Part 6 out of 8
to produce an excellent impression. Madame de S-
-- looked meaningly into Peter Ivanovitch's
spectacles, as if to convey her conviction of
this young man's merit. She even nodded the
least bit in his direction, and Razumov heard
her murmur under her breath the words, " Later
on in the diplomatic service," which could not
but refer to the favourable impression he had
made. The fantastic absurdity of it revolted
him because it seemed to outrage his ruined
hopes with the vision of a mock-career. Peter
Ivanovitch, impassive as though he were deaf,
drank some more tea. Razumov felt that he must
"Yes," he began deliberately, as if uttering a
meditated opinion. "Clearly. Even in planning
a purely military revolution the temper of the
people should be taken into account."
"You have understood me perfectly. The
discontent should be spiritualized. That is
what the ordinary heads of revolutionary
committees will not understand. They aren't
capable of it. For instance, Mordatiev was in
Geneva last month. Peter Ivanovitch brought him
here. You know Mordatiev? Well, yes--you have
heard of him. They call him an eagle--a hero!
He has never done half as much as you have.
Never attempted--not half. . . ."
Madame de S--- agitated herself angularly on the
"We, of course, talked to him. And do you know
what he said to me? 'What have we to do with
Balkan intrigues? We must simply extirpate the
scoundrels.' Extirpate is all very well--but
what then? The imbecile! I screamed at him,
'But you must spiritualize--don't you
understand?--spiritualize the discontent.'. . ."
She felt nervously in her pocket for a
handkerchief; she pressed it to her lips.
"Spiritualize?" said Razumov interrogatively,
watching her heaving breast. The long ends of
an old black lace scarf she wore over her head
slipped off her shoulders and hung down on each
side of her ghastly rosy cheeks.
"An odious creature," she burst out again.
"Imagine a man who takes five lumps of sugar in
his tea. . . . Yes, I said spiritualize! How
else can you make discontent effective and
"Listen to this, young man." Peter Ivanovitch
made himself heard solemnly. "Effective and
Razumov looked at him suspiciously.
"Some say hunger will do that," he remarked.
"Yes. I know. Our people are starving in
heaps. But you can't make famine universal.
And it is not despair that we want to create.
There is no moral support to be got out of that.
It is indignation. . . ."
Madame de S--- let her thin, extended arm sink
on her knees.
"I am not a Mordatiev," began Razumov.
"Bien sur!" murmured Madame de S---.
"Though I too am ready to say extirpate,
extirpate! But in my ignorance of political
work, permit me to ask: A Balkan--well--
intrigue, wouldn't that take a very long time?"
Peter Ivanovitch got up and moved off quietly,
to stand with his face to the window. Razumov
heard a door close; he turned his head and
perceived that the lady companion had scuttled
out of the room.
"In matters of politics I am a supernaturalist."
Madame de S--- broke the silence harshly.
Peter Ivanovitch moved away from the window and
struck Razumov lightly on the shoulder. This
was a signal for leaving, but at the same time
he addressed Madame de S--- in a peculiar
Whatever it meant, she did not seem to hear him.
She leaned back in the corner of the sofa like
a wooden figure. The immovable peevishness of
the face, framed in the limp, rusty lace, had a
character of cruelty.
"As to extirpating," she croaked at the
attentive Razumov, "there is only one class in
Russia which must be extirpated. Only one. And
that class consists of only one family. You
understand me? That one family must be
Her rigidity was frightful, like the rigor of a
corpse galvanized into harsh speech and
glittering stare by the force of murderous hate.
The sight fascinated Razumov--yet he felt more
self-possessed than at any other time since he
had entered this weirdly bare room. He was
interested. But the great feminist by his side
again uttered his appeal--
She disregarded it. Her carmine lips
vaticinated with an extraordinary rapidity. The
liberating spirit would use arms before which
rivers would part like Jordan, and ramparts fall
down like the walls of Jericho. The deliverance
from bondage would be effected by plagues and by
signs, by wonders and by war. The women. . . .
She ceased; she had heard him at last. She
pressed her hand to her forehead.
"What is it? Ah yes! That girl--the sister of.
. . ."
It was Miss Haldin that she meant. That young
girl and her mother had been leading a very
retired life. They were provincial ladies--were
they not? The mother had been very beautiful--
traces were left yet. Peter Ivanovitch, when he
called there for the first time, was greatly
struck. . . . But the cold way they received
him was really surprising.
"He is one of our national glories," Madams de S-
-- cried out, with sudden vehemence. "All the
world listens to him."
"I don't know these ladies," said Razumov loudly
rising from his chair.
"What are you saying, Kirylo Sidorovitch? I
understand that she was talking to you here, in
the garden, the other day."
"Yes, in the garden," said Razumov gloomily.
Then, with an effort, "She made herself known to
"And then ran away from us all," Madame de S---
continued, with ghastly vivacity. "After coming
to the very door! What a peculiar proceeding!
Well, I have been a shy little provincial girl
at one time. Yes, Razumov" (she fell into this
familiarity intentionally, with an appalling
grimace of graciousness. Razumov gave a
perceptible start), "yes, that's my origin. A
simple provincial family
"You are a marvel," Peter Ivanovich uttered in
But it was to Razumov that she gave her death's-
head smile. Her tone was quite imperious.
"You must bring the wild young thing here. She
is wanted. I reckon upon your success--mind!"
"She is not a wild young thing," muttered
Razumov, in a surly voice.
"Well, then--that's all the same. She may be
one of these young conceited democrats. Do you
know what I think? I think she is very much
like you in character. There is a smouldering
fire of scorn in you. You are darkly self-
sufficient, but I can see your very soul."
Her shiny eyes had a dry, intense stare, which,
missing Razumov, gave him an absurd notion that
she was looking at something which was visible
to her behind him. He cursed himself for an
impressionable fool, and asked with forced
"What is it you see? Anything resembling me?"
She moved her rigidly set face from left to
"Some sort of phantom in my image?" pursued
Razumov slowly. "For, I suppose, a soul when it
is seen is just that. A vain thing. There are
phantoms of the living as well as of the dead."
The tenseness of Madame de S---'s stare had
relaxed, and now she looked at Razumov in a
silence that became disconcerting.
"I myself have had an experience," he stammered
out, as if compelled. " I've seen a phantom
once." The unnaturally red lips moved to frame
a question harshly.
"Of a dead person?"
"I hated him."
"Ah! It was not a woman, then?"
"A woman!" repeated Razumov, his eyes looking
straight into the eyes of Madame de S---. "Why
should it have been a woman? And why this
conclusion? Why should I not have been able to
hate a woman?"
As a matter of fact, the idea of hating a woman
was new to him. At that moment he hated Madame
de S---. But it was not exactly hate. It was
more like the abhorrence that may be caused by a
wooden or plaster figure of a repulsive kind.
She moved no more than if she were such a
figure; even her eyes, whose unwinking stare
plunged into his own, though shining, were
lifeless, as though they were as artificial as
her teeth. For the first time Razumov became
aware of a faint perfume, but faint as it was it
nauseated him exceedingly. Again Peter
Ivanovitch tapped him slightly on the shoulder.
Thereupon he bowed, and was about to turn away
when he received the unexpected favour of a
bony, inanimate hand extended to him, with the
two words in hoarse French--
He bowed over the skeleton hand and left the
room, escorted by the great man, who made him go
out first. The voice from the sofa cried after
"You remain here, _Pierre_."
"Certainly, _ma chere amie_."
