Part 8 out of 8
"We must inquire in the shop," Miss Haldin directed me.
A sallow, thinly whiskered man, wearing a dingy white collar and a frayed tie,
laid down a newspaper, and, leaning familiarly on both elbows far over the bare
counter, answered that the person I was inquiring for was indeed his
_locataire_ on the third floor, but that for the moment he was out.
"For the moment," I repeated, after a glance at Miss Haldin. "Does this mean
that you expect him back at once?"
He was very gentle, with ingratiating eyes and soft lips. He smiled faintly as
though he knew all about everything. Mr. Razumov, after being absent all day,
had returned early in the evening. He was very surprised about half an hour or
a little more since to see him come down again. Mr. Razumov left his key, and
in the course of some words which passed between them had remarked that he was
going out because he needed air.
>From behind the bare counter he went on smiling at us, his head held between
his hands. Air. Air. But whether that meant a long or a short absence it was
difficult to say. The night was very close, certainly.
After a pause, his ingratiating eyes turned to the door, he added--
"The storm shall drive him in."
"There's going to be a storm?" I asked.
As if to confirm his words we heard a very distant, deep rumbling noise.
Consulting Miss Haldin by a glance, I saw her so reluctant to give up her quest
that I asked the shopkeeper, in case Mr. Razumov came home within half an hour,
to beg him to remain downstairs in the shop. We would look in again presently.
For all answer he moved his head imperceptibly. The approval of Miss Haldin
was expressed by her silence. We walked slowly down the street, away from the
town; the low garden walls of the modest villas doomed to demolition were
overhung by the boughs of trees and masses of foliage, lighted from below by
gas lamps. The violent and monotonous noise of the icy waters of the Arve
falling over a low dam swept towards us with a chilly draught of air across a
great open space, where a double line of lamp-lights outlined a street as yet
without houses. But on the other shore, overhung by the awful blackness of the
thunder-cloud, a solitary dim light seemed to watch us with a weary stare.
When we had strolled as far as the bridge, I said--
"We had better get back. . . ."
In the shop the sickly man was studying his smudgy newspaper, now spread out
largely on the counter. He just raised his head when I looked in and shook it
negatively, pursing up his lips. I rejoined Miss Haldin outside at once, and
we moved off at a brisk pace. She remarked that she would send Anna with a
note the first thing in the morning. I respected her taciturnity, silence
being perhaps the best way to show my concern.
The semi-rural street we followed on our return changed gradually to the usual
town thoroughfare, broad and deserted. We did not meet four people altogether,
and the way seemed interminable, because my companion's natural anxiety had
communicated itself sympathetically to me. At last we turned into the
Boulevard des Philosophes, more wide, more empty, more dead--the very
desolation of slumbering respectability. At the sight of the two lighted
windows, very conspicuous from afar, I had the mental vision of Mrs. Haldin in
her armchair keeping a dreadful, tormenting vigil under the evil spell of an
arbitrary rule: a victim of tyranny and revolution, a sight at once cruel and
"You will come in for a moment?" said Natalia Haldin.
I demurred on account of the late hour. "You know mother likes you so much,"
"I will just come in to hear how your mother is."
She said, as if to herself, "I don't even know whether she will believe that I
could not find Mr. Razumov, since she has taken it into her head that I am
concealing something from her. You may be able to persuade her. . . ."
"Your mother may mistrust me too," I observed.
"You! Why? What could you have to conceal from her? You are not a Russian
nor a conspirator."
I felt profoundly my European remoteness, and said nothing, but I made up my
mind to play my part of helpless spectator to the end. The distant rolling of
thunder in the valley of the Rhone was coming nearer to the sleeping town of
prosaic virtues and universal hospitality. We crossed the street opposite the
great dark gateway, and Miss Haldin rang at the door of the apartment. It was
opened almost instantly, as if the elderly maid had been waiting in the
ante-room for our return. Her flat physiognomy had an air of satisfaction.
The gentleman was there, she declared, while closing the door.
Neither of us understood. Miss Haldin turned round brusquely to her. "Who?"
"Herr Razumov," she explained.
She had heard enough of our conversation before we left to know why her young
mistress was going out. Therefore, when the gentleman gave his name at the
door, she admitted him at once.
"No one could have foreseen that," Miss Haldin murmured, with her serious grey
eyes fixed upon mine. And, remembering the expression of the young man's face
seen not much more than four hours ago, the look of a haunted somnambulist, I
wondered with a sort of awe.
"You asked my mother first?" Miss Haldin inquired of the maid.
"No. I announced the gentleman," she answered, surprised at our troubled faces.
"Still," I said in an undertone, "your mother was prepared."
"Yes. But he has no idea. . . ."
It seemed to me she doubted his tact. To her question how long the gentleman
had been with her mother, the maid told us that Der Herr had been in the
drawing-room no more than a short quarter of an hour.
She waited a moment, then withdrew, looking a little scared. Miss Haldin gazed
at me in silence.
"As things have turned out," I said, "you happen to know exactly what your
brother's friend has to tell your mother. And surely after that. . . ."
"Yes," said Natalia Haldin slowly. " I only wonder, as I was not here when he
came, if it wouldn't be better not to interrupt now."
We remained silent, and I suppose we both strained our ears, but no sound
reached us through the closed door. The features of Miss Haldin expressed a
painful irresolution; she made a movement as if to go in, but checked herself.
She had heard footsteps on the other side of the door. It came open, and
Razumov, without pausing, stepped out into the ante-room. The fatigue of that
day and the struggle with himself had changed him so much that I would have
hesitated to recognize that face which, only a few hours before, when he
brushed against me in front of the post office, had been startling enough but
quite different. It had been not so livid then, and its eyes not so sombre.
They certainly looked more sane now, but there was upon them the shadow of
something consciously evil.
I speak of that, because, at first, their glance fell on me, though without any
sort of recognition or even comprehension. I was simply in the line of his
stare. I don't know if he had heard the bell or expected to see anybody. He
was going out, I believe, and I do not think that he saw Miss Haldin till she
advanced towards him a step or two. He disregarded the hand she put out.
"It's you, Natalia Victorovna. . . . Perhaps you are surprised. . . at this
late hour. But, you see, I remembered our conversations in that garden. I
thought really it was your wish that I should--without loss of time. . . so I
came. No other reason. Simply to tell. . . ."
He spoke with difficulty. I noticed that, and remembered his declaration to
the man in the shop that he was going out because he "needed air." If that was
his object, then it was clear that he had miserably failed. With downcast eyes
and lowered head he made an effort to pick up the strangled phrase.
"To tell what I have heard myself only to-day--to-day. . . ."
Through the door he had not closed I had a view of the drawing-room. It was
lighted only by a shaded lamp--Mrs. Haldin's eyes could not support either gas
or electricity. It was a comparatively big room, and in contrast with the
strongly lighted ante-room its length was lost in semi-transparent gloom backed
by heavy shadows; and on that ground I saw the motionless figure of Mrs.
Haldin, inclined slightly forward, with a pale hand resting on the arm of the
She did not move. With the window before her she had no longer that attitude
suggesting expectation. The blind was down; and outside there was only the
night sky harbouring a thunder-cloud, and the town indifferent and hospitable
in its cold, almost scornful, toleration--a respectable town of refuge to which
all these sorrows and hopes were nothing. Her white head was bowed.
The thought that the real drama of autocracy is not played on the great stage
of politics came to me as, fated to be a spectator, I had this other glimpse
behind the scenes, something more profound than the words and gestures of the
public play. I had the certitude that this mother, refused in her heart to
give her son up after all. It was more than Rachel's inconsolable mourning, it
was something deeper, more inaccessible in its frightful tranquillity. Lost in
the ill-defined mass of the high-backed chair, her white, inclined profile
suggested the contemplation of something in her lap, as though a beloved head
were resting there.
I had this glimpse behind the scenes, and then Miss Haldin, passing by the
young man, shut the door. It was not done without hesitation. For a moment I
thought that she would go to her mother, but she sent in only an anxious
glance. Perhaps if Mrs. Haldin had moved. . . but no. There was in the
immobility of that bloodless face the dreadful aloofness of suffering without
Meantime the young man kept his eyes fixed on the floor. The thought that he
would have to repeat the story he had told already was intolerable to him. He
had expected to find the two women together. And then, he had said to himself,
it would be over for all time--for all time. "It's lucky I don't believe in
another world," he had thought cynically.
