Part 1 out of 8
UNDER WESTERN EYES
by JOSEPH CONRAD
"I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch
a piece of bread."
To begin with I wish to disclaim the possession of those high gifts
of imagination and expression which would have enabled my pen to
create for the reader the personality of the man who called himself,
after the Russian custom, Cyril son of Isidor--Kirylo Sidorovitch--
If I have ever had these gifts in any sort of
living form they have been smothered out of
existence a long time ago under a wilderness of
words. Words, as is well known, are the great
foes of reality. I have been for many years a
teacher of languages. It is an occupation which
at length becomes fatal to whatever share of
imagination, observation, and insight an
ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of
languages there comes a time when the world is
but a place of many words and man appears a mere
talking animal not much more wonderful than a
This being so, I could not have observed Mr.
Razumov or guessed at his reality by the force
of insight, much less have imagined him as he
was. Even to invent the mere bald facts of his
life would have been utterly beyond my powers.
But I think that without this declaration the
readers of these pages will be able to detect in
the story the marks of documentary evidence.
And that is perfectly correct. It is based on a
document; all I have brought to it is my
knowledge of the Russian language, which is
sufficient for what is attempted here. The
document, of course, is something in the nature
of a journal, a diary, yet not exactly that in
its actual form. For instance, most of it was
not written up from day to day, though all the
entries are dated. Some of these entries cover
months of time and extend over dozens of pages.
All the earlier part is a retrospect, in a
narrative form, relating to an event which took
place about a year before.
I must mention that I have lived for a long time
in Geneva. A whole quarter of that town, on
account of many Russians residing there, is
called La Petite Russie--Little Russia. I had a
rather extensive connexion in Little Russia at
that time. Yet I confess that I have no
comprehension of the Russian character. The
illogicality of their attitude, the
arbitrariness of their conclusions, the
frequency of the exceptional, should present no
difficulty to a student of many grammars; but
there must be something else in the way, some
special human trait--one of those subtle
differences that are beyond the ken of mere
professors. What must remain striking to a
teacher of languages is the Russians'
extraordinary love of words. They gather them
up; they cherish them, but they don't hoard them
in their breasts; on the contrary, they are
always ready to pour them out by the hour or by
the night with an enthusiasm, a sweeping
abundance, with such an aptness of application
sometimes that, as in the case of very
accomplished parrots, one can't defend oneself
from the suspicion that they really understand
what they say. There is a generosity in their
ardour of speech which removes it as far as
possible from common loquacity; and it is ever
too disconnected to be classed as eloquence. . .
. But I must apologize for this digression.
It would be idle to inquire why Mr. Razumov has
left this record behind him. It is
inconceivable that he should have wished any
human eye to see it. A mysterious impulse of
human nature comes into play here. Putting
aside Samuel Pepys, who has forced in this way
the door of immortality, innumerable people,
criminals, saints, philosophers, young girls,
statesmen, and simple imbeciles, have kept self-
revealing records from vanity no doubt, but also
from other more inscrutable motives. There must
be a wonderful soothing power in mere words
since so many men have used them for self-
communion. Being myself a quiet individual I
take it that what all men are really after is
some form or perhaps only some formula of peace.
Certainly they are crying loud enough for it at
the present day. What sort of peace Kirylo
Sidorovitch Razumov expected to find in the
writing up of his record it passeth my
understanding to guess.
The fact remains that he has written it.
Mr. Razumov was a tall, well-proportioned young
man, quite unusually dark for a Russian from the
Central Provinces. His good looks would have
been unquestionable if it had not been for a
peculiar lack of fineness in the features. It
was as if a face modelled vigorously in wax
(with some approach even to a classical
correctness of type) had been held close to a
fire till all sharpness of line had been lost in
the softening of the material. But even thus he
was sufficiently good-looking. His manner, too,
was good. In discussion he was easily swayed by
argument and authority. With his younger
compatriots he took the attitude of an
inscrutable listener, a listener of the kind
that hears you out intelligently and then--just
changes the subject.
This sort of trick, which may arise either from
intellectual insufficiency or from an imperfect
trust in one's own convictions, procured for Mr.
Razumov a reputation of profundity. Amongst a
lot of exuberant talkers, in the habit of
exhausting themselves daily by ardent
discussion, a comparatively taciturn personality
is naturally credited with reserve power. By
his comrades at the St. Petersburg University,
Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov, third year's student
in philosophy, was looked upon as a strong
nature--an altogether trustworthy man. This, in
a country where an opinion may be a legal crime
visited by death or sometimes by a fate worse
than mere death, meant that he was worthy of
being trusted with forbidden opinions. He was
liked also for his amiability and for his quiet
readiness to oblige his comrades even at the
cost of personal inconvenience.
Mr. Razumov was supposed to be the son of an
Archpriest and to be protected by a
distinguished nobleman--perhaps of his own
distant province. But his outward appearance
accorded badly with such humble origin. Such a
descent was not credible. It was, indeed,
suggested that Mr. Razumov was the son of an
Archpriest's pretty daughter--which, of course,
would put a different complexion on the matter.
This theory also rendered intelligible the
protection of the distinguished nobleman. All
this, however, had never been investigated
maliciously or otherwise. No one knew or cared
who the nobleman in question was. Razumov
received a modest but very sufficient allowance
from the hands of an obscure attorney, who
seemed to act as his guardian in some measure.
Now and then he appeared at some professor's
informal reception. Apart from that Razumov was
not known to have any social relations in the
town. He attended the obligatory lectures
regularly and was considered by the authorities
as a very promising student. He worked at home
in the manner of a man who means to get on, but
did not shut himself up severely for that
purpose. He was always accessible, and there
was nothing secret or reserved in his life.
The origin of Mr. Razumov's record is connected
with an event characteristic of modern Russia in
the actual fact: the assassination of a
prominent statesman--and still more
characteristic of the moral corruption of an
oppressed society where the noblest aspirations
of humanity, the desire of freedom, an ardent
patriotism, the love of justice, the sense of
pity, and even the fidelity of simple minds are
prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear, the
inseparable companions of an uneasy despotism.
The fact alluded to above is the successful
attempt on the life of Mr. de P---, the
President of the notorious Repressive Commission
of some years ago, the Minister of State
invested with extraordinary powers. The
newspapers made noise enough about that
fanatical, narrow-chested figure in gold-laced
uniform, with a face of crumpled parchment,
insipid, bespectacled eyes, and the cross of the
Order of St. Procopius hung under the skinny
throat. For a time, it may be remembered, not a
month passed without his portrait appearing in
some one of the illustrated papers of Europe.
He served the monarchy by imprisoning, exiling,
or sending to the gallows men and women, young
and old, with an equable, unwearied industry.
In his mystic acceptance of the principle of
autocracy he was bent on extirpating from the
land every vestige of anything that resembled
freedom in public institutions; and in his
ruthless persecution of the rising generation he
seemed to aim at the destruction of the very
hope of liberty itself.