But he left the room with Razumov, shutting the
door behind him. The landing was prolonged into
a bare corridor, right and left, desolate
perspectives of white and gold decoration
without a strip of carpet. The very light,
pouring through a large window at the end,
seemed dusty; and a solitary speck reposing on
the balustrade of white marble--the silk top-hat
of the great feminist--asserted itself
extremely, black and glossy in all that crude
Peter Ivanovitch escorted the visitor without
opening his lips. Even when they had reached
the head of the stairs Peter Ivanovitch did not
break the silence. Razumov's impulse to
continue down the flight and out of the house
without as much as a nod abandoned him suddenly.
He stopped on the first step and leaned his
back against the wall. Below him the great hall
with its chequered floor of black and white
seemed absurdly large and like some public place
where a great power of resonance awaits the
provocation of footfalls and voices. As if
afraid of awakening the loud echoes of that
empty house, Razumov adopted a low tone.
"I really have no mind to turn into a dilettante
Peter Ivanovitch shook his head slightly, very
"Or spend my time in spiritual ecstasies or
sublime meditations upon the gospel of
feminism," continued Razumov. "I made my way
here for my share of action--action, most
respected Peter Ivanovitch! It was not the
great European writer who attracted me, here, to
this odious town of liberty. It was somebody
much greater. It was the idea of the chief
which attracted me. There are starving young
men in Russia who believe in you so much that it
seems the only thing that keeps them alive in
their misery. Think of that, Peter Ivanovitch!
No! But only think of that!"
The great man, thus entreated, perfectly
motionless and silent, was the very image of
patient, placid respectability.
"Of course I don't speak of the people. They
are brutes," added Razumov, in the same subdued
but forcible tone. At this, a protesting murmur
issued from the "heroic fugitive's" beard. A
murmur of authority.
"No! Brutes!" Razumov insisted bluntly.
"But they are sound, they are innocent," the
great man pleaded in a whisper.
"As far as that goes, a brute is sound enough."
Razumov raised his voice at last. "And you
can't deny the natural innocence of a brute.
But what's the use of disputing about names?
You just try to give these children the power
and stature of men and see what they will be
like. You just give it to them and see. . . .
But never mind. I tell you, Peter Ivanovitch,
that half a dozen young men do not come together
nowadays in a shabby student's room without your
name being whispered, not as a leader of
thought, but as a centre of revolutionary
energies--the centre of action. What else has
drawn me near you, do you think? It is not what
all the world knows of you, surely. It's
precisely what the world at large does not know.
I was irresistibly drawn-let us say impelled,
yes, impelled; or, rather, compelled, driven--
driven,'' repented Razumov loudly, and ceased,
as if startled by the hollow reverberation of
the word "driven" along two bare corridors and
in the great empty hall.
Peter Ivanovitch did not seem startled in the
least. The young man could not control a dry,
uneasy laugh. The great revolutionist remained
unmoved with an effect of commonplace, homely
"Curse him," said Razumov to himself, "he is
waiting behind his spectacles for me to give
myself away." Then aloud, with a satanic
enjoyment of the scorn prompting him to play
with the greatness of the great man--
"Ah, Peter Ivanovitch, if you only knew the
force which drew--no, which _drove_ me towards
you! The irresistible force."
He did not feel any desire to laugh now. This
time Peter Ivanovitch moved his head sideways,
knowingly, as much as to say, "Don't I?" This
expressive movement was almost imperceptible.
Razumov went on in secret derision--
"All these days you have been trying to read me,
Peter Ivanovitch. That is natural. I have
perceived it and I have been frank. Perhaps you
may think I have not been very expansive? But
with a man like you it was not needed; it would
have looked like an impertinence, perhaps. And
besides, we Russians are prone to talk too much
as a rule. I have always felt that. And yet,
as a nation, we are dumb. I assure you that I
am not likely to talk to you so much again--ha!
Razumov, still keeping on the lower step, came a
little nearer to the great man.
"You have been condescending enough. I quite
understood it was to lead me on. You must
render me the justice that I have not tried to
please. I have been impelled, compelled, or
rather sent--let us say sent--towards you for a
work that no one but myself can do. You would
call it a harmless delusion: a ridiculous
delusion at which you don't even smile. It is
absurd of me to talk like this, yet some day you
shall remember these words, I hope. Enough of
this. Here I stand before you-confessed! But
one thing more I must add to complete it: a mere
blind tool I can never consent to be."
Whatever acknowledgment Razumov was prepared
for, he was not prepared to have both his hands
seized in the great man's grasp. The swiftness
of the movement was aggressive enough to
startle. The burly feminist could not have been
quicker had his purpose been to jerk Razumov
treacherously up on the landing and bundle him
behind one of the numerous closed doors near by.
This idea actually occurred to Razumov; his
hands being released after a darkly eloquent
squeeze, he smiled, with a beating heart,
straight at the beard and the spectacles hiding
that impenetrable man.
He thought to himself (it stands confessed in
his handwriting), "I won't move from here till
he either speaks or turns away. This is a
duel." Many seconds passed without a sign or
"Yes, yes," the great man said hurriedly, in
subdued tones, as if the whole thing had been a
stolen, breathless interview. "Exactly. Come
to see us here in a few days. This must be gone
into deeply--deeply, between you and me. Quite
to the bottom. To the. . . . And, by the by,
you must bring along Natalia Victorovna--you
know, the Haldin girl. . . .
"Am I to take this as my first instruction from
you?" inquired Razumov stiffly.
Peter Ivanovitch seemed perplexed by this new
"Ah! h'm! You are naturally the proper person--
_la personne indiquee_. Every one shall be
wanted presently. Every one."
He bent down from the landing over Razumov, who
had lowered his eyes.
"The moment of action approaches,'' he murmured.
Razumov did not look up. He did not move till
he heard the door of the drawing-room close
behind the greatest of feminists returning to
his painted Egeria. Then he walked down slowly
into the hall. The door stood open, and the
shadow of the house was lying aslant over the
greatest part of the terrace. While crossing it
slowly, he lifted his hat and wiped his damp
forehead, expelling his breath with force to get
rid of the last vestiges of the air he had been
breathing inside. He looked at the palms of his
hands, and rubbed them gently against his thighs.
He felt, bizarre as it may seem, as though
another self, an independent sharer of his mind,
had been able to view his whole person very
distinctly indeed. "This is curious," he
thought. After a while he formulated his
opinion of it in the mental ejaculation:
"Beastly!" This disgust vanished before a
marked uneasiness. "This is an effect of
nervous exhaustion," he reflected with weary
sagacity. "How am I to go on day after day if I
have no more power of resistance--moral
He followed the path at the foot of the terrace.
"Moral resistance, moral resistance;" he kept
on repeating these words mentally. Moral
endurance. Yes, that was the necessity of the
situation. An immense longing to make his way
out of these grounds and to the other end of the
town, of throwing himself on his bed and going
to sleep for hours, swept everything clean out
of his mind for a moment. "Is it possible that
I am but a weak creature after all?" he asked
himself, in sudden alarm. "Eh! What's that?"
He gave a start as if awakened from a dream. He
even swayed a little before recovering himself.
"Ah! You stole away from us quietly to walk
about here," he said.
The lady companion stood before him, but how she
came there he had not the slightest idea. Her
folded arms were closely cherishing the cat.
"I have been unconscious as I walked, it's a
positive fact," said Razumov to himself in
wonder. He raised his hat with marked civility.