Alone in his room after having posted his secret letter, he had regained a
certain measure of composure by writing in his secret diary. He was aware of
the danger of that strange self-indulgence. He alludes to it himself, but he
could not refrain. It calmed him--it reconciled him to his existence. He sat
there scribbling by the light of a solitary candle, till it occurred to him
that having heard the explanation of Haldin's arrest, as put forward by Sophia
Antonovna, it behoved him to tell these ladies himself. They were certain to
hear the tale through some other channel, and then his abstention would look
strange, not only to the mother and sister of Haldin, but to other people also.
Having come to this conclusion, he did not discover in himself any marked
reluctance to face the necessity, and very soon an anxiety to be done with it
began to torment him. He looked at his watch. No; it was not absolutely too
The fifteen minutes with Mrs. Haldin were like the revenge of the unknown: that
white face, that weak, distinct voice; that head, at first turned to him
eagerly, then, after a while, bowed again and motionless--in the dim, still
light of the room in which his words which he tried to subdue resounded so
loudly--had troubled him like some strange discovery. And there seemed to be a
secret obstinacy in that sorrow, something he could not understand; at any
rate, something he had not expected. Was it hostile? But it did not matter.
Nothing could touch him now; in the eyes of the revolutionists there was now
no shadow on his past. The phantom of Haldin had been indeed walked over, was
left behind lying powerless and passive on the pavement covered with snow. And
this was the phantom's mother consumed with grief and white as a ghost. He had
felt a pitying surprise. But that, of course, was of no importance. Mothers
did not matter. He could not shake off the poignant impression of that silent,
quiet, white-haired woman, but a sort of sternness crept into his thoughts.
These were the consequences. Well, what of it? " Am I then on a bed of
roses?" he had exclaimed to himself, sitting at some distance with his eyes
fixed upon that figure of sorrow. He had said all he had to say to her, and
when he had finished she had not uttered a word. She had turned away her head
while he was speaking. The silence which had fallen on his last words had
lasted for five minutes or more. What did it mean? Before its
incomprehensible character he became conscious of anger in his stern mood, the
old anger against Haldin reawakened by the contemplation of Haldin's mother.
And was it not something like enviousness which gripped his heart, as if of a
privilege denied to him alone of all the men that had ever passed through this
world? It was the other who had attained to repose and yet continued to exist
in the affection of that mourning old woman, in the thoughts of all these
people posing for lovers of humanity. It was impossible to get rid of him.
"It's myself whom I have given up to destruction," thought Razumov. "He has
induced me to do it. I can't shake him off."
Alarmed by that discovery, he got up and strode out of the silent, dim room
with its silent old woman in the chair, that mother! He never looked back. It
was frankly a flight. But on opening the door he saw his retreat cut off:
There was the sister. He had never forgotten the sister, only he had not
expected to see her then--or ever any more, perhaps. Her presence in the
ante-room was as unforeseen as the apparition of her brother had been. Razumov
gave a start as though he had discovered himself cleverly trapped. He tried to
smile, but could not manage it, and lowered his eyes. "Must I repeat that
silly story now?" he asked himself, and felt a sinking sensation. Nothing
solid had passed his lips since the day before, but he was not in a state to
analyse the origins of his weakness. He meant to take up his hat and depart
with as few words as possible, but Miss Haldin's swift movement to shut the
door took him by surprise. He half turned after her, but without raising his
eyes, passively, just as a feather might stir in the disturbed air. The next
moment she was back in the place she had started from, with another half-turn
on his part, so that they came again into the same relative positions.
"Yes, yes," she said hurriedly. "I am very grateful to you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch, for coming at once--like this. . . . Only, I wish I had. . . .
Did mother tell you?"
"I wonder what she could have told me that I did not know before," he said,
obviously to himself, but perfectly audible. "Because I always did know it,"
he added louder, as if in despair.
He hung his head. He had such a strong sense of Natalia Haldin's presence that
to look at her he felt would be a relief. It was she who had been haunting him
now. He had suffered that persecution ever since she had suddenly appeared
before him in the garden of the Villa Borel with an extended hand and the name
of her brother on her lips. . . . The ante-room had a row of hooks on the wall
nearest to the outer door, while against the wall opposite there stood a small
dark table and one chair. The paper, bearing a very faint design, was all but
white. The light of an electric bulb high up under the ceiling searched that
clear square box into its four bare corners, crudely, without shadows--a
strange stage for an obscure drama.
"What do you mean?" asked Miss Haldin. "What is it that you knew always?"
He raised his face, pale, full of unexpressed suffering. But that look in his
eyes of dull, absent obstinacy, which struck and surprised everybody he was
talking to, began to pass way. It was as though he were coming to himself in
the awakened consciousness of that marvellous harmony of feature, of lines, of
glances, of voice, which made of the girl before him a being so rare, outside,
and, as it were, above the common notion of beauty. He looked at her so long
that she coloured slightly.
"What is it that you knew?" she repeated vaguely.
That time he managed to smile.
"Indeed, if it had not been for a word of greeting or two, I would doubt
whether your mother was aware at all of my existence. You understand?"
Natalia Haldin nodded; her hands moved slightly by her side.
"Yes. Is it not heart-breaking? She has not shed a tear yet--not a single
"Not a tear! And you, Natalia Victorovna? You have been able to cry?"
"I have. And then I am young enough, Kirylo Sidorovitch, to believe in the
future. But when I see my mother so terribly distracted, I almost forget
everything. I ask myself whether one should feel proud--or only resigned. We
had such a lot of people coming to see us. There were utter strangers who
wrote asking for permission to call to present their respects. It was
impossible to keep our door shut for ever. You know that Peter Ivanovitch
himself. . . . Oh yes, there was much sympathy, but there were persons who
exulted openly at that death. Then, when I was left alone with poor mother,
all this seemed so wrong in spirit, something not worth the price she is paying
for it. But directly I heard you were here in Geneva, Kirylo Sidorovitch, I
felt that you were the only person who could assist me. . . ."
"In comforting a bereaved mother? Yes!" he broke in in a manner which made her
open her clear unsuspecting eyes. "But there is a question of fitness. Has
this occurred to you?"
There was a breathlessness in his utterance which contrasted with the monstrous
hint of mockery in his intention.
"Why!" whispered Natalia Haldin with feeling. "Who more fit than you?"
He had a convulsive movement of exasperation, but controlled himself.
"Indeed! Directly you heard that I was in Geneva, before even seeing me? It
is another proof of that confidence which. . . ."
All at once his tone changed, became more incisive and more detached.
"Men are poor creatures, Natalia Victorovna. They have no intuition of
sentiment. In order to speak fittingly to a mother of her lost son one must
have had some experience of the filial relation. It is not the case with
me--if you must know the whole truth. Your hopes have to deal here with 'a
breast unwarmed by any affection,' as the poet says. . . . That does not mean
it is insensible," he added in a lower tone.
"I am certain your heart is not unfeeling," said Miss Haldin softly.
"No. It is not as hard as a stone," he went on in the same introspective
voice, and looking as if his heart were lying as heavy as a stone in that
unwarmed breast of which he spoke. "No, not so hard. But how to prove what
you give me credit for--ah! that's another question. No one has ever expected
such a thing from me before. No one whom my tenderness would have been of any
use to. And now you come. You! Now! No, Natalia Victorovna. It's too late.
You come too late. You must expect nothing from me."
She recoiled from him a little, though he had made no movement, as if she had
seen some change in his face, charging his words with the significance of some
hidden sentiment they shared together. To me, the silent spectator, they
looked like two people becoming conscious of a spell which had been lying on
them ever since they first set eyes on each other. Had either of them cast a
glance then in my direction, I would have opened the door quietly and gone out.
But neither did; and I remained, every fear of indiscretion lost in the sense
of my enormous remoteness from their captivity within the sombre horizon of
Russian problems, the boundary of their eyes, of their feelings--the prison of
Frank, courageous, Miss Haldin controlled her voice in the midst of her trouble.
"What can this mean?" she asked, as if speaking to herself.
"It may mean that you have given yourself up to vain imaginings while I have
managed to remain amongst the truth of things and the realities of life--our
Russian life--such as they are."
"They are cruel," she murmured.
"And ugly. Don't forget that--and ugly. Look where you like. Look near you,
here abroad where you are, and then look back at home, whence you came."
"One must look beyond the present." Her tone had an ardent conviction.
"The blind can do that best. I have had the misfortune to be born clear-eyed.
And if you only knew what strange things I have seen! What amazing and
unexpected apparitions!. . . But why talk of all this?"
"On the contrary, I want to talk of all this with you," she protested with
earnest serenity. The sombre humours of her brother's friend left her
unaffected, as though that bitterness, that suppressed anger, were the signs of
an indignant rectitude. She saw that he was not an ordinary person, and
perhaps she did not want him to be other than he appeared to her trustful eyes.
