the piece of paper till his eyes began to smart. He
did not attempt to put his papers in order, either that evening or the
next day--which he spent at home in a state of peculiar irresolution.
This irresolution bore upon the question whether he should continue to
live--neither more nor less. But its nature was very far removed from
the hesitation of a man contemplating suicide. The idea of laying
violent hands upon his body did not occur to Razumov. The unrelated
organism bearing that label, walking, breathing, wearing these clothes,
was of no importance to anyone, unless maybe to the landlady. The true
Razumov had his being in the willed, in the determined future--in that
future menaced by the lawlessness of autocracy--for autocracy knows
no law--and the lawlessness of revolution. The feeling that his moral
personality was at the mercy of these lawless forces was so strong that
he asked himself seriously if it were worth while to go on accomplishing
the mental functions of that existence which seemed no longer his own.

“What is the good of exerting my intelligence, of pursuing the
systematic development of my faculties and all my plans of work?” he
asked himself. “I want to guide my conduct by reasonable convictions,
but what security have I against something--some destructive
horror--walking in upon me as I sit here?...”

Razumov looked apprehensively towards the door of the outer room as if
expecting some shape of evil to turn the handle and appear before him
silently.

“A common thief,” he said to himself, “finds more guarantees in the law
he is breaking, and even a brute like Ziemianitch has his consolation.”
 Razumov envied the materialism of the thief and the passion of the
incorrigible lover. The consequences of their actions were always clear
and their lives remained their own.

But he slept as soundly that night as though he had been consoling
himself in the manner of Ziemianitch. He dropped off suddenly, lay like
a log, remembered no dream on waking. But it was as if his soul had gone
out in the night to gather the flowers of wrathful wisdom. He got up in
a mood of grim determination and as if with a new knowledge of his own
nature. He looked mockingly on the heap of papers on his table; and left
his room to attend the lectures, muttering to himself, “We shall see.”

He was in no humour to talk to anybody or hear himself questioned as
to his absence from lectures the day before. But it was difficult to
repulse rudely a very good comrade with a smooth pink face and fair
hair, bearing the nickname amongst his fellow-students of “Madcap
Kostia.” He was the idolized only son of a very wealthy and illiterate
Government contractor, and attended the lectures only during the
periodical fits of contrition following upon tearful paternal
remonstrances. Noisily blundering like a retriever puppy, his elated
voice and great gestures filled the bare academy corridors with the
joy of thoughtless animal life, provoking indulgent smiles at a great
distance. His usual discourses treated of trotting horses, wine-parties
in expensive restaurants, and the merits of persons of easy virtue,
with a disarming artlessness of outlook. He pounced upon Razumov about
midday, somewhat less uproariously than his habit was, and led him
aside.

“Just a moment, Kirylo Sidorovitch. A few words here in this quiet
corner.”

He felt Razumov’s reluctance, and insinuated his hand under his arm
caressingly.

“No--pray do. I don’t want to talk to you about any of my silly scrapes.
What are my scrapes? Absolutely nothing. Mere childishness. The other
night I flung a fellow out of a certain place where I was having a
fairly good time. A tyrannical little beast of a quill-driver from the
Treasury department. He was bullying the people of the house. I rebuked
him. ‘You are not behaving humanely to God’s creatures that are a jolly
sight more estimable than yourself,’ I said. I can’t bear to see any
tyranny, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Upon my word I can’t. He didn’t take it in
good part at all. ‘Who’s that impudent puppy?’ he begins to shout. I
was in excellent form as it happened, and he went through the closed
window very suddenly. He flew quite a long way into the yard. I raged
like--like a--minotaur. The women clung to me and screamed, the fiddlers
got under the table.... Such fun! My dad had to put his hand pretty
deep into his pocket, I can tell you.” He chuckled.

“My dad is a very useful man. Jolly good thing it is for me, too. I do
get into unholy scrapes.”

His elation fell. That was just it. What was his life? Insignificant;
no good to anyone; a mere festivity. It would end some fine day in his
getting his skull split with a champagne bottle in a drunken brawl. At
such times, too, when men were sacrificing themselves to ideas. But he
could never get any ideas into his head. His head wasn’t worth anything
better than to be split by a champagne bottle.

Razumov, protesting that he had no time, made an attempt to get away.
The other’s tone changed to confidential earnestness.

“For God’s sake, Kirylo, my dear soul, let me make some sort of
sacrifice. It would not be a sacrifice really. I have my rich dad behind
me. There’s positively no getting to the bottom of his pocket.”

And rejecting indignantly Razumov’s suggestion that this was drunken
raving, he offered to lend him some money to escape abroad with. He
could always get money from his dad. He had only to say that he had
lost it at cards or something of that sort, and at the same time promise
solemnly not to miss a single lecture for three months on end. That
would fetch the old man; and he, Kostia, was quite equal to the
sacrifice. Though he really did not see what was the good for him to
attend the lectures. It was perfectly hopeless.

“Won’t you let me be of some use?” he pleaded to the silent Razumov,
who with his eyes on the ground and utterly unable to penetrate the real
drift of the other’s intention, felt a strange reluctance to clear up
the point.

“What makes you think I want to go abroad?” he asked at last very
quietly.

Kostia lowered his voice.

“You had the police in your rooms yesterday. There are three or four of
us who have heard of that. Never mind how we know. It is sufficient that
we do. So we have been consulting together.”

“Ah! You got to know that so soon,” muttered Razumov negligently.

“Yes. We did. And it struck us that a man like you...”

“What sort of a man do you take me to be?” Razumov interrupted him.

“A man of ideas--and a man of action too. But you are very deep, Kirylo.
There’s no getting to the bottom of your mind. Not for fellows like me.
But we all agreed that you must be preserved for our country. Of that we
have no doubt whatever--I mean all of us who have heard Haldin speak of
you on certain occasions. A man doesn’t get the police ransacking his
rooms without there being some devilry hanging over his head.... And
so if you think that it would be better for you to bolt at once....”

Razumov tore himself away and walked down the corridor, leaving the
other motionless with his mouth open. But almost at once he returned
and stood before the amazed Kostia, who shut his mouth slowly. Razumov
looked him straight in the eyes, before saying with marked deliberation
and separating his words--

“I thank--you--very--much.”

He went away again rapidly. Kostia, recovering from his surprise at
these manoeuvres, ran up behind him pressingly.

“No! Wait! Listen. I really mean it. It would be like giving your
compassion to a starving fellow. Do you hear, Kirylo? And any disguise
you may think of, that too I could procure from a costumier, a Jew I
know. Let a fool be made serviceable according to his folly. Perhaps
also a false beard or something of that kind may be needed.

“Razumov turned at bay.

“There are no false beards needed in this business, Kostia--you
good-hearted lunatic, you. What do you know of my ideas? My ideas may be
poison to you.” The other began to shake his head in energetic protest.

“What have you got to do with ideas? Some of them would make an end
of your dad’s money-bags. Leave off meddling with what you don’t
understand. Go back to your trotting horses and your girls, and then
you’ll be sure at least of doing no harm to anybody, and hardly any to
yourself.”

The enthusiastic youth was overcome by this disdain.

“You’re sending me back to my pig’s trough, Kirylo. That settles it. I
am an unlucky beast--and I shall die like a beast too. But mind--it’s
your contempt that has done for me.”

Razumov went off with long strides. That this simple and grossly festive
soul should have fallen too under the revolutionary curse affected him
as an ominous symptom of the time. He reproached himself for feeling
troubled. Personally he ought to have felt reassured. There was an
obvious advantage in this conspiracy of mistaken judgment taking him for
what he was not. But was it not strange?

Again he experienced that sensation of his conduct being taken out of
his hands by Haldin’s revolutionary tyranny. His solitary and laborious
existence had been destroyed--the only thing he could call his own on
this earth. By what right? he asked himself furiously. In what name?

What infuriated him most was to feel that the “thinkers” of the
University were evidently connecting him with Haldin--as a sort of
confidant in the background apparently. A mysterious connexion! Ha ha!
...He had been made a personage without knowing anything about it. How
that wretch Haldin must have talked about him! Yet it was likely that
Haldin had said very little. The fellow’s casual utterances were caught
up and treasured and pondered over by all these imbeciles. And was not
all secret revolutionary action based upon folly, self-deception, and
lies?

“Impossible to think of anything else,” muttered Razumov to himself.
“I’ll become an idiot if this goes on. The scoundrels and the fools are
murdering my intelligence.”

He lost all hope of saving his future, which depended on the free use of
his intelligence.

He reached the doorway of his house in a state of mental discouragement
which enabled him to receive with apparent indifference an
official-looking envelope from the dirty hand of the dvornik.

“A gendarme brought it,” said the man. “He asked if you were at home.
I told him ‘No, he’s not at home.’ So he left it. ‘Give it into his own
hands,’ says he. Now you’ve got it--eh?”

He went back to his sweeping, and Razumov climbed his stairs, envelope
in hand. Once in his room he did not hasten to open it. Of course
this official missive was from the superior direction of the police. A
suspect! A suspect!

He stared in dreary astonishment at the absurdity of his position. He
thought with a sort of dry, unemotional melancholy; three years of good
work gone, the course of forty more perhaps jeopardized--turned from
hope to terror, because events started by human folly link themselves
into a sequence which no sagacity can foresee and no courage can break
through. Fatality enters your rooms while your landlady’s back is
turned; you come home and find it in possession bearing a man’s name,
clothed in flesh--wearing a brown cloth coat and long boots--lounging
against the stove. It asks you, “Is the outer door closed?”--and you
don’t know enough to take it by the throat and fling it downstairs. You
don’t know. You welcome the crazy fate. “Sit down,” you say. And it is
all over. You cannot shake it off any more. It will cling to you for
ever. Neither halter nor bullet can give you back the freedom of your
life and the sanity of your thought.... It was enough to dash one’s
head against a wall.

Razumov looked slowly all round the walls as if to select a spot to dash
his head against. Then he opened the letter. It directed the student
Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov to present himself without delay at the
General Secretariat.

Razumov had a vision of General T---‘s goggle eyes waiting for him--the
embodied power of autocracy, grotesque and terrible. He embodied
the whole power of autocracy because he was its guardian. He was the
incarnate suspicion, the incarnate anger, the incarnate ruthlessness of
a political and social regime on its defence. He loathed rebellion
by instinct. And Razumov reflected that the man was simply unable to
understand a reasonable adherence to the doctrine of absolutism.

“What can he want with me precisely--I wonder?” he asked himself.

As if that mental question had evoked the familiar phantom, Haldin stood
suddenly before him in the room with an extraordinary completeness of
detail. Though the short winter day had passed already into the sinister
twilight of a land buried in snow, Razumov saw plainly the narrow
leather strap round the Tcherkess coat. The illusion of that hateful
presence was so perfect that he half expected it to ask, “Is the outer
door closed?” He looked at it with hatred and contempt. Souls do not
take a shape of clothing. Moreover, Haldin could not be dead yet.
Razumov stepped forward menacingly; the vision vanished--and turning
short on his heel he walked out of his room with infinite disdain.

But after going down the first flight of stairs it occurred to him that
perhaps the superior authorities of police meant to confront him with
Haldin in the flesh. This thought struck him like a bullet, and had he
not clung with both hands to the banister he would have rolled down to
the next landing most likely. His legs were of no use for a considerable
time.... But why? For what conceivable reason? To what end?

There could be no rational answer to these questions; but Razumov
remembered the promise made by the General to Prince K---. His action
was to remain unknown.

He got down to the bottom of the stairs, lowering himself as it were
from step to step, by the banister. Under the gate he regained much of
his firmness of thought and limb. He went out into the street without
staggering visibly. Every moment he felt steadier mentally. And yet
he was saying to himself that General T--- was perfectly capable of
shutting him up in the fortress for an indefinite time. His temperament
fitted his remorseless task, and his omnipotence made him inaccessible
to reasonable argument.

But when Razumov arrived at the Secretariat he discovered that he would
have nothing to do with General T---. It is evident from Mr. Razumov’s
diary that this dreaded personality was to remain in the background. A
civilian of superior rank received him in a private room after a period
of waiting in outer offices where a lot of scribbling went on at many
tables in a heated and stuffy atmosphere.

The clerk in uniform who conducted him said in the corridor--

“You are going before Gregor Matvieitch Mikulin.”

There was nothing formidable about the man bearing that name. His mild,
expectant glance was turned on the door already when Razumov entered.
At once, with the penholder he was holding in his hand, he pointed to a
deep sofa between two windows. He followed Razumov with his eyes while
that last crossed the room and sat down. The mild gaze rested on him,
not curious, not inquisitive--certainly not suspicious--almost
without expression. In its passionless persistence there was something
resembling sympathy.

Razumov, who had prepared his will and his intelligence to encounter
General T--- himself, was profoundly troubled. All the moral bracing
up against the possible excesses of power and passion went for nothing
before this sallow man, who wore a full unclipped beard. It was
fair, thin, and very fine. The light fell in coppery gleams on the
protuberances of a high, rugged forehead. And the aspect of the broad,
soft physiognomy was so homely and rustic that the careful middle
parting of the hair seemed a pretentious affectation.

The diary of Mr. Razumov testifies to some irritation on his part. I may
remark here that the diary proper consisting of the more or less daily
entries seems to have been begun on that very evening after Mr. Razumov
had returned home.

Mr. Razumov, then, was irritated. His strung-up individuality had gone
to pieces within him very suddenly.

“I must be very prudent with him,” he warned himself in the silence
during which they sat gazing at each other. It lasted some little time,
and was characterized (for silences have their character) by a sort of
sadness imparted to it perhaps by the mild and thoughtful manner of
the bearded official. Razumov learned later that he was the chief of a
department in the General Secretariat, with a rank in the civil service
equivalent to that of a colonel in the army.

Razumov’s mistrust became acute. The main point was, not to be drawn
into saying too much. He had been called there for some reason. What
reason? To be given to understand that he was a suspect--and also no
doubt to be pumped. As to what precisely? There was nothing. Or perhaps
Haldin had been telling lies.... Every alarming uncertainty beset
Razumov. He could bear the silence no longer, and cursing himself for
his weakness spoke first, though he had promised himself not to do so on
any account.

“I haven’t lost a moment’s time,” he began in a hoarse, provoking tone;
and then the faculty of speech seemed to leave him and enter the body of
Councillor Mikulin, who chimed in approvingly--

“Very proper. Very proper. Though as a matter of fact....”

But the spell was broken, and Razumov interrupted him boldly, under
a sudden conviction that this was the safest attitude to take. With a
great flow of words he complained of being totally misunderstood. Even
as he talked with a perception of his own audacity he thought that
the word “misunderstood” was better than the word “mistrusted,” and he
repeated it again with insistence. Suddenly he ceased, being seized
with fright before the attentive immobility of the official. “What am
I talking about?” he thought, eyeing him with a vague gaze.
Mistrusted--not misunderstood--was the right symbol for these people.
Misunderstood was the other kind of curse. Both had been brought on his
head by that fellow Haldin. And his head ached terribly. He passed his
hand over his brow--an involuntary gesture of suffering, which he was
too careless to restrain. At that moment Razumov beheld his own brain
suffering on the rack--a long, pale figure drawn asunder horizontally
with terrific force in the darkness of a vault, whose face he failed to
see. It was as though he had dreamed for an infinitesimal fraction of
time of some dark print of the Inquisition.

It is not to be seriously supposed that Razumov had actually dozed off
and had dreamed in the presence of Councillor Mikulin, of an old print
of the Inquisition. He was indeed extremely exhausted, and he records
a remarkably dream-like experience of anguish at the circumstance
that there was no one whatever near the pale and extended figure. The
solitude of the racked victim was particularly horrible to behold. The
mysterious impossibility to see the face, he also notes, inspired a sort
of terror. All these characteristics of an ugly dream were present. Yet
he is certain that he never lost the consciousness of himself on the
sofa, leaning forward with his hands between his knees and turning his
cap round and round in his fingers. But everything vanished at the voice
of Councillor Mikulin. Razumov felt profoundly grateful for the even
simplicity of its tone.

“Yes. I have listened with interest. I comprehend in a measure your...
But, indeed, you are mistaken in what you....” Councillor Mikulin
uttered a series of broken sentences. Instead of finishing them he
glanced down his beard. It was a deliberate curtailment which somehow
made the phrases more impressive. But he could talk fluently enough, as
became apparent when changing his tone to persuasiveness he went on: “By
listening to you as I did, I think I have proved that I do not regard
our intercourse as strictly official. In fact, I don’t want it to have
that character at all.... Oh yes! I admit that the request for your
presence here had an official form. But I put it to you whether it was a
form which would have been used to secure the attendance of a....”

“Suspect,” exclaimed Razumov, looking straight into the official’s
eyes. They were big with heavy eyelids, and met his boldness with a dim,
steadfast gaze. “A suspect.” The open repetition of that word which
had been haunting all his waking hours gave Razumov a strange sort of
satisfaction. Councillor Mikulin shook his head slightly. “Surely you do
know that I’ve had my rooms searched by the police?”

“I was about to say a ‘misunderstood person,’ when you interrupted me,”
 insinuated quietly Councillor Mikulin.

Razumov smiled without bitterness. The renewed sense of his intellectual
superiority sustained him in the hour of danger. He said a little
disdainfully--

“I know I am but a reed. But I beg you to allow me the superiority of
the thinking reed over the unthinking forces that are about to crush
him out of existence. Practical thinking in the last instance is but
criticism. I may perhaps be allowed to express my wonder at this action
of the police being delayed for two full days during which, of course,
I could have annihilated everything compromising by burning it--let us
say--and getting rid of the very ashes, for that matter.”

“You are angry,” remarked the official, with an unutterable simplicity
of tone and manner. “Is that reasonable?”

Razumov felt himself colouring with annoyance.

“I am reasonable. I am even--permit me to say--a thinker, though to
be sure, this name nowadays seems to be the monopoly of hawkers of
revolutionary wares, the slaves of some French or German thought--devil
knows what foreign notions. But I am not an intellectual mongrel. I
think like a Russian. I think faithfully--and I take the liberty to call
myself a thinker. It is not a forbidden word, as far as I know.”

“No. Why should it be a forbidden word?” Councillor Mikulin turned in
his seat with crossed legs and resting his elbow on the table propped
his head on the knuckles of a half-closed hand. Razumov noticed a thick
forefinger clasped by a massive gold band set with a blood-red stone--a
signet ring that, looking as if it could weigh half a pound, was
an appropriate ornament for that ponderous man with the accurate
middle-parting of glossy hair above a rugged Socratic forehead.

“Could it be a wig?” Razumov detected himself wondering with an
unexpected detachment. His self-confidence was much shaken. He resolved
to chatter no more. Reserve! Reserve! All he had to do was to keep
the Ziemianitch episode secret with absolute determination, when the
questions came. Keep Ziemianitch strictly out of all the answers.

Councillor Mikulin looked at him dimly. Razumov’s self-confidence
abandoned him completely. It seemed impossible to keep Ziemianitch out.
Every question would lead to that, because, of course, there was nothing
else. He made an effort to brace himself up. It was a failure. But
Councillor Mikulin was surprisingly detached too.

“Why should it be forbidden?” he repeated. “I too consider myself
a thinking man, I assure you. The principal condition is to think
correctly. I admit it is difficult sometimes at first for a young man
abandoned to himself--with his generous impulses undisciplined, so to
speak--at the mercy of every wild wind that blows. Religious belief, of
course, is a great....”

Councillor Mikulin glanced down his beard, and Razumov, whose tension
was relaxed by that unexpected and discursive turn, murmured with gloomy
discontent--

“That man, Haldin, believed in God.”

“Ah! You are aware,” breathed out Councillor Mikulin, making the point
softly, as if with discretion, but making it nevertheless plainly
enough, as if he too were put off his guard by Razumov’s remark.
The young man preserved an impassive, moody countenance, though he
reproached himself bitterly for a pernicious fool, to have given thus an
utterly false impression of intimacy. He kept his eyes on the floor.
“I must positively hold my tongue unless I am obliged to speak,” he
admonished himself. And at once against his will the question, “Hadn’t
I better tell him everything?” presented itself with such force that he
had to bite his lower lip. Councillor Mikulin could not, however, have
nourished any hope of confession. He went on--

“You tell me more than his judges were able to get out of him. He was
judged by a commission of three. He would tell them absolutely nothing.
I have the report of the interrogatories here, by me. After every
question there stands ‘Refuses to answer--refuses to answer.’ It’s like
that page after page. You see, I have been entrusted with some further
investigations around and about this affair. He has left me nothing to
begin my investigations on. A hardened miscreant. And so, you say, he
believed in....”

Again Councillor Mikulin glanced down his beard with a faint grimace;
but he did not pause for long. Remarking with a shade of scorn that
blasphemers also had that sort of belief, he concluded by supposing that
Mr. Razumov had conversed frequently with Haldin on the subject.

“No,” said Razumov loudly, without looking up. “He talked and I
listened. That is not a conversation.”

“Listening is a great art,” observed Mikulin parenthetically.

“And getting people to talk is another,” mumbled Razumov.

“Well, no--that is not very difficult,” Mikulin said innocently,
“except, of course, in special cases. For instance, this Haldin. Nothing
could induce him to talk. He was brought four times before the delegated
judges. Four secret interrogatories--and even during the last, when your
personality was put forward....”

“My personality put forward?” repeated Razumov, raising his head
brusquely. “I don’t understand.” Councillor Mikulin turned squarely to
the table, and taking up some sheets of grey foolscap dropped them one
after another, retaining only the last in his hand. He held it before
his eyes while speaking.

“It was--you see--judged necessary. In a case of that gravity no means
of action upon the culprit should be neglected. You understand that
yourself, I am certain.

“Razumov stared with enormous wide eyes at the side view of Councillor
Mikulin, who now was not looking at him at all.

“So it was decided (I was consulted by General T---) that a certain
question should be put to the accused. But in deference to the earnest
wishes of Prince K--- your name has been kept out of the documents
and even from the very knowledge of the judges themselves. Prince K---
recognized the propriety, the necessity of what we proposed to do, but
he was concerned for your safety. Things do leak out--that we can’t
deny. One cannot always answer for the discretion of inferior officials.
There was, of course, the secretary of the special tribunal--one or two
gendarmes in the room. Moreover, as I have said, in deference to Prince
K--- even the judges themselves were to be left in ignorance. The
question ready framed was sent to them by General T--- (I wrote it out
with my own hand) with instructions to put it to the prisoner the very
last of all. Here it is.

“Councillor Mikulin threw back his head into proper focus and went on
reading monotonously: ‘Question--Has the man well known to you, in whose
rooms you remained for several hours on Monday and on whose information
you have been arrested--has he had any previous knowledge of your
intention to commit a political murder?...’ Prisoner refuses to reply.

“Question repeated. Prisoner preserves the same stubborn silence.

“The venerable Chaplain of the Fortress being then admitted and
exhorting the prisoner to repentance, entreating him also to atone for
his crime by an unreserved and full confession which should help to
liberate from the sin of rebellion against the Divine laws and the
sacred Majesty of the Ruler, our Christ-loving land--the prisoner opens
his lips for the first time during this morning’s audience and in a
loud, clear voice rejects the venerable Chaplain’s ministrations.

“At eleven o’clock the Court pronounces in summary form the death
sentence.

“The execution is fixed for four o’clock in the afternoon, subject to
further instructions from superior authorities.”

Councillor Mikulin dropped the page of foolscap, glanced down his beard,
and turning to Razumov, added in an easy, explanatory tone--

“We saw no object in delaying the execution. The order to carry out the
sentence was sent by telegraph at noon. I wrote out the telegram myself.
He was hanged at four o’clock this afternoon.”

The definite information of Haldin’s death gave Razumov the feeling of
general lassitude which follows a great exertion or a great excitement.
He kept very still on the sofa, but a murmur escaped him--

“He had a belief in a future existence.”

Councillor Mikulin shrugged his shoulders slightly, and Razumov got up
with an effort. There was nothing now to stay for in that room. Haldin
had been hanged at four o’clock. There could be no doubt of that. He
had, it seemed, entered upon his future existence, long boots, Astrakhan
fur cap and all, down to the very leather strap round his waist. A
flickering, vanishing sort of existence. It was not his soul, it was his
mere phantom he had left behind on this earth--thought Razumov, smiling
caustically to himself while he crossed the room, utterly forgetful of
where he was and of Councillor Mikulin’s existence. The official could
have set a lot of bells ringing all over the building without leaving
his chair. He let Razumov go quite up to the door before he spoke.

“Come, Kirylo Sidorovitch--what are you doing?”

Razumov turned his head and looked at him in silence. He was not in the
least disconcerted. Councillor Mikulin’s arms were stretched out on the
table before him and his body leaned forward a little with an effort of
his dim gaze.

“Was I actually going to clear out like this?” Razumov wondered
at himself with an impassive countenance. And he was aware of this
impassiveness concealing a lucid astonishment.

“Evidently I was going out if he had not spoken,” he thought. “What
would he have done then? I must end this affair one way or another. I
must make him show his hand.”

For a moment longer he reflected behind the mask as it were, then let go
the door-handle and came back to the middle of the room.

“I’ll tell you what you think,” he said explosively, but not raising his
voice. “You think that you are dealing with a secret accomplice of that
unhappy man. No, I do not know that he was unhappy. He did not tell me.
He was a wretch from my point of view, because to keep alive a false
idea is a greater crime than to kill a man. I suppose you will not deny
that? I hated him! Visionaries work everlasting evil on earth. Their
Utopias inspire in the mass of mediocre minds a disgust of reality and a
contempt for the secular logic of human development.”

Razumov shrugged his shoulders and stared. “What a tirade!” he thought.
The silence and immobility of Councillor Mikulin impressed him. The
bearded bureaucrat sat at his post, mysteriously self-possessed like an
idol with dim, unreadable eyes. Razumov’s voice changed involuntarily.

“If you were to ask me where is the necessity of my hate for such as
Haldin, I would answer you--there is nothing sentimental in it. I did
not hate him because he had committed the crime of murder. Abhorrence is
not hate. I hated him simply because I am sane. It is in that character
that he outraged me. His death...”

Razumov felt his voice growing thick in his throat. The dimness of
Councillor Mikulin’s eyes seemed to spread all over his face and made it
indistinct to Razumov’s sight. He tried to disregard these phenomena.

“Indeed,” he pursued, pronouncing each word carefully, “what is his
death to me? If he were lying here on the floor I could walk over his
breast.... The fellow is a mere phantom....”

Razumov’s voice died out very much against his will. Mikulin behind the
table did not allow himself the slightest movement. The silence lasted
for some little time before Razumov could go on again.

“He went about talking of me. Those intellectual fellows sit in each
other’s rooms and get drunk on foreign ideas in the same way young
Guards’ officers treat each other with foreign wines. Merest debauchery.
...Upon my Word,”--Razumov, enraged by a sudden recollection of
Ziemianitch, lowered his voice forcibly,--“upon my word, we Russians are
a drunken lot. Intoxication of some sort we must have: to get ourselves
wild with sorrow or maudlin with resignation; to lie inert like a log or
set fire to the house. What is a sober man to do, I should like to know?
To cut oneself entirely from one’s kind is impossible. To live in
a desert one must be a saint. But if a drunken man runs out of the
grog-shop, falls on your neck and kisses you on both cheeks because
something about your appearance has taken his fancy, what then--kindly
tell me? You may break, perhaps, a cudgel on his back and yet not
succeed in beating him off....”

Councillor Mikulin raised his hand and passed it down his face
deliberately.

“That’s... of course,” he said in an undertone.

The quiet gravity of that gesture made Razumov pause. It was so
unexpected, too. What did it mean? It had an alarming aloofness. Razumov
remembered his intention of making him show his hand.

“I have said all this to Prince K---,” he began with assumed
indifference, but lost it on seeing Councillor Mikulin’s slow nod of
assent. “You know it? You’ve heard.... Then why should I be called
here to be told of Haldin’s execution? Did you want to confront me with
his silence now that the man is dead? What is his silence to me! This is
incomprehensible. You want in some way to shake my moral balance.”

“No. Not that,” murmured Councillor Mikulin, just audibly. “The service
you have rendered is appreciated....”

“Is it?” interrupted Razumov ironically.

“...and your position too.” Councillor Mikulin did not raise his
voice. “But only think! You fall into Prince K---‘s study as if from
the sky with your startling information.... You are studying yet,
Mr. Razumov, but we are serving already--don’t forget that.... And
naturally some curiosity was bound to....”

Councillor Mikulin looked down his beard. Razumov’s lips trembled.

“An occurrence of that sort marks a man,” the homely murmur went on. “I
admit I was curious to see you. General T--- thought it would be useful,
too.... Don’t think I am incapable of understanding your sentiments.
When I was young like you I studied....”

“Yes--you wished to see me,” said Razumov in a tone of profound
distaste. “Naturally you have the right--I mean the power. It all
amounts to the same thing. But it is perfectly useless, if you were
to look at me and listen to me for a year. I begin to think there
is something about me which people don’t seem able to make out. It’s
unfortunate. I imagine, however, that Prince K--- understands. He seemed
to.”

Councillor Mikulin moved slightly and spoke.

“Prince K--- is aware of everything that is being done, and I don’t
mind informing you that he approved my intention of becoming personally
acquainted with you.”

Razumov concealed an immense disappointment under the accents of railing
surprise.

“So he is curious too!... Well--after all, Prince K--- knows me very
little. It is really very unfortunate for me, but--it is not exactly my
fault.”

Councillor Mikulin raised a hasty deprecatory hand and inclined his head
slightly over his shoulder.

“Now, Mr. Razumov--is it necessary to take it in that way? Everybody I
am sure can....”

He glanced rapidly down his beard, and when he looked up again there
was for a moment an interested expression in his misty gaze. Razumov
discouraged it with a cold, repellent smile.

“No. That’s of no importance to be sure--except that in respect of all
this curiosity being aroused by a very simple matter.... What is to
be done with it? It is unappeasable. I mean to say there is nothing to
appease it with. I happen to have been born a Russian with patriotic
instincts--whether inherited or not I am not in a position to say.”

Razumov spoke consciously with elaborate steadiness.

“Yes, patriotic instincts developed by a faculty of independent
thinking--of detached thinking. In that respect I am more free than any
social democratic revolution could make me. It is more than probable
that I don’t think exactly as you are thinking. Indeed, how could it be?
You would think most likely at this moment that I am elaborately lying
to cover up the track of my repentance.”

Razumov stopped. His heart had grown too big for his breast. Councillor
Mikulin did not flinch.

“Why so?” he said simply. “I assisted personally at the search of your
rooms. I looked through all the papers myself. I have been greatly
impressed by a sort of political confession of faith. A very remarkable
document. Now may I ask for what purpose....”

“To deceive the police naturally,” said Razumov savagely.... “What is
all this mockery? Of course you can send me straight from this room
to Siberia. That would be intelligible. To what is intelligible I can
submit. But I protest against this comedy of persecution. The whole
affair is becoming too comical altogether for my taste. A comedy of
errors, phantoms, and suspicions. It’s positively indecent....”

Councillor Mikulin turned an attentive ear. “Did you say phantoms?” he
murmured.

“I could walk over dozens of them.” Razumov, with an impatient wave of
his hand, went on headlong, “But, really, I must claim the right to be
done once for all with that man. And in order to accomplish this I shall
take the liberty....”

Razumov on his side of the table bowed slightly to the seated
bureaucrat.

“... To retire--simply to retire,” he finished with great resolution.

He walked to the door, thinking, “Now he must show his hand. He must
ring and have me arrested before I am out of the building, or he must
let me go. And either way....”

An unhurried voice said--

“Kirylo Sidorovitch.” Razumov at the door turned his head.

“To retire,” he repeated.

“Where to?” asked Councillor Mikulin softly.



PART SECOND



I


In the conduct of an invented story there are, no doubt, certain
proprieties to be observed for the sake of clearness and effect. A man
of imagination, however inexperienced in the art of narrative, has his
instinct to guide him in the choice of his words, and in the development
of the action. A grain of talent excuses many mistakes. But this is not
a work of imagination; I have no talent; my excuse for this undertaking
lies not in its art, but in its artlessness. Aware of my limitations and
strong in the sincerity of my purpose, I would not try (were I able) to
invent anything. I push my scruples so far that I would not even invent
a transition.

Dropping then Mr. Razumov’s record at the point where Councillor
Mikulin’s question “Where to?” comes in with the force of an insoluble
problem, I shall simply say that I made the acquaintance of these ladies
about six months before that time. By “these ladies” I mean, of course,
the mother and the sister of the unfortunate Haldin.

By what arguments he had induced his mother to sell their little
property and go abroad for an indefinite time, I cannot tell precisely.
I have an idea that Mrs. Haldin, at her son’s wish, would have set fire
to her house and emigrated to the moon without any sign of surprise or
apprehension; and that Miss Haldin--Nathalie, caressingly Natalka--would
have given her assent to the scheme.

Their proud devotion to that young man became clear to me in a
very short time. Following his directions they went straight to
Switzerland--to Zurich--where they remained the best part of a year.
From Zurich, which they did not like, they came to Geneva. A friend
of mine in Lausanne, a lecturer in history at the University (he had
married a Russian lady, a distant connection of Mrs. Haldin’s), wrote to
me suggesting I should call on these ladies. It was a very kindly
meant business suggestion. Miss Haldin wished to go through a course of
reading the best English authors with a competent teacher.

Mrs. Haldin received me very kindly. Her bad French, of which she was
smilingly conscious, did away with the formality of the first interview.
She was a tall woman in a black silk dress. A wide brow, regular
features, and delicately cut lips, testified to her past beauty. She sat
upright in an easy chair and in a rather weak, gentle voice told me that
her Natalka simply thirsted after knowledge. Her thin hands were lying
on her lap, her facial immobility had in it something monachal. “In
Russia,” she went on, “all knowledge was tainted with falsehood. Not
chemistry and all that, but education generally,” she explained.
The Government corrupted the teaching for its own purposes. Both her
children felt that. Her Natalka had obtained a diploma of a Superior
School for Women and her son was a student at the St. Petersburg
University. He had a brilliant intellect, a most noble unselfish nature,
and he was the oracle of his comrades. Early next year, she hoped he
would join them and they would then go to Italy together. In any other
country but their own she would have been certain of a great future for
a man with the extraordinary abilities and the lofty character of her
son--but in Russia....

The young lady sitting by the window turned her head and said--

“Come, mother. Even with us things change with years.”

Her voice was deep, almost harsh, and yet caressing in its harshness.
She had a dark complexion, with red lips and a full figure. She gave the
impression of strong vitality. The old lady sighed.

“You are both young--you two. It is easy for you to hope. But I, too, am
not hopeless. Indeed, how could I be with a son like this.”

I addressed Miss Haldin, asking her what authors she wished to read. She
directed upon me her grey eyes shaded by black eyelashes, and I
became aware, notwithstanding my years, how attractive physically
her personality could be to a man capable of appreciating in a woman
something else than the mere grace of femininity. Her glance was as
direct and trustful as that of a young man yet unspoiled by the world’s
wise lessons. And it was intrepid, but in this intrepidity there
was nothing aggressive. A naive yet thoughtful assurance is a better
definition. She had reflected already (in Russia the young begin to
think early), but she had never known deception as yet because obviously
she had never yet fallen under the sway of passion. She was--to look at
her was enough--very capable of being roused by an idea or simply by
a person. At least, so I judged with I believe an unbiassed mind; for
clearly my person could not be the person--and as to my ideas!...

We became excellent friends in the course of our reading. It was very
pleasant. Without fear of provoking a smile, I shall confess that I
became very much attached to that young girl. At the end of four
months I told her that now she could very well go on reading English
by herself. It was time for the teacher to depart. My pupil looked
unpleasantly surprised.

Mrs. Haldin, with her immobility of feature and kindly expression of the
eyes, uttered from her armchair in her uncertain French, “_Mais l’ami
reviendra._” And so it was settled. I returned--not four times a week
as before, but pretty frequently. In the autumn we made some short
excursions together in company with other Russians. My friendship with
these ladies gave me a standing in the Russian colony which otherwise I
could not have had.

The day I saw in the papers the news of Mr. de P---‘s assassination--it
was a Sunday--I met the two ladies in the street and walked with them
for some distance. Mrs. Haldin wore a heavy grey cloak, I remember,
over her black silk dress, and her fine eyes met mine with a very quiet
expression.

“We have been to the late service,” she said. “Natalka came with me.
Her girl-friends, the students here, of course don’t.... With us in
Russia the church is so identified with oppression, that it seems almost
necessary when one wishes to be free in this life, to give up all hope
of a future existence. But I cannot give up praying for my son.”

She added with a sort of stony grimness, colouring slightly, and
in French, “_Ce n’est peut etre qu’une habitude._” (“It may be only
habit.”)

Miss Haldin was carrying the prayer-book. She did not glance at her
mother.

“You and Victor are both profound believers,” she said.

I communicated to them the news from their country which I had just
read in a cafe. For a whole minute we walked together fairly briskly in
silence. Then Mrs. Haldin murmured--

“There will be more trouble, more persecutions for this. They may be
even closing the University. There is neither peace nor rest in Russia
for one but in the grave.

“Yes. The way is hard,” came from the daughter, looking straight before
her at the Chain of Jura covered with snow, like a white wall closing
the end of the street. “But concord is not so very far off.”

“That is what my children think,” observed Mrs. Haldin to me.

I did not conceal my feeling that these were strange times to talk of
concord. Nathalie Haldin surprised me by saying, as if she had thought
very much on the subject, that the occidentals did not understand the
situation. She was very calm and youthfully superior.

“You think it is a class conflict, or a conflict of interests, as
social contests are with you in Europe. But it is not that at all. It is
something quite different.”

“It is quite possible that I don’t understand,” I admitted.

That propensity of lifting every problem from the plane of the
understandable by means of some sort of mystic expression, is very
Russian. I knew her well enough to have discovered her scorn for all
the practical forms of political liberty known to the western world.
I suppose one must be a Russian to understand Russian simplicity, a
terrible corroding simplicity in which mystic phrases clothe a naive and
hopeless cynicism. I think sometimes that the psychological secret
of the profound difference of that people consists in this, that they
detest life, the irremediable life of the earth as it is, whereas
we westerners cherish it with perhaps an equal exaggeration of its
sentimental value. But this is a digression indeed....

I helped these ladies into the tramcar and they asked me to call in
the afternoon. At least Mrs. Haldin asked me as she climbed up, and her
Natalka smiled down at the dense westerner indulgently from the rear
platform of the moving car. The light of the clear wintry forenoon was
softened in her grey eyes.

Mr. Razumov’s record, like the open book of fate, revives for me the
memory of that day as something startlingly pitiless in its freedom from
all forebodings. Victor Haldin was still with the living, but with the
living whose only contact with life is the expectation of death. He must
have been already referring to the last of his earthly affections, the
hours of that obstinate silence, which for him was to be prolonged into
eternity. That afternoon the ladies entertained a good many of their
compatriots--more than was usual for them to receive at one time; and
the drawing-room on the ground floor of a large house on the Boulevard
des Philosophes was very much crowded.

I outstayed everybody; and when I rose Miss Haldin stood up too. I took
her hand and was moved to revert to that morning’s conversation in the
street.

“Admitting that we occidentals do not understand the character of
your...” I began.

It was as if she had been prepared for me by some mysterious
fore-knowledge. She checked me gently--

“Their impulses--their...” she sought the proper expression and found
it, but in French... _“their mouvements d’ame._”

Her voice was not much above a whisper.

“Very well,” I said. “But still we are looking at a conflict. You say
it is not a conflict of classes and not a conflict of interests. Suppose
I admitted that. Are antagonistic ideas then to be reconciled more
easily--can they be cemented with blood and violence into that concord
which you proclaim to be so near?”

She looked at me searchingly with her clear grey eyes, without answering
my reasonable question--my obvious, my unanswerable question.

“It is inconceivable,” I added, with something like annoyance.

“Everything is inconceivable,” she said. “The whole world is
inconceivable to the strict logic of ideas. And yet the world exists to
our senses, and we exist in it. There must be a necessity superior to
our conceptions. It is a very miserable and a very false thing to belong
to the majority. We Russians shall find some better form of national
freedom than an artificial conflict of parties--which is wrong because
it is a conflict and contemptible because it is artificial. It is left
for us Russians to discover a better way.”

Mrs. Haldin had been looking out of the window. She turned upon me the
almost lifeless beauty of her face, and the living benign glance of her
big dark eyes.

“That’s what my children think,” she declared.

“I suppose,” I addressed Miss Haldin, “that you will be shocked if I
tell you that I haven’t understood--I won’t say a single word; I’ve
understood all the words.... But what can be this era of disembodied
concord you are looking forward to. Life is a thing of form. It has its
plastic shape and a definite intellectual aspect. The most idealistic
conceptions of love and forbearance must be clothed in flesh as it were
before they can be made understandable.”

I took my leave of Mrs. Haldin, whose beautiful lips never stirred. She
smiled with her eyes only. Nathalie Haldin went with me as far as the
door, very amiable.

“Mother imagines that I am the slavish echo of my brother Victor. It
is not so. He understands me better than I can understand him. When he
joins us and you come to know him you will see what an exceptional soul
it is.” She paused. “He is not a strong man in the conventional sense,
you know,” she added. “But his character is without a flaw.”

“I believe that it will not be difficult for me to make friends with
your brother Victor.”

“Don’t expect to understand him quite,” she said, a little maliciously.
“He is not at all--at all--western at bottom.”

And on this unnecessary warning I left the room with another bow in
the doorway to Mrs. Haldin in her armchair by the window. The shadow of
autocracy all unperceived by me had already fallen upon the Boulevard
des Philosophes, in the free, independent and democratic city of
Geneva, where there is a quarter called “La Petite Russie.” Whenever two
Russians come together, the shadow of autocracy is with them, tinging
their thoughts, their views, their most intimate feelings, their private
life, their public utterances--haunting the secret of their silences.

What struck me next in the course of a week or so was the silence of
these ladies. I used to meet them walking in the public garden near the
University. They greeted me with their usual friendliness, but I could
not help noticing their taciturnity. By that time it was generally known
that the assassin of M. de P--- had been caught, judged, and executed.
So much had been declared officially to the news agencies. But for the
world at large he remained anonymous. The official secrecy had withheld
his name from the public. I really cannot imagine for what reason.

One day I saw Miss Haldin walking alone in the main valley of the
Bastions under the naked trees.

“Mother is not very well,” she explained.

As Mrs. Haldin had, it seemed, never had a day’s illness in her life,
this indisposition was disquieting. It was nothing definite, too.

“I think she is fretting because we have not heard from my brother for
rather a long time.”

“No news--good news,” I said cheerfully, and we began to walk slowly
side by side.

“Not in Russia,” she breathed out so low that I only just caught the
words. I looked at her with more attention.

“You too are anxious?”

She admitted after a moment of hesitation that she was.

“It is really such a long time since we heard....”

And before I could offer the usual banal suggestions she confided in me.

“Oh! But it is much worse than that. I wrote to a family we know in
Petersburg. They had not seen him for more than a month. They thought
he was already with us. They were even offended a little that he should
have left Petersburg without calling on them. The husband of the lady
went at once to his lodgings. Victor had left there and they did not
know his address.”

I remember her catching her breath rather pitifully. Her brother had not
been seen at lectures for a very long time either. He only turned up now
and then at the University gate to ask the porter for his letters. And
the gentleman friend was told that the student Haldin did not come to
claim the last two letters for him. But the police came to inquire if
the student Haldin ever received any correspondence at the University
and took them away.

“My two last letters,” she said.

We faced each other. A few snow-flakes fluttered under the naked boughs.
The sky was dark.

“What do you think could have happened?” I asked.

Her shoulders moved slightly.

“One can never tell--in Russia.”

I saw then the shadow of autocracy lying upon Russian lives in their
submission or their revolt. I saw it touch her handsome open face
nestled in a fur collar and darken her clear eyes that shone upon me
brilliantly grey in the murky light of a beclouded, inclement afternoon.

“Let us move on,” she said. “It is cold standing--to-day.”

She shuddered a little and stamped her little feet. We moved briskly to
the end of the alley and back to the great gates of the garden.

“Have you told your mother?” I ventured to ask.

“No. Not yet. I came out to walk off the impression of this letter.”

I heard a rustle of paper somewhere. It came from her muff. She had the
letter with her in there.

“What is it that you are afraid of?” I asked.

To us Europeans of the West, all ideas of political plots and
conspiracies seem childish, crude inventions for the theatre or a novel.
I did not like to be more definite in my inquiry.

“For us--for my mother specially, what I am afraid of is incertitude.
People do disappear. Yes, they do disappear. I leave you to imagine what
it is--the cruelty of the dumb weeks--months--years! This friend of ours
has abandoned his inquiries when he heard of the police getting hold of
the letters. I suppose he was afraid of compromising himself. He has a
wife and children--and why should he, after all.... Moreover, he is
without influential connections and not rich. What could he do?...
Yes, I am afraid of silence--for my poor mother. She won’t be able
to bear it. For my brother I am afraid of...” she became almost
indistinct, “of anything.”

We were now near the gate opposite the theatre. She raised her voice.

“But lost people do turn up even in Russia. Do you know what my last
hope is? Perhaps the next thing we know, we shall see him walking into
our rooms.”

I raised my hat and she passed out of the gardens, graceful and strong,
after a slight movement of the head to me, her hands in the muff,
crumpling the cruel Petersburg letter.

On returning home I opened the newspaper I receive from London, and
glancing down the correspondence from Russia--not the telegrams but
the correspondence--the first thing that caught my eye was the name
of Haldin. Mr. de P---‘s death was no longer an actuality, but the
enterprising correspondent was proud of having ferreted out some
unofficial information about that fact of modern history. He had got
hold of Haldin’s name, and had picked up the story of the midnight
arrest in the street. But the sensation from a journalistic point of
view was already well in the past. He did not allot to it more than
twenty lines out of a full column. It was quite enough to give me a
sleepless night. I perceived that it would have been a sort of treason
to let Miss Haldin come without preparation upon that journalistic
discovery which would infallibly be reproduced on the morrow by French
and Swiss newspapers. I had a very bad time of it till the morning,
wakeful with nervous worry and night-marish with the feeling of
being mixed up with something theatrical and morbidly affected. The
incongruity of such a complication in those two women’s lives was
sensible to me all night in the form of absolute anguish. It seemed due
to their refined simplicity that it should remain concealed from them
for ever. Arriving at an unconscionably early hour at the door of their
apartment, I felt as if I were about to commit an act of vandalism....

The middle-aged servant woman led me into the drawing-room where there
was a duster on a chair and a broom leaning against the centre table.
The motes danced in the sunshine; I regretted I had not written a letter
instead of coming myself, and was thankful for the brightness of the
day. Miss Haldin in a plain black dress came lightly out of her mother’s
room with a fixed uncertain smile on her lips.

I pulled the paper out of my pocket. I did not imagine that a number
of the _Standard_ could have the effect of Medusa’s head. Her face went
stony in a moment--her eyes--her limbs. The most terrible thing was that
being stony she remained alive. One was conscious of her palpitating
heart. I hope she forgave me the delay of my clumsy circumlocution. It
was not very prolonged; she could not have kept so still from head to
foot for more than a second or two; and then I heard her draw a breath.
As if the shock had paralysed her moral resistance, and affected the
firmness of her muscles, the contours of her face seemed to have given
way. She was frightfully altered. She looked aged--ruined. But only for
a moment. She said with decision--

“I am going to tell my mother at once.”

“Would that be safe in her state?” I objected.

“What can be worse than the state she has been in for the last month?
We understand this in another way. The crime is not at his door. Don’t
imagine I am defending him before you.”

She went to the bedroom door, then came back to ask me in a low murmur
not to go till she returned. For twenty interminable minutes not a sound
reached me. At last Miss Haldin came out and walked across the room with
her quick light step. When she reached the armchair she dropped into it
heavily as if completely exhausted.

Mrs. Haldin, she told me, had not shed a tear. She was sitting up in
bed, and her immobility, her silence, were very alarming. At last she
lay down gently and had motioned her daughter away.

“She will call me in presently,” added Miss Haldin. “I left a bell near
the bed.”

I confess that my very real sympathy had no standpoint. The Western
readers for whom this story is written will understand what I mean. It
was, if I may say so, the want of experience. Death is a remorseless
spoliator. The anguish of irreparable loss is familiar to us all. There
is no life so lonely as to be safe against that experience. But the
grief I had brought to these two ladies had gruesome associations. It
had the associations of bombs and gallows--a lurid, Russian colouring
which made the complexion of my sympathy uncertain.

I was grateful to Miss Haldin for not embarrassing me by an outward
display of deep feeling. I admired her for that wonderful command
over herself, even while I was a little frightened at it. It was the
stillness of a great tension. What if it should suddenly snap? Even the
door of Mrs. Haldin’s room, with the old mother alone in there, had a
rather awful aspect.

Nathalie Haldin murmured sadly--

“I suppose you are wondering what my feelings are?”

Essentially that was true. It was that very wonder which unsettled my
sympathy of a dense Occidental. I could get hold of nothing but of some
commonplace phrases, those futile phrases that give the measure of our
impotence before each other’s trials I mumbled something to the effect
that, for the young, life held its hopes and compensations. It held
duties too--but of that I was certain it was not necessary to remind
her.

She had a handkerchief in her hands and pulled at it nervously.

“I am not likely to forget my mother,” she said. “We used to be three.
Now we are two--two women. She’s not so very old. She may live quite a
long time yet. What have we to look for in the future? For what hope
and what consolation?”

“You must take a wider view,” I said resolutely, thinking that with this
exceptional creature this was the right note to strike. She looked at
me steadily for a moment, and then the tears she had been keeping down
flowed unrestrained. She jumped up and stood in the window with her back
to me.

I slipped away without attempting even to approach her. Next day I was
told at the door that Mrs. Haldin was better. The middle-aged servant
remarked that a lot of people--Russians--had called that day, but Miss
Haldin bad not seen anybody. A fortnight later, when making my daily
call, I was asked in and found Mrs. Haldin sitting in her usual place by
the window.

At first one would have thought that nothing was changed. I saw
across the room the familiar profile, a little sharper in outline
and overspread by a uniform pallor as might have been expected in an
invalid. But no disease could have accounted for the change in her black
eyes, smiling no longer with gentle irony. She raised them as she gave
me her hand. I observed the three weeks’ old number of the _Standard_
folded with the correspondence from Russia uppermost, lying on a little
table by the side of the armchair. Mrs. Haldin’s voice was startlingly
weak and colourless. Her first words to me framed a question.

“Has there been anything more in papers?”

I released her long emaciated hand, shook my head negatively, and sat
down.

“The English press is wonderful. Nothing can be kept secret from it,
and all the world must hear. Only our Russian news is not always easy to
understand. Not always easy.... But English mothers do not look for
news like that....”

She laid her hand on the newspaper and took it away again. I said--

“We too have had tragic times in our history.”

“A long time ago. A very long time ago.”

“Yes.”

“There are nations that have made their bargain with fate,” said Miss
Haldin, who had approached us. “We need not envy them.”

“Why this scorn?” I asked gently. “It may be that our bargain was not
a very lofty one. But the terms men and nations obtain from Fate are
hallowed by the price.”

Mrs. Haldin turned her head away and looked out of the window for a
time, with that new, sombre, extinct gaze of her sunken eyes which so
completely made another woman of her.

“That Englishman, this correspondent,” she addressed me suddenly, “do
you think it is possible that he knew my son?”

To this strange question I could only say that it was possible of
course. She saw my surprise.

“If one knew what sort of man he was one could perhaps write to him,”
 she murmured.

“Mother thinks,” explained Miss Haldin, standing between us, with one
hand resting on the back of my chair, “that my poor brother perhaps did
not try to save himself.”

I looked up at Miss Haldin in sympathetic consternation, but Miss Haldin
was looking down calmly at her mother. The latter said--

“We do not know the address of any of his friends. Indeed, we know
nothing of his Petersburg comrades. He had a multitude of young friends,
only he never spoke much of them. One could guess that they were his
disciples and that they idolized him. But he was so modest. One would
think that with so many devoted....”

She averted her head again and looked down the Boulevard des
Philosophes, a singularly arid and dusty thoroughfare, where nothing
could be seen at the moment but two dogs, a little girl in a pinafore
hopping on one leg, and in the distance a workman wheeling a bicycle.

“Even amongst the Apostles of Christ there was found a Judas,” she
whispered as if to herself, but with the evident intention to be heard
by me.

The Russian visitors assembled in little knots, conversed amongst
themselves meantime, in low murmurs, and with brief glances in our
direction. It was a great contrast to the usual loud volubility of these
gatherings. Miss Haldin followed me into the ante-room.

“People will come,” she said. “We cannot shut the door in their faces.”