The sallow woman blushed duskily. She had her
invariably scared expression, as if somebody had
just disclosed to her some terrible news. But
she held her ground, Razumov noticed, without
timidity. "She is incredibly shabby," he
thought. In the sunlight her black costume
looked greenish, with here and there threadbare
patches where the stuff seemed decomposed by age
into a velvety, black, furry state. Her very
hair and eyebrows looked shabby. Razumov
wondered whether she were sixty years old. Her
figure, though, was young enough. He observed
that she did not appear starved, but rather as
if she had been fed on unwholesome scraps and
leavings of plates.
Razumov smiled amiably and moved out of her way.
She turned her head to keep her scared eyes on
"I know what you have been told in there," she
affirmed, without preliminaries. Her tone, in
contrast with her manner, had an unexpectedly
assured character which put Razumov at his ease.
"Do you? You must have heard all sorts of talk
on many occasions in there."
She varied her phrase, with the same incongruous
effect of positiveness.
"I know to a certainty what you have been told
"Really?" Razumov shrugged his shoulders a
little. He was about to pass on with a bow,
when a sudden thought struck him. "Yes. To be
sure! In your confidential position you are
aware of many things," he murmured, looking at
That animal got a momentary convulsive hug from
the lady companion.
"Everything was disclosed to me a long time
ago," she said.
"Everything," Razumov repeated absently.
"Peter Ivanovitch is an awful despot," she
Razumov went on studying the stripes on the grey
fur of the cat.
"An iron will is an integral part of such a
temperament. How else could he be a leader?
And I think that you are mistaken in--"
"There!" she cried. " You tell me that I am
mistaken. But I tell you all the same that he
cares for no one." She jerked her head up.
"Don't you bring that girl here. That's what
you have been told to do--to bring that girl
here. Listen to me; you had better tie a stone
round her neck and throw her into the lake."
Razumov had a sensation of chill and gloom, as
if a heavy cloud had passed over the sun.
"The girl?" he said. "What have I to do with
"But you have been told to bring Nathalie Haldin
here. Am I not right? Of course I am right. I
was not in the room, but I know. I know Peter
Ivanovitch sufficiently well. He is a great
man. Great men are horrible. Well, that's it.
Have nothing to do with her. That's the best
you can do, unless you want her to become like
"Like you," repeated Razumov, glaring at her
face, as devoid of all comeliness of feature and
complexion as the most miserable beggar is of
money. He smiled, still feeling chilly: a
peculiar sensation which annoyed him."
Disillusioned as to Peter Ivanovitch! Is that
all you have lost?"
She declared, looking frightened, but with
immense conviction, "Peter Ivanovitch stands for
everything." Then she added, in another tone,
"Keep the girl away from this house."
"And are you absolutely inciting me to disobey
Peter Ivanovitch just because--because you are
She began to blink.
"Directly I saw you for the first time I was
comforted. You took your hat off to me. You
looked as if one could trust you. Oh!"
She shrank before Razumov's savage snarl of, "I
have heard something like this before."
She was so confounded that she could do nothing
but blink for a long time.
"It was your humane manner," she explained
plaintively. "I have been starving for, I won't
say kindness, but just for a little civility,
for I don't know how long. And now you are
angry. . . ."
"But no, on the contrary," he protested. " I am
very glad you trust me. It's possible that
later on I may. . . ."
"Yes, if you were to get ill," she interrupted
eagerly, " or meet some bitter trouble, you
would find I am not a useless fool. You have
only to let me know. I will come to you. I
will indeed. And I will stick to you. Misery
and I are old acquaintances--but this life here
is worse than starving."
She paused anxiously, then in a voice for the
first time sounding really timid, she added--
"Or if you were engaged in some dangerous work.
Sometimes a humble companion--I would not want
to know anything. I would follow you with joy.
I could carry out orders. I have the courage."
Razumov looked attentively at the scared round
eyes, at the withered, sallow, round cheeks.
They were quivering about the corners of the
"She wants to escape from here," he thought.
"Suppose I were to tell you that I am engaged in
dangerous work?" he uttered slowly.
She pressed the cat to her threadbare bosom with
a breathless exclamation. "Ah!" Then not much
above a whisper: "Under Peter Ivanovitch?"
"No, not under Peter Ivanovitch."
He read admiration in her eyes, and made an
effort to smile.
He held up his closed hand with the index
raised. "Like this finger," he said.
She was trembling slightly. But it occurred to
Razumov that they might have been observed from
the house, and he became anxious to be gone.
She blinked, raising up to him her puckered
face, and seemed to beg mutely to be told
something more, to be given a word of
encouragement for her starving, grotesque, and
"Can we be seen from the house?" asked Razumov
She answered, without showing the slightest
surprise at the question--
"No, we can't, on account of this end of the
stables." And she added, with an acuteness
which surprised Razumov," But anybody looking
out of an upstairs window would know that you
have not passed through the gates yet."
"Who's likely to spy out of the window?" queried
Razumov. "Peter Ivanovitch?"
"Why should he trouble his head?"
"He expects somebody this afternoon."
"You know the person?"
"There's more than one."
She had lowered her eyelids. Razumov looked at
"Of course. You hear everything they say."
She murmured without any animosity--
"So do the tables and chairs."
He understood that the bitterness accumulated in
the heart of that helpless creature had got into
her veins, and, like some subtle poison, had
decomposed her fidelity to that hateful pair.
It was a great piece of luck for him, he
reflected; because women are seldom venal after
the manner of men, who can be bought for
material considerations. She would be a good
ally, though it was not likely that she was
allowed to hear as much as the tables and chairs
of the Chateau Borel. That could not be
expected. But still. . . . And, at any rate,
she could be made to talk.
When she looked up her eyes met the fixed stare
of Razumov, who began to speak at once.
"Well, well, dear. . .but upon my word, I
haven't the pleasure of knowing your name yet.
Isn't it strange?"
For the first time she made a movement of the
"Is it strange? No one is told my name. No one
cares. No one talks to me, no one writes to me.
My parents don't even know if I'm alive. I
have no use for a name, and I have almost
forgotten it myself."
Razumov murmured gravely, "Yes, but still. . ."
She went on much slower, with indifference--
"You may call me Tekla, then. My poor Andrei
called me so. I was devoted to him. He lived
in wretchedness and suffering, and died in
misery. That is the lot of all us Russians,
nameless Russians. There is nothing else for
us, and no hope anywhere, unless. . ."
"Unless all these people with names are done
away with," she finished, blinking and pursing
up her lips.
"It will be easier to call you Tekla, as you
direct me," said Razumov, "if you consent to
call me Kirylo, when we are talking like this--
quietly--only you and me."
And he said to himself, "Here's a being who must
be terribly afraid of the world, else she would
have run away from this situation before." Then
he reflected that the mere fact of leaving the
great man abruptly would make her a suspect.
She could expect no support or countenance from
anyone. This revolutionist was not fit for an
She moved with him a few steps, blinking and
nursing the cat with a small balancing movement
of her arms.
"Yes--only you and I. That's how I was with my
poor Andrei, only he was dying, killed by these
official brutes--while you! You are strong.
You kill the monsters. You have done a great
deed. Peter Ivanovitch himself must consider
you. Well--don't forget me--especially if you
are going back to work in Russia. I could
follow you, carrying anything that was wanted--
at a distance, you know. Or I could watch for
hours at the corner of a street if necessary,--
in wet or snow--yes, I could--all day long. Or
I could write for you dangerous documents, lists
of names or instructions, so that in case of
mischance the handwriting could not compromise
you. And you need not be afraid if they were to
catch me. I would know how to keep dumb. We
women are not so easily daunted by pain. I
heard Peter Ivanovitch say it is our blunt
nerves or something. We can stand it better.