"Yes, with you especially," she insisted. "With you of all the Russian people
in the world. . . ." A faint smile dwelt for a moment on her lips. "I am like
poor mother in a way. I too seem unable to give up our beloved dead, who,
don't forget, was all in all to us. I don't want to abuse your sympathy, but
you must understand that it is in you that we can find all that is left of his
I was looking at him; not a muscle of his face moved in the least. And yet,
even at the time, I did not suspect him of insensibility. It was a sort of
rapt thoughtfulness. Then he stirred slightly.
"You are going, Kirylo Sidorovitch?" she asked.
"I! Going? Where? Oh yes, but I must tell you first. . . ." His voice was
muffled and he forced himself to produce it with visible repugnance, as if
speech were something disgusting or deadly. "That story, you know--the story I
heard this afternoon. . . ."
"I know the story already," she said sadly.
"You know it! Have you correspondents in St. Petersburg too?"
"No. It's Sophia Antonovna. I have seen her just now. She sends you her
greetings. She is going away to-morrow."
He had lowered at last his fascinated glance; she too was looking down, and
standing thus before each other in the glaring light, between the four bare
walls, they seemed brought out from the confused immensity of the Eastern
borders to be exposed cruelly to the observation of my Western eyes. And I
observed them. There was nothing else to do. My existence seemed so utterly
forgotten by these two that I dared not now make a movement. And I thought to
myself that, of course, they had to come together, the sister and the friend of
that dead man. The ideas, the hopes, the aspirations, the cause of Freedom,
expressed in their common affection for Victor Haldin, the moral victim of
autocracy,--all this must draw them to each other fatally. Her very ignorance
and his loneliness to which he had alluded so strangely must work to that end.
And, indeed, I saw that the work was done already. Of course. It was
manifest that they must have been thinking of each other for a long time before
they met. She had the letter from that beloved brother kindling her
imagination by the severe praise attached to that one name; and for him to see
that exceptional girl was enough. The only cause for surprise was his gloomy
aloofness before her clearly expressed welcome. But he was young, and however
austere and devoted to his revolutionary ideals, he was not blind. The period
of reserve was over; he was coming forward in his own way. I could not mistake
the significance of this late visit, for in what he had to say there was
nothing urgent. The true cause dawned upon me: he had discovered that he
needed her and she was moved by the same feeling. It was the second time that
I saw them together, and I knew that next time they met I would not be there,
either remembered or forgotten. I would have virtually ceased to exist for
both these young people.
I made this discovery in a very few moments. Meantime, Natalia Haldin was
telling Razumov briefly of our peregrinations from one end of Geneva to the
other. While speaking she raised her hands above her head to untie her veil,
and that movement displayed for an instant the seductive grace of her youthful
figure, clad in the simplest of mourning. In the transparent shadow the hat
rim threw on her face her grey eyes had an enticing lustre. Her voice, with
its unfeminine yet exquisite timbre, was steady, and she spoke quickly, frank,
unembarrassed. As she justified her action by the mental state of her mother,
a spasm of pain marred the generously confiding harmony of her features. I
perceived that with his downcast eyes he had the air of a man who is listening
to a strain of music rather than to articulated speech. And in the same way,
after she had ceased, he seemed to listen yet, motionless, as if under the
spell of suggestive sound. He came to himself, muttering--
"Yes, yes. She has not shed a tear. She did not seem to hear what I was
saying. I might have told her anything. She looked as if no longer belonging
to this world."
Miss Haldin gave signs of profound distress. Her voice faltered. "You don't
know how bad it has come to be. She expects now to see _him_!" The veil
dropped from her fingers and she clasped her hands in anguish. "It shall end
by her seeing him," she cried.
Razumov raised his head sharply and attached on her a prolonged thoughtful
"H'm. That's very possible," he muttered in a peculiar tone, as if giving his
opinion on a matter of fact. "I wonder what. . . ." He checked himself.
"That would be the end. Her mind shall be gone then, and her spirit will
Miss Haldin unclasped her hands and let them fall by her side.
"You think so?" he queried profoundly. Miss Haldin's lips were slightly
parted. Something unexpected and unfathomable in that young man's character
had fascinated her from the first. "No! There's neither truth nor consolation
to be got from the phantoms of the dead," he added after a weighty pause. "I
might have told her something true; for instance, that your brother meant to
save his life--to escape. There can be no doubt of that. But I did not."
"You did not! But why?"
"I don't know. Other thoughts came into my head," he answered. He seemed to
me to be watching himself inwardly, as though he were trying to count his own
heart-beats, while his eyes never for a moment left the face of the girl. "You
were not there," he continued. "I had made up my mind never to see you again."
This seemed to take her breath away for a moment.
"You. . . . How is it possible?"
"You may well ask. . . . However, I think that I refrained from telling your
mother from prudence. I might have assured her that in the last conversation
he held as a free man he mentioned you both. . . ."
"That last conversation was with you," she struck in her deep, moving voice.
"Some day you must. . . ."
"It was with me. Of you he said that you had trustful eyes. And why I have
not been able to forget that phrase I don't know. It meant that there is in
you no guile, no deception, no falsehood, no suspicion--nothing in your heart
that could give you a conception of a living, acting, speaking lie, if ever it
came in your way. That you are a predestined victim. . . . Ha! what a
The convulsive, uncontrolled tone of the last words disclosed the precarious
hold he had over himself. He was like a man defying his own dizziness in high
places and tottering suddenly on the very edge of the precipice. Miss Haldin
pressed her hand to her breast. The dropped black veil lay on the floor
between them. Her movement steadied him. He looked intently on that hand till
it descended slowly, and then raised again his eyes to her face. But he did
not give her time to speak.
"No? You don't understand? Very well." He had recovered his calm by a
miracle of will. "So you talked with Sophia Antonovna?"
"Yes. Sophia Antonovna told me. . . ." Miss Haldin stopped, wonder growing in
her wide eyes.
"H'm. That's the respectable enemy," he muttered, as though he were alone.
"The tone of her references to you was extremely friendly," remarked Miss
Haldin, after waiting for a while.
"Is that your impression? And she the most intelligent of the lot, too.
Things then are going as well as possible. Everything conspires to. . . .
Ah! these conspirators," he said slowly, with an accent of scorn; "they would
get hold of you in no time! You know, Natalia Victorovna, I have the greatest
difficulty in saving myself from the superstition of an active Providence.
It's irresistible. . . . The alternative, of course, would be the personal
Devil of our simple ancestors. But, if so, he has overdone it altogether--the
old Father of Lies--our national patron--our domestic god, whom we take with us
when we go abroad. He has overdone it. It seems that I am not simple enough.
. . . That's it! I ought to have known. . . . And I did know it," he added
in a tone of poignant distress which overcame my astonishment.
"This man is deranged," I said to myself, very much frightened.
The next moment he gave me a very special impression beyond the range of
commonplace definitions. It was as though he had stabbed himself outside and
had come in there to show it; and more than that--as though he were turning the
knife in the wound and watching the effect. That was the impression, rendered
in physical terms. One could not defend oneself from a certain amount of pity.
But it was for Miss Haldin, already so tried in her deepest affections, that I
felt a serious concern. Her attitude, her face, expressed compassion
struggling with doubt on the verge of terror.
"What is it, Kirylo Sidorovitch?" There was a hint of tenderness in that cry.
He only stared at her in that complete surrender of all his faculties which in
a happy lover would have had the name of ecstasy.
"Why are you looking at me like this, Kirylo Sidorovitch? I have approached
you frankly. I need at this time to see clearly in myself. . . ." She ceased
for a moment as if to give him an opportunity to utter at last some word worthy
of her exalted trust in her brother's friend. His silence became impressive,
like a sign of a momentous resolution.
In the end Miss Haldin went on, appealingly--
"I have waited for you anxiously. But now that you have been moved to come to
us in your kindness, you alarm me. You speak obscurely. It seems as if you
were keeping back something from me."
"Tell me, Natalia Victorovna," he was heard at last in a strange unringing
voice, "whom did you see in that place?"
She was startled, and as if deceived in her expectations.
"Where? In Peter Ivanovitch's rooms? There was Mr. Laspara and three other
"Ha! The vanguard--the forlorn hope of the great plot," he commented to
himself. "Bearers of the spark to start an explosion which is meant to change
fundamentally the lives of so many millions in order that Peter Ivanovitch
should be the head of a State."
"You are teasing me," she said. "Our dear one told me once to remember that
men serve always something greater than themselves--the idea."