While I was putting on my overcoat she began to talk to me of her
mother. Poor Mrs. Haldin was fretting after more news. She wanted to go
on hearing about her unfortunate son. She could not make up her mind to
abandon him quietly to the dumb unknown. She would persist in pursuing
him in there through the long days of motionless silence face to face
with the empty Boulevard des Philosophes. She could not understand why
he had not escaped--as so many other revolutionists and conspirators
had managed to escape in other instances of that kind. It was really
inconceivable that the means of secret revolutionary organisations
should have failed so inexcusably to preserve her son. But in reality
the inconceivable that staggered her mind was nothing but the cruel
audacity of Death passing over her head to strike at that young and
precious heart.

Miss Haldin mechanically, with an absorbed look, handed me my hat. I
understood from her that the poor woman was possessed by the sombre and
simple idea that her son must have perished because he did not want
to be saved. It could not have been that he despaired of his country’s
future. That was impossible. Was it possible that his mother and sister
had not known how to merit his confidence; and that, after having done
what he was compelled to do, his spirit became crushed by an intolerable
doubt, his mind distracted by a sudden mistrust.

I was very much shocked by this piece of ingenuity.

“Our three lives were like that!” Miss Haldin twined the fingers of both
her hands together in demonstration, then separated them slowly, looking
straight into my face. “That’s what poor mother found to torment herself
and me with, for all the years to come,” added the strange girl. At that
moment her indefinable charm was revealed to me in the conjunction of
passion and stoicism. I imagined what her life was likely to be by the
side of Mrs. Haldin’s terrible immobility, inhabited by that fixed idea.
But my concern was reduced to silence by my ignorance of her modes
of feeling. Difference of nationality is a terrible obstacle for our
complex Western natures. But Miss Haldin probably was too simple to
suspect my embarrassment. She did not wait for me to say anything, but
as if reading my thoughts on my face she went on courageously--

“At first poor mother went numb, as our peasants say; then she began to
think and she will go on now thinking and thinking in that unfortunate
strain. You see yourself how cruel that is....”

I never spoke with greater sincerity than when I agreed with her that it
would be deplorable in the highest degree. She took an anxious breath.

“But all these strange details in the English paper,” she exclaimed
suddenly. “What is the meaning of them? I suppose they are true? But is
it not terrible that my poor brother should be caught wandering alone,
as if in despair, about the streets at night....”

We stood so close to each other in the dark anteroom that I could see
her biting her lower lip to suppress a dry sob. After a short pause she
said--

“I suggested to mother that he may have been betrayed by some false
friend or simply by some cowardly creature. It may be easier for her to
believe that.”

I understood now the poor woman’s whispered allusion to Judas.

“It may be easier,” I admitted, admiring inwardly the directness and the
subtlety of the girl’s outlook. She was dealing with life as it was
made for her by the political conditions of her country. She faced cruel
realities, not morbid imaginings of her own making. I could not defend
myself from a certain feeling of respect when she added simply--

“Time they say can soften every sort of bitterness. But I cannot believe
that it has any power over remorse. It is better that mother should
think some person guilty of Victor’s death, than that she should connect
it with a weakness of her son or a shortcoming of her own.”

“But you, yourself, don’t suppose that....” I began.

She compressed her lips and shook her head. She harboured no evil
thoughts against any one, she declared--and perhaps nothing that
happened was unnecessary. On these words, pronounced low and sounding
mysterious in the half obscurity of the ante-room, we parted with an
expressive and warm handshake. The grip of her strong, shapely hand had
a seductive frankness, a sort of exquisite virility. I do not know why
she should have felt so friendly to me. It may be that she thought I
understood her much better than I was able to do. The most precise
of her sayings seemed always to me to have enigmatical prolongations
vanishing somewhere beyond my reach. I am reduced to suppose that she
appreciated my attention and my silence. The attention she could see was
quite sincere, so that the silence could not be suspected of coldness.
It seemed to satisfy her. And it is to be noted that if she confided
in me it was clearly not with the expectation of receiving advice, for
which, indeed she never asked.


II


Our daily relations were interrupted at this period for something like a
fortnight. I had to absent myself unexpectedly from Geneva. On my return
I lost no time in directing my steps up the Boulevard des Philosophes.

Through the open door of the drawing-room I was annoyed to hear a
visitor holding forth steadily in an unctuous deep voice.

Mrs. Haldin’s armchair by the window stood empty. On the sofa, Nathalie
Haldin raised her charming grey eyes in a glance of greeting accompanied
by the merest hint of a welcoming smile. But she made no movement. With
her strong white hands lying inverted in the lap of her mourning dress
she faced a man who presented to me a robust back covered with black
broadcloth, and well in keeping with the deep voice. He turned his head
sharply over his shoulder, but only for a moment.

“Ah! your English friend. I know. I know. That’s nothing.”

He wore spectacles with smoked glasses, a tall silk hat stood on the
floor by the side of his chair. Flourishing slightly a big soft hand he
went on with his discourse, precipitating his delivery a little more.

“I have never changed the faith I held while wandering in the forests
and bogs of Siberia. It sustained me then--it sustains me now. The great
Powers of Europe are bound to disappear--and the cause of their collapse
will be very simple. They will exhaust themselves struggling against
their proletariat. In Russia it is different. In Russia we have no
classes to combat each other, one holding the power of wealth, and
the other mighty with the strength of numbers. We have only an unclean
bureaucracy in the face of a people as great and as incorruptible as
the ocean. No, we have no classes. But we have the Russian woman. The
admirable Russian woman! I receive most remarkable letters signed by
women. So elevated in tone, so courageous, breathing such a noble ardour
of service! The greatest part of our hopes rests on women. I behold
their thirst for knowledge. It is admirable. Look how they absorb, how
they are making it their own. It is miraculous. But what is knowledge?
...I understand that you have not been studying anything
especially--medicine for instance. No? That’s right. Had I been honoured
by being asked to advise you on the use of your time when you arrived
here I would have been strongly opposed to such a course. Knowledge in
itself is mere dross.”

He had one of those bearded Russian faces without shape, a mere
appearance of flesh and hair with not a single feature having any sort
of character. His eyes being hidden by the dark glasses there was an
utter absence of all expression. I knew him by sight. He was a Russian
refugee of mark. All Geneva knew his burly black-coated figure. At one
time all Europe was aware of the story of his life written by himself
and translated into seven or more languages. In his youth he had led
an idle, dissolute life. Then a society girl he was about to marry died
suddenly and thereupon he abandoned the world of fashion, and began
to conspire in a spirit of repentance, and, after that, his native
autocracy took good care that the usual things should happen to him.
He was imprisoned in fortresses, beaten within an inch of his life, and
condemned to work in mines, with common criminals. The great success of
his book, however, was the chain.

I do not remember now the details of the weight and length of the
fetters riveted on his limbs by an “Administrative” order, but it was in
the number of pounds and the thickness of links an appalling assertion
of the divine right of autocracy. Appalling and futile too, because this
big man managed to carry off that simple engine of government with him
into the woods. The sensational clink of these fetters is heard all
through the chapters describing his escape--a subject of wonder to two
continents. He had begun by concealing himself successfully from
his guard in a hole on a river bank. It was the end of the day; with
infinite labour he managed to free one of his legs. Meantime night
fell. He was going to begin on his other leg when he was overtaken by a
terrible misfortune. He dropped his file.

All this is precise yet symbolic; and the file had its pathetic history.
It was given to him unexpectedly one evening, by a quiet, pale-faced
girl. The poor creature had come out to the mines to join one of his
fellow convicts, a delicate young man, a mechanic and a social democrat,
with broad cheekbones and large staring eyes. She had worked her way
across half Russia and nearly the whole of Siberia to be near him, and,
as it seems, with the hope of helping him to escape. But she arrived too
late. Her lover had died only a week before.

Through that obscure episode, as he says, in the history of ideas in
Russia, the file came into his hands, and inspired him with an ardent
resolution to regain his liberty. When it slipped through his fingers it
was as if it had gone straight into the earth. He could by no manner of
means put his hand on it again in the dark. He groped systematically
in the loose earth, in the mud, in the water; the night was passing
meantime, the precious night on which he counted to get away into the
forests, his only chance of escape. For a moment he was tempted by
despair to give up; but recalling the quiet, sad face of the heroic
girl, he felt profoundly ashamed of his weakness. She had selected him
for the gift of liberty and he must show himself worthy of the favour
conferred by her feminine, indomitable soul. It appeared to be a sacred
trust. To fail would have been a sort of treason against the sacredness
of self-sacrifice and womanly love.

There are in his book whole pages of self-analysis whence emerges like
a white figure from a dark confused sea the conviction of woman’s
spiritual superiority--his new faith confessed since in several volumes.
His first tribute to it, the great act of his conversion, was his
extraordinary existence in the endless forests of the Okhotsk Province,
with the loose end of the chain wound about his waist. A strip torn off
his convict shirt secured the end firmly. Other strips fastened it at
intervals up his left leg to deaden the clanking and to prevent the
slack links from getting hooked in the bushes. He became very fierce.
He developed an unsuspected genius for the arts of a wild and hunted
existence. He learned to creep into villages without betraying his
presence by anything more than an occasional faint jingle. He broke into
outhouses with an axe he managed to purloin in a wood-cutters’ camp. In
the deserted tracts of country he lived on wild berries and hunted for
honey. His clothing dropped off him gradually. His naked tawny figure
glimpsed vaguely through the bushes with a cloud of mosquitoes and flies
hovering about the shaggy head, spread tales of terror through whole
districts. His temper grew savage as the days went by, and he was
glad to discover that that there was so much of a brute in him. He had
nothing else to put his trust in. For it was as though there had been
two human beings indissolubly joined in that enterprise. The civilized
man, the enthusiast of advanced humanitarian ideals thirsting for the
triumph of spiritual love and political liberty; and the stealthy,
primeval savage, pitilessly cunning in the preservation of his freedom
from day to day, like a tracked wild beast.

The wild beast was making its way instinctively eastward to the Pacific
coast, and the civilised humanitarian in fearful anxious dependence
watched the proceedings with awe. Through all these weeks he could never
make up his mind to appeal to human compassion. In the wary primeval
savage this shyness might have been natural, but the other too, the
civilized creature, the thinker, the escaping “political” had developed
an absurd form of morbid pessimism, a form of temporary insanity,
originating perhaps in the physical worry and discomfort of the chain.
These links, he fancied, made him odious to the rest of mankind. It
was a repugnant and suggestive load. Nobody could feel any pity at the
disgusting sight of a man escaping with a broken chain. His imagination
became affected by his fetters in a precise, matter-of-fact manner.
It seemed to him impossible that people could resist the temptation of
fastening the loose end to a staple in the wall while they went for the
nearest police official. Crouching in holes or hidden in thickets, he
had tried to read the faces of unsuspecting free settlers working in the
clearings or passing along the paths within a foot or two of his
eyes. His feeling was that no man on earth could be trusted with the
temptation of the chain.

One day, however, he chanced to come upon a solitary woman. It was on an
open slope of rough grass outside the forest. She sat on the bank of a
narrow stream; she had a red handkerchief on her head and a small basket
was lying on the ground near her hand. At a little distance could be
seen a cluster of log cabins, with a water-mill over a dammed pool
shaded by birch trees and looking bright as glass in the twilight. He
approached her silently, his hatchet stuck in his iron belt, a thick
cudgel in his hand; there were leaves and bits of twig in his tangled
hair, in his matted beard; bunches of rags he had wound round the links
fluttered from his waist. A faint clink of his fetters made the woman
turn her head. Too terrified by this savage apparition to jump up or
even to scream, she was yet too stout-hearted to faint.... Expecting
nothing less than to be murdered on the spot she covered her eyes with
her hands to avoid the sight of the descending axe. When at last she
found courage to look again, she saw the shaggy wild man sitting on
the bank six feet away from her. His thin, sinewy arms hugged his naked
legs; the long beard covered the knees on which he rested his chin; all
these clasped, folded limbs, the bare shoulders, the wild head with red
staring eyes, shook and trembled violently while the bestial creature
was making efforts to speak. It was six weeks since he had heard the
sound of his own voice. It seemed as though he had lost the faculty
of speech. He had become a dumb and despairing brute, till the woman’s
sudden, unexpected cry of profound pity, the insight of her feminine
compassion discovering the complex misery of the man under the
terrifying aspect of the monster, restored him to the ranks of humanity.
This point of view is presented in his book, with a very effective
eloquence. She ended, he says, by shedding tears over him, sacred,
redeeming tears, while he also wept with joy in the manner of a
converted sinner. Directing him to hide in the bushes and wait patiently
(a police patrol was expected in the Settlement) she went away towards
the houses, promising to return at night.

As if providentially appointed to be the newly wedded wife of the
village blacksmith, the woman persuaded her husband to come out with
her, bringing some tools of his trade, a hammer, a chisel, a small
anvil.... “My fetters”--the book says--“were struck off on the banks
of the stream, in the starlight of a calm night by an athletic, taciturn
young man of the people, kneeling at my feet, while the woman like a
liberating genius stood by with clasped hands.” Obviously a symbolic
couple. At the same time they furnished his regained humanity with some
decent clothing, and put heart into the new man by the information that
the seacoast of the Pacific was only a very few miles away. It could be
seen, in fact, from the top of the next ridge....

The rest of his escape does not lend itself to mystic treatment and
symbolic interpretation. He ended by finding his way to the West by
the Suez Canal route in the usual manner. Reaching the shores of South
Europe he sat down to write his autobiography--the great literary
success of its year. This book was followed by other books written with
the declared purpose of elevating humanity. In these works he preached
generally the cult of the woman. For his own part he practised it under
the rites of special devotion to the transcendental merits of a certain
Madame de S--, a lady of advanced views, no longer very young, once
upon a time the intriguing wife of a now dead and forgotten diplomat.
Her loud pretensions to be one of the leaders of modern thought and of
modern sentiment, she sheltered (like Voltaire and Mme. de Stael) on the
republican territory of Geneva. Driving through the streets in her big
landau she exhibited to the indifference of the natives and the stares
of the tourists a long-waisted, youthful figure of hieratic stiffness,
with a pair of big gleaming eyes, rolling restlessly behind a short veil
of black lace, which, coming down no further than her vividly red lips,
resembled a mask. Usually the “heroic fugitive” (this name was bestowed
upon him in a review of the English edition of his book)--the “heroic
fugitive” accompanied her, sitting, portentously bearded and darkly
bespectacled, not by her side, but opposite her, with his back to the
horses. Thus, facing each other, with no one else in the roomy carriage,
their airings suggested a conscious public manifestation. Or it may have
been unconscious. Russian simplicity often marches innocently on the
edge of cynicism for some lofty purpose. But it is a vain enterprise for
sophisticated Europe to try and understand these doings. Considering the
air of gravity extending even to the physiognomy of the coachman and the
action of the showy horses, this quaint display might have possessed
a mystic significance, but to the corrupt frivolity of a Western mind,
like my own, it seemed hardly decent.

However, it is not becoming for an obscure teacher of languages to
criticize a “heroic fugitive” of worldwide celebrity. I was aware from
hearsay that he was an industrious busy-body, hunting up his compatriots
in hotels, in private lodgings, and--I was told--conferring upon them
the honour of his notice in public gardens when a suitable opening
presented itself. I was under the impression that after a visit or
two, several months before, he had given up the ladies Haldin--no doubt
reluctantly, for there could be no question of his being a determined
person. It was perhaps to be expected that he should reappear again on
this terrible occasion, as a Russian and a revolutionist, to say the
right thing, to strike the true, perhaps a comforting, note. But I did
not like to see him sitting there. I trust that an unbecoming jealousy
of my privileged position had nothing to do with it. I made no claim to
a special standing for my silent friendship. Removed by the difference
of age and nationality as if into the sphere of another existence, I
produced, even upon myself, the effect of a dumb helpless ghost, of an
anxious immaterial thing that could only hover about without the power
to protect or guide by as much as a whisper. Since Miss Haldin with her
sure instinct had refrained from introducing me to the burly celebrity,
I would have retired quietly and returned later on, had I not met a
peculiar expression in her eyes which I interpreted as a request to
stay, with the view, perhaps, of shortening an unwelcome visit.

He picked up his hat, but only to deposit it on his knees.

“We shall meet again, Natalia Victorovna. To-day I have called only
to mark those feelings towards your honoured mother and yourself,
the nature of which you cannot doubt. I needed no urging, but
Eleanor--Madame de S-- herself has in a way sent me. She extends to you
the hand of feminine fellowship. There is positively in all the range
of human sentiments no joy and no sorrow that woman cannot understand,
elevate, and spiritualize by her interpretation. That young man newly
arrived from St. Petersburg, I have mentioned to you, is already under
the charm.”

At this point Miss Haldin got up abruptly. I was glad. He did not
evidently expect anything so decisive and, at first, throwing his head
back, he tilted up his dark glasses with bland curiosity. At last,
recollecting himself, he stood up hastily, seizing his hat off his knees
with great adroitness.

“How is it, Natalia Victorovna, that you have kept aloof so long, from
what after all is--let disparaging tongues say what they like--a unique
centre of intellectual freedom and of effort to shape a high conception
of our future? In the case of your honoured mother I understand in a
measure. At her age new ideas--new faces are not perhaps.... But you!
Was it mistrust--or indifference? You must come out of your reserve.
We Russians have no right to be reserved with each other. In our
circumstances it is almost a crime against humanity. The luxury of
private grief is not for us. Nowadays the devil is not combated by
prayers and fasting. And what is fasting after all but starvation. You
must not starve yourself, Natalia Victorovna. Strength is what we want.
Spiritual strength, I mean. As to the other kind, what could withstand
us Russians if we only put it forth? Sin is different in our day, and
the way of salvation for pure souls is different too. It is no longer to
be found in monasteries but in the world, in the...”

The deep sound seemed to rise from under the floor, and one felt steeped
in it to the lips. Miss Haldin’s interruption resembled the effort of
a drowning person to keep above water. She struck in with an accent of
impatience--

“But, Peter Ivanovitch, I don’t mean to retire into a monastery. Who
would look for salvation there?”

“I spoke figuratively,” he boomed.

“Well, then, I am speaking figuratively too. But sorrow is sorrow and
pain is pain in the old way. They make their demands upon people. One
has got to face them the best way one can. I know that the blow which
has fallen upon us so unexpectedly is only an episode in the fate of a
people. You may rest assured that I don’t forget that. But just now
I have to think of my mother. How can you expect me to leave her to
herself...?”

“That is putting it in a very crude way,” he protested in his great
effortless voice.

Miss Haldin did not wait for the vibration to die out.

“And run about visiting amongst a lot of strange people. The idea is
distasteful for me; and I do not know what else you may mean?”

He towered before her, enormous, deferential, cropped as close as a
convict and this big pinkish poll evoked for me the vision of a wild
head with matted locks peering through parted bushes, glimpses of naked,
tawny limbs slinking behind the masses of sodden foliage under a cloud
of flies and mosquitoes. It was an involuntary tribute to the vigour
of his writing. Nobody could doubt that he had wandered in Siberian
forests, naked and girt with a chain. The black broadcloth coat invested
his person with a character of austere decency--something recalling a
missionary.

“Do you know what I want, Natalia Victorovna?” he uttered solemnly. “I
want you to be a fanatic.”

“A fanatic?”

“Yes. Faith alone won’t do.”

His voice dropped to a still lower tone. He raised for a moment one
thick arm; the other remained hanging down against his thigh, with the
fragile silk hat at the end.

“I shall tell you now something which I entreat you to ponder
over carefully. Listen, we need a force that would move heaven and
earth--nothing less.”

The profound, subterranean note of this “nothing less” made one shudder,
almost, like the deep muttering of wind in the pipes of an organ.

“And are we to find that force in the salon of Madame de S--? Excuse
me, Peter Ivanovitch, if I permit myself to doubt it. Is not that lady a
woman of the great world, an aristocrat?”

“Prejudice!” he cried. “You astonish me. And suppose she was all that!
She is also a woman of flesh and blood. There is always something to
weigh down the spiritual side in all of us. But to make of it a reproach
is what I did not expect from you. No! I did not expect that. One would
think you have listened to some malevolent scandal.”

“I have heard no gossip, I assure you. In our province how could we? But
the world speaks of her. What can there be in common in a lady of that
sort and an obscure country girl like me?”

“She is a perpetual manifestation of a noble and peerless spirit,”
 he broke in. “Her charm--no, I shall not speak of her charm. But,
of course, everybody who approaches her falls under the spell....
Contradictions vanish, trouble falls away from one.... Unless I
am mistaken--but I never make a mistake in spiritual matters--you are
troubled in your soul, Natalia Victorovna.”

Miss Haldin’s clear eyes looked straight at his soft enormous face;
I received the impression that behind these dark spectacles of his he
could be as impudent as he chose.

“Only the other evening walking back to town from Chateau Borel with our
latest interesting arrival from Petersburg, I could notice the powerful
soothing influence--I may say reconciling influence.... There he was,
all these kilometres along the shores of the lake, silent, like a man
who has been shown the way of peace. I could feel the leaven working in
his soul, you understand. For one thing he listened to me patiently.
I myself was inspired that evening by the firm and exquisite genius
of Eleanor--Madame de S--, you know. It was a full moon and I could
observe his face. I cannot be deceived....”

Miss Haldin, looking down, seemed to hesitate.

“Well! I will think of what you said, Peter Ivanovitch. I shall try to
call as soon as I can leave mother for an hour or two safely.”

Coldly as these words were said I was amazed at the concession. He
snatched her right hand with such fervour that I thought he was going
to press it to his lips or his breast. But he only held it by the
finger-tips in his great paw and shook it a little up and down while he
delivered his last volley of words.

“That’s right. That’s right. I haven’t obtained your full confidence
as yet, Natalia Victorovna, but that will come. All in good time. The
sister of Viktor Haldin cannot be without importance.... It’s simply
impossible. And no woman can remain sitting on the steps. Flowers,
tears, applause--that has had its time; it’s a mediaeval conception. The
arena, the arena itself is the place for women!”

He relinquished her hand with a flourish, as if giving it to her for a
gift, and remained still, his head bowed in dignified submission before
her femininity.

“The arena!... You must descend into the arena, Natalia.”

He made one step backwards, inclined his enormous body, and was gone
swiftly. The door fell to behind him. But immediately the powerful
resonance of his voice was heard addressing in the ante-room the
middle-aged servant woman who was letting him out. Whether he exhorted
her too to descend into the arena I cannot tell. The thing sounded like
a lecture, and the slight crash of the outer door cut it short suddenly.


III


“We remained looking at each other for a time.”

“Do you know who he is?”

Miss Haldin, coming forward, put this question to me in English.

I took her offered hand.

“Everybody knows. He is a revolutionary feminist, a great writer, if
you like, and--how shall I say it--the--the familiar guest of Madame de
S--‘s mystic revolutionary salon.”

Miss Haldin passed her hand over her forehead.

“You know, he was with me for more than an hour before you came in. I
was so glad mother was lying down. She has many nights without sleep,
and then sometimes in the middle of the day she gets a rest of several
hours. It is sheer exhaustion--but still, I am thankful.... If it
were not for these intervals....”

She looked at me and, with that extraordinary penetration which used to
disconcert me, shook her head.

“No. She would not go mad.”

“My dear young lady,” I cried, by way of protest, the more shocked
because in my heart I was far from thinking Mrs. Haldin quite sane.

“You don’t know what a fine, lucid intellect mother had,” continued
Nathalie Haldin, with her calm, clear-eyed simplicity, which seemed to
me always to have a quality of heroism.

“I am sure....” I murmured.

“I darkened mother’s room and came out here. I’ve wanted for so long to
think quietly.”

She paused, then, without giving any sign of distress, added, “It’s so
difficult,” and looked at me with a strange fixity, as if watching for a
sign of dissent or surprise.

I gave neither. I was irresistibly impelled to say--

“The visit from that gentleman has not made it any easier, I fear.”

Miss Haldin stood before me with a peculiar expression in her eyes.

“I don’t pretend to understand completely. Some guide one must have,
even if one does not wholly give up the direction of one’s conduct to
him. I am an inexperienced girl, but I am not slavish, There has been
too much of that in Russia. Why should I not listen to him? There is no
harm in having one’s thoughts directed. But I don’t mind confessing
to you that I have not been completely candid with Peter Ivanovitch. I
don’t quite know what prevented me at the moment....”

She walked away suddenly from me to a distant part of the room; but
it was only to open and shut a drawer in a bureau. She returned with
a piece of paper in her hand. It was thin and blackened with close
handwriting. It was obviously a letter.

“I wanted to read you the very words,” she said. “This is one of my poor
brother’s letters. He never doubted. How could he doubt? They make only
such a small handful, these miserable oppressors, before the unanimous
will of our people.”

“Your brother believed in the power of a people’s will to achieve
anything?”

“It was his religion,” declared Miss Haldin.

I looked at her calm face and her animated eyes.

“Of course the will must be awakened, inspired, concentrated,” she went
on. “That is the true task of real agitators. One has got to give up
one’s life to it. The degradation of servitude, the absolutist lies must
be uprooted and swept out. Reform is impossible. There is nothing to
reform. There is no legality, there are no institutions. There are
only arbitrary decrees. There is only a handful of cruel--perhaps
blind--officials against a nation.”

The letter rustled slightly in her hand. I glanced down at the
flimsy blackened pages whose very handwriting seemed cabalistic,
incomprehensible to the experience of Western Europe.

“Stated like this,” I confessed, “the problem seems simple enough. But I
fear I shall not see it solved. And if you go back to Russia I know that
I shall not see you again. Yet once more I say: go back! Don’t suppose
that I am thinking of your preservation. No! I know that you will not
be returning to personal safety. But I had much rather think of you in
danger there than see you exposed to what may be met here.”

“I tell you what,” said Miss Haldin, after a moment of reflection. “I
believe that you hate revolution; you fancy it’s not quite honest. You
belong to a people which has made a bargain with fate and wouldn’t like
to be rude to it. But we have made no bargain. It was never offered to
us--so much liberty for so much hard cash. You shrink from the idea
of revolutionary action for those you think well of as if it were
something--how shall I say it--not quite decent.”

I bowed my head.

“You are quite right,” I said. “I think very highly of you”

“Don’t suppose I do not know it,” she began hurriedly. “Your friendship
has been very valuable.”

“I have done little else but look on.”

She was a little flushed under the eyes.

“There is a way of looking on which is valuable I have felt less lonely
because of it. It’s difficult to explain.”

“Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely. That’s easy to explain,
though. But it won’t go on much longer. The last thing I want to tell
you is this: in a real revolution--not a simple dynastic change or a
mere reform of institutions--in a real revolution the best characters
do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of
narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards
comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time.
Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left
out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane,
and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a
movement--but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of
a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of
disenchantment--often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals
caricatured--that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have
been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of
that. My meaning is that I don’t want you to be a victim.”

“If I could believe all you have said I still wouldn’t think of myself,”
 protested Miss Haldin. “I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry
man would snatch at a piece of bread. The true progress must begin
after. And for that the right men shall be found. They are already
amongst us. One comes upon them in their obscurity, unknown, preparing
themselves....”

She spread out the letter she had kept in her hand all the time, and
looking down at it--

“Yes! One comes upon such men!” she repeated, and then read out the
words, “Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences.”

Folding up the letter, while I looked at her interrogatively, she
explained--

“These are the words which my brother applies to a young man he came to
know in St. Petersburg. An intimate friend, I suppose. It must be. His
is the only name my brother mentions in all his correspondence with me.
Absolutely the only one, and--would you believe it?--the man is here. He
arrived recently in Geneva.”

“Have you seen him?” I inquired. “But, of course; you must have seen
him.”

“No! No! I haven’t! I didn’t know he was here. It’s Peter Ivanovitch
himself who told me. You have heard him yourself mentioning a new
arrival from Petersburg.... Well, that is the man of ‘unstained,
lofty, and solitary existence.’ My brother’s friend!”

“Compromised politically, I suppose,” I remarked.

“I don’t know. Yes. It must be so. Who knows! Perhaps it was this very
friendship with my brother which.... But no! It is scarcely possible.
Really, I know nothing except what Peter Ivanovitch told me of him. He
has brought a letter of introduction from Father Zosim--you know, the
priest-democrat; you have heard of Father Zosim?”

“Oh yes. The famous Father Zosim was staying here in Geneva for some two
months about a year ago,” I said. “When he left here he seems to have
disappeared from the world.”

“It appears that he is at work in Russia again. Somewhere in the
centre,” Miss Haldin said, with animation. “But please don’t mention
that to any one--don’t let it slip from you, because if it got into the
papers it would be dangerous for him.”

“You are anxious, of course, to meet that friend of your brother?” I
asked.

Miss Haldin put the letter into her pocket. Her eyes looked beyond my
shoulder at the door of her mother’s room.

“Not here,” she murmured. “Not for the first time, at least.”

After a moment of silence I said good-bye, but Miss Haldin followed me
into the ante-room, closing the door behind us carefully.

“I suppose you guess where I mean to go tomorrow?”

“You have made up your mind to call on Madame de S--.”

“Yes. I am going to the Chateau Borel. I must.”

“What do you expect to hear there?” I asked, in a low voice.

I wondered if she were not deluding herself with some impossible hope.
It was not that, however.

“Only think--such a friend. The only man mentioned in his letters. He
would have something to give me, if nothing more than a few poor words.
It may be something said and thought in those last days. Would you want
me to turn my back on what is left of my poor brother--a friend?”

“Certainly not,” I said. “I quite understand your pious curiosity.”

“--Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences,” she murmured to herself.
“There are! There are! Well, let me question one of them about the loved
dead.”

“How do you know, though, that you will meet him there? Is he staying in
the Chateau as a guest--do you suppose?”

“I can’t really tell,” she confessed. “He brought a written introduction
from Father Zosim--who, it seems, is a friend of Madame de S-- too. She
can’t be such a worthless woman after all.”

“There were all sorts of rumours afloat about Father Zosim himself,” I
observed.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Calumny is a weapon of our government too. It’s well known. Oh yes! It
is a fact that Father Zosim had the protection of the Governor-General
of a certain province. We talked on the subject with my brother two
years ago, I remember. But his work was good. And now he is proscribed.
What better proof can one require. But no matter what that priest was
or is. All that cannot affect my brother’s friend. If I don’t meet him
there I shall ask these people for his address. And, of course, mother
must see him too, later on. There is no guessing what he may have to
tell us. It would be a mercy if mamma could be soothed. You know what
she imagines. Some explanation perhaps may be found, or--or even made
up, perhaps. It would be no sin.”

“Certainly,” I said, “it would be no sin. It may be a mistake, though.”

“I want her only to recover some of her old spirit. While she is like
this I cannot think of anything calmly.”

“Do you mean to invent some sort of pious fraud for your mother’s sake?”
 I asked.

“Why fraud? Such a friend is sure to know something of my brother in
these last days. He could tell us.... There is something in the
facts which will not let me rest. I am certain he meant to join us
abroad--that he had some plans--some great patriotic action in view;
not only for himself, but for both of us. I trusted in that. I looked
forward to the time! Oh! with such hope and impatience. I could have
helped. And now suddenly this appearance of recklessness--as if he had
not cared....”

She remained silent for a time, then obstinately she concluded--

“I want to know....”

Thinking it over, later on, while I walked slowly away from the
Boulevard des Philosophes, I asked myself critically, what precisely was
it that she wanted to know? What I had heard of her history was enough
to give me a clue. In the educational establishment for girls where Miss
Haldin finished her studies she was looked upon rather unfavourably.
She was suspected of holding independent views on matters settled by
official teaching. Afterwards, when the two ladies returned to their
country place, both mother and daughter, by speaking their minds openly
on public events, had earned for themselves a reputation of liberalism.
The three-horse trap of the district police-captain began to be seen
frequently in their village. “I must keep an eye on the peasants”--so he
explained his visits up at the house. “Two lonely ladies must be looked
after a little.” He would inspect the walls as though he wanted to
pierce them with his eyes, peer at the photographs, turn over the books
in the drawing-room negligently, and after the usual refreshments,
would depart. But the old priest of the village came one evening in the
greatest distress and agitation, to confess that he--the priest--had
been ordered to watch and ascertain in other ways too (such as using his
spiritual power with the servants) all that was going on in the house,
and especially in respect of the visitors these ladies received, who
they were, the length of their stay, whether any of them were strangers
to that part of the country, and so on. The poor, simple old man was in
an agony of humiliation and terror. “I came to warn you. Be cautious in
your conduct, for the love of God. I am burning with shame, but there is
no getting out from under the net. I shall have to tell them what I
see, because if I did not there is my deacon. He would make the worst
of things to curry favour. And then my son-in-law, the husband of my
Parasha, who is a writer in the Government Domain office; they would
soon kick him out--and maybe send him away somewhere.” The old man
lamented the necessities of the times--“when people do not agree
somehow” and wiped his eyes. He did not wish to spend the evening of his
days with a shaven head in the penitent’s cell of some monastery--“and
subjected to all the severities of ecclesiastical discipline; for
they would show no mercy to an old man,” he groaned. He became almost
hysterical, and the two ladies, full of commiseration, soothed him the
best they could before they let him go back to his cottage. But, as a
matter of fact, they had very few visitors. The neighbours--some of them
old friends--began to keep away; a few from timidity, others with marked
disdain, being grand people that came only for the summer--Miss Haldin
explained to me--aristocrats, reactionaries. It was a solitary existence
for a young girl. Her relations with her mother were of the tenderest
and most open kind; but Mrs. Haldin had seen the experiences of her
own generation, its sufferings, its deceptions, its apostasies too. Her
affection for her children was expressed by the suppression of all signs
of anxiety. She maintained a heroic reserve. To Nathalie Haldin, her
brother with his Petersburg existence, not enigmatical in the least
(there could be no doubt of what he felt or thought) but conducted a
little mysteriously, was the only visible representative of a proscribed
liberty. All the significance of freedom, its indefinite promises, lived
in their long discussions, which breathed the loftiest hope of action
and faith in success. Then, suddenly, the action, the hopes, came to
an end with the details ferreted out by the English journalist. The
concrete fact, the fact of his death remained! but it remained obscure
in its deeper causes. She felt herself abandoned without explanation.
But she did not suspect him. What she wanted was to learn almost at any
cost how she could remain faithful to his departed spirit.


IV


Several days elapsed before I met Nathalie Haldin again. I was crossing
the place in front of the theatre when I made out her shapely figure
in the very act of turning between the gate pillars of the unattractive
public promenade of the Bastions. She walked away from me, but I knew
we should meet as she returned down the main alley--unless, indeed, she
were going home. In that case, I don’t think I should have called on her
yet. My desire to keep her away from these people was as strong as ever,
but I had no illusions as to my power. I was but a Westerner, and it was
clear that Miss Haldin would not, could not listen to my wisdom; and as
to my desire of listening to her voice, it were better, I thought, not
to indulge overmuch in that pleasure. No, I should not have gone to the
Boulevard des Philosophes; but when at about the middle of the principal
alley I saw Miss Haldin coming towards me, I was too curious, and too
honest, perhaps, to run away.

There was something of the spring harshness in the air. The blue sky was
hard, but the young leaves clung like soft mist about the uninteresting
range of trees; and the clear sun put little points of gold into the
grey of Miss Haldin’s frank eyes, turned to me with a friendly greeting.

I inquired after the health of her mother.

She had a slight movement of the shoulders and a little sad sigh.

“But, you see, I did come out for a walk...for exercise, as you
English say.”

I smiled approvingly, and she added an unexpected remark--

“It is a glorious day.”

Her voice, slightly harsh, but fascinating with its masculine and
bird-like quality, had the accent of spontaneous conviction. I was glad
of it. It was as though she had become aware of her youth--for there was
but little of spring-like glory in the rectangular railed space of
grass and trees, framed visibly by the orderly roof-slopes of that town,
comely without grace, and hospitable without sympathy. In the very air
through which she moved there was but little warmth; and the sky, the
sky of a land without horizons, swept and washed clean by the April
showers, extended a cold cruel blue, without elevation, narrowed
suddenly by the ugly, dark wall of the Jura where, here and there,
lingered yet a few miserable trails and patches of snow. All the glory
of the season must have been within herself--and I was glad this feeling
had come into her life, if only for a little time.

“I am pleased to hear you say these words.” She gave me a quick look.
Quick, not stealthy. If there was one thing of which she was absolutely
incapable, it was stealthiness, Her sincerity was expressed in the very
rhythm of her walk. It was I who was looking at her covertly--if I may
say so. I knew where she had been, but I did not know what she had seen
and heard in that nest of aristocratic conspiracies. I use the word
aristocratic, for want of a better term. The Chateau Borel, embowered
in the trees and thickets of its neglected grounds, had its fame in our
day, like the residence of that other dangerous and exiled woman, Madame
de Stael, in the Napoleonic era. Only the Napoleonic despotism, the
booted heir of the Revolution, which counted that intellectual woman for
an enemy worthy to be watched, was something quite unlike the autocracy
in mystic vestments, engendered by the slavery of a Tartar conquest.
And Madame de S-- was very far from resembling the gifted author of
_Corinne_. She made a great noise about being persecuted. I don’t
know if she were regarded in certain circles as dangerous. As to being
watched, I imagine that the Chateau Borel could be subjected only to a
most distant observation. It was in its exclusiveness an ideal abode for
hatching superior plots--whether serious or futile. But all this did not
interest me. I wanted to know the effect its extraordinary inhabitants
and its special atmosphere had produced on a girl like Miss Haldin, so
true, so honest, but so dangerously inexperienced! Her unconsciously
lofty ignorance of the baser instincts of mankind left her disarmed
before her own impulses. And there was also that friend of her brother,
the significant new arrival from Russia.... I wondered whether she
had managed to meet him.

We walked for some time, slowly and in silence.

“You know,” I attacked her suddenly, “if you don’t intend telling me
anything, you must say so distinctly, and then, of course, it shall be
final. But I won’t play at delicacy. I ask you point-blank for all the
details.”

She smiled faintly at my threatening tone.

“You are as curious as a child.”

“No. I am only an anxious old man,” I replied earnestly.

She rested her glance on me as if to ascertain the degree of my anxiety
or the number of my years. My physiognomy has never been expressive,
I believe, and as to my years I am not ancient enough as yet to be
strikingly decrepit. I have no long beard like the good hermit of a
romantic ballad; my footsteps are not tottering, my aspect not that of
a slow, venerable sage. Those picturesque advantages are not mine. I am
old, alas, in a brisk, commonplace way. And it seemed to me as though
there were some pity for me in Miss Haldin’s prolonged glance. She
stepped out a little quicker.

“You ask for all the details. Let me see. I ought to remember them. It
was novel enough for a--a village girl like me.”

After a moment of silence she began by saying that the Chateau Borel was
almost as neglected inside as outside. It was nothing to wonder at, a
Hamburg banker, I believe, retired from business, had it built to cheer
his remaining days by the view of that lake whose precise, orderly,
and well-to-do beauty must have been attractive to the unromantic
imagination of a business man. But he died soon. His wife departed
too (but only to Italy), and this house of moneyed ease, presumably
unsaleable, had stood empty for several years. One went to it up a
gravel drive, round a large, coarse grass-plot, with plenty of time to
observe the degradation of its stuccoed front. Miss Haldin said that the
impression was unpleasant. It grew more depressing as one came nearer.

She observed green stains of moss on the steps of the terrace. The front
door stood wide open. There was no one about. She found herself in a
wide, lofty, and absolutely empty hall, with a good many doors. These
doors were all shut. A broad, bare stone staircase faced her, and
the effect of the whole was of an untenanted house. She stood still,
disconcerted by the solitude, but after a while she became aware of a
voice speaking continuously somewhere.

“You were probably being observed all the time,” I suggested. “There
must have been eyes.”

“I don’t see how that could be,” she retorted. “I haven’t seen even a
bird in the grounds. I don’t remember hearing a single twitter in the
trees. The whole place appeared utterly deserted except for the voice.”

She could not make out the language--Russian, French, or German. No one
seemed to answer it. It was as though the voice had been left behind by
the departed inhabitants to talk to the bare walls. It went on volubly,
with a pause now and then. It was lonely and sad. The time seemed very
long to Miss Haldin. An invincible repugnance prevented her from opening
one of the doors in the hall. It was so hopeless. No one would come, the
voice would never stop. She confessed to me that she had to resist an
impulse to turn round and go away unseen, as she had come.

“Really? You had that impulse?” I cried, full of regret. “What a pity
you did not obey it.”

She shook her head.

“What a strange memory it would have been for one. Those deserted
grounds, that empty hall, that impersonal, voluble voice, and--nobody,
nothing, not a soul.”

The memory would have been unique and harmless. But she was not a girl
to run away from an intimidating impression of solitude and mystery.
“No, I did not run away,” she said. “I stayed where I was--and I did see
a soul. Such a strange soul.”

As she was gazing up the broad staircase, and had concluded that
the voice came from somewhere above, a rustle of dress attracted her
attention. She looked down and saw a woman crossing the hall, having
issued apparently through one of the many doors. Her face was averted,
so that at first she was not aware of Miss Haldin.

On turning her head and seeing a stranger, she appeared very much
startled. From her slender figure Miss Haldin had taken her for a young
girl; but if her face was almost childishly round, it was also sallow
and wrinkled, with dark rings under the eyes. A thick crop of dusty
brown hair was parted boyishly on the side with a lateral wave above the
dry, furrowed forehead. After a moment of dumb blinking, she suddenly
squatted down on the floor.

“What do you mean by squatted down?” I asked, astonished. “This is a
very strange detail.”

Miss Haldin explained the reason. This person when first seen was
carrying a small bowl in her hand. She had squatted down to put it
on the floor for the benefit of a large cat, which appeared then from
behind her skirts, and hid its head into the bowl greedily. She got up,
and approaching Miss Haldin asked with nervous bluntness--

“What do you want? Who are you?”

Miss Haldin mentioned her name and also the name of Peter Ivanovitch.
The girlish, elderly woman nodded and puckered her face into a momentary
expression of sympathy. Her black silk blouse was old and even frayed
in places; the black serge skirt was short and shabby. She continued to
blink at close quarters, and her eyelashes and eyebrows seemed shabby
too. Miss Haldin, speaking gently to her, as if to an unhappy and
sensitive person, explained how it was that her visit could not be an
altogether unexpected event to Madame de S--.

“Ah! Peter Ivanovitch brought you an invitation. How was I to know? A
_dame de compangnie_ is not consulted, as you may imagine.”

The shabby woman laughed a little. Her teeth, splendidly white and
admirably even, looked absurdly out of place, like a string of pearls on
the neck of a ragged tramp. “Peter Ivanovitch is the greatest genius of
the century perhaps, but he is the most inconsiderate man living. So if
you have an appointment with him you must not be surprised to hear that
he is not here.”

Miss Haldin explained that she had no appointment with Peter Ivanovitch.
She became interested at once in that bizarre person.

“Why should he put himself out for you or any one else? Oh! these
geniuses. If you only knew! Yes! And their books--I mean, of course, the
books that the world admires, the inspired books. But you have not been
behind the scenes. Wait till you have to sit at a table for a half a day
with a pen in your hand. He can walk up and down his rooms for hours and
hours. I used to get so stiff and numb that I was afraid I would lose my
balance and fall off the chair all at once.”

She kept her hands folded in front of her, and her eyes, fixed on Miss
Haldin’s face, betrayed no animation whatever. Miss Haldin, gathering
that the lady who called herself a _dame de compangnie_ was proud of
having acted as secretary to Peter Ivanovitch, made an amiable remark.

“You could not imagine a more trying experience,” declared the lady.
“There is an Anglo-American journalist interviewing Madame de S-- now,
or I would take you up,” she continued in a changed tone and glancing
towards the staircase. “I act as master of ceremonies.”

It appeared that Madame de S-- could not bear Swiss servants about
her person; and, indeed, servants would not stay for very long in the
Chateau Borel. There were always difficulties. Miss Haldin had already
noticed that the hall was like a dusty barn of marble and stucco with
cobwebs in the corners and faint tracks of mud on the black and white
tessellated floor.

“I look also after this animal,” continued the _dame de compagnie_,
keeping her hands folded quietly in front of her; and she bent her
worn gaze upon the cat. “I don’t mind a bit. Animals have their rights;
though, strictly speaking, I see no reason why they should not suffer as
well as human beings. Do you? But of course they never suffer so much.
That is impossible. Only, in their case it is more pitiful because they
cannot make a revolution. I used to be a Republican. I suppose you are a
Republican?”

Miss Haldin confessed to me that she did not know what to say. But she
nodded slightly, and asked in her turn--

“And are you no longer a Republican?”

“After taking down Peter Ivanovitch from dictation for two years, it is
difficult for me to be anything. First of all, you have to sit perfectly
motionless. The slightest movement you make puts to flight the ideas of
Peter Ivanovitch. You hardly dare to breathe. And as to coughing--God
forbid! Peter Ivanovitch changed the position of the table to the wall
because at first I could not help raising my eyes to look out of the
window, while waiting for him to go on with his dictation. That was not
allowed. He said I stared so stupidly. I was likewise not permitted to
look at him over my shoulder. Instantly Peter Ivanovitch stamped his
foot, and would roar, ‘Look down on the paper!’ It seems my expression,
my face, put him off. Well, I know that I am not beautiful, and that my
expression is not hopeful either. He said that my air of unintelligent
expectation irritated him. These are his own words.”

Miss Haldin was shocked, but admitted to me that she was not altogether
surprised.

“Is it possible that Peter Ivanovitch could treat any woman so rudely?”
 she cried.

The _dame de compagnie_ nodded several times with an air of discretion,
then assured Miss Haldin that she did not mind in the least. The trying
part of it was to have the secret of the composition laid bare before
her; to see the great author of the revolutionary gospels grope for
words as if he were in the dark as to what he meant to say.

“I am quite willing to be the blind instrument of higher ends. To
give one’s life for the cause is nothing. But to have one’s illusions
destroyed--that is really almost more than one can bear. I really don’t
exaggerate,” she insisted. “It seemed to freeze my very beliefs in
me--the more so that when we worked in winter Peter Ivanovitch, walking
up and down the room, required no artificial heat to keep himself warm.
Even when we move to the South of France there are bitterly cold days,
especially when you have to sit still for six hours at a stretch. The
walls of these villas on the Riviera are so flimsy. Peter Ivanovitch did
not seem to be aware of anything. It is true that I kept down my shivers
from fear of putting him out. I used to set my teeth till my jaws felt
absolutely locked. In the moments when Peter Ivanovitch interrupted his
dictation, and sometimes these intervals were very long--often twenty
minutes, no less, while he walked to and fro behind my back muttering
to himself--I felt I was dying by inches, I assure you. Perhaps if I had
let my teeth rattle Peter Ivanovitch might have noticed my distress, but
I don’t think it would have had any practical effect. She’s very miserly
in such matters.”

The _dame de compagnie_ glanced up the staircase. The big cat had
finished the milk and was rubbing its whiskered cheek sinuously against
her skirt. She dived to snatch it up from the floor.

“Miserliness is rather a quality than otherwise, you know,” she
continued, holding the cat in her folded arms. “With us it is misers who
can spare money for worthy objects--not the so-called generous natures.
But pray don’t think I am a sybarite. My father was a clerk in the
Ministry of Finances with no position at all. You may guess by this that
our home was far from luxurious, though of course we did not actually
suffer from cold. I ran away from my parents, you know, directly I began
to think by myself. It is not very easy, such thinking. One has got to
be put in the way of it, awakened to the truth. I am indebted for my
salvation to an old apple-woman, who had her stall under the gateway
of the house we lived in. She had a kind wrinkled face, and the most
friendly voice imaginable. One day, casually, we began to talk about a
child, a ragged little girl we had seen begging from men in the streets
at dusk; and from one thing to another my eyes began to open gradually
to the horrors from which innocent people are made to suffer in
this world, only in order that governments might exist. After I once
understood the crime of the upper classes, I could not go on living with
my parents. Not a single charitable word was to be heard in our home
from year’s end to year’s end; there was nothing but the talk of vile
office intrigues, and of promotion and of salaries, and of courting the
favour of the chiefs. The mere idea of marrying one day such another man
as my father made me shudder. I don’t mean that there was anyone wanting
to marry me. There was not the slightest prospect of anything of the
kind. But was it not sin enough to live on a Government salary while
half Russia was dying of hunger? The Ministry of Finances! What a
grotesque horror it is! What does the starving, ignorant people want
with a Ministry of Finances? I kissed my old folks on both cheeks, and
went away from them to live in cellars, with the proletariat. I tried
to make myself useful to the utterly hopeless. I suppose you understand
what I mean? I mean the people who have nowhere to go and nothing to
look forward to in this life. Do you understand how frightful that
is--nothing to look forward to! Sometimes I think that it is only in
Russia that there are such people and such a depth of misery can be
reached. Well, I plunged into it, and--do you know--there isn’t much
that one can do in there. No, indeed--at least as long as there are
Ministries of Finances and such like grotesque horrors to stand in the
way. I suppose I would have gone mad there just trying to fight the
vermin, if it had not been for a man. It was my old friend and
teacher, the poor saintly apple-woman, who discovered him for me, quite
accidentally. She came to fetch me late one evening in her quiet way. I
followed her where she would lead; that part of my life was in her hands
altogether, and without her my spirit would have perished miserably. The
man was a young workman, a lithographer by trade, and he had got
into trouble in connexion with that affair of temperance tracts--you
remember. There was a lot of people put in prison for that. The Ministry
of Finances again! What would become of it if the poor folk ceased
making beasts of themselves with drink? Upon my word, I would think that
finances and all the rest of it are an invention of the devil; only that
a belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone
are quite capable of every wickedness. Finances indeed!”

Hatred and contempt hissed in her utterance of the word “finances,” but
at the very moment she gently stroked the cat reposing in her arms.
She even raised them slightly, and inclining her head rubbed her cheek
against the fur of the animal, which received this caress with the
complete detachment so characteristic of its kind. Then looking at Miss
Haldin she excused herself once more for not taking her upstairs to
Madame S-- The interview could not be interrupted. Presently the
journalist would be seen coming down the stairs. The best thing was to
remain in the hall; and besides, all these rooms (she glanced all
round at the many doors), all these rooms on the ground floor were
unfurnished.

“Positively there is no chair down here to offer you,” she continued.
“But if you prefer your own thoughts to my chatter, I will sit down on
the bottom step here and keep silent.”

Miss Haldin hastened to assure her that, on the contrary, she was very
much interested in the story of the journeyman lithographer. He was a
revolutionist, of course.

“A martyr, a simple man,” said the _dame de compangnie_, with a faint
sigh, and gazing through the open front door dreamily. She turned her
misty brown eyes on Miss Haldin.

“I lived with him for four months. It was like a nightmare.”

As Miss Haldin looked at her inquisitively she began to describe the
emaciated face of the man, his fleshless limbs, his destitution.
The room into which the apple-woman had led her was a tiny garret, a
miserable den under the roof of a sordid house. The plaster fallen off
the walls covered the floor, and when the door was opened a horrible
tapestry of black cobwebs waved in the draught. He had been liberated a
few days before--flung out of prison into the streets. And Miss Haldin
seemed to see for the first time, a name and a face upon the body of
that suffering people whose hard fate had been the subject of so many
conversations, between her and her brother, in the garden of their
country house.

He had been arrested with scores and scores of other people in that
affair of the lithographed temperance tracts. Unluckily, having got hold
of a great many suspected persons, the police thought they could extract
from some of them other information relating to the revolutionist
propaganda.

“They beat him so cruelly in the course of investigation,” went on the
_dame de compagnie_, “that they injured him internally. When they had
done with him he was doomed. He could do nothing for himself. I beheld
him lying on a wooden bedstead without any bedding, with his head on a
bundle of dirty rags, lent to him out of charity by an old rag-picker,
who happened to live in the basement of the house. There he was,
uncovered, burning with fever, and there was not even a jug in the
room for the water to quench his thirst with. There was nothing
whatever--just that bedstead and the bare floor.”

“Was there no one in all that great town amongst the liberals and
revolutionaries, to extend a helping hand to a brother?” asked Miss
Haldin indignantly.

“Yes. But you do not know the most terrible part of that man’s misery.
Listen. It seems that they ill-used him so atrociously that, at last,
his firmness gave way, and he did let out some information. Poor soul,
the flesh is weak, you know. What it was he did not tell me. There was
a crushed spirit in that mangled body. Nothing I found to say could make
him whole. When they let him out, he crept into that hole, and bore his
remorse stoically. He would not go near anyone he knew. I would have
sought assistance for him, but, indeed, where could I have gone looking
for it? Where was I to look for anyone who had anything to spare or any
power to help? The people living round us were all starving and drunken.
They were the victims of the Ministry of Finances. Don’t ask me how we
lived. I couldn’t tell you. It was like a miracle of wretchedness. I had
nothing to sell, and I assure you my clothes were in such a state that
it was impossible for me to go out in the daytime. I was indecent. I had
to wait till it was dark before I ventured into the streets to beg for a
crust of bread, or whatever I could get, to keep him and me alive. Often
I got nothing, and then I would crawl back and lie on the floor by the
side of his couch. Oh yes, I can sleep quite soundly on bare boards.
That is nothing, and I am only mentioning it to you so that you should
not think I am a sybarite. It was infinitely less killing than the task
of sitting for hours at a table in a cold study to take the books of
Peter Ivanovitch from dictation. But you shall see yourself what that is
like, so I needn’t say any more about it.”