And it's true; I would just as soon bite my
tongue out and throw it at them as not. What's
the good of speech to me? Who would ever want
to hear what I could say? Ever since I closed
the eyes of my poor Andrei I haven't met a man
who seemed to care for the sound of my voice. I
should never have spoken to you if the very
first time you appeared here you had not taken
notice of me so nicely. I could not help
speaking of you to that charming dear girl. Oh,
the sweet creature! And strong! One can see
that at once. If you have a heart don't let her
set her foot in here. Good-bye!"
Razumov caught her by the arm. Her emotion at
being thus seized manifested itself by a short
struggle, after which she stood still, not
looking at him.
"But you can tell me," he spoke in her ear, "why
they--these people in that house there--are so
anxious to get hold of her?"
She freed herself to turn upon him, as if made
angry by the question.
"Don't you understand that Peter Ivanovitch must
direct, inspire, influence? It is the breath of
his life. There can never be too many
disciples. He can't bear thinking of anyone
escaping him. And a woman, too! There is
nothing to be done without women, he says. He
has written it. He--"
The young man was staring at her passion when
she broke off suddenly and ran away behind the
Razumov, thus left to himself, took the
direction of the gate. But on this day of many
conversations, he discovered that very probably
he could not leave the grounds without having to
hold another one.
Stepping in view from beyond the lodge appeared
the expected visitors of Peter Ivanovitch: a
small party composed of two men and a woman.
They noticed him too, immediately, and stopped
short as if to consult. But in a moment the
woman, moving aside, motioned with her arm to
the two men, who, leaving the drive at once,
struck across the large neglected lawn, or
rather grass-plot, and made directly for the
house. The woman remained on the path waiting
for Razumov's approach. She had recognized him.
He, too, had recognized her at the first
glance. He had been made known to her at
Zurich, where he had broken his journey while on
his way from Dresden. They had been much
together for the three days of his stay.
She was wearing the very same costume in which
he had seen her first. A blouse of crimson silk
made her noticeable at a distance. With that
she wore a short brown skirt and a leather belt.
Her complexion was the colour of coffee and
milk, but very clear; her eyes black and
glittering, her figure erect. A lot of thick
hair, nearly white, was done up loosely under a
dusty Tyrolese hat of dark cloth, which seemed
to have lost some of its trimmings.
The expression of her face was grave, intent; so
grave that Razumov, after approaching her close,
felt obliged to smile. She greeted him with a
"What! Are you going away?" she exclaimed.
"How is that, Razumov?"
"I am going away because I haven't been asked to
stay," Razumov answered, returning the pressure
of her hand with much less force than she had
put into it.
She jerked her head sideways like one who
understands. Meantime Razumov's eyes had
strayed after the two men. They were crossing
the grass-plot obliquely, without haste. The
shorter of the two was buttoned up in a narrow
overcoat of some thin grey material, which came
nearly to his heels. His companion, much taller
and broader, wore a short, close-fitting jacket
and tight trousers tucked into shabby top-boots.
The woman, who had sent them out of Razumov's
way apparently, spoke in a businesslike voice.
"I had to come rushing from Zurich on purpose to
meet the train and take these two along here to
see Peter Ivanovitch. I've just managed it."
"Ah! indeed," Razumov said perfunctorily, and
very vexed at her staying behind to talk to him
"From Zurich--yes, of course. And these two,
they come from. . . ."
She interrupted, without emphasis--
"From quite another direction. From a distance,
too. A considerable distance."
Razumov shrugged his shoulders. The two men
from a distance, after having reached the wall
of the terrace, disappeared suddenly at its foot
as if the earth had opened to swallow them up.
"Oh, well, they have just come from America."
The woman in the crimson blouse shrugged her
shoulders too a little before making that
statement. "The time is drawing near," she
interjected, as if speaking to herself. "I did
not tell them who you were. Yakovlitch would
have wanted to embrace you."
"Is that he with the wisp of hair hanging from
his chin, in the long coat?"
"You've guessed aright. That's Yakovlitch."
"And they could not find their way here from the
station without you coming on purpose from
Zurich to show it to them? Verily, without
women we can do nothing. So it stands written,
and apparently so it is."
He was conscious of an immense lassitude under
his effort to be sarcastic. And he could see
that she had detected it with those steady,
brilliant black eyes.
"What is the matter with you?"
"I don't know. Nothing. I've had a devil of a
She waited, with her black eyes fixed on his
"What of that? You men are so impressionable
and self-conscious. One day is like another,
hard, hard--and there's an end of it, till the
great day comes. I came over for a very good
reason. They wrote to warn Peter Ivanovitch of
their arrival. But where from? Only from
Cherbourg on a bit of ship's notepaper. Anybody
could have done that. Yakovlitch has lived for
years and years in America. I am the only one
at hand who had known him well in the old days.
I knew him very well indeed. So Peter
Ivanovitch telegraphed, asking me to come. It's
natural enough, is it not?"
"You came to vouch for his identity?" inquired
"Yes. Something of the kind. Fifteen years of
a life like his make changes in a man. Lonely,
like a crow in a strange country. When I think
of Yakovlitch before he went to America--"
The softness of the low tone caused Razumov to
glance at her sideways. She sighed; her black
eyes were looking away; she had plunged the
fingers of her right hand deep into the mass of
nearly white hair, and stirred them there
absently. When she withdrew her hand the little
hat perched on the top of her head remained
slightly tilted, with a queer inquisitive
effect, contrasting strongly with the
reminiscent murmur that escaped her.
"We were not in our first youth even then. But
a man is a child always."
Razumov thought suddenly, "They have been living
together." Then aloud--
"Why didn't you follow him to America?" he asked
She looked up at him with a perturbed air.
"Don't you remember what was going on fifteen
years ago? It was a time of activity. The
Revolution has its history by this time. You
are in it and yet you don't seem to know it.
Yakovlitch went away then on a mission; I went
back to Russia. It had to be so. Afterwards
there was nothing for him to come back to."
"Ah! indeed," muttered Razumov, with affected
surprise. " Nothing!"
"What are you trying to insinuate " she
exclaimed quickly. " Well, and what then if he
did get discouraged a little. . . ."
"He looks like a Yankee, with that goatee
hanging from his chin. A regular Uncle Sam,"
growled Razumov. "Well, and you? You who went
to Russia? You did not get discouraged."
"Never mind. Yakovlitch is a man who cannot be
doubted. He, at any rate, is the right sort."
Her black, penetrating gaze remained fixed upon
Razumov while she spoke, and for a moment
"Pardon me, "Razumov inquired coldly, "but does
it mean that you, for instance, think that I am
not the right sort?"
She made no protest, gave no sign of having
heard the question; she continued looking at him
in a manner which he judged not to be absolutely
unfriendly. In Zurich when he passed through
she had taken him under her charge, in a way,
and was with him from morning till night during
his stay of two days. She took him round to see
several people. At first she talked to him a
great deal and rather unreservedly, but always
avoiding all reference to herself; towards the
middle of the second day she fell silent,
attending him zealously as before, and even
seeing him off at the railway station, where she
pressed his hand firmly through the lowered
carriage window, and, stepping back without a
word, waited till the train moved. He had
noticed that she was treated with quiet regard.
He knew nothing of her parentage, nothing of her
private history or political record; he judged
her from his own private point of view, as being
a distinct danger in his path. "Judged " is not
perhaps the right word. It was more of a
feeling, the summing up of slight impressions
aided by the discovery that he could not despise
her as he despised all the others. He had not
expected to see her again so soon.