It is said that this execrated personality had
not enough imagination to be aware of the hate
he inspired. It is hardly credible; but it is a
fact that he took very few precautions for his
safety. In the preamble of a certain famous
State paper he had declared once that "the
thought of liberty has never existed in the Act
of the Creator. From the multitude of men's
counsel nothing could come but revolt and
disorder; and revolt and disorder in a world
created for obedience and stability is sin. It
was not Reason but Authority which expressed the
Divine Intention. God was the Autocrat of the
Universe. . . ." It may be that the man who
made this declaration believed that heaven
itself was bound to protect him in his
remorseless defence of Autocracy on this earth.
No doubt the vigilance of the police saved him
many times; but, as a matter of fact, when his
appointed fate overtook him, the competent
authorities could not have given him any
warning. They had no knowledge of any
conspiracy against the Minister's life, had no
hint of any plot through their usual channels of
information, had seen no signs, were aware of no
suspicious movements or dangerous persons.
Mr. de P--- was being driven towards the railway
station in a two-horse uncovered sleigh with
footman and coachman on the box. Snow had been
falling all night, making the roadway, uncleared
as yet at this early hour, very heavy for the
horses. It was still falling thickly. But the
sleigh must have been observed and marked down.
As it drew over to the left before taking a
turn, the footman noticed a peasant walking
slowly on the edge of the pavement with his
hands in the pockets of his sheepskin coat and
his shoulders hunched up to his ears under the
falling snow. On being overtaken this peasant
suddenly faced about and swung his arm. In an
instant there was a terrible shock, a detonation
muffled in the multitude of snowflakes; both
horses lay dead and mangled on the ground and
the coachman, with a shrill cry, had fallen off
the box mortally wounded. The footman (who
survived) had no time to see the face of the man
in the sheepskin coat. After throwing the bomb
this last got away, but it is supposed that,
seeing a lot of people surging up on all sides
of him in the falling snow, and all running
towards the scene of the explosion, he thought
it safer to turn back with them.
In an incredibly short time an excited crowd
assembled round the sledge. The Minister-
President, getting out unhurt into the deep
snow, stood near the groaning coachman and
addressed the people repeatedly in his weak,
colourless voice: "I beg of you to keep off:
For the love of God, I beg of you good people to
It was then that a tall young man who had
remained standing perfectly still within a
carriage gateway, two houses lower down, stepped
out into the street and walking up rapidly flung
another bomb over the heads of the crowd. It
actually struck the Minister-President on the
shoulder as he stooped over his dying servant,
then falling between his feet exploded with a
terrific concentrated violence, striking him
dead to the ground, finishing the wounded man
and practically annihilating the empty sledge in
the twinkling of an eye. With a yell of horror
the crowd broke up and fled in all directions,
except for those who fell dead or dying where
they stood nearest to the Minister-President,
and one or two others who did not fall till they
had run a little way.
The first explosion had brought together a crowd
as if by enchantment, the second made as swiftly
a solitude in the street for hundreds of yards
in each direction. Through the falling snow
people looked from afar at the small heap of
dead bodies lying upon each other near the
carcases of the two horses. Nobody dared to
approach till some Cossacks of a street-patrol
galloped up and, dismounting, began to turn over
the dead. Amongst the innocent victims of the
second explosion laid out on the pavement there
was a body dressed in a peasant's sheepskin
coat; but the face was unrecognisable, there was
absolutely nothing found in the pockets of its
poor clothing, and it was the only one whose
identity was never established.
That day Mr. Razumov got up at his usual hour
and spent the morning within the University
buildings listening to the lectures and working
for some time in the library. He heard the
first vague rumour of something in the way of
bomb-throwing at the table of the students'
ordinary, where he was accustomed to eat his two
o'clock dinner. But this rumour was made up of
mere whispers, and this was Russia, where it was
not always safe, for a student especially, to
appear too much interested in certain kinds of
whispers. Razumov was one of those men who,
living in a period of mental and political
unrest, keep an instinctive hold on normal,
practical, everyday life. He was aware of the
emotional tension of his time; he even responded
to it in an indefinite way. But his main
concern was with his work, his studies, and with
his own future.
Officially and in fact without a family (for the
daughter of the Archpriest had long been dead),
no home influences had shaped his opinions or
his feelings. He was as lonely in the world as
a man swimming in the deep sea. The word
Razumov was the mere label of a solitary
individuality. There were no Razumovs belonging
to him anywhere. His closest parentage was
defined in the statement that he was a Russian.
Whatever good he expected from life would be
given to or withheld from his hopes by that
connexion alone. This immense parentage
suffered from the throes of internal
dissensions, and he shrank mentally from the
fray as a good-natured man may shrink from
taking definite sides in a violent family
Razumov, going home, reflected that having
prepared all the matters of the forthcoming
examination, he could now devote his time to the
subject of the prize essay. He hankered after
the silver medal. The prize was offered by the
Ministry of Education; the names of the
competitors would be submitted to the Minister
himself. The mere fact of trying would be
considered meritorious in the higher quarters;
and the possessor of the prize would have a
claim to an administrative appointment of the
better sort after he had taken his degree. The
student Razumov in an access of elation forgot
the dangers menacing the stability of the
institutions which give rewards and
appointments. But remembering the medallist of
the year before, Razumov, the young man of no
parentage, was sobered. He and some others
happened to be assembled in their comrade's
rooms at the very time when that last received
the official advice of his success. He was a
quiet, unassuming young man: " Forgive me," he
had said with a faint apologetic smile and
taking up his cap, " I am going out to order up
some wine. But I must first send a telegram to
my folk at home. I say! Won't the old people
make it a festive time for the neighbours for
twenty miles around our place."
Razumov thought there was nothing of that sort
for him in the world. His success would matter
to no one. But he felt no bitterness against
the nobleman his protector, who was not a
provincial magnate as was generally supposed.
He was in fact nobody less than Prince K---,
once a great and splendid figure in the world
and now, his day being over, a Senator and a
gouty invalid, living in a still splendid but
more domestic manner. He had some young
children and a wife as aristocratic and proud as
In all his life Razumov was allowed only once to
come into personal contact with the Prince.
It had the air of a chance meeting in the little
attorney's office. One day Razumov, coming in
by appointment, found a stranger standing there--
a tall, aristocratic-looking Personage with
silky, grey sidewhiskers. The bald-headed, sly
little lawyer-fellow called out, "Come in--come
in, Mr. Razumov," with a sort of ironic
heartiness. Then turning deferentially to the
stranger with the grand air, "A ward of mine,
your, Excellency. One of the most promising
students of his faculty in the St. Petersburg
To his intense surprise Razumov saw a white
shapely hand extended to him. He took it in
great confusion (it was soft and passive) and
heard at the same time a condescending murmur in
which he caught only the words "Satisfactory"
and "Persevere." But the most amazing thing of
all was to feel suddenly a distinct pressure of
the white shapely hand just before it was
withdrawn: a light pressure like a secret sign.
The emotion of it was terrible. Razumov's heart
seemed to leap into his throat. When he raised
his eyes the aristocratic personage, motioning
the little lawyer aside, had opened the door and
was going out.