“It is by no means certain that I will ever take Peter Ivanovitch from
dictation,” said Miss Haldin.

“No!” cried the other incredulously. “Not certain? You mean to say that
you have not made up your mind?”

When Miss Haldin assured her that there never had been any question of
that between her and Peter Ivanovitch, the woman with the cat compressed
her lips tightly for a moment.

“Oh, you will find yourself settled at the table before you know that
you have made up your mind. Don’t make a mistake, it is disenchanting
to hear Peter Ivanovitch dictate, but at the same time there is a
fascination about it. He is a man of genius. Your face is certain not to
irritate him; you may perhaps even help his inspiration, make it easier
for him to deliver his message. As I look at you, I feel certain that
you are the kind of woman who is not likely to check the flow of his
inspiration.”

Miss Haldin thought it useless to protest against all these assumptions.

“But this man--this workman did he die under your care?” she said, after
a short silence.

The _dame de compagnie_, listening up the stairs where now two voices
were alternating with some animation, made no answer for a time. When
the loud sounds of the discussion had sunk into an almost inaudible
murmur, she turned to Miss Haldin.

“Yes, he died, but not, literally speaking, in my arms, as you might
suppose. As a matter of fact, I was asleep when he breathed his last.
So even now I cannot say I have seen anybody die. A few days before
the end, some young men found us out in our extremity. They were
revolutionists, as you might guess. He ought to have trusted in his
political friends when he came out of prison. He had been liked and
respected before, and nobody would have dreamed of reproaching him with
his indiscretion before the police. Everybody knows how they go to work,
and the strongest man has his moments of weakness before pain. Why, even
hunger alone is enough to give one queer ideas as to what may be done. A
doctor came, our lot was alleviated as far as physical comforts go, but
otherwise he could not be consoled--poor man. I assure you, Miss Haldin,
that he was very lovable, but I had not the strength to weep. I was
nearly dead myself. But there were kind hearts to take care of me.
A dress was found to clothe my nakedness. I tell you, I was not
decent--and after a time the revolutionists placed me with a Jewish
family going abroad, as governess. Of course I could teach the children,
I finished the sixth class of the Lyceum; but the real object was,
that I should carry some important papers across the frontier. I was
entrusted with a packet which I carried next my heart. The gendarmes
at the station did not suspect the governess of a Jewish family, busy
looking after three children. I don’t suppose those Hebrews knew what I
had on me, for I had been introduced to them in a very roundabout way by
persons who did not belong to the revolutionary movement, and naturally
I had been instructed to accept a very small salary. When we reached
Germany I left that family and delivered my papers to a revolutionist
in Stuttgart; after this I was employed in various ways. But you do not
want to hear all that. I have never felt that I was very useful, but I
live in hopes of seeing all the Ministries destroyed, finances and
all. The greatest joy of my life has been to hear what your brother has
done.”

She directed her round eyes again to the sunshine outside, while the
cat reposed within her folded arms in lordly beatitude and sphinx-like
meditation.

“Yes! I rejoiced,” she began again. “For me there is a heroic ring about
the very name of Haldin. They must have been trembling with fear in
their Ministries--all those men with fiendish hearts. Here I stand
talking to you, and when I think of all the cruelties, oppressions,
and injustices that are going on at this very moment, my head begins to
swim. I have looked closely at what would seem inconceivable if one’s
own eyes had not to be trusted. I have looked at things that made me
hate myself for my helplessness. I hated my hands that had no power,
my voice that could not be heard, my very mind that would not become
unhinged. Ah! I have seen things. And you?”

Miss Haldin was moved. She shook her head slightly.

“No, I have seen nothing for myself as yet,” she murmured “We have
always lived in the country. It was my brother’s wish.”

“It is a curious meeting--this--between you and me,” continued the
other. “Do you believe in chance, Miss Haldin? How could I have expected
to see you, his sister, with my own eyes? Do you know that when the news
came the revolutionaries here were as much surprised as pleased, every
bit? No one seemed to know anything about your brother. Peter Ivanovitch
himself had not foreseen that such a blow was going to be struck. I
suppose your brother was simply inspired. I myself think that such
deeds should be done by inspiration. It is a great privilege to have the
inspiration and the opportunity. Did he resemble you at all? Don’t you
rejoice, Miss Haldin?”

“You must not expect too much from me,” said Miss Haldin, repressing
an inclination to cry which came over her suddenly. She succeeded, then
added calmly, “I am not a heroic person!”

“You think you couldn’t have done such a thing yourself perhaps?”

“I don’t know. I must not even ask myself till I have lived a little
longer, seen more....”

The other moved her head appreciatively. The purring of the cat had
a loud complacency in the empty hall. No sound of voices came from
upstairs. Miss Haldin broke the silence.

“What is it precisely that you heard people say about my brother? You
said that they were surprised. Yes, I supposed they were. Did it not
seem strange to them that my brother should have failed to save himself
after the most difficult part--that is, getting away from the spot--was
over? Conspirators should understand these things well. There are
reasons why I am very anxious to know how it is he failed to escape.”

The _dame de compagnie_ had advanced to the open hall-door. She glanced
rapidly over her shoulder at Miss Haldin, who remained within the hall.

“Failed to escape,” she repeated absently. “Didn’t he make the sacrifice
of his life? Wasn’t he just simply inspired? Wasn’t it an act of
abnegation? Aren’t you certain?”

“What I am certain of,” said Miss Haldin, “is that it was not an act
of despair. Have you not heard some opinion expressed here upon his
miserable capture?”

The _dame de compagnie_ mused for a while in the doorway.

“Did I hear? Of course, everything is discussed here. Has not all the
world been speaking about your brother? For my part, the mere mention
of his achievement plunges me into an envious ecstasy. Why should a man
certain of immortality think of his life at all?”

She kept her back turned to Miss Haldin. Upstairs from behind a great
dingy white and gold door, visible behind the balustrade of the first
floor landing, a deep voice began to drone formally, as if reading over
notes or something of the sort. It paused frequently, and then ceased
altogether.

“I don’t think I can stay any longer now,” said Miss Haldin. “I may
return another day.”

She waited for the _dame de compagnie_ to make room for her exit; but
the woman appeared lost in the contemplation of sunshine and shadows,
sharing between themselves the stillness of the deserted grounds. She
concealed the view of the drive from Miss Haldin. Suddenly she said--

“It will not be necessary; here is Peter Ivanovitch himself coming up.
But he is not alone. He is seldom alone now.”

Hearing that Peter Ivanovitch was approaching, Miss Haldin was not so
pleased as she might have been expected to be. Somehow she had lost
the desire to see either the heroic captive or Madame de S--, and the
reason of that shrinking which came upon her at the very last minute is
accounted for by the feeling that those two people had not been treating
the woman with the cat kindly.

“Would you please let me pass?” said Miss Haldin at last, touching
lightly the shoulder of the _dame de compagnie_.

But the other, pressing the cat to her breast, did not budge.

“I know who is with him,” she said, without even looking back.

More unaccountably than ever Miss Haldin felt a strong impulse to leave
the house.

“Madame de S-- may be engaged for some time yet, and what I have got to
say to Peter Ivanovitch is just a simple question which I might put to
him when I meet him in the grounds on my way down. I really think I
must go. I have been some time here, and I am anxious to get back to my
mother. Will you let me pass, please?”

The _dame de compagnie_ turned her head at last.

“I never supposed that you really wanted to see Madame de S--,” she
said, with unexpected insight. “Not for a moment.” There was something
confidential and mysterious in her tone. She passed through the door,
with Miss Haldin following her, on to the terrace, and they descended
side by side the moss-grown stone steps. There was no one to be seen on
the part of the drive visible from the front of the house.

“They are hidden by the trees over there,” explained Miss Haldin’s new
acquaintance, “but you shall see them directly. I don’t know who that
young man is to whom Peter Ivanovitch has taken such a fancy. He must
be one of us, or he would not be admitted here when the others come.
You know what I mean by the others. But I must say that he is not at
all mystically inclined. I don’t know that I have made him out yet.
Naturally I am never for very long in the drawing-room. There is
always something to do for me, though the establishment here is not so
extensive as the villa on the Riviera. But still there are plenty of
opportunities for me to make myself useful.”

To the left, passing by the ivy-grown end of the stables, appeared Peter
Ivanovitch and his companion. They walked very slowly, conversing with
some animation. They stopped for a moment, and Peter Ivanovitch was seen
to gesticulate, while the young man listened motionless, with his arms
hanging down and his head bowed a little. He was dressed in a dark brown
suit and a black hat. The round eyes of the _dame de compagnie_ remained
fixed on the two figures, which had resumed their leisurely approach.

“An extremely polite young man,” she said. “You shall see what a bow he
will make; and it won’t altogether be so exceptional either. He bows in
the same way when he meets me alone in the hall.”

She moved on a few steps, with Miss Haldin by her side, and things
happened just as she had foretold. The young man took off his hat, bowed
and fell back, while Peter Ivanovitch advanced quicker, his black, thick
arms extended heartily, and seized hold of both Miss Haldin’s hands,
shook them, and peered at her through his dark glasses.

“That’s right, that’s right!” he exclaimed twice, approvingly. “And so
you have been looked after by....” He frowned slightly at the
_dame de compagnie_, who was still nursing the cat. “I conclude
Eleanor--Madame de S-- is engaged. I know she expected somebody to-day.
So the newspaper man did turn up, eh? She is engaged?”

For all answer the _dame de compagnie_ turned away her head.

“It is very unfortunate--very unfortunate indeed. I very much regret
that you should have been....” He lowered suddenly his voice. “But
what is it--surely you are not departing, Natalia Victorovna? You got
bored waiting, didn’t you?”

“Not in the least,” Miss Haldin protested. “Only I have been here some
time, and I am anxious to get back to my mother.”

“The time seemed long, eh? I am afraid our worthy friend here” (Peter
Ivanovitch suddenly jerked his head sideways towards his right shoulder
and jerked it up again),--“our worthy friend here has not the art of
shortening the moments of waiting. No, distinctly she has not the art;
and in that respect good intentions alone count for nothing.”

The _dame de compagnie_ dropped her arms, and the cat found itself
suddenly on the ground. It remained quite still after alighting, one
hind leg stretched backwards. Miss Haldin was extremely indignant on
behalf of the lady companion.

“Believe me, Peter Ivanovitch, that the moments I have passed in
the hall of this house have been not a little interesting, and very
instructive too. They are memorable. I do not regret the waiting, but
I see that the object of my call here can be attained without taking up
Madame de S--‘s time.”

At this point I interrupted Miss Haldin. The above relation is founded
on her narrative, which I have not so much dramatized as might be
supposed. She had rendered, with extraordinary feeling and animation,
the very accent almost of the disciple of the old apple-woman, the
irreconcilable hater of Ministries, the voluntary servant of the poor.
Miss Haldin’s true and delicate humanity had been extremely shocked
by the uncongenial fate of her new acquaintance, that lady companion,
secretary, whatever she was. For my own part, I was pleased to discover
in it one more obstacle to intimacy with Madame de S--. I had a
positive abhorrence for the painted, bedizened, dead-faced, glassy-eyed
Egeria of Peter Ivanovitch. I do not know what was her attitude to the
unseen, but I know that in the affairs of this world she was avaricious,
greedy, and unscrupulous. It was within my knowledge that she had been
worsted in a sordid and desperate quarrel about money matters with the
family of her late husband, the diplomatist. Some very august personages
indeed (whom in her fury she had insisted upon scandalously involving
in her affairs) had incurred her animosity. I find it perfectly easy to
believe that she had come to within an ace of being spirited away, for
reasons of state, into some discreet _maison de sante_--a madhouse
of sorts, to be plain. It appears, however, that certain high-placed
personages opposed it for reasons which....

But it’s no use to go into details.

Wonder may be expressed at a man in the position of a teacher of
languages knowing all this with such definiteness. A novelist says this
and that of his personages, and if only he knows how to say it earnestly
enough he may not be questioned upon the inventions of his brain in
which his own belief is made sufficiently manifest by a telling phrase,
a poetic image, the accent of emotion. Art is great! But I have no art,
and not having invented Madame de S--, I feel bound to explain how I
came to know so much about her.

My informant was the Russian wife of a friend of mine already mentioned,
the professor of Lausanne University. It was from her that I learned the
last fact of Madame de S--‘s history, with which I intend to trouble
my readers. She told me, speaking positively, as a person who trusts her
sources, of the cause of Madame de S--‘s flight from Russia, some years
before. It was neither more nor less than this: that she became suspect
to the police in connexion with the assassination of the Emperor
Alexander. The ground of this suspicion was either some unguarded
expressions that escaped her in public, or some talk overheard in her
salon. Overheard, we must believe, by some guest, perhaps a friend, who
hastened to play the informer, I suppose. At any rate, the overheard
matter seemed to imply her foreknowledge of that event, and I think she
was wise in not waiting for the investigation of such a charge. Some of
my readers may remember a little book from her pen, published in Paris,
a mystically bad-tempered, declamatory, and frightfully disconnected
piece of writing, in which she all but admits the foreknowledge, more
than hints at its supernatural origin, and plainly suggests in venomous
innuendoes that the guilt of the act was not with the terrorists, but
with a palace intrigue. When I observed to my friend, the professor’s
wife, that the life of Madame de S--, with its unofficial diplomacy,
its intrigues, lawsuits, favours, disgrace, expulsions, its atmosphere
of scandal, occultism, and charlatanism, was more fit for the eighteenth
century than for the conditions of our own time, she assented with
a smile, but a moment after went on in a reflective tone:
“Charlatanism?--yes, in a certain measure. Still, times are changed.
There are forces now which were non-existent in the eighteenth century.
I should not be surprised if she were more dangerous than an Englishman
would be willing to believe. And what’s more, she is looked upon as
really dangerous by certain people--_chez nous_.”

_Chez nous_ in this connexion meant Russia in general, and the Russian
political police in particular. The object of my digression from the
straight course of Miss Haldin’s relation (in my own words) of her visit
to the Chateau Borel, was to bring forward that statement of my friend,
the professor’s wife. I wanted to bring it forward simply to make what I
have to say presently of Mr. Razumov’s presence in Geneva, a little more
credible--for this is a Russian story for Western ears, which, as I
have observed already, are not attuned to certain tones of cynicism and
cruelty, of moral negation, and even of moral distress already silenced
at our end of Europe. And this I state as my excuse for having left Miss
Haldin standing, one of the little group of two women and two men who
had come together below the terrace of the Chateau Borel.

The knowledge which I have just stated was in my mind when, as I have
said, I interrupted Miss Haldin. I interrupted her with the cry of
profound satisfaction--

“So you never saw Madame de S--, after all?”

Miss Haldin shook her head. It was very satisfactory to me. She had
not seen Madame de S--! That was excellent, excellent! I welcomed the
conviction that she would never know Madame de S-- now. I could not
explain the reason of the conviction but by the knowledge that Miss
Haldin was standing face to face with her brother’s wonderful friend. I
preferred him to Madame de S-- as the companion and guide of that young
girl, abandoned to her inexperience by the miserable end of her brother.
But, at any rate, that life now ended had been sincere, and perhaps its
thoughts might have been lofty, its moral sufferings profound, its last
act a true sacrifice. It is not for us, the staid lovers calmed by
the possession of a conquered liberty, to condemn without appeal the
fierceness of thwarted desire.

I am not ashamed of the warmth of my regard for Miss Haldin. It was, it
must be admitted, an unselfish sentiment, being its own reward. The late
Victor Haldin--in the light of that sentiment--appeared to me not as a
sinister conspirator, but as a pure enthusiast. I did not wish indeed
to judge him, but the very fact that he did not escape, that fact which
brought so much trouble to both his mother and his sister, spoke to me
in his favour. Meantime, in my fear of seeing the girl surrender to the
influence of the Chateau Borel revolutionary feminism, I was more than
willing to put my trust in that friend of the late Victor Haldin. He was
nothing but a name, you will say. Exactly! A name! And what’s more,
the only name; the only name to be found in the correspondence between
brother and sister. The young man had turned up; they had come face to
face, and, fortunately, without the direct interference of Madame de
S--. What will come of it? what will she tell me presently? I was
asking myself.

It was only natural that my thought should turn to the young man, the
bearer of the only name uttered in all the dream-talk of a future to be
brought about by a revolution. And my thought took the shape of asking
myself why this young man had not called upon these ladies. He had been
in Geneva for some days before Miss Haldin heard of him first in my
presence from Peter Ivanovitch. I regretted that last’s presence at
their meeting. I would rather have had it happen somewhere out of his
spectacled sight. But I supposed that, having both these young people
there, he introduced them to each other.

I broke the silence by beginning a question on that point--

“I suppose Peter Ivanovitch....”

Miss Haldin gave vent to her indignation. Peter Ivanovitch directly he
had got his answer from her had turned upon the _dame de compagnie_ in a
shameful manner.

“Turned upon her?” I wondered. “What about? For what reason?”

“It was unheard of; it was shameful,” Miss Haldin pursued, with angry
eyes. “_Il lui a fait une scene_--like this, before strangers. And for
what? You would never guess. For some eggs.... Oh!”

I was astonished. “Eggs, did you say?”

“For Madame de S--. That lady observes a special diet, or something
of the sort. It seems she complained the day before to Peter Ivanovitch
that the eggs were not rightly prepared. Peter Ivanovitch suddenly
remembered this against the poor woman, and flew out at her. It was most
astonishing. I stood as if rooted.”

“Do you mean to say that the great feminist allowed himself to be
abusive to a woman?” I asked.

“Oh, not that! It was something you have no conception of. It was an
odious performance. Imagine, he raised his hat to begin with. He made
his voice soft and deprecatory. ‘Ah! you are not kind to us--you will
not deign to remember....’ This sort of phrases, that sort of tone.
The poor creature was terribly upset. Her eyes ran full of tears.
She did not know where to look. I shouldn’t wonder if she would have
preferred abuse, or even a blow.”

I did not remark that very possibly she was familiar with both on
occasions when no one was by. Miss Haldin walked by my side, her head up
in scornful and angry silence.

“Great men have their surprising peculiarities,” I observed inanely.
“Exactly like men who are not great. But that sort of thing cannot
be kept up for ever. How did the great feminist wind up this very
characteristic episode?”

Miss Haldin, without turning her face my way, told me that the end
was brought about by the appearance of the interviewer, who had been
closeted with Madame de S--.

He came up rapidly, unnoticed, lifted his hat slightly, and paused to
say in French: “The Baroness has asked me, in case I met a lady on my
way out, to desire her to come in at once.”

After delivering this message, he hurried down the drive. The _dame de
compagnie_ flew towards the house, and Peter Ivanovitch followed her
hastily, looking uneasy. In a moment Miss Haldin found herself alone
with the young man, who undoubtedly must have been the new arrival
from Russia. She wondered whether her brother’s friend had not already
guessed who she was.

I am in a position to say that, as a matter of fact, he had guessed.
It is clear to me that Peter Ivanovitch, for some reason or other, had
refrained from alluding to these ladies’ presence in Geneva. But Razumov
had guessed. The trustful girl! Every word uttered by Haldin lived in
Razumov’s memory. They were like haunting shapes; they could not be
exorcised. The most vivid amongst them was the mention of the sister.
The girl had existed for him ever since. But he did not recognize her
at once. Coming up with Peter Ivanovitch, he did observe her; their eyes
had met, even. He had responded, as no one could help responding, to
the harmonious charm of her whole person, its strength, its grace, its
tranquil frankness--and then he had turned his gaze away. He said to
himself that all this was not for him; the beauty of women and the
friendship of men were not for him. He accepted that feeling with a
purposeful sternness, and tried to pass on. It was only her outstretched
hand which brought about the recognition. It stands recorded in the
pages of his self-confession, that it nearly suffocated him physically
with an emotional reaction of hate and dismay, as though her appearance
had been a piece of accomplished treachery.

He faced about. The considerable elevation of the terrace concealed them
from anyone lingering in the doorway of the house; and even from the
upstairs windows they could not have been seen. Through the thickets run
wild, and the trees of the gently sloping grounds, he had cold, placid
glimpses of the lake. A moment of perfect privacy had been vouchsafed
to them at this juncture. I wondered to myself what use they had made of
that fortunate circumstance.

“Did you have time for more than a few words?” I asked.

That animation with which she had related to me the incidents of her
visit to the Chateau Borel had left her completely. Strolling by my
side, she looked straight before her; but I noticed a little colour on
her cheek. She did not answer me.

After some little time I observed that they could not have hoped to
remain forgotten for very long, unless the other two had discovered
Madame de S-- swooning with fatigue, perhaps, or in a state of morbid
exaltation after the long interview. Either would require their devoted
ministrations. I could depict to myself Peter Ivanovitch rushing busily
out of the house again, bareheaded, perhaps, and on across the terrace
with his swinging gait, the black skirts of the frock-coat floating
clear of his stout light grey legs. I confess to having looked upon
these young people as the quarry of the “heroic fugitive.” I had the
notion that they would not be allowed to escape capture. But of that I
said nothing to Miss Haldin, only as she still remained uncommunicative,
I pressed her a little.

“Well--but you can tell me at least your impression.”

She turned her head to look at me, and turned away again.

“Impression?” she repeated slowly, almost dreamily; then in a quicker
tone--

“He seems to be a man who has suffered more from his thoughts than from
evil fortune.”

“From his thoughts, you say?”

“And that is natural enough in a Russian,” she took me up. “In a young
Russian; so many of them are unfit for action, and yet unable to rest.”

“And you think he is that sort of man?”

“No, I do not judge him. How could I, so suddenly? You asked for my
impression--I explain my impression. I--I--don’t know the world, nor yet
the people in it; I have been too solitary--I am too young to trust my
own opinions.”

“Trust your instinct,” I advised her. “Most women trust to that, and
make no worse mistakes than men. In this case you have your brother’s
letter to help you.”

She drew a deep breath like a light sigh. “Unstained, lofty, and
solitary existences,” she quoted as if to herself. But I caught the
wistful murmur distinctly.

“High praise,” I whispered to her.

“The highest possible.”

“So high that, like the award of happiness, it is more fit to come
only at the end of a life. But still no common or altogether unworthy
personality could have suggested such a confident exaggeration of praise
and...”

“Ah!” She interrupted me ardently. “And if you had only known the heart
from which that judgment has come!”

She ceased on that note, and for a space I reflected on the character of
the words which I perceived very well must tip the scale of the girl’s
feelings in that young man’s favour. They had not the sound of a
casual utterance. Vague they were to my Western mind and to my Western
sentiment, but I could not forget that, standing by Miss Haldin’s side,
I was like a traveller in a strange country. It had also become clear to
me that Miss Haldin was unwilling to enter into the details of the only
material part of their visit to the Chateau Borel. But I was not hurt.
Somehow I didn’t feel it to be a want of confidence. It was some other
difficulty--a difficulty I could not resent. And it was without the
slightest resentment that I said--

“Very well. But on that high ground, which I will not dispute, you, like
anyone else in such circumstances, you must have made for yourself
a representation of that exceptional friend, a mental image of him,
and--please tell me--you were not disappointed?”

“What do you mean? His personal appearance?”

“I don’t mean precisely his good looks, or otherwise.”

We turned at the end of the alley and made a few steps without looking
at each other.

“His appearance is not ordinary,” said Miss Haldin at last.

“No, I should have thought not--from the little you’ve said of your
first impression. After all, one has to fall back on that word.
Impression! What I mean is that something indescribable which is likely
to mark a ‘not ordinary’ person.”

I perceived that she was not listening. There was no mistaking her
expression; and once more I had the sense of being out of it--not
because of my age, which at any rate could draw inferences--but
altogether out of it, on another plane whence I could only watch her
from afar. And so ceasing to speak I watched her stepping out by my
side.

“No,” she exclaimed suddenly, “I could not have been disappointed with a
man of such strong feeling.”

“Aha! Strong feeling,” I muttered, thinking to myself censoriously: like
this, at once, all in a moment!

“What did you say?” inquired Miss Haldin innocently.

“Oh, nothing. I beg your pardon. Strong feeling. I am not surprised.”

“And you don’t know how abruptly I behaved to him!” she cried
remorsefully.

I suppose I must have appeared surprised, for, looking at me with a
still more heightened colour, she said she was ashamed to admit that she
had not been sufficiently collected; she had failed to control her words
and actions as the situation demanded. She lost the fortitude worthy of
both the men, the dead and the living; the fortitude which should have
been the note of the meeting of Victor Haldin’s sister with Victor
Haldin’s only known friend. He was looking at her keenly, but said
nothing, and she was--she confessed--painfully affected by his want of
comprehension. All she could say was: “You are Mr. Razumov.” A slight
frown passed over his forehead. After a short, watchful pause, he made a
little bow of assent, and waited.

At the thought that she had before her the man so highly regarded by her
brother, the man who had known his value, spoken to him, understood him,
had listened to his confidences, perhaps had encouraged him--her lips
trembled, her eyes ran full of tears; she put out her hand, made a step
towards him impulsively, saying with an effort to restrain her emotion,
“Can’t you guess who I am?” He did not take the proffered hand. He
even recoiled a pace, and Miss Haldin imagined that he was unpleasantly
affected. Miss Haldin excused him, directing her displeasure at
herself. She had behaved unworthily, like an emotional French girl.
A manifestation of that kind could not be welcomed by a man of stern,
self-contained character.

He must have been stern indeed, or perhaps very timid with women, not
to respond in a more human way to the advances of a girl like Nathalie
Haldin--I thought to myself. Those lofty and solitary existences (I
remembered the words suddenly) make a young man shy and an old man
savage--often.

“Well,” I encouraged Miss Haldin to proceed.

She was still very dissatisfied with herself.

“I went from bad to worse,” she said, with an air of discouragement very
foreign to her. “I did everything foolish except actually bursting into
tears. I am thankful to say I did not do that. But I was unable to speak
for quite a long time.”

She had stood before him, speechless, swallowing her sobs, and when
she managed at last to utter something, it was only her brother’s
name--“Victor--Victor Haldin!” she gasped out, and again her voice
failed her.

“Of course,” she commented to me, “this distressed him. He was
quite overcome. I have told you my opinion that he is a man of deep
feeling--it is impossible to doubt it. You should have seen his face.
He positively reeled. He leaned against the wall of the terrace. Their
friendship must have been the very brotherhood of souls! I was grateful
to him for that emotion, which made me feel less ashamed of my own lack
of self-control. Of course I had regained the power of speech at once,
almost. All this lasted not more than a few seconds. ‘I am his sister,’
I said. ‘Maybe you have heard of me.’”

“And had he?” I interrupted.

“I don’t know. How could it have been otherwise? And yet.... But what
does that matter? I stood there before him, near enough to be touched
and surely not looking like an impostor. All I know is, that he put
out both his hands then to me, I may say flung them out at me, with
the greatest readiness and warmth, and that I seized and pressed them,
feeling that I was finding again a little of what I thought was lost
to me for ever, with the loss of my brother--some of that hope,
inspiration, and support which I used to get from my dear dead....”

I understood quite well what she meant. We strolled on slowly. I
refrained from looking at her. And it was as if answering my own
thoughts that I murmured--

“No doubt it was a great friendship--as you say. And that young man
ended by welcoming your name, so to speak, with both hands. After that,
of course, you would understand each other. Yes, you would understand
each other quickly.”

It was a moment before I heard her voice.

“Mr. Razumov seems to be a man of few words. A reserved man--even when
he is strongly moved.”

Unable to forget---or even to forgive--the bass-toned expansiveness of
Peter Ivanovitch, the Archpatron of revolutionary parties, I said that
I took this for a favourable trait of character. It was associated with
sincerity--in my mind.

“And, besides, we had not much time,” she added.

“No, you would not have, of course.” My suspicion and even dread of the
feminist and his Egeria was so ineradicable that I could not help asking
with real anxiety, which I made smiling--

“But you escaped all right?”

She understood me, and smiled too, at my uneasiness.

“Oh yes! I escaped, if you like to call it that. I walked away quickly.
There was no need to run. I am neither frightened nor yet fascinated,
like that poor woman who received me so strangely.”

“And Mr.--Mr. Razumov...?”

“He remained there, of course. I suppose he went into the house after I
left him. You remember that he came here strongly recommended to Peter
Ivanovitch--possibly entrusted with important messages for him.”

“Ah yes! From that priest who...”

“Father Zosim--yes. Or from others, perhaps.”

“You left him, then. But have you seen him since, may I ask?”

For some time Miss Haldin made no answer to this very direct question,
then--

“I have been expecting to see him here to-day,” she said quietly.

“You have! Do you meet, then, in this garden? In that case I had better
leave you at once.”

“No, why leave me? And we don’t meet in this garden. I have not seen Mr.
Razumov since that first time. Not once. But I have been expecting
him....”

She paused. I wondered to myself why that young revolutionist should
show so little alacrity.

“Before we parted I told Mr. Razumov that I walked here for an hour
every day at this time. I could not explain to him then why I did not
ask him to come and see us at once. Mother must be prepared for such a
visit. And then, you see, I do not know myself what Mr. Razumov has to
tell us. He, too, must be told first how it is with poor mother. All
these thoughts flashed through my mind at once. So I told him hurriedly
that there was a reason why I could not ask him to see us at home, but
that I was in the habit of walking here.... This is a public place,
but there are never many people about at this hour. I thought it would
do very well. And it is so near our apartments. I don’t like to be very
far away from mother. Our servant knows where I am in case I should be
wanted suddenly.”

“Yes. It is very convenient from that point of view,” I agreed.

In fact, I thought the Bastions a very convenient place, since the
girl did not think it prudent as yet to introduce that young man to
her mother. It was here, then, I thought, looking round at that plot of
ground of deplorable banality, that their acquaintance will begin and go
on in the exchange of generous indignations and of extreme sentiments,
too poignant, perhaps, for a non-Russian mind to conceive. I saw these
two, escaped out of four score of millions of human beings ground
between the upper and nether millstone, walking under these trees, their
young heads close together. Yes, an excellent place to stroll and talk
in. It even occurred to me, while we turned once more away from the wide
iron gates, that when tired they would have plenty of accommodation to
rest themselves. There was a quantity of tables and chairs displayed
between the restaurant chalet and the bandstand, a whole raft of painted
deals spread out under the trees. In the very middle of it I observed a
solitary Swiss couple, whose fate was made secure from the cradle to
the grave by the perfected mechanism of democratic institutions in a
republic that could almost be held in the palm of ones hand. The man,
colourlessly uncouth, was drinking beer out of a glittering glass; the
woman, rustic and placid, leaning back in the rough chair, gazed idly
around.

There is little logic to be expected on this earth, not only in the
matter of thought, but also of sentiment. I was surprised to discover
myself displeased with that unknown young man. A week had gone by since
they met. Was he callous, or shy, or very stupid? I could not make it
out.

“Do you think,” I asked Miss Haldin, after we had gone some distance up
the great alley, “that Mr Razumov understood your intention?”

“Understood what I meant?” she wondered. “He was greatly moved. That
I know! In my own agitation I could see it. But I spoke distinctly. He
heard me; he seemed, indeed, to hang on my words...”

Unconsciously she had hastened her pace. Her utterance, too, became
quicker.

I waited a little before I observed thoughtfully--

“And yet he allowed all these days to pass.”

“How can we tell what work he may have to do here? He is not an idler
travelling for his pleasure. His time may not be his own--nor yet his
thoughts, perhaps.”

She slowed her pace suddenly, and in a lowered voice added--

“Or his very life”--then paused and stood still “For all I know, he may
have had to leave Geneva the very day he saw me.”

“Without telling you!” I exclaimed incredulously.

“I did not give him time. I left him quite abruptly. I behaved
emotionally to the end. I am sorry for it. Even if I had given him the
opportunity he would have been justified in taking me for a person not
to be trusted. An emotional, tearful girl is not a person to confide in.
But even if he has left Geneva for a time, I am confident that we shall
meet again.”

“Ah! you are confident.... I dare say. But on what ground?”

“Because I’ve told him that I was in great need of some one, a
fellow-countryman, a fellow-believer, to whom I could give my confidence
in a certain matter.”

“I see. I don’t ask you what answer he made. I confess that this is good
ground for your belief in Mr. Razumov’s appearance before long. But he
has not turned up to-day?”

“No,” she said quietly, “not to-day;” and we stood for a time in
silence, like people that have nothing more to say to each other and
let their thoughts run widely asunder before their bodies go off their
different ways. Miss Haldin glanced at the watch on her wrist and made a
brusque movement. She had already overstayed her time, it seemed.

“I don’t like to be away from mother,” she murmured, shaking her head.
“It is not that she is very ill now. But somehow when I am not with her
I am more uneasy than ever.”

Mrs. Haldin had not made the slightest allusion to her son for the last
week or more. She sat, as usual, in the arm-chair by the window, looking
out silently on that hopeless stretch of the Boulevard des Philosophes.
When she spoke, a few lifeless words, it was of indifferent, trivial
things.

“For anyone who knows what the poor soul is thinking of, that sort of
talk is more painful than her silence. But that is bad too; I can hardly
endure it, and I dare not break it.”

Miss Haldin sighed, refastening a button of her glove which had come
undone. I knew well enough what a hard time of it she must be having.
The stress, its causes, its nature, would have undermined the health
of an Occidental girl; but Russian natures have a singular power of
resistance against the unfair strains of life. Straight and supple, with
a short jacket open on her black dress, which made her figure appear
more slender and her fresh but colourless face more pale, she compelled
my wonder and admiration.

“I can’t stay a moment longer. You ought to come soon to see mother. You
know she calls you ‘_L’ami._’ It is an excellent name, and she really
means it. And now _au revoir_; I must run.”

She glanced vaguely down the broad walk--the hand she put out to me
eluded my grasp by an unexpected upward movement, and rested upon my
shoulder. Her red lips were slightly parted, not in a smile, however,
but expressing a sort of startled pleasure. She gazed towards the gates
and said quickly, with a gasp--

“There! I knew it. Here he comes!”

I understood that she must mean Mr. Razumov. A young man was walking up
the alley, without haste. His clothes were some dull shade of brown, and
he carried a stick. When my eyes first fell on him, his head was hanging
on his breast as if in deep thought. While I was looking at him he
raised it sharply, and at once stopped. I am certain he did, but that
pause was nothing more perceptible than a faltering check in his gait,
instantaneously overcome. Then he continued his approach, looking at us
steadily. Miss Haldin signed to me to remain, and advanced a step or two
to meet him.

I turned my head away from that meeting, and did not look at them
again till I heard Miss Haldin’s voice uttering his name in the way
of introduction. Mr. Razumov was informed, in a warm, low tone, that,
besides being a wonderful teacher, I was a great support “in our sorrow
and distress.”

Of course I was described also as an Englishman. Miss Haldin spoke
rapidly, faster than I have ever heard her speak, and that by contrast
made the quietness of her eyes more expressive.

“I have given him my confidence,” she added, looking all the time at Mr.
Razumov. That young man did, indeed, rest his gaze on Miss Haldin,
but certainly did not look into her eyes which were so ready for him.
Afterwards he glanced backwards and forwards at us both, while the faint
commencement of a forced smile, followed by the suspicion of a frown,
vanished one after another; I detected them, though neither could have
been noticed by a person less intensely bent upon divining him than
myself. I don’t know what Nathalie Haldin had observed, but my attention
seized the very shades of these movements. The attempted smile was given
up, the incipient frown was checked, and smoothed so that there should
be no sign; but I imagined him exclaiming inwardly--

“Her confidence! To this elderly person--this foreigner!”

I imagined this because he looked foreign enough to me. I was upon the
whole favourably impressed. He had an air of intelligence and even
some distinction quite above the average of the students and other
inhabitants of the _Petite Russie_. His features were more decided
than in the generality of Russian faces; he had a line of the jaw,
a clean-shaven, sallow cheek; his nose was a ridge, and not a mere
protuberance. He wore the hat well down over his eyes, his dark hair
curled low on the nape of his neck; in the ill-fitting brown clothes
there were sturdy limbs; a slight stoop brought out a satisfactory
breadth of shoulders. Upon the whole I was not disappointed.
Studious--robust--shy.

Before Miss Haldin had ceased speaking I felt the grip of his hand on
mine, a muscular, firm grip, but unexpectedly hot and dry. Not a word or
even a mutter assisted this short and arid handshake.

I intended to leave them to themselves, but Miss Haldin touched me
lightly on the forearm with a significant contact, conveying a distinct
wish. Let him smile who likes, but I was only too ready to stay near
Nathalie Haldin, and I am not ashamed to say that it was no smiling
matter to me. I stayed, not as a youth would have stayed, uplifted, as
it were poised in the air, but soberly, with my feet on the ground and
my mind trying to penetrate her intention. She had turned to Razumov.

“Well. This is the place. Yes, it is here that I meant you to come. I
have been walking every day.... Don’t excuse yourself--I understand.
I am grateful to you for coming to-day, but all the same I cannot
stay now. It is impossible. I must hurry off home. Yes, even with you
standing before me, I must run off. I have been too long away.... You
know how it is?”

These last words were addressed to me. I noticed that Mr. Razumov passed
the tip of his tongue over his lips just as a parched, feverish man
might do. He took her hand in its black glove, which closed on his,
and held it--detained it quite visibly to me against a drawing-back
movement.

“Thank you once more for--for understanding me,” she went on warmly. He
interrupted her with a certain effect of roughness. I didn’t like him
speaking to this frank creature so much from under the brim of his hat,
as it were. And he produced a faint, rasping voice quite like a man with
a parched throat.

“What is there to thank me for? Understand you?... How did I
understand you?... You had better know that I understand nothing.
I was aware that you wanted to see me in this garden. I could not come
before. I was hindered. And even to-day, you see...late.”

She still held his hand.

“I can, at any rate, thank you for not dismissing me from your mind as
a weak, emotional girl. No doubt I want sustaining. I am very ignorant.
But I can be trusted. Indeed I can!”

“You are ignorant,” he repeated thoughtfully. He had raised his head,
and was looking straight into her face now, while she held his hand.
They stood like this for a long moment. She released his hand.

“Yes. You did come late. It was good of you to come on the chance of
me having loitered beyond my time. I was talking with this good friend
here. I was talking of you. Yes, Kirylo Sidorovitch, of you. He was with
me when I first heard of your being here in Geneva. He can tell you
what comfort it was to my bewildered spirit to hear that news. He knew
I meant to seek you out. It was the only object of my accepting the
invitation of Peter Ivanovitch....

“Peter Ivanovitch talked to you of me,” he interrupted, in that
wavering, hoarse voice which suggested a horribly dry throat.

“Very little. Just told me your name, and that you had arrived here. Why
should I have asked for more? What could he have told me that I did not
know already from my brother’s letter? Three lines! And how much they
meant to me! I will show them to you one day, Kirylo Sidorovitch. But
now I must go. The first talk between us cannot be a matter of five
minutes, so we had better not begin....”

I had been standing a little aside, seeing them both in profile. At that
moment it occurred to me that Mr. Razumov’s face was older than his age.

“If mother”--the girl had turned suddenly to me, “were to wake up in my
absence (so much longer than usual) she would perhaps question me. She
seems to miss me more, you know, of late. She would want to know what
delayed me--and, you see, it would be painful for me to dissemble before
her.”

I understood the point very well. For the same reason she checked what
seemed to be on Mr. Razumov’s part a movement to accompany her.

“No! No! I go alone, but meet me here as soon as possible.” Then to me
in a lower, significant tone--

“Mother may be sitting at the window at this moment, looking down
the street. She must not know anything of Mr. Razumov’s presence here
till--till something is arranged.” She paused before she added a little
louder, but still speaking to me, “Mr. Razumov does not quite understand
my difficulty, but you know what it is.”


V


With a quick inclination of the head for us both, and an earnest,
friendly glance at the young man, Miss Haldin left us covering our heads
and looking after her straight, supple figure receding rapidly. Her walk
was not that hybrid and uncertain gliding affected by some women, but
a frank, strong, healthy movement forward. Rapidly she increased the
distance--disappeared with suddenness at last. I discovered only then
that Mr. Razumov, after ramming his hat well over his brow, was looking
me over from head to foot. I dare say I was a very unexpected fact for
that young Russian to stumble upon. I caught in his physiognomy, in his
whole bearing, an expression compounded of curiosity and scorn, tempered
by alarm--as though he had been holding his breath while I was not
looking. But his eyes met mine with a gaze direct enough. I saw then for
the first time that they were of a clear brown colour and fringed with
thick black eyelashes. They were the youngest feature of his face. Not
at all unpleasant eyes. He swayed slightly, leaning on his stick and
generally hung in the wind. It flashed upon me that in leaving us
together Miss Haldin had an intention--that something was entrusted to
me, since, by a mere accident I had been found at hand. On this assumed
ground I put all possible friendliness into my manner. I cast about
for some right thing to say, and suddenly in Miss Haldin’s last words I
perceived the clue to the nature of my mission.

“No,” I said gravely, if with a smile, “you cannot be expected to
understand.”

His clean-shaven lip quivered ever so little before he said, as if
wickedly amused--

“But haven’t you heard just now? I was thanked by that young lady for
understanding so well.”

I looked at him rather hard. Was there a hidden and inexplicable sneer
in this retort? No. It was not that. It might have been resentment. Yes.
But what had he to resent? He looked as though he had not slept very
well of late. I could almost feel on me the weight of his unrefreshed,
motionless stare, the stare of a man who lies unwinking in the dark,
angrily passive in the toils of disastrous thoughts. Now, when I know
how true it was, I can honestly affirm that this was the effect he
produced on me. It was painful in a curiously indefinite way--for,
of course, the definition comes to me now while I sit writing in the
fullness of my knowledge. But this is what the effect was at that time
of absolute ignorance. This new sort of uneasiness which he seemed to
be forcing upon me I attempted to put down by assuming a conversational,
easy familiarity.

“That extremely charming and essentially admirable young girl (I am--as
you see--old enough to be frank in my expressions) was referring to her
own feelings. Surely you must have understood that much?”

He made such a brusque movement that he even tottered a little.

“Must understand this! Not expected to understand that! I may have other
things to do. And the girl is charming and admirable. Well--and if she
is! I suppose I can see that for myself.”

This sally would have been insulting if his voice had not been
practically extinct, dried up in his throat; and the rustling effort of
his speech too painful to give real offence.

I remained silent, checked between the obvious fact and the subtle
impression. It was open to me to leave him there and then; but the sense
of having been entrusted with a mission, the suggestion of Miss Haldin’s
last glance, was strong upon me. After a moment of reflection I said--

“Shall we walk together a little?”

He shrugged his shoulders so violently that he tottered again. I saw it
out of the corner of my eye as I moved on, with him at my elbow. He
had fallen back a little and was practically out of my sight, unless
I turned my head to look at him. I did not wish to indispose him
still further by an appearance of marked curiosity. It might have
been distasteful to such a young and secret refugee from under the
pestilential shadow hiding the true, kindly face of his land. And the
shadow, the attendant of his countrymen, stretching across the middle of
Europe, was lying on him too, darkening his figure to my mental vision.
“Without doubt,” I said to myself, “he seems a sombre, even a desperate
revolutionist; but he is young, he may be unselfish and humane, capable
of compassion, of....”

I heard him clear gratingly his parched throat, and became all
attention.

“This is beyond everything,” were his first words. “It is beyond
everything! I find you here, for no reason that I can understand, in
possession of something I cannot be expected to understand! A confidant!
A foreigner! Talking about an admirable Russian girl. Is the admirable
girl a fool, I begin to wonder? What are you at? What is your object?”

He was barely audible, as if his throat had no more resonance than a dry
rag, a piece of tinder. It was so pitiful that I found it extremely easy
to control my indignation.

“When you have lived a little longer, Mr. Razumov, you will discover
that no woman is an absolute fool. I am not a feminist, like that
illustrious author, Peter Ivanovitch, who, to say the truth, is not a
little suspect to me....”

He interrupted me, in a surprising note of whispering astonishment.

“Suspect to you! Peter Ivanovitch suspect to you! To you!...”

“Yes, in a certain aspect he is,” I said, dismissing my remark lightly.
“As I was saying, Mr. Razumov, when you have lived long enough, you will
learn to discriminate between the noble trustfulness of a nature foreign
to every meanness and the flattered credulity of some women; though even
the credulous, silly as they may be, unhappy as they are sure to be, are
never absolute fools. It is my belief that no woman is ever completely
deceived. Those that are lost leap into the abyss with their eyes open,
if all the truth were known.”

“Upon my word,” he cried at my elbow, “what is it to me whether women
are fools or lunatics? I really don’t care what you think of them. I--I
am not interested in them. I let them be. I am not a young man in a
novel. How do you know that I want to learn anything about women?...
What is the meaning of all this?”

“The object, you mean, of this conversation, which I admit I have forced
upon you in a measure.”

“Forced! Object!” he repeated, still keeping half a pace or so behind
me. “You wanted to talk about women, apparently. That’s a subject. But
I don’t care for it. I have never.... In fact, I have had other
subjects to think about.”

“I am concerned here with one woman only--a young girl--the sister of
your dead friend--Miss Haldin. Surely you can think a little of her.
What I meant from the first was that there is a situation which you
cannot be expected to understand.”

I listened to his unsteady footfalls by my side for the space of several
strides.

“I think that it may prepare the ground for your next interview with
Miss Haldin if I tell you of it. I imagine that she might have had
something of the kind in her mind when she left us together. I believe
myself authorized to speak. The peculiar situation I have alluded to
has arisen in the first grief and distress of Victor Haldin’s execution.
There was something peculiar in the circumstances of his arrest. You no
doubt know the whole truth....”

I felt my arm seized above the elbow, and next instant found myself
swung so as to face Mr. Razumov.

“You spring up from the ground before me with this talk. Who the devil
are you? This is not to be borne! Why! What for? What do you know
what is or is not peculiar? What have you to do with any confounded
circumstances, or with anything that happens in Russia, anyway?”

He leaned on his stick with his other hand, heavily; and when he let go
my arm, I was certain in my mind that he was hardly able to keep on his
feet.

“Let us sit down at one of these vacant tables,” I proposed,
disregarding this display of unexpectedly profound emotion. It was not
without its effect on me, I confess. I was sorry for him.

“What tables? What are you talking about? Oh--the empty tables? The
tables there. Certainly. I will sit at one of the empty tables.”

I led him away from the path to the very centre of the raft of deals
before the _chalet_. The Swiss couple were gone by that time. We were
alone on the raft, so to speak. Mr. Razumov dropped into a chair, let
fall his stick, and propped on his elbows, his head between his hands,
stared at me persistently, openly, and continuously, while I signalled
the waiter and ordered some beer. I could not quarrel with this silent
inspection very well, because, truth to tell, I felt somewhat guilty of
having been sprung on him with some abruptness--of having “sprung from
the ground,” as he expressed it.

While waiting to be served I mentioned that, born from parents settled
in St. Petersburg, I had acquired the language as a child. The town I
did not remember, having left it for good as a boy of nine, but in later
years I had renewed my acquaintance with the language. He listened,
without as much as moving his eyes the least little bit. He had to
change his position when the beer came, and the instant draining of his
glass revived him. He leaned back in his chair and, folding his arms
across his chest, continued to stare at me squarely. It occurred to me
that his clean-shaven, almost swarthy face was really of the very mobile
sort, and that the absolute stillness of it was the acquired habit of
a revolutionist, of a conspirator everlastingly on his guard against
self-betrayal in a world of secret spies.

“But you are an Englishman--a teacher of English literature,” he
murmured, in a voice that was no longer issuing from a parched throat.
“I have heard of you. People told me you have lived here for years.”

“Quite true. More than twenty years. And I have been assisting Miss
Haldin with her English studies.”

“You have been reading English poetry with her,” he said, immovable now,
like another man altogether, a complete stranger to the man of the heavy
and uncertain footfalls a little while ago--at my elbow.

“Yes, English poetry,” I said. “But the trouble of which I speak was
caused by an English newspaper.”

He continued to stare at me. I don’t think he was aware that the story
of the midnight arrest had been ferreted out by an English journalist
and given to the world. When I explained this to him he muttered
contemptuously, “It may have been altogether a lie.”

“I should think you are the best judge of that,” I retorted, a little
disconcerted. “I must confess that to me it looks to be true in the
main.”

“How can you tell truth from lies?” he queried in his new, immovable
manner.

“I don’t know how you do it in Russia,” I began, rather nettled by his
attitude. He interrupted me.

“In Russia, and in general everywhere--in a newspaper, for instance. The
colour of the ink and the shapes of the letters are the same.”

“Well, there are other trifles one can go by. The character of the
publication, the general verisimilitude of the news, the consideration
of the motive, and so on. I don’t trust blindly the accuracy of special
correspondents--but why should this one have gone to the trouble of
concocting a circumstantial falsehood on a matter of no importance to
the world?”

“That’s what it is,” he grumbled. “What’s going on with us is of
no importance--a mere sensational story to amuse the readers of the
papers--the superior contemptuous Europe. It is hateful to think of. But
let them wait a bit!”

He broke off on this sort of threat addressed to the western world.
Disregarding the anger in his stare, I pointed out that whether the
journalist was well- or ill-informed, the concern of the friends of
these ladies was with the effect the few lines of print in question had
produced--the effect alone. And surely he must be counted as one of
the friends--if only for the sake of his late comrade and intimate
fellow-revolutionist. At that point I thought he was going to speak
vehemently; but he only astounded me by the convulsive start of his
whole body. He restrained himself, folded his loosened arms tighter
across his chest, and sat back with a smile in which there was a twitch
of scorn and malice.

“Yes, a comrade and an intimate.... Very well,” he said.

“I ventured to speak to you on that assumption. And I cannot be
mistaken. I was present when Peter Ivanovitch announced your arrival
here to Miss Haldin, and I saw her relief and thankfulness when your
name was mentioned. Afterwards she showed me her brother’s letter,
and read out the few words in which he alludes to you. What else but a
friend could you have been?”

“Obviously. That’s perfectly well known. A friend. Quite correct....
Go on. You were talking of some effect.”

I said to myself: “He puts on the callousness of a stern revolutionist,
the insensibility to common emotions of a man devoted to a destructive
idea. He is young, and his sincerity assumes a pose before a stranger,
a foreigner, an old man. Youth must assert itself....” As concisely
as possible I exposed to him the state of mind poor Mrs. Haldin had been
thrown into by the news of her son’s untimely end.

He listened--I felt it--with profound attention. His level stare
deflected gradually downwards, left my face, and rested at last on the
ground at his feet.

“You can enter into the sister’s feelings. As you said, I have only read
a little English poetry with her, and I won’t make myself ridiculous in
your eyes by trying to speak of her. But you have seen her. She is one
of these rare human beings that do not want explaining. At least I think
so. They had only that son, that brother, for a link with the wider
world, with the future. The very groundwork of active existence for
Nathalie Haldin is gone with him. Can you wonder then that she turns
with eagerness to the only man her brother mentions in his letters. Your
name is a sort of legacy.”

“What could he have written of me?” he cried, in a low, exasperated
tone.

“Only a few words. It is not for me to repeat them to you, Mr. Razumov;
but you may believe my assertion that these words are forcible enough to
make both his mother and his sister believe implicitly in the worth of
your judgment and in the truth of anything you may have to say to them.
It’s impossible for you now to pass them by like strangers.”

I paused, and for a moment sat listening to the footsteps of the few
people passing up and down the broad central walk. While I was speaking
his head had sunk upon his breast above his folded arms. He raised it
sharply.

“Must I go then and lie to that old woman!”

It was not anger; it was something else, something more poignant, and
not so simple. I was aware of it sympathetically, while I was profoundly
concerned at the nature of that exclamation.

“Dear me! Won’t the truth do, then? I hoped you could have told them
something consoling. I am thinking of the poor mother now. Your Russia
_is_ a cruel country.”

He moved a little in his chair.

“Yes,” I repeated. “I thought you would have had something authentic to
tell.”

The twitching of his lips before he spoke was curious.

“What if it is not worth telling?”

“Not worth--from what point of view? I don’t understand.”

“From every point of view.”

I spoke with some asperity.

“I should think that anything which could explain the circumstances of
that midnight arrest....”

“Reported by a journalist for the amusement of the civilized Europe,” he
broke in scornfully.

“Yes, reported.... But aren’t they true? I can’t make out your
attitude in this? Either the man is a hero to you, or...”

He approached his face with fiercely distended nostrils close to mine so
suddenly that I had the greatest difficulty in not starting back.