No, decidedly; her expression was not
unfriendly. Yet he perceived an acceleration in
the beat of his heart. The conversation could
not be abandoned at that point. He went on in
accents of scrupulous inquiry--
"Is it perhaps because I don't seem to accept
blindly every development of the general
doctrine--such for instance as the feminism of
our great Peter Ivanovitch? If that is what
makes me suspect, then I can only say I would
scorn to be a slave even to an idea."
She had been looking at him all the time, not as
a listener looks at one, but as if the words he
chose to say were only of secondary interest.
When he finished she slipped her hand, by a
sudden and decided movement, under his arm and
impelled him gently towards the gate of the
grounds. He felt her firmness and obeyed the
impulsion at once, just as the other two men
had, a moment before, obeyed unquestioningly the
wave of her hand.
They made a few steps like this.
"No, Razumov, your ideas are probably all
right," she said. "You may be valuable--very
valuable. What's the matter with you is that
you don't like us."
She released him. He met her with a frosty
" Am I expected then to have love as well as
She shrugged her shoulders.
"You know very well what I mean. People have
been thinking you not quite whole-hearted. I
have heard that opinion from one side and
another. But I have understood you at the end
of the first day. . . ."
Razumov interrupted her, speaking steadily.
"I assure you that your perspicacity is at fault
"What phrases he uses!" she exclaimed
parenthetically. "Ah! Kirylo Sidorovitch, you
like other men are fastidious, full of self-love
and afraid of trifles. Moreover, you had no
training. What you want is to be taken in hand
by some woman. I am sorry I am not staying here
a few days. I am going back to Zurich to-
morrow, and shall take Yakovlitch with me most
This information relieved Razumov.
"I am sorry too," he said. "But, all the same,
I don't think you understand me."
He breathed more freely; she did not protest,
but asked, "And how did you get on with Peter
Ivanovitch? You have seen a good deal of each
other. How is it between you two?"
Not knowing what answer to make, the young man
inclined his head slowly.
Her lips had been parted in expectation. She
pressed them together, and seemed to reflect.
"That's all right."
This had a sound of finality, but she did not
leave him. It was impossible to guess what she
had in her mind. Razumov muttered--
"It is not of me that you should have asked that
question. In a moment you shall see Peter
Ivanovitch himself, and the subject will come up
naturally. He will be curious to know what has
delayed you so long in this garden."
"No doubt Peter Ivanovitch will have something
to say to me. Several things. He may even
speak of you--question me. Peter Ivanovitch is
inclined to trust me generally."
"Question you? That's very likely."
She smiled, half serious.
"Well--and what shall I say to him?"
"I don't know. You may tell him of your
"Why--my lack of love for. . . ."
"Oh! That's between ourselves," she
interrupted, it was hard to say whether in jest
"I see that you want to tell Peter Ivanovitch
something in my favour," said Razumov, with grim
playfulness. "Well, then, you can tell him that
I am very much in earnest about my mission. I
mean to succeed."
"You have been given a mission!" she exclaimed
"It amounts to that. I have been told to bring
about a certain event."
She looked at him searchingly.
"A mission," she repeated, very grave and
interested all at once. "What sort of mission?"
"Something in the nature of propaganda work."
" Ah ! Far away from here?"
"No. Not very far," said Razumov, restraining a
sudden desire to laugh, although he did not feel
joyous in the least.
"So!" she said thoughtfully. "Well, I am not
asking questions. It's sufficient that Peter
Ivanovitch should know what each of us is doing.
Everything is bound to come right in the end."
"You think so?"
"I don't think, young man. I just simply
"And is it to Peter Ivanovitch that you owe that
She did not answer the question, and they stood
idle, silent, as if reluctant to part with each
"That's just like a man," she murmured at last.
"As if it were possible to tell how a belief
comes to one." Her thin Mephistophelian
eyebrows moved a little. "Truly there are
millions of people in Russia who would envy the
life of dogs in this country. It is a horror
and a shame to confess this even between
ourselves. One must believe for very pity.
This can't go on. No! It can't go on. For
twenty years I have been coming and going,
looking neither to the left nor to the right. .
. . What are you smiling to yourself for? You
are only at the beginning. You have begun well,
but you just wait till you have trodden every
particle of yourself under your feet in your
comings and goings. For that is what it comes
to. You've got to trample down every particle
of your own feelings; for stop you cannot, you
must not. I have been young, too--but perhaps
you think that I am complaining-eh?"
"I don't think anything of the sort," protested
"I dare say you don't, you dear superior
creature. You don't care."
She plunged her fingers into the bunch of hair
on the left side, and that brusque movement had
the effect of setting the Tyrolese hat straight
on her head. She frowned under it without
animosity, in the manner of an investigator.
Razumov averted his face carelessly.
"You men are all alike. You mistake luck for
merit. You do it in good faith too! I would
not be too hard on you. It's masculine nature.
You men are ridiculously pitiful in your
aptitude to cherish childish illusions down to
the very grave. There are a lot of us who have
been at work for fifteen years--I mean
constantly--trying one way after another,
underground and above ground, looking neither to
the right nor to the left! I can talk about it.
I have been one of these that never rested. . .
. There! What's the use of talking. . . .
Look at my grey hairs! And here two babies come
along--I mean you and Haldin--you come along and
manage to strike a blow at the very first try."
At the name of Haldin falling from the rapid and
energetic lips of the woman revolutionist,
Razumov had the usual brusque consciousness of
the irrevocable. But in all the months which
had passed over his head he had become hardened
to the experience. The consciousness was no
longer accompanied by the blank dismay and the
blind anger of the early days. He had argued
himself into new beliefs; and he had made for
himself a mental atmosphere of gloomy and
sardonic reverie, a sort of murky medium through
which the event appeared like a featureless
shadow having vaguely the shape of a man; a
shape extremely familiar, yet utterly
inexpressive, except for its air of discreet
waiting in the dusk. It was not alarming.
"What was he like?" the woman revolutionist
"What was he like?" echoed Razumov, making a
painful effort not to turn upon her savagely.
But he relieved himself by laughing a little
while he stole a glance at her out of the
corners of his eyes. This reception of her
inquiry disturbed her.
"How like a woman," he went on. "What is the
good of concerning yourself with his appearance?
Whatever it was, he is removed beyond all
feminine influences now."
A frown, making three folds at the root of her
nose, accentuated the Mephistophelian slant of
"You suffer, Razumov," she suggested, in her
low, confident voice.
"What nonsense!" Razumov faced the woman
fairly. "But now I think of it, I am not sure
that he is beyond the influence of one woman at
least; the one over there--Madame de S---, you
know. Formerly the dead were allowed to rest,
but now it seems they are at the beck and call
of a crazy old harridan. We revolutionists make
wonderful discoveries. It is true that they are
not exactly our own. We have nothing of our
own. But couldn't the friend of Peter
Ivanovitch satisfy your feminine curiosity?
Couldn't she conjure him up for you?"--he jested
like a man in pain.
Her concentrated frowning expression relaxed,
and she said, a little wearily, "Let us hope she
will make an effort and conjure up some tea for
us. But that is by no means certain. I am
"You tired! What a confession! Well, there has
been tea up there. I had some. If you hurry on
after Yakovlitch, instead of wasting your time
with such an unsatisfactory sceptical person as
myself, you may find the ghost of it--the cold
ghost of it--still lingering in the temple. But
as to you being tired I can hardly believe it.
We are not supposed to be. We mustn't, We
can't. The other day I read in some paper or
other an alarmist article on the tireless
activity of the revolutionary parties. It
impresses the world. It's our prestige."
