Chapter II (Page 2)
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--
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.
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--
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--
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. . .
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.Next