“You ask me! I suppose it amuses you, all this. Look here! I am a
worker. I studied. Yes, I studied very hard. There is intelligence
here.” (He tapped his forehead with his finger-tips.) “Don’t you think a
Russian may have sane ambitions? Yes--I had even prospects. Certainly! I
had. And now you see me here, abroad, everything gone, lost, sacrificed.
You see me here--and you ask! You see me, don’t you?--sitting before
you.”

He threw himself back violently. I kept outwardly calm.

“Yes, I see you here; and I assume you are here on account of the Haldin
affair?”

His manner changed.

“You call it the Haldin affair--do you?” he observed indifferently.

“I have no right to ask you anything,” I said. “I wouldn’t presume. But
in that case the mother and the sister of him who must be a hero in
your eyes cannot be indifferent to you. The girl is a frank and generous
creature, having the noblest--well--illusions. You will tell her
nothing--or you will tell her everything. But speaking now of the object
with which I’ve approached you first, we have to deal with the morbid
state of the mother. Perhaps something could be invented under your
authority as a cure for a distracted and suffering soul filled with
maternal affection.”

His air of weary indifference was accentuated, I could not help
thinking, wilfully.

“Oh yes. Something might,” he mumbled carelessly.

He put his hand over his mouth to conceal a yawn. When he uncovered his
lips they were smiling faintly.

“Pardon me. This has been a long conversation, and I have not had much
sleep the last two nights.”

This unexpected, somewhat insolent sort of apology had the merit of
being perfectly true. He had had no nightly rest to speak of since that
day when, in the grounds of the Chateau Borel, the sister of Victor
Haldin had appeared before him. The perplexities and the complex
terrors--I may say--of this sleeplessness are recorded in the document
I was to see later--the document which is the main source of this
narrative. At the moment he looked to me convincingly tired, gone slack
all over, like a man who has passed through some sort of crisis.

“I have had a lot of urgent writing to do,” he added.

I rose from my chair at once, and he followed my example, without haste,
a little heavily.

“I must apologize for detaining you so long,” I said.

“Why apologize? One can’t very well go to bed before night. And you did
not detain me. I could have left you at any time.”

I had not stayed with him to be offended.

“I am glad you have been sufficiently interested,” I said calmly. “No
merit of mine, though--the commonest sort of regard for the mother of
your friend was enough.... As to Miss Haldin herself, she at one time
was disposed to think that her brother had been betrayed to the police
in some way.”

To my great surprise Mr. Razumov sat down again suddenly. I stared at
him, and I must say that he returned my stare without winking for quite
a considerable time.

“In some way,” he mumbled, as if he had not understood or could not
believe his ears.

“Some unforeseen event, a sheer accident might have done that,” I went
on. “Or, as she characteristically put it to me, the folly or weakness
of some unhappy fellow-revolutionist.”

“Folly or weakness,” he repeated bitterly.

“She is a very generous creature,” I observed after a time. The man
admired by Victor Haldin fixed his eyes on the ground. I turned away and
moved off, apparently unnoticed by him. I nourished no resentment of
the moody brusqueness with which he had treated me. The sentiment I was
carrying away from that conversation was that of hopelessness. Before
I had got fairly clear of the raft of chairs and tables he had rejoined
me.

“H’m, yes!” I heard him at my elbow again. “But what do you think?”

I did not look round even.

“I think that you people are under a curse.”

He made no sound. It was only on the pavement outside the gate that I
heard him again.

“I should like to walk with you a little.”

After all, I preferred this enigmatical young man to his celebrated
compatriot, the great Peter Ivanovitch. But I saw no reason for being
particularly gracious.

“I am going now to the railway station, by the shortest way from here,
to meet a friend from England,” I said, for all answer to his unexpected
proposal. I hoped that something informing could come of it. As we stood
on the curbstone waiting for a tramcar to pass, he remarked gloomily--

“I like what you said just now.”

“Do you?”

We stepped off the pavement together.

“The great problem,” he went on, “is to understand thoroughly the nature
of the curse.”

“That’s not very difficult, I think.”

“I think so too,” he agreed with me, and his readiness, strangely
enough, did not make him less enigmatical in the least.

“A curse is an evil spell,” I tried him again. “And the important, the
great problem, is to find the means to break it.”

“Yes. To find the means.”

That was also an assent, but he seemed to be thinking of something else.
We had crossed diagonally the open space before the theatre, and began
to descend a broad, sparely frequented street in the direction of one of
the smaller bridges. He kept on by my side without speaking for a long
time.

“You are not thinking of leaving Geneva soon?” I asked.

He was silent for so long that I began to think I had been indiscreet,
and should get no answer at all. Yet on looking at him I almost believed
that my question had caused him something in the nature of positive
anguish. I detected it mainly in the clasping of his hands, in which he
put a great force stealthily. Once, however, he had overcome that sort
of agonizing hesitation sufficiently to tell me that he had no such
intention, he became rather communicative--at least relatively to
the former off-hand curtness of his speeches. The tone, too, was more
amiable. He informed me that he intended to study and also to write. He
went even so far as to tell me he had been to Stuttgart. Stuttgart, I
was aware, was one of the revolutionary centres. The directing committee
of one of the Russian parties (I can’t tell now which) was located in
that town. It was there that he got into touch with the active work of
the revolutionists outside Russia.

“I have never been abroad before,” he explained, in a rather inanimate
voice now. Then, after a slight hesitation, altogether different from
the agonizing irresolution my first simple question “whether he meant to
stay in Geneva” had aroused, he made me an unexpected confidence--

“The fact is, I have received a sort of mission from them.”

“Which will keep you here in Geneva?”

“Yes. Here. In this odious....”

I was satisfied with my faculty for putting two and two together when I
drew the inference that the mission had something to do with the
person of the great Peter Ivanovitch. But I kept that surmise to myself
naturally, and Mr. Razumov said nothing more for some considerable time.
It was only when we were nearly on the bridge we had been making for
that he opened his lips again, abruptly--

“Could I see that precious article anywhere?”

I had to think for a moment before I saw what he was referring to.

“It has been reproduced in parts by the Press here. There are files to
be seen in various places. My copy of the English newspaper I have left
with Miss Haldin, I remember, on the day after it reached me. I was
sufficiently worried by seeing it lying on a table by the side of the
poor mother’s chair for weeks. Then it disappeared. It was a relief, I
assure you.”

He had stopped short.

“I trust,” I continued, “that you will find time to see these ladies
fairly often--that you will make time.”

He stared at me so queerly that I hardly know how to define his aspect.
I could not understand it in this connexion at all. What ailed him? I
asked myself. What strange thought had come into his head? What vision
of all the horrors that can be seen in his hopeless country had come
suddenly to haunt his brain? If it were anything connected with the fate
of Victor Haldin, then I hoped earnestly he would keep it to himself
for ever. I was, to speak plainly, so shocked that I tried to conceal my
impression by--Heaven forgive me--a smile and the assumption of a light
manner.

“Surely,” I exclaimed, “that needn’t cost you a great effort.”

He turned away from me and leaned over the parapet of the bridge. For a
moment I waited, looking at his back. And yet, I assure you, I was not
anxious just then to look at his face again. He did not move at all. He
did not mean to move. I walked on slowly on my way towards the station,
and at the end of the bridge I glanced over my shoulder. No, he had not
moved. He hung well over the parapet, as if captivated by the smooth
rush of the blue water under the arch. The current there is swift,
extremely swift; it makes some people dizzy; I myself can never look at
it for any length of time without experiencing a dread of being suddenly
snatched away by its destructive force. Some brains cannot resist the
suggestion of irresistible power and of headlong motion.

It apparently had a charm for Mr. Razumov. I left him hanging far over
the parapet of the bridge. The way he had behaved to me could not be put
down to mere boorishness. There was something else under his scorn and
impatience. Perhaps, I thought, with sudden approach to hidden truth,
it was the same thing which had kept him over a week, nearly ten days
indeed, from coming near Miss Haldin. But what it was I could not tell.



PART THIRD



I


The water under the bridge ran violent and deep. Its slightly undulating
rush seemed capable of scouring out a channel for itself through solid
granite while you looked. But had it flowed through Razumov’s breast,
it could not have washed away the accumulated bitterness the wrecking of
his life had deposited there.

“What is the meaning of all this?” he thought, staring downwards at
the headlong flow so smooth and clean that only the passage of a faint
air-bubble, or a thin vanishing streak of foam like a white hair,
disclosed its vertiginous rapidity, its terrible force. “Why has that
meddlesome old Englishman blundered against me? And what is this silly
tale of a crazy old woman?”

He was trying to think brutally on purpose, but he avoided any mental
reference to the young girl. “A crazy old woman,” he repeated to
himself. “It is a fatality! Or ought I to despise all this as absurd?
But no! I am wrong! I can’t afford to despise anything. An absurdity may
be the starting-point of the most dangerous complications. How is one
to guard against it? It puts to rout one’s intelligence. The more
intelligent one is the less one suspects an absurdity.”

A wave of wrath choked his thoughts for a moment. It even made his body
leaning over the parapet quiver; then he resumed his silent thinking,
like a secret dialogue with himself. And even in that privacy, his
thought had some reservations of which he was vaguely conscious.

“After all, this is not absurd. It is insignificant. It is absolutely
insignificant--absolutely. The craze of an old woman--the fussy
officiousness of a blundering elderly Englishman. What devil put him in
the way? Haven’t I treated him cavalierly enough? Haven’t I just? That’s
the way to treat these meddlesome persons. Is it possible that he still
stands behind my back, waiting?”

Razumov felt a faint chill run down his spine. It was not fear. He was
certain that it was not fear--not fear for himself--but it was, all the
same, a sort of apprehension as if for another, for some one he
knew without being able to put a name on the personality. But the
recollection that the officious Englishman had a train to meet
tranquillized him for a time. It was too stupid to suppose that he
should be wasting his time in waiting. It was unnecessary to look round
and make sure.

But what did the man mean by his extraordinary rigmarole about the
newspaper, and that crazy old woman? he thought suddenly. It was a
damnable presumption, anyhow, something that only an Englishman could
be capable of. All this was a sort of sport for him--the sport of
revolution--a game to look at from the height of his superiority. And
what on earth did he mean by his exclamation, “Won’t the truth do?”

Razumov pressed his folded arms to the stone coping over which he was
leaning with force. “Won’t the truth do? The truth for the crazy old
mother of the--”

The young man shuddered again. Yes. The truth would do! Apparently
it would do. Exactly. And receive thanks, he thought, formulating the
unspoken words cynically. “Fall on my neck in gratitude, no doubt,” he
jeered mentally. But this mood abandoned him at once. He felt sad, as
if his heart had become empty suddenly. “Well, I must be cautious,” he
concluded, coming to himself as though his brain had been awakened from
a trance. “There is nothing, no one, too insignificant, too absurd to be
disregarded,” he thought wearily. “I must be cautious.”

Razumov pushed himself with his hand away from the balustrade and,
retracing his steps along the bridge, walked straight to his lodgings,
where, for a few days, he led a solitary and retired existence. He
neglected Peter Ivanovitch, to whom he was accredited by the Stuttgart
group; he never went near the refugee revolutionists, to whom he had
been introduced on his arrival. He kept out of that world altogether.
And he felt that such conduct, causing surprise and arousing suspicion,
contained an element of danger for himself.

This is not to say that during these few days he never went out. I met
him several times in the streets, but he gave me no recognition.
Once, going home after an evening call on the ladies Haldin, I saw him
crossing the dark roadway of the Boulevard des Philosophes. He had a
broad-brimmed soft hat, and the collar of his coat turned up. I watched
him make straight for the house, but, instead of going in, he stopped
opposite the still lighted windows, and after a time went away down a
side-street.

I knew that he had not been to see Mrs. Haldin yet. Miss Haldin told
me he was reluctant; moreover, the mental condition of Mrs. Haldin
had changed. She seemed to think now that her son was living, and she
perhaps awaited his arrival. Her immobility in the great arm-chair in
front of the window had an air of expectancy, even when the blind was
down and the lamps lighted.

For my part, I was convinced that she had received her death-stroke;
Miss Haldin, to whom, of course, I said nothing of my forebodings,
thought that no good would come from introducing Mr. Razumov just then,
an opinion which I shared fully. I knew that she met the young man on
the Bastions. Once or twice I saw them strolling slowly up the main
alley. They met every day for weeks. I avoided passing that way during
the hour when Miss Haldin took her exercise there. One day, however,
in a fit of absent-mindedness, I entered the gates and came upon her
walking alone. I stopped to exchange a few words. Mr. Razumov failed to
turn up, and we began to talk about him--naturally.

“Did he tell you anything definite about your brother’s activities--his
end?” I ventured to ask.

“No,” admitted Miss Haldin, with some hesitation. “Nothing definite.”

I understood well enough that all their conversations must have been
referred mentally to that dead man who had brought them together. That
was unavoidable. But it was in the living man that she was interested.
That was unavoidable too, I suppose. And as I pushed my inquiries
I discovered that he had disclosed himself to her as a by no means
conventional revolutionist, contemptuous of catchwords, of theories, of
men too. I was rather pleased at that--but I was a little puzzled.

“His mind goes forward, far ahead of the struggle,” Miss Haldin
explained. “Of course, he is an actual worker too,” she added.

“And do you understand him?” I inquired point-blank.

She hesitated again. “Not altogether,” she murmured.

I perceived that he had fascinated her by an assumption of mysterious
reserve.

“Do you know what I think?” she went on, breaking through her reserved,
almost reluctant attitude: “I think that he is observing, studying me,
to discover whether I am worthy of his trust....”

“And that pleases you?”

She kept mysteriously silent for a moment. Then with energy, but in a
confidential tone--

“I am convinced;” she declared, “that this extraordinary man is
meditating some vast plan, some great undertaking; he is possessed by
it--he suffers from it--and from being alone in the world.”

“And so he’s looking for helpers?” I commented, turning away my head.

Again there was a silence.

“Why not?” she said at last.

The dead brother, the dying mother, the foreign friend, had fallen
into a distant background. But, at the same time, Peter Ivanovitch was
absolutely nowhere now. And this thought consoled me. Yet I saw the
gigantic shadow of Russian life deepening around her like the darkness
of an advancing night. It would devour her presently. I inquired after
Mrs. Haldin--that other victim of the deadly shade.

A remorseful uneasiness appeared in her frank eyes. Mother seemed no
worse, but if I only knew what strange fancies she had sometimes! Then
Miss Haldin, glancing at her watch, declared that she could not stay a
moment longer, and with a hasty hand-shake ran off lightly.

Decidedly, Mr. Razumov was not to turn up that day. Incomprehensible
youth!

But less than an hour afterwards, while crossing the Place Mollard, I
caught sight of him boarding a South Shore tramcar.

“He’s going to the Chateau Borel,” I thought.


After depositing Razumov at the gates of the Chateau Borel, some half
a mile or so from the town, the car continued its journey between two
straight lines of shady trees. Across the roadway in the sunshine a
short wooden pier jutted into the shallow pale water, which farther out
had an intense blue tint contrasting unpleasantly with the green orderly
slopes on the opposite shore. The whole view, with the harbour jetties
of white stone underlining lividly the dark front of the town to
the left, and the expanding space of water to the right with jutting
promontories of no particular character, had the uninspiring, glittering
quality of a very fresh oleograph. Razumov turned his back on it with
contempt. He thought it odious--oppressively odious--in its unsuggestive
finish: the very perfection of mediocrity attained at last after
centuries of toil and culture. And turning his back on it, he faced the
entrance to the grounds of the Chateau Borel.

The bars of the central way and the wrought-iron arch between the dark
weather-stained stone piers were very rusty; and, though fresh tracks of
wheels ran under it, the gate looked as if it had not been opened for
a very long time. But close against the lodge, built of the same grey
stone as the piers (its windows were all boarded up), there was a small
side entrance. The bars of that were rusty too; it stood ajar and looked
as though it had not been closed for a long time. In fact, Razumov,
trying to push it open a little wider, discovered it was immovable.

“Democratic virtue. There are no thieves here, apparently,” he muttered
to himself, with displeasure. Before advancing into the grounds he
looked back sourly at an idle working man lounging on a bench in the
clean, broad avenue. The fellow had thrown his feet up; one of his arms
hung over the low back of the public seat; he was taking a day off in
lordly repose, as if everything in sight belonged to him.

“Elector! Eligible! Enlightened!” Razumov muttered to himself. “A brute,
all the same.”

Razumov entered the grounds and walked fast up the wide sweep of
the drive, trying to think of nothing--to rest his head, to rest his
emotions too. But arriving at the foot of the terrace before the house
he faltered, affected physically by some invisible interference. The
mysteriousness of his quickened heart-beats startled him. He stopped
short and looked at the brick wall of the terrace, faced with shallow
arches, meagrely clothed by a few unthriving creepers, with an ill-kept
narrow flower-bed along its foot.

“It is here!” he thought, with a sort of awe. “It is here--on this very
spot....”

He was tempted to flight at the mere recollection of his first meeting
with Nathalie Haldin. He confessed it to himself; but he did not move,
and that not because he wished to resist an unworthy weakness, but
because he knew that he had no place to fly to. Moreover, he could
not leave Geneva. He recognized, even without thinking, that it was
impossible. It would have been a fatal admission, an act of moral
suicide. It would have been also physically dangerous. Slowly he
ascended the stairs of the terrace, flanked by two stained greenish
stone urns of funereal aspect.

Across the broad platform, where a few blades of grass sprouted on the
discoloured gravel, the door of the house, with its ground-floor windows
shuttered, faced him, wide open. He believed that his approach had
been noted, because, framed in the doorway, without his tall hat, Peter
Ivanovitch seemed to be waiting for his approach.

The ceremonious black frock-coat and the bared head of Europe’s greatest
feminist accentuated the dubiousness of his status in the house rented
by Madame de S--, his Egeria. His aspect combined the formality of the
caller with the freedom of the proprietor. Florid and bearded and masked
by the dark blue glasses, he met the visitor, and at once took him
familiarly under the arm.

Razumov suppressed every sign of repugnance by an effort which the
constant necessity of prudence had rendered almost mechanical. And
this necessity had settled his expression in a cast of austere, almost
fanatical, aloofness. The “heroic fugitive,” impressed afresh by the
severe detachment of this new arrival from revolutionary Russia, took a
conciliatory, even a confidential tone. Madame de S-- was resting after
a bad night. She often had bad nights. He had left his hat upstairs on
the landing and had come down to suggest to his young friend a stroll
and a good open-hearted talk in one of the shady alleys behind the
house. After voicing this proposal, the great man glanced at the unmoved
face by his side, and could not restrain himself from exclaiming--

“On my word, young man, you are an extraordinary person.”

“I fancy you are mistaken, Peter Ivanovitch. If I were really an
extraordinary person, I would not be here, walking with you in a garden
in Switzerland, Canton of Geneva, Commune of--what’s the name of the
Commune this place belongs to?... Never mind--the heart of democracy,
anyhow. A fit heart for it; no bigger than a parched pea and about as
much value. I am no more extraordinary than the rest of us Russians,
wandering abroad.”

But Peter Ivanovitch dissented emphatically--

“No! No! You are not ordinary. I have some experience of Russians who
are--well--living abroad. You appear to me, and to others too, a marked
personality.”

“What does he mean by this?” Razumov asked himself, turning his eyes
fully on his companion. The face of Peter Ivanovitch expressed a
meditative seriousness.

“You don’t suppose, Kirylo Sidorovitch, that I have not heard of you
from various points where you made yourself known on your way here? I
have had letters.”

“Oh, we are great in talking about each other,” interjected Razumov, who
had listened with great attention. “Gossip, tales, suspicions, and
all that sort of thing, we know how to deal in to perfection. Calumny,
even.”

In indulging in this sally, Razumov managed very well to conceal the
feeling of anxiety which had come over him. At the same time he was
saying to himself that there could be no earthly reason for anxiety. He
was relieved by the evident sincerity of the protesting voice.

“Heavens!” cried Peter Ivanovitch. “What are you talking about? What
reason can _you_ have to...?”

The great exile flung up his arms as if words had failed him in sober
truth. Razumov was satisfied. Yet he was moved to continue in the same
vein.

“I am talking of the poisonous plants which flourish in the world of
conspirators, like evil mushrooms in a dark cellar.”

“You are casting aspersions,” remonstrated Peter Ivanovitch, “which as
far as you are concerned--”

“No!” Razumov interrupted without heat. “Indeed, I don’t want to cast
aspersions, but it’s just as well to have no illusions.”

Peter Ivanovitch gave him an inscrutable glance of his dark spectacles,
accompanied by a faint smile.

“The man who says that he has no illusions has at least that one,” he
said, in a very friendly tone. “But I see how it is, Kirylo Sidorovitch.
You aim at stoicism.”

“Stoicism! That’s a pose of the Greeks and the Romans. Let’s leave
it to them. We are Russians, that is--children; that is--sincere; that
is--cynical, if you like. But that’s not a pose.”

A long silence ensued. They strolled slowly under the lime-trees.
Peter Ivanovitch had put his hands behind his back. Razumov felt the
ungravelled ground of the deeply shaded walk damp and as if slippery
under his feet. He asked himself, with uneasiness, if he were saying the
right things. The direction of the conversation ought to have been more
under his control, he reflected. The great man appeared to be reflecting
on his side too. He cleared his throat slightly, and Razumov felt at
once a painful reawakening of scorn and fear.

“I am astonished,” began Peter Ivanovitch gently. “Supposing you are
right in your indictment, how can you raise any question of calumny
or gossip, in your case? It is unreasonable. The fact is, Kirylo
Sidorovitch, there is not enough known of you to give hold to gossip or
even calumny. Just now you are a man associated with a great deed, which
had been hoped for, and tried for too, without success. People have
perished for attempting that which you and Haldin have done at last. You
come to us out of Russia, with that prestige. But you cannot deny that
you have not been communicative, Kirylo Sidorovitch. People you have met
imparted their impressions to me; one wrote this, another that, but I
form my own opinions. I waited to see you first. You are a man out
of the common. That’s positively so. You are close, very close. This
taciturnity, this severe brow, this something inflexible and secret in
you, inspires hopes and a little wonder as to what you may mean. There
is something of a Brutus....”

“Pray spare me those classical allusions!” burst out Razumov nervously.
“What comes Junius Brutus to do here? It is ridiculous! Do you mean to
say,” he added sarcastically, but lowering his voice, “that the Russian
revolutionists are all patricians and that I am an aristocrat?”

Peter Ivanovitch, who had been helping himself with a few gestures,
clasped his hands again behind his back, and made a few steps,
pondering.

“Not _all_ patricians,” he muttered at last. “But you, at any rate, are
one of _us_.”

Razumov smiled bitterly.

“To be sure my name is not Gugenheimer,” he said in a sneering tone. “I
am not a democratic Jew. How can I help it? Not everybody has such luck.
I have no name, I have no....”

The European celebrity showed a great concern. He stepped back a pace
and his arms flew in front of his person, extended, deprecatory, almost
entreating. His deep bass voice was full of pain.

“But, my dear young friend!” he cried. “My dear Kirylo Sidorovitch....”

Razumov shook his head.

“The very patronymic you are so civil as to use when addressing me I
have no legal right to--but what of that? I don’t wish to claim it.
I have no father. So much the better. But I will tell you what: my
mother’s grandfather was a peasant--a serf. See how much I am one of
_you_. I don’t want anyone to claim me. But Russia _can’t_ disown me.
She cannot!”

Razumov struck his breast with his fist.

“I am _it_!”

Peter Ivanovitch walked on slowly, his head lowered. Razumov followed,
vexed with himself. That was not the right sort of talk. All sincerity
was an imprudence. Yet one could not renounce truth altogether, he
thought, with despair. Peter Ivanovitch, meditating behind his dark
glasses, became to him suddenly so odious that if he had had a knife, he
fancied he could have stabbed him not only without compunction, but
with a horrible, triumphant satisfaction. His imagination dwelt on
that atrocity in spite of himself. It was as if he were becoming
light-headed. “It is not what is expected of me,” he repeated to
himself. “It is not what is--I could get away by breaking the fastening
on the little gate I see there in the back wall. It is a flimsy lock.
Nobody in the house seems to know he is here with me. Oh yes. The hat!
These women would discover presently the hat he has left on the landing.
They would come upon him, lying dead in this damp, gloomy shade--but I
would be gone and no one could ever...Lord! Am I going mad?” he asked
himself in a fright.

The great man was heard--musing in an undertone.

“H’m, yes! That--no doubt--in a certain sense....” He raised his
voice. “There is a deal of pride about you....”

The intonation of Peter Ivanovitch took on a homely, familiar ring,
acknowledging, in a way, Razumov’s claim to peasant descent.

“A great deal of pride, brother Kirylo. And I don’t say that you have no
justification for it. I have admitted you had. I have ventured to allude
to the facts of your birth simply because I attach no mean importance
to it. You are one of us--_un des notres_. I reflect on that with
satisfaction.”

“I attach some importance to it also,” said Razumov quietly. “I won’t
even deny that it may have some importance for you too,” he continued,
after a slight pause and with a touch of grimness of which he was
himself aware, with some annoyance. He hoped it had escaped the
perception of Peter Ivanovitch. “But suppose we talk no more about it?”

“Well, we shall not--not after this one time, Kirylo Sidorovitch,”
 persisted the noble arch-priest of Revolution. “This shall be the last
occasion. You cannot believe for a moment that I had the slightest idea
of wounding your feelings. You are clearly a superior nature--that’s how
I read you. Quite above the common--h’m--susceptibilities. But the fact
is, Kirylo Sidorovitch, I don’t know your susceptibilities. Nobody, out
of Russia, knows much of you--as yet!”

“You have been watching me?” suggested Razumov.

“Yes.”

The great man had spoken in a tone of perfect frankness, but as they
turned their faces to each other Razumov felt baffled by the dark
spectacles. Under their cover, Peter Ivanovitch hinted that he had felt
for some time the need of meeting a man of energy and character, in view
of a certain project. He said nothing more precise, however; and after
some critical remarks upon the personalities of the various members
of the committee of revolutionary action in Stuttgart, he let the
conversation lapse for quite a long while. They paced the alley from end
to end. Razumov, silent too, raised his eyes from time to time to cast a
glance at the back of the house. It offered no sign of being inhabited.
With its grimy, weather-stained walls and all the windows shuttered from
top to bottom, it looked damp and gloomy and deserted. It might very
well have been haunted in traditional style by some doleful, groaning,
futile ghost of a middle-class order. The shades evoked, as worldly
rumour had it, by Madame de S-- to meet statesmen, diplomatists,
deputies of various European Parliaments, must have been of another
sort. Razumov had never seen Madame de S-- but in the carriage.

Peter Ivanovitch came out of his abstraction.

“Two things I may say to you at once. I believe, first, that neither a
leader nor any decisive action can come out of the dregs of a people.
Now, if you ask me what are the dregs of a people--h’m--it would take
too long to tell. You would be surprised at the variety of ingredients
that for me go to the making up of these dregs--of that which ought,
_must_ remain at the bottom. Moreover, such a statement might be subject
to discussion. But I can tell you what is _not_ the dregs. On that it
is impossible for us to disagree. The peasantry of a people is not the
dregs; neither is its highest class--well--the nobility. Reflect on
that, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I believe you are well fitted for reflection.
Everything in a people that is not genuine, not its own by origin or
development, is--well--dirt! Intelligence in the wrong place is that.
Foreign-bred doctrines are that. Dirt! Dregs! The second thing I would
offer to your meditation is this: that for us at this moment there yawns
a chasm between the past and the future. It can never be bridged by
foreign liberalism. All attempts at it are either folly or cheating.
Bridged it can never be! It has to be filled up.”

A sort of sinister jocularity had crept into the tones of the burly
feminist. He seized Razumov’s arm above the elbow, and gave it a slight
shake.

“Do you understand, enigmatical young man? It has got to be just filled
up.”

Razumov kept an unmoved countenance.

“Don’t you think that I have already gone beyond meditation on that
subject?” he said, freeing his arm by a quiet movement which increased
the distance a little between himself and Peter Ivanovitch, as they went
on strolling abreast. And he added that surely whole cartloads of words
and theories could never fill that chasm. No meditation was necessary.
A sacrifice of many lives could alone--He fell silent without finishing
the phrase.

Peter Ivanovitch inclined his big hairy head slowly. After a moment he
proposed that they should go and see if Madame de S-- was now visible.

“We shall get some tea,” he said, turning out of the shaded gloomy walk
with a brisker step.

The lady companion had been on the look out. Her dark skirt whisked into
the doorway as the two men came in sight round the corner. She ran off
somewhere altogether, and had disappeared when they entered the hall. In
the crude light falling from the dusty glass skylight upon the black
and white tessellated floor, covered with muddy tracks, their footsteps
echoed faintly. The great feminist led the way up the stairs. On the
balustrade of the first-floor landing a shiny tall hat reposed, rim
upwards, opposite the double door of the drawing-room, haunted, it
was said, by evoked ghosts, and frequented, it was to be supposed, by
fugitive revolutionists. The cracked white paint of the panels, the
tarnished gilt of the mouldings, permitted one to imagine nothing but
dust and emptiness within. Before turning the massive brass handle,
Peter Ivanovitch gave his young companion a sharp, partly critical,
partly preparatory glance.

“No one is perfect,” he murmured discreetly. Thus, the possessor of a
rare jewel might, before opening the casket, warn the profane that no
gem perhaps is flawless.

He remained with his hand on the door-handle so long that Razumov
assented by a moody “No.”

“Perfection itself would not produce that effect,” pursued Peter
Ivanovitch, “in a world not meant for it. But you shall find there a
mind--no!--the quintessence of feminine intuition which will understand
any perplexity you may be suffering from by the irresistible,
enlightening force of sympathy. Nothing can remain obscure before
that--that--inspired, yes, inspired penetration, this true light of
femininity.”

The gaze of the dark spectacles in its glossy steadfastness gave his
face an air of absolute conviction. Razumov felt a momentary shrinking
before that closed door.

“Penetration? Light,” he stammered out. “Do you mean some sort of
thought-reading?”

Peter Ivanovitch seemed shocked.

“I mean something utterly different,” he retorted, with a faint, pitying
smile.

Razumov began to feel angry, very much against his wish.

“This is very mysterious,” he muttered through his teeth.

“You don’t object to being understood, to being guided?” queried the
great feminist. Razumov exploded in a fierce whisper.

“In what sense? Be pleased to understand that I am a serious person. Who
do you take me for?”

They looked at each other very closely. Razumov’s temper was cooled
by the impenetrable earnestness of the blue glasses meeting his stare.
Peter Ivanovitch turned the handle at last.

“You shall know directly,” he said, pushing the door open.

A low-pitched grating voice was heard within the room.

“_Enfin_.”

In the doorway, his black-coated bulk blocking the view, Peter
Ivanovitch boomed in a hearty tone with something boastful in it.

“Yes. Here I am!”

He glanced over his shoulder at Razumov, who waited for him to move on.

“And I am bringing you a proved conspirator--a real one this time. _Un
vrai celui la_.”

This pause in the doorway gave the “proved conspirator” time to make
sure that his face did not betray his angry curiosity and his mental
disgust.

These sentiments stand confessed in Mr. Razumov’s memorandum of
his first interview with Madame de S--. The very words I use in my
narrative are written where their sincerity cannot be suspected. The
record, which could not have been meant for anyone’s eyes but his own,
was not, I think, the outcome of that strange impulse of indiscretion
common to men who lead secret lives, and accounting for the invariable
existence of “compromising documents” in all the plots and conspiracies
of history. Mr. Razumov looked at it, I suppose, as a man looks at
himself in a mirror, with wonder, perhaps with anguish, with anger or
despair. Yes, as a threatened man may look fearfully at his own face in
the glass, formulating to himself reassuring excuses for his appearance
marked by the taint of some insidious hereditary disease.


II


The Egeria of the “Russian Mazzini” produced, at first view, a strong
effect by the death-like immobility of an obviously painted face. The
eyes appeared extraordinarily brilliant. The figure, in a close-fitting
dress, admirably made, but by no means fresh, had an elegant stiffness.
The rasping voice inviting him to sit down; the rigidity of the upright
attitude with one arm extended along the back of the sofa, the white
gleam of the big eyeballs setting off the black, fathomless stare of the
enlarged pupils, impressed Razumov more than anything he had seen since
his hasty and secret departure from St. Petersburg. A witch in Parisian
clothes, he thought. A portent! He actually hesitated in his advance,
and did not even comprehend, at first, what the rasping voice was
saying.

“Sit down. Draw your chair nearer me. There--”

He sat down. At close quarters the rouged cheekbones, the wrinkles, the
fine lines on each side of the vivid lips, astounded him. He was being
received graciously, with a smile which made him think of a grinning
skull.

“We have been hearing about you for some time.”

He did not know what to say, and murmured some disconnected words. The
grinning skull effect vanished.

“And do you know that the general complaint is that you have shown
yourself very reserved everywhere?”

Razumov remained silent for a time, thinking of his answer.

“I, don’t you see, am a man of action,” he said huskily, glancing
upwards.

Peter Ivanovitch stood in portentous expectant silence by the side of
his chair. A slight feeling of nausea came over Razumov. What could be
the relations of these two people to each other? She like a galvanized
corpse out of some Hoffman’s Tale--he the preacher of feminist gospel
for all the world, and a super-revolutionist besides! This ancient,
painted mummy with unfathomable eyes, and this burly, bull-necked,
deferential...what was it? Witchcraft, fascination.... “It’s for
her money,” he thought. “She has millions!”

The walls, the floor of the room were bare like a barn. The few pieces
of furniture had been discovered in the garrets and dragged down into
service without having been properly dusted, even. It was the refuse the
banker’s widow had left behind her. The windows without curtains had an
indigent, sleepless look. In two of them the dirty yellowy-white blinds
had been pulled down. All this spoke, not of poverty, but of sordid
penuriousness.

The hoarse voice on the sofa uttered angrily--

“You are looking round, Kirylo Sidorovitch. I have been shamefully
robbed, positively ruined.”

A rattling laugh, which seemed beyond her control, interrupted her for a
moment.

“A slavish nature would find consolation in the fact that the principal
robber was an exalted and almost a sacrosanct person--a Grand Duke, in
fact. Do you understand, Mr. Razumov? A Grand Duke--No! You have no idea
what thieves those people are! Downright thieves!”

Her bosom heaved, but her left arm remained rigidly extended along the
back of the couch.

“You will only upset yourself,” breathed out a deep voice, which, to
Razumov’s startled glance, seemed to proceed from under the steady
spectacles of Peter Ivanovitch, rather than from his lips, which had
hardly moved.

“What of hat? I say thieves! _Voleurs! Voleurs!_”

Razumov was quite confounded by this unexpected clamour, which had in
it something of wailing and croaking, and more than a suspicion of
hysteria.

“_Voleurs! Voleurs! Vol_....”

“No power on earth can rob you of your genius,” shouted Peter Ivanovitch
in an overpowering bass, but without stirring, without a gesture of any
kind. A profound silence fell.

Razumov remained outwardly impassive. “What is the meaning of this
performance?” he was asking himself. But with a preliminary sound
of bumping outside some door behind him, the lady companion, in a
threadbare black skirt and frayed blouse, came in rapidly, walking on
her heels, and carrying in both hands a big Russian samovar, obviously
too heavy for her. Razumov made an instinctive movement to help, which
startled her so much that she nearly dropped her hissing burden. She
managed, however, to land it on the table, and looked so frightened that
Razumov hastened to sit down. She produced then, from an adjacent room,
four glass tumblers, a teapot, and a sugar-basin, on a black iron tray.

The rasping voice asked from the sofa abruptly--

“_Les gateaux_? Have you remembered to bring the cakes?”

Peter Ivanovitch, without a word, marched out on to the landing, and
returned instantly with a parcel wrapped up in white glazed paper, which
he must have extracted from the interior of his hat. With imperturbable
gravity he undid the string and smoothed the paper open on a part of the
table within reach of Madame de S--‘s hand. The lady companion poured
out the tea, then retired into a distant corner out of everybody’s
sight. From time to time Madame de S-- extended a claw-like hand,
glittering with costly rings, towards the paper of cakes, took up one
and devoured it, displaying her big false teeth ghoulishly. Meantime she
talked in a hoarse tone of the political situation in the Balkans. She
built great hopes on some complication in the peninsula for arousing
a great movement of national indignation in Russia against “these
thieves--thieves thieves.”

“You will only upset yourself,” Peter Ivanovitch interposed, raising
his glassy gaze. He smoked cigarettes and drank tea in silence,
continuously. When he had finished a glass, he flourished his hand
above his shoulder. At that signal the lady companion, ensconced in her
corner, with round eyes like a watchful animal, would dart out to the
table and pour him out another tumblerful.

Razumov looked at her once or twice. She was anxious, tremulous, though
neither Madame de S-- nor Peter Ivanovitch paid the slightest attention
to her. “What have they done between them to that forlorn creature?”
 Razumov asked himself. “Have they terrified her out of her senses with
ghosts, or simply have they only been beating her?” When she gave him
his second glass of tea, he noticed that her lips trembled in the manner
of a scared person about to burst into speech. But of course she said
nothing, and retired into her corner, as if hugging to herself the smile
of thanks he gave her.

“She may be worth cultivating,” thought Razumov suddenly.

He was calming down, getting hold of the actuality into which he had
been thrown--for the first time perhaps since Victor Haldin had entered
his room...and had gone out again. He was distinctly aware of being
the object of the famous--or notorious--Madame de S--‘s ghastly
graciousness.

Madame de S-- was pleased to discover that this young man was different
from the other types of revolutionist members of committees, secret
emissaries, vulgar and unmannerly fugitive professors, rough students,
ex-cobblers with apostolic faces, consumptive and ragged enthusiasts,
Hebrew youths, common fellows of all sorts that used to come and go
around Peter Ivanovitch--fanatics, pedants, proletarians all. It was
pleasant to talk to this young man of notably good appearance--for
Madame de S-- was not always in a mystical state of mind. Razumov’s
taciturnity only excited her to a quicker, more voluble utterance. It
still dealt with the Balkans. She knew all the statesmen of that region,
Turks, Bulgarians, Montenegrins, Roumanians, Greeks, Armenians, and
nondescripts, young and old, the living and the dead. With some money an
intrigue could be started which would set the Peninsula in a blaze and
outrage the sentiment of the Russian people. A cry of abandoned brothers
could be raised, and then, with the nation seething with indignation, a
couple of regiments or so would be enough to begin a military revolution
in St. Petersburg and make an end of these thieves....

“Apparently I’ve got only to sit still and listen,” the silent Razumov
thought to himself. “As to that hairy and obscene brute” (in such terms
did Mr. Razumov refer mentally to the popular expounder of a feministic
conception of social state), “as to him, for all his cunning he too
shall speak out some day.”

Razumov ceased to think for a moment. Then a sombre-toned reflection
formulated itself in his mind, ironical and bitter. “I have the gift of
inspiring confidence.” He heard himself laughing aloud. It was like a
goad to the painted, shiny-eyed harridan on the sofa.

“You may well laugh!” she cried hoarsely. “What else can one do!
Perfect swindlers--and what base swindlers at that! Cheap
Germans--Holstein-Gottorps! Though, indeed, it’s hardly safe to say who
and what they are. A family that counts a creature like Catherine the
Great in its ancestry--you understand!”

“You are only upsetting yourself,” said Peter Ivanovitch, patiently but
in a firm tone. This admonition had its usual effect on the Egeria. She
dropped her thick, discoloured eyelids and changed her position on the
sofa. All her angular and lifeless movements seemed completely automatic
now that her eyes were closed. Presently she opened them very full.
Peter Ivanovitch drank tea steadily, without haste.

“Well, I declare!” She addressed Razumov directly. “The people who have
seen you on your way here are right. You are very reserved. You haven’t
said twenty words altogether since you came in. You let nothing of your
thoughts be seen in your face either.”

“I have been listening, Madame,” said Razumov, using French for the
first time, hesitatingly, not being certain of his accent. But it seemed
to produce an excellent impression. Madame de S-- looked meaningly into
Peter Ivanovitch’s spectacles, as if to convey her conviction of this
young man’s merit. She even nodded the least bit in his direction, and
Razumov heard her murmur under her breath the words, “Later on in
the diplomatic service,” which could not but refer to the favourable
impression he had made. The fantastic absurdity of it revolted him
because it seemed to outrage his ruined hopes with the vision of a
mock-career. Peter Ivanovitch, impassive as though he were deaf, drank
some more tea. Razumov felt that he must say something.

“Yes,” he began deliberately, as if uttering a meditated opinion.
“Clearly. Even in planning a purely military revolution the temper of
the people should be taken into account.”

“You have understood me perfectly. The discontent should be
spiritualized. That is what the ordinary heads of revolutionary
committees will not understand. They aren’t capable of it. For instance,
Mordatiev was in Geneva last month. Peter Ivanovitch brought him here.
You know Mordatiev? Well, yes--you have heard of him. They call him
an eagle--a hero! He has never done half as much as you have. Never
attempted--not half....”

Madame de S-- agitated herself angularly on the sofa.

“We, of course, talked to him. And do you know what he said to me?
‘What have we to do with Balkan intrigues? We must simply extirpate the
scoundrels.’ Extirpate is all very well--but what then? The imbecile!
I screamed at him, ‘But you must spiritualize--don’t you
understand?--spiritualize the discontent.’...”

She felt nervously in her pocket for a handkerchief; she pressed it to
her lips.

“Spiritualize?” said Razumov interrogatively, watching her heaving
breast. The long ends of an old black lace scarf she wore over her head
slipped off her shoulders and hung down on each side of her ghastly rosy
cheeks.

“An odious creature,” she burst out again. “Imagine a man who takes five
lumps of sugar in his tea.... Yes, I said spiritualize! How else can
you make discontent effective and universal?”

“Listen to this, young man.” Peter Ivanovitch made himself heard
solemnly. “Effective and universal.”

Razumov looked at him suspiciously.

“Some say hunger will do that,” he remarked.

“Yes. I know. Our people are starving in heaps. But you can’t make
famine universal. And it is not despair that we want to create. There is
no moral support to be got out of that. It is indignation....”

Madame de S-- let her thin, extended arm sink on her knees.

“I am not a Mordatiev,” began Razumov.

“Bien sur!” murmured Madame de S--.

“Though I too am ready to say extirpate, extirpate! But in my ignorance
of political work, permit me to ask: A Balkan--well--intrigue, wouldn’t
that take a very long time?”

Peter Ivanovitch got up and moved off quietly, to stand with his face to
the window. Razumov heard a door close; he turned his head and perceived
that the lady companion had scuttled out of the room.

“In matters of politics I am a supernaturalist.” Madame de S-- broke
the silence harshly.

Peter Ivanovitch moved away from the window and struck Razumov lightly
on the shoulder. This was a signal for leaving, but at the same time he
addressed Madame de S-- in a peculiar reminding tone---

“Eleanor!”

Whatever it meant, she did not seem to hear him. She leaned back in the
corner of the sofa like a wooden figure. The immovable peevishness of
the face, framed in the limp, rusty lace, had a character of cruelty.

“As to extirpating,” she croaked at the attentive Razumov, “there is
only one class in Russia which must be extirpated. Only one. And that
class consists of only one family. You understand me? That one family
must be extirpated.”

Her rigidity was frightful, like the rigor of a corpse galvanized into
harsh speech and glittering stare by the force of murderous hate. The
sight fascinated Razumov--yet he felt more self-possessed than at
any other time since he had entered this weirdly bare room. He was
interested. But the great feminist by his side again uttered his
appeal--

“Eleanor!”

She disregarded it. Her carmine lips vaticinated with an extraordinary
rapidity. The liberating spirit would use arms before which rivers would
part like Jordan, and ramparts fall down like the walls of Jericho. The
deliverance from bondage would be effected by plagues and by signs, by
wonders and by war. The women....

“Eleanor!”

She ceased; she had heard him at last. She pressed her hand to her
forehead.

“What is it? Ah yes! That girl--the sister of....”

It was Miss Haldin that she meant. That young girl and her mother had
been leading a very retired life. They were provincial ladies--were they
not? The mother had been very beautiful--traces were left yet. Peter
Ivanovitch, when he called there for the first time, was greatly
struck....But the cold way they received him was really surprising.

“He is one of our national glories,” Madams de S-- cried out, with
sudden vehemence. “All the world listens to him.”

“I don’t know these ladies,” said Razumov loudly rising from his chair.

“What are you saying, Kirylo Sidorovitch? I understand that she was
talking to you here, in the garden, the other day.”

“Yes, in the garden,” said Razumov gloomily. Then, with an effort, “She
made herself known to me.”

“And then ran away from us all,” Madame de S-- continued, with ghastly
vivacity. “After coming to the very door! What a peculiar proceeding!
Well, I have been a shy little provincial girl at one time. Yes,
Razumov” (she fell into this familiarity intentionally, with an
appalling grimace of graciousness. Razumov gave a perceptible start),
“yes, that’s my origin. A simple provincial family.

“You are a marvel,” Peter Ivanovich uttered.

But it was to Razumov that she gave her death’s-head smile. Her tone was
quite imperious.

“You must bring the wild young thing here. She is wanted. I reckon upon
your success--mind!”

“She is not a wild young thing,” muttered Razumov, in a surly voice.

“Well, then--that’s all the same. She may be one of these young
conceited democrats. Do you know what I think? I think she is very much
like you in character. There is a smouldering fire of scorn in you. You
are darkly self-sufficient, but I can see your very soul.”

Her shiny eyes had a dry, intense stare, which, missing Razumov, gave
him an absurd notion that she was looking at something which was visible
to her behind him. He cursed himself for an impressionable fool, and
asked with forced calmness--

“What is it you see? Anything resembling me?”

She moved her rigidly set face from left to right, negatively.

“Some sort of phantom in my image?” pursued Razumov slowly. “For, I
suppose, a soul when it is seen is just that. A vain thing. There are
phantoms of the living as well as of the dead.”

The tenseness of Madame de S--‘s stare had relaxed, and now she looked
at Razumov in a silence that became disconcerting.

“I myself have had an experience,” he stammered out, as if compelled.
“I’ve seen a phantom once.” The unnaturally red lips moved to frame a
question harshly.

“Of a dead person?”

“No. Living.”

“A friend?”

“No.”

“An enemy?”

“I hated him.”

“Ah! It was not a woman, then?”

“A woman!” repeated Razumov, his eyes looking straight into the eyes
of Madame de S--. “Why should it have been a woman? And why this
conclusion? Why should I not have been able to hate a woman?”

As a matter of fact, the idea of hating a woman was new to him. At that
moment he hated Madame de S--. But it was not exactly hate. It was more
like the abhorrence that may be caused by a wooden or plaster figure of
a repulsive kind. She moved no more than if she were such a figure; even
her eyes, whose unwinking stare plunged into his own, though shining,
were lifeless, as though they were as artificial as her teeth. For the
first time Razumov became aware of a faint perfume, but faint as it was
it nauseated him exceedingly. Again Peter Ivanovitch tapped him slightly
on the shoulder. Thereupon he bowed, and was about to turn away when
he received the unexpected favour of a bony, inanimate hand extended to
him, with the two words in hoarse French--

“_Au revoir!_”

He bowed over the skeleton hand and left the room, escorted by the great
man, who made him go out first. The voice from the sofa cried after
them--

“You remain here, _Pierre_.”

“Certainly, _ma chere amie_.”

But he left the room with Razumov, shutting the door behind him. The
landing was prolonged into a bare corridor, right and left, desolate
perspectives of white and gold decoration without a strip of carpet. The
very light, pouring through a large window at the end, seemed dusty; and
a solitary speck reposing on the balustrade of white marble--the silk
top-hat of the great feminist--asserted itself extremely, black and
glossy in all that crude whiteness.

Peter Ivanovitch escorted the visitor without opening his lips. Even
when they had reached the head of the stairs Peter Ivanovitch did not
break the silence. Razumov’s impulse to continue down the flight and out
of the house without as much as a nod abandoned him suddenly. He stopped
on the first step and leaned his back against the wall. Below him the
great hall with its chequered floor of black and white seemed absurdly
large and like some public place where a great power of resonance awaits
the provocation of footfalls and voices. As if afraid of awakening the
loud echoes of that empty house, Razumov adopted a low tone.

“I really have no mind to turn into a dilettante spiritualist.”

Peter Ivanovitch shook his head slightly, very serious.

“Or spend my time in spiritual ecstasies or sublime meditations upon the
gospel of feminism,” continued Razumov. “I made my way here for my share
of action--action, most respected Peter Ivanovitch! It was not the great
European writer who attracted me, here, to this odious town of liberty.
It was somebody much greater. It was the idea of the chief which
attracted me. There are starving young men in Russia who believe in
you so much that it seems the only thing that keeps them alive in their
misery. Think of that, Peter Ivanovitch! No! But only think of that!”

The great man, thus entreated, perfectly motionless and silent, was the
very image of patient, placid respectability.

“Of course I don’t speak of the people. They are brutes,” added Razumov,
in the same subdued but forcible tone. At this, a protesting murmur
issued from the “heroic fugitive’s” beard. A murmur of authority.

“Say--children.”

“No! Brutes!” Razumov insisted bluntly.

“But they are sound, they are innocent,” the great man pleaded in a
whisper.

“As far as that goes, a brute is sound enough.” Razumov raised his
voice at last. “And you can’t deny the natural innocence of a brute.
But what’s the use of disputing about names? You just try to give these
children the power and stature of men and see what they will be like.
You just give it to them and see.... But never mind. I tell you,
Peter Ivanovitch, that half a dozen young men do not come together
nowadays in a shabby student’s room without your name being whispered,
not as a leader of thought, but as a centre of revolutionary
energies--the centre of action. What else has drawn me near you, do you
think? It is not what all the world knows of you, surely. It’s precisely
what the world at large does not know. I was irresistibly drawn-let us
say impelled, yes, impelled; or, rather, compelled, driven--driven,”
 repented Razumov loudly, and ceased, as if startled by the hollow
reverberation of the word “driven” along two bare corridors and in the
great empty hall.

Peter Ivanovitch did not seem startled in the least. The young man
could not control a dry, uneasy laugh. The great revolutionist remained
unmoved with an effect of commonplace, homely superiority.

“Curse him,” said Razumov to himself, “he is waiting behind his
spectacles for me to give myself away.” Then aloud, with a satanic
enjoyment of the scorn prompting him to play with the greatness of the
great man--

“Ah, Peter Ivanovitch, if you only knew the force which drew--no, which
_drove_ me towards you! The irresistible force.”

He did not feel any desire to laugh now. This time Peter Ivanovitch
moved his head sideways, knowingly, as much as to say, “Don’t I?” This
expressive movement was almost imperceptible. Razumov went on in secret
derision--

“All these days you have been trying to read me, Peter Ivanovitch. That
is natural. I have perceived it and I have been frank. Perhaps you may
think I have not been very expansive? But with a man like you it was not
needed; it would have looked like an impertinence, perhaps. And besides,
we Russians are prone to talk too much as a rule. I have always felt
that. And yet, as a nation, we are dumb. I assure you that I am not
likely to talk to you so much again--ha! ha!--”

Razumov, still keeping on the lower step, came a little nearer to the
great man.

“You have been condescending enough. I quite understood it was to lead
me on. You must render me the justice that I have not tried to please. I
have been impelled, compelled, or rather sent--let us say sent--towards
you for a work that no one but myself can do. You would call it a
harmless delusion: a ridiculous delusion at which you don’t even smile.
It is absurd of me to talk like this, yet some day you shall remember
these words, I hope. Enough of this. Here I stand before you-confessed!
But one thing more I must add to complete it: a mere blind tool I can
never consent to be.”

Whatever acknowledgment Razumov was prepared for, he was not prepared
to have both his hands seized in the great man’s grasp. The swiftness of
the movement was aggressive enough to startle. The burly feminist could
not have been quicker had his purpose been to jerk Razumov treacherously
up on the landing and bundle him behind one of the numerous closed
doors near by. This idea actually occurred to Razumov; his hands being
released after a darkly eloquent squeeze, he smiled, with a beating
heart, straight at the beard and the spectacles hiding that impenetrable
man.

He thought to himself (it stands confessed in his handwriting), “I won’t
move from here till he either speaks or turns away. This is a duel.”
 Many seconds passed without a sign or sound.

“Yes, yes,” the great man said hurriedly, in subdued tones, as if the
whole thing had been a stolen, breathless interview. “Exactly. Come
to see us here in a few days. This must be gone into deeply--deeply,
between you and me. Quite to the bottom. To the...And, by the by,
you must bring along Natalia Victorovna--you know, the Haldin girl....

“Am I to take this as my first instruction from you?” inquired Razumov
stiffly.

Peter Ivanovitch seemed perplexed by this new attitude.

“Ah! h’m! You are naturally the proper person--_la personne indiquee_.
Every one shall be wanted presently. Every one.”

He bent down from the landing over Razumov, who had lowered his eyes.

“The moment of action approaches,” he murmured.