"Our dear one," he repeated slowly. The effort he made to appear unmoved
absorbed all the force of his soul. He stood before her like a being with
hardly a breath of life. His eyes, even as under great physical suffering, had
lost all their fire. "Ah! your brother. . . . But on your lips, in your
voice, it sounds. . . and indeed in you everything is divine. . . . I wish I
could know the innermost depths of your thoughts, of your feelings."
"But why, Kirylo Sidorovitch?" she cried, alarmed by these words coming out of
strangely lifeless lips.
"Have no fear. It is not to betray you. So you went there? . . . And Sophia
Antonovna, what did she tell you, then?"
"She said very little, really. She knew that I should hear everything from
you. She had no time for more than a few words." Miss Haldin's voice dropped
and she became silent for a moment. "The man, it appears, has taken his life,"
she said sadly.
"Tell me, Natalia Victorovna," he asked after a pause, "do you believe in
"What a question!"
"What can _you_ know of it?" he muttered thickly. "It is not for such as you.
. . . What I meant to ask was whether you believed in the efficacy of remorse?"
She hesitated as though she had not understood, then her face lighted up.
"Yes," she said firmly.
"So he is absolved. Moreover, that Ziemianitch was a brute, a drunken brute."
A shudder passed through Natalia Haldin.
"But a man of the people," Razumov went on, "to whom they, the revolutionists,
tell a tale of sublime hopes. Well, the people must be forgiven. . . . And
you must not believe all you've heard from that source, either," he added, with
a sort of sinister reluctance.
"You are concealing something from me," she exclaimed.
"Do you, Natalia Victorovna, believe in the duty of revenge?"
"Listen, Kirylo Sidorovitch. I believe that the future shall be merciful to us
all. Revolutionist and reactionary, victim and executioner, betrayer and
betrayed, they shall all be pitied together when the light breaks on our black
sky at last. Pitied and forgotten; for without that there can be no union and
"I hear. No revenge for you, then? Never? Not the least bit?" He smiled
bitterly with his colourless lips. "You yourself are like the very spirit of
that merciful future. Strange that it does not make it easier. . . . No! But
suppose that the real betrayer of your brother--Ziemianitch had a part in it
too, but insignificant and quite involuntary--suppose that he was a young man,
educated, an intellectual worker, thoughtful, a man your brother might have
trusted lightly, perhaps, but still--suppose. . . . But there's a whole story
"And you know the story! But why, then--"
"I have heard it. There is a staircase in it, and even phantoms, but that does
not matter if a man always serves something greater than himself--the idea. I
wonder who is the greatest victim in that tale?"
"In that tale!" Miss Haldin repeated. She seemed turned into stone.
"Do you know why I came to you? It is simply because there is no one anywhere
in the whole great world I could go to. Do you understand what I say? Not one
to go to. Do you conceive the desolation of the thought--no one--to--go--to?"
Utterly misled by her own enthusiastic interpretation of two lines in the
letter of a visionary, under the spell of her own dread of lonely days, in
their overshadowed world of angry strife, she was unable to see the truth
struggling on his lips. What she was conscious of was the obscure form of his
suffering. She was on the point of extending her hand to him impulsively when
he spoke again.
"An hour after I saw you first I knew how it would be. The terrors of remorse,
revenge, confession, anger, hate, fear, are like nothing to the atrocious
temptation which you put in my way the day you appeared before me with your
voice, with your face, in the garden of that accursed villa."
She looked utterly bewildered for a moment; then, with a sort of despairing
insight went straight to the point.
"The story, Kirylo Sidorovitch, the story!"
"There is no more to tell!" He made a movement forward, and she actually put
her hand on his shoulder to push him away; but her strength failed her, and he
kept his ground, though trembling in every limb. "It ends here--on this very
spot." He pressed a denunciatory finger to his breast with force, and became
I ran forward, snatching up the chair, and was in time to catch hold of Miss
Haldin and lower her down. As she sank into it she swung half round on my arm,
and remained averted from us both, drooping over the back. He looked at her
with an appalling expressionless tranquillity. Incredulity, struggling with
astonishment, anger, and disgust, deprived me for a time of the power of
speech. Then I turned on him, whispering from very rage--
"This is monstrous. What are you staying for? Don't let her catch sight of
you again. Go away! . . ." He did not budge. "Don't you understand that your
presence is intolerable--even to me? If there's any sense of shame in you. . .
Slowly his sullen eyes moved ill my direction. "How did this old man come
here?" he muttered, astounded.
Suddenly Miss Haldin sprang up from the chair, made a few steps, and tottered.
Forgetting my indignation, and even the man himself, I hurried to her
assistance. I took her by the arm, and she let me lead her into the
drawing-room. Away from the lamp, in the deeper dusk of the distant end, the
profile of Mrs. Haldin, her hands, her whole figure had the stillness of a
sombre painting. Miss Haldin stopped, and pointed mournfully at the tragic
immobility of her mother, who seemed to watch a beloved head lying in her lap.
That gesture had an unequalled force of expression, so far-reaching in its
human distress that one could not believe that it pointed out merely the
ruthless working of political institutions. After assisting Miss Haldin to the
sofa, I turned round to go back and shut the door Framed in the opening, in the
searching glare of the white anteroom, my eyes fell on Razumov, still there,
standing before the empty chair, as if rooted for ever to the spot of his
atrocious confession. A wonder came over me that the mysterious force which
had torn it out of him had failed to destroy his life, to shatter his body. It
was there unscathed. I stared at the broad line of his shoulders, his dark
head, the amazing immobility of his limbs. At his feet the veil dropped by
Miss Haldin looked intensely black in the white crudity of the light. He was
gazing at it spell-bound. Next moment, stooping with an incredible, savage
swiftness, he snatched it up and pressed it to his face with both hands.
Something, extreme astonishment perhaps, dimmed my eyes, so that he seemed to
vanish before he moved.
The slamming of the outer door restored my sight, and I went on contemplating
the empty chair in the empty ante-room. The meaning of what I had seen reached
my mind with a staggering shock. I seized Natalia Haldin by the shoulder.
"That miserable wretch has carried off your veil!" I cried, in the scared,
deadened voice of an awful discovery. "He. . . ."
The rest remained unspoken. I stepped back and looked down at her, in silent
horror. Her hands were lying lifelessly, palms upwards, on her lap. She
raised her grey eyes slowly. Shadows seemed to come and go in them as if the
steady flame of her soul had been made to vacillate at last in the
cross-currents of poisoned air from the corrupted dark immensity claiming her
for its own, where virtues themselves fester into crimes in the cynicism of
oppression and revolt.
"It is impossible to be more unhappy. . . ." The languid whisper of her voice
struck me with dismay. "It is impossible. . . . I feel my heart becoming like
Razumov walked straight home on the wet glistening pavement. A heavy shower
passed over him; distant lightning played faintly against the fronts of the
dumb houses with the shuttered shops all along the Rue de Carouge; and now and
then, after the faint flash, there was a faint, sleepy rumble; but the main
forces of the thunderstorm remained massed down the Rhone valley as if loath to
attack the respectable and passionless abode of democratic liberty, the
serious-minded town of dreary hotels, tendering the same indifferent,
hospitality to tourists of all nations and to international conspirators of
The owner of the shop was making ready to close when Razumov entered and
without a word extended his hand for the key of his room. On reaching it for
him, from a shelf, the man was about to pass a small joke as to taking the air
in a thunderstorm, but, after looking at the face of his lodger, he only
observed, just to say something--
"You've got very wet."
"Yes, I am washed clean," muttered Razumov, who was dripping from head to foot,
and passed through the inner door towards the staircase leading to his room.
He did not change his clothes, but, after lighting the candle, took off his
watch and chain, laid them on the table, and sat down at once to write. The
book of his compromising record was kept in a locked drawer, which he pulled
out violently, and did not even trouble to push back afterwards.
In this queer pedantism of a man who had read, thought, lived, pen in hand,
there is the sincerity of the attempt to grapple by the same means with another
profounder knowledge. After some passages which have been already made use of
in the building up of this narrative, or add nothing new to the psychological
side of this disclosure (there is even one more allusion to the silver medal in
this last entry), comes a page and a half of incoherent writing where his
expression is baffled by the novelty and the mysteriousness of that side of our
emotional life to which his solitary existence had been a stranger. Then only
he begins to address directly the reader he had in his mind, trying to express
in broken sentences, full of wonder and awe, the sovereign (he uses that very
word) power of her person over his imagination, in which lay the dormant seed
of her brother's words.