The attorney rummaged amongst the papers on his
desk for a time. "Do you know who that was?" he
Razumov, whose heart was thumping hard yet,
shook his head in silence.
"That was Prince K---. You wonder what he could
be doing in the hole of a poor legal rat like
myself--eh? These awfully great people have
their sentimental curiosities like common
sinners. But if I were you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch," he continued, leering and laying a
peculiar emphasis on the patronymic," I wouldn't
boast at large of the introduction. It would
not be prudent, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Oh dear no!
It would be in fact dangerous for your future."
The young man's ears burned like fire; his sight
was dim. "That man!" Razumov was saying to
Henceforth it was by this monosyllable that Mr.
Razumov got into the habit of referring mentally
to the stranger with grey silky side-whiskers.
>From that time too, when walking in the more
fashionable quarters, he noted with interest the
magnificent horses and carriages with Prince K---
's liveries on the box. Once he saw the
Princess get out--she was shopping--followed by
two girls, of which one was nearly a head taller
than the other. Their fair hair hung loose down
their backs in the English style; they had merry
eyes, their coats, muffs, and little fur caps
were exactly alike, and their cheeks and noses
were tinged a cheerful pink by the frost. They
crossed the pavement in front of him, and
Razumov went on his way smiling shyly to
himself. "His" daughters. They resembled
"Him." The young man felt a glow of warm
friendliness towards these girls who would never
know of his existence. Presently they would
marry Generals or Kammerherrs and have girls and
boys of their own, who perhaps would be aware of
him as a celebrated old professor, decorated,
possibly a Privy Councillor, one of the glories
of Russia--nothing more!
But a celebrated professor was a somebody.
Distinction would convert the label Razumov into
an honoured name. There was nothing strange in
the student Razumov's wish for distinction. A
man's real life is that accorded to him in the
thoughts of other men by reason of respect or
natural love. Returning home on the day of the
attempt on Mr. de P---'s life Razumov resolved
to have a good try for the silver medal.
Climbing slowly the four flights of the dark,
dirty staircase in the house where he had his
lodgings, he felt confident of success. The
winner's name would be published in the papers
on New Year's Day. And at the thought that "He"
would most probably read it there, Razumov
stopped short on the stairs for an instant, then
went on smiling faintly at his own emotion.
"This is but a shadow," he said to himself," but
the medal is a solid beginning."
With those ideas of industry in his head the
warmth of his room was agreeable and
encouraging. "I shall put in four hours of good
work," he thought. But no sooner had he closed
the door than he was horribly startled. All
black against the usual tall stove of white
tiles gleaming in the dusk, stood a strange
figure, wearing a skirted, close-fitting, brown
cloth coat strapped round the waist, in long
boots, and with a little Astrakhan cap on its
head. It loomed lithe and martial. Razumov was
utterly confounded. It was only when the figure
advancing two paces asked in an untroubled,
grave voice if the outer door was closed that he
regained his power of speech.
"Haldin!. . . Victor Victorovitch!. . . Is
that you? . . . Yes. The outer door is shut
all right. But this is indeed unexpected."
Victor Haldin, a student older than most of his
contemporaries at the University, was not one of
the industrious set. He was hardly ever seen at
lectures; the authorities had marked him as
"restless" and "unsound "--very bad notes. But
he had a great personal prestige with his
comrades and influenced their thoughts. Razumov
had never been intimate with him. They had met
from time to time at gatherings in other
students' houses. They had even had a
discussion together--one of those discussions on
first principles dear to the sanguine minds of
Razumov wished the man had chosen some other
time to come for a chat. He felt in good trim
to tackle the prize essay. But as Haldin could
not be slightingly dismissed Razumov adopted the
tone of hospitality, asking him to sit down and
"Kirylo Sidorovitch," said the other, flinging
off his cap, "we are not perhaps in exactly the
same camp. Your judgment is more philosophical.
You are a man of few words, but I haven't met
anybody who dared to doubt the generosity of
your sentiments. There is a solidity about your
character which cannot exist without courage."
Razumov felt flattered and began to murmur shyly
something about being very glad of his good
opinion, when Haldin raised his hand.
"That is what I was saying to myself," he
continued, "as I dodged in the woodyard down by
the river-side. 'He has a strong character this
young man,' I said to myself. 'He does not
throw his soul to the winds.' Your reserve has
always fascinated me, Kirylo Sidorovitch. So I
tried to remember your address. But look here--
it was a piece of luck. Your dvornik was away
from the gate talking to a sleigh-driver on the
other side of the street. I met no one on the
stairs, not a soul. As I came up to your floor
I caught sight of your landlady coming out of
your rooms. But she did not see me. She
crossed the landing to her own side, and then I
slipped in. I have been here two hours
expecting you to come in every moment."
Razumov had listened in astonishment; but before
he could open his mouth Haldin added, speaking
deliberately," It was I who removed de P---
this morning." Razumov kept down a cry of
dismay. The sentiment of his life being utterly
ruined by this contact with such a crime
expressed itself quaintly by a sort of half-
derisive mental exclamation, "There goes my
Haldin continued after waiting a while--
"You say nothing, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I
understand your silence. To be sure, I cannot
expect you with your frigid English manner to
embrace me. But never mind your manners. You
have enough heart to have heard the sound of
weeping and gnashing of teeth this man raised in
the land. That would be enough to get over any
philosophical hopes. He was uprooting the
tender plant. He had to be stopped. He was a
dangerous man--a convinced man. Three more
years of his work would have put us back fifty
years into bondage--and look at all the lives
wasted, at all the souls lost in that time."
His curt, self-confident voice suddenly lost its
ring and it was in a dull tone that he added,
"Yes, brother, I have killed him. It's weary
Razumov had sunk into a chair. Every moment he
expected a crowd of policemen to rush in. There
must have been thousands of them out looking for
that man walking up and down in his room.
Haldin was talking again in a restrained, steady
voice. Now and then he flourished an arm,
slowly, without excitement.
He told Razumov how he had brooded for a year;
how he had not slept properly for weeks. He and
"Another " had a warning of the Minister's
movements from "a certain person" late the
evening before. He and that "Another" prepared
their "engines" and resolved to have no sleep
till "the deed" was done. They walked the
streets under the falling snow with the
"engines" on them, exchanging not a word the
livelong night. When they happened to meet a
police patrol they took each other by the arm
and pretended to be a couple of peasants on the
spree. They reeled and talked in drunken hoarse
voices. Except for these strange outbreaks they
kept silence, moving on ceaselessly. Their
plans had been previously arranged. At daybreak
they made their way to the spot which they knew
the sledge must pass. When it appeared in sight
they exchanged a muttered good-bye and
separated. The "other" remained at the corner,
Haldin took up a position a little farther up
the street. . . .
After throwing his "engine" he ran off and in a
moment was overtaken by the panic-struck people
flying away from the spot after the second
explosion. They were wild with terror. He was
jostled once or twice. He slowed down for the
rush to pass him and then turned to the left
into a narrow street. There he was alone.