Razumov did not look up. He did not move till he heard the door of the
drawing-room close behind the greatest of feminists returning to his
painted Egeria. Then he walked down slowly into the hall. The door stood
open, and the shadow of the house was lying aslant over the greatest
part of the terrace. While crossing it slowly, he lifted his hat and
wiped his damp forehead, expelling his breath with force to get rid of
the last vestiges of the air he had been breathing inside. He looked at
the palms of his hands, and rubbed them gently against his thighs.

He felt, bizarre as it may seem, as though another self, an independent
sharer of his mind, had been able to view his whole person very
distinctly indeed. “This is curious,” he thought. After a while he
formulated his opinion of it in the mental ejaculation: “Beastly!”
 This disgust vanished before a marked uneasiness. “This is an effect of
nervous exhaustion,” he reflected with weary sagacity. “How am I to
go on day after day if I have no more power of resistance--moral
resistance?”

He followed the path at the foot of the terrace. “Moral resistance,
moral resistance;” he kept on repeating these words mentally. Moral
endurance. Yes, that was the necessity of the situation. An immense
longing to make his way out of these grounds and to the other end of the
town, of throwing himself on his bed and going to sleep for hours, swept
everything clean out of his mind for a moment. “Is it possible that I am
but a weak creature after all?” he asked himself, in sudden alarm. “Eh!
What’s that?”

He gave a start as if awakened from a dream. He even swayed a little
before recovering himself.

“Ah! You stole away from us quietly to walk about here,” he said.

The lady companion stood before him, but how she came there he had not
the slightest idea. Her folded arms were closely cherishing the cat.

“I have been unconscious as I walked, it’s a positive fact,” said
Razumov to himself in wonder. He raised his hat with marked civility.

The sallow woman blushed duskily. She had her invariably scared
expression, as if somebody had just disclosed to her some terrible news.
But she held her ground, Razumov noticed, without timidity. “She is
incredibly shabby,” he thought. In the sunlight her black costume looked
greenish, with here and there threadbare patches where the stuff seemed
decomposed by age into a velvety, black, furry state. Her very hair and
eyebrows looked shabby. Razumov wondered whether she were sixty years
old. Her figure, though, was young enough. He observed that she did not
appear starved, but rather as if she had been fed on unwholesome scraps
and leavings of plates.

Razumov smiled amiably and moved out of her way. She turned her head to
keep her scared eyes on him.

“I know what you have been told in there,” she affirmed, without
preliminaries. Her tone, in contrast with her manner, had an
unexpectedly assured character which put Razumov at his ease.

“Do you? You must have heard all sorts of talk on many occasions in
there.”

She varied her phrase, with the same incongruous effect of positiveness.

“I know to a certainty what you have been told to do.”

“Really?” Razumov shrugged his shoulders a little. He was about to pass
on with a bow, when a sudden thought struck him. “Yes. To be sure! In
your confidential position you are aware of many things,” he murmured,
looking at the cat.

That animal got a momentary convulsive hug from the lady companion.

“Everything was disclosed to me a long time ago,” she said.

“Everything,” Razumov repeated absently.

“Peter Ivanovitch is an awful despot,” she jerked out.

Razumov went on studying the stripes on the grey fur of the cat.

“An iron will is an integral part of such a temperament. How else could
he be a leader? And I think that you are mistaken in--”

“There!” she cried. “You tell me that I am mistaken. But I tell you all
the same that he cares for no one.” She jerked her head up. “Don’t you
bring that girl here. That’s what you have been told to do--to bring
that girl here. Listen to me; you had better tie a stone round her neck
and throw her into the lake.”

Razumov had a sensation of chill and gloom, as if a heavy cloud had
passed over the sun.

“The girl?” he said. “What have I to do with her?”

“But you have been told to bring Nathalie Haldin here. Am I not right?
Of course I am right. I was not in the room, but I know. I know Peter
Ivanovitch sufficiently well. He is a great man. Great men are horrible.
Well, that’s it. Have nothing to do with her. That’s the best you
can do, unless you want her to become like me--disillusioned!
Disillusioned!”

“Like you,” repeated Razumov, glaring at her face, as devoid of all
comeliness of feature and complexion as the most miserable beggar is
of money. He smiled, still feeling chilly: a peculiar sensation which
annoyed him. “Disillusioned as to Peter Ivanovitch! Is that all you have
lost?”

She declared, looking frightened, but with immense conviction, “Peter
Ivanovitch stands for everything.” Then she added, in another tone,
“Keep the girl away from this house.”

“And are you absolutely inciting me to disobey Peter Ivanovitch just
because--because you are disillusioned?”

She began to blink.

“Directly I saw you for the first time I was comforted. You took your
hat off to me. You looked as if one could trust you. Oh!”

She shrank before Razumov’s savage snarl of, “I have heard something
like this before.”

She was so confounded that she could do nothing but blink for a long
time.

“It was your humane manner,” she explained plaintively. “I have been
starving for, I won’t say kindness, but just for a little civility, for
I don’t know how long. And now you are angry....”

“But no, on the contrary,” he protested. “I am very glad you trust me.
It’s possible that later on I may...”

“Yes, if you were to get ill,” she interrupted eagerly, “or meet some
bitter trouble, you would find I am not a useless fool. You have only to
let me know. I will come to you. I will indeed. And I will stick to you.
Misery and I are old acquaintances--but this life here is worse than
starving.”

She paused anxiously, then in a voice for the first time sounding really
timid, she added--

“Or if you were engaged in some dangerous work. Sometimes a humble
companion--I would not want to know anything. I would follow you with
joy. I could carry out orders. I have the courage.”

Razumov looked attentively at the scared round eyes, at the withered,
sallow, round cheeks. They were quivering about the corners of the
mouth.

“She wants to escape from here,” he thought.

“Suppose I were to tell you that I am engaged in dangerous work?” he
uttered slowly.

She pressed the cat to her threadbare bosom with a breathless
exclamation. “Ah!” Then not much above a whisper: “Under Peter
Ivanovitch?”

“No, not under Peter Ivanovitch.”

He read admiration in her eyes, and made an effort to smile.

“Then--alone?”

He held up his closed hand with the index raised. “Like this finger,” he
said.

She was trembling slightly. But it occurred to Razumov that they might
have been observed from the house, and he became anxious to be gone. She
blinked, raising up to him her puckered face, and seemed to beg mutely
to be told something more, to be given a word of encouragement for her
starving, grotesque, and pathetic devotion.

“Can we be seen from the house?” asked Razumov confidentially.

She answered, without showing the slightest surprise at the question--

“No, we can’t, on account of this end of the stables.” And she added,
with an acuteness which surprised Razumov, “But anybody looking out of
an upstairs window would know that you have not passed through the gates
yet.”

“Who’s likely to spy out of the window?” queried Razumov. “Peter
Ivanovitch?”

She nodded.

“Why should he trouble his head?”

“He expects somebody this afternoon.”

“You know the person?”

“There’s more than one.”

She had lowered her eyelids. Razumov looked at her curiously.

“Of course. You hear everything they say.”

She murmured without any animosity--

“So do the tables and chairs.”

He understood that the bitterness accumulated in the heart of that
helpless creature had got into her veins, and, like some subtle poison,
had decomposed her fidelity to that hateful pair. It was a great piece
of luck for him, he reflected; because women are seldom venal after the
manner of men, who can be bought for material considerations. She would
be a good ally, though it was not likely that she was allowed to hear
as much as the tables and chairs of the Chateau Borel. That could not be
expected. But still.... And, at any rate, she could be made to talk.

When she looked up her eyes met the fixed stare of Razumov, who began to
speak at once.

“Well, well, dear...but upon my word, I haven’t the pleasure of
knowing your name yet. Isn’t it strange?”

For the first time she made a movement of the shoulders.

“Is it strange? No one is told my name. No one cares. No one talks to
me, no one writes to me. My parents don’t even know if I’m alive. I have
no use for a name, and I have almost forgotten it myself.”

Razumov murmured gravely, “Yes, but still...”

She went on much slower, with indifference--

“You may call me Tekla, then. My poor Andrei called me so. I was devoted
to him. He lived in wretchedness and suffering, and died in misery. That
is the lot of all us Russians, nameless Russians. There is nothing else
for us, and no hope anywhere, unless...”

“Unless what?”

“Unless all these people with names are done away with,” she finished,
blinking and pursing up her lips.

“It will be easier to call you Tekla, as you direct me,” said
Razumov, “if you consent to call me Kirylo, when we are talking like
this--quietly--only you and me.”

And he said to himself, “Here’s a being who must be terribly afraid of
the world, else she would have run away from this situation before.”
 Then he reflected that the mere fact of leaving the great man abruptly
would make her a suspect. She could expect no support or countenance
from anyone. This revolutionist was not fit for an independent
existence.

She moved with him a few steps, blinking and nursing the cat with a
small balancing movement of her arms.

“Yes--only you and I. That’s how I was with my poor Andrei, only he was
dying, killed by these official brutes--while you! You are strong. You
kill the monsters. You have done a great deed. Peter Ivanovitch himself
must consider you. Well--don’t forget me--especially if you are going
back to work in Russia. I could follow you, carrying anything that
was wanted--at a distance, you know. Or I could watch for hours at the
corner of a street if necessary,--in wet or snow--yes, I could--all day
long. Or I could write for you dangerous documents, lists of names or
instructions, so that in case of mischance the handwriting could not
compromise you. And you need not be afraid if they were to catch me. I
would know how to keep dumb. We women are not so easily daunted by pain.
I heard Peter Ivanovitch say it is our blunt nerves or something. We can
stand it better. And it’s true; I would just as soon bite my tongue out
and throw it at them as not. What’s the good of speech to me? Who would
ever want to hear what I could say? Ever since I closed the eyes of my
poor Andrei I haven’t met a man who seemed to care for the sound of
my voice. I should never have spoken to you if the very first time you
appeared here you had not taken notice of me so nicely. I could not help
speaking of you to that charming dear girl. Oh, the sweet creature! And
strong! One can see that at once. If you have a heart don’t let her set
her foot in here. Good-bye!”

Razumov caught her by the arm. Her emotion at being thus seized
manifested itself by a short struggle, after which she stood still, not
looking at him.

“But you can tell me,” he spoke in her ear, “why they--these people in
that house there--are so anxious to get hold of her?”

She freed herself to turn upon him, as if made angry by the question.

“Don’t you understand that Peter Ivanovitch must direct, inspire,
influence? It is the breath of his life. There can never be too many
disciples. He can’t bear thinking of anyone escaping him. And a woman,
too! There is nothing to be done without women, he says. He has written
it. He--”

The young man was staring at her passion when she broke off suddenly and
ran away behind the stable.


III


Razumov, thus left to himself, took the direction of the gate. But on
this day of many conversations, he discovered that very probably he
could not leave the grounds without having to hold another one.

Stepping in view from beyond the lodge appeared the expected visitors
of Peter Ivanovitch: a small party composed of two men and a woman. They
noticed him too, immediately, and stopped short as if to consult. But in
a moment the woman, moving aside, motioned with her arm to the two men,
who, leaving the drive at once, struck across the large neglected
lawn, or rather grass-plot, and made directly for the house. The woman
remained on the path waiting for Razumov’s approach. She had recognized
him. He, too, had recognized her at the first glance. He had been made
known to her at Zurich, where he had broken his journey while on his
way from Dresden. They had been much together for the three days of his
stay.

She was wearing the very same costume in which he had seen her first. A
blouse of crimson silk made her noticeable at a distance. With that
she wore a short brown skirt and a leather belt. Her complexion was
the colour of coffee and milk, but very clear; her eyes black and
glittering, her figure erect. A lot of thick hair, nearly white, was
done up loosely under a dusty Tyrolese hat of dark cloth, which seemed
to have lost some of its trimmings.

The expression of her face was grave, intent; so grave that Razumov,
after approaching her close, felt obliged to smile. She greeted him with
a manly hand-grasp.

“What! Are you going away?” she exclaimed. “How is that, Razumov?”

“I am going away because I haven’t been asked to stay,” Razumov
answered, returning the pressure of her hand with much less force than
she had put into it.

She jerked her head sideways like one who understands. Meantime
Razumov’s eyes had strayed after the two men. They were crossing the
grass-plot obliquely, without haste. The shorter of the two was buttoned
up in a narrow overcoat of some thin grey material, which came nearly
to his heels. His companion, much taller and broader, wore a short,
close-fitting jacket and tight trousers tucked into shabby top-boots.

The woman, who had sent them out of Razumov’s way apparently, spoke in a
businesslike voice.

“I had to come rushing from Zurich on purpose to meet the train and take
these two along here to see Peter Ivanovitch. I’ve just managed it.”

“Ah! indeed,” Razumov said perfunctorily, and very vexed at her staying
behind to talk to him “From Zurich--yes, of course. And these two, they
come from....”

She interrupted, without emphasis--

“From quite another direction. From a distance, too. A considerable
distance.”

Razumov shrugged his shoulders. The two men from a distance, after
having reached the wall of the terrace, disappeared suddenly at its foot
as if the earth had opened to swallow them up.

“Oh, well, they have just come from America.” The woman in the crimson
blouse shrugged her shoulders too a little before making that statement.
“The time is drawing near,” she interjected, as if speaking to herself.
“I did not tell them who you were. Yakovlitch would have wanted to
embrace you.”

“Is that he with the wisp of hair hanging from his chin, in the long
coat?”

“You’ve guessed aright. That’s Yakovlitch.”

“And they could not find their way here from the station without you
coming on purpose from Zurich to show it to them? Verily, without women
we can do nothing. So it stands written, and apparently so it is.”

He was conscious of an immense lassitude under his effort to be
sarcastic. And he could see that she had detected it with those steady,
brilliant black eyes.

“What is the matter with you?”

“I don’t know. Nothing. I’ve had a devil of a day.”

She waited, with her black eyes fixed on his face. Then--

“What of that? You men are so impressionable and self-conscious. One day
is like another, hard, hard--and there’s an end of it, till the great
day comes. I came over for a very good reason. They wrote to warn Peter
Ivanovitch of their arrival. But where from? Only from Cherbourg on a
bit of ship’s notepaper. Anybody could have done that. Yakovlitch has
lived for years and years in America. I am the only one at hand who had
known him well in the old days. I knew him very well indeed. So Peter
Ivanovitch telegraphed, asking me to come. It’s natural enough, is it
not?”

“You came to vouch for his identity?” inquired Razumov.

“Yes. Something of the kind. Fifteen years of a life like his make
changes in a man. Lonely, like a crow in a strange country. When I think
of Yakovlitch before he went to America--”

The softness of the low tone caused Razumov to glance at her sideways.
She sighed; her black eyes were looking away; she had plunged the
fingers of her right hand deep into the mass of nearly white hair, and
stirred them there absently. When she withdrew her hand the little hat
perched on the top of her head remained slightly tilted, with a queer
inquisitive effect, contrasting strongly with the reminiscent murmur
that escaped her.

“We were not in our first youth even then. But a man is a child always.”

Razumov thought suddenly, “They have been living together.” Then aloud--

“Why didn’t you follow him to America?” he asked point-blank.

She looked up at him with a perturbed air.

“Don’t you remember what was going on fifteen years ago? It was a time
of activity. The Revolution has its history by this time. You are in
it and yet you don’t seem to know it. Yakovlitch went away then on a
mission; I went back to Russia. It had to be so. Afterwards there was
nothing for him to come back to.”

“Ah! indeed,” muttered Razumov, with affected surprise. “Nothing!”

“What are you trying to insinuate” she exclaimed quickly. “Well, and
what then if he did get discouraged a little....”

“He looks like a Yankee, with that goatee hanging from his chin. A
regular Uncle Sam,” growled Razumov. “Well, and you? You who went to
Russia? You did not get discouraged.”

“Never mind. Yakovlitch is a man who cannot be doubted. He, at any rate,
is the right sort.”

Her black, penetrating gaze remained fixed upon Razumov while she spoke,
and for a moment afterwards.

“Pardon me,” Razumov inquired coldly, “but does it mean that you, for
instance, think that I am not the right sort?”

She made no protest, gave no sign of having heard the question;
she continued looking at him in a manner which he judged not to be
absolutely unfriendly. In Zurich when he passed through she had taken
him under her charge, in a way, and was with him from morning till night
during his stay of two days. She took him round to see several people.
At first she talked to him a great deal and rather unreservedly, but
always avoiding all reference to herself; towards the middle of the
second day she fell silent, attending him zealously as before, and even
seeing him off at the railway station, where she pressed his hand firmly
through the lowered carriage window, and, stepping back without a word,
waited till the train moved. He had noticed that she was treated with
quiet regard. He knew nothing of her parentage, nothing of her private
history or political record; he judged her from his own private point of
view, as being a distinct danger in his path. “Judged” is not perhaps
the right word. It was more of a feeling, the summing up of slight
impressions aided by the discovery that he could not despise her as he
despised all the others. He had not expected to see her again so soon.

No, decidedly; her expression was not unfriendly. Yet he perceived an
acceleration in the beat of his heart. The conversation could not be
abandoned at that point. He went on in accents of scrupulous inquiry--

“Is it perhaps because I don’t seem to accept blindly every development
of the general doctrine--such for instance as the feminism of our great
Peter Ivanovitch? If that is what makes me suspect, then I can only say
I would scorn to be a slave even to an idea.”

She had been looking at him all the time, not as a listener looks
at one, but as if the words he chose to say were only of secondary
interest. When he finished she slipped her hand, by a sudden and decided
movement, under his arm and impelled him gently towards the gate of the
grounds. He felt her firmness and obeyed the impulsion at once, just as
the other two men had, a moment before, obeyed unquestioningly the wave
of her hand.

They made a few steps like this.

“No, Razumov, your ideas are probably all right,” she said. “You may be
valuable--very valuable. What’s the matter with you is that you don’t
like us.”

She released him. He met her with a frosty smile.

“Am I expected then to have love as well as convictions?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“You know very well what I mean. People have been thinking you not quite
whole-hearted. I have heard that opinion from one side and another. But
I have understood you at the end of the first day....”

Razumov interrupted her, speaking steadily.

“I assure you that your perspicacity is at fault here.”

“What phrases he uses!” she exclaimed parenthetically. “Ah! Kirylo
Sidorovitch, you like other men are fastidious, full of self-love and
afraid of trifles. Moreover, you had no training. What you want is to
be taken in hand by some woman. I am sorry I am not staying here a few
days. I am going back to Zurich to-morrow, and shall take Yakovlitch
with me most likely.”

This information relieved Razumov.

“I am sorry too,” he said. “But, all the same, I don’t think you
understand me.”

He breathed more freely; she did not protest, but asked, “And how did
you get on with Peter Ivanovitch? You have seen a good deal of each
other. How is it between you two?”

Not knowing what answer to make, the young man inclined his head slowly.

Her lips had been parted in expectation. She pressed them together, and
seemed to reflect.

“That’s all right.”

This had a sound of finality, but she did not leave him. It was
impossible to guess what she had in her mind. Razumov muttered--

“It is not of me that you should have asked that question. In a moment
you shall see Peter Ivanovitch himself, and the subject will come up
naturally. He will be curious to know what has delayed you so long in
this garden.”

“No doubt Peter Ivanovitch will have something to say to me. Several
things. He may even speak of you--question me. Peter Ivanovitch is
inclined to trust me generally.”

“Question you? That’s very likely.”

She smiled, half serious.

“Well--and what shall I say to him?”

“I don’t know. You may tell him of your discovery.”

“What’s that?”

“Why--my lack of love for....”


“Oh! That’s between ourselves,” she interrupted, it was hard to say
whether in jest or earnest.

“I see that you want to tell Peter Ivanovitch something in my favour,”
 said Razumov, with grim playfulness. “Well, then, you can tell him that
I am very much in earnest about my mission. I mean to succeed.”

“You have been given a mission!” she exclaimed quickly.

“It amounts to that. I have been told to bring about a certain event.”

She looked at him searchingly.

“A mission,” she repeated, very grave and interested all at once. “What
sort of mission?”

“Something in the nature of propaganda work.”

“Ah! Far away from here?”

“No. Not very far,” said Razumov, restraining a sudden desire to laugh,
although he did not feel joyous in the least.

“So!” she said thoughtfully. “Well, I am not asking questions. It’s
sufficient that Peter Ivanovitch should know what each of us is doing.
Everything is bound to come right in the end.”

“You think so?”

“I don’t think, young man. I just simply believe it.”

“And is it to Peter Ivanovitch that you owe that faith?”

She did not answer the question, and they stood idle, silent, as if
reluctant to part with each other.

“That’s just like a man,” she murmured at last. “As if it were possible
to tell how a belief comes to one.” Her thin Mephistophelian eyebrows
moved a little. “Truly there are millions of people in Russia who would
envy the life of dogs in this country. It is a horror and a shame to
confess this even between ourselves. One must believe for very pity.
This can’t go on. No! It can’t go on. For twenty years I have been
coming and going, looking neither to the left nor to the right....
What are you smiling to yourself for? You are only at the beginning. You
have begun well, but you just wait till you have trodden every particle
of yourself under your feet in your comings and goings. For that is
what it comes to. You’ve got to trample down every particle of your own
feelings; for stop you cannot, you must not. I have been young, too--but
perhaps you think that I am complaining-eh?”

“I don’t think anything of the sort,” protested Razumov indifferently.

“I dare say you don’t, you dear superior creature. You don’t care.”

She plunged her fingers into the bunch of hair on the left side,
and that brusque movement had the effect of setting the Tyrolese hat
straight on her head. She frowned under it without animosity, in the
manner of an investigator. Razumov averted his face carelessly.

“You men are all alike. You mistake luck for merit. You do it in good
faith too! I would not be too hard on you. It’s masculine nature.
You men are ridiculously pitiful in your aptitude to cherish childish
illusions down to the very grave. There are a lot of us who have been at
work for fifteen years--I mean constantly--trying one way after another,
underground and above ground, looking neither to the right nor to the
left! I can talk about it. I have been one of these that never
rested.... There! What’s the use of talking.... Look at my grey hairs!
And here two babies come along--I mean you and Haldin--you come along
and manage to strike a blow at the very first try.”

At the name of Haldin falling from the rapid and energetic lips of the
woman revolutionist, Razumov had the usual brusque consciousness of the
irrevocable. But in all the months which had passed over his head he
had become hardened to the experience. The consciousness was no longer
accompanied by the blank dismay and the blind anger of the early days.
He had argued himself into new beliefs; and he had made for himself a
mental atmosphere of gloomy and sardonic reverie, a sort of murky
medium through which the event appeared like a featureless shadow having
vaguely the shape of a man; a shape extremely familiar, yet utterly
inexpressive, except for its air of discreet waiting in the dusk. It was
not alarming.

“What was he like?” the woman revolutionist asked unexpectedly.

“What was he like?” echoed Razumov, making a painful effort not to turn
upon her savagely. But he relieved himself by laughing a little while he
stole a glance at her out of the corners of his eyes. This reception of
her inquiry disturbed her.

“How like a woman,” he went on. “What is the good of concerning yourself
with his appearance? Whatever it was, he is removed beyond all feminine
influences now.”

A frown, making three folds at the root of her nose, accentuated the
Mephistophelian slant of her eyebrows.

“You suffer, Razumov,” she suggested, in her low, confident voice.

“What nonsense!” Razumov faced the woman fairly. “But now I think of it,
I am not sure that he is beyond the influence of one woman at least; the
one over there--Madame de S--, you know. Formerly the dead were allowed
to rest, but now it seems they are at the beck and call of a crazy old
harridan. We revolutionists make wonderful discoveries. It is true that
they are not exactly our own. We have nothing of our own. But couldn’t
the friend of Peter Ivanovitch satisfy your feminine curiosity? Couldn’t
she conjure him up for you?”--he jested like a man in pain.

Her concentrated frowning expression relaxed, and she said, a little
wearily, “Let us hope she will make an effort and conjure up some tea
for us. But that is by no means certain. I am tired, Razumov.”

“You tired! What a confession! Well, there has been tea up there. I had
some. If you hurry on after Yakovlitch, instead of wasting your time
with such an unsatisfactory sceptical person as myself, you may find the
ghost of it--the cold ghost of it--still lingering in the temple. But as
to you being tired I can hardly believe it. We are not supposed to be.
We mustn’t, We can’t. The other day I read in some paper or other an
alarmist article on the tireless activity of the revolutionary parties.
It impresses the world. It’s our prestige.”

“He flings out continually these flouts and sneers;” the woman in the
crimson blouse spoke as if appealing quietly to a third person, but
her black eyes never left Razumov’s face. “And what for, pray? Simply
because some of his conventional notions are shocked, some of his
petty masculine standards. You might think he was one of these nervous
sensitives that come to a bad end. And yet,” she went on, after a short,
reflective pause and changing the mode of her address, “and yet I
have just learned something which makes me think that you are a man of
character, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Yes! indeed--you are.”

The mysterious positiveness of this assertion startled Razumov. Their
eyes met. He looked away and, through the bars of the rusty gate, stared
at the clean, wide road shaded by the leafy trees. An electric tramcar,
quite empty, ran along the avenue with a metallic rustle. It seemed to
him he would have given anything to be sitting inside all alone. He
was inexpressibly weary, weary in every fibre of his body, but he had
a reason for not being the first to break off the conversation. At any
instant, in the visionary and criminal babble of revolutionists, some
momentous words might fall on his ear; from her lips, from anybody’s
lips. As long as he managed to preserve a clear mind and to keep down
his irritability there was nothing to fear. The only condition of
success and safety was indomitable will-power, he reminded himself.

He longed to be on the other side of the bars, as though he were
actually a prisoner within the grounds of this centre of revolutionary
plots, of this house of folly, of blindness, of villainy and crime.
Silently he indulged his wounded spirit in a feeling of immense moral
and mental remoteness. He did not even smile when he heard her repeat
the words--

“Yes! A strong character.”

He continued to gaze through the bars like a moody prisoner, not
thinking of escape, but merely pondering upon the faded memories of
freedom.

“If you don’t look out,” he mumbled, still looking away, “you shall
certainly miss seeing as much as the mere ghost of that tea.”

She was not to be shaken off in such a way. As a matter of fact he had
not expected to succeed.

“Never mind, it will be no great loss. I mean the missing of her tea and
only the ghost of it at that. As to the lady, you must understand that
she has her positive uses. See _that_, Razumov.”

He turned his head at this imperative appeal and saw the woman
revolutionist making the motions of counting money into the palm of her
hand.

“That’s what it is. You see?”

Razumov uttered a slow “I see,” and returned to his prisoner-like gazing
upon the neat and shady road.

“Material means must be obtained in some way, and this is easier than
breaking into banks. More certain too. There! I am joking.... What is
he muttering to himself now?” she cried under her breath.

“My admiration of Peter Ivanovitch’s devoted self-sacrifice, that’s all.
It’s enough to make one sick.”

“Oh, you squeamish, masculine creature. Sick! Makes him sick! And what
do you know of the truth of it? There’s no looking into the secrets of
the heart. Peter Ivanovitch knew her years ago, in his worldly days,
when he was a young officer in the Guards. It is not for us to judge
an inspired person. That’s where you men have an advantage. You are
inspired sometimes both in thought and action. I have always admitted
that when you _are_ inspired, when you manage to throw off your
masculine cowardice and prudishness you are not to be equalled by us.
Only, how seldom.... Whereas the silliest woman can always be made
of use. And why? Because we have passion, unappeasable passion.... I
should like to know what he is smiling at?”

“I am not smiling,” protested Razumov gloomily.

“Well! How is one to call it? You made some sort of face. Yes, I know!
You men can love here and hate there and desire something or other--and
you make a great to-do about it, and you call it passion! Yes! While
it lasts. But we women are in love with love, and with hate, with these
very things I tell you, and with desire itself. That’s why we can’t be
bribed off so easily as you men. In life, you see, there is not much
choice. You have either to rot or to burn. And there is not one of us,
painted or unpainted, that would not rather burn than rot.”

She spoke with energy, but in a matter-of-fact tone. Razumov’s attention
had wandered away on a track of its own--outside the bars of the
gate--but not out of earshot. He stuck his hands into the pockets of his
coat.

“Rot or burn! Powerfully stated. Painted or unpainted. Very vigorous.
Painted or...Do tell me--she would be infernally jealous of him,
wouldn’t she?”

“Who? What? The Baroness? Eleanor Maximovna? Jealous of Peter
Ivanovitch? Heavens! Are these the questions the man’s mind is running
on? Such a thing is not to be thought of.”

“Why? Can’t a wealthy old woman be jealous? Or, are they all pure
spirits together?”

“But what put it into your head to ask such a question?” she wondered.

“Nothing. I just asked. Masculine frivolity, if you like.”

“I don’t like,” she retorted at once. “It is not the time to be
frivolous. What are you flinging your very heart against? Or, perhaps,
you are only playing a part.”

Razumov had felt that woman’s observation of him like a physical
contact, like a hand resting lightly on his shoulder. At that moment he
received the mysterious impression of her having made up her mind for a
closer grip. He stiffened himself inwardly to bear it without betraying
himself.

“Playing a Part,” he repeated, presenting to her an unmoved profile. “It
must be done very badly since you see through the assumption.”

She watched him, her forehead drawn into perpendicular folds, the thin
black eyebrows diverging upwards like the antennae of an insect. He
added hardly audibly--

“You are mistaken. I am doing it no more than the rest of us.”

“Who is doing it?” she snapped out.

“Who? Everybody,” he said impatiently. “You are a materialist, aren’t
you?”

“Eh! My dear soul, I have outlived all that nonsense.”

“But you must remember the definition of Cabanis: ‘Man is a digestive
tube.’ I imagine now....”

“I spit on him.”

“What? On Cabanis? All right. But you can’t ignore the importance of a
good digestion. The joy of life--you know the joy of life?--depends on
a sound stomach, whereas a bad digestion inclines one to scepticism,
breeds black fancies and thoughts of death. These are facts ascertained
by physiologists. Well, I assure you that ever since I came over from
Russia I have been stuffed with indigestible foreign concoctions of the
most nauseating kind--pah!”

“You are joking,” she murmured incredulously. He assented in a detached
way.

“Yes. It is all a joke. It’s hardly worth while talking to a man like
me. Yet for that very reason men have been known to take their own
life.”

“On the contrary, I think it is worth while talking to you.”

He kept her in the corner of his eye. She seemed to be thinking out some
scathing retort, but ended by only shrugging her shoulders slightly.

“Shallow talk! I suppose one must pardon this weakness in you,” she
said, putting a special accent on the last word. There was something
anxious in her indulgent conclusion.

Razumov noted the slightest shades in this conversation, which he had
not expected, for which he was not prepared. That was it. “I was not
prepared,” he said to himself. “It has taken me unawares.” It seemed to
him that if he only could allow himself to pant openly like a dog for a
time this oppression would pass away. “I shall never be found prepared,”
 he thought, with despair. He laughed a little, saying as lightly as he
could--

“Thanks. I don’t ask for mercy.” Then affecting a playful uneasiness,
“But aren’t you afraid Peter Ivanovitch might suspect us of plotting
something unauthorized together by the gate here?”

“No, I am not afraid. You are quite safe from suspicions while you are
with me, my dear young man.” The humorous gleam in her black eyes went
out. “Peter Ivanovitch trusts me,” she went on, quite austerely. “He
takes my advice. I am his right hand, as it were, in certain most
important things.... That amuses you what? Do you think I am
boasting?”

“God forbid. I was just only saying to myself that Peter Ivanovitch
seems to have solved the woman question pretty completely.”

Even as he spoke he reproached himself for his words, for his tone. All
day long he had been saying the wrong things. It was folly, worse than
folly. It was weakness; it was this disease of perversity overcoming his
will. Was this the way to meet speeches which certainly contained the
promise of future confidences from that woman who apparently had a
great store of secret knowledge and so much influence? Why give her this
puzzling impression? But she did not seem inimical. There was no anger
in her voice. It was strangely speculative.

“One does not know what to think, Razumov. You must have bitten
something bitter in your cradle.” Razumov gave her a sidelong glance.

“H’m! Something bitter? That’s an explanation,” he muttered. “Only it
was much later. And don’t you think, Sophia Antonovna, that you and I
come from the same cradle?”

The woman, whose name he had forced himself at last to pronounce (he had
experienced a strong repugnance in letting it pass his lips), the woman
revolutionist murmured, after a pause--

“You mean--Russia?”

He disdained even to nod. She seemed softened, her black eyes very
still, as though she were pursuing the simile in her thoughts to all
its tender associations. But suddenly she knitted her brows in a
Mephistophelian frown.

“Yes. Perhaps no wonder, then. Yes. One lies there lapped up in evils,
watched over by beings that are worse than ogres, ghouls, and vampires.
They must be driven away, destroyed utterly. In regard of that task
nothing else matters if men and women are determined and faithful.
That’s how I came to feel in the end. The great thing is not to quarrel
amongst ourselves about all sorts of conventional trifles. Remember
that, Razumov.”

Razumov was not listening. He had even lost the sense of being watched
in a sort of heavy tranquillity. His uneasiness, his exasperation, his
scorn were blunted at last by all these trying hours. It seemed to him
that now they were blunted for ever. “I am a match for them all,”
 he thought, with a conviction too firm to be exulting. The woman
revolutionist had ceased speaking; he was not looking at her; there was
no one passing along the road. He almost forgot that he was not alone.
He heard her voice again, curt, businesslike, and yet betraying the
hesitation which had been the real reason of her prolonged silence.

“I say, Razumov!”

Razumov, whose face was turned away from her, made a grimace like a man
who hears a false note.

“Tell me: is it true that on the very morning of the deed you actually
attended the lectures at the University?”

An appreciable fraction of a second elapsed before the real import of
the question reached him, like a bullet which strikes some time after
the flash of the fired shot. Luckily his disengaged hand was ready
to grip a bar of the gate. He held it with a terrible force, but his
presence of mind was gone. He could make only a sort of gurgling, grumpy
sound.

“Come, Kirylo Sidorovitch!” she urged him. “I know you are not a
boastful man. _That_ one must say for you. You are a silent man. Too
silent, perhaps. You are feeding on some bitterness of your own. You are
not an enthusiast. You are, perhaps, all the stronger for that. But you
might tell me. One would like to understand you a little more. I was so
immensely struck.... Have you really done it?”

He got his voice back. The shot had missed him. It had been fired at
random, altogether, more like a signal for coming to close quarters.
It was to be a plain struggle for self-preservation. And she was a
dangerous adversary too. But he was ready for battle; he was so ready
that when he turned towards her not a muscle of his face moved.

“Certainly,” he said, without animation, secretly strung up but
perfectly sure of himself. “Lectures--certainly, But what makes you
ask?”

It was she who was animated.

“I had it in a letter, written by a young man in Petersburg; one of
us, of course. You were seen--you were observed with your notebook,
impassible, taking notes....”

He enveloped her with his fixed stare.

“What of that?”

“I call such coolness superb--that’s all. It is a proof of uncommon
strength of character. The young man writes that nobody could have
guessed from your face and manner the part you had played only some two
hours before--the great, momentous, glorious part....”

“Oh no. Nobody could have guessed,” assented Razumov gravely, “because,
don’t you see, nobody at that time....”

“Yes, yes. But all the same you are a man of exceptional fortitude, it
seems. You looked exactly as usual. It was remembered afterwards with
wonder....”

“It cost me no effort,” Razumov declared, with the same staring gravity.

“Then it’s almost more wonderful still!” she exclaimed, and fell silent
while Razumov asked himself whether he had not said there something
utterly unnecessary--or even worse.

She raised her head eagerly.

“Your intention was to stay in Russia? You had planned....”

“No,” interrupted Razumov without haste. “I had made no plans of any
sort.”

“You just simply walked away?” she struck in.

He bowed his head in slow assent. “Simply--yes.” He had gradually
released his hold on the bar of the gate, as though he had acquired the
conviction that no random shot could knock him over now. And suddenly he
was inspired to add, “The snow was coming down very thick, you know.”

She had a slight appreciative movement of the head, like an expert
in such enterprises, very interested, capable of taking every point
professionally. Razumov remembered something he had heard.

“I turned into a narrow side street, you understand,” he went on
negligently, and paused as if it were not worth talking about. Then he
remembered another detail and dropped it before her, like a disdainful
dole to her curiosity.

“I felt inclined to lie down and go to sleep there.”

She clicked her tongue at that symptom, very struck indeed. Then--

“But the notebook! The amazing notebook, man. You don’t mean to say you
had put it in your pocket beforehand!” she cried.

Razumov gave a start. It might have been a sign of impatience.

“I went home. Straight home to my rooms,” he said distinctly.

“The coolness of the man! You dared?”

“Why not? I assure you I was perfectly calm. Ha! Calmer than I am now
perhaps.”

“I like you much better as you are now than when you indulge that bitter
vein of yours, Razumov. And nobody in the house saw you return--eh? That
might have appeared queer.”

“No one,” Razumov said firmly. “Dvornik, landlady, girl, all out of the
way. I went up like a shadow. It was a murky morning. The stairs were
dark. I glided up like a phantom. Fate? Luck? What do you think?”

“I just see it!” The eyes of the woman revolutionist snapped darkly.
“Well--and then you considered....”

Razumov had it all ready in his head.

“No. I looked at my watch, since you want to know. There was just time.
I took that notebook, and ran down the stairs on tiptoe. Have you ever
listened to the pit-pat of a man running round and round the shaft of
a deep staircase? They have a gaslight at the bottom burning night
and day. I suppose it’s gleaming down there now.... The sound dies
out--the flame winks....”

He noticed the vacillation of surprise passing over the steady curiosity
of the black eyes fastened on his face as if the woman revolutionist
received the sound of his voice into her pupils instead of her ears. He
checked himself, passed his hand over his forehead, confused, like a man
who has been dreaming aloud.

“Where could a student be running if not to his lectures in the morning?
At night it’s another matter. I did not care if all the house had been
there to look at me. But I don’t suppose there was anyone. It’s best not
to be seen or heard. Aha! The people that are neither seen nor heard are
the lucky ones--in Russia. Don’t you admire my luck?”

“Astonishing,” she said. “If you have luck as well as determination,
then indeed you are likely to turn out an invaluable acquisition for the
work in hand.”

Her tone was earnest; and it seemed to Razumov that it was speculative,
even as though she were already apportioning him, in her mind, his share
of the work. Her eyes were cast down. He waited, not very alert now, but
with the grip of the ever-present danger giving him an air of
attentive gravity. Who could have written about him in that letter
from Petersburg? A fellow student, surely--some imbecile victim of
revolutionary propaganda, some foolish slave of foreign, subversive
ideals. A long, famine-stricken, red-nosed figure presented itself to
his mental search. That must have been the fellow!

He smiled inwardly at the absolute wrong-headedness of the whole thing,
the self-deception of a criminal idealist shattering his existence like
a thunder-clap out of a clear sky, and re-echoing amongst the wreckage
in the false assumptions of those other fools. Fancy that hungry and
piteous imbecile furnishing to the curiosity of the revolutionist
refugees this utterly fantastic detail! He appreciated it as by no means
constituting a danger. On the contrary. As things stood it was for his
advantage rather, a piece of sinister luck which had only to be accepted
with proper caution.

“And yet, Razumov,” he heard the musing voice of the woman, “you have
not the face of a lucky man.” She raised her eyes with renewed interest.
“And so that was the way of it. After doing your work you simply walked
off and made for your rooms. That sort of thing succeeds sometimes. I
suppose it was agreed beforehand that, once the business over, each of
you would go his own way?”

Razumov preserved the seriousness of his expression and the deliberate,
if cautious, manner of speaking.

“Was not that the best thing to do?” he asked, in a dispassionate tone.
“And anyway,” he added, after waiting a moment, “we did not give much
thought to what would come after. We never discussed formally any line
of conduct. It was understood, I think.”

She approved his statement with slight nods.

“You, of course, wished to remain in Russia?”

“In St. Petersburg itself,” emphasized Razumov. “It was the only safe
course for me. And, moreover, I had nowhere else to go.”

“Yes! Yes! I know. Clearly. And the other--this wonderful Haldin
appearing only to be regretted--you don’t know what he intended?”

Razumov had foreseen that such a question would certainly come to meet
him sooner or later. He raised his hands a little and let them fall
helplessly by his side--nothing more.

It was the white-haired woman conspirator who was the first to break the
silence.

“Very curious,” she pronounced slowly. “And you did not think, Kirylo
Sidorovitch, that he might perhaps wish to get in touch with you again?”

Razumov discovered that he could not suppress the trembling of his lips.
But he thought that he owed it to himself to speak. A negative sign
would not do again. Speak he must, if only to get at the bottom of what
that St. Petersburg letter might have contained.

“I stayed at home next day,” he said, bending down a little and plunging
his glance into the black eyes of the woman so that she should not
observe the trembling of his lips. “Yes, I stayed at home. As my actions
are remembered and written about, then perhaps you are aware that I
was _not_ seen at the lectures next day. Eh? You didn’t know? Well, I
stopped at home-the live-long day.”

As if moved by his agitated tone, she murmured a sympathetic “I see! It
must have been trying enough.”

“You seem to understand one’s feelings,” said Razumov steadily. “It was
trying. It was horrible; it was an atrocious day. It was not the last.”

“Yes, I understand. Afterwards, when you heard they had got him. Don’t
I know how one feels after losing a comrade in the good fight? One’s
ashamed of being left. And I can remember so many. Never mind. They
shall be avenged before long. And what is death? At any rate, it is not
a shameful thing like some kinds of life.”

Razumov felt something stir in his breast, a sort of feeble and
unpleasant tremor.

“Some kinds of life?” he repeated, looking at her searchingly.

“The subservient, submissive life. Life? No! Vegetation on the filthy
heap of iniquity which the world is. Life, Razumov, not to be vile must
be a revolt--a pitiless protest--all the time.”

She calmed down, the gleam of suffused tears in her eyes dried out
instantly by the heat of her passion, and it was in her capable,
businesslike manner that she went on--

“You understand me, Razumov. You are not an enthusiast, but there is an
immense force of revolt in you. I felt it from the first, directly I
set my eyes on you--you remember--in Zurich. Oh! You are full of bitter
revolt. That is good. Indignation flags sometimes, revenge itself may
become a weariness, but that uncompromising sense of necessity and
justice which armed your and Haldin’s hands to strike down that
fanatical brute...for it was that--nothing but that! I have been
thinking it out. It could have been nothing else but that.”

Razumov made a slight bow, the irony of which was concealed by an almost
sinister immobility of feature.

“I can’t speak for the dead. As for myself, I can assure you that my
conduct was dictated by necessity and by the sense of--well--retributive
justice.”

“Good, that,” he said to himself, while her eyes rested upon him, black
and impenetrable like the mental caverns where revolutionary thought
should sit plotting the violent way of its dream of changes. As
if anything could be changed! In this world of men nothing can be
changed--neither happiness nor misery. They can only be displaced at
the cost of corrupted consciences and broken lives--a futile game for
arrogant philosophers and sanguinary triflers. Those thoughts darted
through Razumov’s head while he stood facing the old revolutionary hand,
the respected, trusted, and influential Sophia Antonovna, whose word had
such a weight in the “active” section of every party. She was much more
representative than the great Peter Ivanovitch. Stripped of rhetoric,
mysticism, and theories, she was the true spirit of destructive
revolution. And she was the personal adversary he had to meet. It gave
him a feeling of triumphant pleasure to deceive her out of her own
mouth. The epigrammatic saying that speech has been given to us for the
purpose of concealing our thoughts came into his mind. Of that cynical
theory this was a very subtle and a very scornful application, flouting
in its own words the very spirit of ruthless revolution, embodied in
that woman with her white hair and black eyebrows, like slightly sinuous
lines of Indian ink, drawn together by the perpendicular folds of a
thoughtful frown.

“That’s it. Retributive. No pity!” was the conclusion of her silence.
And this once broken, she went on impulsively in short, vibrating
sentences--

“Listen to my story, Razumov!...” Her father was a clever but unlucky
artisan. No joy had lighted up his laborious days. He died at fifty;
all the years of his life he had panted under the thumb of masters whose
rapacity exacted from him the price of the water, of the salt, of the
very air he breathed; taxed the sweat of his brow and claimed the blood
of his sons. No protection, no guidance! What had society to say to him?
Be submissive and be honest. If you rebel I shall kill you. If you steal
I shall imprison you. But if you suffer I have nothing for you--nothing
except perhaps a beggarly dole of bread--but no consolation for your
trouble, no respect for your manhood, no pity for the sorrows of your
miserable life.

And so he laboured, he suffered, and he died. He died in the hospital.
Standing by the common grave she thought of his tormented existence--she
saw it whole. She reckoned the simple joys of life, the birthright of
the humblest, of which his gentle heart had been robbed by the crime of
a society which nothing can absolve.

“Yes, Razumov,” she continued, in an impressive, lowered voice, “it was
like a lurid light in which I stood, still almost a child, and cursed
not the toil, not the misery which had been his lot, but the great
social iniquity of the system resting on unrequited toil and unpitied
sufferings. From that moment I was a revolutionist.”

Razumov, trying to raise himself above the dangerous weaknesses of
contempt or compassion, had preserved an impassive countenance. She,
with an unaffected touch of mere bitterness, the first he could notice
since he had come in contact with the woman, went on--

“As I could not go to the Church where the priests of the system
exhorted such unconsidered vermin as I to resignation, I went to the
secret societies as soon as I knew how to find my way. I was sixteen
years old--no more, Razumov! And--look at my white hair.”

In these last words there was neither pride nor sadness. The bitterness
too was gone.

“There is a lot of it. I had always magnificent hair, even as a chit of
a girl. Only, at that time we were cutting it short and thinking that
there was the first step towards crushing the social infamy. Crush the
Infamy! A fine watchword! I would placard it on the walls of prisons and
palaces, carve it on hard rocks, hang it out in letters of fire on that
empty sky for a sign of hope and terror--a portent of the end....”

“You are eloquent, Sophia Antonovna,” Razumov interrupted suddenly.
“Only, so far you seem to have been writing it in water....”

She was checked but not offended. “Who knows? Very soon it may become
a fact written all over that great land of ours,” she hinted meaningly.
“And then one would have lived long enough. White hair won’t matter.”

Razumov looked at her white hair: and this mark of so many uneasy years
seemed nothing but a testimony to the invincible vigour of revolt. It
threw out into an astonishing relief the unwrinkled face, the
brilliant black glance, the upright compact figure, the simple,
brisk self-possession of the mature personality--as though in her
revolutionary pilgrimage she had discovered the secret, not of
everlasting youth, but of everlasting endurance.

How un-Russian she looked, thought Razumov. Her mother might have been
a Jewess or an Armenian or devil knew what. He reflected that a
revolutionist is seldom true to the settled type. All revolt is the
expression of strong individualism--ran his thought vaguely. One
can tell them a mile off in any society, in any surroundings. It was
astonishing that the police....

“We shall not meet again very soon, I think,” she was saying. “I am
leaving to-morrow.”

“For Zurich?” Razumov asked casually, but feeling relieved, not from
any distinct apprehension, but from a feeling of stress as if after a
wrestling match.

“Yes, Zurich--and farther on, perhaps, much farther. Another journey.
When I think of all my journeys! The last must come some day. Never
mind, Razumov. We had to have a good long talk. I would have certainly
tried to see you if we had not met. Peter Ivanovitch knows where you
live? Yes. I meant to have asked him--but it’s better like this. You
see, we expect two more men; and I had much rather wait here talking
with you than up there at the house with....”

Having cast a glance beyond the gate, she interrupted herself. “Here
they are,” she said rapidly. “Well, Kirylo Sidorovitch, we shall have to
say good-bye, presently.”


IV


In his incertitude of the ground on which he stood Razumov felt
perturbed. Turning his head quickly, he saw two men on the opposite side
of the road. Seeing themselves noticed by Sophia Antonovna, they crossed
over at once, and passed one after another through the little gate
by the side of the empty lodge. They looked hard at the stranger, but
without mistrust, the crimson blouse being a flaring safety signal. The
first, great white hairless face, double chin, prominent stomach, which
he seemed to carry forward consciously within a strongly distended
overcoat, only nodded and averted his eyes peevishly; his
companion--lean, flushed cheekbones, a military red moustache below a
sharp, salient nose--approached at once Sophia Antonovna, greeting her
warmly. His voice was very strong but inarticulate. It sounded like a
deep buzzing. The woman revolutionist was quietly cordial.

“This is Razumov,” she announced in a clear voice.

The lean new-comer made an eager half-turn. “He will want to embrace
me,” thought our young man with a deep recoil of all his being, while
his limbs seemed too heavy to move. But it was a groundless alarm. He
had to do now with a generation of conspirators who did not kiss each
other on both cheeks; and raising an arm that felt like lead he dropped
his hand into a largely-outstretched palm, fleshless and hot as if
dried up by fever, giving a bony pressure, expressive, seeming to say,
“Between us there’s no need of words.” The man had big, wide-open eyes.
Razumov fancied he could see a smile behind their sadness.

“This is Razumov,” Sophia Antonovna repeated loudly for the benefit of
the fat man, who at some distance displayed the profile of his stomach.

No one moved. Everything, sounds, attitudes, movements, and immobility
seemed to be part of an experiment, the result of which was a thin voice
piping with comic peevishness--

“Oh yes! Razumov. We have been hearing of nothing but Mr. Razumov for
months. For my part, I confess I would rather have seen Haldin on this
spot instead of Mr. Razumov.”

The squeaky stress put on the name “Razumov--Mr. Razumov” pierced the
ear ridiculously, like the falsetto of a circus clown beginning an
elaborate joke. Astonishment was Razumov’s first response, followed by
sudden indignation.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he asked in a stern tone.

“Tut! Silliness. He’s always like that.” Sophia Antonovna was obviously
vexed. But she dropped the information, “Necator,” from her lips just
loud enough to be heard by Razumov. The abrupt squeaks of the fat man
seemed to proceed from that thing like a balloon he carried under his
overcoat. The stolidity of his attitude, the big feet, the lifeless,
hanging hands, the enormous bloodless cheek, the thin wisps of hair
straggling down the fat nape of the neck, fascinated Razumov into a
stare on the verge of horror and laughter.

Nikita, surnamed Necator, with a sinister aptness of alliteration!
Razumov had heard of him. He had heard so much since crossing the
frontier of these celebrities of the militant revolution; the legends,
the stories, the authentic chronicle, which now and then peeps out
before a half-incredulous world. Razumov had heard of him. He was
supposed to have killed more, gendarmes and police agents than any
revolutionist living. He had been entrusted with executions.

The paper with the letters N.N., the very pseudonym of murder,
found pinned on the stabbed breast of a certain notorious spy (this
picturesque detail of a sensational murder case had got into
the newspapers), was the mark of his handiwork. “By order of the
Committee.--N.N.” A corner of the curtain lifted to strike the
imagination of the gaping world. He was said to have been innumerable
times in and out of Russia, the Necator of bureaucrats, of provincial
governors, of obscure informers. He lived between whiles, Razumov had
heard, on the shores of the Lake of Como, with a charming wife, devoted
to the cause, and two young children. But how could that creature, so
grotesque as to set town dogs barking at its mere sight, go about on
those deadly errands and slip through the meshes of the police?

“What now? what now?” the voice squeaked. “I am only sincere. It’s not
denied that the other was the leading spirit. Well, it would have been
better if he had been the one spared to us. More useful. I am not a
sentimentalist. Say what I think...only natural.”

Squeak, squeak, squeak, without a gesture, without a stir--the horrible
squeaky burlesque of professional jealousy--this man of a sinister
alliterative nickname, this executioner of revolutionary verdicts, the
terrifying N.N. exasperated like a fashionable tenor by the attention
attracted to the performance of an obscure amateur. Sophia Antonovna
shrugged her shoulders. The comrade with the martial red moustache
hurried towards Razumov full of conciliatory intentions in his strong
buzzing voice.

“Devil take it! And in this place, too, in the public street, so to
speak. But you can see yourself how it is. One of his fantastic sallies.
Absolutely of no consequence.”

“Pray don’t concern yourself,” cried Razumov, going off into a long fit
of laughter. “Don’t mention it.”

The other, his hectic flush like a pair of burns on his cheek-bones,
stared for a moment and burst out laughing too. Razumov, whose hilarity
died out all at once, made a step forward.

“Enough of this,” he began in a clear, incisive voice, though he could
hardly control the trembling of his legs. “I will have no more of it. I
shall not permit anyone.... I can see very well what you are at with
those allusions.... Inquire, investigate! I defy you, but I will not
be played with.”

He had spoken such words before. He had been driven to cry them out in
the face of other suspicions. It was an infernal cycle bringing round
that protest like a fatal necessity of his existence. But it was no use.
He would be always played with. Luckily life does not last for ever.

“I won’t have it!” he shouted, striking his fist into the palm of his
other hand.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch--what has come to you?” The woman revolutionist
interfered with authority. They were all looking at Razumov now; the
slayer of spies and gendarmes had turned about, presenting his enormous
stomach in full, like a shield.

