Under Western Eyes
Part 5 out of 8
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,
"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
"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
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
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
"Her confidence! To this elderly person--this
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--
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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,
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"What if it is not worth telling?"
"Not worth--from what point of view? I don't
"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
"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
"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
His air of weary indifference was accentuated, I
could not help thinking, wilfully.
"Oh yes. Something might," he mumbled
He put his hand over his mouth to conceal a
yawn. When he uncovered his lips they were
"Pardon me. This has been a long conversation,
and I have not had much sleep the last two
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"I like what you said just now."
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?"
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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-
She hesitated again. "Not altogether," she
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"You have been watching me?" suggested Razumov.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"This is very mysterious," he muttered through
"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
"You shall know directly," he said, pushing the
A low-pitched grating voice was heard within the
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
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
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
"And do you know that the general complaint is
that you have shown yourself very reserved
Razumov remained silent for a time, thinking of
"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
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!
Razumov was quite confounded by this unexpected
clamour, which had in it something of wailing
and croaking, and more than a suspicion of
"_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
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
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
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
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
"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
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