He marvelled at this immediate escape. The work
was done. He could hardly believe it. He
fought with an almost irresistible longing to
lie down on the pavement and sleep. But this
sort of faintness--a drowsy faintness--passed
off quickly. He walked faster, making his way
to one of the poorer parts of the town in order
to look up Ziemianitch.
This Ziemianitch, Razumov understood, was a sort
of town-peasant who had got on; owner of a small
number of sledges and horses for hire. Haldin
paused in his narrative to exclaim--
"A bright spirit ! A hardy soul! The best driver
in St. Petersburg. He has a team of three
horses there. . . . Ah! He's a fellow!"
This man had declared himself willing to take
out safely, at any time, one or two persons to
the second or third railway station on one of
the southern lines. But there had been no time
to warn him the night before. His usual haunt
seemed to be a low-class eating-house on the
outskirts of the town. When Haldin got there
the man was not to be found. He was not
expected to turn up again till the evening.
Haldin wandered away restlessly.
He saw the gate of a woodyard open and went in
to get out of the wind which swept the bleak
broad thoroughfare. The great rectangular piles
of cut wood loaded with snow resembled the huts
of a village. At first the watchman who
discovered him crouching amongst them talked in
a friendly manner. He was a dried-up old man
wearing two ragged army coats one over the
other; his wizened little face, tied up under
the jaw and over the ears in a dirty red
handkerchief, looked comical. Presently he grew
sulky, and then all at once without rhyme or
reason began to shout furiously.
"Aren't you ever going to clear out of this, you
loafer ? We know all about factory hands of
your sort. A big, strong, young chap! You
aren't even drunk. What do you want here? You
don't frighten us. Take yourself and your ugly
Haldin stopped before the sitting Razumov. His
supple figure, with the white forehead above
which the fair hair stood straight up, had an
aspect of lofty daring.
" He did not like my eyes," he said. "And so. .
.here I am."
Razumov made an effort to speak calmly.
"But pardon me, Victor Victorovitch. We know
each other so little. . . . I don't see why you
. . . ."
" Confidence," said Haldin.
This word sealed Razumov's lips as if a hand had
been clapped on his mouth. His brain seethed
"And so--here you are," he muttered through his
The other did not detect the tone of anger.
Never suspected it.
"Yes. And nobody knows I am here. You are the
last person that could be suspected--should I
get caught. That's an advantage, you see. And
then--speaking to a superior mind like yours I
can well say all the truth. It occurred to me
that you--you have no one belonging to you--no
ties, no one to suffer for it if this came out
by some means. There have been enough ruined
Russian homes as it is. But I don't see how my
passage through your rooms can be ever known.
If I should be got hold of, I'll know how to
keep silent--no matter what they may be pleased
to do to me," he added grimly.
He began to walk again while Razumov sat still
"You thought that--" he faltered out almost sick
"Yes, Razumov. Yes, brother. Some day you
shall help to build. You suppose that I am a
terrorist, now--a destructor of what is, But
consider that the true destroyers are they who
destroy the spirit of progress and truth, not
the avengers who merely kill the bodies of the
persecutors of human dignity. Men like me are
necessary to make room for self-contained,
thinking men like you. Well, we have made the
sacrifice of our lives, but all the same I want
to escape if it can be done. It is not my life
I want to save, but my power to do. I won't
live idle. Oh no! Don't make any mistake,
Razumov. Men like me are rare. And, besides,
an example like this is more awful to oppressors
when the perpetrator vanishes without a trace.
They sit in their offices and palaces and quake.
All I want you to do is to help me to vanish.
No great matter that. Only to go by and by and
see Ziemianitch for me at that place where I
went this morning. Just tell him, 'He whom you
know wants a well-horsed sledge to pull up half
an hour after midnight at the seventh lamp-post
on the left counting from the upper end of
Karabelnaya. If nobody gets in, the sledge is
to run round a block or two, so as to come back
past the same spot in ten minutes' time.' "
Razumov wondered why he had not cut short that
talk and told this man to go away long before.
Was it weakness or what?
He concluded that it was a sound instinct.
Haldin must have been seen. It was impossible
that some people should not have noticed the
face and appearance of the man who threw the
second bomb. Haldin was a noticeable person.
The police in their thousands must have had his
description within the hour. With every moment
the danger grew. Sent out to wander in the
streets he could not escape being caught in the
The police would very soon find out all about
him. They would set about discovering a
conspiracy. Everybody Haldin had ever known
would be in the greatest danger. Unguarded
expressions, little facts in themselves innocent
would be counted for crimes. Razumov remembered
certain words he said, the speeches he had
listened to, the harmless gatherings he had
attended--it was almost impossible for a student
to keep out of that sort of thing, without
becoming suspect to his comrades.
Razumov saw himself shut up in a fortress,
worried, badgered, perhaps ill-used. He saw
himself deported by an administrative order, his
life broken, ruined, and robbed of all hope. He
saw himself--at best--leading a miserable
existence under police supervision, in some
small, faraway provincial town, without friends
to assist his necessities or even take any steps
to alleviate his lot--as others had. Others had
fathers, mothers, brothers, relations,
connexions, to move heaven and earth on their
behalf--he had no one. The very officials that
sentenced him some morning would forget his
existence before sunset.
He saw his youth pass away from him in misery
and half starvation--his strength give way, his
mind become an abject thing. He saw himself
creeping, broken down and shabby, about the
streets--dying unattended in some filthy hole of
a room, or on the sordid bed of a Government
He shuddered. Then the peace of bitter calmness
came over him. It was best to keep this man out
of the streets till he could be got rid of with
some chance of escaping. That was the best that
could be done. Razumov, of course, felt the
safety of his lonely existence to be permanently
endangered. This evening's doings could turn up
against him at any time as long as this man
lived and the present institutions endured.
They appeared to him rational and indestructible
at that moment. They had a force of harmony--in
contrast with the horrible discord of this man's
presence. He hated the man. He said quietly--
"Yes, of course, I will go. 'You must give me
precise directions, and for the rest--depend on
"Ah! You are a fellow! Collected--cool as a
cucumber. A regular Englishman. Where did you
get your soul from? There aren't many like you.
Look here, brother! Men like me leave no
posterity, but their souls are not lost. No
man's soul is ever lost. It works for itself--
or else where would be the sense of self-
sacrifice, of martyrdom, of conviction, of faith-
-the labours of the soul? What will become of
my soul when I die in the way I must die--soon--
very soon perhaps? It shall not perish. Don't
make a mistake, Razumov. This is not murder--it
is war, war. My spirit shall go on warring in
some Russian body till all falsehood is swept
out of the world. The modern civilization is
false, but a new revelation shall come out of
Russia. Ha! you say nothing. You are a
sceptic. I respect your philosophical
scepticism, Razumov, but don't touch the soul.
The Russian soul that lives in all of us. It
has a future. It has a mission, I tell you, or
else why should I have been moved to do this--
reckless--like a butcher--in the middle of all
these innocent people--scattering death--I! I!
. . . I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"Not so loud," warned Razumov harshly.