“Don’t shout. There are people passing.” Sophia Antonovna was
apprehensive of another outburst. A steam-launch from Monrepos had
come to the landing-stage opposite the gate, its hoarse whistle and
the churning noise alongside all unnoticed, had landed a small bunch of
local passengers who were dispersing their several ways. Only a specimen
of early tourist in knickerbockers, conspicuous by a brand-new yellow
leather glass-case, hung about for a moment, scenting something unusual
about these four people within the rusty iron gates of what looked the
grounds run wild of an unoccupied private house. Ah! If he had only
known what the chance of commonplace travelling had suddenly put in his
way! But he was a well-bred person; he averted his gaze and moved off
with short steps along the avenue, on the watch for a tramcar.

A gesture from Sophia Antonovna, “Leave him to me,” had sent the two men
away--the buzzing of the inarticulate voice growing fainter and fainter,
and the thin pipe of “What now? what’s the matter?” reduced to the
proportions of a squeaking toy by the distance. They had left him to
her. So many things could be left safely to the experience of Sophia
Antonovna. And at once, her black eyes turned to Razumov, her mind tried
to get at the heart of that outburst. It had some meaning. No one is
born an active revolutionist. The change comes disturbingly, with the
force of a sudden vocation, bringing in its train agonizing doubts,
assertive violences, an unstable state of the soul, till the final
appeasement of the convert in the perfect fierceness of conviction. She
had seen--often had only divined--scores of these young men and young
women going through an emotional crisis. This young man looked like a
moody egotist. And besides, it was a special--a unique case. She had
never met an individuality which interested and puzzled her so much.

“Take care, Razumov, my good friend. If you carry on like this you will
go mad. You are angry with everybody and bitter with yourself, and on
the look out for something to torment yourself with.”

“It’s intolerable!” Razumov could only speak in gasps. “You must admit
that I can have no illusions on the attitude which...it isn’t clear...or
rather only too clear.”

He made a gesture of despair. It was not his courage that failed him.
The choking fumes of falsehood had taken him by the throat--the thought
of being condemned to struggle on and on in that tainted atmosphere
without the hope of ever renewing his strength by a breath of fresh air.

“A glass of cold water is what you want.” Sophia Antonovna glanced up
the grounds at the house and shook her head, then out of the gate at
the brimful placidity of the lake. With a half-comical shrug of the
shoulders, she gave the remedy up in the face of that abundance.

“It is you, my dear soul, who are flinging yourself at something which
does not exist. What is it? Self-reproach, or what? It’s absurd. You
couldn’t have gone and given yourself up because your comrade was
taken.”

She remonstrated with him reasonably, at some length too. He had nothing
to complain of in his reception. Every new-comer was discussed more or
less. Everybody had to be thoroughly understood before being accepted.
No one that she could remember had been shown from the first so much
confidence. Soon, very soon, perhaps sooner than he expected, he would
be given an opportunity of showing his devotion to the sacred task of
crushing the Infamy.

Razumov, listening quietly, thought: “It may be that she is trying to
lull my suspicions to sleep. On the other hand, it is obvious that most
of them are fools.” He moved aside a couple of paces and, folding his
arms on his breast, leaned back against the stone pillar of the gate.

“As to what remains obscure in the fate of that poor Haldin,” Sophia
Antonovna dropped into a slowness of utterance which was to Razumov like
the falling of molten lead drop by drop; “as to that--though no one ever
hinted that either from fear or neglect your conduct has not been what
it should have been--well, I have a bit of intelligence....”

Razumov could not prevent himself from raising his head, and Sophia
Antonovna nodded slightly.

“I have. You remember that letter from St. Petersburg I mentioned to you
a moment ago?”

“The letter? Perfectly. Some busybody has been reporting my conduct on
a certain day. It’s rather sickening. I suppose our police are greatly
edified when they open these interesting and--and--superfluous letters.”

“Oh dear no! The police do not get hold of our letters as easily as you
imagine. The letter in question did not leave St. Petersburg till the
ice broke up. It went by the first English steamer which left the Neva
this spring. They have a fireman on board--one of us, in fact. It has
reached me from Hull....”

She paused as if she were surprised at the sullen fixity of Razumov’s
gaze, but went on at once, and much faster.

“We have some of our people there who...but never mind. The writer
of the letter relates an incident which he thinks may possibly be
connected with Haldin’s arrest. I was just going to tell you when those
two men came along.”

“That also was an incident,” muttered Razumov, “of a very charming
kind--for me.”

“Leave off that!” cried Sophia Antonovna. “Nobody cares for Nikita’s
barking. There’s no malice in him. Listen to what I have to say. You
may be able to throw a light. There was in St. Petersburg a sort of town
peasant--a man who owned horses. He came to town years ago to work for
some relation as a driver and ended by owning a cab or two.”

She might well have spared herself the slight effort of the gesture:
“Wait!” Razumov did not mean to speak; he could not have interrupted
her now, not to save his life. The contraction of his facial muscles had
been involuntary, a mere surface stir, leaving him sullenly attentive as
before.

“He was not a quite ordinary man of his class--it seems,” she went on.
“The people of the house--my informant talked with many of them--you
know, one of those enormous houses of shame and misery....”

Sophia Antonovna need not have enlarged on the character of the house.
Razumov saw clearly, towering at her back, a dark mass of masonry veiled
in snowflakes, with the long row of windows of the eating-shop shining
greasily very near the ground. The ghost of that night pursued him. He
stood up to it with rage and with weariness.

“Did the late Haldin ever by chance speak to you of that house?” Sophia
Antonovna was anxious to know.

“Yes.” Razumov, making that answer, wondered whether he were falling
into a trap. It was so humiliating to lie to these people that he
probably could not have said no. “He mentioned to me once,” he added, as
if making an effort of memory, “a house of that sort. He used to visit
some workmen there.”

“Exactly.”

Sophia Antonovna triumphed. Her correspondent had discovered that fact
quite accidentally from the talk of the people of the house, having
made friends with a workman who occupied a room there. They described
Haldin’s appearance perfectly. He brought comforting words of hope into
their misery. He came irregularly, but he came very often, and--her
correspondent wrote--sometimes he spent a night in the house, sleeping,
they thought, in a stable which opened upon the inner yard.

“Note that, Razumov! In a stable.”

Razumov had listened with a sort of ferocious but amused acquiescence.

“Yes. In the straw. It was probably the cleanest spot in the whole
house.”

“No doubt,” assented the woman with that deep frown which seemed to draw
closer together her black eyes in a sinister fashion. No four-footed
beast could stand the filth and wretchedness so many human beings were
condemned to suffer from in Russia. The point of this discovery was that
it proved Haldin to have been familiar with that horse-owning peasant--a
reckless, independent, free-living fellow not much liked by the other
inhabitants of the house. He was believed to have been the associate of
a band of housebreakers. Some of these got captured. Not while he was
driving them, however; but still there was a suspicion against the
fellow of having given a hint to the police and...

The woman revolutionist checked herself suddenly.

“And you? Have you ever heard your friend refer to a certain
Ziemianitch?”

Razumov was ready for the name. He had been looking out for the
question. “When it comes I shall own up,” he had said to himself. But he
took his time.

“To be sure!” he began slowly. “Ziemianitch, a peasant owning a team of
horses. Yes. On one occasion. Ziemianitch! Certainly! Ziemianitch of the
horses.... How could it have slipped my memory like this? One of the
last conversations we had together.”

“That means,”--Sophia Antonovna looked very grave,--“that means,
Razumov, it was very shortly before--eh?”

“Before what?” shouted Razumov, advancing at the woman, who looked
astonished but stood her ground. “Before.... Oh! Of course, it was
before! How could it have been after? Only a few hours before.”

“And he spoke of him favourably?”

“With enthusiasm! The horses of Ziemianitch! The free soul of
Ziemianitch!”

Razumov took a savage delight in the loud utterance of that name, which
had never before crossed his lips audibly. He fixed his blazing eyes
on the woman till at last her fascinated expression recalled him to
himself.

“The late Haldin,” he said, holding himself in, with downcast eyes,
“was inclined to take sudden fancies to people, on--on--what shall I
say--insufficient grounds.”

“There!” Sophia Antonovna clapped her hands. “That, to my mind, settles
it. The suspicions of my correspondent were aroused....”

“Aha! Your correspondent,” Razumov said in an almost openly mocking
tone. “What suspicions? How aroused? By this Ziemianitch? Probably some
drunken, gabbling, plausible...”

“You talk as if you had known him.”

Razumov looked up.

“No. But I knew Haldin.”

Sophia Antonovna nodded gravely.

“I see. Every word you say confirms to my mind the suspicion
communicated to me in that very interesting letter. This Ziemianitch was
found one morning hanging from a hook in the stable--dead.”

Razumov felt a profound trouble. It was visible, because Sophia
Antonovna was moved to observe vivaciously--

“Aha! You begin to see.”

He saw it clearly enough--in the light of a lantern casting spokes of
shadow in a cellar-like stable, the body in a sheepskin coat and long
boots hanging against the wall. A pointed hood, with the ends wound
about up to the eyes, hid the face. “But that does not concern me,” he
reflected. “It does not affect my position at all. He never knew who had
thrashed him. He could not have known.” Razumov felt sorry for the old
lover of the bottle and women.

“Yes. Some of them end like that,” he muttered. “What is your idea,
Sophia Antonovna?”

It was really the idea of her correspondent, but Sophia Antonovna had
adopted it fully. She stated it in one word--“Remorse.” Razumov opened
his eyes very wide at that. Sophia Antonovna’s informant, by listening
to the talk of the house, by putting this and that together, had managed
to come very near to the truth of Haldin’s relation to Ziemianitch.

“It is I who can tell you what you were not certain of--that your friend
had some plan for saving himself afterwards, for getting out of St.
Petersburg, at any rate. Perhaps that and no more, trusting to luck for
the rest. And that fellow’s horses were part of the plan.”

“They have actually got at the truth,” Razumov marvelled to himself,
while he nodded judicially. “Yes, that’s possible, very possible.” But
the woman revolutionist was very positive that it was so. First of all,
a conversation about horses between Haldin and Ziemianitch had been
partly overheard. Then there were the suspicions of the people in the
house when their “young gentleman” (they did not know Haldin by
his name) ceased to call at the house. Some of them used to charge
Ziemianitch with knowing something of this absence. He denied it with
exasperation; but the fact was that ever since Haldin’s disappearance he
was not himself, growing moody and thin. Finally, during a quarrel with
some woman (to whom he was making up), in which most of the inmates of
the house took part apparently, he was openly abused by his chief enemy,
an athletic pedlar, for an informer, and for having driven “our young
gentleman to Siberia, the same as you did those young fellows who broke
into houses.” In consequence of this there was a fight, and Ziemianitch
got flung down a flight of stairs. Thereupon he drank and moped for a
week, and then hanged himself.

Sophia Antonovna drew her conclusions from the tale. She charged
Ziemianitch either with drunken indiscretion as to a driving job on a
certain date, overheard by some spy in some low grog-shop--perhaps in
the very eating-shop on the ground floor of the house--or, maybe, a
downright denunciation, followed by remorse. A man like that would be
capable of anything. People said he was a flighty old chap. And if he
had been once before mixed up with the police--as seemed certain, though
he always denied it--in connexion with these thieves, he would be sure
to be acquainted with some police underlings, always on the look out for
something to report. Possibly at first his tale was not made anything of
till the day that scoundrel de P--- got his deserts. Ah! But then every
bit and scrap of hint and information would be acted on, and fatally
they were bound to get Haldin.

Sophia Antonovna spread out her hands--“Fatally.”

Fatality--chance! Razumov meditated in silent astonishment upon the
queer verisimilitude of these inferences. They were obviously to his
advantage.

“It is right now to make this conclusive evidence known generally.”
 Sophia Antonovna was very calm and deliberate again. She had received
the letter three days ago, but did not write at once to Peter
Ivanovitch. She knew then that she would have the opportunity presently
of meeting several men of action assembled for an important purpose.

“I thought it would be more effective if I could show the letter itself
at large. I have it in my pocket now. You understand how pleased I was
to come upon you.”

Razumov was saying to himself, “She won’t offer to show the letter to
me. Not likely. Has she told me everything that correspondent of hers
has found out?” He longed to see the letter, but he felt he must not
ask.

“Tell me, please, was this an investigation ordered, as it were?”

“No, no,” she protested. “There you are again with your sensitiveness.
It makes you stupid. Don’t you see, there was no starting-point for an
investigation even if any one had thought of it. A perfect blank! That’s
exactly what some people were pointing out as the reason for receiving
you cautiously. It was all perfectly accidental, arising from my
informant striking an acquaintance with an intelligent skindresser
lodging in that particular slum-house. A wonderful coincidence!”

“A pious person,” suggested Razumov, with a pale smile, “would say that
the hand of God has done it all.”

“My poor father would have said that.” Sophia Antonovna did not smile.
She dropped her eyes. “Not that his God ever helped him. It’s a long
time since God has done anything for the people. Anyway, it’s done.”

“All this would be quite final,” said Razumov, with every appearance of
reflective impartiality, “if there was any certitude that the ‘our young
gentleman’ of these people was Victor Haldin. Have we got that?”

“Yes. There’s no mistake. My correspondent was as familiar with Haldin’s
personal appearance as with your own,” the woman affirmed decisively.

“It’s the red-nosed fellow beyond a doubt,” Razumov said to himself,
with reawakened uneasiness. Had his own visit to that accursed house
passed unnoticed? It was barely possible. Yet it was hardly probable.
It was just the right sort of food for the popular gossip that gaunt
busybody had been picking up. But the letter did not seem to contain any
allusion to that. Unless she had suppressed it. And, if so, why? If it
had really escaped the prying of that hunger-stricken democrat with a
confounded genius for recognizing people from description, it could
only be for a time. He would come upon it presently and hasten to write
another letter--and then!

For all the envenomed recklessness of his temper, fed on hate and
disdain, Razumov shuddered inwardly. It guarded him from common fear,
but it could not defend him from disgust at being dealt with in any way
by these people. It was a sort of superstitious dread. Now, since his
position had been made more secure by their own folly at the cost of
Ziemianitch, he felt the need of perfect safety, with its freedom
from direct lying, with its power of moving amongst them silent,
unquestioning, listening, impenetrable, like the very fate of their
crimes and their folly. Was this advantage his already? Or not yet? Or
never would be?

“Well, Sophia Antonovna,” his air of reluctant concession was genuine
in so far that he was really loath to part with her without testing her
sincerity by a question it was impossible to bring about in any way;
“well, Sophia Antonovna, if that is so, then--”

“The creature has done justice to himself,” the woman observed, as if
thinking aloud.

“What? Ah yes! Remorse,” Razumov muttered, with equivocal contempt.

“Don’t be harsh, Kirylo Sidorovitch, if you have lost a friend.” There
was no hint of softness in her tone, only the black glitter of her eyes
seemed detached for an instant from vengeful visions. “He was a man of
the people. The simple Russian soul is never wholly impenitent. It’s
something to know that.”

“Consoling?” insinuated Razumov, in a tone of inquiry.

“Leave off railing,” she checked him explosively. “Remember, Razumov,
that women, children, and revolutionists hate irony, which is the
negation of all saving instincts, of all faith, of all devotion, of all
action. Don’t rail! Leave off.... I don’t know how it is, but there
are moments when you are abhorrent to me....”

She averted her face. A languid silence, as if all the electricity of
the situation had been discharged in this flash of passion, lasted for
some time. Razumov had not flinched. Suddenly she laid the tips of her
fingers on his sleeve.

“Don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind,” he said very quietly.

He was proud to feel that she could read nothing on his face. He was
really mollified, relieved, if only for a moment, from an obscure
oppression. And suddenly he asked himself, “Why the devil did I go to
that house? It was an imbecile thing to do.”

A profound disgust came over him. Sophia Antonovna lingered, talking
in a friendly manner with an evident conciliatory intention. And it was
still about the famous letter, referring to various minute details
given by her informant, who had never seen Ziemianitch. The “victim of
remorse” had been buried several weeks before her correspondent began
frequenting the house. It--the house--contained very good revolutionary
material. The spirit of the heroic Haldin had passed through these dens
of black wretchedness with a promise of universal redemption from all
the miseries that oppress mankind. Razumov listened without hearing,
gnawed by the newborn desire of safety with its independence from that
degrading method of direct lying which at times he found it almost
impossible to practice.

No. The point he wanted to hear about could never come into this
conversation. There was no way of bringing it forward. He regretted
not having composed a perfect story for use abroad, in which his fatal
connexion with the house might have been owned up to. But when he left
Russia he did not know that Ziemianitch had hanged himself. And, anyway,
who could have foreseen this woman’s “informant” stumbling upon that
particular slum, of all the slums awaiting destruction in the purifying
flame of social revolution? Who could have foreseen? Nobody! “It’s a
perfect, diabolic surprise,” thought Razumov, calm-faced in his attitude
of inscrutable superiority, nodding assent to Sophia Antonovna’s remarks
upon the psychology of “the people,” “Oh yes--certainly,” rather
coldly, but with a nervous longing in his fingers to tear some sort of
confession out of her throat.

Then, at the very last, on the point of separating, the feeling of
relaxed tension already upon him, he heard Sophia Antonovna allude to
the subject of his uneasiness. How it came about he could only guess,
his mind being absent at the moment, but it must have sprung from Sophia
Antonovna’s complaints of the illogical absurdity of the people. For
instance--that Ziemianitch was notoriously irreligious, and yet, in the
last weeks of his life, he suffered from the notion that he had been
beaten by the devil.

“The devil,” repeated Razumov, as though he had not heard aright.

“The actual devil. The devil in person. You may well look astonished,
Kirylo Sidorovitch. Early on the very night poor Haldin was taken,
a complete stranger turned up and gave Ziemianitch a most fearful
thrashing while he was lying dead-drunk in the stable. The wretched
creature’s body was one mass of bruises. He showed them to the people in
the house.”

“But you, Sophia Antonovna, you don’t believe in the actual devil?”

“Do you?” retorted the woman curtly. “Not but that there are plenty of
men worse than devils to make a hell of this earth,” she muttered to
herself.

Razumov watched her, vigorous and white-haired, with the deep fold
between her thin eyebrows, and her black glance turned idly away. It was
obvious that she did not make much of the story--unless, indeed, this
was the perfection of duplicity. “A dark young man,” she explained
further. “Never seen there before, never seen afterwards. Why are you
smiling, Razumov?”

“At the devil being still young after all these ages,” he answered
composedly. “But who was able to describe him, since the victim, you
say, was dead-drunk at the time?”

“Oh! The eating-house keeper has described him. An overbearing,
swarthy young man in a student’s cloak, who came rushing in, demanded
Ziemianitch, beat him furiously, and rushed away without a word, leaving
the eating-house keeper paralysed with astonishment.”

“Does he, too, believe it was the devil?”

“That I can’t say. I am told he’s very reserved on the matter. Those
sellers of spirits are great scoundrels generally. I should think he
knows more of it than anybody.”

“Well, and you, Sophia Antonovna, what’s your theory?” asked Razumov
in a tone of great interest. “Yours and your informant’s, who is on the
spot.”

“I agree with him. Some police-hound in disguise. Who else could beat a
helpless man so unmercifully? As for the rest, if they were out that day
on every trail, old and new, it is probable enough that they might
have thought it just as well to have Ziemianitch at hand for more
information, or for identification, or what not. Some scoundrelly
detective was sent to fetch him along, and being vexed at finding him
so drunk broke a stable fork over his ribs. Later on, after they had the
big game safe in the net, they troubled their heads no more about that
peasant.”

Such were the last words of the woman revolutionist in this
conversation, keeping so close to the truth, departing from it so far in
the verisimilitude of thoughts and conclusions as to give one the notion
of the invincible nature of human error, a glimpse into the utmost
depths of self-deception. Razumov, after shaking hands with Sophia
Antonovna, left the grounds, crossed the road, and walking out on the
little steamboat pier leaned over the rail.

His mind was at ease; ease such as he had not known for many days,
ever since that night...the night. The conversation with the woman
revolutionist had given him the view of his danger at the very moment
this danger vanished, characteristically enough. “I ought to have
foreseen the doubts that would arise in those people’s minds,” he
thought. Then his attention being attracted by a stone of peculiar
shape, which he could see clearly lying at the bottom, he began to
speculate as to the depth of water in that spot. But very soon, with a
start of wonder at this extraordinary instance of ill-timed detachment,
he returned to his train of thought. “I ought to have told very
circumstantial lies from the first,” he said to himself, with a mortal
distaste of the mere idea which silenced his mental utterance for quite
a perceptible interval. “Luckily, that’s all right now,” he reflected,
and after a time spoke to himself, half aloud, “Thanks to the devil,”
 and laughed a little.

The end of Ziemianitch then arrested his wandering thoughts. He was not
exactly amused at the interpretation, but he could not help detecting
in it a certain piquancy. He owned to himself that, had he known of that
suicide before leaving Russia, he would have been incapable of making
such excellent use of it for his own purposes. He ought to be infinitely
obliged to the fellow with the red nose for his patience and ingenuity,
“A wonderful psychologist apparently,” he said to himself sarcastically.
Remorse, indeed! It was a striking example of your true conspirator’s
blindness, of the stupid subtlety of people with one idea. This was
a drama of love, not of conscience, Razumov continued to himself
mockingly. A woman the old fellow was making up to! A robust pedlar,
clearly a rival, throwing him down a flight of stairs.... And at
sixty, for a lifelong lover, it was not an easy matter to get over.
That was a feminist of a different stamp from Peter Ivanovitch. Even the
comfort of the bottle might conceivably fail him in this supreme
crisis. At such an age nothing but a halter could cure the pangs of
an unquenchable passion. And, besides, there was the wild exasperation
aroused by the unjust aspersions and the contumely of the house, with
the maddening impossibility to account for that mysterious thrashing,
added to these simple and bitter sorrows. “Devil, eh?” Razumov
exclaimed, with mental excitement, as if he had made an interesting
discovery. “Ziemianitch ended by falling into mysticism. So many of our
true Russian souls end in that way! Very characteristic.” He felt pity
for Ziemianitch, a large neutral pity, such as one may feel for an
unconscious multitude, a great people seen from above--like a community
of crawling ants working out its destiny. It was as if this Ziemianitch
could not possibly have done anything else. And Sophia Antonovna’s
cocksure and contemptuous “some police-hound” was characteristically
Russian in another way. But there was no tragedy there. This was a
comedy of errors. It was as if the devil himself were playing a game
with all of them in turn. First with him, then with Ziemianitch,
then with those revolutionists. The devil’s own game this.... He
interrupted his earnest mental soliloquy with a jocular thought at his
own expense. “Hallo! I am falling into mysticism too.”

His mind was more at ease than ever. Turning about he put his back
against the rail comfortably. “All this fits with marvellous aptness,”
 he continued to think. “The brilliance of my reputed exploit is no
longer darkened by the fate of my supposed colleague. The mystic
Ziemianitch accounts for that. An incredible chance has served me. No
more need of lies. I shall have only to listen and to keep my scorn from
getting the upper hand of my caution.”

He sighed, folded his arms, his chin dropped on his breast, and it was
a long time before he started forward from that pose, with the
recollection that he had made up his mind to do something important that
day. What it was he could not immediately recall, yet he made no effort
of memory, for he was uneasily certain that he would remember presently.

He had not gone more than a hundred yards towards the town when he
slowed down, almost faltered in his walk, at the sight of a figure
walking in the contrary direction, draped in a cloak, under a soft,
broad-brimmed hat, picturesque but diminutive, as if seen through the
big end of an opera-glass. It was impossible to avoid that tiny man, for
there was no issue for retreat.

“Another one going to that mysterious meeting,” thought Razumov. He was
right in his surmise, only _this_ one, unlike the others who came from a
distance, was known to him personally. Still, he hoped to pass on with
a mere bow, but it was impossible to ignore the little thin hand with
hairy wrist and knuckles protruded in a friendly wave from under the
folds of the cloak, worn Spanish-wise, in disregard of a fairly warm
day, a corner flung over the shoulder.

“And how is Herr Razumov?” sounded the greeting in German, by that alone
made more odious to the object of the affable recognition. At closer
quarters the diminutive personage looked like a reduction of an
ordinary-sized man, with a lofty brow bared for a moment by the raising
of the hat, the great pepper-and salt full beard spread over the
proportionally broad chest. A fine bold nose jutted over a thin mouth
hidden in the mass of fine hair. All this, accented features, strong
limbs in their relative smallness, appeared delicate without the
slightest sign of debility. The eyes alone, almond-shaped and brown,
were too big, with the whites slightly bloodshot by much pen labour
under a lamp. The obscure celebrity of the tiny man was well known to
Razumov. Polyglot, of unknown parentage, of indefinite nationality,
anarchist, with a pedantic and ferocious temperament, and an amazingly
inflammatory capacity for invective, he was a power in the background,
this violent pamphleteer clamouring for revolutionary justice, this
Julius Laspara, editor of the _Living Word_, confidant of conspirators,
inditer of sanguinary menaces and manifestos, suspected of being in the
secret of every plot. Laspara lived in the old town in a sombre,
narrow house presented to him by a naive middle-class admirer of his
humanitarian eloquence. With him lived his two daughters, who overtopped
him head and shoulders, and a pasty-faced, lean boy of six, languishing
in the dark rooms in blue cotton overalls and clumsy boots, who might
have belonged to either one of them or to neither. No stranger could
tell. Julius Laspara no doubt knew which of his girls it was who, after
casually vanishing for a few years, had as casually returned to him
possessed of that child; but, with admirable pedantry, he had refrained
from asking her for details--no, not so much as the name of the father,
because maternity should be an anarchist function. Razumov had been
admitted twice to that suite of several small dark rooms on the top
floor: dusty window-panes, litter of all sorts of sweepings all over
the place, half-full glasses of tea forgotten on every table, the two
Laspara daughters prowling about enigmatically silent, sleepy-eyed,
corsetless, and generally, in their want of shape and the disorder
of their rumpled attire, resembling old dolls; the great but obscure
Julius, his feet twisted round his three-legged stool, always ready to
receive the visitors, the pen instantly dropped, the body screwed round
with a striking display of the lofty brow and of the great austere
beard. When he got down from his stool it was as though he had descended
from the heights of Olympus. He was dwarfed by his daughters, by the
furniture, by any caller of ordinary stature. But he very seldom left
it, and still more rarely was seen walking in broad daylight.

It must have been some matter of serious importance which had driven him
out in that direction that afternoon. Evidently he wished to be amiable
to that young man whose arrival had made some sensation in the world
of political refugees. In Russian now, which he spoke, as he spoke and
wrote four or five other European languages, without distinction and
without force (other than that of invective), he inquired if Razumov
had taken his inscriptions at the University as yet. And the young man,
shaking his head negatively--

“There’s plenty of time for that. But, meantime, are you not going to
write something for us?”

He could not understand how any one could refrain from writing on
anything, social, economic, historical--anything. Any subject could be
treated in the right spirit, and for the ends of social revolution. And,
as it happened, a friend of his in London had got in touch with a review
of advanced ideas. “We must educate, educate everybody--develop the
great thought of absolute liberty and of revolutionary justice.”

Razumov muttered rather surlily that he did not even know English.

“Write in Russian. We’ll have it translated There can be no difficulty.
Why, without seeking further, there is Miss Haldin. My daughters go to
see her sometimes.” He nodded significantly. “She does nothing, has
never done anything in her life. She would be quite competent, with a
little assistance. Only write. You know you must. And so good-bye for
the present.”

He raised his arm and went on. Razumov backed against the low wall,
looked after him, spat violently, and went on his way with an angry
mutter--

“Cursed Jew!”

He did not know anything about it. Julius Laspara might have been a
Transylvanian, a Turk, an Andalusian, or a citizen of one of the Hanse
towns for anything he could tell to the contrary. But this is not a
story of the West, and this exclamation must be recorded, accompanied by
the comment that it was merely an expression of hate and contempt, best
adapted to the nature of the feelings Razumov suffered from at the time.
He was boiling with rage, as though he had been grossly insulted. He
walked as if blind, following instinctively the shore of the diminutive
harbour along the quay, through a pretty, dull garden, where dull
people sat on chairs under the trees, till, his fury abandoning him, he
discovered himself in the middle of a long, broad bridge. He slowed down
at once. To his right, beyond the toy-like jetties, he saw the green
slopes framing the Petit Lac in all the marvellous banality of the
picturesque made of painted cardboard, with the more distant stretch of
water inanimate and shining like a piece of tin.

He turned his head away from that view for the tourists, and walked on
slowly, his eyes fixed on the ground. One or two persons had to get
out of his way, and then turned round to give a surprised stare to
his profound absorption. The insistence of the celebrated subversive
journalist rankled in his mind strangely. Write. Must write! He! Write!
A sudden light flashed upon him. To write was the very thing he had made
up his mind to do that day. He had made up his mind irrevocably to that
step and then had forgotten all about it. That incorrigible tendency to
escape from the grip of the situation was fraught with serious danger.
He was ready to despise himself for it. What was it? Levity, or
deep-seated weakness? Or an unconscious dread?

“Is it that I am shrinking? It can’t be! It’s impossible. To shrink now
would be worse than moral suicide; it would be nothing less than moral
damnation,” he thought. “Is it possible that I have a conventional
conscience?”

He rejected that hypothesis with scorn, and, checked on the edge of the
pavement, made ready to cross the road and proceed up the wide street
facing the head of the bridge; and that for no other reason except that
it was there before him. But at the moment a couple of carriages and a
slow-moving cart interposed, and suddenly he turned sharp to the left,
following the quay again, but now away from the lake.

“It may be just my health,” he thought, allowing himself a very unusual
doubt of his soundness; for, with the exception of a childish ailment
or two, he had never been ill in his life. But that was a danger, too.
Only, it seemed as though he were being looked after in a specially
remarkable way. “If I believed in an active Providence,” Razumov said
to himself, amused grimly, “I would see here the working of an ironical
finger. To have a Julius Laspara put in my way as if expressly to remind
me of my purpose is--Write, he had said. I must write--I must, indeed!
I shall write--never fear. Certainly. That’s why I am here. And for the
future I shall have something to write about.”

He was exciting himself by this mental soliloquy. But the idea of
writing evoked the thought of a place to write in, of shelter, of
privacy, and naturally of his lodgings, mingled with a distaste for the
necessary exertion of getting there, with a mistrust as of some hostile
influence awaiting him within those odious four walls.

“Suppose one of these revolutionists,” he asked himself, “were to take
a fancy to call on me while I am writing?” The mere prospect of such
an interruption made him shudder. One could lock one’s door, or ask
the tobacconist downstairs (some sort of a refugee himself) to tell
inquirers that one was not in. Not very good precautions those. The
manner of his life, he felt, must be kept clear of every cause for
suspicion or even occasion for wonder, down to such trifling occurrences
as a delay in opening a locked door. “I wish I were in the middle of
some field miles away from everywhere,” he thought.

He had unconsciously turned to the left once more and now was aware of
being on a bridge again. This one was much narrower than the other, and
instead of being straight, made a sort of elbow or angle. At the point
of that angle a short arm joined it to a hexagonal islet with a soil of
gravel and its shores faced with dressed stone, a perfection of puerile
neatness. A couple of tall poplars and a few other trees stood grouped
on the clean, dark gravel, and under them a few garden benches and a
bronze effigy of Jean Jacques Rousseau seated on its pedestal.

On setting his foot on it Razumov became aware that, except for the
woman in charge of the refreshment chalet, he would be alone on the
island. There was something of naive, odious, and inane simplicity about
that unfrequented tiny crumb of earth named after Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Something pretentious and shabby, too. He asked for a glass of milk,
which he drank standing, at one draught (nothing but tea had passed his
lips since the morning), and was going away with a weary, lagging step
when a thought stopped him short. He had found precisely what he needed.
If solitude could ever be secured in the open air in the middle of a
town, he would have it there on this absurd island, together with the
faculty of watching the only approach.

He went back heavily to a garden seat, dropped into it. This was the
place for making a beginning of that writing which had to be done. The
materials he had on him. “I shall always come here,” he said to himself,
and afterwards sat for quite a long time motionless, without thought
and sight and hearing, almost without life. He sat long enough for the
declining sun to dip behind the roofs of the town at his back, and throw
the shadow of the houses on the lake front over the islet, before he
pulled out of his pocket a fountain pen, opened a small notebook on his
knee, and began to write quickly, raising his eyes now and then at the
connecting arm of the bridge. These glances were needless; the people
crossing over in the distance seemed unwilling even to look at the
islet where the exiled effigy of the author of the _Social Contract_ sat
enthroned above the bowed head of Razumov in the sombre immobility of
bronze. After finishing his scribbling, Razumov, with a sort of feverish
haste, put away the pen, then rammed the notebook into his pocket, first
tearing out the written pages with an almost convulsive brusqueness. But
the folding of the flimsy batch on his knee was executed with thoughtful
nicety. That done, he leaned back in his seat and remained motionless,
the papers holding in his left hand. The twilight had deepened. He got
up and began to pace to and fro slowly under the trees.

“There can be no doubt that now I am safe,” he thought. His fine ear
could detect the faintly accentuated murmurs of the current breaking
against the point of the island, and he forgot himself in listening to
them with interest. But even to his acute sense of hearing the sound was
too elusive.

“Extraordinary occupation I am giving myself up to,” he murmured. And
it occurred to him that this was about the only sound he could listen
to innocently, and for his own pleasure, as it were. Yes, the sound of
water, the voice of the wind--completely foreign to human passions. All
the other sounds of this earth brought contamination to the solitude of
a soul.

This was Mr. Razumov’s feeling, the soul, of course, being his own, and
the word being used not in the theological sense, but standing, as far
as I can understand it, for that part of Mr. Razumov which was not his
body, and more specially in danger from the fires of this earth. And it
must be admitted that in Mr. Razumov’s case the bitterness of solitude
from which he suffered was not an altogether morbid phenomenon.



PART FOUR



I


That I should, at the beginning of this retrospect, mention again that
Mr. Razumov’s youth had no one in the world, as literally no one as it
can be honestly affirmed of any human being, is but a statement of fact
from a man who believes in the psychological value of facts. There
is also, perhaps, a desire of punctilious fairness. Unidentified with
anyone in this narrative where the aspects of honour and shame are
remote from the ideas of the Western world, and taking my stand on the
ground of common humanity, it is for that very reason that I feel a
strange reluctance to state baldly here what every reader has most
likely already discovered himself. Such reluctance may appear absurd if
it were not for the thought that because of the imperfection of language
there is always something ungracious (and even disgraceful) in the
exhibition of naked truth. But the time has come when Councillor of
State Mikulin can no longer be ignored. His simple question “Where to?”
 on which we left Mr. Razumov in St. Petersburg, throws a light on the
general meaning of this individual case.

“Where to?” was the answer in the form of a gentle question to what we
may call Mr. Razumov’s declaration of independence. The question was not
menacing in the least and, indeed, had the ring of innocent inquiry.
Had it been taken in a merely topographical sense, the only answer to it
would have appeared sufficiently appalling to Mr Razumov. Where to? Back
to his rooms, where the Revolution had sought him out to put to a sudden
test his dormant instincts, his half-conscious thoughts and almost
wholly unconscious ambitions, by the touch as of some furious and
dogmatic religion, with its call to frantic sacrifices, its tender
resignations, its dreams and hopes uplifting the soul by the side of the
most sombre moods of despair. And Mr. Razumov had let go the door-handle
and had come back to the middle of the room, asking Councillor Mikulin
angrily, “What do you mean by it?”

As far as I can tell, Councillor Mikulin did not answer that question.
He drew Mr. Razumov into familiar conversation. It is the peculiarity of
Russian natures that, however strongly engaged in the drama of action,
they are still turning their ear to the murmur of abstract ideas. This
conversation (and others later on) need not be recorded. Suffice it to
say that it brought Mr. Razumov as we know him to the test of another
faith. There was nothing official in its expression, and Mr. Razumov was
led to defend his attitude of detachment. But Councillor Mikulin would
have none of his arguments. “For a man like you,” were his last weighty
words in the discussion, “such a position is impossible. Don’t forget
that I have seen that interesting piece of paper. I understand your
liberalism. I have an intellect of that kind myself. Reform for me is
mainly a question of method. But the principle of revolt is a physical
intoxication, a sort of hysteria which must be kept away from the
masses. You agree to this without reserve, don’t you? Because, you see,
Kirylo Sidorovitch, abstention, reserve, in certain situations, come
very near to political crime. The ancient Greeks understood that very
well.”

Mr. Razumov, listening with a faint smile, asked Councillor Mikulin
point-blank if this meant that he was going to have him watched.

The high official took no offence at the cynical inquiry.

“No, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” he answered gravely. “I don’t mean to have you
watched.”

Razumov, suspecting a lie, affected yet the greatest liberty of mind
during the short remainder of that interview. The older man expressed
himself throughout in familiar terms, and with a sort of shrewd
simplicity. Razumov concluded that to get to the bottom of that mind was
an impossible feat. A great disquiet made his heart beat quicker. The
high official, issuing from behind the desk, was actually offering to
shake hands with him.

“Good-bye, Mr Razumov. An understanding between intelligent men is
always a satisfactory occurrence. Is it not? And, of course, these rebel
gentlemen have not the monopoly of intelligence.”

“I presume that I shall not be wanted any more?” Razumov brought out
that question while his hand was still being grasped. Councillor Mikulin
released it slowly.

“That, Mr. Razumov,” he said with great earnestness, “is as it may
be. God alone knows the future. But you may rest assured that I
never thought of having you watched. You are a young man of great
independence. Yes. You are going away free as air, but you shall end by
coming back to us.”

“I! I!” Razumov exclaimed in an appalled murmur of protest. “What for?”
 he added feebly.

“Yes! You yourself, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” the high police functionary
insisted in a low, severe tone of conviction. “You shall be coming back
to us. Some of our greatest minds had to do that in the end.”

“You have no better friend than Prince K---, and as to myself it is a
long time now since I’ve been honoured by his....”

He glanced down his beard.

“I won’t detain you any longer. We live in difficult times, in times
of monstrous chimeras and evil dreams and criminal follies. We shall
certainly meet once more. It may be some little time, though, before
we do. Till then may Heaven send you fruitful reflections!” Once in the
street, Razumov started off rapidly, without caring for the direction.
At first he thought of nothing; but in a little while the consciousness
of his position presented itself to him as something so ugly, dangerous,
and absurd, the difficulty of ever freeing himself from the toils of
that complication so insoluble, that the idea of going back and, as he
termed it to himself, confessing to Councillor Mikulin flashed through
his mind.

Go back! What for? Confess! To what? “I have been speaking to him with
the greatest openness,” he said to himself with perfect truth. “What
else could I tell him? That I have undertaken to carry a message to that
brute Ziemianitch? Establish a false complicity and destroy what chance
of safety I have won for nothing--what folly!”

Yet he could not defend himself from fancying that Councillor Mikulin
was, perhaps, the only man in the world able to understand his conduct.
To be understood appeared extremely fascinating.

On the way home he had to stop several times; all his strength seemed to
run out of his limbs; and in the movement of the busy streets, isolated
as if in a desert, he remained suddenly motionless for a minute or so
before he could proceed on his way. He reached his rooms at last.

Then came an illness, something in the nature of a low fever, which all
at once removed him to a great distance from the perplexing actualities,
from his very room, even. He never lost consciousness; he only seemed to
himself to be existing languidly somewhere very far away from everything
that had ever happened to him. He came out of this state slowly, with an
effect, that is to say, of extreme slowness, though the actual number
of days was not very great. And when he had got back into the middle of
things they were all changed, subtly and provokingly in their nature:
inanimate objects, human faces, the landlady, the rustic servant-girl,
the staircase, the streets, the very air. He tackled these changed
conditions in a spirit of severity. He walked to and fro to the
University, ascended stairs, paced the passages, listened to lectures,
took notes, crossed courtyards in angry aloofness, his teeth set hard
till his jaws ached.

He was perfectly aware of madcap Kostia gazing like a young retriever
from a distance, of the famished student with the red drooping nose,
keeping scrupulously away as desired; of twenty others, perhaps, he
knew well enough to speak to. And they all had an air of curiosity and
concern as if they expected something to happen. “This can’t last much
longer,” thought Razumov more than once. On certain days he was afraid
that anyone addressing him suddenly in a certain way would make him
scream out insanely a lot of filthy abuse. Often, after returning home,
he would drop into a chair in his cap and cloak and remain still for
hours holding some book he had got from the library in his hand; or
he would pick up the little penknife and sit there scraping his nails
endlessly and feeling furious all the time--simply furious. “This is
impossible,” he would mutter suddenly to the empty room.

Fact to be noted: this room might conceivably have become physically
repugnant to him, emotionally intolerable, morally uninhabitable.
But no. Nothing of the sort (and he had himself dreaded it at first),
nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, he liked his lodgings
better than any other shelter he, who had never known a home, had ever
hired before. He liked his lodgings so well that often, on that very
account, he found a certain difficulty in making up his mind to go out.
It resembled a physical seduction such as, for instance, makes a man
reluctant to leave the neighbourhood of a fire on a cold day.

For as, at that time, he seldom stirred except to go to the University
(what else was there to do?) it followed that whenever he went abroad he
felt himself at once closely involved in the moral consequences of his
act. It was there that the dark prestige of the Haldin mystery fell on
him, clung to him like a poisoned robe it was impossible to fling off.
He suffered from it exceedingly, as well as from the conversational,
commonplace, unavoidable intercourse with the other kind of students.
“They must be wondering at the change in me,” he reflected anxiously. He
had an uneasy recollection of having savagely told one or two innocent,
nice enough fellows to go to the devil. Once a married professor he used
to call upon formerly addressed him in passing: “How is it we never see
you at our Wednesdays now, Kirylo Sidorovitch?” Razumov was conscious of
meeting this advance with odious, muttering boorishness. The professor
was obviously too astonished to be offended. All this was bad. And all
this was Haldin, always Haldin--nothing but Haldin--everywhere Haldin:
a moral spectre infinitely more effective than any visible apparition of
the dead. It was only the room through which that man had blundered on
his way from crime to death that his spectre did not seem to be able to
haunt. Not, to be exact, that he was ever completely absent from it,
but that there he had no sort of power. There it was Razumov who had
the upper hand, in a composed sense of his own superiority. A vanquished
phantom--nothing more. Often in the evening, his repaired watch faintly
ticking on the table by the side of the lighted lamp, Razumov would
look up from his writing and stare at the bed with an expectant,
dispassionate attention. Nothing was to be seen there. He never really
supposed that anything ever could be seen there. After a while he would
shrug his shoulders slightly and bend again over his work. For he had
gone to work and, at first, with some success. His unwillingness to
leave that place where he was safe from Haldin grew so strong that at
last he ceased to go out at all. From early morning till far into the
night he wrote, he wrote for nearly a week; never looking at the time,
and only throwing himself on the bed when he could keep his eyes open
no longer. Then, one afternoon, quite casually, he happened to glance at
his watch. He laid down his pen slowly.

“At this very hour,” was his thought, “the fellow stole unseen into this
room while I was out. And there he sat quiet as a mouse--perhaps in
this very chair.” Razumov got up and began to pace the floor steadily,
glancing at the watch now and then. “This is the time when I returned
and found him standing against the stove,” he observed to himself. When
it grew dark he lit his lamp. Later on he interrupted his tramping once
more, only to wave away angrily the girl who attempted to enter the
room with tea and something to eat on a tray. And presently he noted the
watch pointing at the hour of his own going forth into the falling snow
on that terrible errand.

“Complicity,” he muttered faintly, and resumed his pacing, keeping his
eye on the hands as they crept on slowly to the time of his return.

“And, after all,” he thought suddenly, “I might have been the chosen
instrument of Providence. This is a manner of speaking, but there may be
truth in every manner of speaking. What if that absurd saying were true
in its essence?”

He meditated for a while, then sat down, his legs stretched out, with
stony eyes, and with his arms hanging down on each side of the chair
like a man totally abandoned by Providence--desolate.

He noted the time of Haldin’s departure and continued to sit still for
another half-hour; then muttering, “And now to work,” drew up to the
table, seized the pen and instantly dropped it under the influence of a
profoundly disquieting reflection: “There’s three weeks gone by and no
word from Mikulin.”

What did it mean! Was he forgotten? Possibly. Then why not remain
forgotten--creep in somewhere? Hide. But where? How? With whom? In what
hole? And was it to be for ever, or what?

But a retreat was big with shadowy dangers. The eye of the social
revolution was on him, and Razumov for a moment felt an unnamed and
despairing dread, mingled with an odious sense of humiliation. Was it
possible that he no longer belonged to himself? This was damnable.
But why not simply keep on as before? Study. Advance. Work hard as if
nothing had happened (and first of all win the Silver Medal), acquire
distinction, become a great reforming servant of the greatest of States.
Servant, too, of the mightiest homogeneous mass of mankind with a
capability for logical, guided development in a brotherly solidarity
of force and aim such as the world had never dreamt of... the Russian
nation!

Calm, resolved, steady in his great purpose, he was stretching his hand
towards the pen when he happened to glance towards the bed. He rushed at
it, enraged, with a mental scream: “it’s you, crazy fanatic, who stands
in the way!” He flung the pillow on the floor violently, tore the
blankets aside.... Nothing there. And, turning away, he caught for
an instant in the air, like a vivid detail in a dissolving view of two
heads, the eyes of General T--- and of Privy-Councillor Mikulin side
by side fixed upon him, quite different in character, but with the same
unflinching and weary and yet purposeful expression...servants of the
nation!

Razumov tottered to the washstand very alarmed about himself, drank some
water and bathed his forehead. “This will pass and leave no trace,” he
thought confidently. “I am all right.” But as to supposing that he had
been forgotten it was perfect nonsense. He was a marked man on that
side. And that was nothing. It was what that miserable phantom stood for
which had to be got out of the way.... “If one only could go and spit
it all out at some of them--and take the consequences.”

He imagined himself accosting the red-nosed student and suddenly shaking
his fist in his face. “From that one, though,” he reflected, “there’s
nothing to be got, because he has no mind of his own. He’s living in
a red democratic trance. Ah! you want to smash your way into universal
happiness, my boy. I will give you universal happiness, you silly,
hypnotized ghoul, you! And what about my own happiness, eh? Haven’t I
got any right to it, just because I can think for myself?...”

And again, but with a different mental accent, Razumov said to himself,
“I am young. Everything can be lived down.” At that moment he was
crossing the room slowly, intending to sit down on the sofa and try to
compose his thoughts. But before he had got so far everything abandoned
him--hope, courage, belief in himself trust in men. His heart had, as it
were, suddenly emptied itself. It was no use struggling on. Rest, work,
solitude, and the frankness of intercourse with his kind were alike
forbidden to him. Everything was gone. His existence was a great cold
blank, something like the enormous plain of the whole of Russia levelled
with snow and fading gradually on all sides into shadows and mists.

He sat down, with swimming head, closed his eyes, and remained like
that, sitting bolt upright on the sofa and perfectly awake for the
rest of the night; till the girl bustling into the outer room with
the samovar thumped with her fist on the door, calling out, “Kirylo
Sidorovitch, please! It is time for you to get up!”

Then, pale like a corpse obeying the dread summons of judgement, Razumov
opened his eyes and got up.


Nobody will be surprised to hear, I suppose, that when the summons came
he went to see Councillor Mikulin. It came that very morning, while,
looking white and shaky, like an invalid just out of bed, he was trying
to shave himself. The envelope was addressed in the little attorney’s
handwriting. That envelope contained another, superscribed to Razumov,
in Prince K---‘s hand, with the request “Please forward under cover
at once” in a corner. The note inside was an autograph of Councillor
Mikulin. The writer stated candidly that nothing had arisen which needed
clearing up, but nevertheless appointed a meeting with Mr. Razumov at a
certain address in town which seemed to be that of an oculist.

Razumov read it, finished shaving, dressed, looked at the note again,
and muttered gloomily, “Oculist.” He pondered over it for a time, lit
a match, and burned the two envelopes and the enclosure carefully.
Afterwards he waited, sitting perfectly idle and not even looking at
anything in particular till the appointed hour drew near--and then went
out.

Whether, looking at the unofficial character of the summons, he might
have refrained from attending to it is hard to say. Probably not. At any
rate, he went; but, what’s more, he went with a certain eagerness, which
may appear incredible till it is remembered that Councillor Mikulin was
the only person on earth with whom Razumov could talk, taking the Haldin
adventure for granted. And Haldin, when once taken for granted, was no
longer a haunting, falsehood-breeding spectre. Whatever troubling power
he exercised in all the other places of the earth, Razumov knew very
well that at this oculist’s address he would be merely the hanged
murderer of M. de P--- and nothing more. For the dead can live only
with the exact intensity and quality of the life imparted to them by
the living. So Mr. Razumov, certain of relief, went to meet Councillor
Mikulin with he eagerness of a pursued person welcoming any sort of
shelter.

This much said, there is no need to tell anything more of that first
interview and of the several others. To the morality of a Western reader
an account of these meetings would wear perhaps the sinister character
of old legendary tales where the Enemy of Mankind is represented holding
subtly mendacious dialogues with some tempted soul. It is not my part to
protest. Let me but remark that the Evil One, with his single passion
of satanic pride for the only motive, is yet, on a larger, modern view,
allowed to be not quite so black as he used to be painted. With what
greater latitude, then, should we appraise the exact shade of mere
mortal man, with his many passions and his miserable ingenuity in error,
always dazzled by the base glitter of mixed motives, everlastingly
betrayed by a short-sighted wisdom.

Councillor Mikulin was one of those powerful officials who, in a
position not obscure, not occult, but simply inconspicuous, exercise
a great influence over the methods rather than over the conduct of
affairs. A devotion to Church and Throne is not in itself a criminal
sentiment; to prefer the will of one to the will of many does not argue
the possession of a black heart or prove congenital idiocy. Councillor
Mikulin was not only a clever but also a faithful official. Privately he
was a bachelor with a love of comfort, living alone in an apartment of
five rooms luxuriously furnished; and was known by his intimates to be
an enlightened patron of the art of female dancing. Later on the larger
world first heard of him in the very hour of his downfall, during one of
those State trials which astonish and puzzle the average plain man who
reads the newspapers, by a glimpse of unsuspected intrigues. And in
the stir of vaguely seen monstrosities, in that momentary, mysterious
disturbance of muddy waters, Councillor Mikulin went under, dignified,
with only a calm, emphatic protest of his innocence--nothing more. No
disclosures damaging to a harassed autocracy, complete fidelity to the
secrets of the miserable _arcana imperii_ deposited in his patriotic
breast, a display of bureaucratic stoicism in a Russian official’s
ineradicable, almost sublime contempt for truth; stoicism of silence
understood only by the very few of the initiated, and not without a
certain cynical grandeur of self-sacrifice on the part of a sybarite.
For the terribly heavy sentence turned Councillor Mikulin civilly into a
corpse, and actually into something very much like a common convict.

It seems that the savage autocracy, no more than the divine democracy,
does not limit its diet exclusively to the bodies of its enemies. It
devours its friends and servants as well. The downfall of His Excellency
Gregory Gregorievitch Mikulin (which did not occur till some years
later) completes all that is known of the man. But at the time of M. de
P---‘s murder (or execution) Councillor Mikulin, under the modest style
of Head of Department at the General Secretariat, exercised a wide
influence as the confidant and right-hand man of his former schoolfellow
and lifelong friend, General T---. One can imagine them talking over the
case of Mr. Razumov, with the full sense of their unbounded power
over all the lives in Russia, with cursory disdain, like two Olympians
glancing at a worm. The relationship with Prince K--- was enough to save
Razumov from some carelessly arbitrary proceeding, and it is also very
probable that after the interview at the Secretariat he would have been
left alone. Councillor Mikulin would not have forgotten him (he forgot
no one who ever fell under his observation), but would have simply
dropped him for ever. Councillor Mikulin was a good-natured man and
wished no harm to anyone. Besides (with his own reforming tendencies) he
was favourably impressed by that young student, the son of Prince K---,
and apparently no fool.

But as fate would have it, while Mr. Razumov was finding that no way of
life was possible to him, Councillor Mikulin’s discreet abilities were
rewarded by a very responsible post--nothing less than the direction of
the general police supervision over Europe. And it was then, and then
only, when taking in hand the perfecting of the service which watches
the revolutionist activities abroad, that he thought again of Mr.
Razumov. He saw great possibilities of special usefulness in that
uncommon young man on whom he had a hold already, with his peculiar
temperament, his unsettled mind and shaken conscience, a struggling in
the toils of a false position.... It was as if the revolutionists
themselves had put into his hand that tool so much finer than the common
base instruments, so perfectly fitted, if only vested with sufficient
credit, to penetrate into places inaccessible to common informers.
Providential! Providential! And Prince K---, taken into the secret, was
ready enough to adopt that mystical view too. “It will be necessary,
though, to make a career for him afterwards,” he had stipulated
anxiously. “Oh! absolutely. We shall make that our affair,” Mikulin had
agreed. Prince K---‘s mysticism was of an artless kind; but Councillor
Mikulin was astute enough for two.