". . . The most trustful eyes in the world--your brother said of you when he
was as well as a dead man already. And when you stood before me with your hand
extended, I remembered the very sound of his voice, and I looked into your
eyes--and that was enough. I knew that something had happened, but I did not
know then what. . . . But don't be deceived, Natalia Victorovna. I believed
that I had in my breast nothing but an inexhaustible fund of anger and hate for
you both. I remembered that he had looked to you for the perpetuation of his
visionary soul. He, this man who had robbed me of my hard-working, purposeful
existence. I, too, had my guiding idea; and remember that, amongst us, it is
more difficult to lead a life of toil and self-denial than to go out in the
street and kill from conviction. But enough of that. Hate or no hate, I felt
at once that, while shunning the sight of you, I could never succeed in driving
away your image. I would say, addressing that dead man, 'Is this the way you
are going to haunt me?' It is only later on that I understood--only to-day,
only a few hours ago. What could I have known of what was tearing me to pieces
and dragging the secret for ever to my lips? You were appointed to undo the
evil by making me betray myself back into truth and peace. You! And you have
done it in the same way, too, in which he ruined me: by forcing upon me your
confidence. Only what I detested him for, in you ended by appearing noble and
exalted. But, I repeat, be not deceived. I was given up to evil. I exulted
in having induced that silly innocent fool to steal his father's money. He was
a fool, but not a thief. I made him one. It was necessary. I had to confirm
myself in my contempt and hate for what I betrayed. I have suffered from as
many vipers in my heart as any social democrat of them all--vanity, ambitions,
jealousies, shameful desires, evil passions of envy and revenge. I had my
security stolen from me, years of good work, my best hopes. Listen--now comes
the true confession. The other was nothing. To save me, your trustful eyes
had to entice my thought to the very edge of the blackest treachery. I could
see them constantly looking at me with the confidence of your pure heart which
had not been touched by evil things. Victor Haldin had stolen the truth of my
life from me, who had nothing else in the world, and he boasted of living on
through you on this earth where I had no place to lay my head on. She will
marry some day, he had said--and your eyes were trustful. And do you know what
I said to myself? I shall steal his sister's soul from her. When we met that
first morning in the gardens, and you spoke to me confidingly in the generosity
of your spirit, I was thinking, 'Yes, he himself by talking of her trustful
eyes has delivered her into my hands!' If you could have looked then into my
heart, you would have cried out aloud with terror and disgust.
"Perhaps no one will believe the baseness of such an intention to be possible.
It's certain that, when we parted that morning, I gloated over it. I brooded
upon the best way. The old man you introduced me to insisted on walking with
me. I don't know who he is. He talked of you, of your lonely, helpless state,
and every word of that friend of yours was egging me on to the unpardonable sin
of stealing a soul. Could he have been the devil himself in the shape of an
old Englishman? Natalia Victorovna, I was possessed! I returned to look at
you every day, and drink in your presence the poison of my infamous intention.
But I foresaw difficulties. Then Sophia Antonovna, of whom I was not
thinking--I had forgotten her existence--appears suddenly with that tale from
St. Petersburg. . . . The only thing needed to make me safe--a trusted
revolutionist for ever.
"It was as if Ziemianitch had hanged himself to help me on to further crime.
The strength of falsehood seemed irresistible. These people stood doomed by
the folly and the illusion that was in them--they being themselves the slaves
of lies. Natalia Victorovna, I embraced the might of falsehood, I exulted in
it--I gave myself up to it for a time. Who could have resisted! You yourself
were the prize of it. I sat alone in my room, planning a life, the very
thought of which makes me shudder now, like a believer who had been tempted to
an atrocious sacrilege. But I brooded ardently over its images. The only
thing was that there seemed to be no air in it. And also I was afraid of your
mother. I never knew mine. I've never known any kind of love. There is
something in the mere word. . . . Of you, I was not afraid--forgive me for
telling you this. No, not of you. You were truth itself. You could not
suspect me. As to your mother, you yourself feared already that her mind had
given way from grief. Who could believe anything against me? Had not
Ziemianitch hanged himself from remorse? I said to myself, 'Let's put it to
the test, and be done with it once for all.' I trembled when I went in; but
your mother hardly listened to what I was saying to her, and, in a little
while, seemed to have forgotten my very existence. I sat looking at her.
There was no longer anything between you and me. You were defenceless--and
soon, very soon, you would be alone. . . . I thought of you. Defenceless.
For days you have talked with me--opening your heart. I remembered the shadow
of your eyelashes over your grey trustful eyes. And your pure forehead! It is
low like the forehead of statues--calm, unstained. It was as if your pure brow
bore a light which fell on me, searched my heart and saved me from ignominy,
from ultimate undoing. And it saved you too. Pardon my presumption. But
there was that in your glances which seemed to tell me that you. . . . Your
light! your truth! I felt that I must tell you that I had ended by loving you.
And to tell you that I must first confess. Confess, go out--and perish.
"Suddenly you stood before me! You alone in all the world to whom I must
confess. You fascinated me--you have freed me from the blindness of anger and
hate--the truth shining in you drew the truth out of me. Now I have done it;
and as I write here, I am in the depths depths of anguish, but there is air to
breathe at last--air! And, by the by, that old man sprang up from somewhere as
I was speaking to you, and raged at me like a disappointed devil. I suffer
horribly, but I am not in despair. There is only one more thing to do for me.
After that--if they let me--I shall go away and bury myself in obscure misery.
In giving Victor Haldin up, it was myself, after all, whom I have betrayed
most basely. You must believe what I say now, you can't refuse to believe
this. Most basely. It is through you that I came to feel this so deeply.
After all, it is they and not I who have the right on their side?--theirs is
the strength of invisible powers. So be it. Only don't be deceived, Natalia
Victorovna, I am not converted. Have I then the soul of a slave? No! I am
independent--and therefore perdition is my lot."
On these words, he stopped writing, shut the book, and wrapped it in the black
veil he had carried off. He then ransacked the drawers for paper and string,
made up a parcel which he addressed to Miss Haldin, Boulevard des Philosophes,
and then flung the pen away from him into a distant corner.
This done, he sat down with the watch before him. He could have gone out at
once, but the hour had not struck yet. The hour would be midnight. There was
no reason for that choice except that the facts and the words of a certain
evening in his past were timing his conduct in the present. The sudden power
Natalia Haldin had gained over him he ascribed to the same cause. "You don't
walk with impunity over a phantom's breast," he heard himself mutter. "Thus he
saves me," he thought suddenly. "He himself, the betrayed man." The vivid
image of Miss Haldin seemed to stand by him, watching him relentlessly. She
was not disturbing. He had done with life, and his thought even in her
presence tried to take an impartial survey. Now his scorn extended to himself.
"I had neither the simplicity nor the courage nor the self-possession to be a
scoundrel, or an exceptionally able man. For who, with us in Russia, is to
tell a scoundrel from an exceptionally able man? . . ."
He was the puppet of his past, because at the very stroke of midnight he jumped
up and ran swiftly downstairs as if confident that, by the power of destiny,
the house door would fly open before the absolute necessity of his errand. And
as a matter of fact, just as he got to the bottom of the stairs, it was opened
for him by some people of the house coming home late--two men and a woman. He
slipped out through them into the street, swept then by a fitful gust of wind.
They were, of course, very much startled. A flash of lightning enabled them
to observe him walking away quickly. One of the men shouted, and was starting
in pursuit, but the woman had recognized him. "It's all right. It's only that
young Russian from the third floor." The darkness returned with a single clap
of thunder, like a gun fired for a warning of his escape from the prison of
He must have heard at some time or other and now remembered unconsciously that
there was to be a gathering of revolutionists at the house of Julius Laspara
that evening. At any rate, he made straight for the Laspara house, and found
himself without surprise ringing at its street door, which, of course, was
closed. By that time the thunderstorm had attacked in earnest. The steep
incline of the street ran with water, the thick fall of rain enveloped him like
a luminous veil in the play of lightning. He was perfectly calm, and, between
the crashes, listened attentively to the delicate tinkling of the doorbell
somewhere within the house.
There was some difficulty before he was admitted. His person was not known to
that one of the guests who had volunteered to go downstairs and see what was
the matter. Razumov argued with him patiently. There could be no harm in
admitting a caller. He had something to communicate to the company upstairs.
"Something of importance?"
"That'll be for the hearers to judge."
"Without a moment's delay."
Meantime, one of the Laspara daughters descended the stairs, small lamp in
hand, in a grimy and crumpled gown, which seemed to hang on her by a miracle,
and looking more than ever like an old doll with a dusty brown wig, dragged
from under a sofa. She recognized Razumov at once.
"How do you do? Of course you may come in."
following her light, Razumov climbed two flights of stairs from the lower
darkness. Leaving the lamp on a bracket on the landing, she opened a door, and
went in, accompanied by the sceptical guest. Razumov entered last. He closed
the door behind him, and stepping on one side, put his back against the wall.