Haldin sat down abruptly, and leaning his head
on his folded arms burst into tears. He wept
for a long time. The dusk had deepened in the
room. Razumov, motionless in sombre wonder,
listened to the sobs.
The other raised his head, got up and with an
effort mastered his voice.
"Yes. Men like me leave no posterity," he
repeated in a subdued tone." I have a sister
though. She's with my old mother--I persuaded
them to go abroad this year--thank God. Not a
bad little girl my sister. She has the most
trustful eyes of any human being that ever
walked this earth. She will marry well, I hope.
She may have children--sons perhaps. Look at
me. My father was a Government official in the
provinces, He had a little land too. A simple
servant of God--a true Russian in his way. His
was the soul of obedience. But I am not like
him. They say I resemble my mother's eldest
brother, an officer. They shot him in '28.
Under Nicholas, you know. Haven't I told you
that this is war, war. . . . But God of
Justice! This is weary work."
Razumov, in his chair, leaning his head on his
hand, spoke as if from the bottom of an abyss.
"You believe in God, Haldin? "
"There you go catching at words that are wrung
from one. What does it matter? What was it the
Englishman said: 'There is a divine soul in
things . . . ' Devil take him--I don't remember
now. But he spoke the truth. When the day of
you thinkers comes don't you forget what's
divine in the Russian soul--and that's
resignation. Respect that in your intellectual
restlessness and don't let your arrogant wisdom
spoil its message to the world. I am speaking
to you now like a man with a rope round his
neck. What do you imagine I am? A being in
revolt? No. It's you thinkers who are in
everlasting revolt. I am one of the resigned.
When the necessity of this heavy work came to me
and I understood that it had to be done--what
did I do? Did I exult? Did I take pride in my
purpose? Did I try to weigh its worth and
consequences? No! I was resigned. I thought
'God's will be done.'"
He threw himself full length on Razumov's bed
and putting the backs of his hands over his eyes
remained perfectly motionless and silent. Not
even the sound of his breathing could be heard.
The dead stillness or the room remained
undisturbed till in the darkness Razumov said
"Yes," answered the other readily, quite
invisible now on the bed and without the
"Isn't it time for me to start?"
"Yes, brother." The other was heard, lying
still in the darkness as though he were talking
in his sleep. "The time has come to put fate to
He paused, then gave a few lucid directions in
the quiet impersonal voice of a man in a trance.
Razumov made ready without a word of answer.
As he was leaving the room the voice on the bed
said after him--
"Go with God, thou silent soul."
On the landing, moving softly, Razumov locked
the door and put the key in his pocket.
The words and events of that evening must have
been graven as if with a steel tool on Mr.
Razumov's brain since he was able to write his
relation with such fullness and precision a good
many months afterwards.
The record of the thoughts which assailed him in
the street is even more minute and abundant.
They seem to have rushed upon him with the
greater freedom because his thinking powers were
no longer crushed by Haldin's presence--the
appalling presence of a great crime and the
stunning force of a great fanaticism. On
looking through the pages of Mr. Razumov's diary
I own that a "rush of thoughts" is not an
The more adequate description would be a tumult
of thoughts--the faithful reflection of the
state of his feelings. The thoughts in
themselves were not numerous--they were like the
thoughts of most human beings, few and simple--
but they cannot be reproduced here in all their
exclamatory repetitions which went on in an
endless and weary turmoil--for the walk was long.
If to the Western reader they appear shocking,
inappropriate, or even improper, it must be
remembered that as to the first this may be the
effect of my crude statement. For the rest I
will only remark here that this is not a story
of the West of Europe.
Nations it may be have fashioned their
Governments, but the Governments have paid them
back in the same coin. It is unthinkable that
any young Englishman should find himself in
Razumov's situation. This being so it would be
a vain enterprise to imagine what he would
think. The only safe surmise to make is that he
would not think as Mr. Razumov thought at this
crisis of his fate. He would not have an
hereditary and personal knowledge or the means
by which historical autocracy represses ideas,
guards its power, and defends its existence. By
an act of mental extravagance he might imagine
himself arbitrarily thrown into prison, but it
would never occur to him unless he were
delirious (and perhaps not even then) that he
could be beaten with whips as a practical
measure either of investigation or of punishment.
This is but a crude and obvious example of the
different conditions of Western thought. I
don't know that this danger occurred, specially,
to Mr. Razumov. No doubt it entered
unconsciously into the general dread and the
general appallingness of this crisis. Razumov,
as has been seen, was aware of more subtle ways
in which an individual may be undone by the
proceedings of a despotic Government. A simple
expulsion from the University (the very least
that could happen to him), with an impossibility
to continue his studies anywhere, was enough to
ruin utterly a young man depending entirely upon
the development of his natural abilities for his
place in the world. He was a Russian: and for
him to be implicated meant simply sinking into
the lowest social depths amongst the hopeless
and the destitute--the night birds of the city.
The peculiar circumstances of Razumov's
parentage, or rather of his lack of parentage,
should be taken into the account of his
thoughts. And he remembered them too. He had
been lately reminded of them in a peculiarly
atrocious way by this fatal Haldin. "Because I
haven't that, must everything else be taken away
from me?" he thought.
He nerved himself for another effort to go on.
Along the roadway sledges glided phantom-like
and jingling through a fluttering whiteness on
the black face of the night. "For it is a
crime," he was saying to himself. "A murder is
a murder. Though, of course, some sort of
liberal institutions. . . ."
A feeling of horrible sickness came over him.
"I must be courageous," he exhorted himself
mentally. All his strength was suddenly gone as
if taken out by a hand. Then by a mighty effort
of will it came back because he was afraid of
fainting in the street and being picked up by
the police with the key of his lodgings in his
pocket. They would find Haldin there, and then,
indeed, he would be undone.
Strangely enough it was this fear which seems to
have kept him up to the end. The passers-by
were rare. They came upon him suddenly, looming
up black in the snowflakes close by, then
vanishing all at once-without footfalls.
It was the quarter of the very poor. Razumov
noticed an elderly woman tied up in ragged
shawls. Under the street lamp she seemed a
beggar off duty. She walked leisurely in the
blizzard as though she had no home to hurry to,
she hugged under one arm a round loaf of black
bread with an air of guarding a priceless booty:
and Razumov averting his glance envied her the
peace of her mind and the serenity of her fate.
To one reading Mr. Razumov's narrative it is
really a wonder how he managed to keep going as
he did along one interminable street after
another on pavements that were gradually
becoming blocked with snow. It was the thought
of Haldin locked up in his rooms and the
desperate desire to get rid of his presence
which drove him forward. No rational
determination had any part in his exertions.
Thus, when on arriving at the low eating-house
he heard that the man of horses, Ziemianitch,
was not there, he could only stare stupidly.
The waiter, a wild-haired youth in tarred boots
and a pink shirt, exclaimed, uncovering his pale
gums in a silly grin, that Ziemianitch had got
his skinful early in the afternoon and had gone
away with a bottle under each arm to keep it up
amongst the horses--he supposed.