Things and men have always a certain sense, a certain side by which they
must be got hold of if one wants to obtain a solid grasp and a perfect
command. The power of Councillor Mikulin consisted in the ability to
seize upon that sense, that side in the men he used. It did not matter
to him what it was--vanity, despair, love, hate, greed, intelligent
pride or stupid conceit, it was all one to him as long as the man could
be made to serve. The obscure, unrelated young student Razumov, in the
moment of great moral loneliness, was allowed to feel that he was an
object of interest to a small group of people of high position. Prince
K--- was persuaded to intervene personally, and on a certain occasion
gave way to a manly emotion which, all unexpected as it was, quite upset
Mr. Razumov. The sudden embrace of that man, agitated by his loyalty to
a throne and by suppressed paternal affection, was a revelation to Mr.
Razumov of something within his own breast.

“So that was it!” he exclaimed to himself. A sort of contemptuous
tenderness softened the young man’s grim view of his position as
he reflected upon that agitated interview with Prince K---. This
simpleminded, worldly ex-Guardsman and senator whose soft grey official
whiskers had brushed against his cheek, his aristocratic and convinced
father, was he a whit less estimable or more absurd than that
famine-stricken, fanatical revolutionist, the red-nosed student?

And there was some pressure, too, besides the persuasiveness. Mr.
Razumov was always being made to feel that he had committed himself.
There was no getting away from that feeling, from that soft,
unanswerable, “Where to?” of Councillor Mikulin. But no susceptibilities
were ever hurt. It was to be a dangerous mission to Geneva for
obtaining, at a critical moment, absolutely reliable information from a
very inaccessible quarter of the inner revolutionary circle. There were
indications that a very serious plot was being matured.... The repose
indispensable to a great country was at stake.... A great scheme of
orderly reforms would be endangered.... The highest personages in the
land were patriotically uneasy, and so on. In short, Councillor Mikulin
knew what to say. This skill is to be inferred clearly from the mental
and psychological self-confession, self-analysis of Mr. Razumov’s
written journal--the pitiful resource of a young man who had near him no
trusted intimacy, no natural affection to turn to.

How all this preliminary work was concealed from observation need not
be recorded. The expedient of the oculist gives a sufficient instance.
Councillor Mikulin was resourceful, and the task not very difficult. Any
fellow-student, even the red-nosed one, was perfectly welcome to see Mr.
Razumov entering a private house to consult an oculist. Ultimate success
depended solely on the revolutionary self-delusion which credited
Razumov with a mysterious complicity in the Haldin affair. To be
compromised in it was credit enough-and it was their own doing. It was
precisely _that_ which stamped Mr. Razumov as a providential man, wide
as poles apart from the usual type of agent for “European supervision.”

And it was _that_ which the Secretariat set itself the task to foster by
a course of calculated and false indiscretions.

It came at last to this, that one evening Mr. Razumov was unexpectedly
called upon by one of the “thinking” students whom formerly, before
the Haldin affair, he used to meet at various private gatherings; a big
fellow with a quiet, unassuming manner and a pleasant voice.

Recognizing his voice raised in the ante-room, “May one come in?”
 Razumov, lounging idly on his couch, jumped up. “Suppose he were coming
to stab me?” he thought sardonically, and, assuming a green shade over
his left eye, said in a severe tone, “Come in.”

The other was embarrassed; hoped he was not intruding.

“You haven’t been seen for several days, and I’ve wondered.” He coughed
a little. “Eye better?”

“Nearly well now.”

“Good. I won’t stop a minute; but you see I, that is, we--anyway, I
have undertaken the duty to warn you, Kirylo Sidorovitch, that you are
living in false security maybe.”

Razumov sat still with his head leaning on his hand, which nearly
concealed the unshaded eye.

“I have that idea, too.”

“That’s all right, then. Everything seems quiet now, but those people
are preparing some move of general repression. That’s of course. But it
isn’t that I came to tell you.” He hitched his chair closer, dropped his
voice. “You will be arrested before long--we fear.”

An obscure scribe in the Secretariat had overheard a few words of a
certain conversation, and had caught a glimpse of a certain report. This
intelligence was not to be neglected.

Razumov laughed a little, and his visitor became very anxious.

“Ah! Kirylo Sidorovitch, this is no laughing matter. They have left you
alone for a while, but...! Indeed, you had better try to leave the
country, Kirylo Sidorovitch, while there’s yet time.”

Razumov jumped up and began to thank him for the advice with mocking
effusiveness, so that the other, colouring up, took himself off with
the notion that this mysterious Razumov was not a person to be warned or
advised by inferior mortals.

Councillor Mikulin, informed the next day of the incident, expressed
his satisfaction. “H’m! Ha! Exactly what was wanted to...” and glanced
down his beard.

“I conclude,” said Razumov, “that the moment has come for me to start on
my mission.”

“The psychological Moment,” Councillor Mikulin insisted softly--very
gravely--as if awed.

All the arrangements to give verisimilitude to the appearance of a
difficult escape were made. Councillor Mikulin did not expect to see
Mr. Razumov again before his departure. These meetings were a risk, and
there was nothing more to settle.

“We have said everything to each other by now, Kirylo Sidorovitch,”
 said the high official feelingly, pressing Razumov’s hand with that
unreserved heartiness a Russian can convey in his manner. “There is
nothing obscure between us. And I will tell you what! I consider myself
fortunate in having--h’m--your...”

He glanced down his beard, and, after a moment of thoughtful silence,
handed to Razumov a half-sheet of notepaper--an abbreviated note of
matters already discussed, certain points of inquiry, the line of
conduct agreed on, a few hints as to personalities, and so on. It was
the only compromising document in the case, but, as Councillor Mikulin
observed, “it could be easily destroyed. Mr. Razumov had better not see
any one now--till on the other side of the frontier, when, of course, it
will be just that.... See and hear and...”

He glanced down his beard; but when Razumov declared his intention
to see one person at least before leaving St. Petersburg, Councillor
Mikulin failed to conceal a sudden uneasiness. The young man’s studious,
solitary, and austere existence was well known to him. It was the
greatest guarantee of fitness. He became deprecatory. Had his dear
Kirylo Sidorovitch considered whether, in view of such a momentous
enterprise, it wasn’t really advisable to sacrifice every sentiment....

Razumov interrupted the remonstrance scornfully. It was not a young
woman, it was a young fool he wished to see for a certain purpose.
Councillor Mikulin was relieved, but surprised.

“Ah! And what for--precisely?”

“For the sake of improving the aspect of verisimilitude,” said Razumov
curtly, in a desire to affirm his independence. “I must be trusted in
what I do.”

Councillor Mikulin gave way tactfully, murmuring, “Oh, certainly,
certainly. Your judgment...”

And with another handshake they parted.

The fool of whom Mr. Razumov had thought was the rich and festive
student known as madcap Kostia. Feather-headed, loquacious, excitable,
one could make certain of his utter and complete indiscretion. But that
riotous youth, when reminded by Razumov of his offers of service some
time ago, passed from his usual elation into boundless dismay.

“Oh, Kirylo Sidorovitch, my dearest friend--my saviour--what shall I
do? I’ve blown last night every rouble I had from my dad the other day.
Can’t you give me till Thursday? I shall rush round to all the usurers
I know.... No, of course, you can’t! Don’t look at me like that.
What shall I do? No use asking the old man. I tell you he’s given me a
fistful of big notes three days ago. Miserable wretch that I am.”

He wrung his hands in despair. Impossible to confide in the old man.
“They” had given him a decoration, a cross on the neck only last year,
and he had been cursing the modern tendencies ever since. Just then he
would see all the intellectuals in Russia hanged in a row rather than
part with a single rouble.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch, wait a moment. Don’t despise me. I have it. I’ll,
yes--I’ll do it--I’ll break into his desk. There’s no help for it. I
know the drawer where he keeps his plunder, and I can buy a chisel on my
way home. He will be terribly upset, but, you know, the dear old duffer
really loves me. He’ll have to get over it--and I, too. Kirylo, my dear
soul, if you can only wait for a few hours-till this evening--I shall
steal all the blessed lot I can lay my hands on! You doubt me! Why?
You’ve only to say the word.”

“Steal, by all means,” said Razumov, fixing him stonily.

“To the devil with the ten commandments!” cried the other, with the
greatest animation. “It’s the new future now.”

But when he entered Razumov’s room late in the evening it was with an
unaccustomed soberness of manner, almost solemnly.

“It’s done,” he said.

Razumov sitting bowed, his clasped hands hanging between his knees,
shuddered at the familiar sound of these words. Kostia deposited slowly
in the circle of lamplight a small brown-paper parcel tied with a piece
of string.

“As I’ve said--all I could lay my hands on. The old boy’ll think the end
of the world has come.” Razumov nodded from the couch, and contemplated
the hare-brained fellow’s gravity with a feeling of malicious pleasure.

“I’ve made my little sacrifice,” sighed mad Kostia. “And I’ve to thank
you, Kirylo Sidorovitch, for the opportunity.”

“It has cost you something?”

“Yes, it has. You see, the dear old duffer really loves me. He’ll be
hurt.”

“And you believe all they tell you of the new future and the sacred will
of the people?”

“Implicitly. I would give my life.... Only, you see, I am like a pig
at a trough. I am no good. It’s my nature.”

Razumov, lost in thought, had forgotten his existence till the
youth’s voice, entreating him to fly without loss of time, roused him
unpleasantly.

“All right. Well--good-bye.”

“I am not going to leave you till I’ve seen you out of St. Petersburg,”
 declared Kostia unexpectedly, with calm determination. “You can’t refuse
me that now. For God’s sake, Kirylo, my soul, the police may be here
any moment, and when they get you they’ll immure you somewhere for
ages--till your hair turns grey. I have down there the best trotter of
dad’s stables and a light sledge. We shall do thirty miles before the
moon sets, and find some roadside station....”

Razumov looked up amazed. The journey was decided--unavoidable. He
had fixed the next day for his departure on the mission. And now he
discovered suddenly that he had not believed in it. He had gone about
listening, speaking, thinking, planning his simulated flight, with the
growing conviction that all this was preposterous. As if anybody ever
did such things! It was like a game of make-believe. And now he was
amazed! Here was somebody who believed in it with desperate earnestness.
“If I don’t go now, at once,” thought Razumov, with a start of fear, “I
shall never go.” He rose without a word, and the anxious Kostia thrust
his cap on him, helped him into his cloak, or else he would have left
the room bareheaded as he stood. He was walking out silently when a
sharp cry arrested him.

“Kirylo!”

“What?” He turned reluctantly in the doorway. Upright, with a stiffly
extended arm, Kostia, his face set and white, was pointing an eloquent
forefinger at the brown little packet lying forgotten in the circle of
bright light on the table. Razumov hesitated, came back for it under the
severe eyes of his companion, at whom he tried to smile. But the boyish,
mad youth was frowning. “It’s a dream,” thought Razumov, putting the
little parcel into his pocket and descending the stairs; “nobody does
such things.” The other held him under the arm, whispering of
dangers ahead, and of what he meant to do in certain contingencies.
“Preposterous,” murmured Razumov, as he was being tucked up in the
sledge. He gave himself up to watching the development of the dream
with extreme attention. It continued on foreseen lines, inexorably
logical--the long drive, the wait at the small station sitting by a
stove. They did not exchange half a dozen words altogether. Kostia,
gloomy himself, did not care to break the silence. At parting they
embraced twice--it had to be done; and then Kostia vanished out of the
dream.

When dawn broke, Razumov, very still in a hot, stuffy railway-car full
of bedding and of sleeping people in all its dimly lighted length, rose
quietly, lowered the glass a few inches, and flung out on the great
plain of snow a small brown-paper parcel. Then he sat down again muffled
up and motionless. “For the people,” he thought, staring out of the
window. The great white desert of frozen, hard earth glided past his
eyes without a sign of human habitation.

That had been a waking act; and then the dream had him again: Prussia,
Saxony, Wurtemberg, faces, sights, words--all a dream, observed with
an angry, compelled attention. Zurich, Geneva--still a dream, minutely
followed, wearing one into harsh laughter, to fury, to death--with the
fear of awakening at the end.


II


“Perhaps life is just that,” reflected Razumov, pacing to and fro under
the trees of the little island, all alone with the bronze statue of
Rousseau. “A dream and a fear.” The dusk deepened. The pages written
over and torn out of his notebook were the first-fruit of his “mission.”
 No dream that. They contained the assurance that he was on the eve of
real discoveries. “I think there is no longer anything in the way of my
being completely accepted.”

He had resumed his impressions in those pages, some of the
conversations. He even went so far as to write: “By the by, I have
discovered the personality of that terrible N.N. A horrible, paunchy
brute. If I hear anything of his future movements I shall send a
warning.”

The futility of all this overcame him like a curse. Even then he could
not believe in the reality of his mission. He looked round despairingly,
as if for some way to redeem his existence from that unconquerable
feeling. He crushed angrily in his hand the pages of the notebook. “This
must be posted,” he thought.

He gained the bridge and returned to the north shore, where he
remembered having seen in one of the narrower streets a little obscure
shop stocked with cheap wood carvings, its walls lined with extremely
dirty cardboard-bound volumes of a small circulating library. They
sold stationery there, too. A morose, shabby old man dozed behind
the counter. A thin woman in black, with a sickly face, produced the
envelope he had asked for without even looking at him. Razumov thought
that these people were safe to deal with because they no longer cared
for anything in the world. He addressed the envelope on the counter with
the German name of a certain person living in Vienna. But Razumov knew
that this, his first communication for Councillor Mikulin, would
find its way to the Embassy there, be copied in cypher by somebody
trustworthy, and sent on to its destination, all safe, along with the
diplomatic correspondence. That was the arrangement contrived to cover
up the track of the information from all unfaithful eyes, from all
indiscretions, from all mishaps and treacheries. It was to make him
safe--absolutely safe.

He wandered out of the wretched shop and made for the post office. It
was then that I saw him for the second time that day. He was crossing
the Rue Mont Blanc with every appearance of an aimless stroller. He
did not recognize me, but I made him out at some distance. He was
very good-looking, I thought, this remarkable friend of Miss Haldin’s
brother. I watched him go up to the letter-box and then retrace his
steps. Again he passed me very close, but I am certain he did not see
me that time, either. He carried his head well up, but he had the
expression of a somnambulist struggling with the very dream which drives
him forth to wander in dangerous places. My thoughts reverted to Natalia
Haldin, to her mother. He was all that was left to them of their son and
brother.

The westerner in me was discomposed. There was something shocking in
the expression of that face. Had I been myself a conspirator, a Russian
political refugee, I could have perhaps been able to draw some practical
conclusion from this chance glimpse. As it was, it only discomposed me
strongly, even to the extent of awakening an indefinite apprehension in
regard to Natalia Haldin. All this is rather inexplicable, but such
was the origin of the purpose I formed there and then to call on these
ladies in the evening, after my solitary dinner. It was true that I had
met Miss Haldin only a few hours before, but Mrs. Haldin herself I had
not seen for some considerable time. The truth is, I had shirked calling
of late.

Poor Mrs. Haldin! I confess she frightened me a little. She was one
of those natures, rare enough, luckily, in which one cannot help being
interested, because they provoke both terror and pity. One dreads their
contact for oneself, and still more for those one cares for, so clear
it is that they are born to suffer and to make others suffer, too. It is
strange to think that, I won’t say liberty, but the mere liberalism of
outlook which for us is a matter of words, of ambitions, of votes (and
if of feeling at all, then of the sort of feeling which leaves our
deepest affections untouched), may be for other beings very much like
ourselves and living under the same sky, a heavy trial of fortitude, a
matter of tears and anguish and blood. Mrs. Haldin had felt the pangs
of her own generation. There was that enthusiast brother of hers--the
officer they shot under Nicholas. A faintly ironic resignation is
no armour for a vulnerable heart. Mrs. Haldin, struck at through her
children, was bound to suffer afresh from the past, and to feel the
anguish of the future. She was of those who do not know how to heal
themselves, of those who are too much aware of their heart, who, neither
cowardly nor selfish, look passionately at its wounds--and count the
cost.

Such thoughts as these seasoned my modest, lonely bachelor’s meal. If
anybody wishes to remark that this was a roundabout way of thinking of
Natalia Haldin, I can only retort that she was well worth some concern.
She had all her life before her. Let it be admitted, then, that I was
thinking of Natalia Haldin’s life in terms of her mother’s character, a
manner of thinking about a girl permissible for an old man, not too old
yet to have become a stranger to pity. There was almost all her youth
before her; a youth robbed arbitrarily of its natural lightness and joy,
overshadowed by an un-European despotism; a terribly sombre youth
given over to the hazards of a furious strife between equally ferocious
antagonisms.

I lingered over my thoughts more than I should have done. One felt so
helpless, and even worse--so unrelated, in a way. At the last moment I
hesitated as to going there at all. What was the good?

The evening was already advanced when, turning into the Boulevard des
Philosophes, I saw the light in the window at the corner. The blind was
down, but I could imagine behind it Mrs. Haldin seated in the chair, in
her usual attitude, looking out for some one, which had lately acquired
the poignant quality of mad expectation.

I thought that I was sufficiently authorized by the light to knock at
the door. The ladies had not retired as yet. I only hoped they would
not have any visitors of their own nationality. A broken-down, retired
Russian official was to be found there sometimes in the evening. He was
infinitely forlorn and wearisome by his mere dismal presence. I think
these ladies tolerated his frequent visits because of an ancient
friendship with Mr. Haldin, the father, or something of that sort. I
made up my mind that if I found him prosing away there in his feeble
voice I should remain but a very few minutes.

The door surprised me by swinging open before I could ring the bell. I
was confronted by Miss Haldin, in hat and jacket, obviously on the point
of going out. At that hour! For the doctor, perhaps?

Her exclamation of welcome reassured me. It sounded as if I had been the
very man she wanted to see. My curiosity was awakened. She drew me in,
and the faithful Anna, the elderly German maid, closed the door, but did
not go away afterwards. She remained near it as if in readiness to let
me out presently. It appeared that Miss Haldin had been on the point of
going out to find me.

She spoke in a hurried manner very unusual with her. She would have
gone straight and rung at Mrs. Ziegler’s door, late as it was, for Mrs.
Ziegler’s habits....

Mrs. Ziegler, the widow of a distinguished professor who was an intimate
friend of mine, lets me have three rooms out of her very large and fine
apartment, which she didn’t give up after her husband’s death; but I
have my own entrance opening on the same landing. It was an arrangement
of at least ten years’ standing. I said that I was very glad that I had
the idea to....

Miss Haldin made no motion to take off her outdoor things. I observed
her heightened colour, something pronouncedly resolute in her tone. Did
I know where Mr. Razumov lived?

Where Mr. Razumov lived? Mr. Razumov? At this hour--so urgently? I threw
my arms up in sign of utter ignorance. I had not the slightest idea
where he lived. If I could have foreseen her question only three hours
ago, I might have ventured to ask him on the pavement before the new
post office building, and possibly he would have told me, but very
possibly, too, he would have dismissed me rudely to mind my own
business. And possibly, I thought, remembering that extraordinary
hallucined, anguished, and absent expression, he might have fallen down
in a fit from the shock of being spoken to. I said nothing of all this
to Miss Haldin, not even mentioning that I had a glimpse of the young
man so recently. The impression had been so extremely unpleasant that I
would have been glad to forget it myself.

“I don’t see where I could make inquiries,” I murmured helplessly. I
would have been glad to be of use in any way, and would have set off to
fetch any man, young or old, for I had the greatest confidence in
her common sense. “What made you think of coming to me for that
information?” I asked.

“It wasn’t exactly for that,” she said, in a low voice. She had the air
of some one confronted by an unpleasant task.

“Am I to understand that you must communicate with Mr. Razumov this
evening?”

Natalia Haldin moved her head affirmatively; then, after a glance at the
door of the drawing-room, said in French--

“_C’est maman_,” and remained perplexed for a moment. Always serious,
not a girl to be put out by any imaginary difficulties, my curiosity was
suspended on her lips, which remained closed for a moment. What was Mr.
Razumov’s connexion with this mention of her mother? Mrs. Haldin had not
been informed of her son’s friend’s arrival in Geneva.

“May I hope to see your mother this evening?” I inquired.

Miss Haldin extended her hand as if to bar the way.

“She is in a terrible state of agitation. Oh, you would not he able
to detect.... It’s inward, but I who know mother, I am appalled. I
haven’t the courage to face it any longer. It’s all my fault; I suppose
I cannot play a part; I’ve never before hidden anything from mother.
There has never been an occasion for anything of that sort between us.
But you know yourself the reason why I refrained from telling her at
once of Mr. Razumov’s arrival here. You understand, don’t you? Owing to
her unhappy state. And--there--I am no actress. My own feelings being
strongly engaged, I somehow.... I don’t know. She noticed something
in my manner. She thought I was concealing something from her. She
noticed my longer absences, and, in fact, as I have been meeting Mr.
Razumov daily, I used to stay away longer than usual when I went out.
Goodness knows what suspicions arose in her mind. You know that she has
not been herself ever since.... So this evening she--who has been so
awfully silent: for weeks-began to talk all at once. She said that she
did not want to reproach me; that I had my character as she had her own;
that she did not want to pry into my affairs or even into my thoughts;
for her part, she had never had anything to conceal from her
children...cruel things to listen to. And all this in her quiet voice,
with that poor, wasted face as calm as a stone. It was unbearable.”

Miss Haldin talked in an undertone and more rapidly than I had ever
heard her speak before. That in itself was disturbing. The ante-room
being strongly lighted, I could see under the veil the heightened colour
of her face. She stood erect, her left hand was resting lightly on a
small table. The other hung by her side without stirring. Now and then
she caught her breath slightly.

“It was too startling. Just fancy! She thought that I was making
preparations to leave her without saying anything. I knelt by the side
of her chair and entreated her to think of what she was saying! She put
her hand on my head, but she persists in her delusion all the same. She
had always thought that she was worthy of her children’s confidence, but
apparently it was not so. Her son could not trust her love nor yet her
understanding--and now I was planning to abandon her in the same cruel
and unjust manner, and so on, and so on. Nothing I could say.... It
is morbid obstinacy.... She said that she felt there was something,
some change in me.... If my convictions were calling me away, why
this secrecy, as though she had been a coward or a weakling not safe to
trust? ‘As if my heart could play traitor to my children,’ she said....
It was hardly to be borne. And she was smoothing my head all the
time.... It was perfectly useless to protest. She is ill. Her very
soul is....”

I did not venture to break the silence which fell between us. I looked
into her eyes, glistening through the veil.

“I! Changed!” she exclaimed in the same low tone. “My convictions
calling me away! It was cruel to hear this, because my trouble is that I
am weak and cannot see what I ought to do. You know that. And to end it
all I did a selfish thing. To remove her suspicions of myself I told her
of Mr. Razumov. It was selfish of me. You know we were completely
right in agreeing to keep the knowledge away from her. Perfectly right.
Directly I told her of our poor Victor’s friend being here I saw how
right we have been. She ought to have been prepared; but in my distress
I just blurted it out. Mother got terribly excited at once. How long
has he been here? What did he know, and why did he not come to see us at
once, this friend of her Victor? What did that mean? Was she not to be
trusted even with such memories as there were left of her son?... Just
think how I felt seeing her, white like a sheet, perfectly motionless,
with her thin hands gripping the arms of the chair. I told her it was
all my fault.”

I could imagine the motionless dumb figure of the mother in her chair,
there, behind the door, near which the daughter was talking to me.
The silence in there seemed to call aloud for vengeance against an
historical fact and the modern instances of its working. That view
flashed through my mind, but I could not doubt that Miss Haldin had had
an atrocious time of it. I quite understood when she said that she could
not face the night upon the impression of that scene. Mrs. Haldin
had given way to most awful imaginings, to most fantastic and cruel
suspicions. All this had to be lulled at all costs and without loss of
time. It was no shock to me to learn that Miss Haldin had said to her,
“I will go and bring him here at once.” There was nothing absurd in that
cry, no exaggeration of sentiment. I was not even doubtful in my “Very
well, but how?”

It was perfectly right that she should think of me, but what could I do
in my ignorance of Mr. Razumov’s quarters.

“And to think he may be living near by, within a stone’s-throw,
perhaps!” she exclaimed.

I doubted it; but I would have gone off cheerfully to fetch him from the
other end of Geneva. I suppose she was certain of my readiness, since
her first thought was to come to me. But the service she meant to ask of
me really was to accompany her to the Chateau Borel.

I had an unpleasant mental vision of the dark road, of the sombre
grounds, and the desolately suspicious aspect of that home of necromancy
and intrigue and feminist adoration. I objected that Madame de S-- most
likely would know nothing of what we wanted to find out. Neither did I
think it likely that the young man would be found there. I remembered
my glimpse of his face, and somehow gained the conviction that a man who
looked worse than if he had seen the dead would want to shut himself up
somewhere where he could be alone. I felt a strange certitude that Mr.
Razumov was going home when I saw him.

“It is really of Peter Ivanovitch that I was thinking,” said Miss Haldin
quietly.

Ah! He, of course, would know. I looked at my watch. It was twenty
minutes past nine only.... Still.

“I would try his hotel, then,” I advised. “He has rooms at the
Cosmopolitan, somewhere on the top floor.”

I did not offer to go by myself, simply from mistrust of the reception I
should meet with. But I suggested the faithful Anna, with a note asking
for the information.

Anna was still waiting by the door at the other end of the room, and we
two discussed the matter in whispers. Miss Haldin thought she must go
herself. Anna was timid and slow. Time would be lost in bringing back
the answer, and from that point of view it was getting late, for it was
by no means certain that Mr. Razumov lived near by.

“If I go myself,” Miss Haldin argued, “I can go straight to him from the
hotel. And in any case I should have to go out, because I must explain
to Mr. Razumov personally--prepare him in a way. You have no idea of
mother’s state of mind.”

Her colour came and went. She even thought that both for her mother’s
sake and for her own it was better that they should not be together for
a little time. Anna, whom her mother liked, would be at hand.

“She could take her sewing into the room,” Miss Haldin continued,
leading the way to the door. Then, addressing in German the maid who
opened it before us, “You may tell my mother that this gentleman called
and is gone with me to find Mr. Razumov. She must not be uneasy if I am
away for some length of time.”

We passed out quickly into the street, and she took deep breaths of the
cool night air. “I did not even ask you,” she murmured.

“I should think not,” I said, with a laugh. The manner of my reception
by the great feminist could not be considered now. That he would be
annoyed to see me, and probably treat me to some solemn insolence, I had
no doubt, but I supposed that he would not absolutely dare to throw me
out. And that was all I cared for. “Won’t you take my arm?” I asked.

She did so in silence, and neither of us said anything worth recording
till I let her go first into the great hall of the hotel. It was
brilliantly lighted, and with a good many people lounging about.

“I could very well go up there without you,” I suggested.

“I don’t like to be left waiting in this place,” she said in a low
voice.

“I will come too.”

I led her straight to the lift then. At the top floor the attendant
directed us to the right: “End of the corridor.”

The walls were white, the carpet red, electric lights blazed in
profusion, and the emptiness, the silence, the closed doors all alike
and numbered, made me think of the perfect order of some severely
luxurious model penitentiary on the solitary confinement principle. Up
there under the roof of that enormous pile for housing travellers
no sound of any kind reached us, the thick crimson felt muffled our
footsteps completely. We hastened on, not looking at each other till we
found ourselves before the very last door of that long passage. Then our
eyes met, and we stood thus for a moment lending ear to a faint murmur
of voices inside.

“I suppose this is it,” I whispered unnecessarily. I saw Miss Haldin’s
lips move without a sound, and after my sharp knock the murmur of voices
inside ceased. A profound stillness lasted for a few seconds, and then
the door was brusquely opened by a short, black-eyed woman in a red
blouse, with a great lot of nearly white hair, done up negligently in
an untidy and unpicturesque manner. Her thin, jetty eyebrows were drawn
together. I learned afterwards with interest that she was the famous--or
the notorious--Sophia Antonovna, but I was struck then by the quaint
Mephistophelian character of her inquiring glance, because it was so
curiously evil-less, so--I may say--un-devilish. It got softened still
more as she looked up at Miss Haldin, who stated, in her rich, even
voice, her wish to see Peter Ivanovitch for a moment.

“I am Miss Haldin,” she added.

At this, with her brow completely smoothed out now, but without a word
in answer, the woman in the red blouse walked away to a sofa and sat
down, leaving the door wide open.

And from the sofa, her hands lying on her lap, she watched us enter,
with her black, glittering eyes.

Miss Haldin advanced into the middle of the room; I, faithful to my part
of mere attendant, remained by the door after closing it behind me. The
room, quite a large one, but with a low ceiling, was scantily furnished,
and an electric bulb with a porcelain shade pulled low down over a big
table (with a very large map spread on it) left its distant parts in a
dim, artificial twilight. Peter Ivanovitch was not to be seen, neither
was Mr. Razumov present. But, on the sofa, near Sophia Antonovna, a
bony-faced man with a goatee beard leaned forward with his hands on
his knees, staring hard with a kindly expression. In a remote corner a
broad, pale face and a bulky shape could be made out, uncouth, and as if
insecure on the low seat on which it rested. The only person known to me
was little Julius Laspara, who seemed to have been poring over the map,
his feet twined tightly round the chair-legs. He got down briskly and
bowed to Miss Haldin, looking absurdly like a hooknosed boy with a
beautiful false pepper-and-salt beard. He advanced, offering his seat,
which Miss Haldin declined. She had only come in for a moment to say a
few words to Peter Ivanovitch.

His high-pitched voice became painfully audible in the room.

“Strangely enough, I was thinking of you this very afternoon, Natalia
Victorovna. I met Mr. Razumov. I asked him to write me an article on
anything he liked. You could translate it into English--with such a
teacher.”

He nodded complimentarily in my direction. At the name of Razumov an
indescribable sound, a sort of feeble squeak, as of some angry small
animal, was heard in the corner occupied by the man who seemed much too
large for the chair on which he sat. I did not hear what Miss Haldin
said. Laspara spoke again.

“It’s time to do something, Natalia Victorovna. But I suppose you have
your own ideas. Why not write something yourself? Suppose you came to
see us soon? We could talk it over. Any advice...”

Again I did not catch Miss Haldin’s words. It was Laspara’s voice once
more.

“Peter Ivanovitch? He’s retired for a moment into the other room. We
are all waiting for him.” The great man, entering at that moment, looked
bigger, taller, quite imposing in a long dressing-gown of some dark
stuff. It descended in straight lines down to his feet. He suggested
a monk or a prophet, a robust figure of same desert-dweller--something
Asiatic; and the dark glasses in conjunction with this costume made him
more mysterious than ever in the subdued light.

Little Laspara went back to his chair to look at the map, the only
brilliantly lit object in the room. Even from my distant position by the
door I could make out, by the shape of the blue part representing the
water, that it was a map of the Baltic provinces. Peter Ivanovitch
exclaimed slightly, advancing towards Miss Haldin, checked himself
on perceiving me, very vaguely no doubt; and peered with his dark,
bespectacled stare. He must have recognized me by my grey hair, because,
with a marked shrug of his broad shoulders, he turned to Miss Haldin in
benevolent indulgence. He seized her hand in his thick cushioned palm,
and put his other big paw over it like a lid.

While those two standing in the middle of the floor were exchanging a
few inaudible phrases no one else moved in the room: Laspara, with his
back to us, kneeling on the chair, his elbows propped on the big-scale
map, the shadowy enormity in the corner, the frankly staring man with
the goatee on the sofa, the woman in the red blouse by his side--not one
of them stirred. I suppose that really they had no time, for Miss Haldin
withdrew her hand immediately from Peter Ivanovitch and before I was
ready for her was moving to the door. A disregarded Westerner, I threw
it open hurriedly and followed her out, my last glance leaving them all
motionless in their varied poses: Peter Ivanovitch alone standing up,
with his dark glasses like an enormous blind teacher, and behind him the
vivid patch of light on the coloured map, pored over by the diminutive
Laspara.

Later on, much later on, at the time of the newspaper rumours (they were
vague and soon died out) of an abortive military conspiracy in Russia,
I remembered the glimpse I had of that motionless group with its
central figure. No details ever came out, but it was known that the
revolutionary parties abroad had given their assistance, had sent
emissaries in advance, that even money was found to dispatch a steamer
with a cargo of arms and conspirators to invade the Baltic provinces.
And while my eyes scanned the imperfect disclosures (in which the world
was not much interested) I thought that the old, settled Europe had been
given in my person attending that Russian girl something like a glimpse
behind the scenes. A short, strange glimpse on the top floor of a great
hotel of all places in the world: the great man himself; the motionless
great bulk in the corner of the slayer of spies and gendarmes;
Yakovlitch, the veteran of ancient terrorist campaigns; the woman, with
her hair as white as mine and the lively black eyes, all in a mysterious
half-light, with the strongly lighted map of Russia on the table. The
woman I had the opportunity to see again. As we were waiting for the
lift she came hurrying along the corridor, with her eyes fastened
on Miss Haldin’s face, and drew her aside as if for a confidential
communication. It was not long. A few words only.

Going down in the lift, Natalia Haldin did not break the silence. It was
only when out of the hotel and as we moved along the quay in the fresh
darkness spangled by the quay lights, reflected in the black water of
the little port on our left hand, and with lofty piles of hotels on our
right, that she spoke.

“That was Sophia Antonovna--you know the woman?...”

“Yes, I know--the famous...”

“The same. It appears that after we went out Peter Ivanovitch told them
why I had come. That was the reason she ran out after us. She named
herself to me, and then she said, ‘You are the sister of a brave man who
shall be remembered. You may see better times.’ I told her I hoped to
see the time when all this would be forgotten, even if the name of my
brother were to be forgotten too. Something moved me to say that, but
you understand?”

“Yes,” I said. “You think of the era of concord and justice.”

“Yes. There is too much hate and revenge in that work. It must be done.
It is a sacrifice--and so let it be all the greater. Destruction is the
work of anger. Let the tyrants and the slayers be forgotten together,
and only the reconstructors be remembered.’’

“And did Sophia Antonovna agree with you?” I asked sceptically.

“She did not say anything except, ‘It is good for you to believe in
love.’ I should think she understood me. Then she asked me if I hoped to
see Mr. Razumov presently. I said I trusted I could manage to bring him
to see my mother this evening, as my mother had learned of his being
here and was morbidly impatient to learn if he could tell us something
of Victor. He was the only friend of my brother we knew of, and a great
intimate. She said, ‘Oh! Your brother--yes. Please tell Mr. Razumov that
I have made public the story which came to me from St. Petersburg. It
concerns your brother’s arrest,’ she added. ‘He was betrayed by a man of
the people who has since hanged himself. Mr. Razumov will explain it all
to you. I gave him the full information this afternoon. And please tell
Mr. Razumov that Sophia Antonovna sends him her greetings. I am going
away early in the morning--far away.’”

And Miss Haldin added, after a moment of silence--“I was so moved
by what I heard so unexpectedly that I simply could not speak to you
before.... A man of the people! Oh, our poor people!”

She walked slowly, as if tired out suddenly. Her head drooped; from the
windows of a building with terraces and balconies came the banal sound
of hotel music; before the low mean portals of the Casino two red
posters blazed under the electric lamps, with a cheap provincial
effect.--and the emptiness of the quays, the desert aspect of the
streets, had an air of hypocritical respectability and of inexpressible
dreariness.

I had taken for granted she had obtained the address, and let myself be
guided by her. On the Mont Blanc bridge, where a few dark figures seemed
lost in the wide and long perspective defined by the lights, she said--

“It isn’t very far from our house. I somehow thought it couldn’t be.
The address is Rue de Carouge. I think it must be one of those big new
houses for artisans.”

She took my arm confidingly, familiarly, and accelerated her pace. There
was something primitive in our proceedings. We did not think of
the resources of civilization. A late tramcar overtook us; a row of
_fiacres_ stood by the railing of the gardens. It never entered our
heads to make use of these conveyances. She was too hurried, perhaps,
and as to myself--well, she had taken my arm confidingly. As we were
ascending the easy incline of the Corraterie, all the shops shuttered
and no light in any of the windows (as if all the mercenary population
had fled at the end of the day), she said tentatively--

“I could run in for a moment to have a look at mother. It would not be
much out of the way.”

I dissuaded her. If Mrs. Haldin really expected to see Razumov that
night it would have been unwise to show herself without him. The sooner
we got hold of the young man and brought him along to calm her mother’s
agitation the better. She assented to my reasoning, and we crossed
diagonally the Place de Theatre, bluish grey with its floor of slabs of
stone, under the electric light, and the lonely equestrian statue
all black in the middle. In the Rue de Carouge we were in the poorer
quarters and approaching the outskirts of the town. Vacant building
plots alternated with high, new houses. At the corner of a side street
the crude light of a whitewashed shop fell into the night, fan-like,
through a wide doorway. One could see from a distance the inner wall
with its scantily furnished shelves, and the deal counter painted brown.
That was the house. Approaching it along the dark stretch of a fence
of tarred planks, we saw the narrow pallid face of the cut angle, five
single windows high, without a gleam in them, and crowned by the heavy
shadow of a jutting roof slope.

“We must inquire in the shop,” Miss Haldin directed me.

A sallow, thinly whiskered man, wearing a dingy white collar and a
frayed tie, laid down a newspaper, and, leaning familiarly on both
elbows far over the bare counter, answered that the person I was
inquiring for was indeed his _locataire_ on the third floor, but that
for the moment he was out.

“For the moment,” I repeated, after a glance at Miss Haldin. “Does this
mean that you expect him back at once?”

He was very gentle, with ingratiating eyes and soft lips. He smiled
faintly as though he knew all about everything. Mr. Razumov, after being
absent all day, had returned early in the evening. He was very surprised
about half an hour or a little more since to see him come down again.
Mr. Razumov left his key, and in the course of some words which passed
between them had remarked that he was going out because he needed air.

From behind the bare counter he went on smiling at us, his head held
between his hands. Air. Air. But whether that meant a long or a short
absence it was difficult to say. The night was very close, certainly.

After a pause, his ingratiating eyes turned to the door, he added--

“The storm shall drive him in.”

“There’s going to be a storm?” I asked.

“Why, yes!”

As if to confirm his words we heard a very distant, deep rumbling noise.

Consulting Miss Haldin by a glance, I saw her so reluctant to give up
her quest that I asked the shopkeeper, in case Mr. Razumov came home
within half an hour, to beg him to remain downstairs in the shop. We
would look in again presently.

For all answer he moved his head imperceptibly. The approval of Miss
Haldin was expressed by her silence. We walked slowly down the street,
away from the town; the low garden walls of the modest villas doomed to
demolition were overhung by the boughs of trees and masses of foliage,
lighted from below by gas lamps. The violent and monotonous noise of the
icy waters of the Arve falling over a low dam swept towards us with a
chilly draught of air across a great open space, where a double line of
lamp-lights outlined a street as yet without houses. But on the other
shore, overhung by the awful blackness of the thunder-cloud, a solitary
dim light seemed to watch us with a weary stare. When we had strolled as
far as the bridge, I said--

“We had better get back....”


In the shop the sickly man was studying his smudgy newspaper, now spread
out largely on the counter. He just raised his head when I looked in and
shook it negatively, pursing up his lips. I rejoined Miss Haldin outside
at once, and we moved off at a brisk pace. She remarked that she would
send Anna with a note the first thing in the morning. I respected her
taciturnity, silence being perhaps the best way to show my concern.

The semi-rural street we followed on our return changed gradually to the
usual town thoroughfare, broad and deserted. We did not meet four people
altogether, and the way seemed interminable, because my companion’s
natural anxiety had communicated itself sympathetically to me. At last
we turned into the Boulevard des Philosophes, more wide, more empty,
more dead--the very desolation of slumbering respectability. At the
sight of the two lighted windows, very conspicuous from afar, I had
the mental vision of Mrs. Haldin in her armchair keeping a dreadful,
tormenting vigil under the evil spell of an arbitrary rule: a victim of
tyranny and revolution, a sight at once cruel and absurd.


III



“You will come in for a moment?” said Natalia Haldin.

I demurred on account of the late hour. “You know mother likes you so
much,” she insisted.

“I will just come in to hear how your mother is.”

She said, as if to herself, “I don’t even know whether she will believe
that I could not find Mr. Razumov, since she has taken it into her head
that I am concealing something from her. You may be able to persuade
her....”

“Your mother may mistrust me too,” I observed.

“You! Why? What could you have to conceal from her? You are not a
Russian nor a conspirator.”

I felt profoundly my European remoteness, and said nothing, but I made
up my mind to play my part of helpless spectator to the end. The distant
rolling of thunder in the valley of the Rhone was coming nearer to the
sleeping town of prosaic virtues and universal hospitality. We crossed
the street opposite the great dark gateway, and Miss Haldin rang at the
door of the apartment. It was opened almost instantly, as if the
elderly maid had been waiting in the ante-room for our return. Her flat
physiognomy had an air of satisfaction. The gentleman was there, she
declared, while closing the door.

Neither of us understood. Miss Haldin turned round brusquely to her.
“Who?”

“Herr Razumov,” she explained.

She had heard enough of our conversation before we left to know why her
young mistress was going out. Therefore, when the gentleman gave his
name at the door, she admitted him at once.

“No one could have foreseen that,” Miss Haldin murmured, with her
serious grey eyes fixed upon mine. And, remembering the expression of
the young man’s face seen not much more than four hours ago, the look of
a haunted somnambulist, I wondered with a sort of awe.

“You asked my mother first?” Miss Haldin inquired of the maid.

“No. I announced the gentleman,” she answered, surprised at our troubled
faces.

“Still,” I said in an undertone, “your mother was prepared.”

“Yes. But he has no idea....”

It seemed to me she doubted his tact. To her question how long the
gentleman had been with her mother, the maid told us that Der Herr had
been in the drawing-room no more than a short quarter of an hour.

She waited a moment, then withdrew, looking a little scared. Miss Haldin
gazed at me in silence.

“As things have turned out,” I said, “you happen to know exactly what
your brother’s friend has to tell your mother. And surely after that...”

“Yes,” said Natalia Haldin slowly. “I only wonder, as I was not here
when he came, if it wouldn’t be better not to interrupt now.”

We remained silent, and I suppose we both strained our ears, but no
sound reached us through the closed door. The features of Miss Haldin
expressed a painful irresolution; she made a movement as if to go in,
but checked herself. She had heard footsteps on the other side of the
door. It came open, and Razumov, without pausing, stepped out into the
ante-room. The fatigue of that day and the struggle with himself had
changed him so much that I would have hesitated to recognize that face
which, only a few hours before, when he brushed against me in front of
the post office, had been startling enough but quite different. It
had been not so livid then, and its eyes not so sombre. They certainly
looked more sane now, but there was upon them the shadow of something
consciously evil.

I speak of that, because, at first, their glance fell on me, though
without any sort of recognition or even comprehension. I was simply in
the line of his stare. I don’t know if he had heard the bell or expected
to see anybody. He was going out, I believe, and I do not think that
he saw Miss Haldin till she advanced towards him a step or two. He
disregarded the hand she put out.

“It’s you, Natalia Victorovna.... Perhaps you are surprised...at
this late hour. But, you see, I remembered our conversations in that
garden. I thought really it was your wish that I should--without loss of
time...so I came. No other reason. Simply to tell...”

He spoke with difficulty. I noticed that, and remembered his declaration
to the man in the shop that he was going out because he “needed air.”
 If that was his object, then it was clear that he had miserably failed.
With downcast eyes and lowered head he made an effort to pick up the
strangled phrase.

“To tell what I have heard myself only to-day--to-day....”

Through the door he had not closed I had a view of the drawing-room. It
was lighted only by a shaded lamp--Mrs. Haldin’s eyes could not support
either gas or electricity. It was a comparatively big room, and in
contrast with the strongly lighted ante-room its length was lost in
semi-transparent gloom backed by heavy shadows; and on that ground I saw
the motionless figure of Mrs. Haldin, inclined slightly forward, with a
pale hand resting on the arm of the chair.

She did not move. With the window before her she had no longer that
attitude suggesting expectation. The blind was down; and outside
there was only the night sky harbouring a thunder-cloud, and the town
indifferent and hospitable in its cold, almost scornful, toleration--a
respectable town of refuge to which all these sorrows and hopes were
nothing. Her white head was bowed.

The thought that the real drama of autocracy is not played on the great
stage of politics came to me as, fated to be a spectator, I had this
other glimpse behind the scenes, something more profound than the words
and gestures of the public play. I had the certitude that this mother,
refused in her heart to give her son up after all. It was more
than Rachel’s inconsolable mourning, it was something deeper, more
inaccessible in its frightful tranquillity. Lost in the ill-defined
mass of the high-backed chair, her white, inclined profile suggested
the contemplation of something in her lap, as though a beloved head were
resting there.

I had this glimpse behind the scenes, and then Miss Haldin, passing by
the young man, shut the door. It was not done without hesitation. For a
moment I thought that she would go to her mother, but she sent in only
an anxious glance. Perhaps if Mrs. Haldin had moved...but no. There
was in the immobility of that bloodless face the dreadful aloofness of
suffering without remedy.

Meantime the young man kept his eyes fixed on the floor. The thought
that he would have to repeat the story he had told already was
intolerable to him. He had expected to find the two women together. And
then, he had said to himself, it would be over for all time--for all
time. “It’s lucky I don’t believe in another world,” he had thought
cynically.

Alone in his room after having posted his secret letter, he had regained
a certain measure of composure by writing in his secret diary. He was
aware of the danger of that strange self-indulgence. He alludes to it
himself, but he could not refrain. It calmed him--it reconciled him
to his existence. He sat there scribbling by the light of a solitary
candle, till it occurred to him that having heard the explanation of
Haldin’s arrest, as put forward by Sophia Antonovna, it behoved him to
tell these ladies himself. They were certain to hear the tale through
some other channel, and then his abstention would look strange, not only
to the mother and sister of Haldin, but to other people also. Having
come to this conclusion, he did not discover in himself any marked
reluctance to face the necessity, and very soon an anxiety to be done
with it began to torment him. He looked at his watch. No; it was not
absolutely too late.

The fifteen minutes with Mrs. Haldin were like the revenge of the
unknown: that white face, that weak, distinct voice; that head, at
first turned to him eagerly, then, after a while, bowed again and
motionless--in the dim, still light of the room in which his words
which he tried to subdue resounded so loudly--had troubled him like some
strange discovery. And there seemed to be a secret obstinacy in that
sorrow, something he could not understand; at any rate, something he had
not expected. Was it hostile? But it did not matter. Nothing could touch
him now; in the eyes of the revolutionists there was now no shadow on
his past. The phantom of Haldin had been indeed walked over, was left
behind lying powerless and passive on the pavement covered with snow.
And this was the phantom’s mother consumed with grief and white as a
ghost. He had felt a pitying surprise. But that, of course, was of no
importance. Mothers did not matter. He could not shake off the poignant
impression of that silent, quiet, white-haired woman, but a sort of
sternness crept into his thoughts. These were the consequences. Well,
what of it? “Am I then on a bed of roses?” he had exclaimed to himself,
sitting at some distance with his eyes fixed upon that figure of sorrow.
He had said all he had to say to her, and when he had finished she had
not uttered a word. She had turned away her head while he was speaking.
The silence which had fallen on his last words had lasted for five
minutes or more. What did it mean? Before its incomprehensible character
he became conscious of anger in his stern mood, the old anger against
Haldin reawakened by the contemplation of Haldin’s mother. And was
it not something like enviousness which gripped his heart, as if of
a privilege denied to him alone of all the men that had ever passed
through this world? It was the other who had attained to repose and yet
continued to exist in the affection of that mourning old woman, in
the thoughts of all these people posing for lovers of humanity. It
was impossible to get rid of him. “It’s myself whom I have given up
to destruction,” thought Razumov. “He has induced me to do it. I can’t
shake him off.”

Alarmed by that discovery, he got up and strode out of the silent,
dim room with its silent old woman in the chair, that mother! He never
looked back. It was frankly a flight. But on opening the door he saw
his retreat cut off: There was the sister. He had never forgotten the
sister, only he had not expected to see her then--or ever any more,
perhaps. Her presence in the ante-room was as unforeseen as the
apparition of her brother had been. Razumov gave a start as though he
had discovered himself cleverly trapped. He tried to smile, but could
not manage it, and lowered his eyes. “Must I repeat that silly story
now?” he asked himself, and felt a sinking sensation. Nothing solid
had passed his lips since the day before, but he was not in a state to
analyse the origins of his weakness. He meant to take up his hat and
depart with as few words as possible, but Miss Haldin’s swift movement
to shut the door took him by surprise. He half turned after her, but
without raising his eyes, passively, just as a feather might stir in the
disturbed air. The next moment she was back in the place she had started
from, with another half-turn on his part, so that they came again into
the same relative positions.

“Yes, yes,” she said hurriedly. “I am very grateful to you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch, for coming at once--like this.... Only, I wish I had....
Did mother tell you?”

“I wonder what she could have told me that I did not know before,” he
said, obviously to himself, but perfectly audible. “Because I always did
know it,” he added louder, as if in despair.

He hung his head. He had such a strong sense of Natalia Haldin’s
presence that to look at her he felt would be a relief. It was she who
had been haunting him now. He had suffered that persecution ever since
she had suddenly appeared before him in the garden of the Villa Borel
with an extended hand and the name of her brother on her lips....
The ante-room had a row of hooks on the wall nearest to the outer door,
while against the wall opposite there stood a small dark table and one
chair. The paper, bearing a very faint design, was all but white. The
light of an electric bulb high up under the ceiling searched that clear
square box into its four bare corners, crudely, without shadows--a
strange stage for an obscure drama.

“What do you mean?” asked Miss Haldin. “What is it that you knew
always?”

He raised his face, pale, full of unexpressed suffering. But that
look in his eyes of dull, absent obstinacy, which struck and surprised
everybody he was talking to, began to pass way. It was as though he
were coming to himself in the awakened consciousness of that marvellous
harmony of feature, of lines, of glances, of voice, which made of the
girl before him a being so rare, outside, and, as it were, above the
common notion of beauty. He looked at her so long that she coloured
slightly.

“What is it that you knew?” she repeated vaguely.

That time he managed to smile.

“Indeed, if it had not been for a word of greeting or two, I would doubt
whether your mother was aware at all of my existence. You understand?”

Natalia Haldin nodded; her hands moved slightly by her side.

“Yes. Is it not heart-breaking? She has not shed a tear yet--not a
single tear.”

“Not a tear! And you, Natalia Victorovna? You have been able to cry?”

“I have. And then I am young enough, Kirylo Sidorovitch, to believe in
the future. But when I see my mother so terribly distracted, I almost
forget everything. I ask myself whether one should feel proud--or only
resigned. We had such a lot of people coming to see us. There were
utter strangers who wrote asking for permission to call to present their
respects. It was impossible to keep our door shut for ever. You know
that Peter Ivanovitch himself.... Oh yes, there was much sympathy,
but there were persons who exulted openly at that death. Then, when I
was left alone with poor mother, all this seemed so wrong in spirit,
something not worth the price she is paying for it. But directly I heard
you were here in Geneva, Kirylo Sidorovitch, I felt that you were the
only person who could assist me....”

“In comforting a bereaved mother? Yes!” he broke in in a manner which
made her open her clear unsuspecting eyes. “But there is a question of
fitness. Has this occurred to you?”

There was a breathlessness in his utterance which contrasted with the
monstrous hint of mockery in his intention.

“Why!” whispered Natalia Haldin with feeling. “Who more fit than you?”

He had a convulsive movement of exasperation, but controlled himself.

“Indeed! Directly you heard that I was in Geneva, before even seeing me?
It is another proof of that confidence which....”

All at once his tone changed, became more incisive and more detached.

“Men are poor creatures, Natalia Victorovna. They have no intuition of
sentiment. In order to speak fittingly to a mother of her lost son one
must have had some experience of the filial relation. It is not the case
with me--if you must know the whole truth. Your hopes have to deal here
with ‘a breast unwarmed by any affection,’ as the poet says.... That
does not mean it is insensible,” he added in a lower tone.

“I am certain your heart is not unfeeling,” said Miss Haldin softly.

“No. It is not as hard as a stone,” he went on in the same introspective
voice, and looking as if his heart were lying as heavy as a stone in
that unwarmed breast of which he spoke. “No, not so hard. But how to
prove what you give me credit for--ah! that’s another question. No one
has ever expected such a thing from me before. No one whom my tenderness
would have been of any use to. And now you come. You! Now! No, Natalia
Victorovna. It’s too late. You come too late. You must expect nothing
from me.”