"He flings out continually these flouts and
sneers;" the woman in the crimson blouse spoke
as if appealing quietly to a third person, but
her black eyes never left Razumov's face. "And
what for, pray? Simply because some of his
conventional notions are shocked, some of his
petty masculine standards. You might think he
was one of these nervous sensitives that come to
a bad end. And yet," she went on, after a
short, reflective pause and changing the mode of
her address, "and yet I have just learned
something which makes me think that you are a
man of character, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Yes!
The mysterious positiveness of this assertion
startled Razumov. Their eyes met. He looked
away and, through the bars of the rusty gate,
stared at the clean, wide road shaded by the
leafy trees. An electric tramcar, quite empty,
ran along the avenue with a metallic rustle. It
seemed to him he would have given anything to be
sitting inside all alone. He was inexpressibly
weary, weary in every fibre of his body, but he
had a reason for not being the first to break
off the conversation. At any instant, in the
visionary and criminal babble of revolutionists,
some momentous words might fall on his ear; from
her lips, from anybody's lips. As long as he
managed to preserve a clear mind and to keep
down his irritability there was nothing to fear.
The only condition of success and safety was
indomitable will-power, he reminded himself.
He longed to be on the other side of the bars,
as though he were actually a prisoner within the
grounds of this centre of revolutionary plots,
of this house of folly, of blindness, of
villainy and crime. Silently he indulged his
wounded spirit in a feeling of immense moral and
mental remoteness. He did not even smile when
he heard her repeat the words--
"Yes! A strong character."
He continued to gaze through the bars like a
moody prisoner, not thinking of escape, but
merely pondering upon the faded memories of
"If you don't look out," he mumbled, still
looking away, "you shall certainly miss seeing
as much as the mere ghost of that tea."
She was not to be shaken off in such a way. As
a matter of fact he had not expected to succeed.
"Never mind, it will be no great loss. I mean
the missing of her tea and only the ghost of it
at that. As to the lady, you must understand
that she has her positive uses. See _that_,
He turned his head at this imperative appeal and
saw the woman revolutionist making the motions
of counting money into the palm of her hand.
"That's what it is. You see?"
Razumov uttered a slow "I see," and returned to
his prisoner-like gazing upon the neat and shady
"Material means must be obtained in some way,
and this is easier than breaking into banks.
More certain too. There! I am joking. . . .
What is he muttering to himself now?" she cried
under her breath.
"My admiration of Peter Ivanovitch's devoted
self-sacrifice, that's all. It's enough to make
"Oh, you squeamish, masculine creature. Sick!
Makes him sick! And what do you know of the
truth of it? There's no looking into the
secrets of the heart. Peter Ivanovitch knew her
years ago, in his worldly days, when he was a
young officer in the Guards. It is not for us
to judge an inspired person. That's where you
men have an advantage. You are inspired
sometimes both in thought and action. I have
always admitted that when you _are_ inspired,
when you manage to throw off your masculine
cowardice and prudishness you are not to be
equalled by us. Only, how seldom. . . .
Whereas the silliest woman can always be made of
use. And why? Because we have passion,
unappeasable passion. . . . I should like to
know what he is smiling at?"
"I am not smiling," protested Razumov gloomily.
"Well! How is one to call it? You made some
sort of face. Yes, I know! You men can love
here and hate there and desire something or
other--and you make a great to-do about it, and
you call it passion! Yes! While it lasts. But
we women are in love with love, and with hate,
with these very things I tell you, and with
desire itself. That's why we can't be bribed
off so easily as you men. In life, you see,
there is not much choice. You have either to
rot or to burn. And there is not one of us,
painted or unpainted, that would not rather burn
She spoke with energy, but in a matter-of-fact
tone. Razumov's attention had wandered away on
a track of its own--outside the bars of the gate-
-but not out of earshot. He stuck his hands
into the pockets of his coat.
"Rot or burn! Powerfully stated. Painted or
unpainted. Very vigorous. Painted or. . . .
Do tell me--she would be infernally jealous of
him, wouldn't she?"
"Who? What? The Baroness? Eleanor Maximovna?
Jealous of Peter Ivanovitch? Heavens! Are
these the questions the man's mind is running
on? Such a thing is not to be thought of."
"Why? Can't a wealthy old woman be jealous?
Or, are they all pure spirits together?"
"But what put it into your head to ask such a
question?" she wondered.
"Nothing. I just asked. Masculine frivolity,
if you like."
"I don't like," she retorted at once. "It is
not the time to be frivolous. What are you
flinging your very heart against? Or, perhaps,
you are only playing a part."
Razumov had felt that woman's observation of him
like a physical contact, like a hand resting
lightly on his shoulder. At that moment he
received the mysterious impression of her having
made up her mind for a closer grip. He
stiffened himself inwardly to bear it without
"Playing a Part," he repeated, presenting to her
an unmoved profile. "It must be done very badly
since you see through the assumption."
She watched him, her forehead drawn into
perpendicular folds, the thin black eyebrows
diverging upwards like tile antennae of an
insect. He added hardly audibly--
"You are mistaken. I am doing it no more than
the rest of us."
"Who is doing it?" she snapped out.
"Who? Everybody," he said impatiently. "You
are a materialist, aren't you?"
"Eh! My dear soul, I have outlived all that
"But you must remember the definition of
Cabanis: 'Man is a digestive tube.' I imagine
now. . . ."
"I spit on him."
"What? On Cabanis? All right. But you can't
ignore the importance of a good digestion. The
joy of life--you know the joy of life?--depends
on a sound stomach, whereas a bad digestion
inclines one to scepticism, breeds black fancies
and thoughts of death. These are facts
ascertained by physiologists. Well, I assure
you that ever since I came over from Russia I
have been stuffed with indigestible foreign
concoctions of the most nauseating kind--pah !"
"You are joking," she murmured incredulously.
He assented in a detached way.
"Yes. It is all a joke. It's hardly worth
while talking to a man like me. Yet for that
very reason men have been known to take their
"On the contrary, I think it is worth while
talking to you."
He kept her in the corner of his eye. She
seemed to be thinking out some scathing retort,
but ended by only shrugging her shoulders
"Shallow talk! I suppose one must pardon this
weakness in you," she said, putting a special
accent on the last word. There was something
anxious in her indulgent conclusion.
Razumov noted the slightest shades in this
conversation, which he had not expected, for
which he was not prepared. That was it. "I was
not prepared," he said to himself. "It has
taken me unawares." It seemed to him that if he
only could allow himself to pant openly like a
dog for a time this oppression would pass away.
"I shall never be found prepared," he thought,
with despair. He laughed a little, saying as
lightly as he could--
"Thanks. I don't ask for mercy." Then
affecting a playful uneasiness, "But aren't you
afraid Peter Ivanovitch might suspect us of
plotting something unauthorized together by the
"No, I am not afraid. You are quite safe from
suspicions while you are with me, my dear young
man." The humorous gleam in her black eyes went
out. "Peter Ivanovitch trusts me," she went on,
quite austerely. "He takes my advice. I am his
right hand, as it were, in certain most
important things. . . . That amuses you what?
Do you think I am boasting?"
"God forbid. I was just only saying to myself
that Peter Ivanovitch seems to have solved the
woman question pretty completely."
Even as he spoke he reproached himself for his
words, for his tone. All day long he had been
saying the wrong things. It was folly, worse
than folly. It was weakness; it was this
disease of perversity overcoming his will. Was
this the way to meet speeches which certainly
contained the promise of future confidences from
that woman who apparently had a great store of
secret knowledge and so much influence? Why
give her this puzzling impression? But she did
not seem inimical. There was no anger in her
voice. It was strangely speculative.