The owner of the vile den, a bony short man in a
dirty cloth caftan coming down to his heels,
stood by, his hands tucked into his belt, and
The reek of spirits, the greasy rancid steam of
food got Razumov by the throat. He struck a
table with his clenched hand and shouted
Bleary unwashed faces were turned to his
direction. A mild-eyed ragged tramp drinking
tea at the next table moved farther away. A
murmur of wonder arose with an undertone of
uneasiness. A laugh was heard too, and an
exclamation, "There! there!" jeeringly soothing.
The waiter looked all round and announced to
"The gentleman won't believe that Ziemianitch is
>From a distant corner a hoarse voice belonging
to a horrible, nondescript, shaggy being with a
black face like the muzzle of a bear grunted
"The cursed driver of thieves. What do we want
with his gentlemen here? We are all honest folk
in this place."
Razumov, biting his lip till blood came to keep
himself from bursting into imprecations,
followed the owner of the den, who, whispering
"Come along, little father," led him into a tiny
hole of a place behind the wooden counter,
whence proceeded a sound of splashing. A wet
and bedraggled creature, a sort of sexless and
shivering scarecrow, washed glasses in there,
bending over a wooden tub by the light of a
"Yes, little father," the man in the long caftan
said plaintively. He had a brown, cunning
little face, a thin greyish beard. Trying to
light a tin lantern he hugged it to his breast
and talked garrulously the while.
He would show Ziemianitch to the gentleman to
prove there were no lies told. And he would
show him drunk. His woman, it seems, ran away
from him last night. "Such a hag she was!
Thin! Pfui!" He spat. They were always
running away from that driver of the devil--and
he sixty years old too; could never get used to
it. But each heart knows sorrow after its own
kind and Ziemianitch was a born fool all his
days. And then he would fly to the bottle.
"'Who could bear life in our land without the
bottle?' he says. A proper Russian man--the
little pig. . . . Be pleased to follow me."
Razumov crossed a quadrangle of deep snow
enclosed between high walls with innumerable
windows. Here and there a dim yellow light hung
within the four-square mass of darkness. The
house was an enormous slum, a hive of human
vermin, a monumental abode of misery towering on
the verge of starvation and despair.
In a corner the ground sloped sharply down, and
Razumov followed the light of the lantern
through a small doorway into a long cavernous
place like a neglected subterranean byre. Deep
within, three shaggy little horses tied up to
rings hung their heads together, motionless and
shadowy in the dim light of the lantern. It
must have been the famous team of Haldin's
escape. Razumov peered fearfully into the
gloom. His guide pawed in the straw with his
"Here he is. Ah! the little pigeon. A true
Russian man. 'No heavy hearts for me,' he says.
'Bring out the bottle and take your ugly mug
out of my sight.' Ha! ha! ha! That's the fellow
He held the lantern over a prone form of a man,
apparently fully dressed for outdoors. His head
was lost in a pointed cloth hood. On the other
side of a heap of straw protruded a pair of feet
in monstrous thick boots.
" Always ready to drive," commented the keeper
of the eating-house. "A proper Russian driver
that. Saint or devil, night or day is all one
to Ziemianitch when his heart is free from
sorrow. 'I don't ask who you are, but where you
want to go,' he says. He would drive Satan
himself to his own abode and come back
chirruping to his horses. Many a one he has
driven who is clanking his chains in the
Nertchinsk mines by this time."
"Call him, wake him up," he faltered out.
The other set down his light, stepped back and
launched a kick at the prostrate sleeper. The
man shook at the impact but did not move. At
the third kick he grunted but remained inert as
The eating-house keeper desisted and fetched a
"You see for yourself how it is. We have done
what we can for you."
He picked up the lantern. The intense black
spokes of shadow swung about in the circle of
light. A terrible fury--the blind rage of self-
" Ah! The vile beast," he bellowed out in an
unearthly tone which made the lantern jump and
tremble! "I shall wake you! Give me . . .give
me . . ."
He looked round wildly, seized the handle of a
stablefork and rushing forward struck at the
prostrate body with inarticulate cries. After a
time his cries ceased, and the rain of blows
fell in the stillness and shadows of the cellar-
like stable. Razumov belaboured Ziemianitch
with an insatiable fury, in great volleys of
sounding thwacks. Except for the violent
movements of Razumov nothing stirred, neither
the beaten man nor the spoke-like shadows on the
walls. And only the sound of blows was heard.
It was a weird scene.
Suddenly there was a sharp crack. The stick
broke and half of it flew far away into the
gloom beyond the light. At the same time
Ziemianitch sat up. At this Razumov became as
motionless as the man with the lantern--only his
breast heaved for air as if ready to burst.
Some dull sensation of pain must have penetrated
at last the consoling night of drunkenness
enwrapping the "bright Russian soul" of Haldin's
enthusiastic praise. But Ziemianitch evidently
saw nothing. His eyeballs blinked all white in
the light once, twice--then the gleam went out.
For a moment he sat in the straw with closed
eyes with a strange air of weary meditation,
then fell over slowly on his side without making
the slightest sound. Only the straw rustled a
little. Razumov stared wildly, fighting for his
breath. After a second or two he heard a light
He flung from him the piece of stick remaining
in his grasp, and went off with great hasty
strides without looking back once.
After going heedlessly for some fifty yards
along the street he walked into a snowdrift and
was up to his knees before he stopped.
This recalled him to himself; and glancing about
he discovered he had been going in the wrong
direction. He retraced his steps, but now at a
more moderate pace. When passing before the
house he had just left he flourished his fist at
the sombre refuge of misery and crime rearing
its sinister bulk on the white ground. It had
an air of brooding. He let his arm fall by his
Ziemianitch's passionate surrender to sorrow and
consolation had baffled him. That was the
people. A true Russian man! Razumov was glad
he had beaten that brute--the "bright soul" of
the other. Here they were: the people and the
Between the two he was done for. Between the
drunkenness of the peasant incapable of action
and the dream-intoxication of the idealist
incapable of perceiving the reason of things,
and the true character of men. It was a sort of
terrible childishness. But children had their
masters. "Ah! the stick, the stick, the stern
hand," thought Razumov, longing for power to
hurt and destroy.
He was glad he had thrashed that brute. The
physical exertion had left his body in a
comfortable glow. His mental agitation too was
clarified as if all the feverishness had gone
out of him in a fit of outward violence.
Together with the persisting sense of terrible
danger he was conscious now of a tranquil,
He walked slower and slower. And indeed,
considering the guest he had in his rooms, it
was no wonder he lingered on the way. It was
like harbouring a pestilential disease that
would not perhaps take your life, but would take
from you all that made life worth living--a
subtle pest that would convert earth into a hell.
What was he doing now? Lying on the bed as if
dead, with the back of his hands over his eyes ?
Razumov had a morbidly vivid vision of Haldin
on his bed--the white pillow hollowed by the
head, the legs in long boots, the upturned feet.
And in his abhorrence he said to himself, "I'll
kill him when I get home." But he knew very
well that that was of no use. The corpse
hanging round his neck would be nearly as fatal
as the living man. Nothing short of complete
annihilation would do. And that was impossible.