The three little rooms _en suite_, with low, smoky ceilings and lit by paraffin
lamps, were crammed with people. Loud talking was going on in all three, and
tea-glasses, full, half-full, and empty, stood everywhere, even on the floor.
The other Laspara girl sat, dishevelled and languid, behind an enormous
samovar. In the inner doorway Razumov had a glimpse of the protuberance of a
large stomach, which he recognized. Only a few feet from him Julius Laspara
was getting down hurriedly from his high stool.
The appearance of the midnight visitor caused no small sensation. Laspara is
very summary in his version of that night's happenings. After some words of
greeting, disregarded by Razumov, Laspara (ignoring purposely his guest's
soaked condition and his extraordinary manner of presenting himself) mentioned
something about writing an article. He was growing uneasy, and Razumov
appeared absent-minded. "I have written already all I shall ever write," he
said at last, with a little laugh.
The whole company's attention was riveted on the new-comer, dripping with
water, deadly pale, and keeping his position against the wall. Razumov put
Laspara gently aside, as though he wished to be seen from head to foot by
everybody. By then the buzz of conversations had died down completely, even in
the most distant of the three rooms. The doorway facing Razumov became blocked
by men and women, who craned their necks and certainly seemed to expect
something startling to happen.
A squeaky, insolent declaration was heard from that group.
"I know this ridiculously conceited individual."
"What individual?" asked Razumov, raising his bowed head, and searching with
his eyes all the eyes fixed upon him. An intense surprised silence lasted for
a time. "If it's me. . . ."
He stopped, thinking over the form of his confession, and found it suddenly,
unavoidably suggested by the fateful evening of his life.
"I am come here," he began, in a clear voice, "to talk of an individual called
Ziemianitch. Sophia Antonovna has informed me that she would make public a
certain letter from St. Petersburg. . . ."
"Sophia Antonovna has left us early in the evening," said Laspara. "It's
quite correct. Everybody here has heard. . . ."
"Very well," Razumov interrupted, with a shade of impatience, for his heart was
beating strongly. Then, mastering his voice so far that there was even a touch
of irony in his clear, forcible enunciation--
"In justice to that individual, the much ill-used peasant, Ziemianitch, I now
declare solemnly that the conclusions of that letter calumniate a man of the
people--a bright Russian soul. Ziemianitch had nothing to do with the actual
arrest of Victor Haldin."
Razumov dwelt on the name heavily, and then waited till the faint, mournful
murmur which greeted it had died out.
"Victor Victorovitch Haldin," he began again, "acting with, no doubt,
noble-minded imprudence, took refuge with a certain student of whose opinions
he knew nothing but what his own illusions suggested to his generous heart. It
was an unwise display of confidence. But I am not here to appreciate the
actions of Victor Haldin. Am I to tell you of the feelings of that student,
sought out in his obscure solitude, and menaced by the complicity forced upon
him? Am I to tell you what he did? It's a rather complicated story. In the
end the student went to General T--- himself, and said, 'I have the man who
killed de P--- locked up in my room, Victor Haldin--a student like myself.'"
A great buzz arose, in which Razumov raised his voice.
"Observe--that man had certain honest ideals in view. But I didn't come here
to explain him."
"No. But you must explain how you know all this," came in grave tones from
"A vile coward!" This simple cry vibrated with indignation. "Name him!"
shouted other voices.
"What are you clamouring for?" said Razumov disdainfully, in the profound
silence which fell on the raising of his hand. "Haven't you all understood
that I am that man?"
Laspara went away brusquely from his side and climbed upon his stool. In the
first forward surge of people towards him, Razumov expected to be torn to
pieces, but they fell back without touching him, and nothing came of it but
noise. It was bewildering. His head ached terribly. In the confused uproar
he made out several times the name of Peter Ivanovitch, the word "judgement,"
and the phrase, "But this is a confession," uttered by somebody in a desperate
shriek. In the midst of the tumult, a young man, younger than himself,
approached him with blazing eyes.
"I must beg you," he said, with venomous politeness, "to be good enough not to
move from this spot till you are told what you are to do."
Razumov shrugged his shoulders. "I came in voluntarily."
"Maybe. But you won't go out till you are permitted," retorted the other.
He beckoned with his hand, calling out, "Louisa! Louisa! come here, please";
and, presently, one of the Laspara girls (they had been staring at Razumov from
behind the samovar) came along, trailing a bedraggled tail of dirty flounces,
and dragging with her a chair, which she set against the door, and, sitting
down on it, crossed her legs. The young man thanked her effusively, and
rejoined a group carrying on an animated discussion in low tones. Razumov lost
himself for a moment.
A squeaky voice screamed, "Confession or no confession, you are a police spy!"
The revolutionist Nikita had pushed his way in front of Razumov, and faced him
with his big, livid cheeks, his heavy paunch, bull neck, and enormous hands.
Razumov looked at the famous slayer of gendarmes in silent disgust.
"And what are you?" he said, very low, then shut his eyes, and rested the back
of his head against the wall.
"It would be better for you to depart now." Razumov heard a mild, sad voice,
and opened his eyes. The gentle speaker was an elderly man, with a great brush
of fine hair making a silvery halo all round his keen, intelligent face.
"Peter Ivanovitch shall be informed of your confession--and you shall be
directed. . . ."
Then, turning to Nikita, nicknamed Necator, standing by, he appealed to him in
"What else can we do? After this piece of sincerity he cannot be dangerous any
The other muttered, "Better make sure of that before we let him go. Leave that
to me. I know how to deal with such gentlemen."
He exchanged meaning glances with two or three men, who nodded slightly, then
turning roughly to Razumov, "You have heard? You are not wanted here. Why
don't you get out?"
The Laspara girl on guard rose, and pulled the chair out of the way
unemotionally. She gave a sleepy stare to Razumov, who started, looked round
the room and passed slowly by her as if struck by some sudden thought.
"I beg you to observe," he said, already on the landing, "that I had only to
hold my tongue. To-day, of all days since I came amongst you, I was made safe,
and to-day I made myself free from falsehood, from remorse--independent of
every single human being on this earth."
He turned his back on the room, and walked towards the stairs, but, at the
violent crash of the door behind him, he looked over his shoulder and saw that
Nikita, with three others, had followed him out. "They are going to kill me,
after all," he thought.
Before he had time to turn round and confront them fairly, they set on him with
a rush. He was driven headlong against the wall. "I wonder how," he completed
his thought. Nikita cried, with a shrill laugh right in his face, "We shall
make you harmless. You wait a bit."
Razumov did not struggle. The three men held him pinned against the wall,
while Nikita, taking up a position a little on one side, deliberately swung off
his enormous arm. Razumov, looking for a knife in his hand, saw it come at him
open, unarmed, and received a tremendous blow on the side of his head over his
ear. At the same time he heard a faint, dull detonating sound, as if some one
had fired a pistol on the other side of the wall. A raging fury awoke in him
at this outrage. The people in Laspara's rooms, holding their breath, listened
to the desperate scuffling of four men all over the landing; thuds against the
walls, a terrible crash against the very door, then all of them went down
together with a violence which seemed to shake the whole house. Razumov,
overpowered, breathless, crushed under the weight of his assailants, saw the
monstrous Nikita squatting on his heels near his head, while the others held
him down, kneeling on his chest, gripping his throat, lying across his legs.
"Turn his face the other way," the paunchy terrorist directed, in an excited,
Razumov could struggle no longer. He was exhausted; he had to watch passively
the heavy open hand of the brute descend again in a degrading blow over his
other ear. It seemed to split his head in two, and all at once the men holding
him became perfectly silent--soundless as shadows. In silence they pulled him
brutally to his feet, rushed with him noiselessly down the staircase, and,
opening the door, flung him out into the street.
He fell forward, and at once rolled over and over helplessly, going down the
short slope together with the rush of running rain water. He came to rest in
the roadway of the street at the bottom, lying on his back, with a great flash
of lightning over his face--a vivid, silent flash of lightning which blinded
him utterly. He picked himself up, and put his arm over his eyes to recover
his sight. Not a sound reached him from anywhere, and he began to walk,
staggering, down a long, empty street. The lightning waved and darted round
him its silent flames, the water of the deluge fell, ran, leaped,
drove--noiseless like the drift of mist. In this unearthly stillness his
footsteps fell silent on the pavement, while a dumb wind drove him on and on,
like a lost mortal in a phantom world ravaged by a soundless thunderstorm. God
only knows where his noiseless feet took him to that night, here and there, and
back again without pause or rest. Of one place, at least, where they did lead
him, we heard afterwards; and, in the morning, the driver of the first
south-shore tramcar, clanging his bell desperately, saw a bedraggled, soaked
man without a hat, and walking in the roadway unsteadily with his head down,
step right in front of his car, and go under.