She recoiled from him a little, though he had made no movement, as
if she had seen some change in his face, charging his words with the
significance of some hidden sentiment they shared together. To me, the
silent spectator, they looked like two people becoming conscious of a
spell which had been lying on them ever since they first set eyes on
each other. Had either of them cast a glance then in my direction, I
would have opened the door quietly and gone out. But neither did; and
I remained, every fear of indiscretion lost in the sense of my enormous
remoteness from their captivity within the sombre horizon of Russian
problems, the boundary of their eyes, of their feelings--the prison of
their souls.

Frank, courageous, Miss Haldin controlled her voice in the midst of her
trouble.

“What can this mean?” she asked, as if speaking to herself.

“It may mean that you have given yourself up to vain imaginings while I
have managed to remain amongst the truth of things and the realities of
life--our Russian life--such as they are.”

“They are cruel,” she murmured.

“And ugly. Don’t forget that--and ugly. Look where you like. Look near
you, here abroad where you are, and then look back at home, whence you
came.”

“One must look beyond the present.” Her tone had an ardent conviction.

“The blind can do that best. I have had the misfortune to be born
clear-eyed. And if you only knew what strange things I have seen! What
amazing and unexpected apparitions!... But why talk of all this?”

“On the contrary, I want to talk of all this with you,” she protested
with earnest serenity. The sombre humours of her brother’s friend left
her unaffected, as though that bitterness, that suppressed anger, were
the signs of an indignant rectitude. She saw that he was not an ordinary
person, and perhaps she did not want him to be other than he appeared to
her trustful eyes. “Yes, with you especially,” she insisted. “With you
of all the Russian people in the world....” A faint smile dwelt for
a moment on her lips. “I am like poor mother in a way. I too seem unable
to give up our beloved dead, who, don’t forget, was all in all to us. I
don’t want to abuse your sympathy, but you must understand that it is in
you that we can find all that is left of his generous soul.”

I was looking at him; not a muscle of his face moved in the least. And
yet, even at the time, I did not suspect him of insensibility. It was a
sort of rapt thoughtfulness. Then he stirred slightly.

“You are going, Kirylo Sidorovitch?” she asked.

“I! Going? Where? Oh yes, but I must tell you first....” His voice
was muffled and he forced himself to produce it with visible repugnance,
as if speech were something disgusting or deadly. “That story, you
know--the story I heard this afternoon....”

“I know the story already,” she said sadly.

“You know it! Have you correspondents in St. Petersburg too?”

“No. It’s Sophia Antonovna. I have seen her just now. She sends you her
greetings. She is going away to-morrow.”

He had lowered at last his fascinated glance; she too was looking down,
and standing thus before each other in the glaring light, between the
four bare walls, they seemed brought out from the confused immensity
of the Eastern borders to be exposed cruelly to the observation of my
Western eyes. And I observed them. There was nothing else to do. My
existence seemed so utterly forgotten by these two that I dared not now
make a movement. And I thought to myself that, of course, they had to
come together, the sister and the friend of that dead man. The ideas,
the hopes, the aspirations, the cause of Freedom, expressed in their
common affection for Victor Haldin, the moral victim of autocracy,--all
this must draw them to each other fatally. Her very ignorance and his
loneliness to which he had alluded so strangely must work to that end.
And, indeed, I saw that the work was done already. Of course. It was
manifest that they must have been thinking of each other for a long time
before they met. She had the letter from that beloved brother kindling
her imagination by the severe praise attached to that one name; and for
him to see that exceptional girl was enough. The only cause for surprise
was his gloomy aloofness before her clearly expressed welcome. But he
was young, and however austere and devoted to his revolutionary ideals,
he was not blind. The period of reserve was over; he was coming forward
in his own way. I could not mistake the significance of this late visit,
for in what he had to say there was nothing urgent. The true cause
dawned upon me: he had discovered that he needed her and she was moved
by the same feeling. It was the second time that I saw them together,
and I knew that next time they met I would not be there, either
remembered or forgotten. I would have virtually ceased to exist for both
these young people.

I made this discovery in a very few moments. Meantime, Natalia Haldin
was telling Razumov briefly of our peregrinations from one end of Geneva
to the other. While speaking she raised her hands above her head to
untie her veil, and that movement displayed for an instant the seductive
grace of her youthful figure, clad in the simplest of mourning. In the
transparent shadow the hat rim threw on her face her grey eyes had an
enticing lustre. Her voice, with its unfeminine yet exquisite timbre,
was steady, and she spoke quickly, frank, unembarrassed. As she
justified her action by the mental state of her mother, a spasm of pain
marred the generously confiding harmony of her features. I perceived
that with his downcast eyes he had the air of a man who is listening
to a strain of music rather than to articulated speech. And in the same
way, after she had ceased, he seemed to listen yet, motionless, as if
under the spell of suggestive sound. He came to himself, muttering--

“Yes, yes. She has not shed a tear. She did not seem to hear what I
was saying. I might have told her anything. She looked as if no longer
belonging to this world.”

Miss Haldin gave signs of profound distress. Her voice faltered. “You
don’t know how bad it has come to be. She expects now to see _him_!” The
veil dropped from her fingers and she clasped her hands in anguish. “It
shall end by her seeing him,” she cried.

Razumov raised his head sharply and attached on her a prolonged
thoughtful glance.

“H’m. That’s very possible,” he muttered in a peculiar tone, as if
giving his opinion on a matter of fact. “I wonder what....” He
checked himself.

“That would be the end. Her mind shall be gone then, and her spirit will
follow.”

Miss Haldin unclasped her hands and let them fall by her side.

“You think so?” he queried profoundly. Miss Haldin’s lips were slightly
parted. Something unexpected and unfathomable in that young man’s
character had fascinated her from the first. “No! There’s neither truth
nor consolation to be got from the phantoms of the dead,” he added after
a weighty pause. “I might have told her something true; for instance,
that your brother meant to save his life--to escape. There can be no
doubt of that. But I did not.”

“You did not! But why?”

“I don’t know. Other thoughts came into my head,” he answered. He seemed
to me to be watching himself inwardly, as though he were trying to count
his own heart-beats, while his eyes never for a moment left the face
of the girl. “You were not there,” he continued. “I had made up my mind
never to see you again.”

This seemed to take her breath away for a moment.

“You.... How is it possible?”

“You may well ask.... However, I think that I refrained from telling
your mother from prudence. I might have assured her that in the last
conversation he held as a free man he mentioned you both....”

“That last conversation was with you,” she struck in her deep, moving
voice. “Some day you must....”

“It was with me. Of you he said that you had trustful eyes. And why I
have not been able to forget that phrase I don’t know. It meant
that there is in you no guile, no deception, no falsehood, no
suspicion--nothing in your heart that could give you a conception of a
living, acting, speaking lie, if ever it came in your way. That you are
a predestined victim.... Ha! what a devilish suggestion!”

The convulsive, uncontrolled tone of the last words disclosed the
precarious hold he had over himself. He was like a man defying his own
dizziness in high places and tottering suddenly on the very edge of the
precipice. Miss Haldin pressed her hand to her breast. The dropped black
veil lay on the floor between them. Her movement steadied him. He looked
intently on that hand till it descended slowly, and then raised again
his eyes to her face. But he did not give her time to speak.

“No? You don’t understand? Very well.” He had recovered his calm by a
miracle of will. “So you talked with Sophia Antonovna?”

“Yes. Sophia Antonovna told me....” Miss Haldin stopped, wonder
growing in her wide eyes.

“H’m. That’s the respectable enemy,” he muttered, as though he were
alone.

“The tone of her references to you was extremely friendly,” remarked
Miss Haldin, after waiting for a while.

“Is that your impression? And she the most intelligent of the lot,
too. Things then are going as well as possible. Everything conspires
to...Ah! these conspirators,” he said slowly, with an accent of scorn;
“they would get hold of you in no time! You know, Natalia Victorovna, I
have the greatest difficulty in saving myself from the superstition
of an active Providence. It’s irresistible.... The alternative, of
course, would be the personal Devil of our simple ancestors. But, if
so, he has overdone it altogether--the old Father of Lies--our national
patron--our domestic god, whom we take with us when we go abroad. He has
overdone it. It seems that I am not simple enough.... That’s it! I
ought to have known.... And I did know it,” he added in a tone of
poignant distress which overcame my astonishment.

“This man is deranged,” I said to myself, very much frightened.

The next moment he gave me a very special impression beyond the range of
commonplace definitions. It was as though he had stabbed himself outside
and had come in there to show it; and more than that--as though he were
turning the knife in the wound and watching the effect. That was the
impression, rendered in physical terms. One could not defend oneself
from a certain amount of pity. But it was for Miss Haldin, already so
tried in her deepest affections, that I felt a serious concern. Her
attitude, her face, expressed compassion struggling with doubt on the
verge of terror.

“What is it, Kirylo Sidorovitch?” There was a hint of tenderness in
that cry. He only stared at her in that complete surrender of all his
faculties which in a happy lover would have had the name of ecstasy.

“Why are you looking at me like this, Kirylo Sidorovitch? I have
approached you frankly. I need at this time to see clearly in
myself....” She ceased for a moment as if to give him an opportunity to
utter at last some word worthy of her exalted trust in her brother’s
friend. His silence became impressive, like a sign of a momentous
resolution.

In the end Miss Haldin went on, appealingly--

“I have waited for you anxiously. But now that you have been moved to
come to us in your kindness, you alarm me. You speak obscurely. It seems
as if you were keeping back something from me.”

“Tell me, Natalia Victorovna,” he was heard at last in a strange
unringing voice, “whom did you see in that place?”

She was startled, and as if deceived in her expectations.

“Where? In Peter Ivanovitch’s rooms? There was Mr. Laspara and three
other people.”

“Ha! The vanguard--the forlorn hope of the great plot,” he commented to
himself. “Bearers of the spark to start an explosion which is meant to
change fundamentally the lives of so many millions in order that Peter
Ivanovitch should be the head of a State.”

“You are teasing me,” she said. “Our dear one told me once to remember
that men serve always something greater than themselves--the idea.”

“Our dear one,” he repeated slowly. The effort he made to appear unmoved
absorbed all the force of his soul. He stood before her like a being
with hardly a breath of life. His eyes, even as under great physical
suffering, had lost all their fire. “Ah! your brother.... But on
your lips, in your voice, it sounds...and indeed in you everything is
divine.... I wish I could know the innermost depths of your thoughts,
of your feelings.”

“But why, Kirylo Sidorovitch?” she cried, alarmed by these words coming
out of strangely lifeless lips.

“Have no fear. It is not to betray you. So you went there?... And
Sophia Antonovna, what did she tell you, then?”

“She said very little, really. She knew that I should hear everything
from you. She had no time for more than a few words.” Miss Haldin’s
voice dropped and she became silent for a moment. “The man, it appears,
has taken his life,” she said sadly.

“Tell me, Natalia Victorovna,” he asked after a pause, “do you believe
in remorse?”

“What a question!”

“What can _you_ know of it?” he muttered thickly. “It is not for such as
you.... What I meant to ask was whether you believed in the efficacy
of remorse?”

She hesitated as though she had not understood, then her face lighted
up.

“Yes,” she said firmly.

“So he is absolved. Moreover, that Ziemianitch was a brute, a drunken
brute.”

A shudder passed through Natalia Haldin.

“But a man of the people,” Razumov went on, “to whom they, the
revolutionists, tell a tale of sublime hopes. Well, the people must
be forgiven.... And you must not believe all you’ve heard from that
source, either,” he added, with a sort of sinister reluctance.

“You are concealing something from me,” she exclaimed.

“Do you, Natalia Victorovna, believe in the duty of revenge?”

“Listen, Kirylo Sidorovitch. I believe that the future shall be merciful
to us all. Revolutionist and reactionary, victim and executioner,
betrayer and betrayed, they shall all be pitied together when the light
breaks on our black sky at last. Pitied and forgotten; for without that
there can be no union and no love.”

“I hear. No revenge for you, then? Never? Not the least bit?” He smiled
bitterly with his colourless lips. “You yourself are like the very
spirit of that merciful future. Strange that it does not make it
easier.... No! But suppose that the real betrayer of your
brother--Ziemianitch had a part in it too, but insignificant and quite
involuntary--suppose that he was a young man, educated, an intellectual
worker, thoughtful, a man your brother might have trusted lightly,
perhaps, but still--suppose.... But there’s a whole story there.”

“And you know the story! But why, then--”

“I have heard it. There is a staircase in it, and even phantoms, but
that does not matter if a man always serves something greater than
himself--the idea. I wonder who is the greatest victim in that tale?”

“In that tale!” Miss Haldin repeated. She seemed turned into stone.

“Do you know why I came to you? It is simply because there is no one
anywhere in the whole great world I could go to. Do you understand
what I say? Not one to go to. Do you conceive the desolation of the
thought--no one--to--go--to?”

Utterly misled by her own enthusiastic interpretation of two lines in
the letter of a visionary, under the spell of her own dread of lonely
days, in their overshadowed world of angry strife, she was unable to
see the truth struggling on his lips. What she was conscious of was the
obscure form of his suffering. She was on the point of extending her
hand to him impulsively when he spoke again.

“An hour after I saw you first I knew how it would be. The terrors of
remorse, revenge, confession, anger, hate, fear, are like nothing to the
atrocious temptation which you put in my way the day you appeared before
me with your voice, with your face, in the garden of that accursed
villa.”

She looked utterly bewildered for a moment; then, with a sort of
despairing insight went straight to the point.

“The story, Kirylo Sidorovitch, the story!”

“There is no more to tell!” He made a movement forward, and she actually
put her hand on his shoulder to push him away; but her strength failed
her, and he kept his ground, though trembling in every limb. “It ends
here--on this very spot.” He pressed a denunciatory finger to his breast
with force, and became perfectly still.

I ran forward, snatching up the chair, and was in time to catch hold of
Miss Haldin and lower her down. As she sank into it she swung half round
on my arm, and remained averted from us both, drooping over the back.
He looked at her with an appalling expressionless tranquillity.
Incredulity, struggling with astonishment, anger, and disgust, deprived
me for a time of the power of speech. Then I turned on him, whispering
from very rage--

“This is monstrous. What are you staying for? Don’t let her catch sight
of you again. Go away!...” He did not budge. “Don’t you understand
that your presence is intolerable--even to me? If there’s any sense of
shame in you....”

Slowly his sullen eyes moved ill my direction. “How did this old man
come here?” he muttered, astounded.

Suddenly Miss Haldin sprang up from the chair, made a few steps, and
tottered. Forgetting my indignation, and even the man himself, I hurried
to her assistance. I took her by the arm, and she let me lead her into
the drawing-room. Away from the lamp, in the deeper dusk of the distant
end, the profile of Mrs. Haldin, her hands, her whole figure had
the stillness of a sombre painting. Miss Haldin stopped, and pointed
mournfully at the tragic immobility of her mother, who seemed to watch a
beloved head lying in her lap.

That gesture had an unequalled force of expression, so far-reaching in
its human distress that one could not believe that it pointed out merely
the ruthless working of political institutions. After assisting Miss
Haldin to the sofa, I turned round to go back and shut the door Framed
in the opening, in the searching glare of the white anteroom, my eyes
fell on Razumov, still there, standing before the empty chair, as if
rooted for ever to the spot of his atrocious confession. A wonder came
over me that the mysterious force which had torn it out of him had
failed to destroy his life, to shatter his body. It was there unscathed.
I stared at the broad line of his shoulders, his dark head, the amazing
immobility of his limbs. At his feet the veil dropped by Miss Haldin
looked intensely black in the white crudity of the light. He was gazing
at it spell-bound. Next moment, stooping with an incredible, savage
swiftness, he snatched it up and pressed it to his face with both hands.
Something, extreme astonishment perhaps, dimmed my eyes, so that he
seemed to vanish before he moved.

The slamming of the outer door restored my sight, and I went on
contemplating the empty chair in the empty ante-room. The meaning
of what I had seen reached my mind with a staggering shock. I seized
Natalia Haldin by the shoulder.

“That miserable wretch has carried off your veil!” I cried, in the
scared, deadened voice of an awful discovery. “He....”

The rest remained unspoken. I stepped back and looked down at her, in
silent horror. Her hands were lying lifelessly, palms upwards, on her
lap. She raised her grey eyes slowly. Shadows seemed to come and go in
them as if the steady flame of her soul had been made to vacillate
at last in the cross-currents of poisoned air from the corrupted dark
immensity claiming her for its own, where virtues themselves fester into
crimes in the cynicism of oppression and revolt.

“It is impossible to be more unhappy....” The languid whisper of her
voice struck me with dismay. “It is impossible.... I feel my heart
becoming like ice.”


IV


Razumov walked straight home on the wet glistening pavement. A heavy
shower passed over him; distant lightning played faintly against the
fronts of the dumb houses with the shuttered shops all along the Rue
de Carouge; and now and then, after the faint flash, there was a faint,
sleepy rumble; but the main forces of the thunderstorm remained
massed down the Rhone valley as if loath to attack the respectable and
passionless abode of democratic liberty, the serious-minded town of
dreary hotels, tendering the same indifferent, hospitality to tourists
of all nations and to international conspirators of every shade.

The owner of the shop was making ready to close when Razumov entered and
without a word extended his hand for the key of his room. On reaching
it for him, from a shelf, the man was about to pass a small joke as to
taking the air in a thunderstorm, but, after looking at the face of his
lodger, he only observed, just to say something--

“You’ve got very wet.”

“Yes, I am washed clean,” muttered Razumov, who was dripping from head
to foot, and passed through the inner door towards the staircase leading
to his room.

He did not change his clothes, but, after lighting the candle, took off
his watch and chain, laid them on the table, and sat down at once to
write. The book of his compromising record was kept in a locked drawer,
which he pulled out violently, and did not even trouble to push back
afterwards.

In this queer pedantism of a man who had read, thought, lived, pen in
hand, there is the sincerity of the attempt to grapple by the same means
with another profounder knowledge. After some passages which have been
already made use of in the building up of this narrative, or add nothing
new to the psychological side of this disclosure (there is even one more
allusion to the silver medal in this last entry), comes a page and
a half of incoherent writing where his expression is baffled by the
novelty and the mysteriousness of that side of our emotional life to
which his solitary existence had been a stranger. Then only he begins
to address directly the reader he had in his mind, trying to express in
broken sentences, full of wonder and awe, the sovereign (he uses that
very word) power of her person over his imagination, in which lay the
dormant seed of her brother’s words.

“... The most trustful eyes in the world--your brother said of you
when he was as well as a dead man already. And when you stood before me
with your hand extended, I remembered the very sound of his voice, and
I looked into your eyes--and that was enough. I knew that something had
happened, but I did not know then what.... But don’t be deceived,
Natalia Victorovna. I believed that I had in my breast nothing but an
inexhaustible fund of anger and hate for you both. I remembered that he
had looked to you for the perpetuation of his visionary soul. He, this
man who had robbed me of my hard-working, purposeful existence. I, too,
had my guiding idea; and remember that, amongst us, it is more difficult
to lead a life of toil and self-denial than to go out in the street and
kill from conviction. But enough of that. Hate or no hate, I felt at
once that, while shunning the sight of you, I could never succeed in
driving away your image. I would say, addressing that dead man, ‘Is
this the way you are going to haunt me?’ It is only later on that I
understood--only to-day, only a few hours ago. What could I have known
of what was tearing me to pieces and dragging the secret for ever to
my lips? You were appointed to undo the evil by making me betray myself
back into truth and peace. You! And you have done it in the same way,
too, in which he ruined me: by forcing upon me your confidence. Only
what I detested him for, in you ended by appearing noble and exalted.
But, I repeat, be not deceived. I was given up to evil. I exulted in
having induced that silly innocent fool to steal his father’s money. He
was a fool, but not a thief. I made him one. It was necessary. I had
to confirm myself in my contempt and hate for what I betrayed. I have
suffered from as many vipers in my heart as any social democrat of them
all--vanity, ambitions, jealousies, shameful desires, evil passions of
envy and revenge. I had my security stolen from me, years of good work,
my best hopes. Listen--now comes the true confession. The other was
nothing. To save me, your trustful eyes had to entice my thought to the
very edge of the blackest treachery. I could see them constantly looking
at me with the confidence of your pure heart which had not been touched
by evil things. Victor Haldin had stolen the truth of my life from me,
who had nothing else in the world, and he boasted of living on through
you on this earth where I had no place to lay my head on. She will marry
some day, he had said--and your eyes were trustful. And do you know what
I said to myself? I shall steal his sister’s soul from her. When we met
that first morning in the gardens, and you spoke to me confidingly
in the generosity of your spirit, I was thinking, ‘Yes, he himself by
talking of her trustful eyes has delivered her into my hands!’ If you
could have looked then into my heart, you would have cried out aloud
with terror and disgust.

“Perhaps no one will believe the baseness of such an intention to be
possible. It’s certain that, when we parted that morning, I gloated
over it. I brooded upon the best way. The old man you introduced me to
insisted on walking with me. I don’t know who he is. He talked of you,
of your lonely, helpless state, and every word of that friend of yours
was egging me on to the unpardonable sin of stealing a soul. Could he
have been the devil himself in the shape of an old Englishman? Natalia
Victorovna, I was possessed! I returned to look at you every day,
and drink in your presence the poison of my infamous intention. But
I foresaw difficulties. Then Sophia Antonovna, of whom I was not
thinking--I had forgotten her existence--appears suddenly with that
tale from St. Petersburg.... The only thing needed to make me safe--a
trusted revolutionist for ever.

“It was as if Ziemianitch had hanged himself to help me on to further
crime. The strength of falsehood seemed irresistible. These people
stood doomed by the folly and the illusion that was in them--they being
themselves the slaves of lies. Natalia Victorovna, I embraced the might
of falsehood, I exulted in it--I gave myself up to it for a time. Who
could have resisted! You yourself were the prize of it. I sat alone in
my room, planning a life, the very thought of which makes me shudder
now, like a believer who had been tempted to an atrocious sacrilege. But
I brooded ardently over its images. The only thing was that there seemed
to be no air in it. And also I was afraid of your mother. I never knew
mine. I’ve never known any kind of love. There is something in the mere
word.... Of you, I was not afraid--forgive me for telling you this.
No, not of you. You were truth itself. You could not suspect me. As to
your mother, you yourself feared already that her mind had given way
from grief. Who could believe anything against me? Had not Ziemianitch
hanged himself from remorse? I said to myself, ‘Let’s put it to the
test, and be done with it once for all.’ I trembled when I went in;
but your mother hardly listened to what I was saying to her, and, in a
little while, seemed to have forgotten my very existence. I sat looking
at her. There was no longer anything between you and me. You were
defenceless--and soon, very soon, you would be alone.... I thought of
you. Defenceless. For days you have talked with me--opening your heart.
I remembered the shadow of your eyelashes over your grey trustful eyes.
And your pure forehead! It is low like the forehead of statues--calm,
unstained. It was as if your pure brow bore a light which fell on me,
searched my heart and saved me from ignominy, from ultimate undoing.
And it saved you too. Pardon my presumption. But there was that in your
glances which seemed to tell me that you.... Your light! your truth!
I felt that I must tell you that I had ended by loving you. And to tell
you that I must first confess. Confess, go out--and perish.

“Suddenly you stood before me! You alone in all the world to whom I
must confess. You fascinated me--you have freed me from the blindness of
anger and hate--the truth shining in you drew the truth out of me. Now I
have done it; and as I write here, I am in the depths depths of anguish,
but there is air to breathe at last--air! And, by the by, that old man
sprang up from somewhere as I was speaking to you, and raged at me like
a disappointed devil. I suffer horribly, but I am not in despair. There
is only one more thing to do for me. After that--if they let me--I shall
go away and bury myself in obscure misery. In giving Victor Haldin up,
it was myself, after all, whom I have betrayed most basely. You must
believe what I say now, you can’t refuse to believe this. Most basely.
It is through you that I came to feel this so deeply. After all, it is
they and not I who have the right on their side?--theirs is the
strength of invisible powers. So be it. Only don’t be deceived, Natalia
Victorovna, I am not converted. Have I then the soul of a slave? No! I
am independent--and therefore perdition is my lot.”

On these words, he stopped writing, shut the book, and wrapped it in the
black veil he had carried off. He then ransacked the drawers for
paper and string, made up a parcel which he addressed to Miss Haldin,
Boulevard des Philosophes, and then flung the pen away from him into a
distant corner.

This done, he sat down with the watch before him. He could have gone out
at once, but the hour had not struck yet. The hour would be midnight.
There was no reason for that choice except that the facts and the words
of a certain evening in his past were timing his conduct in the present.
The sudden power Natalia Haldin had gained over him he ascribed to the
same cause. “You don’t walk with impunity over a phantom’s breast,”
 he heard himself mutter. “Thus he saves me,” he thought suddenly. “He
himself, the betrayed man.” The vivid image of Miss Haldin seemed to
stand by him, watching him relentlessly. She was not disturbing. He had
done with life, and his thought even in her presence tried to take an
impartial survey. Now his scorn extended to himself. “I had neither the
simplicity nor the courage nor the self-possession to be a scoundrel,
or an exceptionally able man. For who, with us in Russia, is to tell a
scoundrel from an exceptionally able man?...”

He was the puppet of his past, because at the very stroke of midnight he
jumped up and ran swiftly downstairs as if confident that, by the power
of destiny, the house door would fly open before the absolute necessity
of his errand. And as a matter of fact, just as he got to the bottom
of the stairs, it was opened for him by some people of the house coming
home late--two men and a woman. He slipped out through them into the
street, swept then by a fitful gust of wind. They were, of course, very
much startled. A flash of lightning enabled them to observe him walking
away quickly. One of the men shouted, and was starting in pursuit, but
the woman had recognized him. “It’s all right. It’s only that young
Russian from the third floor.” The darkness returned with a single clap
of thunder, like a gun fired for a warning of his escape from the prison
of lies.

He must have heard at some time or other and now remembered
unconsciously that there was to be a gathering of revolutionists at the
house of Julius Laspara that evening. At any rate, he made straight for
the Laspara house, and found himself without surprise ringing at its
street door, which, of course, was closed. By that time the thunderstorm
had attacked in earnest. The steep incline of the street ran with water,
the thick fall of rain enveloped him like a luminous veil in the play
of lightning. He was perfectly calm, and, between the crashes, listened
attentively to the delicate tinkling of the doorbell somewhere within
the house.

There was some difficulty before he was admitted. His person was not
known to that one of the guests who had volunteered to go downstairs and
see what was the matter. Razumov argued with him patiently. There could
be no harm in admitting a caller. He had something to communicate to the
company upstairs.

“Something of importance?”

“That’ll be for the hearers to judge.”

“Urgent?”

“Without a moment’s delay.”

Meantime, one of the Laspara daughters descended the stairs, small lamp
in hand, in a grimy and crumpled gown, which seemed to hang on her by a
miracle, and looking more than ever like an old doll with a dusty brown
wig, dragged from under a sofa. She recognized Razumov at once.

“How do you do? Of course you may come in.”

Following her light, Razumov climbed two flights of stairs from the
lower darkness. Leaving the lamp on a bracket on the landing, she opened
a door, and went in, accompanied by the sceptical guest. Razumov entered
last. He closed the door behind him, and stepping on one side, put his
back against the wall.

The three little rooms _en suite_, with low, smoky ceilings and lit by
paraffin lamps, were crammed with people. Loud talking was going on
in all three, and tea-glasses, full, half-full, and empty, stood
everywhere, even on the floor. The other Laspara girl sat, dishevelled
and languid, behind an enormous samovar. In the inner doorway Razumov
had a glimpse of the protuberance of a large stomach, which he
recognized. Only a few feet from him Julius Laspara was getting down
hurriedly from his high stool.

The appearance of the midnight visitor caused no small sensation.
Laspara is very summary in his version of that night’s happenings.
After some words of greeting, disregarded by Razumov, Laspara (ignoring
purposely his guest’s soaked condition and his extraordinary manner of
presenting himself) mentioned something about writing an article. He
was growing uneasy, and Razumov appeared absent-minded. “I have written
already all I shall ever write,” he said at last, with a little laugh.

The whole company’s attention was riveted on the new-comer, dripping
with water, deadly pale, and keeping his position against the wall.
Razumov put Laspara gently aside, as though he wished to be seen from
head to foot by everybody. By then the buzz of conversations had died
down completely, even in the most distant of the three rooms. The
doorway facing Razumov became blocked by men and women, who craned their
necks and certainly seemed to expect something startling to happen.

A squeaky, insolent declaration was heard from that group.

“I know this ridiculously conceited individual.”

“What individual?” asked Razumov, raising his bowed head, and searching
with his eyes all the eyes fixed upon him. An intense surprised silence
lasted for a time. “If it’s me....”

He stopped, thinking over the form of his confession, and found it
suddenly, unavoidably suggested by the fateful evening of his life.

“I am come here,” he began, in a clear voice, “to talk of an individual
called Ziemianitch. Sophia Antonovna has informed me that she would make
public a certain letter from St. Petersburg....”

“Sophia Antonovna has left us early in the evening,” said Laspara. “It’s
quite correct. Everybody here has heard....”

“Very well,” Razumov interrupted, with a shade of impatience, for his
heart was beating strongly. Then, mastering his voice so far that there
was even a touch of irony in his clear, forcible enunciation--

“In justice to that individual, the much ill-used peasant, Ziemianitch,
I now declare solemnly that the conclusions of that letter calumniate a
man of the people--a bright Russian soul. Ziemianitch had nothing to do
with the actual arrest of Victor Haldin.”

Razumov dwelt on the name heavily, and then waited till the faint,
mournful murmur which greeted it had died out.

“Victor Victorovitch Haldin,” he began again, “acting with, no doubt,
noble-minded imprudence, took refuge with a certain student of whose
opinions he knew nothing but what his own illusions suggested to his
generous heart. It was an unwise display of confidence. But I am not
here to appreciate the actions of Victor Haldin. Am I to tell you of
the feelings of that student, sought out in his obscure solitude, and
menaced by the complicity forced upon him? Am I to tell you what he did?
It’s a rather complicated story. In the end the student went to General
T--- himself, and said, ‘I have the man who killed de P--- locked up in
my room, Victor Haldin--a student like myself.’”

A great buzz arose, in which Razumov raised his voice.

“Observe--that man had certain honest ideals in view. But I didn’t come
here to explain him.”

“No. But you must explain how you know all this,” came in grave tones
from somebody.

“A vile coward!” This simple cry vibrated with indignation. “Name him!”
 shouted other voices.

“What are you clamouring for?” said Razumov disdainfully, in the
profound silence which fell on the raising of his hand. “Haven’t you all
understood that I am that man?”

Laspara went away brusquely from his side and climbed upon his stool.
In the first forward surge of people towards him, Razumov expected to
be torn to pieces, but they fell back without touching him, and nothing
came of it but noise. It was bewildering. His head ached terribly.
In the confused uproar he made out several times the name of Peter
Ivanovitch, the word “judgement,” and the phrase, “But this is a
confession,” uttered by somebody in a desperate shriek. In the midst
of the tumult, a young man, younger than himself, approached him with
blazing eyes.

“I must beg you,” he said, with venomous politeness, “to be good enough
not to move from this spot till you are told what you are to do.”

Razumov shrugged his shoulders. “I came in voluntarily.”

“Maybe. But you won’t go out till you are permitted,” retorted the
other.

He beckoned with his hand, calling out, “Louisa! Louisa! come here,
please”; and, presently, one of the Laspara girls (they had been staring
at Razumov from behind the samovar) came along, trailing a bedraggled
tail of dirty flounces, and dragging with her a chair, which she set
against the door, and, sitting down on it, crossed her legs. The young
man thanked her effusively, and rejoined a group carrying on an animated
discussion in low tones. Razumov lost himself for a moment.

A squeaky voice screamed, “Confession or no confession, you are a police
spy!”

The revolutionist Nikita had pushed his way in front of Razumov, and
faced him with his big, livid cheeks, his heavy paunch, bull neck, and
enormous hands. Razumov looked at the famous slayer of gendarmes in
silent disgust.

“And what are you?” he said, very low, then shut his eyes, and rested
the back of his head against the wall.

“It would be better for you to depart now.” Razumov heard a mild, sad
voice, and opened his eyes. The gentle speaker was an elderly man, with
a great brush of fine hair making a silvery halo all round his
keen, intelligent face. “Peter Ivanovitch shall be informed of your
confession--and you shall be directed....”

Then, turning to Nikita, nicknamed Necator, standing by, he appealed to
him in a murmur--

“What else can we do? After this piece of sincerity he cannot be
dangerous any longer.”

The other muttered, “Better make sure of that before we let him go.
Leave that to me. I know how to deal with such gentlemen.”

He exchanged meaning glances with two or three men, who nodded slightly,
then turning roughly to Razumov, “You have heard? You are not wanted
here. Why don’t you get out?”

The Laspara girl on guard rose, and pulled the chair out of the way
unemotionally. She gave a sleepy stare to Razumov, who started, looked
round the room and passed slowly by her as if struck by some sudden
thought.

“I beg you to observe,” he said, already on the landing, “that I had
only to hold my tongue. To-day, of all days since I came amongst you,
I was made safe, and to-day I made myself free from falsehood, from
remorse--independent of every single human being on this earth.”

He turned his back on the room, and walked towards the stairs, but, at
the violent crash of the door behind him, he looked over his shoulder
and saw that Nikita, with three others, had followed him out. “They are
going to kill me, after all,” he thought.

Before he had time to turn round and confront them fairly, they set
on him with a rush. He was driven headlong against the wall. “I wonder
how,” he completed his thought. Nikita cried, with a shrill laugh right
in his face, “We shall make you harmless. You wait a bit.”

Razumov did not struggle. The three men held him pinned against
the wall, while Nikita, taking up a position a little on one side,
deliberately swung off his enormous arm. Razumov, looking for a knife
in his hand, saw it come at him open, unarmed, and received a tremendous
blow on the side of his head over his ear. At the same time he heard a
faint, dull detonating sound, as if some one had fired a pistol on the
other side of the wall. A raging fury awoke in him at this outrage.
The people in Laspara’s rooms, holding their breath, listened to the
desperate scuffling of four men all over the landing; thuds against the
walls, a terrible crash against the very door, then all of them went
down together with a violence which seemed to shake the whole house.
Razumov, overpowered, breathless, crushed under the weight of his
assailants, saw the monstrous Nikita squatting on his heels near his
head, while the others held him down, kneeling on his chest, gripping
his throat, lying across his legs.

“Turn his face the other way,” the paunchy terrorist directed, in an
excited, gleeful squeak.

Razumov could struggle no longer. He was exhausted; he had to watch
passively the heavy open hand of the brute descend again in a degrading
blow over his other ear. It seemed to split his head in two, and all at
once the men holding him became perfectly silent--soundless as shadows.
In silence they pulled him brutally to his feet, rushed with him
noiselessly down the staircase, and, opening the door, flung him out
into the street.

He fell forward, and at once rolled over and over helplessly, going down
the short slope together with the rush of running rain water. He came to
rest in the roadway of the street at the bottom, lying on his back,
with a great flash of lightning over his face--a vivid, silent flash of
lightning which blinded him utterly. He picked himself up, and put his
arm over his eyes to recover his sight. Not a sound reached him from
anywhere, and he began to walk, staggering, down a long, empty street.
The lightning waved and darted round him its silent flames, the water of
the deluge fell, ran, leaped, drove--noiseless like the drift of mist.
In this unearthly stillness his footsteps fell silent on the pavement,
while a dumb wind drove him on and on, like a lost mortal in a phantom
world ravaged by a soundless thunderstorm. God only knows where his
noiseless feet took him to that night, here and there, and back again
without pause or rest. Of one place, at least, where they did lead
him, we heard afterwards; and, in the morning, the driver of the first
south-shore tramcar, clanging his bell desperately, saw a bedraggled,
soaked man without a hat, and walking in the roadway unsteadily with his
head down, step right in front of his car, and go under.

When they picked him up, with two broken limbs and a crushed side,
Razumov had not lost consciousness. It was as though he had tumbled,
smashing himself, into a world of mutes. Silent men, moving unheard,
lifted him up, laid him on the sidewalk, gesticulating and grimacing
round him their alarm, horror, and compassion. A red face with
moustaches stooped close over him, lips moving, eyes rolling. Razumov
tried hard to understand the reason of this dumb show. To those who
stood around him, the features of that stranger, so grievously hurt,
seemed composed in meditation. Afterwards his eyes sent out at them
a look of fear and closed slowly. They stared at him. Razumov made an
effort to remember some French words.

“_Je suis sourd_,” he had time to utter feebly, before he fainted.

“He is deaf,” they exclaimed to each other. “That’s why he did not hear
the car.”

They carried him off in that same car. Before it started on its journey,
a woman in a shabby black dress, who had run out of the iron gate of
some private grounds up the road, clambered on to the rear platform and
would not be put off.

“I am a relation,” she insisted, in bad French. “This young man is a
Russian, and I am his relation.” On this plea they let her have her way.
She sat down calmly, and took his head on her lap; her scared faded eyes
avoided looking at his deathlike face. At the corner of a street, on the
other side of the town, a stretcher met the car. She followed it to the
door of the hospital, where they let her come in and see him laid on a
bed. Razumov’s new-found relation never shed a tear, but the officials
had some difficulty in inducing her to go away. The porter observed her
lingering on the opposite pavement for a long time. Suddenly, as though
she had remembered something, she ran off.

The ardent hater of all Finance ministers, the slave of Madame de S--,
had made up her mind to offer her resignation as lady companion to
the Egeria of Peter Ivanovitch. She had found work to do after her own
heart.

But hours before, while the thunderstorm still raged in the night, there
had been in the rooms of Julius Laspara a great sensation. The terrible
Nikita, coming in from the landing, uplifted his squeaky voice in
horrible glee before all the company--

“Razumov! Mr. Razumov! The wonderful Razumov! He shall never be any use
as a spy on any one. He won’t talk, because he will never hear anything
in his life--not a thing! I have burst the drums of his ears for him.
Oh, you may trust me. I know the trick. Ha! Ha! Ha! I know the trick.”


V


It was nearly a fortnight after her mother’s funeral that I saw Natalia
Haldin for the last time.

In those silent, sombre days the doors of the _appartement_ on the
Boulevard des Philosophes were closed to every one but myself. I believe
I was of some use, if only in this, that I alone was aware of the
incredible part of the situation. Miss Haldin nursed her mother alone
to the last moment. If Razumov’s visit had anything to do with
Mrs. Haldin’s end (and I cannot help thinking that it hastened it
considerably), it is because the man, trusted impulsively by the
ill-fated Victor Haldin, had failed to gain the confidence of Victor
Haldin’s mother. What tale, precisely, he told her cannot be known--at
any rate, I do not know it--but to me she seemed to die from the shock
of an ultimate disappointment borne in silence. She had not believed
him. Perhaps she could not longer believe any one, and consequently had
nothing to say to any one--not even to her daughter. I suspect that Miss
Haldin lived the heaviest hours of her life by that silent death-bed.
I confess I was angry with the broken-hearted old woman passing away in
the obstinacy of her mute distrust of her daughter.

When it was all over I stood aside. Miss Haldin had her compatriots
round her then. A great number of them attended the funeral. I was
there too, but afterwards managed to keep away from Miss Haldin, till I
received a short note rewarding my self-denial. “It is as you would have
it. I am going back to Russia at once. My mind is made up. Come and see
me.”

Verily, it was a reward of discretion. I went without delay to receive
it. The _appartement_ of the Boulevard des Philosophes presented the
dreary signs of impending abandonment. It looked desolate and as if
already empty to my eyes.

Standing, we exchanged a few words about her health, mine, remarks as to
some people of the Russian colony, and then Natalia Haldin, establishing
me on the sofa, began to talk openly of her future work, of her plans.
It was all to be as I had wished it. And it was to be for life. We
should never see each other again. Never!

I gathered this success to my breast. Natalia Haldin looked matured by
her open and secret experiences. With her arms folded she walked up and
down the whole length of the room, talking slowly, smooth-browed, with a
resolute profile. She gave me a new view of herself, and I marvelled at
that something grave and measured in her voice, in her movements, in her
manner. It was the perfection of collected independence. The strength
of her nature had come to surface because the obscure depths had been
stirred.

“We two can talk of it now,” she observed, after a silence and stopping
short before me. “Have you been to inquire at the hospital lately?”

“Yes, I have.” And as she looked at me fixedly, “He will live, the
doctors say. But I thought that Tekla....”

“Tekla has not been near me for several days,” explained Miss Haldin
quickly. “As I never offered to go to the hospital with her, she thinks
that I have no heart. She is disillusioned about me.”

And Miss Haldin smiled faintly.

“Yes. She sits with him as long and as often as they will let her,” I
said. “She says she must never abandon him--never as long as she lives.
He’ll need somebody--a hopeless cripple, and stone deaf with that.”

“Stone deaf? I didn’t know,” murmured Natalia Haldin.

“He is. It seems strange. I am told there were no apparent injuries to
the head. They say, too, that it is not very likely that he will live so
very long for Tekla to take care of him.”

Miss Haldin shook her head.

“While there are travellers ready to fall by the way our Tekla shall
never be idle. She is a good Samaritan by an irresistible vocation. The
revolutionists didn’t understand her. Fancy a devoted creature like that
being employed to carry about documents sewn in her dress, or made to
write from dictation.”

“There is not much perspicacity in the world.”

No sooner uttered, I regretted that observation. Natalia Haldin, looking
me straight in the face, assented by a slight movement of her head. She
was not offended, but turning away began to pace the room again. To my
western eyes she seemed to be getting farther and farther from me, quite
beyond my reach now, but undiminished in the increasing distance. I
remained silent as though it were hopeless to raise my voice. The sound
of hers, so close to me, made me start a little.

“Tekla saw him picked up after the accident. The good soul never
explained to me really how it came about. She affirms that there was
some understanding between them--some sort of compact--that in any sore
need, in misfortune, or difficulty, or pain, he was to come to her.”

“Was there?” I said. “It is lucky for him that there was, then. He’ll
need all the devotion of the good Samaritan.”

It was a fact that Tekla, looking out of her window at five in the
morning, for some reason or other, had beheld Razumov in the grounds of
the Chateau Borel, standing stockstill, bare-headed in the rain, at the
foot of the terrace. She had screamed out to him, by name, to know
what was the matter. He never even raised his head. By the time she had
dressed herself sufficiently to run downstairs he was gone. She started
in pursuit, and rushing out into the road, came almost directly upon the
arrested tramcar and the small knot of people picking up Razumov. That
much Tekla had told me herself one afternoon we happened to meet at the
door of the hospital, and without any kind of comment. But I did not
want to meditate very long on the inwardness of this peculiar episode.

“Yes, Natalia Victorovna, he shall need somebody when they dismiss him,
on crutches and stone deaf from the hospital. But I do not think that
when he rushed like an escaped madman into the grounds of the Chateau
Borel it was to seek the help of that good Tekla.”

“No,” said Natalia, stopping short before me, “perhaps not.” She sat
down and leaned her head on her hand thoughtfully. The silence lasted
for several minutes. During that time I remembered the evening of his
atrocious confession--the plaint she seemed to have hardly enough life
left in her to utter, “It is impossible to be more unhappy....” The
recollection would have given me a shudder if I had not been lost
in wonder at her force and her tranquillity. There was no longer any
Natalia Haldin, because she had completely ceased to think of herself.
It was a great victory, a characteristically Russian exploit in
self-suppression.

She recalled me to myself by getting up suddenly like a person who has
come to a decision. She walked to the writing-table, now stripped of all
the small objects associated with her by daily use--a mere piece of dead
furniture; but it contained something living, still, since she took from
a recess a flat parcel which she brought to me.

“It’s a book,” she said rather abruptly. “It was sent to me wrapped
up in my veil. I told you nothing at the time, but now I’ve decided to
leave it with you. I have the right to do that. It was sent to me. It
is mine. You may preserve it, or destroy it after you have read it. And
while you read it, please remember that I was defenceless. And that
he..”

“Defenceless!” I repeated, surprised, looking hard at her.

“You’ll find the very word written there,” she whispered. “Well, it’s
true! I _was_ defenceless--but perhaps you were able to see that for
yourself.” Her face coloured, then went deadly pale. “In justice to the
man, I want you to remember that I was. Oh, I was, I was!”

I rose, a little shakily.

“I am not likely to forget anything you say at this our last parting.”

Her hand fell into mine.

“It’s difficult to believe that it must be good-bye with us.”

She returned my pressure and our hands separated.

“Yes. I am leaving here to-morrow. My eyes are open at last and my hands
are free now. As for the rest--which of us can fail to hear the stifled
cry of our great distress? It may be nothing to the world.”

“The world is more conscious of your discordant voices,” I said. “It is
the way of the world.”

“Yes.” She bowed her head in assent, and hesitated for a moment. “I must
own to you that I shall never give up looking forward to the day when
all discord shall be silenced. Try to imagine its dawn! The tempest of
blows and of execrations is over; all is still; the new sun is rising,
and the weary men united at last, taking count in their conscience of
the ended contest, feel saddened by their victory, because so many ideas
have perished for the triumph of one, so many beliefs have abandoned
them without support. They feel alone on the earth and gather close
together. Yes, there must be many bitter hours! But at last the anguish
of hearts shall be extinguished in love.”

And on this last word of her wisdom, a word so sweet, so bitter, so
cruel sometimes, I said good-bye to Natalia Haldin. It is hard to think
I shall never look any more into the trustful eyes of that girl--wedded
to an invincible belief in the advent of loving concord springing like
a heavenly flower from the soil of men’s earth, soaked in blood, torn by
struggles, watered with tears.



It must be understood that at that time I didn’t know anything of Mr.
Razumov’s confession to the assembled revolutionists. Natalia Haldin
might have guessed what was the “one thing more” which remained for him
to do; but this my western eyes had failed to see.

Tekla, the ex-lady companion of Madame de S--, haunted his bedside at
the hospital. We met once or twice at the door of that establishment,
but on these occasions she was not communicative. She gave me news of
Mr. Razumov as concisely as possible. He was making a slow recovery, but
would remain a hopeless cripple all his life. Personally, I never went
near him: I never saw him again, after the awful evening when I stood
by, a watchful but ignored spectator of his scene with Miss Haldin. He
was in due course discharged from the hospital, and his “relative”--so I
was told--had carried him off somewhere.

My information was completed nearly two years later. The opportunity,
certainly, was not of my seeking; it was quite accidentally that I met a
much-trusted woman revolutionist at the house of a distinguished Russian
gentleman of liberal convictions, who came to live in Geneva for a time.

He was a quite different sort of celebrity from Peter Ivanovitch--a
dark-haired man with kind eyes, high-shouldered, courteous, and with
something hushed and circumspect in his manner. He approached
me, choosing the moment when there was no one near, followed by a
grey-haired, alert lady in a crimson blouse.

“Our Sophia Antonovna wishes to be made known to you,” he addressed me,
in his guarded voice. “And so I leave you two to have a talk together.”

“I would never have intruded myself upon your notice,” the grey-haired
lady began at once, “if I had not been charged with a message for you.”

It was a message of a few friendly words from Natalia Haldin. Sophia
Antonovna had just returned from a secret excursion into Russia, and
had seen Miss Haldin. She lived in a town “in the centre,” sharing her
compassionate labours between the horrors of overcrowded jails, and the
heartrending misery of bereaved homes. She did not spare herself in good
service, Sophia Antonovna assured me.

“She has a faithful soul, an undaunted spirit and an indefatigable
body,” the woman revolutionist summed it all up, with a touch of
enthusiasm.

A conversation thus engaged was not likely to drop from want of interest
on my side. We went to sit apart in a corner where no one interrupted
us. In the course of our talk about Miss Haldin, Sophia Antonovna
remarked suddenly--

“I suppose you remember seeing me before? That evening when Natalia came
to ask Peter Ivanovitch for the address of a certain Razumov, that young
man who...”

“I remember perfectly,” I said. When Sophia Antonovna learned that I had
in my possession that young man’s journal given me by Miss Haldin she
became intensely interested. She did not conceal her curiosity to see
the document.

I offered to show it to her, and she at once volunteered to call on me
next day for that purpose.

She turned over the pages greedily for an hour or more, and then handed
me the book with a faint sigh. While moving about Russia, she had seen
Razumov too. He lived, not “in the centre,” but “in the south.” She
described to me a little two-roomed wooden house, in the suburb of some
very small town, hiding within the high plank-fence of a yard overgrown
with nettles. He was crippled, ill, getting weaker every day, and Tekla
the Samaritan tended him unweariedly with the pure joy of unselfish
devotion. There was nothing in that task to become disillusioned about.

I did not hide from Sophia Antonovna my surprise that she should have
visited Mr. Razumov. I did not even understand the motive. But she
informed me that she was not the only one.

“Some of _us_ always go to see him when passing through. He is
intelligent. We has ideas.... He talks well, too.”

Presently I heard for the first time of Razumov’s public confession in
Laspara’s house. Sophia Antonovna gave me a detailed relation of what
had occurred there. Razumov himself had told her all about it, most
minutely.

Then, looking hard at me with her brilliant black eyes--

“There are evil moments in every life. A false suggestion enters one’s
brain, and then fear is born--fear of oneself, fear for oneself. Or else
a false courage--who knows? Well, call it what you like; but tell me,
how many of them would deliver themselves up deliberately to perdition
(as he himself says in that book) rather than go on living, secretly
debased in their own eyes? How many?... And please mark this--he
was safe when he did it. It was just when he believed himself safe
and more--infinitely more--when the possibility of being loved by
that admirable girl first dawned upon him, that he discovered that his
bitterest railings, the worst wickedness, the devil work of his hate and
pride, could never cover up the ignominy of the existence before him.
There’s character in such a discovery.”

I accepted her conclusion in silence. Who would care to question the
grounds of forgiveness or compassion? However, it appeared later on,
that there was some compunction, too, in the charity extended by the
revolutionary world to Razumov the betrayer. Sophia Antonovna continued
uneasily--

“And then, you know, he was the victim of an outrage. It was not
authorized. Nothing was decided as to what was to be done with him. He
had confessed voluntarily. And that Nikita who burst the drums of his
ears purposely, out on the landing, you know, as if carried away by
indignation--well, he has turned out to be a scoundrel of the worst
kind--a traitor himself, a betrayer--a spy! Razumov told me he had
charged him with it by a sort of inspiration....”

“I had a glimpse of that brute,” I said. “How any of you could have been
deceived for half a day passes my comprehension!”

She interrupted me.

“There! There! Don’t talk of it. The first time I saw him, I, too, was
appalled. They cried me down. We were always telling each other, ‘Oh!
you mustn’t mind his appearance.’ And then he was always ready to kill.
There was no doubt of it. He killed--yes! in both camps. The fiend....”

Then Sophia Antonovna, after mastering the angry trembling of her lips,
told me a very queer tale. It went that Councillor Mikulin, travelling
in Germany (shortly after Razumov’s disappearance from Geneva), happened
to meet Peter Ivanovitch in a railway carriage. Being alone in the
compartment, these two talked together half the night, and it was then
that Mikulin the Police Chief gave a hint to the Arch-Revolutionist
as to the true character of the arch-slayer of gendarmes. It looks as
though Mikulin had wanted to get rid of that particular agent of his
own! He might have grown tired of him, or frightened of him. It must
also be said that Mikulin had inherited the sinister Nikita from his
predecessor in office.

And this story, too, I received without comment in my character of a
mute witness of things Russian, unrolling their Eastern logic under my
Western eyes. But I permitted myself a question--

“Tell me, please, Sophia Antonovna, did Madame de S-- leave all her
fortune to Peter Ivanovitch?”

“Not a bit of it.” The woman revolutionist shrugged her shoulders in
disgust. “She died without making a will. A lot of nephews and nieces
came down from St. Petersburg, like a flock of vultures, and fought
for her money amongst themselves. All beastly Kammerherrs and Maids of
Honour--abominable court flunkeys. Tfui!”

“One does not hear much of Peter Ivanovitch now,” I remarked, after a
pause.

“Peter Ivanovitch,” said Sophia Antonovna gravely, “has united himself
to a peasant girl.”

I was truly astonished.

“What! On the Riviera?”

“What nonsense! Of course not.”

Sophia Antonovna’s tone was slightly tart.

“Is he, then, living actually in Russia? It’s a tremendous risk--isn’t
it?” I cried. “And all for the sake of a peasant girl. Don’t you think
it’s very wrong of him?”

Sophia Antonovna preserved a mysterious silence for a while, then made a
statement. “He just simply adores her.”

“Does he? Well, then, I hope that she won’t hesitate to beat him.”

Sophia Antonovna got up and wished me good-bye, as though she had not
heard a word of my impious hope; but, in the very doorway, where I
attended her, she turned round for an instant, and declared in a firm
voice--

“Peter Ivanovitch is an inspired man.”





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