What then? Must one kill oneself to escape
this visitation ?
Razumov's despair was too profoundly tinged with
hate to accept that issue.
And yet it was despair--nothing less--at the
thought of having to live with Haldin for an
indefinite number of days in mortal alarm at
every sound. But perhaps when he heard that
this "bright soul" of Ziemianitch suffered from
a drunken eclipse the fellow would take his
infernal resignation somewhere else. And that
was not likely on the face of it.
Razumov thought: "I am being crushed--and I
can't even run away." Other men had somewhere a
corner of the earth--some little house in the
provinces where they had a right to take their
troubles. A material refuge. He had nothing.
He had not even a moral refuge--the refuge of
confidence. To whom could he go with this tale--
in all this great, great land?
Razumov stamped his foot--and under the soft
carpet of snow felt the hard ground of Russia,
inanimate, cold, inert, like a sullen and tragic
mother hiding her face under a winding-sheet--
his native soil!--his very own--without a
fireside, without a heart!
He cast his eyes upwards and stood amazed. The
snow had ceased to fall, and now, as if by a
miracle, he saw above his head the clear black
sky of the northern winter, decorated with the
sumptuous fires of the stars. It was a canopy
fit for the resplendent purity of the snows.
Razumov received an almost physical impression
of endless space and of countless millions.
He responded to it with the readiness of a
Russian who is born to an inheritance of space
and numbers. Under the sumptuous immensity of
the sky, the snow covered the endless forests,
the frozen rivers, the plains of an immense
country, obliterating the landmarks, the
accidents of the ground, levelling everything
under its uniform whiteness, like a monstrous
blank page awaiting the record of an
inconceivable history. It covered the passive
land with its lives of countless people like
Ziemianitch and its handful of agitators like
this Haldin--murdering foolishly.
It was a sort of sacred inertia. Razumov felt a
respect for it. A voice seemed to cry within
him, "Don't touch it." It was a guarantee of
duration, of safety, while the travail of
maturing destiny went on--a work not of
revolutions with their passionate levity of
action and their shifting impulses--but of
peace. What it needed was not the conflicting
aspirations of a people, but a will strong and
one: it wanted not the babble of many voices,
but a man--strong and one!
Razumov stood on the point of conversion. He
was fascinated by its approach, by its
overpowering logic. For a train of thought is
never false. The falsehood lies deep in the
necessities of existence, in secret fears and
half-formed ambitions, in the secret confidence
combined with a secret mistrust of ourselves, in
the love of hope and the dread of uncertain days.
In Russia, the land of spectral ideas and
disembodied aspirations, many brave minds have
turned away at last from the vain and endless
conflict to the one great historical fact of the
land. They turned to autocracy for the peace of
their patriotic conscience as a weary
unbeliever, touched by grace, turns to the faith
of his fathers for the blessing of spiritual
rest. Like other Russians before him, Razumov,
in conflict with himself, felt the touch of
grace upon his forehead.
"Haldin means disruption," he thought to
himself, beginning to walk again. " What is he
with his indignation, with his talk of bondage--
with his talk of God's justice? All that means
disruption. Better that thousands should suffer
than that a people should become a disintegrated
mass, helpless like dust in the wind.
Obscurantism is better than the light of
incendiary torches. The seed germinates in the
night. Out of the dark soil springs the perfect
plant. But a volcanic eruption is sterile, the
ruin of the fertile ground. And am I, who love
my country--who have nothing but that to love
and put my faith in--am I to have my future,
perhaps my usefulness, ruined by this sanguinary
The grace entered into Razumov. He believed now
in the man who would come at the appointed time.
What is a throne? A few pieces of wood
upholstered in velvet. But a throne is a seat
of power too. The form of government is the
shape of a tool--an instrument. But twenty
thousand bladders inflated by the noblest
sentiments and jostling against each other in
the air are a miserable incumbrance of space,
holding no power, possessing no will, having
nothing to give.
He went on thus, heedless of the way, holding a
discourse with himself with extraordinary
abundance and facility. Generally his phrases
came to him slowly, after a conscious and
painstaking wooing. Some superior power had
inspired him with a flow of masterly argument as
certain converted sinners become overwhelmingly
He felt an austere exultation.
"What are the luridly smoky lucubrations of that
fellow to the clear grasp of my intellect?" he
thought. "Is not this my country? Have I not
got forty million brothers?" he asked himself,
unanswerably victorious in the silence of his
breast. And the fearful thrashing he had given
the inanimate Ziemianitch seemed to him a sign
of intimate union, a pathetically severe
necessity of brotherly love. "No! If I must
suffer let me at least suffer for my
convictions, not for a crime my reason--my cool
He ceased to think for a moment. The silence in
his breast was complete. But he felt a
suspicious uneasiness, such as we may experience
when we enter an unlighted strange place--the
irrational feeling that something may jump upon
us in the dark--the absurd dread of the unseen.
Of course he was far from being a moss-grown
reactionary. Everything was not for the best.
Despotic bureaucracy. . . abuses. . .
corruption. . . and so on. Capable men were
wanted. Enlightened intelligences. Devoted
hearts. But absolute power should be preserved--
the tool ready for the man--for the great
autocrat of the future. Razumov believed in
him. The logic of history made him unavoidable.
The state of the people demanded him, "What
else?" he asked himself ardently, "could move
all that mass in one direction? Nothing could.
Nothing but a single will."
He was persuaded that he was sacrificing his
personal longings of liberalism--rejecting the
attractive error for the stern Russian truth.
"That's patriotism," he observed mentally, and
added, "There's no stopping midway on that
road," and then remarked to himself, "I am not a
And again there was a dead silence in Razumov's
breast. He walked with lowered head, making
room for no one. He walked slowly and his
thoughts returning spoke within him with solemn
"What is this Haldin? And what am I? Only two
grains of sand. But a great mountain is made up
of just such insignificant grains. And the
death of a man or of many men is an
insignificant thing. Yet we combat a contagious
pestilence. Do I want his death? No! I would
save him if I could--but no one can do that--he
is the withered member which must be cut off.
If I must perish through him, let me at least
not perish with him, and associated against my
will with his sombre folly that understands
nothing either of men or things. Why should I
leave a false memory?"
It passed through his mind that there was no one
in the world who cared what sort of memory he
left behind him. He exclaimed to himself
instantly, "Perish vainly for a falsehood! . . .
What a miserable fate!"
He was now in a more animated part of the town.
He did not remark the crash of two colliding
sledges close to the curb. The driver of one
bellowed tearfully at his fellow-
" Oh, thou vile wretch!"
This hoarse yell, let out nearly in his ear,
disturbed Razumov. He shook his head
impatiently and went on looking straight before
him. Suddenly on the snow, stretched on his
back right across his path, he saw Haldin,
solid, distinct, real, with his inverted hands
over his eyes, clad in a brown close-fitting
coat and long boots. He was lying out of the
way a little, as though he had selected that
place on purpose. The snow round him was
This hallucination had such a solidity of aspect
that the first movement of Razumov was to reach
for his pocket to assure himself that the key of
his rooms was there. But he checked the impulse
with a disdainful curve of his lips. He
understood. His thought, concentrated intensely
on the figure left lying on his bed, had
culminated in this extraordinary illusion of the
sight. Razumov tackled the phenomenon calmly.