"One does not know what to think, Razumov. You
must have bitten something bitter in your
cradle." Razumov gave her a sidelong glance.
"H'm! Something bitter? That's an
explanation," he muttered. "Only it was much
later. And don't you think, Sophia Antonovna,
that you and I come from the same cradle?"
The woman, whose name he had forced himself at
last to pronounce (he had experienced a strong
repugnance in letting it pass his lips), the
woman revolutionist murmured, after a pause--
He disdained even to nod. She seemed softened,
her black eyes very still, as though she were
pursuing the simile in her thoughts to all its
tender associations. But suddenly she knitted
her brows in a Mephistophelian frown.
"Yes. Perhaps no wonder, then. Yes. One lies
there lapped up in evils, watched over by beings
that are worse than ogres, ghouls, and vampires.
They must be driven away, destroyed utterly.
In regard of that task nothing else matters if
men and women are determined and faithful.
That's how I came to feel in the end. The great
thing is not to quarrel amongst ourselves about
all sorts of conventional trifles. Remember
Razumov was not listening. He had even lost the
sense of being watched in a sort of heavy
tranquillity. His uneasiness, his exasperation,
his scorn were blunted at last by all these
trying hours. It seemed to him that now they
were blunted for ever. "I am a match for them
all," he thought, with a conviction too firm to
be exulting. The woman revolutionist had ceased
speaking; he was not looking at her; there was
no one passing along the road. He almost forgot
that he was not alone. He heard her voice
again, curt, businesslike, and yet betraying the
hesitation which had been the real reason of her
"I say, Razumov!"
Razumov, whose face was turned away from her,
made a grimace like a man who hears a false note.
"Tell me: is it true that on the very morning of
the deed you actually attended the lectures at
An appreciable fraction of a second elapsed
before the real import of the question reached
him, like a bullet which strikes some time after
the flash of the fired shot. Luckily his
disengaged hand was ready to grip a bar of the
gate. He held it with a terrible force, but his
presence of mind was gone. He could make only a
sort of gurgling, grumpy sound.
"Come, Kirylo Sidorovitch!" she urged him. "I
know you are not a boastful man. _That_ one
must say for you. You are a silent man. Too
silent, perhaps. You are feeding on some
bitterness of your own. You are not an
enthusiast. You are, perhaps, all the stronger
for that. But you might tell me. One would
like to understand you a little more. I was so
immensely struck. . . . Have you really done
He got his voice back. The shot had missed him.
It had been fired at random, altogether, more
like a signal for coming to close quarters. It
was to be a plain struggle for self-
preservation. And she was a dangerous adversary
too. But he was ready for battle; he was so
ready that when he turned towards her not a
muscle of his face moved.
" Certainly," he said, without animation,
secretly strung up but perfectly sure of
himself. "Lectures--certainly, But what makes
It was she who was animated.
"I had it in a letter, written by a young man in
Petersburg; one of us, of course. You were seen-
-you were observed with your notebook,
impassible, taking notes. . . ."
He enveloped her with his fixed stare.
"What of that?"
"I call such coolness superb--that's all. It is
a proof of uncommon strength of character. The
young man writes that nobody could have guessed
from your face and manner the part you had
played only some two hours before--the great,
momentous, glorious part. . . ."
"Oh no. Nobody could have guessed," assented
Razumov gravely, "because, don't you see, nobody
at that time. . . ."
"Yes, yes. But all the same you are a man of
exceptional fortitude, it seems. You looked
exactly as usual. It was remembered afterwards
with wonder. . . ."
"It cost me no effort," Razumov declared, with
the same staring gravity.
"Then it's almost more wonderful still!" she
exclaimed, and fell silent while Razumov asked
himself whether he had not said there something
utterly unnecessary--or even worse.
She raised her head eagerly.
"Your intention was to stay in Russia? You had
planned. . . ."
"No," interrupted Razumov without haste. "I had
made no plans of any sort."
"You just simply walked away?" she struck in.
He bowed his head in slow assent. "Simply--
yes." He had gradually released his hold on the
bar of the gate, as though he had acquired the
conviction that no random shot could knock him
over now. And suddenly he was inspired to add,
"The snow was coming down very thick, you know."
She had a slight appreciative movement of the
head, like an expert in such enterprises, very
interested, capable of taking every point
professionally. Razumov remembered something he
"I turned into a narrow side street, you
understand," he went on negligently, and paused
as if it were not worth talking about. Then he
remembered another detail and dropped it before
her, like a disdainful dole to her curiosity.
"I felt inclined to lie down and go to sleep
She clicked her tongue at that symptom, very
struck indeed. Then--
"But the notebook! The amazing notebook, man.
You don't mean to say you had put it in your
pocket beforehand!" she cried.
Razumov gave a start. It might have been a sign
"I went home. Straight home to my rooms," he
"The coolness of the man! You dared?"
"Why not? I assure you I was perfectly calm.
Ha! Calmer than I am now perhaps."
"I like you much better as you are now than when
you indulge that bitter vein of yours, Razumov.
And nobody in the house saw you return--eh?
That might have appeared queer."
"No one," Razumov said firmly. "Dvornik,
landlady, girl, all out of the way. I went up
like a shadow. It was a murky morning. The
stairs were dark. I glided up like a phantom.
Fate? Luck? What do you think?"
"I just see it!" The eyes of the woman
revolutionist snapped darkly. "Well--and then
you considered. . . ."
Razumov had it all ready in his head.
"No. I looked at my watch, since you want to
know. There was just time. I took that
notebook, and ran down the stairs on tiptoe.
Have you ever listened to the pit-pat of a man
running round and round the shaft of a deep
staircase? They have a gaslight at the bottom
burning night and day. I suppose it's gleaming
down there now. . . . The sound dies out--the
flame winks. . . ."
He noticed the vacillation of surprise passing
over the steady curiosity of the black eyes
fastened on his face as if the woman
revolutionist received the sound of his voice
into her pupils instead of her ears. He checked
himself, passed his hand over his forehead,
confused, like a man who has been dreaming aloud.
"Where could a student be running if not to his
lectures in the morning? At night it's another
matter. I did not care if all the house had
been there to look at me. But I don't suppose
there was anyone. It's best not to be seen or
heard. Aha! The people that are neither seen
nor heard are the lucky ones--in Russia. Don't
you admire my luck?"
"Astonishing," she said. "If you have luck as
well as determination, then indeed you are
likely to turn out an invaluable acquisition for
the work in hand."
Her tone was earnest; and it seemed to Razumov
that it was speculative, even as though she were
already apportioning him, in her mind, his share
of the work. Her eyes were cast down. He
waited, not very alert now, but with the grip of
the ever-present danger giving him an air of
attentive gravity. Who could have written about
him in that letter from Petersburg? A fellow
student, surely--some imbecile victim of
revolutionary propaganda, some foolish slave of
foreign, subversive ideals. A long, famine-
stricken, red-nosed figure presented itself to
his mental search. That must have been the
He smiled inwardly at the absolute wrong-
headedness of the whole thing, the self-
deception of a criminal idealist shattering his
existence like a thunder-clap out of a clear
sky, and re-echoing amongst the wreckage in the
false assumptions of those other fools. Fancy
that hungry and piteous imbecile furnishing to
the curiosity of the revolutionist refugees this
utterly fantastic detail! He appreciated it as
by no means constituting a danger. On the
contrary. As things stood it was for his
advantage rather, a piece of sinister luck which
had only to be accepted with proper caution.