When they picked him up, with two broken limbs and a crushed side, Razumov had
not lost consciousness. It was as though he had tumbled, smashing himself,
into a world of mutes. Silent men, moving unheard, lifted him up, laid him on
the sidewalk, gesticulating and grimacing round him their alarm, horror, and
compassion. A red face with moustaches stooped close over him, lips moving,
eyes rolling. Razumov tried hard to understand the reason of this dumb show.
To those who stood around him, the features of that stranger, so grievously
hurt, seemed composed in meditation. Afterwards his eyes sent out at them a
look of fear and closed slowly. They stared at him. Razumov made an effort to
remember some French words.
"_Je suis sourd_," he had time to utter feebly, before he fainted.
"He is deaf," they exclaimed to each other. "That's why he did not hear the
They carried him off in that same car. Before it started on its journey, a
woman in a shabby black dress, who had run out of the iron gate of some private
grounds up the road, clambered on to the rear platform and would not be put off.
"I am a relation," she insisted, in bad French. "This young man is a Russian,
and I am his relation." On this plea they let her have her way. She sat down
calmly, and took his head on her lap; her scared faded eyes avoided looking at
his deathlike face. At the corner of a street, on the other side of the town,
a stretcher met the car. She followed it to the door of the hospital, where
they let her come in and see him laid on a bed. Razumov's new-found relation
never shed a tear, but the officials had some difficulty in inducing her to go
away. The porter observed her lingering on the opposite pavement for a long
time. Suddenly, as though she had remembered something, she ran off.
The ardent hater of all Finance ministers, the slave of Madame de S---, had
made up her mind to offer her resignation as lady companion to the Egeria of
Peter Ivanovitch. She had found work to do after her own heart.
But hours before, while the thunderstorm still raged in the night, there had
been in the rooms of Julius Laspara a great sensation. The terrible Nikita,
coming in from the landing, uplifted his squeaky voice in horrible glee before
all the company--
"Razumov! Mr. Razumov! The wonderful Razumov! He shall never be any use as a
spy on any one. He won't talk, because he will never hear anything in his
life--not a thing! I have burst the drums of his ears for him. Oh, you may
trust me. I know the trick. Ha! Ha! Ha! I know the trick."
It was nearly a fortnight after her mother's funeral that I saw Natalia Haldin
for the last time.
In those silent, sombre days the doors of the _appartement_ on the Boulevard
des Philosophes were closed to every one but myself. I believe I was of some
use, if only in this, that I alone was aware of the incredible part of the
situation. Miss Haldin nursed her mother alone to the last moment. If
Razumov's visit had anything to do with Mrs. Haldin's end (and I cannot help
thinking that it hastened it considerably), it is because the man, trusted
impulsively by the ill-fated Victor Haldin, had failed to gain the confidence
of Victor Haldin's mother. What tale, precisely, he told her cannot be
known--at any rate, I do not know it--but to me she seemed to die from the
shock of an ultimate disappointment borne in silence. She had not believed
him. Perhaps she could not longer believe any one, and consequently had
nothing to say to any one--not even to her daughter. I suspect that Miss
Haldin lived the heaviest hours of her life by that silent death-bed. I
confess I was angry with the broken-hearted old woman passing away in the
obstinacy of her mute distrust of her daughter.
When it was all over I stood aside. Miss Haldin had her compatriots round her
then. A great number of them attended the funeral. I was there too, but
afterwards managed to keep away from Miss Haldin, till I received a short note
rewarding my self-denial. "It is as you would have it. I am going back to
Russia at once. My mind is made up. Come and see me."
Verily, it was a reward of discretion. I went without delay to receive it.
The _appartement_ of the Boulevard des Philosophes presented the dreary signs
of impending abandonment. It looked desolate and as if already empty to my
Standing, we exchanged a few words about her health, mine, remarks as to some
people of the Russian colony, and then Natalia Haldin, establishing me on the
sofa, began to talk openly of her future work, of her plans. It was all to be
as I had wished it. And it was to be for life. We should never see each other
I gathered this success to my breast. Natalia Haldin looked matured by her
open and secret experiences. With her arms folded she walked up and down the
whole length of the room, talking slowly, smooth-browed, with a resolute
profile. She gave me a new view of herself, and I marvelled at that something
grave and measured in her voice, in her movements, in her manner. It was the
perfection of collected independence. The strength of her nature had come to
surface because the obscure depths had been stirred.
"We two can talk of it now," she observed, after a silence and stopping short
before me. "Have you been to inquire at the hospital lately?"
"Yes, I have." And as she looked at me fixedly, "He will live, the doctors
say. But I thought that Tekla. . . ."
"Tekla has not been near me for several days," explained Miss Haldin quickly.
"As I never offered to go to the hospital with her, she thinks that I have no
heart. She is disillusioned about me."
And Miss Haldin smiled faintly.
"Yes. She sits with him as long and as often as they will let her," I said.
"She says she must never abandon him--never as long as she lives. He'll need
somebody--a hopeless cripple, and stone deaf with that."
"Stone deaf? I didn't know," murmured Natalia Haldin.
"He is. It seems strange. I am told there were no apparent injuries to the
head. They say, too, that it is not very likely that he will live so very long
for Tekla to take care of him."
Miss Haldin shook her head.
"While there are travellers ready to fall by the way our Tekla shall never be
idle. She is a good Samaritan by an irresistible vocation. The revolutionists
didn't understand her. Fancy a devoted creature like that being employed to
carry about documents sewn in her dress, or made to write from dictation."
"There is not much perspicacity in the world."
No sooner uttered, I regretted that observation. Natalia Haldin, looking me
straight in the face, assented by a slight movement of her head. She was not
offended, but turning away began to pace the room again. To my western eyes
she seemed to be getting farther and farther from me, quite beyond my reach
now, but undiminished in the increasing distance. I remained silent as though
it were hopeless to raise my voice. The sound of hers, so close to me, made me
start a little.
"Tekla saw him picked up after the accident. The good soul never explained to
me really how it came about. She affirms that there was some understanding
between them--some sort of compact--that in any sore need, in misfortune, or
difficulty, or pain, he was to come to her."
"Was there?" I said. "It is lucky for him that there was, then. He'll need
all the devotion of the good Samaritan."
It was a fact that Tekla, looking out of her window at five in the morning, for
some reason or other, had beheld Razumov in the grounds of the Chateau Borel,
standing stockstill, bare-headed in the rain, at the foot of the terrace. She
had screamed out to him, by name, to know what was the matter. He never even
raised his head. By the time she had dressed herself sufficiently to run
downstairs he was gone. She started in pursuit, and rushing out into the road,
came almost directly upon the arrested tramcar and the small knot of people
picking up Razumov. That much Tekla had told me herself one afternoon we
happened to meet at the door of the hospital, and without any kind of comment.
But I did not want to meditate very long on the inwardness of this peculiar
"Yes, Natalia Victorovna, he shall need somebody when they dismiss him, on
crutches and stone deaf from the hospital. But I do not think that when he
rushed like an escaped madman into the grounds of the Chateau Borel it was to
seek the help of that good Tekla."
"No," said Natalia, stopping short before me, "perhaps not." She sat down and
leaned her head on her hand thoughtfully. The silence lasted for several
minutes. During that time I remembered the evening of his atrocious
confession--the plaint she seemed to have hardly enough life left in her to
utter, "It is impossible to be more unhappy. . . ." The recollection would
have given me a shudder if I had not been lost in wonder at her force and her
tranquillity. There was no longer any Natalia Haldin, because she had
completely ceased to think of herself. It was a great victory, a
characteristically Russian exploit in self-suppression.
She recalled me to myself by getting up suddenly like a person who has come to
a decision. She walked to the writing-table, now stripped of all the small
objects associated with her by daily use--a mere piece of dead furniture; but
it contained something living, still, since she took from a recess a flat
parcel which she brought to me.
"It's a book," she said rather abruptly. "It was sent to me wrapped up in my
veil. I told you nothing at the time, but now I've decided to leave it with
you. I have the right to do that. It was sent to me. It is mine. You may
preserve it, or destroy it after you have read it. And while you read it,
please remember that I was defenceless. And that he. . . ."
"Defenceless!" I repeated, surprised, looking hard at her.
"You'll find the very word written there," she whispered. "Well, it's true! I
_was_ defenceless--but perhaps you were able to see that for yourself." Her
face coloured, then went deadly pale. "In justice to the man, I want you to
remember that I was. Oh, I was, I was!"