With a stern face, without a check and gazing
far beyond the vision, he walked on,
experiencing nothing but a slight tightening of
the chest. After passing he turned his head for
a glance, and saw only the unbroken track of his
footsteps over the place where the breast of the
phantom had been lying.
Razumov walked on and after a little time
whispered his wonder to himself.
"Exactly as if alive! Seemed to breathe! And
right in my way too! I have had an
He made a few steps and muttered through his set
"I shall give him up."
Then for some twenty yards or more all was
blank. He wrapped his cloak closer round him.
He pulled his cap well forward over his eyes.
"Betray. A great word. What is betrayal? They
talk of a man betraying his country, his
friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral
bond first. All a man can betray is his
conscience. And how is my conscience engaged
here; by what bond of common faith, of common
conviction, am I obliged to let that fanatical
idiot drag me down with him? On the contrary--
every obligation of true courage is the other
Razumov looked round from under his cap.
"What can the prejudice of the world reproach me
with? Have I provoked his confidence? No!
Have I by a single word, look, or gesture given
him reason to suppose that I accepted his trust
in me? No! It is true that I consented to go
and see his Ziemianitch. Well, I have been to
see him. And I broke a stick on his back too--
Something seemed to turn over in his head
bringing uppermost a singularly hard, clear
facet of his brain.
"It would be better, however," he reflected with
a quite different mental accent, "to keep that
circumstance altogether to myself."
He had passed beyond the turn leading to his
lodgings, and had reached a wide and fashionable
street. Some shops were still open, and all the
restaurants. Lights fell on the pavement where
men in expensive fur coats, with here and there
the elegant figure of a woman, walked with an
air of leisure. Razumov looked at them with the
contempt of an austere believer for the
frivolous crowd. It was the world--those
officers, dignitaries, men of fashion,
officials, members of the Yacht Club. The event
of the morning affected them all. What would
they say if they knew what this student in a
cloak was going to do?
"Not one of them is capable of feeling and
thinking as deeply as I can. How many of them
could accomplish an act of conscience?"
Razumov lingered in the well-lighted street. He
was firmly decided. Indeed, it could hardly be
called a decision. He had simply discovered
what he had meant to do all along. And yet he
felt the need of some other mind's sanction.
With something resembling anguish he said to
"I want to be understood." The universal
aspiration with all its profound and melancholy
meaning assailed heavily Razumov, who, amongst
eighty millions of his kith and kin, had no
heart to which he could open himself.
The attorney was not to be thought of. He
despised the little agent of chicane too much.
One could not go and lay one's conscience before
the policeman at the corner. Neither was
Razumov anxious to go to the chief of his
district's police--a common-looking person whom
he used to see sometimes in the street in a
shabby uniform and with a smouldering cigarette
stuck to his lower lip. "He would begin by
locking me up most probably. At any rate, he is
certain to get excited and create an awful
commotion," thought Razumov practically
An act of conscience must be done with outward
Razumov longed desperately for a word of advice,
for moral support. Who knows what true
loneliness is--not the conventional word, but
the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it
wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs
some memory or some illusion. Now and then a
fatal conjunction of events may lift the veil
for an instant. For an instant only. No human
being could bear a steady view of moral solitude
without going mad.
Razumov had reached that point of vision. To
escape from it he embraced for a whole minute
the delirious purpose of rushing to his lodgings
and flinging himself on his knees by the side of
the bed with the dark figure stretched on it; to
pour out a full confession in passionate words
that would stir the whole being of that man to
its innermost depths; that would end in embraces
and tears; in an incredible fellowship of souls--
such as the world had never seen. It was
Inwardly he wept and trembled already. But to
the casual eyes that were cast upon him he was
aware that he appeared as a tranquil student in
a cloak, out for a leisurely stroll. He noted,
too, the sidelong, brilliant glance of a pretty
woman--with a delicate head, and covered in the
hairy skins of wild beasts down to her feet,
like a frail and beautiful savage--which rested
for a moment with a sort of mocking tenderness
on the deep abstraction of that good-looking
Suddenly Razumov stood still. The glimpse of a
passing grey whisker, caught and lost in the
same instant, had evoked the complete image of
Prince K---, the man who once had pressed his
hand as no other man had pressed it--a faint but
lingering pressure like a secret sign, like a
And Razumov marvelled at himself. Why did he
not think of him before!
"A senator, a dignitary, a great personage, the
A strange softening emotion came over Razumov--
made his knees shake a little. He repressed it
with a new-born austerity. All that sentiment
was pernicious nonsense. He couldn't be quick
enough; and when he got into a sledge he shouted
to the driver--
"to the K--- Palace. Get on--you! Fly!" The
startled moujik, bearded up to the very whites
of his eyes, answered obsequiously--
"I hear, your high Nobility."
It was lucky for Razumov that Prince K--- was
not a man of timid character. On the day of Mr.
de P---'s murder an extreme alarm and
despondency prevailed in the high official
Prince K---, sitting sadly alone in his study,
was told by his alarmed servants that a
mysterious young man had forced his way into the
hall, refused to tell his name and the nature of
his business, and would not move from there till
he had seen his Excellency in private. Instead
of locking himself up and telephoning for the
police, as nine out of ten high personages would
have done that evening, the Prince gave way to
curiosity and came quietly to the door of his
In the hall, the front door standing wide open,
he recognised at once Razumov, pale as death,
his eyes blazing, and surrounded by perplexed
The Prince was vexed beyond measure, and even
indignant. But his humane instincts and a
subtle sense of self-respect could not allow him
to let this young man be thrown out into the
street by base menials. He retreated unseen
into his room, and after a little rang his bell.
Razumov heard in the hall an ominously raised
harsh voice saying somewhere far away--
"Show the gentleman in here."
Razumov walked in without a tremor. He felt
himself invulnerable--raised far above the
shallowness of common judgment. Though he saw
the Prince looking at him with black
displeasure, the lucidity of his mind, of which
he was very conscious, gave him an extraordinary
assurance. He was not asked to sit down.
Half an hour later they appeared in the hall
together. The lackeys stood up, and the Prince,
moving with difficulty on his gouty feet, was
helped into his furs. The carriage had been
ordered before. When the great double door was
flung open with a crash, Razumov, who had been
standing silent with a lost gaze but with every
faculty intensely on the alert, heard the
"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
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
"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--
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
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
"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
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
"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
The Prince's voice immediately exclaimed, thick
"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
Sitting down before his desk the General
listened with compressed lips. It was
impossible to detect any sign of emotion on his
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
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
All this went over the head of Prince K---
seated in a deep armchair, very tired and
"A student called Haldin," said the General
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
Razumov sat down carelessly and looked at the
"This goggle-eyed imbecile understands nothing,"
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
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."