"And yet, Razumov," he heard the musing voice of
the woman, "you have not the face of a lucky
man." She raised her eyes with renewed
interest. "And so that
was the way of it. After doing your work you simply walked off and made for
your rooms. That sort of thing succeeds sometimes. I suppose it was agreed
beforehand that, once the business over, each of you would go his own way?"
Razumov preserved the seriousness of his expression and the deliberate, if
cautious, manner of speaking.
"Was not that the best thing to do?" he asked, in a dispassionate tone. "And
anyway," he added, after waiting a moment, " we did not give much thought to
what would come after. We never discussed formally any line of conduct. It
was understood, I think."
She approved his statement with slight nods.
"You, of course, wished to remain in Russia?"
"In St. Petersburg itself," emphasized Razumov. "It was the only safe course
for me. And, moreover, I had nowhere else to go."
"Yes! Yes! I know. Clearly. And the other--this wonderful Haldin appearing
only to be regretted--you don't know what he intended?"
Razumov had foreseen that such a question would certainly come to meet him
sooner or later. He raised his hands a little and let them fall helplessly by
his side--nothing more.
It was the white-haired woman conspirator who was the first to break the
"Very curious," she pronounced slowly. "And you did not think, Kirylo
Sidorovitch, that he might perhaps wish to get in touch with you again?"
Razumov discovered that he could not suppress the trembling of his lips. But
he thought that he owed it to himself to speak. A negative sign would not do
again. Speak he must, if only to get at the bottom of what that St. Petersburg
letter might have contained.
"I stayed at home next day," he said, bending down a little and plunging his
glance into the black eyes of the woman so that she should not observe the
trembling of his lips. "Yes, I stayed at home. As my actions are remembered
and written about, then perhaps you are aware that I was _not_ seen at the
lectures next day. Eh? You didn't know? Well, I stopped at home-the
As if moved by his agitated tone, she murmured a sympathetic "I see! It must
have been trying enough."
"You seem to understand one's feelings," said Razumov steadily. "It was
trying. It was horrible; it was an atrocious day. It was not the last."
"Yes, I understand. Afterwards, when you heard they had got him. Don't I know
how one feels after losing a comrade in the good fight? One's ashamed of being
left. And I can remember so many. Never mind. They shall be avenged before
long. And what is death? At any rate, it is not a shameful thing like some
kinds of life."
Razumov felt something stir in his breast, a sort of feeble and unpleasant
"Some kinds of life?" he repeated, looking at her searchingly.
"The subservient, submissive life. Life? No! Vegetation on the filthy heap
of iniquity which the world is. Life, Razumov, not to be vile must be a
revolt--a pitiless protest--all the time."
She calmed down, the gleam of suffused tears in her eyes dried out instantly by
the heat of her passion, and it was in her capable, businesslike manner that
she went on--
"You understand me, Razumov. You are not an enthusiast, but there is an
immense force of revolt in you. I felt it from the first, directly I set my
eyes on you--you remember--in Zurich. Oh! You are full of bitter revolt.
That is good. Indignation flags sometimes, revenge itself may become a
weariness, but that uncompromising sense of necessity and justice which armed
your and Haldin's hands to strike down that fanatical brute. . . for it was
that--nothing but that! I have been thinking it out. It could have been
nothing else but that."
Razumov made a slight bow, the irony of which was concealed by an almost
sinister immobility of feature.
"I can't speak for the dead. As for myself, I can assure you that my conduct
was dictated by necessity and by the sense of--well--retributive justice."
"Good, that," he said to himself, while her eyes rested upon him, black and
impenetrable like the mental caverns where revolutionary thought should sit
plotting the violent way of its dream of changes. As if anything could be
changed! In this world of men nothing can be changed--neither happiness nor
misery. They can only be displaced at the cost of corrupted consciences and
broken lives--a futile game for arrogant philosophers and sanguinary triflers.
Those thoughts darted through Razumov's head while he stood facing the old
revolutionary hand, the respected, trusted, and influential Sophia Antonovna,
whose word had such a weight in the "active" section of every party. She was
much more representative than the great Peter Ivanovitch. Stripped of
rhetoric, mysticism, and theories, she was the true spirit of destructive
revolution. And she was the personal adversary he had to meet. It gave him a
feeling of triumphant pleasure to deceive her out of her own mouth. The
epigrammatic saying that speech has been given to us for the purpose of
concealing our thoughts came into his mind. Of that cynical theory this was a
very subtle and a very scornful application, flouting in its own words the very
spirit of ruthless revolution, embodied in that woman with her white hair and
black eyebrows, like slightly sinuous lines of Indian ink, drawn together by
the perpendicular folds of a thoughtful frown.
"That's it. Retributive. No pity!" was the conclusion of her silence. And
this once broken, she went on impulsively in short, vibrating sentences--
"Listen to my story, Razumov! . . ." Her father was a clever but unlucky
artisan. No joy had lighted up his laborious days. He died at fifty; all the
years of his life he had panted under the thumb of masters whose rapacity
exacted from him the price of the water, of the salt, of the very air he
breathed; taxed the sweat of his brow and claimed the blood of his sons. No
protection, no guidance! What had society to say to him? Be submissive and be
honest. If you rebel I shall kill you. If you steal I shall imprison you.
But if you suffer I have nothing for you--nothing except perhaps a beggarly
dole of bread--but no consolation for your trouble, no respect for your
manhood, no pity for the sorrows of your miserable life.
And so he laboured, he suffered, and he died. He died in the hospital.
Standing by the common grave she thought of his tormented existence--she saw
it whole. She reckoned the simple joys of life, the birthright of the
humblest, of which his gentle heart had been robbed by the crime of a society
which nothing can absolve.
"Yes, Razumov," she continued, in an impressive, lowered voice, "it was like a
lurid light in which I stood, still almost a child, and cursed not the toil,
not the misery which had been his lot, but the great social iniquity of the
system resting on unrequited toil and unpitied sufferings. From that moment I
was a revolutionist."
Razumov, trying to raise himself above the dangerous weaknesses of contempt or
compassion, had preserved an impassive countenance. She, with an unaffected
touch of mere bitterness, the first he could notice since he had come in
contact with the woman, went on--
"As I could not go to the Church where the priests of the system exhorted such
unconsidered vermin as I to resignation, I went to the secret societies as soon
as I knew how to find my way. I was sixteen years old--no more, Razumov!
And--look at my white hair."
In these last words there was neither pride nor sadness. The bitterness too
"There is a lot of it. I had always magnificent hair, even as a chit of a
girl. Only, at that time we were cutting it short and thinking that there was
the first step towards crushing the social infamy. Crush the Infamy! A fine
watchword! I would placard it on the walls of prisons and palaces, carve it on
hard rocks, hang it out in letters of fire on that empty sky for a sign of hope
and terror--a portent of the end. . . ."
"You are eloquent, Sophia Antonovna," Razumov interrupted suddenly. "Only, so
far you seem to have been writing it in water. . . ."
She was checked but not offended. "Who knows? Very soon it may become a fact
written all over that great land of ours," she hinted meaningly. "And then one
would have lived long enough. White hair won't matter."
Razumov looked at her white hair: and this mark of so many uneasy years seemed
nothing but a testimony to the invincible vigour of revolt. It threw out into
an astonishing relief the unwrinkled face, the brilliant black glance, the
upright compact figure, the simple, brisk self-possession of the mature
personality--as though in her revolutionary pilgrimage she had discovered the
secret, not of everlasting youth, but of everlasting endurance.
How un-Russian she looked, thought Razumov. Her mother might have been a
Jewess or an Armenian or devil knew what. He reflected that a revolutionist is