I rose, a little shakily.
" I am not likely to forget anything you say at this our last parting."
Her hand fell into mine.
"It's difficult to believe that it must be good-bye with us."
She returned my pressure and our hands separated.
"Yes. I am leaving here to-morrow. My eyes are open at last and my hands are
free now. As for the rest--which of us can fail to hear the stifled cry of our
great distress? It may be nothing to the world."
"The world is more conscious of your discordant voices," I said. "It is the
way of the world."
"Yes." She bowed her head in assent, and hesitated for a moment. "I must own
to you that I shall never give up looking forward to the day when all discord
shall be silenced. Try to imagine its dawn! The tempest of blows and of
execrations is over; all is still; the new sun is rising, and the weary men
united at last, taking count in their conscience of the ended contest, feel
saddened by their victory, because so many ideas have perished for the triumph
of one, so many beliefs have abandoned them without support. They feel alone
on the earth and gather close together. Yes, there must be many bitter hours!
But at last the anguish of hearts shall be extinguished in love."
And on this last word of her wisdom, a word so sweet, so bitter, so cruel
sometimes, I said good-bye to Natalia Haldin. It is hard to think I shall
never look any more into the trustful eyes of that girl--wedded to an
invincible belief in the advent of loving concord springing like a heavenly
flower from the soil of men's earth, soaked in blood, torn by struggles,
watered with tears.
It must be understood that at that time I didn't know anything of Mr. Razumov's
confession to the assembled revolutionists. Natalia Haldin might have guessed
what was the "one thing more" which remained for him to do; but this my western
eyes had failed to see.
Tekla, the ex-lady companion of Madame de S---, haunted his bedside at the
hospital. We met once or twice at the door of that establishment, but on these
occasions she was not communicative. She gave me news of Mr. Razumov as
concisely as possible. He was making a slow recovery, but would remain a
hopeless cripple all his life. Personally, I never went near him: I never saw
him again, after the awful evening when I stood by, a watchful but ignored
spectator of his scene with Miss Haldin. He was in due course discharged from
the hospital, and his "relative"--so I was told--had carried him off somewhere.
My information was completed nearly two years later. The opportunity,
certainly, was not of my seeking; it was quite accidentally that I met a
much-trusted woman revolutionist at the house of a distinguished Russian
gentleman of liberal convictions, who came to live in Geneva for a time.
He was a quite different sort of celebrity from Peter Ivanovitch--a dark-haired
man with kind eyes, high-shouldered, courteous, and with something hushed and
circumspect in his manner. He approached me, choosing the moment when there
was no one near, followed by a grey-haired, alert lady in a crimson blouse.
"Our Sophia Antonovna wishes to be made known to you," he addressed me, in his
guarded voice. "And so I leave you two to have a talk together."
"I would never have intruded myself upon your notice," the grey-haired lady
began at once, "if I had not been charged with a message for you."
It was a message of a few friendly words from Natalia Haldin. Sophia Antonovna
had just returned from a secret excursion into Russia, and had seen Miss
Haldin. She lived in a town "in the centre," sharing her compassionate labours
between the horrors of overcrowded jails, and the heartrending misery of
bereaved homes. She did not spare herself in good service, Sophia Antonovna
"She has a faithful soul, an undaunted spirit and an indefatigable body," the
woman revolutionist summed it all up, with a touch of enthusiasm.
A conversation thus engaged was not likely to drop from want of interest on my
side. We went to sit apart in a corner where no one interrupted us. In the
course of our talk about Miss Haldin, Sophia Antonovna remarked suddenly--
"I suppose you remember seeing me before? That evening when Natalia came to
ask Peter Ivanovitch for the address of a certain Razumov, that young man who.
. . ."
"I remember perfectly," I said. When Sophia Antonovna learned that I had in my
possession that young man's journal given me by Miss Haldin she became
intensely interested. She did not conceal her curiosity to see the document.
I offered to show it to her, and she at once volunteered to call on me next day
for that purpose.
She turned over the pages greedily for an hour or more, and then handed me the
book with a faint sigh. While moving about Russia, she had seen Razumov too.
He lived, not "in the centre," but "in the south." She described to me a
little two-roomed wooden house, in the suburb of some very small town, hiding
within the high plank-fence of a yard overgrown with nettles. He was crippled,
ill, getting weaker every day, and Tekla the Samaritan tended him unweariedly
with the pure joy of unselfish devotion. There was nothing in that task to
become disillusioned about.
I did not hide from Sophia Antonovna my surprise that she should have visited
Mr. Razumov. I did not even understand the motive. But she informed me that
she was not the only one.
"Some of _us_ always go to see him when passing through. He is intelligent.
We has ideas. . . . He talks well, too."
Presently I heard for the first time of Razumov's public confession in
Laspara's house. Sophia Antonovna gave me a detailed relation of what had
occurred there. Razumov himself had told her all about it, most minutely.
Then, looking hard at me with her brilliant black eyes--
"There are evil moments in every life. A false suggestion enters one's brain,
and then fear is born--fear of oneself, fear for oneself. Or else a false
courage--who knows? Well, call it what you like ; but tell me, how many of
them would deliver themselves up deliberately to perdition (as he himself says
in that book) rather than go on living, secretly debased in their own eyes?
How many? . . . And please mark this--he was safe when he did it. It was
just when he believed himself safe and more--infinitely more--when the
possibility of being loved by that admirable girl first dawned upon him, that
he discovered that his bitterest railings, the worst wickedness, the devil work
of his hate and pride, could never cover up the ignominy of the existence
before him. There's character in such a discovery."
I accepted her conclusion in silence. Who would care to question the grounds
of forgiveness or compassion? However, it appeared later on, that there was
some compunction, too, in the charity extended by the revolutionary world to
Razumov the betrayer. Sophia Antonovna continued uneasily--
"And then, you know, he was the victim of an outrage. It was not authorized.
Nothing was decided as to what was to be done with him. He had confessed
voluntarily. And that Nikita who burst the drums of his ears purposely, out on
the landing, you know, as if carried away by indignation--well, he has turned
out to be a scoundrel of the worst kind--a traitor himself, a betrayer--a spy!
Razumov told me he had charged him with it by a sort of inspiration. . . ."
"I had a glimpse of that brute," I said. "How any of you could have been
deceived for half a day passes my comprehension!"
She interrupted me.
"There! There! Don't talk of it. The first time I saw him, I, too, was
appalled. They cried me down. We were always telling each other, 'Oh! you
mustn't mind his appearance.' And then he was always ready to kill. There was
no doubt of it. He killed--yes! in both camps. The fiend. . . ."
Then Sophia Antonovna, after mastering the angry trembling of her lips, told me
a very queer tale. It went that Councillor Mikulin, travelling in Germany
(shortly after Razumov's disappearance from Geneva), happened to meet Peter
Ivanovitch in a railway carriage. Being alone in the compartment, these two
talked together half the night, and it was then that Mikulin the Police Chief
gave a hint to the Arch-Revolutionist as to the true character of the
arch-slayer of gendarmes. It looks as though Mikulin had wanted to get rid of
that particular agent of his own! He might have grown tired of him, or
frightened of him. It must also be said that Mikulin had inherited the
sinister Nikita from his predecessor in office.
And this story, too, I received without comment in my character of a mute
witness of things Russian, unrolling their Eastern logic under my Western eyes.
But I permitted myself a question--
"Tell me, please, Sophia Antonovna, did Madame de S--- leave all her fortune to
"Not a bit of it." The woman revolutionist shrugged her shoulders in disgust.
"She died without making a will. A lot of nephews and nieces came down from
St. Petersburg, like a flock of vultures, and fought for her money amongst
themselves. All beastly Kammerherrs and Maids of Honour--abominable court
"One does not hear much of Peter Ivanovitch now," I remarked, after a pause.
"Peter Ivanovitch," said Sophia Antonovna gravely, "has united himself to a
I was truly astonished.
"What! On the Riviera?"
"What nonsense! Of course not."
Sophia Antonovna's tone was slightly tart.
"Is he, then, living actually in Russia? It's a tremendous risk--isn't it?" I
cried. "And all for the sake of a peasant girl. Don't you think it's very
wrong of him?"
Sophia Antonovna preserved a mysterious silence
for a while, then made a statement. "He just
simply adores her."
"Does he? Well, then, I hope that she won't
hesitate to beat him."
Sophia Antonovna got up and wished me good-bye,
as though she had not heard a word of my impious
hope; but, in the very doorway, where I attended
her, she turned round for an instant, and
declared in a firm voice--
"Peter Ivanovitch is an inspired man."